From September 25 to 28, I walked through Navarra, my family’s province, approximately 55 miles. After the first day of walking I woke up with slightly heavy legs but a light spirit. In my estimation, I was rocking the Camino de Santiago!
The first day was hard but I was exhilarated. When I left Puente de la Reina I left the quaint town walking a little taller, feeling quite confident with my pilgrim prowess. Of course, within the first fifteen minutes I found myself lost in a meadow! There were divergent yellow arrows and my ‘pilgrim instincts’ led me astray. Fortunately, I walked by a friendly albergue attendant who pointed me in the right direction. I turned around on my twenty-minute detour with my tail between my legs and a little teary-eyed. Guess it would be a while before I earned expert pilgrim status!
Navarra was beautiful. It was a dream to walk through on my first few days of the Camino. There were rolling hills of alfalfa and gorgeous vineyards flanking the path along the Camino de Santiago. There were alternative paths through steep forests that were quiet and provided a welcome canopy away from the hot Spanish sun. The towns along The Way were charming – Puente de la Reina and Estella were two gems.
As I mentioned in a prior post, I am a bit of a history nerd. So let’s talk about Navarra. Navarra is one of the nine provinces in Northern Spain and one of my favorites because my family is originally from there.
Like most of Spain, Navarra has a checkered past of kings and foreigners overthrowing its leaders to rule the province. Dating back to the Roman Empire, there was a pre-Roman tribe called the Vascones (“Basques” today) that ruled the Pyrenees and what is now the province of Navarra. Eventually a kingdom was established, ruled by Basque royalty for centuries, with partial Roman influence as this territory and the Vascones were extremely difficult to subjugate. Navarra came under Spanish rule during the time of King Ferdinand, and in 1841 the kingdom was finally dissolved into a province in Spain.
Today Navarra is a very wealthy and important province in Spain, boasting both agriculture and commerce. The Ebro Valley is known for cultivating wheat, vegetables and wine. As of 2016, Navarra’s population was over 640,000 with one half living in Pamplona’s metropolitan area.
Finding your Flow
After you get over the ‘where am I going?’ anxiety you quickly move on to entertaining yourself. For me, I started by taking in my surroundings. ‘Wow, look at the beautiful countryside’, and ‘what furry caterpillars they have in Spain!’
Then my attention turned to focusing on other pilgrims. ‘I wonder how many of these pilgrims are from Europe’ and ‘what kind of gear is that?’ But let me tell you that internal dialog only gets you so far, especially if you are walking five to six hours per day!
So the question becomes, how do you entertain yourself all day? This doesn’t only apply to solo travelers. If you are like me I need some quiet time and diversity in entertainment and experience to get through the day.
Talk to your travel companions. Meet new pilgrims. Stop at bars and strike up conversations with locals along The Way. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and it will truly make the time go by faster. These social interactions could lead to a lot more, too. I met a man on the Camino who met his love and he moved to her home city after the Camino to be with her! In my case, I met some lifelong friends that I am still in contact with around the world.
I would not have made it without music! I listened to some of my favorite tunes, over and over AND OVER again. Sometimes I would sing at the top of my lungs or dance around while I was making my way from point A to point B. Yes, I realize I sound (and looked) insane but it was fun! Now that I think about it, it was probably the endorphins.
Podcasts weren’t that popular when I walked the Camino, but I would probably add my favorite podcasts or audio books to the mix now. Also, reading was wonderful. I read after I finished the walk for the day. I am an avid reader but do not find time in my day-to-day life to keep up this hobby. On the Camino I read a book every few days and it was wonderful.
Lastly, you could watch a TV series or movie on your personal devices. I chose not to watch any shows from the US. In fact, I am not sure that Xfinity, Netflix or Amazon would have worked in Spain. But I didn’t try so you will have to experiment if that is important to you.
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One of the reasons I wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago was to have some time and space to think through my life and my goals. It is pretty easy to get wrapped up in the pilgrim subculture on the Camino so I made a concerted effort to carve out time for me. Some days I would walk with my headset in with no music on and wave to pilgrims as if I couldn’t hear so I could take time to be with my thoughts. I incorporated a mid-morning pit stop in my daily routine, in which I would pause to drink a green tea and write in my journal.
55 miles down, 365 miles to go! Next time we will focus on one of the worst hazards of the Camino de Santiago. Please use the comment space to request topics you would like covered. Also, if you liked this post and want to read more, join ‘la princesa del camino’ newsletter to make sure you do not miss a post. ¡Buen Camino!