My journey on El Camino de Santiago
This is a short account of my solo journey on El Camino de Santiago. There's no right or wrong way to walk this pilgrimage. It's a very personal journey, and if you choose to embark on it, I recommend listening to your own body, pace and needs. However I've created this for curious souls and maybe as an inspiration to anyone who dreams of walking the way too. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch...
The way I walked:
32km: León → Villavante
25km: Villavante → Astorga
20,3 km: Astorga → Rabanal del Camino
5,5km: Rabanal del Camino → Foncebadón
11,6km: Foncebadón → El Acebo
15,7km: El Acebo → Ponferrada
18,5km: Ponferrada → Pieros
28km: Pieros → Ruitelán (via alternative route)
15,5km: Ruitelán → Hospital da Condesa
25,2km: Hospital da Condesa → Samos (alternative route)
22,2km: Samos → Molina de Marzan
28,4km: Molina de Marzan →Ventas de Narón
26,5km: Ventas de Narón → Melide
33km: Melide → Pedrouzo
20km: Pedrouzo → Santiago de Compostella
A day in Santiago de Compostella
21km: Santiago de Compostella → Negreira
21,5km: Negreira → Santa Mariña
31,4km: Santa Mariña → Cee
12km: Cee → Fisterra
11km: Pamplona → Zariquiegui
15km: Zariquiegui → Mañeru
24,2km: Mañeru → Azqueta
21,6km: Azqueta → Torres del Rio
17km: Torres del Rio → Logroño
19,4km: Logroño → Ventosa
30km: Ventosa → Santo Domingo de la Calzada
15km: Santo Domingo de la Calzada → Viloria de Rioja
19km: Viloria de Rioja → Villafranca Montes de Oca
15km: Villafranca Montes de Oca → Agés
23km: Agés → Burgos
20,6km: Burgos → Hornillos del Camino
16km: Hornillos del Camino → San Anton
23km: San Anton → Boadilla del Camino
24km: Boadilla del Camino → Carrión de los Condes
23,4km: Carrión de los Condes → Ledigos
16,3km: Ledigos → Sahagún
31km: Sahagún → Reliegos (via alternative route)
24,1km: Reliegos → León
A day in León
Question and answers
I've been asked various questions about my walk, here I answer some that came up many times - feel free to get in touch if you have others.
Was it hard?
Yes and no. I really loved it. I love to walk. I'm not used to walking such distances, nor with a backpack, nor so many days in a row. So physically, yes, I felt it in my body. I felt how in the beginning I got more sore and more tired, but I also felt how my body built strength as days passed. I really enjoyed feeling my bodies capacity to create heat and increased circulation. I loved feeling my pulse rise as I climbed a steep path, and the immense capacity of my lungs. It also became clear how sleep and restorative time was so important. The few days that felt really challenging, was when I didn't feel rested in the morning, and the one time I felt some sort of injuring lurking, was when I had pushed myself the day before, and didn't get enough rest. It didn't always depend on the amount of hours of sleep, it was also the quality of sleep, and I believe how my overall health felt, and as a woman where in my moon cycle I was.
What felt hard sometimes, was the fact that everyday you sleep in a new albergue - in a dormitory full of other pilgrims. Sometimes it was wonderful and I received so many gifts in terms of the people I met. The days it felt challenging was when I was really tired or didn't feel a mental or emotional capacity to take in other people. Then the task would be to create some kind of private space among so many other people.
How did you plan your route?
I didn't plan my route ahead. I knew I had 40 days available, and then I picked a starting point that felt good to me. I chose Pamplona, because that meant I had enough time to start slow and take rest days or go slower some days if needed. When I first planned to do the walk, I hadn't envisioned walking all the way to Fisterra, but because I had given myself plenty of time, I could choose to do that, when I felt the desire to go there after reaching Santiago de Compostella.
I used a Spanish app, which had all the practical info about the route, and it was great to consult during the walk; to see how far there is to the next albergue etc. I can count on one hand the times I looked at google map, because the way is so well marked with yellow arrows and shell signs. Also if you're curios about what I brought along, you can see my full packing list here.
What did a typical day look like on El Camino?
This is a tricky question to answer because each day is different, still there were some patterns for me. Most albergues have a check-out time at 8am in the morning. I preferred not to walk in the dark - and I don't mind the afternoon heat - so I would get up, have breakfast and get going just around sunrise. Walk everything between 2-10 hours with rest stops, lunch and coffee breaks. Arrive at the next albergue, put my legs up against the wall, massage my feet, maybe do laundry, take a nap, explore the village/city/area, have dinner - most nights with other pilgrims - read, hang out, watch the stars, sometimes sing and then go to bed. Often by 9pm since many albergues close their doors at 10pm!
Did you reserve a place in the albergues?
No I never made a reservation. A huge part of El Camino - for me - was to experience the freedom of only having to pack my small backpack in the morning, and then wander off to wherever my feet will take me. Sometimes it was a lot further than my mind thought, sometimes it was less. I loved to not decide ahead and maybe get to a place and just stay there because it felt right and other times keep going further than expected because none of the places I pass made me want to stop... As much as I'm good at planning - and how it often serves me in areas of life - I loved not planning and feeling the fluid spontaneity that occurred when being open to it.
What was it like traveling solo?
I intentionally went on El Camino on my own, because I wanted complete freedom. To walk my own pace, to stop when I wanted, to hang out with the people I wanted etc. I loved it. There are a lot of solo travellers on the road, and you can easily find friends and walk with other people, if you feel like that. Most days I preferred to walk by myself - especially in the mornings. But some days I did walk with new camino friends and had a great time.
If you walk the French Way like I did, it’s rare to be completely alone for a long time. I did take some alternative routes, and I had one day where I didn’t see any other pilgrim for 13km - but that was rare!
As a woman I’ve been asked by many how it was to walk on my own. I felt safe most of the time. I had one experience that felt weird, when a local guy turned around and followed me for a while and eventually walked past me when I stopped in the middle of the road. I then noticed him hiding behind a tree further down the road. I found that to be quite weird behavior, so I just stood waiting for a while contemplating what to do. Not long after a young pilgrim came walking by, and I shared what just happened and asked him if I could walk next to him. He was very friendly, and I walked with him for a while until I felt safe again. I met so may other solo female travellers, and I’m almost reluctant to share this experience, because I believe that the more people get used to women being able to travel freely and by themselves the less such things will happen. I think there are some weirdos out there, but having women feel scared is also about power and control (but hey that's a different piece to be written at some point!).
What kind of people walk El Camino?
I found El Camino to be kind of like a microcosmos of life. You meet all types of people. People with different styles of walking, planning, micromanaging or not planing at all. I met people of all ages and professions. I think the youngest I met was 21 and the oldest 83. I really enjoyed how there was little small talk and a lot of honest and deep conversations. Sometimes people became your good friends, and we exchanged contacts, other times you just shared one brief moment, but the shared encounter didn't lose any value because of that.
Still curious? Read my blog post What I've learned from walking about 800km across Spain