The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a journey; a test of will and fortitude; and most of all, a uniquely personal experience. Taking some time out of your life to walk along these historic and sacred trails will leave you exhilarated and exhausted, and perhaps with better Spanish language skills. This is not a relaxing vacation. It is a nonstop adventure. Never sleeping in the same place twice, you take this road through many highs and lows. You will be tired and hungry; you will get lost; your whole body will ache; and you will get up the next day eager to do it all over again.
In the fall of 2008, we chose the less-traveled “Coastal Route”—it proved to be just that. During our 550-mile trek, we never saw another pilgrim. Though we walked alone for 45 days, we felt part of a rich and diverse community. It was humbling to walk in the footsteps of infamous explorers, artists, scientists, kings, philosophers, and popes. We never felt alone. There was always a way marker reminding us that we were not the first and would not be the last to travel these roads.
There is something magical about this pilgrimage. The Camino takes you alongside a highly trafficked industrial highway in the morning, amid a gently sloping green meadow in the afternoon, and into a salty fishing village at day's end.
Arriving in Santiago de Compostela was a whirlwind of emotions: pride to have completed the journey; nostalgia for the adventure; and relief to know we would soon be wearing clean clothes.