Walking The Camino Del Norte

In Life, Philosophy, Self-Development, Travel
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Introduction

Last year I walked the Camino Del Norte in June 2018, and I kept a daily journal entry each day I walked about my journey, feelings, the things I learned and the people I met along the way.

Here is a documentation of my journey from start to finish, over 28 days. The focus of the writing is journalistic in nature, and focuses on much more of the philosophy and mindset of the Camino rather than suggestions concerning itinerary.

This article is useful for anyone who is thinking about walking the Camino, or the Camino del Norte, and wants to get a better perspective of what the Camino is like.

I will be walking the Camino Via de la Plata from May onwards, and I plan on documenting my journey using this format again, so any feedback or ideas for improving the way I document would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, if you’re walking the Camino in 2019, Buen Camino – and I hope that you enjoy every single step of the way.


Day 1 – Team Blue Sky

Journey: Irún > San Sebastian, 27km
Total Distance: 27 / 810km
Feeling: Enthusiastic/Grateful
Lesson: With the right mindset, you can be perfectly happy wandering around in the rain. It’s all perception.

After a long 12 hour journey, I finally arrived in Irun, on the North East border of Spain, just in time to hit the 22:30 curfew at the albergue. I was sent straight to bed without being able to catch up with Joe since all the other pilgrims were fast asleep prepping for a big walk the next day. I didn’t sleep a wink, which was probably a mixture of excitement and my fellow pilgrims snoring in perfect synchronicity. Morning came sooner than I expected, with the manager of the albergue waking the house with some soothing classical music at 6am pronto.

Over breakfast I caught up with Joe and met Cristina (Romania), Zeke (USA), Mari (Norway) and Hoainam (USA), and we all decided to walk the first leg of the walk together to San Sebastian.

The weather forecast predicted 100% rain until late afternoon, but we were fortunate to followed by a pocket of blue sky for most the morning as we meandered our way along the rocky cliff faces that hugged the Atlantic ocean.

At the time it seemed fitting that “Team Blue Sky” would be the name for our group, but it seemed we spoke far too soon when about 10km from San Sebastian we were hit with torrential downpour soaking everything we were wearing from top to bottom. The squelchy feet weren’t enough to dampen our spirits though, and we soldiered on down the slippy muddy pathways down into San Sebastian to our albergue to end what was a wonderful day.

It may seem simple but this evening I’m grateful for a few small things like: Cristina fixing my bag, putting on dry socks again, and last but not least, the importance of good company.

A brilliant first day, and more rain forecasted for tomorrow, which funnily enough, I’m excited about.

Speak then.


Day 2 – Saturation Point

Journey: San Sebastian > Askizu, 29km
Total Distance: 56 / 810km
Feeling: Overly Optimistic & In-Denial
Lesson: Optimism will take you so far, and then when that runs dry and denial kicks in, you better be ready to give acceptance a shot.

I woke at 6:03AM to howling winds and the sound of rain thumping on the albergue rooftop. I could feel that today was going to be interesting, especially for my feet, when I struggled to slip on my waterlogged running shoes that hadn’t dried properly overnight. Note for next time: pack waterproof hiking shoes for the Camino Del Norte.

We set off from the albergue about 06:50 with a big dollop of enthusiasm, and Joe and I, wannabe weather experts, bouncing off each other creating unfounded rationalisations about the forecast for the day and how the weather was ‘definitely’ going to change… “look the sky is clearing” “the rain’s gonna pass and the sun will be out in now time, you watch!”

The rain didn’t pass. It dominated the day with a brief clearing for 30 minutes to keep our spirits high, but then only to put us back in that place of hopeful misery ten minutes later.

About 15 minutes in to what was a 9 hour walk, I reached what I now term “saturation point” – that is, the point where you’re already so wet, that you can’t get any wetter. After much discussion with Joe, we fathomed this principle can be applied to many scenarios in life.

Saturation point is a good place to be, because things can’t really get any worse from this point on, so when your optimism begins to fade and denial kicks in, you only have one viable option:

Accept the current situation you are in and do your best to enjoy where you are.

Today I realised that it’s draining to be continuously positive and optimistic, especially in the face of struggle. Over-optimism isn’t always productive and can indeed manifest itself as a form of denial of the truth… and that’s exactly what happened today when the weather didn’t turn out like we’d expected it to.

Obviously walking in the rain isn’t the end of the world, but to make a point, suffering is inevitable in life, and sometimes the only way through is to sit with our pains and struggles, and instead of resisting, going right into them and learning to accept our circumstances rather than wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.

So note taken and onwards we go, learning to enjoy and accept what each day brings, and work with the struggles that come forth, rather than pushing them aside with excess optimism and denial.

Day 3, tomorrow, starts with more rain (according to the weather forecast), but more importantly, a different frame of mind.


Day 3 – Ups & Downs

Journey: Askizu > Markina-Xemein, 40km 
Total Distance: 96 / 810km
Feeling: Prepared As I’ll Ever Be
Lesson: Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

I woke at 6:15am to what I thought was rain again, only to be pleasantly surprised that it was the howling wind. To add to a successful start, my shoes were bone dry and our kind and smiley Spanish host had left Joe and I a ham and cheese bocadillo wrapped in foil for us to take for breakfast.

We had a big 40km day ahead of us, so we’d prepared the evening before and got an early night so we could make some good ground early doors before the rain was meant to kick in.

The 15km walk to Deba was splendid with fine views of the coast, cliffs and lush green hills. After being teased by murky clouds overhead and short spells of spitting rain all morning, we left Deba for a 25km walk through a gorgeous valley which led into a pine forest that was being logged by several Spanish workers who were having a cheeky siesta as we passed by (they were so deep in sleep, they didn’t notice us).

We love a challenge and today was a walk full of hills, and continuous ups and downs, but the big lesson struck us while we were crossing the forest, listening to ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles. We realised that we’d wasted so much time over the last days worrying about the rain, hypothesising, trying to predict what weather we were going to face in the coming days.

During our conversations today we realised that there’s no point spending time worrying about things we can’t control, because ultimately, our thoughts about the situation aren’t going to prevent it from happening, since what will be will be. Therefore, time spent in a state of anxiety and worry is futile, senseless and a waste of valuable energy that can be directed into more things we enjoy doing.

As an overly anxious person, I know it’s easier said than done, but my aim going forward is to continue approaching scenarios as prepared as I can be, taking care of the obvious things that are in my power (in this case, waterproof boots, poncho etc), following the wise words of the Beatles, ‘letting it be’, by consciously giving space for things to play out naturally – just as they should.

In conclusion, today was a great day! Time to rest and care for our precious hobbit feet. Onwards we go tomorrow!

Lights out.


Day 4 – Rivers & Forests

Journey: Markina-Xemein > Gurnika, 25km
Total Distance: 121 / 810km
Feeling: Grateful
Lesson: The ‘Camino spirit’ is synonymous with kindness. The simple act of being kind is contagious, so it’s important to be on the lookout for opportunities to be kind to others on your path because you never know what impact it may have on them, and the people they encounter on their own journey too.

Today was a peaceful walk alongside a chalky river, which followed beautiful countryside hills and forests all the way to Gernika where we now rest our heads for the night. After 2 days of no rain, the route was in good condition, which meant just a couple of difficult sections to navigate, but nothing to complain about. To top things off, just before our descend into Gernika the sun came out to play for the first time on the trip, and now we have clear blue skies to enjoy for the rest of the day.

During today’s walk Joe and I spent much time reflecting about our time travelling and working in Australia together 6 years ago as grain labourers. A subject that kept coming up was the importance of kindness, and in true serendiptious fashion, a nice encounter occurred this afternoon which ties up today’s reflection.

This is my third Camino, and one thing that’s been consistent throughout my journey is what many pilgrims refer to as the “Camino spirit” – a shared sense of community, comradery and willingness for people to help each other on the Camino, through the inevitable struggles that come with a long pilgrimage.

Today was an example of true “Camino spirit”, coming from the host of the albergue we’re staying at this evening.

When we arrived we were welcomed by a very friendly host called Daniel. I work in the hospitality industry and could see that Daniel had his work cut out, running a 40 bed place alone, so I made an extra effort to be friendly, personal, giving him a playful high five when I found out we both shared the same name.

That broke the ice and we ended up getting into a very interesting conversation about why the Basque country wanted independence from the rest of Spain.

After settling in, we decided to put a wash on but realised we didn’t have any soap to use the albergue’s laundry facilities. I ran downstairs and asked Daniel if he had any soap we could buy, to which he replied… “put your stuff in a bag, bring it down here, and I’ll sort the rest”.

Confused, I went back upstairs, grabbed our stuff out the public washing machine drum and brought it down to reception wondering what Daniel meant, since I assumed the only washing machine was upstairs.

“Follow me”, said Daniel as we made our way down the hallway to a private laundry room where the albergue washed all their dirty sheets. He took the bag from my hands, smiled, and told me everything would be sorted and to come back in 1 hour. I asked Daniel how much I owed him for the washing and him helping us to which he replied, “don’t worry about it, just pay it forward”.

This simple act of kindness made my day, not because Daniel was kind enough to wash my clothes for free, but because he went out his way to be kind.

In the day to day rush of life it’s sometimes tricky to stop and consciously remind yourself to be kind, but kindness is contagious, and I believe it’s many little acts of goodwill like today that have the potential to have extraordinary positive consequences on the world. It was clear today that although the bubble of The Way and the “Camino spirit” encourages you to look out for opportunities to spread kindness, this is definitely something that I will be taking home and being more conscious about in my daily life.

Thanks for paying it forward Daniel, your kindness got me good.

Tomorrow Bilbao, and time to recalibrate.


Day 5 – Recalibration

Journey: Gernika > Bilbao, 30km
Total Distance: 151 / 810km
Feeling: Ready for Change
Lesson: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane (+ the Basque Country) so don’t be naive and pack running shoes that aren’t waterproof.

Today I reached Bilbao which marks the end of Stage 1 of my Camino. I’ve covered about 150km’s over 5 days, which is just under 20% of the total journey or roughly 233,560 steps.

I’ve realised that I was somewhat unprepared coming into this journey. After walking the Camino Frances a couple years back and it only raining for 2 minutes over 30 days, I underestimated the amount of rain that falls on the Basque Country, and foolishly packed my non-waterproof running shoes which i’d used to walk my previous 2 Caminos with no problems.

This time round my achilles heel has definitely been my feet. In the last 5 days I’ve dealt with some serious soggy feet which has led to several nasty and painful blisters. Not only that, but my waterproof jacket sucks, and i have a leaky waterproof cover which has soaked the contents of my bag twice.

I’m looking on the bright side and I say all this out of optimism because I’m grateful for the journey and these minor struggles have made it far more interesting and exciting. Anyways, today is the day of recalibration, and now that i’ve arrived in Bilbao, along with the helpful advice from some experienced hiker friends, i’ve decided to jig it up and make some significant changes:

  • No more wet feet – I splashed out on some new Goretex hiking shoes that fit well and are fully waterproof.
  • Fewer blisters – I bought better socks to prevent rubbing, as well as vaseline to protect the feet. Also, airing the feet when I take a break, plus realising that strapping plastic bags around your socks just leads to more rubbing and blisters takes that out the equation.
  • Staying Waterproof – Joe’s passing on his bulletproof red poncho before he flies back to England on Sunday.

In conclusion, today I am reflecting on the fact thatIi often assume things to be a lot easier and less complicated than they actually turn out to be, so a little note to self this evening would say: next time you’re preparing for a big journey, follow the wisdom of the Stoics by taking time to prepare for the worst case scenario, and then hoping for the best… and I’ll add a little bit extra… don’t forget to bring your sense of humour.

Onwards we go!


Day 6 – Joe’s 27th Birthday

Journey: Bilbao > Pobeña, 30km
Total Distance: 181 / 810km
Feeling: Ready to celebrate!
Lesson: It’s easy to lose your way by focusing on the end destination, but it’s what you learn, who you become and finding time to celebrate the small wins as you walk that’s more important.

It’s Joe’s 27th birthday today, so what a great way to have spent it, walking in the sunshine along the beautiful coastline of Northern Spain. There tends to be a lot of urban build up walking into and out of big cities like Bilbao, so today’s first 20km’s was a mixture of main roads, residential units and sub-urban towns. However, our final 10km gradually became more and more beautifully rural, and just after lunch we arrived in a quaint small beach town called Pobeña, approximately 30km west of Bilbao. There was a beach so Joe and I dropped our stuff at the Albergue and headed straight out for a swim to celebrate the day and the end of his journey!

On a long 800km pilgrimage, it’s easy to get carried away, walking as fast as possible to Santiago and the end in mind as if the Camino is some kind of race. In hindsight, it started like that for me when I walked the Camino Frances several years back, but I soon realised that racing with my own mind, wishing for a destination I was hundreds of kilometres away from, led to me missing out on the intricacies of the journey itself. Now, the more I walk, the more I realise it’s about embracing the small moments and experiences of the journey itself, and more importantly, making sure I find time to enjoy and celebrate them!

Tonight is Joe’s birthday and tomorrow his pilgrimage ends and he flies back to England, so today is all about celebration:

  • We sang happy birthday with pilgrims and our host in Spanish at the Albergue we’re staying at.
  • We celebrated the end of Joe’s pilgrimage with a swim in the sea.
  • And now we’re getting everyone together to celebrate the journey so far over a hearty pilgrim’s meal this evening.

It’s been great walking with Joe, reminiscing on memories with one of your best mates is priceless, but tomorrow we wave goodbye, and it’s time to carry on this journey alone.

So here I go, an exciting new chapter awaits!


Day 7 – Goodbyes

Journey: Pobeña > Liendo, 40km
Total Distance: 221 / 810km
Weather: Sun & Blue Skies, 25°C
Feeling: In good spirits
Lesson: It’s important to walk together, but to also be willing to walk alone too. The real learning is always in the contrast.

This morning was Joe’s last day walking, as he’s flying back to Brighton, which means I’ll be walking the next 600km to Santiago alone, which I’m excited about.

Our time together has been brief but memorable. We have a lot in common, but a similar dry British humour still exists between us, which makes travelling together and being in each other’s company pretty simple, especially with Joe’s extraordinary patience.

Over the 7 days of walking we laughed about our travel experiences together six years ago, as well as opening up to each other about things we struggle with, and what we’d like to change going forward (I’ll speak about the things I’m going to change at the end of my journey).

We walked our last 15km together, had a celebratory drink together in Castro Urdiales, said our goodbyes and off I went on my own.

As per usual, today’s walk was full of kindness once again:

  • A hug from Maya, last night’s smiley albergue host, before leaving this morning.
  • Ankel, a Spanish man who’s walked 11 Caminos, sharing his stories and wisdom.
  • A 10-year-old boy called Hodei noticed I was going off track and walked me back onto the Camino. He was a great little lad, a bubble of enthusiasm, and loved swimming and cycling.
  • I left my soap at the last albergue and Natalie, a fellow pilgrim staying at the same albergue tonight, lent me hers.
  • A fellow pilgrim had left their umbrella on route for the next pilgrim caught in the rain.
  • Last but not least, the dozens of Spanish people who stopped to chat with me on my way. It‘s really noticeable how kind people are in Spain!

I’m feeling good about walking alone. I used to be a person who wouldn’t feel ok without people around me, always wanting to be centre of attention. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve drifted to the other side, and now I enjoy spending time alone, and I often find myself consciously looking for more quiet time in my day-to-day life (perhaps that’s a side effect of running a hostel).

While we’re speaking about solitude I’d like to wrap this up with a question: do you prefer walking alone or with other people and why?

Same again tomorrow: wake up, eat, walk, and sleep. Living the simple life. 


Day 8 – Morning Routine

Journey: Liendo > Güemes, 37km
Total Distance: 238 / 810 km
Feeling: Reflective
Lesson: If you take time to seize the morning with a consistent routine, you’re much more likely to win the day.

Today I headed to Güemes, home of one of the Camino’s most memorable albergues and hospitality experiences – Albergue La Cabana del Albuelo Peuto – run by Father Ernesto and a group of volunteers (more on that tomorrow).

About 5km’s from my final destination, I randomly bumped into my friend Melanie from Germany who I met on the Camino Frances 2 years ago! I know she was walking this year but had no clue we’d be walking at the same time.

Once again the views were glorious and the weather was kind – temperate and overcast in the morning, with blue skies and sun emerging by mid-day.

I find having some kind of ritual in the morning is very important in day to day life, so today i want to talk about my morning routine as a pilgrim.

Like all good morning routines, mine begins the evening before. I shower in the evenings so that my towel can dry overnight, and lay out my walking kit for the next day (this is a ritual i built back home around running so I can’t give myself any excuses but to run when i see my kit lying at the end of the bed as soon as i wake).

I’ve found that my body operates at it’s optimum off about 7 hours sleep, so I usually make sure i’m in bed by 11pm. I’ll usually cut off any blue light from phones/devices by 10pm and spend the last hour reading, reflecting or writing my journal.

Being a light sleeper, I typically wake about 6am or a little before if there’s enthusiastic pilgrims setting off early, or if there’s a good ol‘ snorer in the room (unfortunately diffiuclt to avoid on the Camino).

In darkness and as quietly as possible, out of respect for fellow pilgrims, I pack the contents of my bag, making sure to place the things i may need that day at the top for quick access. If I can pack outside the room in light, then I will.

After slipping on my kit that I laid out the night before, I proceed to take care of the essentials – drink a glass of water, washing face, brushing teeth, putting on sun cream and lip balm. This usually takes about 10 minutes on a good day.

Then comes the most important part of every pilgrim’s ritual: preparing the feet. 

I begin by plastering up any blisters/potential blister areas, removing old ones, while making sure my feet are completely dry. Next, I smother my feet with vaseline to protect the feet from water and rubbing (a recent and very useful addition to the routine – thanks to the pilgrim who recommended that), finishing the prep with a fresh pair of merino socks, not too thick, but not too thin works fine for me.

Once feet prep is done, I’m almost there and I’ll finish with a final check for my passport and valuables, say goodbye to pilgrims and my hosts with a hug, and on my way I go!

From start to finish, my routine takes about 25 minutes, and I’ll typically leave before 6:30am. Back home, I’m used to exercising first thing on an empty stomach, so i won’t have breakfast until a couple of hours into my walk, which usually consists of something light like fruit.

That’s my morning routine. I’m always looking of ways to refine it and improve, so I’m interested to hear about other people’s routines, and have a couple of questions:

What does your morning routine look like on the Camino?

Does anyone have any unique morning rituals or practices they would like to share?


Day 9 – Hospitality Schooling

Journey: Güemes > Boo de Piélagos, 30km
Total Distance: 268 / 810km
Feeling: Inspired
Weather: Morning showers followed by sunshine
.
Lesson: There’s nothing better than being on foreign soil and feeling like you’re right at home.

Last night was a hospitality experience to remember. I stayed at Albergue La Cabana del Albuelo Peuto, in Güemes, ran by Father Ernesto, and a small group of passionate volunteers.

To cut a long story short, in the mid 70s, Father Ernesto (now 80 years old!) embarked on a 27 month world trip, coined “the trip of life”, through Central America and Africa in his beloved Green Land Rover. On this trip he discovered a big passion for travel and hospitality, and upon returning home in 1979, he decided to open Albergue La Cabana del Albuelo Peuto in Güemes.

Over the years, Father Ernesto’s albergue has built up quite a reputation and has become a haven for pilgrims. After years of running the albergue as a cultural centre, he opened his doors to what was only a handful of pilgrims in the late 90s/early 2000s. 19 years on and literally thousands of memories later (all documented throughout the albergue), he now hosts close to 12,000 pilgrims each year!

Given that my background is in hospitality and that I also decided to set up a hostel with a couple of mates on the back of my own travels, i’d heard too many good things about the place and was curious to go and experience Ernesto’s Albergue first hand.

And that I did. It was a fantastic experience and i’m still overwhelmed now by what Father Ernesto, along with the help of volunteers, have managed to achieve.

A few things stood out and took my attention:

Unique points – everything is donation based, even the food, so there isn’t this transactional feel to the place which can often create disparity between the host and guest.

Library there’s a library on site which houses thousands of photos from Ernesto’s travels, books, newspaper articles, guest books and pilgrim profiles, collected over the years in the albergue. In addition, everyone gets together at 7:30 pm in the ‘meeting room’ where Father Ernesto tells the story of his travels, setting up the albergue and its intended philosophy. This is followed by a lovely, well-orchestrated pilgrim’s meal, where everyone gets together in the dining room to share food and wine over good conversation, sat on long wooden benches. Finally, the whole place was built by volunteers while using as much recycled things as possible.

Energy – the energy of the place is magical. It’s clear that everything has been created with care and love, and when you walk into the main dining area you almost feel like you are in both a home and museum at the same time. I would add that the pilgrims the place attracts, naturally, also add to the great energy of the place.

Warmness of Staff – everyone working there was overly attentive, personal, and genuinely caring – offering water, biscuits and making sure ALL pilgrims had all their needs covered. I loved small touches like remembering names as well as reserving lower bunks for older people. As soon as I arrived, Paco (volunteer) gauged that i was hungry (he was correct, I hadn’t eaten much) and brought me a potato stew with bread and wine to the table. This level of proactive care, sometimes without the guest even asking for their needs to be attended to, is what separates great hospitality from good hospitality.

Philosophy – Father Ernesto’s personality is engrained throughout the albergue. He’s a keen traveller, photographer and documenter of all his experiences, and this is reflected by all the photos all over the walls of Ernesto’s travels, profiles of fellow pilgrims who have passed through as well as artefacts and small souvenirs from friends and pilgrims, dotted about the place. You really would need about a week to take in all the detail.

Belonging – Above all I think this is where the place hits the nail on the head. Father Ernesto has done a great job setting up a place where people can feel like they can belong; almost like a second home. Of course most pilgrims share the commonality of walking, so this makes belonging easier anywhere else on the Camino, but the spirit, love and attention Ernesto has poured into this place is contagious and it becomes more than a place to sleep – you want to be there, and so does everyone else!

In conclusion, i’ve found that this kind of hospitable kindness is evident on the Camino. This is now my 3rd camino, and after staying in roughly 60+ albergues, i’ve learned more about what constitutes great hospitality from the Camino than i did in 4 years of researching and starting my first hostel.

So if you’re ever in Güemes, don’t miss this special place – you will not regret it!


Day 10 – A Little Pain in the Feet

Journey: Boo de Piélagos > Caborredondo, 30km
Total Distance: 325 / 810km 
Feeling: Tired
Lesson: It’s the people you meet along the way that give meaning to the journey, not the places you end up.

After some intense snoring last night, i didn’t sleep that great, and decided to get up at 4:30am to hit the road. I was rewarded for my early start with a glorious sunrise over clear blue skies. I walked alone today, and asides from a few small pains in my feet, the energy and excitement from the way overshadowed my tiredness from not sleeping properly.

Tonight i’m in another beautiful albergue in a small town called Caborredondo. We’ve tracked down the local pub, and will spend the evening watching the Spain game with the locals.

During my walk today, I spent some time reflecting on some of the people i’ve met so far and the kindness they showed me. I’m grateful for:

  • Melanie, Germany – we met 2 years ago on the Camino Frances and bumped into each other randomly the other day. Not only is her energy great, but i’d lost my soap and she lent me hers.
  • Father Ernesto, Spain – for indirectly inspiring me with all that he’d created at the Albergue in Güemes.
  • Cesar, USA – for his awesome vibe and for making my day when he told me that he walks dogs for a living and that it’d taught him how to be patient.
  • Luis, Puerto Rico – for our together and opening up about his life and struggles as a teacher in USA.
  • Cristina, Romania – for helping me sew my bag straps plus many other small things on the first day of my camino.
  • Dori & Maya – our hosts in Pobena, for the best hugs and hospitality on the Camino so far. Your kindest and enthusiasm clearly shows that you both love what you do.

Lots of great people and happy memories so far.

Let’s keep walking on this way, but first, a much needed rest and sleep.

Speak soon!


Day 11 – Stomach & Tendon Pains

Journey: Caborredondo > Serdio, 35km
Total Distance: 360 / 810km
Feeling: Resilient
Lesson: I’ve got 99 problems, but blisters aint one.

Today was my toughest day so far. The day didn’t start in my favour when I woke up with stomach pains, which, based on the process of deduction, was last night’s pilgrim’s meal. To make my walk a bit more interesting, my tendon in my left ankle started playing up early doors, making all my steps thereon quite painful indeed.

It was an interesting experience carrying some new pains – both of which weren’t in the plan. As per usual, my coping mechanism was humour, and after 8 hours of hobbling, I found myself exactly where i wanted to be for the evening.

I’m not the type of person who idealistically tends to wish problems away. I think it’s good to have problems. After all, imagine how dull life would be without them?

Walking 800km’s was never going to come without problems. Today I learned the journey always has something else planned. I anticipated blisters, chapped lips and a burned nose, but instead, the journey has given me a broken bag, bruised shoulders, shaky ankles, wet feet and a painful stomach – thankfully so far nothing serious to write home about.

And now that I’m relaxing in a warm and cosy bed and the pain has subsided, I’m grateful for today’s struggles. And indeed, tomorrow brings a new day, and probably a new set of struggles and problems, and I welcome them all. If I wanted to relax, I would’ve chosen to sit on the beach for a month, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to be challenged, to struggle, to sweat, to be vulnerable, because i know fine well that there’s a lot to learn about yourself from a extended adventure like the Camino.

Onwards we go. Tomorrow i walk again, rolling with whatever comes my way.


Day 12 – Incredible Coastline

Journey: Serdio > Poo, 39km
Total Distance: 400 / 810 km 
Feeling: Present
Lesson: Be where your feet are.

I want to keep this post short this evening since i’m staying at a really unique hostel with a good group of people in a small beach town called Poo (yep, you read that right, Poo).

Today was the most picturesque and enjoyable day of my walk so far, so much so that the views helped distract from the niggly pain I felt the entire way in my left ankle.

I took many more breaks today than I usually do. I’m almost half way through my walk, and after all the km’s, i’ve noticed that stopping to enjoy the brief moments of stillness are much more important than rushing to make progress.

I realised today i’m pretty restless, and have a tendency to always wanting to be doing, moving forward, making progress, planning or being somewhere in the future.

Indeed, it’s good to know where you’re going, but more important to enjoy where you’re at. Easy to say in theory, but difficult to put in practice… and certainly something I struggle with.

In conclusion, what use is progress if you can never stop, smile, laugh and appreciate where your feet are right now?

Note taken, and tomorrow I’ll walk with better intentions for my last day on the coast.


Day 13 – The Final Swin in the Ocean

Journey: Poo > Vega, 35km
Total Distance: 435 / 810 km
Feeling: Relaxed
Albergue: Albergue De Peregrinoa “Tu Casa”

Lesson: Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.

The weather was glorious today; blue skies and not a cloud in sight. My walk was peaceful and relaxing too. I took many more breaks than usual, and paid more attention to my surroundings, taking time to take in the subtleties of the day. It felt good, really good… I like walking this way, and now i know that relaxing is just as important as doing – it’s all in the contrast.

This evening I’ve fallen on my feet and found myself in a beautiful place called Vega – a small rustic hilltop village overlooking the Atlantic ocean. I’m staying in a small albergue/homestay run by an inspiring woman called Mirana. She’s from France and several years ago walked her first Camino. She fell in love with life in Spain, and as soon as she finished her pilgrimage, decided to move to Vega and begin a new life here. She bought a beautiful home and opened it up to pilgrims. It’s small, cosy and familiar with Mirana’s spirit and personality spread throughout the house. here’s only 7 beds, so i’m one lucky pilgrim this evening!

Mirana’s biggest passions are permaculture and cooking, so we’ll all be sitting down this evening for a homemade vegetarian meal. If you’re passing through, be sure to say hi, or even better, stay with Mirana. She has great energy, and you’ll have many good conversations over tea and biscuits.

I’m heading inland tomorrow to connect with the Camino Primitivo, so i went for my last swim in the ocean this evening – a little cold, but perfect therapy for a strained tendon!

That’s a wrap! Time to relax and enjoy the evening. Speak tomorrow.


Day 14 – Farewell Camino Del Norte

Journey: Vega > Valdedíos, 40km
Total Distance: 475 / 810km
Feeling: Split
Lesson: Change is good.

Today marks two weeks into my Camino, and sadly, my last day on the Camino Del Norte.

This afternoon i turned South West towards the Camino Primitivo – the original route to Santiago, through the mountains.

I’m caught up between different feelings. On one hand i’m sad to be leaving the coast. No doubt the Norte wins the prize for the best nature of the 3 Camino’s i’ve walked so far. The coastal views and the lush rolling green hills have sometimes left me speechless, not to mention the solitude one can also find on this more. To top things off, the Spanish people have been incredibly kind, and very hospitable.

On the other hand, I love the mountains. I’ve been craving to walk the Primtivo for some time, and i’m looking forward to the physical challenge it brings.

I‘ve had tendon pain down the side of my left foot for the last several days, but I’m happy to report that there was no pain today, which leads me to believe it was my body adapting to my new hiking shoes. 

So here begins a new chapter: The Camino Primitivo. Tonight I’m staying at a beautiful monastery in Valdedíos run by 16 Carmelite nuns. The nuns are great; they make loads of homemade gifts for people passing by like soap, biscuits, marmalade. If you’re walking the Norte onto the Primitivo, i definitely recommend making a stop here!

That’s it for now. We’ll be joining all the nuns for an evening buffet, but now, time to relax and write.

Speak soon, and have a nice evening wherever you may be!


Day 15 – Random Acts of Kindness

Journey: Valdedíos > Oviedo, 38km
Total Distance: 510 / 810km 
Feeling: Surprised
Lesson: Be kind with your words because you never know what impact they might have on other people.

I want to tell you all a little story about a wonderful random act of kindness from last night’s stay at the Monestary.

I was wandering the grounds of the monastery when I saw a middle-aged lady sat on a rock, who appeared to be painting. I was curious to find out more so I drifted around the back of her to take a peek over her shoulder to see what she was painting, and indeed, she was painting a picture of the church inside the monastery.

I’m not the most subtle person when it comes to being quiet, so the lady noticed I was stood behind her, turned around and smiled, to which I replied “that’s a beautiful painting, you’re really talented”.

The lady politely thanked me for my comment, put her head down to continue back to painting, and i walked off to find a quiet place to write my journal, thinking nothing of the encounter.

2 hours later, I was having dinner with the rest of the pilgrims and nuns when the lady came out of nowhere, handed me her finished painting, said thank you, and quickly left. I was flustered in the moment and didn’t have time to react. The painting was beautiful, and upon further observation I noticed the lady had left a little note on the back, which read, simply, “thank you for your words.”

I spent a few minutes trying to understand what had just happened… maybe she was having a good day… or a bad day? Or maybe she needed some encouragement? or perhaps there was no reason at all? Regardless of the lady’s intention for giving me a painting she’d just spent 4 hours on, it hit me… a few simple words of appreciation and kindness a couple of hours earlier had made this happen.

I don’t know what that lady was dealing with, or why my words at that particular moment sparked her to give away her painting, and I never will, but one thing is for sure…

Kindness expands, and the simple act of showing appreciation or doing things for other people has a rippling effect that leads to much more kindness.

I may never see the lady who gave me that picture yesterday, but this is an experience I won’t forget, and I’ll keep the painting as a reminder that I always have a choice to choose kindness first, too.

To the lady who gave me the painting – I don’t know your name, but thanks for making my day with this beautiful random act of kindness.

Speak tomorrow!


Day 16 – Shaking Things Up

Journey: Oviedo > Grado, 25km
Total Distance: 535 / 810km
Feeling: At Home
Lesson: Despite cultural differences, beliefs and norms, fundamentally, we are all interconnected and driven by a need to belong.

Yesterday I decided to shake things up in Oviedo and sent out a few last-minute CouchSurfing requests to hosts in the city out of curiosity. A couple of hours later, a lady called Lola accepted my request. I was delighted!

After a gruelling 40km walk into Oviedo in 30 degrees heat, I arrived at Lola’s place. Lola is a 59 year old receptionist, living alone with her two cats in a small flat in central Oviedo. She is the mother of two beautiful daughters (both living in England), and her biggest passion is painting, especially portraits of people.

She loves visiting her daughters in London, and so, she wanted to practice a bit of English, so we down together and talked about some of her drawings and photo albums from all her travels around the world.

In the evening, Patricia – a guest who stayed at my hostel twice in Bucharest, Romania – came and joined us for dinner. We all chipped in and cooked up some homemade falafels, quinoa and veggies, a mixed salad, followed by a fresh fruit salad for dessert. It was wonderful, and yet again confirms my belief that food is a great way to bring a group of people from totally different backgrounds together.

After dinner Lola offered to draw a portrait of me to take as a gift to remind me of my stay with her in Oviedo. She’d told me earlier that on a good day she could draw and paint a face portrait of someone in less than 5 minutes. Ambitious I thought to myself, but my gosh she wasn’t joking; i kid you not – within 5 minutes she had drawn and painted me. I loved the outcome and it’ll definitely be going in my scrapbook for this Journey!

Overall, CouchSurfing with Lola was another memorable experience. We live totally different lives, so when else would’ve i had chance to meet this amazing person? That’s the beauty of Couchsurfing.

Lola made me feel right at home and it was also good to get a solid night of sleep and rejuvenate for what is gonna be a more demanding way across the Primitivo this week!

Tonight I find myself in Grado, and tomorrow I begin the journey into the mountains, which i have to say, as a mountain lover, i’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time.

Speak tomorrow!


Day 17 – Good People & Conversation

Journey: Grado > Bodenaya, 30km
Total Distance: 565 / 810km
Feeling: Thoughtful
Lesson: Don’t just be kind to people who are kind to you; kindness is an attitude, a mindset and a way of living. You make the choice to be kind, and there’s always an opportunity to pay it forward.

Last night i was staying at Albergue de Peregrinos de Grado – a brilliant municipal albergue in Grado run by 3 volunteers: Kent from South Africa, Neil from Australia & Michael from USA.

It was Kent’s 65th birthday, and 15 years since he walked his first Camino, so I popped down to the supermarket and picked up some wine and chocolate so we could celebrate. The evening was very pleasant indeed with everyone in good spirits, drinking wine while dancing around the Albergue to cheesy Madonna hits.

After a couple of laughs and nice conversations, one of the hosts asked me what i’d learned from my pilgrimage so far…

“The power of kindness”, i replied. He nodded his head in agreement, and we got into a discussion about what it meant to be kind.

We talked about the trap of falling into the thinking that if I do something for you, then you‘re obliged to do something for me.

I used to feel guilty when someone did something for me. It left me feeling like I owed the other person something, and even more anxious when I felt like I couldn’t reciprocate the kindness I’d been shown. But over time I’ve gradually learned to accept the kindness of others more graciously, and have come to the conclusion that kindness isn’t a transactional agreement with someone. Instead, I believe kindness shouldn’t be limited to only people who are kind to you but rather seen as a way of living and attitude that has the opportunity to surface itself in as many of our daily interactions.

After all, “what goes around comes around”, and making a conscious effort to pay it forward with kindness will only result in more kindness manifesting in your own life.

And never forget the most important thing of all: choosing to be kind is always a choice.

Have a great evening! 


Day 18 – Fog

Journey: Bodenaya > Campielo, 30km
Total Distance: 595 / 810 km
Feeling: Relaxed – ready for tomorrow’s big climb.
Lesson: There’s nothing better than sitting down for a hearty pilgrim’s meal with several familiar faces after a long foggy day walking on the Camino.

Our stay at David’s Albergue in Bodenaya was memorable for many reasons which i’ll write about another day, but take my word for it, if you’re going to walk the Camino Primitivo i highly recommend staying with him, and Celia. Their hospitality is simply magical.

It was a foggy but a relatively dry day on the trail today, with some good company – Laura, a 32 year old teacher from Germany, walking her second Camino.

We set up camp in Campielo this evening, and tomorrow we’ll be making the ascend over the Hospitales mountain route – the highest point on the Camino Primitivo, at about 1240m. We’re hoping the fog holds off tomorrow morning to get some clear views on the top of the trail, but the forecast isn’t looking so promising! Nevertheless, after a few shorter days, my body is well relaxed and the strongest it’s been on the entire journey so far, so i’m as ready as i’ll ever be.

Tonight we decided to chip in and cook a communal pilgrim dinner together, gathering whatever we could from the limited stock at the local shop. A bit of nostalgia kicked in, and for a moment, it felt like i was back at university, cooking together with my flat mates.

On the menu this evening is: pasta with tomato sauce, sweetcorn, roasted peppers, chick peas, cannelini beans, and whatever spices we find laying about in the albergue. The food is simple, hearty and nothing out of the extraordinary, but there’s no better way to bring pilgrims together than something so universal as food.

So let’s keep this short and simple today… time to relax, write, get my cook on with fellow pilgrims, and finish the evening watching England finish at the top of their group. Speak tomorrow!


Day 19 – Team Merrell

Journey: Campiello > La Mesa, 33km
Total Distance: 628 / 810km
Feeling: Fulfilled
Lesson: Teamwork leads to dream work.

Today was the crossing of Hospitales – the highest point (and some say the most beautiful stage) of the Camino Primitivo, at 1240m. The forecast predicted thunderstorms, and we were told not to cross the mountain in the event of bad weather.

But lesson confirmed again: don’t put too much trust in the weather forecast, because after more needless worry, we woke up to blue skies this morning, giving us a clear opportunity to take on the mountain route. We were pumped!

The trio team for the day was: myself, Laura from Germany, and Porter from USA. We established we all had the same brand of walking shoes, so by default, our team name for the day was “Team Merrell”. With our packed lunches, we were all equipped, ready to go, and on we went, up the mountain.

The walk was wonderful, made even better by enthusiasm of each other’s company, as we elevated high over lush green mountains with clear views as far as the eyes could see. We took a pit stop at the summit to enjoy a couple of cheese and egg sandwiches, while sharing all the different celebratory snacks we’d individually packed.

On our descend, things quickly turned for the worse, when Laura fell and rolled her ankle, 16km shy of our final destination, turning the last stretch of our journey into a team effort to make sure we got Laura there in one piece.

Laura was a great sport, and with the help of Porter’s walking stick, several breaks, a beer, jokes, conversations to distract from the pain, and much needed words of encouragement, Laura made it to our final destination, and is now relaxing and treating her sprained ankle with ice.

To top things off, we were rewarded for our team effort with our home for the evening – Albergue Miguelin, in La Mesa. Not only we greeted by a very kind lady running the place, but the albergue is brand new, so is very modern, and even has a swimming pool! Naturally , as soon as we saw the swimming pool, our sweaty clothes were off and we were straight in for a much needed dip! It felt amazing.

That’s a wrap. Time to eat and relax for another big day tomorrow! Speak soon.


Day 20 – Thunderstorms

Journey: La Mesa > A Fonsagrada, 43km
Total Distance: 661 / 810 km 
Feeling: Soggy, but in good spirits
Lesson: Sometimes you can’t control what happens to you, but you always get to decide how you are going to react.

This morning i was woken by some intense thunder and lightening at about 5:30am. I don’t have the luxury of taking days off walking, but I also knew that the camino wasn’t gonna be all sunshine and rainbows everyday, so i gathered my stuff together, put on my poncho, and off i went for Day 20 of my walk.

I walked 43km today in thunderstorms which persisted for the majority of the day, peaking with some ferocious rain mid-afternoon when i crossed into Galicia at about 1100m above sea level.

It’s an interesting experience when you walk in thunderstorms, pretty much non-stop for 10 hours. Add into the mix being wet, cold, and soggy feet, and sure enough, a few different things began crossing my mind… dreams of a nice warm bed, home cooked food, and good company… or perhaps even a day chilling at the beach in the sun. Fortuntately, these thoughts were brief and only lasted a few moments. I’m very grateful I chose to walk the Camino, and i’m extremely happy how it’s all turned out so far, because this has been one hell of a journey, both outwards and inwards.

Above all, today I realised that one can be perfectly happy walking 10 hours in thunderstorms. Although nature is powerful and she has all the control, we ourselves do have a choice of how to react and interpret the scenarios she presents us. Today I chose to enjoy myself and enjoy the thunderstorm, and as a result, my spirits remained high. I thoroughly enjoyed my day of walking and all the challenges it presented me.

Tomorrow’s a new day, and sure enough, nature will bring a new challenge to the table…. I’m not sure what that will be or indeed, how I will react, but what I do know is that there’s only one way to find out…. keep on walking the journey, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time!

Time for a much needed rest. Speak tomorrow!


Day 21 – A New Chapter

Journey: A Fonsagrada > O Càdovo Baleira, 24km
Total Distance: 685 / 810km
Feeling: Excited
Lesson: Life is one big, beautiful, squiggly journey.

All journeys eventually come to an end, and as i’m approaching the final days of my Camino, July 1st marks an important day for reasons that are 3,270km’s away from where i am now, in my second home, Bucharest.

For those of you who who are not a, when I’m not walking the Camino, i’m running a hostel called Podstel, which we set up in Romania back in 2016 after travelling the world together.

After what’s been a couple of great years of learning and small successes with Podstel #1, I’m delighted to announce that today we have received the keys for our second hostel in Bucharest, and the doors are officially open.

Both of our Podstels are extremely community focused and Camino esque, so if any fellow pilgrims find themselves in Bucharest in the future be sure to get in touch and you’re more than welcome to come and stay with us.

Like much of life, running a business is like walking the Camino, closely resembling the metaphor of the journey. We’ve had many memorable moments but also pains and struggles. We’ve sometimes taken the wrong path, but endeavoured to learn from all our mistakes, adjusting course, and working hard to keep sight of our own yellow arrow.

Our 5 year journey brings us to the present moment, still eager to learn, grow and work on our dream not knowing where the journey will take us, but confident it’s taking us exactly where we’re meant to go. We know ‘why’ we’re doing it, but the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ only comes clear with commitment to the journey, and walking the path.

So today marks the start of a new chapter, and a perfect opportunity to take a short day to relax, write, read and celebrate. Tomorrow i’ll walk to Lugo – a city i’ve been excited about visiting for some time.

Life is good, and i’m very grateful for journey so far – it’s been one hell of a ride.

Speak soon!


Day 22 – 1 Million Steps

Journey: O Càdavo Baleira > Lugo, 30km
Total Distance: 710 / 810km
Feeling: Reflective
Lesson: I’ve taken over 1,000,000 steps to get to where I am today, which all begun with 1 small step and the simple act of putting one foot in front of the next.

After 22 days of walking, today i arrived in Lugo – a beautiful city closed in by a 2km wall which you can climb up and walk around for awesome views of the city.

Santiago is getting closer and closer, and I’m now down to double digits, with only 99km’s left to walk. I’m tracking my walk with my iPhone’s health app. It calculates the number of kilometres I’ve covered as well as the number of steps i’ve taken.

A few calculations indicate that I take about 1,450 steps per every km, which means, after walking 710km, i’ve covered over 1,000,000 steps as of today.

That’s a huge number, and it got me thinking about what it means to go on a journey…. Every single one of those 1 million steps were necessary in. Some hurt, some were wet & soggy, but most of them felt amazing, and i wouldn’t be exactly where i am right now if you took any of them away.

And right there is the simplicity of this thought.. any adventure or pursuit in life is simply a matter of taking the first step, and working forward from there – nothing more, nothing less. But as rational human beings we choose to complicate things, and it’s so easy to fall into the trap (i’m guilty of this all the time) of focusing on the magnitude of the journey in its entirety which can become quickly overwhelming, preventing us from starting at all.

So note taken. Next time I want to go on a journey, learn a new skill, or complete any task for that matter, I won’t be focusing on how far I need to go or the end result, but rather the smallest step I can take right now, knowing fine well that there is magic and momentum in approaching things with a beginners mind and the simple act of just getting started.

Time to explore more of Lugo. Speak tomorrow!


Day 23 – Tranquility Before The Storm

Journey: Lugo > Ferreira, 26km
Total Distance: 736 / 810km
Feeling: Sleepy
Lesson: Sharing is caring.

In this post I give 10 tips for people interested in walking their first Camino.

Today I walked to a small village called Ferreira, 26km’s west of Lugo. It was intentionally a short day so I could soak up a final evening on the Primitivo route before I join the herd of pilgrims in Melide tomorrow, coming from the French Way.

The walk was wonderful today; the weather was glorious and I spent most of my day walking through quiet mossy forests and meandering up and down picturesque Spanish country roads. I arrived at my Albergue for the evening at 1 pm, giving myself plenty of time to relax and write before a family Paella this evening with the rest of the pilgrims, followed by England vs. Columbia. Come on England

Instead of my usual way of posting about my feelings and emotions, today I want to give 10 practical tips from my 3 Caminos for anyone thinking about walking their first.

Let’s get into it:

1 – If you want your body to thank you later, try not to carry more than 10% of your bodyweight, and also try limiting yourself to a 35 litre backpack or smaller if you can. You will soon discover you need a lot less than you think. Save the effort and money having to send things home!

2 – Essential things to pack: sleeping bag/liner, flip flops, basic first aid kit/plasters, travel towel, ear plugs (snoring is common on the camino), nuts and dried fruit (if you’re caught hungry), poncho, waterproof backpack cover, hat, suncream.

3 – Take some questions with you to think about while you walk and a journal that you can write in and use for introspection later once you reach your destination. This is also great for reflecting on memories later. I like to write about my feelings/emotions, thoughts/lessons, the people i meet, and the place i am staying at as well.

4 – In 3 Caminos I’ve never had a problem getting a bed. To avoid full albergues and not getting a bed, take note of the suggested stages in the guidebook (most people will follow them religiously) then walk one town further or one town less. I found that doing this led me to some magical albergues and authentic experiences in beautiful small villages and towns i never would’ve thought of visiting.

5 – Don’t finish in Santiago. Try not to miss walking all the way to the coast to Finisterre and Muxia – it’s the best part of the Camino in my opinion. Give yourself an extra 3 or 4 days after Santiago to do this. You will not regret it! Muxia is quieter, relaxed and some say more ‘spiritual’ than Finisterre.

6 – Use the Wise Pilgrim app – it has a live map and shows you exactly where you are on route so you can’t really ever get lost. It also has elevation profiles, details about all the albergues as well as info about all the places you are visiting. It saves you carrying a guidebook, and it’s also kept up to date with all the latest info (closed albergues, changes to routes etc)

7 – Footcare: don’t take trainers on the Camino Del Norte it can be very wet, however trainers are fine for the French Route and Portuguese route. Trekking shoes are a perfect balance for the Camino in general. To find the right fit, you should be able to slide an index finger down the back of your heel. Last but not least, Vaseline will save your feet from blisters and pains (i’ve only had 1 blister in 3 Caminos). Massage your feet with it before putting your socks each day for walking and again after a shower at the end of the day – It will help avoid rubbing and friction. Let your feet breathe by taking your shoes and socks off when you have a break. If your feet get wet, make an effort to change your socks to dry ones as soon as you can.

8 – Experiment by taking one day to try a night walk. It’s a totally different experience walking in the dark with a full sky of stars guiding your way. You will not regret trying this!

9 – Pilgrim Etiquette: try not to use alarms or lights in the morning, pack outside the room if you’re leaving early, be respectful and quiet after 10pm, give older people priority on the bottom bunks, pay it forward and always be on the lookout to help other pilgrims on the way with water, food, medical attention and good conversation.

10 – Last but not least, walk your own way, not someone else’s. Don’t rush. There’s no fast or slow Camino, so do it exactly how you want to do it at a pace that suits you. And most importantly enjoy the way, it’s going to be life changing!

I hope these tips help people who want to walk the Camino. If there’s any experienced Camino walkers who would like to add their tips in the comments below, that’d be great too.

Time to relax and get ready for another big day tomorrow. Speak soon!


Day 24 – “Love Wins”

Journey: Ferreira > Salceda, 47km
Total Distance: 783 / 810km
Feeling: Ready for Change!
Lesson: Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself – Leo Tolstoy

To avoid spending too much time on the last 100km crowded stretch, i decided to walk a long day today which turned out to be about 47km. I didn’t have any problems with my body again (yay!) and felt strong all the way.

Despite talk of a big crowd of people from Melide, the way was actually reasonably quiet, probably because I joined the stretch late in the afternoon when most people had stopped walking for the day.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed today’s walk: high fiving runners and pilgrims who passed me in the opposite direction, stopping to chill at quirky cafes, climbing a tree, stopping to listen to a beautiful couple playing bagpipes in the middle of the forest, as well enjoying all the interesting messages left by pilgrims on the last 50km of bollards (“love wins” was marked on pretty much everyone I saw, so i guess that means that indeed, LOVE WINS).

I’ll be arriving in Santiago tomorrow which means my journey is coming to an end. Every year I choose to use my holiday to go on a long walk in nature because i’ve experienced how powerful the combination of nature, walking and time for introspection can be for helping me find clarity, celebrating and reflecting on the past year, while also giving myself time and space to recalibrate and establish a direction for the future.

This is my 3rd Camino, and it’s definitely been the most life-changing yet, and I’ll be writing an article explaining why when I return to Bucharest. But now that my journey is coming to an end, I’d like to share the questions that I brought with me on this Camino to ponder on as I walked:

1 – What do I want to change in my life?

2 – How do I want to grow as a person over the next 5-years?

3 – What is the Camino trying to teach me?

4 – How can I help other people?

I’ve thought about these questions a lot as i’ve walked, and spent time journalling on them most evenings too. I feel good about the outcome, and i’m ready to act on what i’ve discovered about myself as soon as i get home to Bucharest.

But right now, it’s time to enjoy my last evening with some wonderful people. So time to turn my brain off, dip my feet in the jacuzzi, and get a much needed rest for the last stretch into Santiago tomorrow morning.

Speak soon!


Day 25 – Arrival in Santiago

Journey: Salceda > Santiago, 27km
Total Distance: 810 / 810km
Feeling: Elated
Lesson: The real way of the Camino starts when you arrive in front of the Cathedral in Santiago and you face the prospect of returning home with the chance to change your life.

Today, after 25 days walking the Camino Del Norte and Primitivo I arrived in Santiago. As I sit at the back of the square leaning against the wall and admiring a now scaffold free cathedral, i can’t help but people watch and wonder what wonderful, testing journeys all the pilgrims have been on as they enter the square and come to the realisation that their journey to Santiago is now over.

But despite faces of joy, happiness and triumph, i’ve come to realise that the journey is not over at all; it’s only just getting started. The journey to Santiago, whatever path you decide to take, will reveal a lot of fruitful things about yourself and personality, but the way only whispers and it’s up to you whether you listen, and act on the lessons it’s trying to teach you once you return home.

A life of walking in nature is simple, and becomes comforting after some time, whereas living day-to-day life in Western society tends a lot more complex. Sure walking provides you with many things including peace, purpose and clarity, but these things are only useful in the longer term if you can manage to translate what the camino has taught you into your day to day life back home.

So yes, this is a wonderful time to celebrate, ponder and reflect, but for me, the journey is a never ending story and i’m simply turning the page and starting a new chapter, better equipped with the lessons and experiences i’ve gained from this life changing journey.

I don’t know when i’ll walk another Camino, but i’ve experienced first hand yet again that the combination of nature, walking and introspection is therapeutic for the mind, body and soul, and i’m going home filled up with kindness and patience from all the generosity i’ve experienced on the way.

So I want to end with a big thanks to everyone who followed and supported my documentation of this journey. I am incredibly grateful for your kind words, many of which motivated me to turn up, get vulnerable and share my raw experience with you each day. And for those who are contemplating walking. Don’t think twice, don’t sweat the details or complicate things. Just do it, because it starts like most things in life – very simply – small intentional steps, and nothing more than putting one foot in front of the next.

Thanks for reading, and Buen Camino fellow pilgrims.

P.s. Just like the encore to a great concert, a pilgrimage to Santiago wouldn’t be complete without making the 90km journey to Finisterre would it? So, here we go. Next stop Finisterre to sit on the beach and watch the sun set at ‘The End of the World’.


Day 26 – Encore

Journey: Santiago > Vilaserio, 34km
Total Distance: 845 / 900km
Feeling: Content
Lesson: Once you get to Santiago, don’t stop walking! I know you’re probably in pain, but carry on to Finisterre and/or Muxia for nature’s final performance – a majestic sunset over the Atlantic Ocean that will stay with you for the rest of your life. You won’t regret it!

Yesterday i arrived in Santiago, which is technically the finishing point for all Caminos. But ever since walking my first way 2 years ago, i’ve looked at the finishing point for my journeys a little differently.

One of the biggest reasons I walk is because I love nature, so it’s always seemed most fitting to celebrate the end of my walk to with the final sunset at ‘The End of the World’ in Finisterre.

Many people prefer Muxia because it’s quieter, peaceful, and some may say more spiritual. However, after spending time in both places, it’s all about Finisterre for me. There’s something special and familiar about the energy and vibe of this little coastal fisherman’s town that keeps on bringing me back, and until now I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

So that’s where i’m heading now. It’s about 90km from Santiago and today i walked the first of three stages, arriving in Vilaserio to take base for the evening. I’ll arrive in Finisterre early Sunday morning for a full day of celebration, a well earned rest on the beach, finishing the day watching the sun set, followed by a party and bonfire on the beach with fellow pilgrims.

So on i go… i’ll walk to Cee tomorrow, but now time to relax and enjoy the beautiful place i am staying at this evening – a family run barn conversion that feels more like a homestay than an albergue.

Speak soon!


Day 27 – Retracing Old Steps

Journey: Vilaserio > Cee, 40km
Total Distance: 884 / 900km
Feeling: Hopeful
Lesson: While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.

Today was the final push for my body; walking 40km to Cee in the blistering heat without my hat (I left it at the last albergue by accident) is a recipe for disaster for a pale British guy, but i’m happy to report that sun cream, water and multiple breaks saved the day!

I walked this path two years ago, and it was nice to experience the pleasant memories popping back as i rolled through the kilometres. Even though i’m a bit sad that my walk ends tomorrow, there’s a couple reasons to be grateful today:

1 – I’m going to be in Finisterre early tomorrow to enjoy the day at the beach with some great people.

2 – England are through to the Semi Finals of the world cup for the first time in many years. 

But for more than both those reasons, i walked alongside a very interesting guy called Joseph today from Luxembourg, who classified himself as an ‘eco pilgrim’.

He’d been walking for the last two years with a purpose to clean up all the rubbish pilgrim’s had left on the trail. He pushed an old battered buggy, which he used to pile bags of rubbish collected from the trails he walked, which he’d discard at the next town. I could tell from the way he spoke that he loved the way he was living his life and that this was his calling… in his own words, this was his way of ‘helping the world.’ Next, he’ll head onto the Portuguese Camino, and beyond that, his bigger dream is to set up an NGO to help homeless people.

Contrary to popular belief, meeting Joseph reminded me that you don’t need to do something extraordinary, grand or out of this world to make an impact. Small, meaningful and genuine acts of kindness like picking up litter or smiling at a stranger in the street have the potential to ripple, creating change on a scale one cannot anticipate. So note taken, instead of trying to change the world, don’t bother getting lost in the complexity, start where you are and pay it forward today.

Ok, time to relax, eat and enjoy the beach of Cee! I won’t be writing tomorrow because i’ll be enjoying Finisterre. My final update will be in a couple of days. See you soon!


Day 28 – The End of the World

Journey: Cee > Finisterre, 17km
Total Distance: 900 / 900km
Feeling: Ready to go home
Lesson: Don’t think twice about going on a journey. You may find what you’re looking for, or better still, you might not and have to keep walking on but one thing’s for sure… it’s very important that you walk, because you definitely won’t change your life standing still.

Yesterday was the final day of my walk. It feels like a lifetime ago that I started out 900km’s away on the far North East coast of Spain, so I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to finish than greeting the coast once more. It was only a short 17km walk which meant there was plenty of time to enjoy the beach, hippie vibes of The World Family Cafe (a must visit in Finisterre) and a celebratory meal with some good friends at a seafood restaurant in the early afternoon. In the evening we all came together to walk the final 3km to the lighthouse, concluding this chapter of the journey with a marvellous clear blue sky sunset over the Atlantic ocean.

If there’s one thing that’s clear from this journey, it’s that it’s incredibly difficult to articulate what has just happened – it feels like such a blur! Many people have asked me what i’ve learned, what the best moment was or how the Camino has changed me, and the truth to all those questions is that… I don’t know.

Although it’s only been a month of walking, it almost feels like a small life jam packed into 28 days… there was pain, struggle, tears, bonding, loneliness, happiness, joy, elation, belonging and countless other emotions, which i know (fine well from previous journeys) i’ll be processing for many months, potentially even years to come.

Despite the inevitable aftermath of confusion that comes with an extended journey, a few things became clear this morning on the bus back to Santiago. As i looked out the window as we sped passed multiple Camino bollards at about 60km/h with barely any time to process anything i was seeing, anxiety kicked in and i wanted to jump off the bus and start walking again so badly.

Then I thought about it a bit longer. I’d been walking continuously for the last 28 days, living life at a pleasant pace of about 4km/h, doing my best to enjoy everything that came my way. All the people I’d met, nature, food, kindness, laughter, meaningful conversation, someone else’s presence amongst many other things; it had all shown me that I really didn’t need much more and that it was this simple way of living that made me feel truly alive!

We live in a society that is dominated by the need for efficiency, speed and progress. But these things can be distractions and sometimes not congruent with what it really means to be human, because when you’re moving so fast, focused on getting somewhere else where you’re currently not, you surrender the present moment – which as we know, is the only place where the real magic of life takes place.

And look around and you’ll see that Mother nature understands this perfectly. Nature doesn’t rush around frantically like humans do. Instead, it’s fluid, patient, effortless, and still, quite remarkably, everything is achieved despite the immense complexity of it all.!

I don’t believe it’s useful to give other people advice, so instead i write these final notes as a message to myself. If any of this resonates with you too, great:

Never forget the power of going on a journey. You don’t need to walk 900km across Spain to have a meaningful journey. Going on a journey is a mindset, a personal affair, and a great way to deal with the inevitable uncertainties and pains of life. You may not find what you’re looking for, you may not even know what you’re looking for, but it’s crucial you go, walk, and don’t look back because if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that change doesn’t happen by standing still.

When you walk, don’t forget to walk with intention and attention. There’s no need to rush, just enjoy the way, walking for yourself, because whether you take 20 days or two years to get to where you think you are meant to be, it’s never really the end of the journey is it?

And on a final note: your time is precious, so protect it as much as you can. Don’t delay living your life now in hope you can live it later…. Love, laugh, smile, spread kindness, and go on many beautiful journeys with the closest people in your life.

My walk across Spain ends today, but all that really means is that I’m simply turning a page and starting a new chapter. I don’t know where it will lead but I’m simultaneously nervous and excited about what’s to come. I also don’t know when I’ll be back to walk another Camino, but you can be sure enough, I’m waiting for the call!

Once again, thanks for all your kind words throughout this journey. Turning up to write everyday after a long walk was sometimes tiring but it was totally worth it.

And for those who are sitting on the fence about walking the Camino. Just Do it – you won’t regret the journey, and what’s there to lose?

Adios and Buen Camino. 


Conclusion

Wow, that was a long article and if you made it to the end, I salute you. If you have any questions about the Camino and walking in general, I am very happy to answer them – please just drop me a message using the contact details below. Finally, be on the look out for more posts about the Camino and my daily journal entries as of May 2019 when I walk the Camino Via de la Plata.

Thanks for reading,

Daniel Beaumont,
Sunday 24th February 2019


About the Author

Hello everyone, I’m Daniel – a 28-year-old writer from the north of England, currently living in Bucharest, Romania, where I’m currently writing my first book. I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to create a network of community hubs/homes all over the world that bring locals and travellers together in order to belong, learn and grow.

I am passionate about the human experience, especially the connection between travel, life and personal development. Since 2012 I’ve been on a transformational journey, travelling to 40 countries across 4 continents. During my journey, I discovered that travelling and going on an extended journey is a great catalyst for one’s personal growth. Now I want to share want I’ve learned and empower you to embark on your own journey of self-discovery.

Feel free to read more about my story or send me an email here if you have a question.

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14 Comments

  1. Dear Daniel,
    I started my first Camino last September as your journey – Camino del Norte to Camino Primitivo. I took 33 days to complete and I know how fast you are ! I stay many of the same wonderful places – Tu Casa, Pobeña, Güemes, Bodenaya…. Your post remind me much the good time there.
    What is the Camino to me ? Simplicity – Sharing – Helping.
    To talk about “Helping”, As you said – we are glad to help others, but it is difficult for us to accept the helping from others. When I left Bilbo I think I had changed in mind – I help people to request for nothing and I accept the kindness and helping from others peacefully. I borrow and keep this experience in my life now.

    People come from different country, have different life experience and different education environment, but we can experience much the same for body and mind in the Camino. Is it a magic there ?
    ps. What a coincidence, I also took and showed the same road sign – “Don’t STOP Believing” in my FB (https://www.facebook.com/vincentjudyjan, D+26 2018/10/16 Tuesday)

    Best Wish
    Vincent

    • Hey Vincent,

      Your journey sounds incredible, and thanks for sharing the simple lessons from your journey too – i can resonate with those lessons a lot. I added you on Facebook, and i look forward to speaking to you soon!

      All the best,

      Dan

  2. Hi, Daniel,
    I am a retired oil&gas eng living in Bucharest too.
    I had the chance to feel the Camino spirit during octomber 2017 finishing as a sole bicigrino the CF, starting from Bayonne up to SdC.
    It was amazing, as you described with talent. Thank you, and many congs to you !
    I look forward to meet you at one of your Podstels to change impresions, photos and zen way of live !
    My mobile no is 0040744339016 and mail gheorghecotea43@gmail.com

  3. Hello Daniel, I start my first walk in april from the Netherlands (Vessem)
    Want to do the camino del Norte together with my doggy (Jack Russell)

    In Belgium and France the dog is not a problem but I heard that the Spanisch people don’t like dogs and they refuse the entrance in albuerges.
    Do you have any experience about this issue?

    Thank you,
    Evelyn.

    • Hey Evelyn,

      I don’t have any experience with walking with Dogs. I saw a couple of people walking with their own dog, and they didn’t seem to have any problems. Go for it though! I think it will be a great experience,

      Bests,

      Dan

  4. I Couldnt stop reading your excelent account of your experiencia
    I am from Argentina and I went onThe French Camino for three years running and only for 10 days each time
    I Walk with a friend of mine
    We aré grannies with 12 grandchildren each and we have had a great time in Spain
    We aré planning to go this year and Get to Finisterre
    We have only 7 days to Walk and moré than 25 km a day aré too manyfor us The last part of The F Camino we know It
    We were thinkink of doing The last 3 days of The Portuguese C and than to Finisterre. Any suggestions.??
    I agree with You About The spirit of The Camino. Its lije life itself and being kínd Is The key to Live in a berrear world
    Congratulations. You aré a fine Eritrea
    Loved It all
    Thinkink youuuuu

    • Hey Patricia,

      Thanks for the really kind words, I appreciate them a lot.

      The Camino Finisterre is a great idea if you only have a few days. I’ve walked the Portuguese as well and it’s a spectacularly beautiful route. Anywhere you walk in pain will be great, and you will feel the spirit. But if you want to have a distilled version of the Camino in a short period of time then my biggest recommendation is Santiago to Finisterre. Enjoy and all the best,

      Dan

  5. Bravo Daniel! What a wonderful and uplifting read of your journey on El Camino del Norte. I enjoyed reading your daily diary and reflections on the walk, your friends and the people you met and about yourself! It is so nice to read that there is someone who is finds so much good in people rather than the negative press about the type of selfish, self-centred, untrustworthy, evil people in our world today! Continue to enjoy every step you take in life and on your future Caminos! Best wishes, Chris

    • Hey Chris,

      Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate them and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the diary entries. I hope to meet you one day, and I hope you also get to walk the way! Take care and all the best, Dan

  6. Fantastic post Daniel! I walked the Frances last spring and will be walking the Norte in May. I really appreciate how well you capture the spirit of this kind of journey as well as your practical recommendations for albergues and such. And now I finalised my decision to bring waterproof trail runners on the Norte! ? Many thanks!

    • Awesome Anne, and thanks for the kind words. Best of luck on the Norte, and if you need any advice or have any questions – feel free to shoot me a message.

  7. Thank you Daniel for your compelling reminder of the camino. I walked the Frances in October-November 2018 at a slow pace. It took me two moons to get to Santiago, partly because I’m a slow walker, partly because I like to stop and smell the roses, and partly because an old knee injury flared up coming off O Cebreiro.
    After finishing I went to Bilbao and Donostio, which made me think about doing the Camino del Norte next time. Your jpurnal is a great recommendation.

    • Hey Judith,

      Thanks for the kind words, and nice to hear that you enjoyed the Frances too… i think because it was my first Camino, it’s still up there with my most favourite. I’m glad to hear you battled through despite the injury as well. What was the biggest thing you learned from your walk?

      Hope you end up walking the Del Norte – still having dreams about that route. Simply magical!

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