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My Top Ten Takeaways from the Camino


2018 edition Camino Guides

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#1
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
 

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wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
#4
Thank you sabbott for putting into words what many of us felt on the first Camino. The feeling of anticlimax when reaching the cathedral certainly rang true for me, I think I enjoyed the arrival at the little church in Muxia more, but meeting Camino friends in the cathedral Plaza and at the 12 o'clock mass was memorable.
Buen Camino.

P.S. Is the attached painting of the path into Hontanas?
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug - Sept (2016) SJPDP - Finisterre
July - Aug (2017) SJPDP - Muxia - Finisterre
#5
I'm not sure about Asians not speaking Spanish or counting on Germans speaking English. I overheard a young Korean woman having a lively conversation in Spanish, and I encountered a number of Germans who had limited English skills.
Otherwise your experience sounds similar to my own. Including walking in New Balance trail runners. Which model did you wear?
 

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JaneR

New Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Houffalize - Trier April 2012
#6
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
A very thoughtful and lovely post. Thank you!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
#8
Great summary, it is so helpful. Lovely reflections. Doing our first Camino April / June 2017, having done other long distance walks in the UK. One thing I have noticed is different views on footwear, so interested in your use of running shoes. Other writers in this form and books use a variety from open sandals to walking boots for the Camino, which I suspect reflects that quality of paths that can be expected?

The crucial thing is to get whatever footwear well used before you go, and always bear in mind that we are all different, and what works for one, does not work for another. For walking here in the UK, the terrain varies so much that well run in walking boots is my preferred choice, with good socks and plenty of spare pairs of socks to change into. This policy was worked well for us on mountains, hills, footpaths, gravel paths, roads and pavements, especially if you also rip out the original insoles, and replace them with Gel insoles. Almost feels like a spring (!).
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#13
Thank you sabbott for putting into words what many of us felt on the first Camino. The feeling of anticlimax when reaching the cathedral certainly rang true for me, I think I enjoyed the arrival at the little church in Muxia more, but meeting Camino friends in the cathedral Plaza and at the 12 o'clock mass was memorable.
Buen Camino.

P.S. Is the attached painting of the path into Hontanas?
Yes, it was such a surprise to run into two sets of friends who I saw early on the Camino six weeks later on the street in Santiago--and another one out of the blue in Muxia!

The painting is from Erro, about two days out of Roncesvalles.
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#14
Wonderful, wonderful. We were traveling at the same time (and same pace), are about the same age, and feeling much the same emotions. Thank you for putting it into words so well.
Yes, I was hoping to run into you!
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#15
Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts. Makes me want to go back again. I think I will never stop longing after the feeling of freedom I got along the track.
Me too, hard to forget that.
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#16
The crucial thing is to get whatever footwear well used before you go, and always bear in mind that we are all different, and what works for one, does not work for another.
This is very true, footwear is individual. I did read opinions before my walk saying that boots are essential to avoid foot problems, and I think it's more helpful and accurate to say that sneakers and sandals can work fine, too. My finicky feet would not have been happy in boots.
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#17
I'm not sure about Asians not speaking Spanish or counting on Germans speaking English. I overheard a young Korean woman having a lively conversation in Spanish, and I encountered a number of Germans who had limited English skills.
Otherwise your experience sounds similar to my own. Including walking in New Balance trail runners. Which model did you wear?
True, my generalizations about who speaks what had many exceptions!
 

Urban Trekker

Happy Trails
Camino(s) past & future
English Camino (2013)
Portuguese Camino (2014)
French Camino (2016)
Way of Saint Francis April 2017
#18
I agree with your 10 things wholeheartedly. However the 10 best things from my Camino was and still is my Camino Family. We are gathering in Gubbio Italy to walk the way of Saint Francis in April this year.
 

CaminoDebrita

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances SJPP to SdC Oct/Nov 2015
Frances Burgos toSdC March/April 2016
W. Highland Way August 2016
Camino Somewhere September 2017
#19
I loved your list too! A few of my own ideas come to mind....

1. Sharing is important. Of yourself, of your blister treatments, of your chocolate, of your smile.

2. Walking sticks are a great tool, and come in handy for all sorts of stuff. Walking, safety against imagined threats, getting down the hill and up the hill, and even to help hang something up.

3. Worrying does not help anything. It is best to clear your mind and just let it open.

4. Sufficient food and water--healthy food and clean water--are so important. You can eat healthily. You should.

5. Pay attention to children, churches, and older people. They can and will bring you great joy while you are walking.

6. Let others tell you their stories. Listen more, talk less.

7. Let go of negative habits before you take them to Spain. Swearing at others, an "attitude" of entitlement, and stinginess are horrible traits to expose others to.

8. Be ready to try some new things. Don't fear pulpo.

9. You can only imagine the pain that others might have gone through, on any given day or in their lifetime. Be kind.

10. Be prepared. Waterproofs, woollies, water, or whatever. Be ready for just about any kind of weather!

Buen Camino.
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug - Sept (2016) SJPDP - Finisterre
July - Aug (2017) SJPDP - Muxia - Finisterre
#20
It's okay to sweat. A lot.
I learned this on a 95F/35C day.
It really made my afternoon shower that much more enjoyable.
And having walked for about a week in that kind of temperature it made me not fear walking in the summer.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
#21
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Great post! I could have written that myself, but you did it much better. Sitting here planning the next one after Easter holiday with my companera in Malaga...
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#22
8. Be ready to try some new things. Don't fear pulpo.
I did............ and now I do :eek:

But don't let that put anyone off who hasn't tried it yet :D I'm in a very small minority here :oops:
 
Last edited:

Seabird

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF April/May (2016), starting in St. Palais, France
#26
True! Are you planning another walk?
Well, when I finished, I sure thought I was done. But...... The thought continues to arise. Can't say I'm actually "planning" another one, especially since I feel the need to stay close to home this year (or at least most of it). But I wouldn't be surprised if I did another one, even slower this time!

So, are you planning one?
 

Djimbo

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Leon to Santiago in Sept.- Oct. (2016)
#27
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Lovely reflections on freedom and growth. It is a shared experience. Your paintings are lovely as well...I'm soon to start a series of my own. Goodonya!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Bordeaux March-April 2017
#28
Sabbott, thank you so much for the encouraging and thoughtful account of your Camino experience. I am preparing to begin my Camino from Bordeaux at the end of February. Your words are timely, kind and helpful.
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#29
I loved your list too! A few of my own ideas come to mind....


8. Be ready to try some new things. Don't fear pulpo.

9. You can only imagine the pain that others might have gone through, on any given day or in their lifetime. Be kind.

10. Be prepared. Waterproofs, woollies, water, or whatever. Be ready for just about any kind of weather!

Buen Camino.
Thanks, that's a great list! Except the pulpo--I fear the look, smell and taste of pulpo, and it will never again cross my lips. But bring on the Pimientos de Padron!
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#30
Well, when I finished, I sure thought I was done. But...... The thought continues to arise. Can't say I'm actually "planning" another one, especially since I feel the need to stay close to home this year (or at least most of it). But I wouldn't be surprised if I did another one, even slower this time!

So, are you planning one?
Well, not planning yet, but starting to think about two long walks this year. One a hike this spring on back roads from the top to bottom of my own state of Vermont (about 250 miles), and then in early October the Porto to Santiago stretch of the Camino Portuguese. And yes, both slow....
 

Jean Costa

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 3, 2017
#33
Hello! What a wonderful sharing. Thank you so much. It's so full of hope and joy. It brought tears to my eyes. My friend and I are heading to Spain in May. We are only doing two weeks with Roads Scholar but I'm very excited about the trip. Who knows maybe I'll head back another time and try the whole path. Who knows? This is my first post and only my second time to the site. Should I assume you're a man? Also, you didn't require hiking boots? I already walk daily in Brooks runnng shoes and use Superfeet inner soles. I'm wondering if I should stay with what already works?


Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
 

Arn

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#35
1. Commit to walk the Way
2. Find the Forum
3. Be open to suggestions
4. Make your own choices
5. Don't avoid changing some
6. Pack...then repack
7. Take the first step
8. Walk slowly...talk some...Listen more
9. Give thanks for everything
10. Repeat #1...again...again and again
 

Seabird

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF April/May (2016), starting in St. Palais, France
#36
Well, not planning yet, but starting to think about two long walks this year. One a hike this spring on back roads from the top to bottom of my own state of Vermont (about 250 miles), and then in early October the Porto to Santiago stretch of the Camino Portuguese. And yes, both slow....
Interesting about doing back roads in your state. I've thought about the exact thing, wondering whether I could find places to stay. Ultreia and Buen Camino!
 

wcsjms

Active Member
Donating Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016) ; 1st Camino ; Frances Way ; 2017 Camino Frances begins August 10,2017
#37
This is very true, footwear is individual. I did read opinions before my walk saying that boots are essential to avoid foot problems, and I think it's more helpful and accurate to say that sneakers and sandals can work fine, too. My finicky feet would not have been happy in boots.
Footwear is a very personal choice for comfort and support, I wore Asolo boots ( I will never hike again without them) and had a pair of Merrill trekking shoes, which I threw in the trash early on after fracturing a bone in my foot by stepping on a sharp, jagged rock, but then again there was James from Australia who hiked the Camino Frances when we did and he was barefoot the whole way ! For those who are curious, I have an appt. with the orthopedic surgeon on Jan. 18th, 2017 to repair my foot so I can do a longer Camino this year starting in Scandinavia . The people I met along the Way have made me a Camino addict ... I need more !!! Buen Camino fellow trekkers !!! Sabbott ... GREAT POST !!!
 

wcsjms

Active Member
Donating Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016) ; 1st Camino ; Frances Way ; 2017 Camino Frances begins August 10,2017
#38
This is a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. I will attempt my first Camino in June 2017, and anticipate similar experiences you have shared!
Becky
Buen Camino !!! You will do fine because your Camino family you make along the Way, will carry you along as you will them !
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues
#39
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am going in August and these are great points.
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#40
Hello! What a wonderful sharing. Thank you so much. It's so full of hope and joy. It brought tears to my eyes. My friend and I are heading to Spain in May. We are only doing two weeks with Roads Scholar but I'm very excited about the trip. Who knows maybe I'll head back another time and try the whole path. Who knows? This is my first post and only my second time to the site. Should I assume you're a man? Also, you didn't require hiking boots? I already walk daily in Brooks runnng shoes and use Superfeet inner soles. I'm wondering if I should stay with what already works?
Everyone has different footwear needs on the Camino, but no, you don't have to wear hiking boots to walk it. It's not a hike in the traditional sense of the word. Quite a bit of the Camino Frances is on improved surfaces such as blacktop, concrete, etc. If the Brooks work for you, probably be a good choice. A lot of pilgrims wear Brooks and New Balance trail runners.
cheers and ultreia
 

Bugfeedr

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de LA plata (2019)
#42
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Thanks for this! My husband & I are planning a Spring 2019 vdlp. Your thoughts & observations make us even more eager to go.
 

rlf9189

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Summer 2017
#44
Hi Sabbott, I was wondering if you would include a list of items you purchased for the trip. What items did you bring in your backpack? I need to pack light because of a neck injury, so this information would be helpful for me.

Thank you,
Robin

Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
 

Myra13

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
#45
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Nice words! They express my expectations and feelings of the camino. I'll start my first one at the end of february. I hope this will come true for me.
Myra
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2010, Norte 2011, Frances 2016
#46
Your top ten, parallel my thoughts.

This last October into November I completed my 3rd camino. Frances. Not sure I will return on same, graffiti, it was desecration, I could not, and am not, over the prevalence.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela (2016)
#49
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
That really sums it all up. It's the gift of a lifetime to walk the Camino. Thank you for your post!
 
Camino(s) past & future
5/2017
#50
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.




Thank you so much for your words...I am 63 and am planning to start my camino early May...you answered so many questions...Kathie
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#51
Hello! What a wonderful sharing. Thank you so much. It's so full of hope and joy. It brought tears to my eyes. My friend and I are heading to Spain in May. We are only doing two weeks with Roads Scholar but I'm very excited about the trip. Who knows maybe I'll head back another time and try the whole path. Who knows? This is my first post and only my second time to the site. Should I assume you're a man? Also, you didn't require hiking boots? I already walk daily in Brooks runnng shoes and use Superfeet inner soles. I'm wondering if I should stay with what already works?
Nope, I'm a woman. Welcome to the site! As you've probably figured out, it's full of very opinionated folks who love the Camino. (insert smiley face here if I could figure out how....) I first discovered the Camino Frances when I was teaching a sketching workshop for a company who provided van travel, picnics and lovely rooms in rural hotels. Little did I know then that there was another way to experience the Camino! So yes, now that you've had an introduction, why not try it the pilgrim way!

No, no hiking boots, I wore running shoes, plus had along a pair of Teva sandals for off-trail use. My son had walked the 2,700 mile Pacific Coast Trail, and told me that most long distance walkers these days on those wilderness routes wear trail runners. My sneakers were very soft and comfortable, a size larger than my normal already large shoes, and I always wore them with double socks (lightweight wool plus a synthetic sock liner.)

My feet got soaked many times, but running shoes dry out quickly. No blisters or foot issues, I'm happy to say. Putting cream on my feet daily, airing them out during the day, changing socks when my feet were damp, washing sock liners nightly, and keeping toenails in good shape also helped. If your shoes work for you at home, I'd say you'll be fine. Just make sure your running shoes don't have too many miles on them when you start the Camino, as mine were developing a small hole by the end. (ps Footwear is a heated topic here, so be prepared for dissent!...smiley face....)
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#52
Hi Sabbott, I was wondering if you would include a list of items you purchased for the trip. What items did you bring in your backpack? I need to pack light because of a neck injury, so this information would be helpful for me.

Happy to link to my packing list below, Robin. Feel free to me a message if you have any questions.
 

Attachments

Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes - Santiago April 2015, Via Francigena 2017
#54
I must compliment you on your succinct writing style firstly. It intrigues me that so many pilgrims are underwhelmed when they reach Santiago (myself included). Perhaps it's because today there's so much emphasis on getting there, whereas in the Middle Ages people went to Santiago, well, to do something that would make sure they get to heaven! Today probably all except the most ardent Catholics, at the end of the journey, see no pot of gold at the end of the Santiago rainbow... even though they perhaps had, subconsciously, expected something amazing to await them there.
 

Margaret J

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria to Santiago de Compostela 2016
#55
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
I must compliment you on your succinct writing style firstly. It intrigues me that so many pilgrims are underwhelmed when they reach Santiago (myself included). Perhaps it's because today there's so much emphasis on getting there, whereas in the Middle Ages people went to Santiago, well, to do something that would make sure they get to heaven! Today probably all except the most ardent Catholics, at the end of the journey, see no pot of gold at the end of the Santiago rainbow... even though they perhaps had, subconsciously, expected something amazing to await them there.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Sept 16/ 2016. Leon to Santiago . SJPDP to Santiago. (Sept/ Oct 2019 ).
#57
Your sentence, ( its the gift of a lifetime to walk the Camino ) says it all for me. Thank you or your post it has made me think about just how blessed we are to be able to walk in the footsteps of the fourth disciple.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy route and Camino Frances 2015/16
#58
Perfect list! I definitely agree that the alternative Camino routes are spectacular and a bit underrated. I walked the Le Puy route this summer... wow! So different from the main route; more scenic and contemplative :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Starting April, 15, 2017
#60
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Very good indeed. Thank you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Starting April, 15, 2017
#62
Could you please elaborate a little more on the New Bal;ance shoes like what kind as there are many types. Also did they hold up well? Did you break them in? If thee have already been answered then you can rightfully shun me. LOL
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#64
Could you please elaborate a little more on the New Bal;ance shoes like what kind as there are many types. Also did they hold up well? Did you break them in? If thee have already been answered then you can rightfully shun me. LOL
Sorry, just saw your question. I had New Balance W108V5 women's running shoes, which were great, very soft on top and good traction, and held up fine on my 500 mile walk. Unfortunately they aren't made anymore. The shoes I wore on the Camino are worn out now for future long walks, so I have replaced them with the NB Fresh Foam 1080 model, which aren't quite as comfortable. Wish I'd bought 3 pairs of my Camino sneakers!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
#65
Thank you, Sabbott, for your good ten points! I am off on my first Camino this June, and I look forward to everything (even the thunderstorm) you mentioned. I won't be alone, but I imagine many of the same benefits will come to me and us as you describe. Thanks for such a thoughtful entry.
 

FionaMcG

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Summer 2017 - Camino Frances
#66
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflection. We are almost two weeks into our 5-7 week Camino to Santiago and much of what you have written already resonates with me. How blessed we are to be able to experience this.
 

Mckarash

A Coddiwomple expert
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean - Belorado July 2016
St Jean - Sahagun April 14th to April 29th 2017
#67
I totally agree with your list. I only get the chance to do a maximum of 2-ish weeks at a time (work commitments). My first was St Jean to Belorado summer 2016, This year I managed St Jean to Sahagun from Easter and before my blisters even thought about healing I booked another 15 days for this mid July...but i will start again from St Jean! I enjoy the aches and pains, the sunburn and windburn, meeting strangers who become firm friends and that satisfaction when your head hits the pillow. But I don't want to finish the Frances for a long time yet! I will be doing the complete Camino Portuguese next year but as for the Camino Frances I will keep going back with the end happily out of reach until i can do it in one go in my own time.
 

Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#69
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
I know I am late in reading this post, but all I can say is WOW! What an incredible review of your experience on the Camino. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to so eloquently share your many observations and insights with all of us here on the forum. Reading your words gave me goosebumps and made me extra happy I am planning another (4th) route myself in June 2018!
 

Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#70
I know I am late in reading this post, but all I can say is WOW! What an incredible review of your experience on the Camino. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to so eloquently share your many observations and insights with all of us here on the forum. Reading your words gave me goosebumps and made me extra happy I am planning another (4th) route myself in June 2018!
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
P.S. I would like to "like" every comment you have received, but with 140 of them it would take too much time!
 

Drover

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk in 2017 solo - Walking2Wellness - October/November post breast cancer surgery.
#71
Sabbott your generosity vibrates through your words and art, thank you so much for sharing. I have for a month felt a magnetic pull to the Camino. I am preparing to slowly and mindfully walk alone (55 year old woman) from October 8 for two months with the intent to 'Walk myself Well' as I've been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm having surgery on 8 August in Melbourne (Australia) and am deferring any further treatment until after walking the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port ( having 2 days in Lourdes first then catching train to SJPP to commence walking) to Finistre...'the edge of the world'.
I feel the 'pull' of the Ages...calling me, to walk where millions of pilgrims over Millenia have trod...a path of peace and healing.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#72
Great top ten !!

There's literally nothing in there to even quibble with -- I've certainly done a few things differently in my time than you have, but wow! you've understood the heart of what it means to walk the Way of Saint James ...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela (2016)
#73
Sabbott your generosity vibrates through your words and art, thank you so much for sharing. I have for a month felt a magnetic pull to the Camino. I am preparing to slowly and mindfully walk alone (55 year old woman) from October 8 for two months with the intent to 'Walk myself Well' as I've been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm having surgery on 8 August in Melbourne (Australia) and am deferring any further treatment until after walking the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port ( having 2 days in Lourdes first then catching train to SJPP to commence walking) to Finistre...'the edge of the world'.
I feel the 'pull' of the Ages...calling me, to walk where millions of pilgrims over Millenia have trod...a path of peace and healing.
Drover... may you heal quickly and completely from your health challenge.
There is a book [You are the Placebo by Dr. Joe Despenza] that may be of interest to you.
I wish you well.... Buen Camino!
 

Drover

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk in 2017 solo - Walking2Wellness - October/November post breast cancer surgery.
#74
Thanks for lead to nomadko, I am loving the read of 'You are the placebo'. I have purchased this amazing book this morning via kindle and am inhaling it!!!
That's exactly the energy that I'm channelling, that through my profound sense of wellness the cancer cells will immolate!
Thanks again for taking the time nomadko to kindly send the book lead to me, much appreciated❤️
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela (2016)
#75
Thanks for lead to nomadko, I am loving the read of 'You are the placebo'. I have purchased this amazing book this morning via kindle and am inhaling it!!!
That's exactly the energy that I'm channelling, that through my profound sense of wellness the cancer cells will immolate!
Thanks again for taking the time nomadko to kindly send the book lead to me, much appreciated❤️
:) Be well!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela (2016)
#76
Thanks for lead to nomadko, I am loving the read of 'You are the placebo'. I have purchased this amazing book this morning via kindle and am inhaling it!!!
That's exactly the energy that I'm channelling, that through my profound sense of wellness the cancer cells will immolate!
Thanks again for taking the time nomadko to kindly send the book lead to me, much appreciated❤️
Drover, I hope your surgery went well and you are now in the midst of walking 'your' Camino! My hope is that you enjoy your time on 'The Way'!
Buen Camino!
 

Juspassinthrough

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, May-June (2017)
Ingles-Finisterre (2018)
#77
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
You’ve apparently read my mind! I could not agree more with your thought of the end only being the beginning. The question I have is, the beginning of what? I can’t wait to find out.
 

Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#78
You’ve apparently read my mind! I could not agree more with your thought of the end only being the beginning. The question I have is, the beginning of what? I can’t wait to find out.
For many of us on this forum, when we get home it doesn't take long to "begin" planning our next Camino...or at least daydreaming about it!
 

Marigold Mama

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2018 Madrid, Salvador& Primitivo and onward
#79
Very nice post. Thank you AND your lovely painting is soothing and colorful. A real nice combo by my estimation.
Thank you. However this is not a painting. It is a photo I took in May 2015. Interesting is it not?
MM
 

sabbott

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPP to Ponferrada) 2016
Camino Invierno 2016
#80
Sabbott your generosity vibrates through your words and art, thank you so much for sharing. I have for a month felt a magnetic pull to the Camino. I am preparing to slowly and mindfully walk alone (55 year old woman) from October 8 for two months with the intent to 'Walk myself Well' as I've been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm having surgery on 8 August in Melbourne (Australia) and am deferring any further treatment until after walking the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port ( having 2 days in Lourdes first then catching train to SJPP to commence walking) to Finistre...'the edge of the world'.
I feel the 'pull' of the Ages...calling me, to walk where millions of pilgrims over Millenia have trod...a path of peace and healing.
I hope your walk went well, Drover! I just saw this comment. Let us know.....
 

long trails

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances June 2016
Portugues April 2017
Norte Spring 2018
#81
9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?
This is just too true. Having spent many years of my life stuck inside I am now addicted to being outdoors. It's a healthy addiction but one that means I cannot live a conventional life.

The great thing about doing a Camino in the summer is just how much daylight you get.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela (2016)
#82
Last spring I walked for two months from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, with a detour through Galicia on the Camino Invierno. In the year before I left, I was a frequent--nay, an obsessive--visitor to this forum, and found the support here invaluable for planning my trip. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...ten-things-ive-learned-from-this-forum.38310/)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts, but, finally, here's a personal, completely subjective top ten takeaway list from my Camino:

1. A long-distance hike is very, very fun.
Sure, there were times I was tired, lonely, lost, cold or nervous. But mostly I was just happy. I've never felt as carefree and as lighthearted as I did those two months walking the Camino.

2. All the planning turned out to be worthwhile.
The gear that I obsessed over, splurged on, and tested out in the months before the hike served me well. My ULA Circuit pack weighing in at 16 lbs. was comfortable, the wool and synthetic layers did their job, and my New Balance sneakers kept my feet blister-free.

On the other hand, I walked for awhile with someone who threw all her gear together in a week, and she did just fine, too.

3. Nothing I worried about before my walk turned out to be a problem.
How would I go to the bathroom outdoors? How would I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I was stuck in a top bunk? How would I ever get up into the top bunk? Etc, etc.

All these fears, so large in my imagination before I left, faded away as problems, and instead became easily manageable daily routines as soon as I began walking.

3. The benefits of albergues outweigh the discomforts.
Yes, albergues can be crowded, noisy, impersonal, hot, cold or uncomfortable. They are also the best places on the Camino to meet folks from all over the world, enjoy stimulating conversations, exchange information, and make new friends.

Some nights I did take a break from communal living and stay in the small hotels that are such great value in Spain. But I think I would have missed a big part of the Camino experience if I had only booked private rooms.

4. Walking alone has its rewards.
I had some of the deepest conversations I've ever experienced when walking for a few days or even a few hours with strangers on the Camino. I made friends there whom I'm still in touch with.

But I'm very glad I walked most of the time alone. For one thing, it would have been difficult to have those intense encounters with other pilgrims--and with nature, and with myself--if I had the buffer of a constant companion. I'm sure there are great rewards in walking with friends or loved ones. But for me, a solitary Camino was the right choice.

5. The Caminos less traveled have a lot to offer.
Before I left home last April I thought about options for exiting the Camino Frances if it became too crowded, and decided I'd make that decision as I got closer to Santiago. As it turned out, I did decide in Ponferrada to leave the pack and take the very quiet Camino Invierno.

Those three weeks of walking mostly alone through Galician fields and woods, villages and cities were among the most dramatic and memorable times of my trip. The Invierno has much less infrastructure than the Frances, meaning fewer albergues and pilgrim menus, and very few other pilgrims. But lodging and food in Galicia are good value, locals are curious and welcoming, and the landscape is often beautiful. If you are bothered by crowds on the Frances, consider one of the other routes.

6. Very slow is the best way for me to go.
When I left for Spain last spring I was on the far side of age 60, not particularly athletic, and I had "trained" for my Camino with only a few months of 3-5 mile hikes. I wouldn't say I was in great shape when I set off from SJPP--but I made it over the Pyrenees just fine. In my two months on the Camino, including the demanding Invierno route, I had no blisters, pain, or injuries.

I attribute this to my footwear (running shoes), the good care I took of my feet, the light weight of my backpack, the assistance of my Pacer poles, and my habitual slowness. Going slow helped me pay attention to how my body was feeling, and stay aware of my surroundings. I was lucky to have two months set aside for the Camino so I could enjoy some rest days in interesting places, and never feel that I was rushing.

7. A little Spanish goes a long way.
The Spanish are very patient with visitors to their country, and they need to be, as so few of us speak their language. Most Americans and English seem to know nothing but English, and the French speak mostly French. Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch are fluent in English and maybe some French. Who speaks Spanish? Very few travelers on the Camino--and definitely not the Asians....

I was very glad to have even a beginning level in conversational Spanish. It meant I could ask for help and directions, be polite, engage in simple conversations with locals and Spanish pilgrims, find restaurants off the beaten track, and by the end of my trip, fake my way through some discussions of Spanish history and politics. The Spanish are very grateful when you try to communicate in their mother tongue, and very kind about you butchering it. I'd say don't be shy, give Spanish a try when you're in Spain.

8. Every day on the Camino brings a surprise.
In my experience the only predictable thing about the Camino is its unpredictability. When I thought in the morning that the challenge of the day would be the 17 miles between me and the next town, the walk was a piece of cake, but my room reservation for that night somehow vanished, and I unexpectedly needed to find a place to stay in an overbooked village. Or if I worried the night before about getting lost, it turned out that the route was easy to navigate--but I had to walk it in a pounding thunderstorm.

Sometimes surprises were a pleasure, like the Dutch couple who materialized at the start of what I thought would be a very long solitary stretch on the Camino Invierno, and unexpectedly provided great company and conversation for seven hours. Having the rug pulled out from under my feet time and again was the perfect Camino lesson for an inveterate control freak like me.

9. Being outdoors all day, every day is the greatest gift.
One of the surprises of my walk was the joy of being outdoors all day, experiencing the changing skies, the sun, rain, and wind, the dawn and sunset. Birds flitting around the bushes next to the path are constant companions. Frogs in drainage ditches, lizards on rocks, even ants crossing the road become friends when you are walking alone all day. And how about all those storks nesting on church steeples and water towers?

Walking in spring is a bonus, as the landscape's color changes from brown to green as you move across Spain, and wildflowers, flowering fruit trees, and acres of bright yellow rapeseed come to life. Being in nature all day, every day was the unexpected best part of my Camino.

10. The end of the Camino is just the beginning.
One of the few down days I experienced on my two month Camino was the arrival into Santiago. Walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral felt like a complete anticlimax. I was glad I had the time to take a bus to the coast, hike from Muxia to Finisterre, put my feet in the ocean, and finally know I was finished.

But the truth is I'm not sure we are finished when we stop walking, we oddballs who make this pilgrimage. It changes us somehow, makes us more hopeful, more courageous, definitely stronger, maybe humbler. We saw so much, felt so much, and we each finish with a story to tell. I think sharing that story, any way we can, is an important part of the Camino. Since I'm a painter, that's how I'm telling my story, and as I work on each composition, it's wonderful to revisit that individual section of the walk, and share those memories.

And it's wonderful to think ahead to more Caminos in the future. I find I'm helping myself fall asleep these nights, just like I did before I set off last April, by imagining myself walking down a path, walking and walking, until I disappear into the distance.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts... the Camino certainly changes us! Your painting is marvelous!
 

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