Liz’s Sabbatical: The Camino
During my three-month sabbatical, I walked the French Way, one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, a 600-year old Christian pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela built on an older Pagan pilgrimage to what the Romans believed was the end of the world. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself and I am so grateful to the amazing Pomegranite team that allowed me to take the time to do it.
It’s impossible to capture my journey in words so I’ll try to answer the most common question I’m asked, then move on to some simple facts, and finally share some images.
What’s it like to walk the Camino?
All of the structures that make up your daily life are gone. It’s just you, alone, making your way. This is both liberating and scary, profound space for your inner world and an arena for your fears and insecurities. Other people sometimes seem like a herd you can never keep up with, or the source of a small kindness that is everything you need to carry on.
Distance walked: 870km
Dates: 1 May to 8 June 2019
Starting point: St Jean Pied de Port, France
End point: Finisterre, Spain
Number of blisters: 0 (biggest achievement)
Number of times I cried in public (out of a range of emotions): 4
Number of times I asked for soup to put in the washing machine: 2
Unexpected sights: Poppies, wild horses
Unexpected sounds: Cuckoos, so much farting in dorms in the middle of the night
Best walking snack: Orange juice squeezed while you wait and serrano ham and cheese baguettes
Best after-walk treat: Beer spiked with lemon and salty chips
Number of South Africans met: 7
Guides used: John Brierly’s map book (I only got it a week in and would go for the full book if you can get it) and Wise Pilgrim app (the offline map function was so useful!)
Vlog cameos: Camino friend, Sam, vlogged every day for her family but it became quite popular. It was hilarious to watch these recently. I met her on her day 19 and left her on day 27.
Best advice received:
- Your body is adjusting, let it adjust.
- Don’t carry anything you can buy in a local shop or pharmacy. They are everywhere.
- Do some research so you know what you’re getting into and get some good tips, but also know there’s no way to prepare for what’s to come so leave some mystery and let it unfold.
- Do some solid walking training, as much to test every part of your gear as for your body.
- Walk your own Camino. At first I felt like I was doing it all wrong, but eventually learned that there is no right or wrong way, we’re all just people making our way across a country and you can do it any way that works for you.
- Find your way of ‘cruising’, i.e. a pace and distance that you can recover from within the same day. This is a journey of endurance so things you might normally take for granted like comfort, rest and looking after yourself are what get you to the end.
Helpful Youtube channels:
- Count Everything: the host is very detailed and specific, so perhaps not the best for the vibe but he answers every question imaginable.
- Efren: gives short and slightly longer summaries of each day, good for getting a sense of the walk.
Views from the Camino: