The Camino del Norte
2 weeks on the Way of St. James - 300 kilometers on foot - 14 days of pure freedom.
In May 2018, I left and spent a wonderful time in the green north of Spain. After a long time of back and forth, some uncertainties and doubts, I decided to start this journey on my own.
And so I came to the fortune of my first "solo" tour.
I was away from home for just 2 weeks, but even after this short time, I can understand why it drives people into the distance. Far away from home, you are on your own, isolated from your usual environment and can't get around thinking about yourself. One begins to question oneself and one's feelings and gets to know oneself a bit better.
Especially the Way of St. James seems to be the perfect destination to me. If you want to take a break from everyday life and spend time with yourself, you've come to the right place! Because all you do is walk, eat and sleep. There is enough time to think ;) It's no wonder that so many people, who are in a crisis at the moment, choose this route.
For myself, the question of a crisis did not arise, but I wanted to get out again and take a break from everyday office life. Alone on the Way if St. James for 2 weeks seemed to be the best destination to me! I had already done a lot of research and read a lot about all possible routes of St. James. After I had already experienced the Portuguese Way of St James the year before and had been advised against the popular Camino Francés several times, I decided for the alternative in the north: the coastal route, also called Camino del Norte.”
Follow the coastline
Officially, the route begins at the Spanish border to France, in Irún, and ends more than 800km later in Santiago de Compostela. Thus the Camino del Norte leads along the whole Spanish north coast and points one through the following Spanish provinces: Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia - one region more beautiful than the other! My personal pilgrimage started a few stages behind the official starting point, namely in Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country. I didn't take any time for sightseeing, I just wanted to get out - out of the city. So I started hiking right away and followed the yellow arrows directly into the green Cantabria. Right at the end of my first day, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the sea - the scenery that accompanied me almost every day along the coastal route!
What does a pilgrim’s day look like?
Early in the morning, between 6 and 8am, most people start their days. I was one of the first every day, and was on my feet at 6am already. Checking the backpack and finishing packing it up, and you're ready to go - towards the sunrise.
The morning has always been my favorite time, just as it was on the Way of St. James. Walking at dawn is unique for me. You are the only person on the route and while the sun rises, the only sounds you hear are the sound of the sea and the soft sounds of birds. Nothing else. Alone by myself, in nature :)
A few kilometers later, after arriving in the next town/village, there was always a small breakfast, with coffee of course ;) After that, we went straight on towards the destination of the day. My stages were mostly between 25km and 30km long. Thanks to my early departure, I mostly arrived at my destination around 2/3pm and could easily find a place in a hostel. If you arrive at the hostel at 5pm or later, you might have to hike on to the next place or sleep on the ground!.
After arriving at the hostel, most pilgrims take care of their feet and look at the strains of the last few days. Deer tallow cream and blister plaster are the big hits and should not be missing in any backpack. Fortunately for me, I never had any problems with my feet and while the others were talking about blisters and swollen ankles, I was able to devote myself to my diary. My diary for the Way of St. James, to note what I experienced. My personal highlight at the Camino and my treasure, which I still like to read and profit from!
Between 8 and 9pm comes the highlight, which everyone has been waiting for for hours: Food.
After that, you fall straight into bed, where you sleep more or less well - depends on the snorer rate ;)
It's about your feelings
Back in Austria, I read my pilgrim diary again and again and I noticed a word again and again: Gut feeling. The most important thing I learned on the way is that you have to learn to find your own rhythm and pace. Because we all function differently - each one of us has his own pace at which we walk through life. Everyone carries this speed within himself, but it often is successfully repressed by ourselves. And instead of listening to our inner voice, we let ourselves be distracted by our environment, start to run and follow the standards and values of other people. But those who ignore their own tempo and always orient themselves towards others will not reach their goal, but remain somewhere along the way.
Therefore listen to your feeling! Go as fast as you feel. Sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Take pauses when you feel like it and not when your neighbor wants you to. It is about your feeling. It is about following your gut feeling and not the words of others. Because I am firmly convinced of one thing: If you have learned to follow your feelings and to take care of yourself, if you follow your inner voice and act passionately, then you can become the best version of yourself and at the same time create the greatest possible added value for other people!
Make the most of YOUR time!