Walking the Camino
They say that the Camino de Santiago calls you. If you are feeling the call to walk this life-changing journey, then I’m honored to be part of your first steps.
There are many routes on the Camino, there are many ways to walk those routes, and there are countless reasons for walking. No route is bad, no way is wrong, and no reason needs justification. Please consider this your ultimate Camino de Santiago resource guide.
“The Camino calls you.” Until it called me, I didn’t know that Santiago was the capital of Galicia in Spain, or that the cathedral is said to hold the remains of Saint James. I didn’t know that pilgrims have set out for Santiago since the Middle Ages, carving well-worn paths into the Earth, into history, and into the hearts of all those who walk the “The Way”.
This Camino de Santiago packing list may just be the best one around. Bold statement, I know. But when you get really familiar with what you should not pack on a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain, you can speak with confidence about what you should pack. And let me tell you, I made some serious mistakes…
Favorite Stories Along “The Way”
Since I am not Catholic and, at the time, I didn’t even own a backpack, I was sure pretty sure that the Camino wasn’t going to call me. And then it did call.
I was traveling the world solo on a grieving and healing journey following the death of my fiancé, Jeff, when I picked up a book Jeff left on his shelf called “The Pilgrimage“. Despite the fact that I didn’t even own a backpack, I felt called to walk 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.
The day when it all began!
The day with an epic detour!
The day with the carnival!
The day we hit 100 miles walked!
The day we call masturbate-gate.
The good news is that we solve masturbate-gate!
When we learned to pour cider in Asturias.
The day we hit 200 miles…and I threw up at a church.
The day it rained sideways.
The day we completed our life-changing pilgrimage.
Around the same time that the Camino called me, my friend Lizz asked if she could travel with me for a while. I said:
“Sure, Lizz, but I think I’m going to walk across Spain. Do you want to join me?”
Lizz didn’t know what the Camino was, but she didn’t hesitate for a second before saying yes.
We set out on the Camino del Norte – the Northern Route – on Aug. 16, 2019, and we arrived in Santiago de Compostela 35 days later. Forever changed.
Day-by-Day on the Camino del Norte
This guide with the Camino Frances Stages is being updated as we walk! We started our journey on August 12th from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. We have 45 days to walk all the way to Santiago with an add-on walk to Cape Finisterre. This is the second pilgrimage on “The Way” for my walking pal, Lizz,…
The First 100 Miles
The first 100 miles on the Camino is what we call the “body phase”. Soon we will move on to the mind phase and the soul phase, but here we are battling the real aches and pains of bodies that aren’t used to walking between 12 and 20 miles every day. The pain was real! But so was the beauty of Spain.
Each day-by-day story is accompanied by video and tips for that stage on the Camino del Norte. At the end of the daily accounts, we have an in-depth video from our post-Camino perspective on what those first 100 miles on the Camino were like.
The Transition from Body Phase
As we leave our beachside campground and our first rest day, we are starting to leave the physical stage – the body phase of the Camino de Santiago – and we are entering the mind phase. We are learning that we can ignore the pain and enjoy the walk. But it’s a long transition. One day we will feel great, and the next day we struggle through the whole stage.
Our first scandal takes place during this phase on our pilgrimage. We call this scandal on the Camino masturbate-gate. I’m really proud of Lizz for talking openly about this taboo topic after a man in an albergue was very inappropriate in a shared space (see the video recap below below Days 14 and 15).
During this leg of our journey we got wildly lost and crawled under barbed wire, through stinging nettle, and along railroad tracks.
The Mind Phase
When you start walking the Camino without thought of pain, you have entered the mind phase of your Camino. All of a sudden, major decisions seem perfectly obvious. Dilemmas you have wrestled with for years seem simple.
This is when the pain fades into background noise, replaced by the muted, meditative sound of walking sticks against paths cushioned by fallen leaves and carved over the centuries by the footsteps of pilgrims.
As we turned inland, away from jaw-dropping coastline views and toward mountainous, windswept ascents dotted with wild horses, our minds adjusted to the scenery and even the extreme beauty become a backdrop.
During the mind phase of our Camino, we reach the halfway point, take a detour to the Camino Primitivo, and recover our walking sticks after two pilgrims steal them out of the albergue!
The Soul Phase
This is what it’s all about. The soul phase of your pilgrimage is life-changing. You’ll become completely in tune with your body. If you’re walking with someone, you’ll be in tune with their body, too.
And if your pilgrimage is anything like mine, your soul’s purpose will seem clear. In the daily grind of life, I think we forget our dreams. We forget what makes us truly happy.
For me, as we neared Santiago, it seemed so obvious that I couldn’t go back to the nine-to-five job that I hated. I had always been afraid to pursue my dreams of being a writer. The financial risk of leaving my job just didn’t make sense.
Until the soul phase of the Camino.
Out there, the idea of not being a writer made no sense at all.
During this phase of our journey, we are joined by a friend from America who walks nearly 100 miles with us. We climb a mountain, dance into the region of Galicia, and reach a major milestone: only 100 kilometers to go until Santiago.
The message came on day four of walking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain. It was time to make a decision. Northwestern Hospital needed to either move my partner’s sperm to long-term storage or destroy it. It was a decision that I had been wrestling with since Jeff died in June of 2018,…
The Last 100 Kilometers
The last 100 kilometers is when the Camino del Norte joins with the more populated Camino Frances. We made so many new friends, nearly got locked out of a monastery, and walked when the rain fell sideways. Some of our favorite memories are made during the last 100 kilometers of our pilgrimage across Spain.