I’ve always enjoyed Joanna’s passion for experiencing and eating. We have much in common: cities to which we’ve traveled, experiences ranging from 5-star hotels to budget inns, places in which we’ve lived (she moved North then East, I moved West then South).
When Joanna asked me about the Camino de Santiago, I was thrilled that she is considering doing it. Fourteen months after my walk, incredible memories are still vivid and friendships made are still real.
What is the Camino de Santiago? Also known as the Way of St. James, the Camino is one of the oldest and most important Catholic pilgrimages in the world. There are several caminos that end in Santiago, Spain, the most famous and popular of which is the Camino Frances. This path begins in St. Jean-de-Pied-de-Port in France, which is where I and two friends started with everything we would need for the 30 days stuffed in a 20-pound backpack. Following yellow arrows and scallop shells (the symbol of the Camino), we navigated our way over the Pyrenees and across the country of Spain.
Although none of us are Catholic, the spiritual nature of the path was not lost. Each step we took for the 800 or so kilometers was a true blessing. Every day for 30 days, we walked. Sometimes, we walked up endless hills, other times, across endless plains. Sometimes, we walked alongside city freeways, other times, not a being or person was in sight. Sometimes, we walked together or with new friends, other times, in solitude.
Always, however, it was an adventure. Along the way, we met individuals on their own journey, for many reasons, whether religious, spiritual, or personal. Regardless of the motivation, we were together in a world separate from the “real” one. Yet in many ways, the Camino wasas the world should be – one where we trusted each other, where strangers share meals, and where “families” are created quickly. We looked out for each other, even though many of us didn’t speak the same language. We passed messages through word of mouth to the albergues (pilgrim hostels) because we didn’t carry cell phones. Strangers offered those of us who bore a shell, indicating our pilgrim status, fruits from their trees and stories from their villages.
We also tasted our way from comfort food of the French countryside, to the cured meats of Navarra, to the cheese of Arzua, to the fresh seafood of Galicia. If you think walking for 30 days is a great way to lose weight, you might want to rethink walking with me…but if you think walking for 30 days is a great way to experience life, you might want to do this.
The Camino is more than a physical challenge; it is about following one’s own path and living every moment. Each journey is uniquely an experience of a lifetime – time to reflect and appreciate life through exploration, embracing, and of course, eating.
For an in-the-moment account of my walk, please check out: www.elcaminoylacomida.com – please forgive the typos as I mostly typed on a small tablet, sitting in front of a church, borrowing Wi-Fi.
(Thanks so much to Belinda for this guest blog…I am living vicariously through her travels on the Camino and I hope you feel as inspired as I have by her story. Joanna)