I read a post as I walked the Camino in 2018, titled “20 Truths About Walking The Camino”. That post was how my life was at that very moment. I laughed. Hard. I then thought about what I would add or change to that list. After walking a second Camino in 2019, here’s my 25 Realities of Walking the Camino de Santiago (Francés route).
Now I’ve had time to reflect on my own wander, my solo Camino walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, I thought I would write my own post of what I see as the realities of walking the Camino.
25 Realities of Walking the Camino
- The movie, ’The Way’, will be a topic of conversation. Every. Single. Day. Every pilgrim will have watched it at least once.
- Café con Leche and Vino Tinto become crucial in your Spanish vocabulary as it will be what keeps you functioning.
- Ear plugs become a standard part of your nightly routine. You will never know snoring like you will on the Camino.
- You will experience body aches and pains like never before. Your body will hurt in places you never even knew existed.
- You will disregard Brierley’s ‘Stages’ altogether if you are a slow stroller. What kind of crack he was smoking when he wrote this book? You will find The Wise Pilgrim app far more valuable.
- ‘Vitamin I’ is a phrase you will hear on the Camino. Simply, it is Ibuprofen. It is also referred to as ‘Camino Candy’ or ‘Camino Lollies’ as they are popped so frequently. (Not recommended for too long, btw. Trust me, I walked my Camino with a doctor who told me some horror stories of people overusing Ibuprofen!)
- Your feet will become your new obsession. It will take you longer in the morning to dress your feet than it will to brush your teeth AND dress your body. You will learn what works for your feet and what doesn’t. When you stop and take your shoes off, pilgrims will stop and ask if you are okay, or ‘how are your feet?’. Talking blisters over dinner is considered “normal conversation.”
- You’ll grow to hate walking. As you hobble into the Albergue at the end of a long day, you will swear up and down that you’re done and dusted. You’ll be ready to quit just to end the pain, only to get up and do it all over again the next morning.
- You will get tired of the Pilgrim menu and seek out anything else and be happy to break the budget for it.
- You will also tire of Boccadillas or anything that includes ham.
- Your favourite meal of the day will become your second breakfast. Yes, it will be a thing. You will look forward to bacon and eggs or tortilla de patate, or even a chocolate croissant, which you will justify because you have already walked 8km.
- You will be excited by red plastic chairs that will be the tell-tale sign of a bar being open.
- You will crave clean sheets, towels, and a private bathroom and consider those things absolute luxuries.
- You will start grabbing extra sheets of toilet paper from Albergues or bars. You will even start carrying tissues into toilets, ‘just in case’.
- You will buy more tissues than you’ve ever thought possible. You nose will run constantly, especially on those early mornings.
- Your pilgrim credential will become just as important to you as your passport and, after a while, it will be your badge of honour. Once you complete your Camino, it will be the document that will mean more to you than the Compostela you receive in Santiago.
- You will think about sending your pack forward and may even find, after you do it once, why you didn’t do it sooner!
- Buen Camino will roll off your tongue like hello does in your native language. After Sarria, you will have your Buen Camino greetings ignored and you may find yourself repeating the greeting more loudly, just so people respond to it.
- Therapy might be required afterwards because the “real” world seems too bizarre. You’ll definitely cling to your Camino family after the Camino ends, because, suddenly, they are the only people who understand you.
- You will wonder if you will keep the weight off after the Camino ends.
- When you reach Santiago, you will have challenging time stopping your ‘pilgrim diet’, especially when you continue to eat with your Camino family.
- You will get mad if people at home imply this is a vacation. This is the last thing from a vacation.
- You really start to question why those who walk from Sarria to Santiago receive the same credential as those who walked the fill Camino, the entire 800km route. It’s not up to me to judge, I know, it’s not the Camino way, but somehow it doesn’t seem quite right.
- You wonder, when standing in line in the Santiago Pilgrim Office, why those who walked from St. Jean Pied de Port (if not further!) don’t have a separate line from the rest, to receive their credential. Our feet seriously are tired!
- You will meet people who you would not normally meet in daily life and be amazed every day at their stories. You will realise quickly that this is why you walked the Camino, to find people who enrich your lives in ways you never thought possible.