When people discover I have walked the Camino they are often full of questions. It seems to me that if people are considering the walk they need to be reassured that they can do it and will be safe. So, for what it is worth – which really is nothing – I have decided to put an article I had published on the Camino and my thoughts on walking the Camino, along with what I reckon is some good advice, on my web page.
Three short pieces of good advice first …..at least I think it is good advice but that is probably because it is MY advice!
- carry the absolute minimum for two reasons (well, obviously you have to carry it but also you will be surprised how wonderful it is to discover how little you need)
- don’t get a blister
- go with the right attitude – be open to what may come to you and enjoy it
So here we go…
SETTING YOUR OWN PACE
Take it easy....Take your watch off and just walk easy, enjoying the silences of the countryside: the birds, the distant hills, the little villages, the long, lonely tracks, the vineyards, the cows, the flowers and the friendships you will make along the way. Some will stay friends and others are journeymen in your life. Enjoy the lack of 'chatter' in your life: no TV, no friends phoning, no radio, no news, no work. The ‘no news’ was a hard one for me, because I was pretty sure history might end if I wasn’t monitoring it. To my great delight it didn’t.
Also, if you have it, enjoy the sunshine. I was lucky. I only encountered soft rain one morning and I remember that occasion vividly. I had just set out from a refugio before dawn (I always left early – eager to get on the road) so I didn’t notice that the sky was overcast. As I was walking alone in a forested area, damp and dark with shadows, a misty rain began to fall. I pulled the hood of my nylon all-weather jacket down (I only ever wore my jacket in the mornings because it was always cool around dawn) and I turned my face up to the rain. It was exquisite. I remember smiling at the perfection of it and then laughing out loud…all by myself. It was one of many beautiful moments on the Camino. However, if it had rained for three weeks I would have had a totally different attitude. So, enjoy the sunshine.
I keep myself reasonably fit by swimming one or two kilometers in the ocean every morning, but unless you can walk about 25 kilometers every day with a pack strapped to your back for a month or so before you leave then nothing will really prepare your body for the Camino. Please don’t be put off by the fitness issue. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and degrees of fitness complete the Camino. You simply go at your own pace.
It can be difficult at first and my pack was especially heavy (I do not recommend carrying 11 kilo especially if you are reasonably slight) but after about a week it didn’t bother me anymore, because I gradually got fit for the walk by doing the walk - as you will - and because I began to turf things out of the backpack that I didn’t need, like that extra set of underwear.
I found the best time of the day to start walking was the morning, just before dawn. I would usually finish sometime between 1.00 and 3.00 pm. Walk early and finish early was my preference.
I also walked by myself everyday – no exceptions. This was important for me and I do recommend it. I went on the Camino by myself and because I wanted to be with myself. I wanted to get away from the timetables and ‘chatter’ in my life. At the end of the day, though, I would look for company. If someone I had met along the way was staying in the same village as me then we would have dinner together and were often joined by strangers. But if there was no one I knew around (during the journey you begin to meet people who walk at the same pace as you) then I would be the stranger at the dinner table. Everyone is welcoming to a single walker and you always found lots to talk about.
Give yourself four weeks to do it reasonably easily.