Preparing to walk El Camino

Why I’m walking Camino de Santiago

Perhaps the hardest thing about living in Berlin so far is not being able to escape into nature anytime I feel like it. Even while living in downtown St. John’s, the trail to Cabot Tower was within easy reach. There’s a huge amount of green space here (you wouldn’t believe some of the parks), but the sound of cars and honking horns and screaming children is never too far off.

This is partially the reason why I’ve decided to walk the Camino de Santiago in April; the other half of that reason is because my friend Michelle is a delightful storyteller and she’s responsible for opening my eyes to what the Camino experience is all about.

It was never really something I wanted to do.

Really, I just never had thought much about it. First of all, in order to do the whole route, it requires a great deal of time. At least a month, but more like five weeks or even longer if you want to be prepared for the unexpected. Secondly, walking five or more hours per day wasn’t appealing. Until now. Until I started craving those outdoors experience so desperately, it physically hurts.

Furthermore, I don’t have the long-term trekking experience I’ve so desperately wanted for years now. While Camino de Santiago is probably the easiest walk for beginners (in the way that a pilgrim’s needs are highly met – not because it isn’t physically challenging), it’ll give me the opportunity to become more experienced in this type of travel. It’ll also give me lots of time for self-reflection and ramping up my endurance. From there I hope to do a 10-day trip in the Dolomites in June. And then more long range trails when I’m back in Canada.

Am I a cliché? Probably. I do live in Berlin.

What is Camino de Santiago?

Most of you already know a lot about the Camino. This mostly benefits my mother, who gasps in shock anytime I tell her I’m going anywhere new at all.

Camino de Santiago is the pilgrim’s route starting in the French Pyrenees and moving into Spain. It’s a network of trails known as the Route of St. James that leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It’s the longest pilgrimage route in Europe, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. People have been doing it for a long, long time.

I’ll be doing the French Way (Camino Frances), the most popular but also apparently the most scenic route. There are many others as well, of varying landscapes and lengths. St. Jean Pied de Port is the starting place, but since I plan on starting my walk in April, I may have to skip the Pyrenees if there’s too much snow. (I know, right? Boo.) The total route is about 730 kilometres.

Am I Nuts?

Yes, probably.

But as far as hiking goes, the Camino isn’t exactly roughing it. I’ll only be carrying a daypack with two changes of clothes, some outerwear, some gear, and a sleeping bag. (And some other necessities.) I don’t need a tent, or big food supplies. Every day I’ll get up early, hit the trail, and wind up in a pilgrim town at an albergue – a pilgrim-only hostel. (Yes, that’ll be fun with my sleeping issues. I look forwarding to sleeping near a snoring giant man.)

Food is plentiful; there are water fountains along the way. Hell, there’s a wine fountain. It’s Spain. I can do it for less than 30 EUR/day. Internet is plentiful (albeit not always reliable), so I’ll be able to fulfill work duties (even if it does detract from the trail experience…this is the glorious life I chose).

I’m headed out just after Easter. I figure I can beat the summertime rush, and I’ll still meet fellow pilgrims along the way.

How I’m Preparing

This is hard. I still don’t have a gym membership in Berlin – I haven’t been to the gym in four months. It’s ridiculous. I used to go at least three times a week back home, but often more like five times. I worked hard! New gyms intimidate me, so I’ve been putting it off. Camino preparation will help me get kick-started again.

That’s not enough, though. And hiking is hard from Berlin. But I’ve also joined a local hiking group from Meet-Up, and hope to take on a few longer treks over the next few months…at least while it’s still warm.

Other than that, I’ll be needing to save up for hiking boots, a sleeping bag, and a proper day pack. All things I had in Canada but didn’t have the foresight to bring with me. Sigh.

I might be nuts. I’m probably nuts. Have you met me? But now I’m obsessed with the idea. My fellow travellers who have completed the route have all raved about the experience. Candace Rose Rardon and Flora the Explorer have written about their journeys, and reading about it all gives me the most delicious thrill. (And then naturally I watched The Way.)

The challenge, the opportunity to meet other pilgrims, the dusty trail. The kind of travel I’ve been craving more of, but have woefully neglected.

It’ll be hard, but I plan on doing updates every day or at least every other day – even just snippets. And if you’re a previous pilgrim, I’d love to hear any advice at all from you.

(I’ve also had a few people ask me about joining me – and that’s totally cool. You’re welcome; the trail is for everyone! But just know that in my hippie fantastical mission for self-discovery I may wander off alone at times to ponder my weird and wonderful life. Don’t be offended.)

Buen Camino.

  • November 13 2015

    I really didn’t know much about this trail until I watched “The Way”. It’s actually a pretty good movie and inspired me. I already walk 3 miles nearly every day of the week. I love walking. I could totally do this! Unfortunately leaving my husband for a month to walk in Europe wouldn’t go over very well, so I’ll have to walk this trail vicariously through you – the same way I’ve done most of my world travels!
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    • November 13 2015

      Hahaha. Bring him along! I do a fair bit of walking around Berlin but I’ve never actually checked to see how much I average per day. I’ll be bikini fit by the summer. ;)

  • November 13 2015

    That’s awesome, what an experience! And it’s nice that you have some time to prepare – best of luck!
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  • November 13 2015

    You’ll have an amazing time — I loved my Camino in September, so much so I’ll be doing a different one next year as well!

    The only thing I’d suggest is that, if in any way possible, leave the laptop at home. It was definitely hard for me to get far enough ahead of my deadlines to walk for five weeks without worrying about work, but honestly, it made the experience massively more enjoyable for me. Being able to be fully immersed in the experience the entire time, rather than pulling myself out of the moment to get online and deal with whatever was demanding my attention, was amazing.

    Buen Camino!

    • November 14 2015

      Thanks!I am definitely referring to your packing list for my own trip. Super pumped.

      That’s my concern as well — I don’t want anything to ruin the real experience of Camino. I want to be immersed fully in it. I’m just not sure it’ll be possible. But if I can pull it off and meet all my deadlines beforehand, then yes, I definitely will.

  • November 13 2015

    Sounds great Candice! I am thinking of doing the Portuguese Way myself in a couple of years – less people but still pilgrim hostels etc and I am more interested in Portugal than Spain
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    • November 14 2015

      Portugal was going to be my first choice! But I figure I can always come back to it. Since I’m going earlier in the year there shouldn’t be too many people on the trail.

      • November 29 2015

        The Portuguese Route is pretty amazing, especially if you do some of the coastal route. Dave’s packing list isn’t bad, but please do me a favor and leave any and all cotton at home! It stinks, takes forever to dry and can cause hypothermia if you get wet and cold. April is a great month to do the Camino but you will have the possibility of weather over the Pyrenees, and keep in mind, SJPdP is NOT the starting point. There is no starting point. If you ask a Spaniard, they’ll tell you it’s in Roncesvalles, if you ask anyone else, they will tell you it’s SJPdP. It’s wherever you want to begin. :)

        I’ve walked twice and served as a hospitalero, so if you have any questions, let me know. I helped a few travel bloggers with their prep. :)

        • December 01 2015

          So many awesome suggestions, THANK you! And don’t worry, no cotton. ;) I was considering the Portuguese Route but was worried it’d be too empty in April.

  • November 14 2015

    Buen Camino.

    • November 16 2015

      Buen Camino!

  • November 14 2015

    You’ll love it – I did the last 300km of the Camino Frances last October and it was an incredible experience, one which I continue to learn from. Keep your pack light, your head up, and your mind open, you’ll meet the most incredible people and see the loveliest things along the way. Buen Camino!

    • November 16 2015

      That’s awesome, Krista! I love hearing about other people’s positive experiences

  • November 14 2015

    This year is actually the first I’ve heard of Camino…it sounds amazing. Amazing in a way that would probably be a personal hell for me because, ugh, hiking, but the romantic in me loves the idea of a pilgrimage…I’m really excited to hear more about this as you prepare!

    • November 16 2015

      Bahahaha. It’s definitely going to be hell in many ways. Should be a few good stories!

  • November 15 2015

    As many fellow pilgrims will tell you, the Camino will train you while you walk it – no matter what you did at home. Packing light can not be over emphasized! Two days worth of clothes is plenty. And never ever ever break-in ANYTHING on the Camino! From head to toes you should have been wearing/using all the gear for at least two months before the start.

    • November 16 2015

      That is VERY valuable advice, thanks Damian!

  • November 16 2015

    I watched The Way when I was traveling in Asia and 1. it made me cry like a lunatic and 2. made me want to walk as well!
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted…Photo Friday: Boone, North Carolina

    • November 18 2015

      Wasn’t it good?! I so badly want a Camino posse. Hahaha.

  • November 20 2015

    That’s so awesome! You’ll have a great time on the Camino. I did it around this time last year and I loved every single moment of it (yes, even the blisters!) Buen Camino!! Don’t forget the vino tinto and cafe con leche! :)
    Pauline recently posted…Autumn Road Trip: Finger Lakes, Upstate NY

    • November 22 2015

      Hahaha so much vino tinto! Thank you!

  • February 21 2016

    Funny, I’ve followed your blog via email subsription for a while, but I missed this post. I’ve just decided that I’ll be walking the Camino Del Norte next year, hopefully…so I look forward to following your camino!

    • February 26 2016

      Thanks Leigh! I can’t believe I have less than a month to go

  • March 22 2016

    I am so glad I came across this post! I am doing the Camino this May/June. A little bit more of the busier time to go, I know, but I couldn’t get it planned for any sooner. Looking forward to following along your journey and pick up some tips and tricks along the way :) Buen Camino!

    • April 06 2016

      Yaaay!! My experience has been amazing so far!

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