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Camino de Santiago

Page history last edited by Jakey Toor 8 years, 9 months ago

In 2002 I read The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. It was the first time I had heard of the Camino de Santiago and I thought "I'd like to do that one day."




The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrims path that runs from The Pyrenees in France, across northern Spain, to Santiago de Compostela, where legend has it, the remains of St. James are buried. Thousands of people walk the path every year for spiritual, cultural, or religious reasons. The path itself was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 and was later registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.


As happens with such things (either because the universe is trying to point you in a particular direction or because you are trying to point yourself in a particular direction and therefore become sharply attune to any and everything pertaining to your way), I saw signs for the Camino everywhere and, via a former mentor, was put in contact with a woman who had walked it before. After discussing it with her and feeling her enthusiasm, I knew that it was something I was going to do at some point in my life. In 2004, at the age of 24, I felt that I was at a major crossroads and an opportunity to walk the Camino happened to present itself. I had a two and a half week window to walk and so I started in the city of Leon, about 350 km from Santiago. Despite my distress and the pressure I was putting on myself to make decisions about major aspects of my life by the time I reached Santiago (which never works by the way - you can't rush understanding, or being sure, it happens when it happens), it was a completely eye-opening, rewarding, insight-providing, explorative, soul searching, amazing experience. I told myself that I would come back one day and walk the entire route (starting in the Pyrenees) when I was in a better frame of mind and didn't have such pressing matters to deal with immediately afterward.


After finishing graduate school in 2008 I decided that walking the Camino was something that I was ready to do again. I wanted to walk the full 500 mile Camino. I thought it would be a nice way to decompress after 2 very intense years of studying, working, student teaching and performing. I started on September 3rd in St Jean Pied de Port, and arrived in Santiago de Compostela on October 7th, having walked 500 miles in 35 days. In hindsight, I would have allowed myself more time to nurse an ankle injury, take a few rest days, and continue on for three more days of walking to Finisterre. Finisterre used to be considered the end of the known world and was the final destination for many pilgrims who had walked the route in past centuries. On arrival, pilgrims are supposed to burn everything from their journey (many Pilgrims make a symbolic burning now, like a shirt or a sock), swim in the ocean naked, and then sleep on the beach until the sun rises. It is a way of shedding and purifying your pre-camino self and giving yourself permission to be born anew. Next time (:-)


The experience of walking the Camino is difficult to describe. I always feel that the words I find don't do it justice. For me, it's a dichotomy. It's the feeling of having total freedom while moving in a definite direction. That sense of freedom and direction is accompanied by the purifying feeling of carrying only what you need with you (which you quickly realize isn't very much) and shedding everything that you have outgrown. When I reached Santigo I was left with the essential, the distilled, in terms of both possessions and person.


On the Camino there is the comradery of common purpose between pilgrims and an unspoken understanding that every individual is unique, on their own path, and will find what they need, when then need it, as they walk. Both journeys have made me much more aware of the importance of timing, pacing, reflection, and intuition. For me, the Camino is a metaphor for life's journey, physicalized and condensed.


Below are some helpful links if you are interested in walking the Camino de Santiago and some pictures from my pilgrimage in 2008. Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I am happy to share my experiences with anyone interested.


Buen Camino!



Spain's official Camino de Santiago site: http://www.spain.info/TourSpain/Grandes+Rutas/?Language=en

Another great UK Camino site: http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/

Packing List: http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/packing-list/




The Clouds


The Pyrenees


The Meseta


The Trees


The Forest


The Chairs


The mixing of Young and Old


The Sunflowers


The Graffiti


The Cities


The Stones


The Mountains


The Windows


The Milestones


The Present Moment


The People


The Destination



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