Time For The Big Reveal
Six weeks to go before my big adventure, so I guess it’s time I finally come out and say where I’m going, eh?
To be honest many of you have already guessed.
There are lots of “big hikes” you can do in Europe, but only so many that are easy to do as a solo hiker with minimal gear and planning. And the trail I’ll be doing is perhaps the easiest of all of them. This year is an especially important year for it as it’s a Holy Year, which means there will probably be more pilgrims than usual. That can either be a bad or a good thing, depending on your own reasons for going. I’ve practically given it away now 🙂
Either way I think it’s time I make it official, official.
What is it they say? Envision your plan, verbalize it and then share it? Today’s blog is the third step in all that and hopefully the last step to making it a reality.
Yes, I’ll be Walking the Camino De Santiago
As many of you rightly guessed my plan is to hike the Camino de Santiago, or Chemin de Saint Jacques.
Specifically I’ll be doing the 780 km/485 mi French way, starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port in France and ending up at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the same trip that Paul and his dad did in 2019 (while my dad and I drove it in LMB). Those of you who were reading my blog back then will know that this is just one of hundreds of Camino trails. There are coastal trails, Portuguese trails, trails that go through the mountains, even trails that start as far away as Scandinavia, Poland and Italy. In fact any path that leads to Santiago de Compostela, no matter where you start, is in essence a Camino trail.
The French trail is perhaps the most popular and easiest, especially for first-timers.
It’s a well-marked trail which is very well-supported with lots of places to eat and stay along the way. There’s no need to bring a tent or food supplies, no need to worry about water sources, and no need to really book ahead (except for the first few nights over the Pyrenees). Plus lots of folks do it solo. Everyone talks about finding their “Camino family” in the first few days on the trail, and the general experience is that you’ll rarely feel alone. It’s one of the many reasons I chose this path.
I’ll Be Doing It During A Special Holy Year
2022 is particular for the Camino as it’s a rather unusual Holy Year.
For those not in the know the Jacobean Holy Year (or Xacobeo) is a regular event that occurs in intervals of 5, 6 or 11 years when the Feast of St. James (25th July) falls on a Sunday. Interestingly enough that is not the case this year. Holy Year was actually last year 2021, but because of COVID and everything being pretty much locked down, the Pope announced that the Jacobean Holy Year 2021 would be extended to include 2022. This is only the 2nd time this has happened in 9 centuries (the first being in 1937-8 due to the ramifications of the Spanish Civil War), so it’s a pretty unique event. Plus, it’s been 11 years (the max interval) since the last time.
So, what does that mean?
According to Jacobean tradition, pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela during a Holy Year may pass through the Holy Door of the Santiago Cathedral (which is open only during that year) and be forgiven of all their sins. In practical terms that means a higher than normal number of hikers, and from what I can tell from the Camino Facebook forums (they’re abuzz with activity) it certainly looks like 2022 is going to follow that trend.
For my own case, it’s rather accidental that I’m walking it this particular year. I’m not sure I’m ready for crowds (and TBH I’m a little apprehensive of it), but I’m willing to be open-minded and I certainly won’t deny any bonus-sin-forgiving that might come my way. We could all use that some of that.
I’m Planning To Take My Time
My very-much-jello plan for the Camino is to take ~6 weeks to do the French Way starting April 18th, and finishing at the end of May.
I’m a slow walker in general and will just see how it goes when I’m on the trail. I’m not really planning to book much ahead (except for the first few nights over the Pyrenees, which I’ve already booked) and will probably take a rest day every now and then in the bigger cities, where I’ll most likely book hotels rather than pilgrims hostels, just for comfort. I have some apps on my phone to help me along the way (e.g. Buen Camino and Wise Pilgrim), and plan to simply adjust my days based on how on feel. If all goes to plan I’ll be walking 15-25km per day.
Luckily, I have the time and possibility to do all that.
Most pilgrims are on a fixed schedule simply because they have limited vacation, or are flying in/out from abroad. Some only have 4 weeks which IMO is fast, but do-able if you’re fit. Some only do the last 100km so they can get their Compostela (completion certificate) Some don’t want the stress of not knowing where they’ll end up each night, so they use planning services (e.g. Camino Ways which gets excellent reviews) to do it all for them.
Honestly there’s no right or wrong way. It’s just whatever is right for you.
Why Am I Doing It?
Why do any walk? Any trail? Any pilgrimage?
I think these are very individual things, and sometimes not all reasons can be properly expressed. I’ve shared a bit about my own whys over my last few blog posts, as much as I feel comfortable doing. Specifically my need to find myself again, my need to re-boot my body and mind, things I’ve felt have slipped away over the past years of COVID lockdowns and uncertainty. I have no idea if I’ll find everything I’m looking for on the Camino, but I do think it will help to bring me some clarity and strength. Most of the big questions I’ve had in life have been resolved by walking, plying that “trail magic” that I touched on in my last post.
So hopefully this long, long walk will tackle some of those big, big questions?
Plus of course it will be an adventure, and that’s always something that’s close to my heart. And I’m doing it alone. Paul will stay with our beloved Polly (and will likely go off on his own little excursion) so this will be a solo trip, which TBH feels….weird. I haven’t traveled alone in a long time, and as much as I’m trying to prepare myself mentally and physically, I know I can’t quite fully be ready for that. So I’m both quite nervous and apprehensive, yet also a smidgen excited at the same time. Parts of it will undoubtedly be extremely painful, parts will be beautiful and parts will be something I can’t yet envisage at all.
Which is all the more reason to go.
As the pilgrims say, “the Camino provides” so I will put trust in the fact that it will give me exactly what I need (whether or not it’s what I want).
Will The War In Ukraine Affect It?
This has been a common question on the Camino forums recently, so I did want to touch on it.
The answer is simple…yes, but we don’t know the full extent.
The war in Ukraine has long-reaching arms that will cause secondary effects, even to those far away. In Spain, Ukraine provides 30% of corn feed, as well as 60% of sunflower oil (which many locals use in place of more expensive olive oil), 13% of wheat and 15% of grain legumes. Short supply of these will most certainly affect food prices.
Plus, I bet no-one has escaped noticing that gas prices have increased over the past few weeks? I don’t know the current numbers for Spain, but in France we’ve already jumped from €1.55/liter or so to over €2.00/liter (on the motorways, less rurally) and this trend will only continue in Europe and beyond.
Simply put it will cost more to travel, it will cost more for food, and it will cost more to walk the Camino.
That’s the easy answer, but frankly I think few pilgrims will mind these few inconveniences. In the short term it’s unlikely to affect visitors, and after years of COVID restrictions the locals are more than eager to welcome pilgrims back. As things stand right now, I think the Camino will still be very busy this year.
As for the rest? What will Putin do? Will the war extend beyond the Ukraine? What future dangers could we face? All those are complete and utter unknowns.
We can all do something to help (e.g. donate time/money/help to vetted aide and refugee organizations) and we can all stay informed, but beyond that most of us have zero control. Simply put, no one knows.
Can I Manage It?
I think every person questions themselves before they start a big walk like this.
Am I fit enough? What if I get sick or injured? What if the crowds (esp. being just post-COVID) freak me out? Do I have what it takes to go the distance? I think all these are valid questions, and unless you’re a trained athlete who’s used to tackling these kind of unknowns it’s really quite normal to have doubts. As I’m no longer a spring chicken and have my own share of body MOT items (e.g. a few extra pounds, 3 crushed discs in my back etc.) I have many of these same questions myself. But this trip is really not about all that.
My goal is undoubtedly to finish the Camino (I mean duh!), but I do not need to and I think that’s important.
There is no requirement for me to walk it all, no absolute necessity for me to complete it. In fact the finishing of it is not why I am doing it at all. For me this walk is truly meant to be a pilgrimage and a place to seek answers, and that will be my main focus over these next weeks and my time on the trail. I will almost certainly have doubts, I will definitely face obstacles that will test me and there’s no question I’ll go through moments where I wonder why the $&#* I decided to do this crazy thing, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep that goal in mind.
In this particular case the journey is the whole reason I’m going. Whether I physically manage it or not is rather less important.
What/How Do I Plan To Share?
Honestly I’m sure how I will share my pilgrimage at this point.
I’m bringing my phone, as photography is one of my passions and I always have to capture what I see. So, there will be an opportunity to share albeit through a mobile interface which is rather tedious and clunky (I won’t be bringing a pad or laptop). And I really do want to keep this walk as real as possible, for myself. So, let’s just say we’ll see?
Either way there’s 6 weeks to go before I leave, an eternity in some lifetimes, a fleeting moment in others. Lots could happen between now and then, but at least now you know.
That’s it folks! Some of you have already walked the Camino, or dreamt about it and while I certainly don’t have all the answers yet, but I’ll be happy share what I know. Feel free to post any questions or comments below, and of course share you own experiences if you have them (I’d love to hear)!SPONSORED LINK:
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