All human beings at some point in our lives, either sooner or later, want to pause, either by an adverse situation, the exhaustion of monotony, or simply the need to take a breath to restart our daily life. When I heard about the Santiago way, I was very interested in going. In that moment, it was not possible for me to do it, as for someone who has to work, has a demanding family life or different occupations, it is not easy to take several days in a row to have an experience like this one.
Usually, when you think about holidays, it comes to your mind going to the beach, rest, eat and disconnect. But an experience on the road to Santiago is something absolutely different.
What is the road to Santiago?
The Santiago way (or St James’ Way) is a walking route, others do it by bicycle or by horse, and it is divided into stages of approximately 15km to 30km per day, which end is the apostle Santiago’s tomb, located in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain). It is often carried out as a Christian pilgrimage, although many people today, do it with reasons other than religious, but mainly spiritual and others for sporting reasons.
Legend says that by journeying to Santiago visiting the tomb of St James and hugging the statue, will ensure that your prayers are heard. The simplest route to complete the Camino, is to do 100 km from Sarria (the last part of the French road) which allows you to obtain the Compostela (a diploma given by the Catholic Church, written in Latin, which certifies the pilgrimage made for religious or spiritual reasons in devotion to the apostle St. James). The way of Santiago can be done from different places, outside and within Spain, the most common are the French, Portuguese and the Northern.
How was the experience?
For me, it was something I felt I wanted to do, a call where I felt I needed to go now, because maybe later I might not have the time because of different circumstances. It was a time when I felt I needed to restart my life, rethink goals, and make a stop to continue. So the circumstances were fortunate because at that moment I had no job, I had finished my studies and I had no other commitments, so I decided that I would do it, however, it was then I started to find out what would be required.
People say that: “the road starts from the moment you decide to do it” and it is how it was. When you start to investigate and see the number of people who have done the Camino and the incredible and magical stories of the pilgrims, they make you feel even more excited to go and discover if so many amazing things are true.
I started by finding out what I needed to take with me, for example; was it necessary to have a well-equipped backpack and most importantly, very light. I started to watch videos, read blogs and information to best prepare myself to make ‘the way’. Preparing the backpack for me, was very challenging, thinking about what I should take, the right weight to avoid injuries, deciding what is essential and what is not is a challenge. After the backpack, the next step was to organise tickets and accommodation; each stage has public and private hostels. Public accommodation is commonly used by pilgrims and actually, they cost about €6/night and you sleep in a cabin sharing room with approximately 30 people. Private hostels cost between €10 to €20 and are cabin beds in a shared room of approximately 6 to 15 people.
The accommodation is one of the challenges that you must face on the road, where you will find a different kind of people, the ones who do not mind making noise, others more careful, others with a bad tempers, etc. That is what the Camino is all about, you may face many challenges that can reflect in your daily life. The most magical part of the journey is to meet real people, with people who show you who they truly are, regardless of appearances, since on the way you will not worry about leaving very well dressed or the makeup you have. There are people who only show themselves as they truly are and is one of the reasons why it is so magical.
Each person who goes to the road has different reasons, it is a unique experience and the path brings you together with the people who it feels you should meet, so they can share their wisdom. There are those who go for fun and simply find people with this same purpose, there are others who seek solitude and there they find it. And there are others who like me looked for moments of reflection and be alone, but unexpectedly in my case, I found at each stage wonderful people with different types of thoughts and stories, each one of them taught me wonderful things that I will never forget and which I will always apply. Every day is a different experience, you worry only about getting up to walk your stage, on the way you will find beautiful landscapes and places, authentic people and although there maybe blisters, pains or the desire to return home, you will always find yourself getting up the next day with the desire to keep walking and achieve your goal.
Arriving to the cathedral, which is the main destination, after walking several days facing challenges at each stage, in each hostel where you sleep, organising your meals, and at the same time enjoying the landscapes and the valuable conversations and a disconnection from the fast world, is an experience that you should not miss. And when you reach the goal and obtain the Compostela is an incredible feeling of satisfaction of achieving it, when in many moments you have the doubt of being able to reach it and in the end you can take those moments of unforgettable memories, invaluable learnings and true friends for your entire life… this was a short story about my journey on the Camino de Santiago, which I hope will inspire and encourage you to experience this marvelous adventure for yourselves and discover amazing things along the way.