El Camino de Santiago: A Life-Altering Walk


I believe that whatever your personal reason is for walking, it is the right one and you deserve to be there. It's your Camino. The most popular route of the Camino de Santiago is the Camino Frances, which begins in St. Jean Pied de Port, at the foot of the Pyrenees in the French Basque Country and ends in Santiago de Compostela (or Finisterre for those who choose to continue walking for an additional 4 or 5 days). This route could not be better set up for those of us going it alone and it is truly the perfect solo trip. The entire journey took me 37 days, which included rest days in Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon, three beautiful and interesting cities.
The road will lead you through sweet rural villages with friendly locals, lovely farms, interesting churches, and ancient sites. You will experience some of Spain's smaller cities with their beautiful cathedrals, lively restaurants and nightlife, and interesting landmarks. The yellow arrows will guide you up, down, and around stunning and diverse landscapes where you will encounter lovely animals, not so lovely animals, and pretty wildflowers. You will read inspiring messages written on walls and see tokens left by pilgrims past.
They say that the Camino is divided into three parts. The first, through the Pyrenees to Burgos is gorgeous and mountainous with lush landscapes and even lusher vineyards (Hola, La Rioja!). This part is for the body. This was where I had to get used to walking 20-25 km every day with a full backpack and the part which had me questioning whether I could actually do this.
The second part, known as the Meseta, from Burgos to Leon, is a flat, agricultural area. Many pilgrims chose to skip this, but it was a beautiful part of the Camino for me and a great rest for my body. This is the part for your mind. I loved the landscape, but honestly, there's not much to look at, so it forces you to look inwards, at yourself, at your habits and patterns, at the things you want to change. I also found that this was the time where I really started to let go and get in the Camino groove.
The third part, from Leon and through the stunning green hills and farms of Galicia to Santiago de Compostela is for your spirit. This is where I felt mentally and emotionally strong and refreshed and did not want it to end.
Many people speak about the Camino de Santiago being full of miracles and synchronicity. There is a mystical aura which is certainly palpable. Unlike others, though, I didn’t really feel like anything extraordinary was happening to me while I walked. I can, however, say that this experience absolutely changed my life after the fact. It taught me what I can and cannot live without. It allowed me the space and time to reflect upon and work through the things I was struggling with in my life. It gave me the confidence and courage to make the changes I needed to make. Although everyone’s experience will be different, I think everyone will come away with something valuable.