Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The World Is Calling Me Again

jason-blackeye-out into the world

One afternoon in late August it just happened: I decided to go on an adventure.

My mission: fly out to Spain, become a Pilgrim and complete the final 100km of the Camino de Compostela to acquire the Compostela certificate.

A typical Carolin Let's Do This impulse, but that was the plan. To be honest, I secretly wanted to do this for a while... but you know... it was one of those flighty ideas that had been in and out of my mind on some days more present than others. Around Easter though, I ventured out for a short day tour to Canterbury and the trip had given me the final push to actually do the pilgrimage to Spain. The question was: when to do it?

Fortunately, the opportunity for the execution of my plan came around a few months later, when I decided to leave London and spend some of my new found freedom on traveling.  

My Motivation


In my culture, the pilgrimage way to Santiago De Compostela in Spain is very popular. I can't say why that is, it just happens that most Germans - even the nonreligious ones - have heard of it or done it. It has a noble reputation and is seen as one of those things that "you should have done in your life".

The Camino De Compostela is, in fact, a wide-ranging network of hiking trails in Spain, France, and Portugal. The longest at 800km and most famous one is, Camino de Frances, followed by Camino de Portugues which can either be started in Lisbon or Porto. Shorter ones include Camino de Norte in Spain and Camino de Ingles which are less known and traveled. If you complete the final 100km of the Camino you’re entitled to receive the Compostela, a certificate issued by the Catholic church to acknowledge your pilgrimage. It is a beautiful certificate with medieval embellishments issued in Latin that also dismisses you of all your sins. 

I’m not religious at all nor do I believe in God, however, I am spiritual. I read that spirituality is one of the five pillars that make up your personality. Next to love, work, money and health, which all need to be in tune for a happy life. All of my five pillars have been shaken up in the past years and are imbalanced. Now I'm working on them to improve myself and rebuilt my life. I can't also shake off the feeling that there's something else out there and refuse to accept that the 9 to 5 grind is IT. I'm a firm believer that everyone in life has a POE (purpose of existence) or your life goal sort to say and by venturing out and getting to know oneself you become a more well-rounded you which gets you closer to your POE, leading you to a meaningful and satisfying life.

I was hoping the Camino would give me some clarity and guidance, which I'm seeking. The solitude of the journey would help to reconnect me with my inner self (hope that makes sense). Plus the Camino runs parallel to the Milky Way, so the Universe, which brings me back to the spirituality aspect. It was just an obvious sign that I was meant to do it and for the first time in a while, my intuition felt that "this experience would actually do me some good".

casey-horner-the milky way and palm trees at night

Planning & Organising


In preparation, I read a couple of different sources to be well informed, but this Camino blog post was by far the best orientation where to start the Camino and how to get there. It was clear to me that I would travel on the Camino Frances route and the starting point of the final 100km is in Sarria. Therefore, I had to travel to Santiago first, which has a small airport, and then take two busses to get to Sarria. The first one from Santiago to Lugo can be booked in advance through Eurolines. The second one from Lugo to Sarria is a local one and can't be booked prior.

I would also need a Pilgrims Passport (Credential Peregrino) to collect stamps (sello) along the way to prove I had actually walked the Camino. Some churches and monasteries issue them but I wanted to be on the safe side and planned to collect mine from the official Pilgrim's Office in Santiago.  

The next planning steps were to determine the daily stages, how many kilometers I wanted to cover and sort out accommodation. Pilgrims usually stay in huge dorms in Albergues and Monasteries, but there are also small guest houses and private pensions on the way. Several tour operators offer tours and prebook everything for you. However, a quick Expedia research revealed that the costs for an individually booked trip would be lower. I even managed to squeeze in a quick stopover in Madrid on my way home into my budget. With a spreadsheet documenting every detail of the next 9 days, I mapped out my time as followed:

My Itinerary


Day 1: Fly Out and Arrival in Santiago De Compostela
Day 2: Day 1 on the Camino. Sarria to Portomarin
Day 3: Day 2 on the Camino. Portomarin to Palas de Rei
Day 4: Day 3 on the Camino. Palas de Rei to Arzua
Day 5: Day 4 on the Camino. Arzua to Amenal
Day 6: Day 5 on the Camino. Amenal to Santiago De Compostela
Day 7: Homebound. Fly Out to Madrid
Day 8: A Perfect Day in Madrid (24h city break)
Day 9: Homebound. Fly Out Home
trip organisation spreadsheet for hiking camino de compostela
lucija-ros-herschel backpack on a hike

I’m not a hiker, nor do I work out regularly. I do some running and ice skating but I am not physically trained for proper hikes. Nearly every source I consulted stated the Camino would be flat terrain, so to me, this sounded like a walk - an ordinary walk in the Spanish countryside. The fact I could survive a 10km race in about 80 minutes arrogantly encouraged me to think I could easily make a daily win of 30km. Well, that was just one of my many misconceptions about the Camino.

The entire trip was booked three weeks in advance at the end of August and I used the in-between time to "train" for the hike. I bought new hiking boots that needed to be broken in so I walked 4km daily and ran to build up stamina. My printed copy of my spreadsheet contained all information from flights and booking numbers, to daily stages and targets as well as milage and addresses of accommodation. 

In terms of packing, I brought my Herschel backpack along, which in hindsight was rather small but I wanted to pack efficiently and only bring along the absolute necessity. I packed my comfy running leggings with five tops to change on the hike, reusable water bottle, rain trousers and jacket, torch, first aid kit, some food, two outfits for traveling and one for my day sightseeing in Madrid. Plus undies, socks, charger(s), passport, money and phone but those were a given. I even had room for my straighteners and a very light book - The Why Cafe by John Strelecky - which I can highly recommend. 

With everything booked, packed, trained and documented I was ready to travel to Santiago De Compostela.  

Thank you so much for reading,
Till next time,
Carolin
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