My friend, Leslie, is about to embark on an epic journey. In a few days she leaves for France to walk the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, as it’s frequently called (or also the Way of St. James), is an ancient pilgrimage that begins in France and ends in Spain, and depending on the route, it’s roughly a 500-mile journey. The Camino has a rich and interesting history and I encourage you to Learn more about it here.
Leslie’s spirit of adventure and backpack is all that is required for her journey (and a little training). Similar to running a race, we all have different reasons for signing up for endurance challenges, and I was curious to learn what motived my friend to take on such an exciting adventure.
What inspired you to walk the Camino de Santiago?
A friend of mine handed me a book in June 2014 called “A Million Steps” by Kurt Koontz who hiked the Camino. I read it and said, “I need to do this.”
When did you decide to do it?
After reading the book, I decided to do the Camino for several reasons. I love a good physical challenge. In the past, I’ve raced in several triathlons and biathlons, as well as have done a lot of mountain and road biking, cross-country skiing, and several backpacking trips. Additionally, I’m in my early 50s and feel that I need a new challenge in life, especially one that I can do on my own. I chose not to invite anyone to join me, including my husband, on this journey. I want to get away from my regular life, stand on my own two feet (literally, too), and not have to take care of anyone else but myself.
Where are you starting and how long do you expect it will take?
I’m starting in southern France on the trail known as the Camino Frances. On the first day I’ll cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. On average, people take five weeks to complete the 530+ miles from southern France to Santiago, Spain. I will be gone for six weeks—I didn’t want to have any time constraints, and wanted the ability to take a day off if and when I needed it. If I get done early, I can rest and enjoy leisurely days in Spain.
How have you prepared physically and mentally for the walk?
I’ve been planning this adventure since June 2014. I have been walking and hiking since then, but really started concentrating on my mileage and backpack weight since April 2015. I believe most people do not train this long or hard, but given my athletic endurance background, I want to be as physically and mentally prepared as I can be for this trek. Of course, there will be many physical and mental challenges for me along the way, but I hope I have helped alleviate some of them with my training.
What are you most looking forward to?
What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?
My feet—they’ll take a pounding out there carrying that weight and walking on all the different surfaces! I have interviewed lots of other people who have done the Camino, and they have given my lots of great advice when it comes to taking care of my feet.
What’s in your backpack?
Oh my, let’s see. My goal is to keep my pack between 15-18 pounds, including water. I’m bringing a minimum of clothing and toiletries. I’ll have a guidebook, compass, whistle, a few keepsakes from friends and family, and an open heart to whatever may come my way. Anything else that I might need can be purchased along the way.
Anything else you’d like to share about your upcoming journey?
The beauty of this journey is that you’re really never alone. Thousands of people from all over the world do the Camino every year. The locals love the pilgrims walking the Camino, and the pilgrims look out for each other. It truly is a community of people moving forward physically, mentally, and spiritually to reach Santiago together.
Thanks, Leslie, for sharing your pre-Camino story—I’m so proud of you. Now go out there and be courageous and bold, and embrace the journey.