El Camino – The Highlights

We started walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, France on 20 April. Thirty six days later, we walked in to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, traveling 497 miles (799 km) westward.


Other than 5 miles (8 km) on horseback, 12 miles (20 km) in a taxi, and 110 miles (180 km) by bus from Burgos to Leon, we have traveled on these feet.

We walked 370 miles (590 km).

We slowed down. We rarely reserved beds in advance, trusting that we’d find something. We woke at 0600, walked for over an hour before coffee or breakfast. We learned to share space with other people – a LOT of other people. We met people from around the world – sharing laughter, tears, a meal, a few days walking together – glimpses of our lives.

We learned to appreciate every moment of peace. We ate when we were hungry, rested when we were tired. We redefined luxury – to include walking in solitude, wooden bunk bed ladders, and cloth sheets on a decent mattress. We carried in our packs a bare minimum of belongings – nothing unused. We washed our clothing by hand. We learned the power of restoration that comes through sleep. We lost an appreciable amount of weight without being hungry. We are harder to kill.

We accepted that the most environmentally responsible option for clearing our sinuses does not involve tissues. We saw enough spindly-legged old men in their undercrackers shuffling about hostels to last us a lifetime.* While many peregrinos leave their fecal matter a reasonable distance** from the trail, others seemed to have no problem leaving it mid-trail, for the rest of us to admire. We learned a teeny bit of Spanish – and although we didn’t always get it right, it was universally appreciated.

After five weeks, we thought we were done walking – even though the daily routine was deeply ingrained.

Arriving in Santiago last Friday, with a week to kill, we hopped a bus for the coast. We spent four days farting around by the sea at “the end of the world” – Fisterre and Muxia. But we were restless… We didn’t feel right NOT walking.

When we arrived back in Santiago today, our plan was to take the airport bus to our hotel. It was only 12 km – so we walked it – in a chilly, misty drizzle.

It felt good…

Tomorrow, we’re off to fart around in Barcelona with an old friend, who has planned an intense repatriation experience.

And then home, for what lies ahead…

* One. Exactly one of these is enough to last a lifetime. We saw dozens more.
** If you see an area adjacent to the trail littered with toilet paper? Probably not the best place to have a picnic. Humans can be really filthy animals…

20 thoughts on “El Camino – The Highlights

    • So. Many. Stories. And a million photos to organize and process. I was mostly off grid, but kept a written journal. It will take some time for me to pull it together…. But it was an amazing journey.

      • I think you’re going to love reliving the experience when you do sort through the pics and notes.The process of going back through maps, journals, and photos to write about my hikes on the PCT takes me right back to the moments. And I’m seeing a whole lot of learning that happened over the miles.

        • You’re right – it took me almost as long to organize the photos, then work through the trip by using both my journal and my guidebook. It was worth the effort – and a little time between what it felt like THEN, and how it feels NOW was useful!

    • Even though we thought we had prepared, the majority of our prep was on the trail. Climbed over the Pyrenees on day two, and thought we were going to die! By the time we climbed the second mountain a couple of weeks later? We were much stronger…. But walking is meditation, and I have a new appreciation for ‘just walking’.

  1. You and Studley are more buddhist than the buddhists, you’re living it and appreciating every second of it, damn i love it. Keep it up, you only get one go around, no use wasting it.

    • We tried. We really, really tried. But to quote my friend in Barcelona – “people make it really hard to be Buddhist”. We judged people – fully aware that we had no right to, we judged the shit out of people who didn’t understand that “quiet hours from 2200-0600” mean QUIET! We judged the shit out of people who did the Camino on bicycles, without using the common courtesy of ringing a bell before startling us from our walk. We judged the shit out of people who yakked incessantly (behind us). We judged the shit out of people who made no attempt to speak any Spanish. But we tried…. I guess that counts for something.

    • And we continue to evaluate that definition! Staying with a friend in Barcelona for a few days, I was able to use real shampoo and conditioner for the first time in weeks! We used shower gel, hand soap, or whatever we used to do laundry on our hair… And we were able to DO LAUNDRY IN MACHINES! A lavadora and secadora! Really clean clothes!! The simplest things…

  2. You and Studley are AMAZEBALLS! I can’t wait o hug both of you and hear ALL THE STORIES!! Safe travels home!!!

  3. ‘We are harder to kill’ is worthy of a tattoo. Complete and total freedom would scare a lot of folks. We’re so regimented and scheduled that we can’t imagine being otherwise. How do you like it?

    You tell that old friend of yours I said hello.

    • It was the mantra of the pod of people at my old gym… I absolutely loved the concept of always working to be harder to kill. Stronger, lighter, faster, more resilient.

      The freedom was intimidating at first. A mostly open-ended 6 week walk. But it felt good to be somewhat off grid, on our own among people doing their own similar thing. Minimal risk of failure, once we figured it out.

      Our blogfather says “hi” back – he was marvelous, as always. Just the right amount of lounging about the apartment, and exploring the city…

    • It remains part of my overall guiding resolution – simultaneously becoming harder to kill, while getting my affairs tidied up and preparing to die. i started doing yoga last year, and one of the yoginas i met said that this is a concept that is interspersed within the practice of yoga… which means i should probably do more yoga!

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