“You don’t choose a life, you live one” -The Way
As travel enthusiasts, my husband and I are always thinking about the next trip, and the next, and the next. We are currently planning five trips; three official, one that may or may not happen, and one to occur whenever we have a LOT of free time (whenever that is). It is this last trip I would like to share today. Here is how it all started:
In 2010, a movie called “The Way” was released to theaters, starring Martin Sheen. Without giving anything away (this is all in the preview), the story is about a father who, in his son’s memory, flies to Spain and attempts to walk the Camino de Santiago, to spread his son’s cremated remains.
This movie was our inspiration. I definitely suggest it. It is funnier than you think, and has an amazing message. After the movie, we talked about it in the car on our way home, and then again the next day. Then the research started … is this something WE could do? Before I talk about how awesome it is, let’s get this out there- it is a hiking trail (bikes are allowed), but this means it is not handicap accessible. Sorry. Other than that, here is what I have learned and why I think the Camino is right for almost anyone.
El Camino de Santiago, literally meaning “The way of St. James” is a pilgrimage to a beautiful cathedral in the town of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is believed St. James was buried here. Many people, however, walk the Camino for personal reasons rather than religious. Although it began as a Christian penance pilgrimage, it has evolved to accept all types of people, as an amazing travel and personal experience. There are a few well-established paths to follow from various places. Some of the longest established paths stretch from Paris and Rome all the way to the Western coast of Spain, however, some travelers have even made the trip all the way from Israel! Needless to say this kind of trek takes a long time on foot, but some travelers choose to take it a step further and go all the way to the ocean (a must-do for me).
Tradition: The scallop seashell is the symbol of a pilgrim. Many choose to wear a shell on a necklace, or attach one to their backpacks to symbolize their voyage. The seashell can also be helpful in finding accommodations. While on the Camino, nights can be spent camping, in hostels, in hotels, or with hosts who offer their homes to pilgrims. Shells can be seen on people’s doors and gates, on their driveways and on signs, to better direct people to shelter and keep them along the trail.
The Passport: Obviously, you will need a government issued passport to go to Spain, but there is another passport you should know about. When you start your journey, for three to five Euro, you can purchase (at a hotel or in major cities) a Camino Passport. This tiny booklet or card has suggested sights and stops listed, depending on which route you decide to take. When you reach these stops (some of them are as simple as your accommodations for the night) each place has a unique stamp to add to your passport. When you arrive in Santiago, you can present your passport (you can keep it) to receive your compostela, essentially a certificate of completion of the Camino. They can, however, refuse your passport if they feel a significant stamp is missing. My travel souvenirs are not typical; normally common-place and inexpensive, but unique in a way that reminds me of the trip. If I ever have a month off to walk the Camino, my souvenir will be a passport full of French and Spanish stamps.
Overall, I don’t believe the reason you go is important. It will be significant to you, of course, but what is important is to GO! Make your own pace, go as slow as you like, experience life in these amazing places, see the breathtaking sights, taste the food, smell the wilderness, and make hundreds of new friends, with whom you share an amazing journey. The only thing left to do is decide which way you will choose.