Hola! My name is Maria and I am a self-proclaimed ‘princesa del camino de Santiago’. (I will explain later how I earned that title!) I decided to write this blog for a couple of reasons:
1) To Provide Guidance. A lot of people have reached out to me to ask what my experience was like walking the camino de Santiago and how to prepare for the big journey. I remember that I had so many questions leading up to my decision to do the camino and I wished there were other resources beyond tour operator websites online. I have accumulated a ton of knowledge of how to plan for this trip and trekked over 400 miles in country to provide my unique take on this adventure.
2) To Chronicle My Journey. Frankly, writing this blog is an opportunity for me to re-live one of the best experiences of my life. I said ‘yes’ to this trip at a time when I needed magic and faith infused back into my heart. It was such a moving and challenging experience and I am filled with a sense of wonder and pride when I think back on my time trekking the camino. Thank you in advance for humoring me!
So where will we journey today? I am going to walk you through what we will cover on this blog (and what I ask of you??): pre-camino key decisions, on your way on ‘the way’, post-camino (the highs, the lows, and the pulpo). But first, let me give you a little more background on my story.
I am a 38 year-old woman originally from Bakersfield, California. I grew up in a very strong and proud Basque community in Bakersfield. My great grandparents immigrated separately from the Spanish side of the Basque country (“Euskadi”), met and married in Southern California and built their lives and family in the golden state.
My whole life I heard stories of how strong and resilient the Basques are and how lucky I was to be born into this elite group (only 60,000 in the US!). my mother’s cousin even wrote a book about our small diaspora called The Basques of Kern County.
When I was in college I decided to go find out for myself if the family stories were true. I moved to Madrid, Spain for a semester abroad and took a few trips to Euskadi. Spain was incredible! I loved the focus on family values, delicious food, and dancing until the wee hours of the morning (hey, I was 20 at the time!). When I went to the Basque country I was welcomed like a long lost daughter and had wonderful conversation and the best food of my life.
During my time in Spain I also learned about the camino. One of my classmates walked with his host brother during Semana Santa (Easter week or Spring Break) and when I visited my family’s hometown I saw cyclists and hikers alike trekking through the village. I made a mental note that I would learn more about this pilgrimage.
Throughout the years the camino would pop up in my life. I read Paulo Coelho’s novel The Pilgrimage one year on vacation, watched Emilio Estevez’s movie “The Way” and heard of friends-of-friends taking their next extreme sport trip to Spain to RUN the camino! I was determined to take on the camino one day.
But it wasn’t until 2014 that I committed and planned my trip. On my 35th birthday that summer I was heartbroken and lost. Weeks before, I left my long-term boyfriend, my job, and the town I was living in for the hope of something more. I had given all I had to give (and more) to make that life work but it just didn’t. I felt like I had lost a piece of myself and I desperately wanted that piece back.
I thought back to the times I was happiest in my life and Spain was one of those times. Then, I remembered the camino. You need time to complete the camino and I had all the time in the world. I decided this would be the year for me to take the pilgrimage and reclaim my life! And that is exactly what I did.
Pre-Camino Key Decisions
People decide to do the camino for a variety of reasons, all of which are valid. My posts on pre-camino key decisions will take you through a little background on the pilgrimage, when to go, how long to go, research tools to aid in your planning process all in service of ultimately booking your trip.
Once you have locked your dates, it is time to focus on training and trip prep (did someone say shopping?). I will provide a glimpse into what I brought on the camino and links to what I think are the must haves to be comfortable on your trip.
On Your Way on ‘The Way’
These posts will focus on what to expect when you are in country. I will include all of the information I wish I had known ahead of time. Everyone’s camino is different, but I will share stories – mine and others’ – so you can laugh at me and avoid the embarrassment and pain. J I will also focus part of this section on traveling alone and what to expect from others as a result of having lady parts and a ponytail.
Post-Camino (The Highs, The Lows, and The Pulpo)
I have not seen or heard anyone discuss what happens after you arrive at the pearly gates (ok, there are actually no pearly gates, but a very beautiful cathedral in Santiago de Compostela), but I plan to share with you the highs, the lows, and the pulpo!
To sum it up, my goal is to provide you, dear pilgrim, with helpful tips and personal stories to get you on your journey to what I hope will be one of the best experiences of your life. Please leave a comment below to let me know which topics you would like covered. You may also wish to join ‘la princesa del camino’ newsletter to make sure you do not miss a post. ¡Buen Camino!