In August of 2016, I was blessed with the opportunity to walk the Strange Road to Santiago and Beyond! It was a walk to remember, a walk of letting go, of healing, and growing. For those of you who does not know what El Camino de Santiago is, I will quickly summarise.
The Camino, as is widely known at least in the English-speaking world, is a Catholic Pilgrimage path in the north of Spain. It starts from the Spanish-French border in the Pyrenees and it ends in the northwestern city of Santiago. It originated during the Middle Ages and since then millions of pilgrims have made their way to visit the cathedral in Santiago and of course pay their respects to St. James. The length of the Camino is about 800 km and around 200,000 people from each corner of the world walk it every year. Some people walk the Camino for spiritual/religious reasons (including me), others for cultural, historical, or recreational reasons. However, enough is enough; there are hundreds of books, videos, and various materials about the history of this magical path. So if you want to dive deeper in its history and cultural heritage, just go for it!
How long did you walk for?
My Camino started on the of 3rd August 2016. I made it to Santiago in 24 days, finishing on the 27th of August 2016. After that I walked another 3 days and more 90 km to Finisterre (the End of the World), which is located on the west coast of Spain. I would walk 20-30-40 km or 6-9 h per day. In total, I walked about 900 km for 30 days. It was very physically/mentally/ spiritually challenging experience.
How much did it cost you?
If we exclude the price of my flights from the UK to France and from Spain to the UK, the whole 30 days cost me about 1000 €. I would spent about 30 € per day on average. Sometimes less, sometimes more. This 30 € include my accommodation and food.
What would be the most memorable experience for you on the Camino?
This is a though one. I do not know where to begin from. There were so many memorable moments. However, I think one of the most memorable would be my last day on the Camino. After I finished the walking day I climbed up on a small hill, which overlooks the vast Ocean. There, I watched the Sunset with hundreds of other pilgrims. The Moon came on the horizon and with it millions of stars. One could see the Milky Way very clearly. Then, the magic happened! Shooting star after shooting start, even a few at a time, started appearing out of nowhere. I could count about 30 for 1 hour. Then I gave up! I call this moment the Gift of the Camino. It is a gift, because I walked 900 km to this place and there I was granted with such a beautiful scenery by the Universe. It was also kind of humbling experience looking at the vast cosmos and the infinite worlds that are out there.
What people did you meet on the Camino?
I met every kind of people, all carrying their stories and troubles, joys and hopes, scars and pains. I met cancer survivors, who were walking the Camino, so they can prove to themselves that they were still alive. For them, every step, no matter how painful, meant they were still amongst the living. I met writers, filmmakers, and artists. I met people who have sold everything back home and have started their Caminos thousands of kilometres away. Some were walking for weeks form Belgium, from Denmark, from Germany, from Hungary. I met people from each continent. I met people who had walked from Rome to Santiago for 3 months (around 3000 km).
What did you learn on the Camino?
So many things, I do not know where to start from! Probably the biggest lessons of the Camino are to learn how to let go easily, live with less, find gratitude for what I had at each moment, trust the way, accept every step of the path, and cultivate some Love for God. In more general terms, the Camino taught me to dream big. It showed me how to speak with the forest. It taught me to love The Great Spirit. It taught me about the Spiritual Ego. It taught me to tolerate other, different people from me. It taught me how to be taken care of and how to take care of others. It gave birth to the New Me- the Gladiator. It inspired me to start this blog. It taught me patience. It showed me how to connect and start a conversation with anyone. It taught me how to overcome mental/spiritual/physical pain. It introduced me to my limits, so now I have new limits. It made me grow. It showed me how to lead a pack and how to be part of the pack. It showed me my ‘friends’ and my ‘enemies’. It showed me beauty. It made me wonder about the mysteries of life. It taught me some Spanish. It taught me how to forgive. It showed me grace. And many more lessons.
Would you recommend the Camino to others?
Definitely! I believe that If you want to know yourself, you have to be alone with yourself. You have to get out there, where each moment is a completely new experience. Only when you challenge your status quo of living, you will be able to understand YourSelf fully! The Camino gives you all these opportunities.