So you liked the movie “The Way,” or you heard from someone about this long walk through Northern Spain. Your curiosity and reasoning about the Camino is just that, yours. Undertaking this walk will take commitment on your part, and research is necessary.
You will hear again and again that everyone should walk their own Camino, each one is different and for varied reasons. Maybe you are just curious and just want to understand what all the excitement is about. A good place to start is the Camino forum. This can be found online at:
If you are from the United States, you might also look at a Facebook group called Americans Pilgrims on the Camino (or APOC). Here you will find all kinds of discussion going on with photos and current Caminos that are occurring at the moment. Both sites give practical advice about travel, packing, finances, and lodging. YouTube is another fun way to watch clips that people have posted on their walk.
There are books to purchase or peruse as well, and a good site like Amazon will narrow your search in showing you just the books that you’ll need. What I appreciate about Amazon (and I don’t work there yet), are the e-books created by those who have done the Camino (hereinafter referred to as Pilgrims). Some of the books are just compilations of daily journals and although they appear rough in writing, really give you a feel for the terrain. This blog is a result of my own research, as I am walking my first Camino in April, but I thought I’d share my take on it.
It is a good idea to look at different times of the year as you wade through the research. If you are young (20’s), and have the time off between semesters, can walk in heat, like a party, and are fast: your time might be summer. Each season has it’s draw. For instance:
Spring: After Easter (varies from year to year) the lodging begins to open up. It does rain, and you can have snow in the mountains. I’ve seen pictures of mud and muck. But: it isn’t hot through the Meseta; the flat, high plains that 1/3 of your walk takes you through. Also the Meseta will be green, green, green with new grasses blowing in the wind. I want to see that! Another consideration here is that the lodgings or Albergues (Al-BEAR-gays) don’t have the crowds like they do in the summer, and you might get a lower bunk more often. The Spring flowers and newly budded trees are in abundance. This is either good or bad, as if you are prone to allergies, you might have a difficult time. What works for you personally? I can’t walk in heat; I just can’t process it. Therefore, my options are either Spring or Fall.
Summer: June & July have fewer people than August. August is holiday month for most of Europe and many make a 30 day push during this month. The benefit to summer: longer days (earlier starts), more pilgrims (if you like that), and more services are open and running. The Meseta can be very hot, which is why most pilgrims leave very early in the morning when walking at this time. If you like to sleep as late as possible, you might not be able to.
Fall: The Fall has weather that is decreasing in heat. After September, the rooms in the albergues begin to free up. There is fruit (only pick up windfall) along the way, and some claim that this is the best season because of the cool mornings and lack of heavy rains. I haven’t looked into Fall as I have Spring, but it does seem like a nice time to make this trek. After October, a few albergues close, and the days are shorter and shorter. If you want to walk over 40 days (I plan on 40), know that the weather will be changing as you approach Winter (rain, snow, and wind chill). You will need to pack a little more because of changing weather conditions.
Winter: Who would want to? That being said, there are a couple of pilgrims right now, who are planning on a Winter trek. Young, strong men/women, with the ability to haul heavier packs. There will be storms, fewer places to stay, unheated lodging, and less support. So, as Winter approaches, there are fewer and fewer trips reported on the forums and Facebook pages. In fact, even as I write this, I have noticed that the postings on current treks are dwindling down, and those who are walking are doing the southern paths. There is more than one Camino path, but that is: another research topic.
So, in conclusion: if you are still interested and most likely, you feel a strong pull to set out from your door, cross over to Spain, and walk “all by yourself,” then you need to start a notebook and check list. Some questions to consider may include:
- Why do I want to do this?
- What do I need when walking alone? Even if you are going as a couple, each one has their own personal preferences.
- Can I walk in heat? Do I want to experience Spring, Summer or Fall?
- Looking at the lodging options, which one can I NOT do?
- What are the different paths to Santiago? Which path calls to me?
If you feel a growing sense of destiny with this ancient path, read my entry tomorrow on “Commitment.”