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What is Camino de Santiago? Why did I decide to do it? Was it worth it?
A few months after I finished my Camino, I am writing this post about it. I should admit that I needed time. Time for reflection and to realize everything that happened on the Way and after it. I have decided to write a few posts about the Way, to answer all of your questions and to bring you to the “magic” of it or to prepare you if you want to do it.
What is Camino de Santiago?
Camino de Santiago is an addiction, once you have walked it, you will want to go back over and over again on the same or on a different route. Wikipedia says that this is a network of pilgrimage way or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The way has a story older than 1000 years and it has supposedly been walked by many. At the day that I reached Santiago, more than 4000 people were finishing it as well. So you can imagine how many people walk through it annually. The reasons are different – some of the people do it for a religious matter, another for a spiritual matter, to strike up a friendship or a different connection with somebody, to be in a good shape or to lose weight, and many more.
The Way of Saint James is not only one. In fact, all of them lead to Santiago de Compostela. The most popular one is Camino Frances – it is the one that most of the people take. If you want to be by yourself with your own thoughts, this route is not for you. I was on that route for the last 40 km because of the routes which margined there. Camino Frances is for everyone who wants to meet new people. You are never alone on it, there is always someone in front of you, or behind you or just next to you. Pilgrims from all ages, nationalities with different stories. This route starts from the French city Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and it is long 738 km. The villages are close to each other and there are many albergues (the pilgrim hostels on the way) and restaurants. I have heard that Camino Frances started to become a business, but I haven’t been on it, so I can’t say that for sure.
Camino Portugues is the second of terms of popularity. And the next one that I want to visit. Originally, it starts from Lisbon, but most of the people start from Porto because it has facilities on the route. This itinerary is for pilgrims who love the ocean and enjoy the wildness. It is 633 km long.
Camino del Norte is the north way which is through the ocean coast of North Spain. It goes through a few amazing regions. It starts from Irun, a city on the border with France. That is the route that I chose. Many people say that this is the most beautiful and most dangerous path. There are days that you only go uphill. But soon after there comes downhill to the ocean coast where you can walk by, swim or just lay down on the sand. The water is really cold, though. The path is 840 km long and it embodies magic, history, nature, pure beauty. This is the reason I chose it, I’m a vigorous swimmer and being close to the ocean makes me delighted and content. On the other hand, I love the mountain too, this is a different story and addiction. Two in one, the perfect route for me. Despite the difficulty of the path, when you reach the end you’ll get an immeasurable feeling.
When you reach Santiago, you can continue walking in two ways – most of the pilgrims choose only one, but you can do both if you want. They are to Muxia and to Fisterra (the last land). You can walk or get the bus if you don’t have enough time. I wanted to go to the furthest end. Where there are only rocks and a vast ocean landscape after which there is nothing else except for America, which is probably somewhere on the other side, but you cannot actually see it. To Fisterra was the route that I chose. Here is km 0 and believe me to see km 0 after nearly 1000, this is something immense. It is an indescribable feeling to be alive.
Everybody asks me what is to be on the way? The path is full of living energy, new people, interesting conversations, lots of positive emotions, sweat, hot and relax. Before having this experience, I didn’t want to know anything, I didn’t want to know what to expect or where exactly I am going. I wanted to enjoy every moment, every day, every second. And yes, it was not easy at all, it was a real challenge and a real delight at the end. And how you feel, who you meet hand share everything you have with. This is what Camino teaches you – to be kind, sharing, grateful and spreading love. Patience, humility, willpower and strength to endure without giving up.
Why did I decide to do it? I learnt about it 8 years ago and I was dreaming to go, I shared it with my friends and with my family but it was never the right moment. First I was at school and after that, I went to University. Thereafter I moved out in the UK, but the idea that one day I am going to do it stood there. The last years have been truly emotional for me and I had moments of true sadness and pure joy. I changed my job, the house I lived in, even myself, but I felt like I am into one routine without any change. And meanwhile, time was passing by. I didn’t know what I want, where I want to work, what I want to study, do I want to study a master at all, did I want to continue blogging or not, what I wanted to do with my life at all? The feeling of being 25-years-old and having all this pressure coming from your family (I’m speaking of getting married, having kids, stable job and etc.) makes you realize that having this journey at this time was the perfect moment to challenge yourself and become a better version of yourself. And being good-hearted not only to the people I love but to everyone
Was it worth it? What did I learn? It was worth it every step, every blister on my feet, every moment of pain and sorrow in my shoulders and my back. It was worth it every landscape, every sunrise and sunset, all the people I met, all the animals I saw and stroked, everything was worth it! It is undeniably difficult and it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but I deeply believe that everyone should experience it at least once in their lives. And no one says that you have to walk 1000km. You can do just 200 or even 100. This is YOUR path in your way and if you want to rush, you can do it, if you want to enjoy it, you can do that also, but make it YOUR way, not mine or someone’s else.2