A pilgrimage through Spain that leaves one wanting to go back and walk forever.
Last year my girlfriend and I took a plane headed for France. In a charming little town called Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port we started walking. And walking. And walking. Hey to some it might sound like torture, and for the first day or two it was, but our bodies quickly adapted and soon we were immersed in some primal feeling of serenity, tranquility and happiness.
The walk runs through many small villages and the locals are so charming, it seems unreal. But the greatest gift was a chance to meet so many other pilgrims from countries all over the world. The first day we started we met a man named Mike in his Sixties from England who had done the pilgrimage 6 times already ! We're talking about a month-month and a half of walking and this man was in top shape ! We stuck with this charming, tobacco pipe smoking fella and made countless other friends while walking too.
The pilgrims are often retired couples, but there were many younger adults and even parents with their children ! There was a german family we met the first few days who had their 12 year old daughter walking with them. I watched in envy, wishing my parents had been so bold.
How it works: In each town along the roads of the Camino, there are several small hostels there specifically for the pilgrims. They're cheap and sometimes even free, but you often sleep in bunk beds with other people all around you. At first this seemed like a big deal to me: I'm a light sleeper and I like having my own space, but it ends up adding to the communal joy of the moment. People are all there to help each other and it's marvelous to watch people from all walks of life and from all across the globe, making their nests next to each other and communicating despite the language barrier.
To walk this pilgrimage, you need to get a document (called Credential) proving that you aren't simply a homeless person there to get free or cheap housing. It's like, a passport that you get stamped at each hostel you spot at. This booklet can be purchased for a few euros from a Spanish tourist agency, or from churches in your community or on the roads of el camino themselves.
I strongly recommend this to anyone, no matter what physical shape you're in. The feelings of absolute serenity are priceless and will stay with you forever. It's affordable and will give you great perspective on your life. Thank me later