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Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Story #8: Carol, aged 52, from California, USA

This week’s Camino story comes from Carol, 52 years old, from California.

Carol on the Camino

Carol on the Camino


How many times have you walked a Camino? And which ones?


In August of 2014, I walked the Camino Frances from Burgos to Santiago.


What caused you to decide to walk the Camino?


My decision to hike the Camino was a confluence of two factors. Ever since doing a guided hike of the Milford Track in 2000, I had been keeping my eyes open for other places where long, multi-day hiking was supported by regular intervals of food and lodging. This allows for very light packs and a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. The Camino certainly fits that bill with its extensive network of pilgrim hostels and cafes.


The second factor was more personal. I had become increasingly dissatisfied with the 9-5 grind and was looking for a way to redesign my life to have a much smaller commute and a lot more travel. So I quit my job and embarked upon my pilgrimage on the Camino. The pilgrimage offered me a major physical challenge as well as an opportunity to reboot myself. It was the beginning of what I consider to be my personal renaissance.


What were some of the highlights of your Camino?


Like so many others, I really appreciated the easy camaraderie that the Camino offers. I could have solitude if I wanted it but also the company of others when I needed it. I also received many kindnesses along the way- someone who sensed that I was lonely and walked with me for a while, a shared meal, good advice. I was fortunate to be able to attend the pilgrim mass in Santiago on a day when they were doing the botafumeiro. The special mass along with the huge swinging incense burner was pure theatre. And as a committed agnostic, I was surprised at how moved I was by the mass.


Carol on the Camino


What were some of your biggest challenges on the Camino?


It took me the first week to get my nutrition dialed in. I averaged 14.5 miles (23/k) per day and was burning a lot of calories. It took me some time to realize that I needed more protein, more snacks and to time my meals optimally.


My year was a particularly bad one for bed bugs and …well…you can imagine how awesome that was. Like everyone, I experienced some physical challenges. My walking pace was slower than I had expected it to be and I experienced the usual sore muscles and blisters. But, it is indeed an endurance event and everyone experiences some challenges. I was glad for the training that I had done.


How did the Camino change you?


Carol in Santiago de CompostelaIt gave me an even greater appetite for long-distance walking. I’ve been doing some longer walks while at home but am also looking to build more of it into my travels.


But more important than the physical benefits, I experienced a very genuine gratitude on the Camino that I have been mindful to retain in my day-to-day life. I’m thankful for the family who supported me. I’m thankful for my fellow pilgrims. And I am thankful for the people of Spain for being such great hosts to pilgrims.


What is the one thing you wish you had known before the Camino? Advice about walking the Camino?


As a practical matter: per the earlier comment on bed bugs, I really do wish that I had sprayed my bag with permethrin prior to leaving. As a physical matter: take the advice of others and keep your bag light. Mine was 14 lbs (6.5kilos) and I lacked for nothing. As a mental matter: be open and be kind.


Anything else you would like to add?


Just go, even if it’s for a week. You don’t have to walk hundreds of miles to have the experience of the Camino.


Be sure to check out Carol’s Camino posts, including a Camino packing list for women, on her excellent website: Wayfaring Views.


If you’d like to share your Camino story, please doRead another Camino story.


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