Camino cravings

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Recently I picked up a copy of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed in my local little free library and started re-reading the story of her epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.  I thought these adventures would be exactly what I needed to get my mind off confinement, but instead I find myself getting increasingly itchy feet.  As I sat down to write this, I realised that four years ago at this exact time of year I was hiking along the Camino del Norte.  No wonder I’m doubly craving that incredible feeling of freedom.

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I find myself fantasising about getting up at the break of dawn to pull on the same clothes as the day before, with no other plan than to put one foot in front of the other and follow the yellow arrows, open to whatever the day will bring.

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The Camino is nowhere near as difficult or wild as the Pacific Crest Trail, but I recognise that feeling of intense relief when putting down your backpack that Cheryl mentions and those descriptions of gobbling down all the food you can get because you are so hungry after a day of hiking.  I will never forget how every apple tasted delicious, every tortilla sandwich was utter heaven:)

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I loved being alone with my thoughts for hours, hearing just my feet crunching on the path and seeing the landscape evolving with every new kilometer covered. The quiet of the moments of solitude overlooking beautiful landscapes were incredible, as well as the fun times shared with other pilgrims of all walks of life met along the way.  I think I may need to plan another long hike when it’s possible to travel safely again.

Plants and the city

Spotting cute plants growing out of cracks in the pavement, in between bricks of a wall or high up on roof tops is something I really enjoy doing as I walk around a city. I love seeing how plants find a way to thrive regardless of humans building over every available surface with bricks and cement, or spraying sidewalks with toxic weed-killer.

The plants somehow just persevere and find new nooks and crannies to call their own. Like these stunning pink flowers that caught my eye, growing out of a guttter on the roof of a church in the center of Bilbao .

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Or these plants and ferns that amazed me as they held on precariously to the top of this brittle stone wall in an alleyway in Santillana del Mar.

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The power of a book

Before leaving for the Camino, I explained how I was inspired to walk the Camino by a Paulo Coelho book I read as a teenager (The Pilgrimage).  So I found it a funny coincidence when just recently I stumbled across this interview of Paulo Coelho on a podcast where he speaks about his experience on the Camino and how afterwards he took the decision to start follow his dream and begin writing.

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I really enjoyed the interview (which is not just about the pilgrimage).  I found myself nodding in agreement to many of the snippets of wisdom. I particularly liked how Paulo Coelho explains what he went through to get his book (The Alchemist) published after its initial failure, what he says about his relationship with his wife and them not being the same people as who they were when they met so many years ago,  as well as how we have dreams as teenagers that we forget but life gives us second chances.

Interestingly I re-read part of The Pilgrimage shortly before going to walk the Camino and I didn’t actually like the book anymore! It makes me really grateful for the image of the Camino that my younger self found within those pages at the time.  I’m so glad that my mind held on to that impression for all these years, without letting me forget to follow this amazing dream.

Soothing sea views

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On the Camino del Norte, the path mainly follows the coast and the sea is always just around the corner, making it one of the most beautiful Camino routes. However when you look at the route on the guide book, it’s difficult to imagine what the day’s walk will really look like.

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The element of surprise was really helpful, because so often when I felt I couldn’t go any further, or I was wondering ‘what am I doing here??’, I would come across a view like one of these and then it would all make sense again. I’d stop thinking about my feet and remember how lucky I was to get to see such unspoiled nature.

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I loved the fact that the nature looked different every day and I never knew what to expect. Stumbling on an amazing beach after a few minutes or a few hours of walking was always magical for me. Depending on the weather the colour of the water, the sky and the clouds would vary incredibly.

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Usually I was up on the top of the cliff which meant a beautiful perspective over the sea. Sometimes the path would go up and down all day with tiny coves at the bottom of the hill before going back up the hillside.

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Coming across a spectacular view point was always an excuse to take a break to eat an apple or simply sit to rest and watch the water. The snacks I ate overlooking the sea were usually really simple, but enjoying them in front of these magical views made them taste like a real feast 😉

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20160518_135451I love how you can actually see that the earth is round on this picture!!

I’m leaving!!

I’m off to walk along the Camino de Santiago!

When I was 17 or so, I read a Paolo Coelho book about the Camino and since then I’ve had the desire to walk the Saint James way (as it is called in English). Since then the idea kept popping up every time I would write my dream list. Over the years, I did a bit of research about it here and there and once in a while I would browse the book my parents bought me about the Camino del Norte. Every time I heard someone saying they had walked the Camino, I would feel a little tug in my heart and say “That’s on my dream list, I want to do it too!”, but never got around to actually organising it.

So why now, 16 years later?

I’ve been wanting to take a sabbatical for a long time and this year the timing was good. I’ve been working hard for 10 years, with no more than a few weeks between jobs, so I felt like giving myself this gift of some freedom in the form of unpaid leave, which I decided to use to explore the Camino. I also feel like time is always flying by so fast, so I’m glad to take time off from day-to-day routine to take a step back and reflect.

I’ll be gone for about 5 weeks, I’m starting in Bayonne and will walk along the Northern coast of Spain. I probably will not reach Santiago de Compostela and that’s fine. Firstly because I don’t want to rush, I want to make this trip about the journey not the destination (I know… such a cliché). This means if I feel like staying longer in a place I like or want to chill on the beach for some time, I can:)  Secondly because if there is a bit of the Camino left to walk I will have the chance to come back another time to finish it:)

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I am really looking forward to walking every day. I’ve noticed that walking helps me move through problems, get fresh ideas, find solutions to issues, get creative, feel more grounded…

I have no idea what to expect, but these are some things that come to mind as I am preparing my trip:
-I crave take time out from my routine,
-I want to spend time alone,
-to finally have time to process what goes on in my busy life,
-to take time to grieve the people in my life who passed away and
-to travel slowly to enjoy discovering a part of the world I’ve never been to.

I’m trying not to have too many expectations and let the Camino surprise me. I’m really excited to see how it goes!