The first time I heard about the Camino de Santiago was during my first year living in Spain when reading the AAA guide book to Europe. I was questioning why they included Santiago instead of Valencia or Granada after Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla. I had heard tons of good things about the autonomous community of Galicia, but I had never heard anything about Santiago de Compostela or the Camino. The story fascinated me. I visited Santiago that first Semana Santa and saw the peregrinos (pilgrims) arriving to Santiago. I cheated, taking a train from Porto to Santiago, as I was just fine with being a sightseer at that time.
Over the years, as I heard more about it, the more inspired I became about the possibility of doing it one day. After my first visit to the Basque Country in 2010, the Camino del Norte began to speak to me. The Camino del Norte became part of my Bucket List.
During my year in my Spanish home Valencia, I read a TON about the subject. I checked out several self-published books from Valencia writers about their caminos, including one who created his own Camino from Valencia to Santiago. I became more and more determined to do it.
Over the years, I’ve visited a lot of the cities on the Camino Frances, the most popular Camino that has exploded in the past few years with tourist peregrinos. León, Burgos, Logroño and Pamplona are some of the most famous, although the Navarra villages Estella and Puente de la Reina are some of the most beautiful. I always take pictures of the concha (shells) whenever I am in a place on el Camino.
Last year, I did a very small part of El Camino from Pasaia (Pasiajes) to Donostia (San Sebastián.) It was only two hours, but the call felt stronger.
I’ve been saying I was going to do an etapa (stage) all year long, and after my sprained ankle last March (Spoiler alert: there will be a future entry about bad luck on travelling, another on bad hostels, another why travelling alone is better than travelling in bad company in addition to the continuing series of Set Meravelles), I bought a guide in Spanish on the Camino del Norte to motivate myself as I healed.
Summer is winding down, and I feel unprepared. I knew doing the whole Camino was not going to be in the cards for this summer, but I am going to get it started. Due to some financial issues at the moment, I won’t be able to buy some of the basic supplies (a bigger backpack, sleeping bag, proper hiking clothes (I do have the comfortable walking shoes though) suggested. I also feel unprepared for 5 days of 20 KM hiking together.
But that is not going to stop me, as this is MY Camino. My spiritual side knows it’s about the journey, and I know this is going to be done at my pace. So on Sunday, while the city of Bilbao is still in a drunken stupor from Aste Nagusia, I will be boarding a bus from Bilbao to Irún on the Spanish-French (or Euskadi-Iparralde for the Euskal Herria folks) border to do Day One of the Camino. Yes, it’s going to be one day this time around, but as I go gathering strength and confidence and build my supplies, I will be able to do more and more. For next summer, I hope to be able to walk from Ribadesella in Asturias to Santiago and Finisterre.
The Camino del Norte is going to be a way of finding myself, and it’s going to be a spiritual journey. Needless to say, I am freaking the freak out right now. However, if I don’t get started now, it could turn out to be something that gets indefinitely postponed until it’s too late.
Carpe diem, folks. Carpe diem.