How I Came to Walk the Camino de Santiago

walk on Trail between fields under blue sky with clouds

No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher… A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

For years my mother had been talking about her dream of doing some “pilgrimage” called the Camino de Santiago, which apparently involved a walk from France to Spain through the Pyrenees. I never gave it much thought and didn’t ask for the details, just nodded whenever she brought it up and said, “Great idea, Mom. Go for it!”

Then two weeks ago, when I was looking up movie times for “August: Osage County”, which I never ended up seeing, I noticed that a documentary about this Camino “thing” my mom was always talking about happened to be playing at our local theater. I found the film’s web site and after not much more than a glance at it, and without watching the trailer, sent the following email to Mom:

screenshot of email from daughter to mother about the Camino

Then promptly forgot all about it.

Two weeks later, however, I received her mystifying reply.

email about Camino de Santiago and Camino Documentary

Having forgotten that in my original email I had asked Mom about the “August” movie, I puzzled over her response. How could a documentary about a spiritual pilgrimage have “too much arguing and no resolution”? Especially to such an extent that our friend Barb would consider walking out mid-movie. I was baffled. I tried calling Mom but got her voicemail.

With nothing better to do, I clicked on the link and watched the trailer for “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”, hoping to solve the mystery of the email.

Rafael Theatre where I watched email about Camino de Santiago and Camino Documentary

Photo Credit: Rafael Theatre by Steve Rhodes

The mystery wasn’t solved, but my interest was piqued. I glanced at the clock, and saw that it was 1:45. A quick look at Fandango revealed that the next showing of “Six Ways” was in a nearby town at 2:15 and that the movie would only be playing in Marin County for two days.

Hopping in my car, I drove north on 101 for twenty minutes to the Smith Rafael Film Center, our local “indie” theater, and arrived just in time.

As the lights went down in the old art theatre, I slid into a seat and spent the next one and a half hours immersed in the Camino Francés and the journeys of six pilgrims.

I was mesmerized. Spellbound. Completely engaged.

The movie was followed by a question and answer period with senior producer of the film, Theresa Tollini-Coleman. I listened intently as she fielded a multitude of questions, then headed home.

Fascinated, I decided to find out more.

I dove into the research.

During the next several hours, I bookmarked information in categories that continually expanded and morphed.

During the next several days, “The Camino” folder inside my “Travel” folder became the “Camino de Santiago – Way of St. James” folder inside the “Europe” folder, which was inside the “Long-Distance Footpaths” folder. A “Japan” folder full of information about Shikoku’s 88 Temples Pilgrimage soon nested below the Europe folder, which soon expanded to include France, Italy, Norway, and the UK.

Photo Credits: Temple by CTG/SF, Temple by Ageo-Akaina, Daisho by Freedom II Andres, Pilgrims by Josh
Crocs and iPad

Photo credits: Mark Crawley & Jared Earl

Now, one week after viewing “6 Ways“, there are folders on multiple routes of the Camino de Santiago (Viade Plata, Camino Portugues, the Norte, St. Francis Way, to name a few), a folder on packing (and within that, one on technology, another on sleep sacks vs. sleeping bags, then footwear, rain gear, and first aid kits), folders on highways and traffic, folders on bed bugs, folders on training, folders on general tips…

I have read the heated debate between Francis Tapon, who brings up some interesting points in his blog post, “10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks” and the response to it from Camino Pilgrim Nev, who walked 3,109 kilometers from Prague to Finisterre in 2014.

I’ve watched the self-documented Camino journeys of Mark Shea and Drew Robinson.

I’ve compared travel times and costs to St. Jean Pied de Port, a popular starting point for the Camino Francés, via Paris, Barcelona, London, and Madrid.

I’ve looked into the Northern Way and the Camino Portuguese.

I’ve Googled “Introverts on the Camino” and have wondered how this journey would be for someone who’s accustomed to having her space, lots of space and time alone. (After note: Please read my post, “An Introvert on the Camino” to discover how the journey ended up being for me in this regard.)  I’ve looked at Sherry’s “Ugly Photography“, which documents the less than lovely aspects of the Camino Francés. I’ve even weighed my long johns (7.5 ounces…that seems heavy) and am considering purchasing a pair of Crocs (ugh! sorry Crocs fans, I know they’re comfortable) and an eReader or iPad.

By the way, my flight to Madrid is reserved for mid-June…see you on the Camino.

How did you end up walking the Camino? Let us know in the comments!

4 Comments

  • Reply Kathryn January 11, 2016 at 17:28

    I’ve done it twice. Skip the crocks. Thu re uncomfortable. Enjoy your Camino. It is beautiful. It is challenging. It is liberating. It can be frightening. It is heartwarming and life affirming. It is spiritual.

    Buen Camino!

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels February 4, 2016 at 08:12

      I did skip the Crocs both when I walked it in 2014 and in 2015. It is indeed all those things you mention.

      Buen Camino!

  • Reply Carla Abanes March 30, 2016 at 07:43

    hi, I am torn between el camino and the european peacewalk. What would you suggest for a beginner like me who would be going solo? btw, did you go solo? and also what gadgets did you bring? I want to bring my slr and telephoto lens but that would be insanely heavy! Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels May 17, 2016 at 20:04

      Hi Carla. I am so sorry that I am just seeing this comment. I need to update my blog plug-ins! I did go solo and was, of course, on my first Camino, a beginner also. I took a digital pocket camera but ended up leaving it in my backpack and taking photos with my iPhone. At one point, I mailed the camera ahead to Santiago to ditch the extra weight. I definitely saw people with SLRs though. You might try Googling “SLR on the Camino” or checking out the Camino Forum threads. You can read about the gadgets I took here. Buen Camino!

    What are your thoughts?

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