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Anna on the Northern Way to Santiago

Anna, from our marketing department, is a person who enjoys adventure, appreciates nature, and seeks to live experiences to the fullest. Recently, she mentioned to us that she walked the Camino del Norte, and taking advantage of having her close by, we conducted a brief interview where she shared her personal experience on this special journey.




Explain to us a bit about what the Camino de Santiago is and its significance.

The Camino de Santiago is different for each person. Discussing it is a recurring theme during the journey; people ask you, and you ask them. Some do it because they embrace the concept pilgrimage, with a destination to reach and progressing each day with the bare essentials. Many young individuals undertake it as part of a gap year, to clear their minds before entering a new stage of life. Others do it seeking answers, and some actually find them!

Did you know what it meant to do the Camino before the trip?

I knew a bit about the different reasons people undertake it, and I knew that the religious aspect is a minority these days. I went with a simple idea: I just wanted to experience it, both physically and mentally.

Which Camino did you do? Did you go alone?

I walked the Camino del Norte, from Irún, the border with France, to Unquera, the first town in Asturias.

Yes, I did it alone, and within a couple of days, I already felt accompanied by other pilgrims. Whether you want to socialize or prefer solitude, both are respected. I made a couple of friends and had a good connection with other people.




"With some, you walk for a while or share a coffee in the afternoon. With others, you meet for breakfast and walk one day. And with others, you connect beyond the Camino, traveling to their country or hosting them at home because they have become friends."



During what time did you walk the Camino del Norte?

I walked the Camino del Norte end of September - beggining of October. I was very lucky with the weather, as it only rained a couple of days during the two weeks I walked.

It was also a good time to do it (2016). I've heard that there are now many more pilgrims, and it's harder to find space in the Camino's hostels.

Tell us about your experience on the Camino. Did you find it tough or easy? Physically?

I trained a bit before starting. Training meant walking a bit more than usual; I didn't work too hard on it. I also trained to start using my hiking boots. The weight of the backpack was the most challenging part, as it's not something done regularly. However, after 4 days, I noticed that my back wasn't getting strained, the muscle soreness was easing, and my body was getting used to the daily kilometers.

How many days do you recommend as a minimum for doing the Camino?

I was on the Camino for 16 days, and I liked how the body gradually adapted to the routine of having breakfast and start walking with the backpack. It was around the second week that the enjoyment increased, as if I started to feel it as a pilgrimage, not just a few days of walking. Personally, I recommend a minimum of 7-10 days.

What are the essentials to bring on such a journey?

- Hiking boots, of course, and use them before starting the Camino. New boots can hurt your feet and the overall experience
- Sandals (tied), for the evenings or the final stretch of the Camino after bathing in the sea
- Rain jacket, for both you and the backpack
- Quick-drying clothes/towel
- A book

Is it easy to follow the Camino? Do you use any guides?

Yellow arrows are your guide on the Camino, but the signage varies considerably from one province to another. There are times when you've been walking for a while and realize you haven't seen an arrow, and you have to decide whether to continue a bit more or backtrack to make sure.

Before starting the Camino, I prepared a small summary of the walks, kilometers, and accommodations to know what to expect each day, and that was sufficient. Now, with internet access, you can always use your phone to help if you're unsure about following the Camino.




Is it safe to do the Camino alone?

Yes. Unless you're traveling in the dead of winter, you'll always encounter fellow pilgrims along the routes. Unfortunately, there have been reports of some kidnappings of female pilgrims, but they are rare, and hopefully, such incidents won't be repeated.

Have you met many people along the Camino?

Yes. People of all ages and diverse backgrounds. With some, you walk for a while or share a coffee in the afternoon. With others, you meet for breakfast and walk one day. And with others, you connect beyond the Camino, traveling to their country or hosting them at home because they have become friends.

What was the best and worst part of the Camino for you?

I enjoyed witnessing how needs are reduced to the basics: food, water, and finding a place to sleep, and turning it into a positive, enjoying it every day.

I've talked to many people sharing Camino experiences, and I don't recall discussing anything negative. But I know that if you walk the Camino with a lot of people or during the busiest times, there's a sense of competition to quickly reach the next hostel and secure a bed. That would have been the worst if I had experienced it.

Is it easy to find accommodation? What types of accommodations do you find on the Camino de Santiago?

The Camino passes through cities, large towns, small villages, and hamlets. The accommodation options vary in each location and depend on the time of year. Whether you stay in guesthouses, hotels, or hostels, during certain periods, you might need to hurry a bit to avoid being without a bed or book a room by phone before reaching the village.

What advice would you give to people considering the Camino for the first time?

If you're carrying your backpack, only pack the essentials, as it adds up in weight. During the journey, you can always buy something if needed. And the other piece of advice is to just do the Camino!




Any funny anecdote? 

On one of the routes, I managed to find a straight stick, which served as both a walking stick and protection against prickly plants or potential dogs. I carried it with me for several days and carved some drawings on it with a knife. On my penultimate day of the Camino, a small group of pilgrims and I decided to swim and have lunch together on the beach. A German guy expressed interest in my stick, and I decided to give it to him, almost as a token and somewhat symbolic (Camino things). After finishing lunch, we pack up and set off. By chance, I glance back and see my stick stuck in the sand in the distance. The guy had forgotten it...


What do you think? Do you want to give it a try?

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