In August, I interviewed my friend Leslie who was heading out to walk the famous Camino de Santiago, a roughly 500-mile ancient pilgrimage. And she took off on her own—no husband or friends in tow. As someone who also goes on solo trips, I was intrigued to learn what motivated my friend to take on such an epic adventure and what she was most looking forward to. Learn more in her pre-departure interview.
Throughout her journey, I received frequent updates on her whereabouts and highlights from the week. It was clear this bold and courageous woman was having a grand adventure, though not without challenges. The key to her success—taking it one step at a time.
Where did you begin and end your journey?
I walked from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain. I walked approximately 500 miles in 34 days, which included three rest days. I averaged 16 miles a day with 27 miles my longest day—this was on day 29, too. Crazy, huh?
Did you ever get lonely out there?
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I spent a lot of time alone, one day for seven hours, but I was never lonely. I had the road, the scenery, and my fellow pilgrims to keep me happy. Plus, I treasured my solitude.
What areas of the route did you enjoy the most?
I truly enjoyed the Galicia area, the last third of the Camino Frances route. The area is hilly with many working farms, and is lush and green. Absolutely gorgeous!
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was keeping my feet healthy and happy. If anything happens to a pilgram’s feet, they may have to quit the Camino. I saw a lot of people with torn up feet, limping, and in a lot of pain. Most of them were unable to complete their journey. Two things that worked well for my feet were applying a thin layer of Vaseline every morning and then halfway through the day changing into a fresh pair of socks after applying another layer of Vaseline. The result—HAPPY FEET!
What’s the strangest thing that happened to you?
I decided one day to take the road less traveled known as the Roman Way. The signage for the latter part of this route disappeared, so I was on my own to get back into town. I was in the middle of nowhere, using my map and compass to keep on track. I saw what I thought was an airport (though, not noted on the map), but soon discovered it was a prison with heavy-duty fencing and towers surrounding it. I’m alone and a bit freaked out. As I was walking along the road, I came upon a pile of clothing—a pair of blue pants and a gray sweatshirt—not your typical pilgrimage clothing, more like prison clothing. Yikes! I was happy when I got back into a busy area and away from that prison.
Describe your favorite experience from the journey
I was fortunate to have my birthday while walking the Camino. Before I left home I had no idea where I would be spending the day; luckily, I was in a village called, Castrojeriz. Above the town way up on a hill there is a big, old and empty castle. People say the village represents the Camino in ancient times. I had amazing experiences here, both spiritually and physically. I would highly recommend anyone planning to walk the Camino spend a night in Castrojeriz and visit the castle.
How has this experience changed you?
I’d like to think I haven’t changed, but I’m a better version of myself. I’m more patient with those who are in need and I enjoy silence much more, especially away from idle chatter. I also have greater confidence in my ability to do and accomplish anything.
Where’s your next adventure?
My husband and I are off to Bali for a yoga retreat in February. I have never been to Bali or on a yoga retreat, but it sounds perfect to me.
Any tips for those who want to take on the Camino?
Train hard and pamper your feet. Many people don’t train enough and it showed; they had more aliments than I did, some had to visit a doctor or hospital, and some had to take a bus for a few days. If you really want to enjoy yourself, put in extra miles of hiking hills while carrying your backpack before you leave. I’m so thankful that I trained hard for this adventure. Buen Camino!
Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your story with me—I’m incredibly proud of you. Have you been on an incredible journey and want to share your story? Drop me a note and let’s talk.