Hi, everybody, my name is Chiara and I just got back from the French Way. The last week of July 2020, I had the opportunity to do the Way from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela and I would like to share my experience in this post (also at the end you can find a short video). I would also love to know the feelings of those who have done the Way in the past or want to do it in the future. You can leave your comments below and contact the Galiwonders team for any information.
The reasons to walk the Camino de Santiago
First of all, I want to explain the reasons why I wanted to undertake this very special journey during the summer of 2020.
Working in the tourism sector I am one of the many travel lovers. I love to visit new places and meet people from other countries. The Way allows you to do all this and also requires a physical effort which was something that also attracted me.
Following the rhythm of my body towards that final destination that I shared with other pilgrims along my route, allowed me to empty my mind.
It’s a strange but wonderful feeling.
You have only one goal during your day, to get to the next stage. Nothing else.
You can afford to think about nothing but the condition of your feet or your back. Maybe you can feel if you are hungry or not. Nonetheless, you can remove all your thoughts and concerns. In fact, you focus all your attention in walking and getting to your next stage.
Talking to other pilgrims, I could find out that we were all moved by the same reasons to start the camino.
This willingness to find time for a journey, on both the physical and spiritual levels, united us despite the differences in age, origin and job. And then we also shared a feeling of sadness when we saw that the journey was coming to an end. As if the time we had available for all the things we would like to fix was slipping away like water between our fingers.
The French Way during a peculiar year
It is no mystery that this year we are experiencing an unprecedented situation.
We were locked in our homes watching something invisible change our lives in a very short time. All this has pushed us to want to be more outdoors, in contact with the nature, to move more and to do more sport. Personally, walking the camino was the best option to achieve this feeling of freedom.
According to me, the freedom of the way is present in many elements.
For example, our clothes are simpler, we have two T-shirts and two shorts. We alternate and wash these clothes without worrying too much.
The expectations on a path are very simple and every unexpected encounter is a gift. In my case it was on the third day, when I ran into a river where I could cool down my feet that were very swollen from the heat. And every forest, every village, every smile that came my way represented a precious moment.
Making the way in 2020 not only allowed me to discover these unique landscapes, knowing more about the Galician geography. It also made me see more closely the life of the villages through which the French route passes.
Time seems to have stopped and this is another aspect of the route that I have absolutely loved. It keeps the same pace of life as before, the closeness of the people who live there is something that is almost totally unknown by those who live in the big cities.
The possibilities of knowledge offered by the road, do not only go to the outside. This possibility of disconnecting from our daily lives also allows us to know ourselves better.
We have a great opportunity to discover things that we had stored inside us without even knowing it. We can enjoy a time to go deeper into issues that we often don’t think about and to face those problems that we can finally try to solve.
The Solo Path for Women
Upon learning of my decision to walk alone, friends and family asked me worried about my choice and if I wasn’t afraid to walk 115 km without anyone at my side. Evidently my answer was a clear no!
Moreover, I met many women who were also traveling alone and we all shared this desire to have a few days to ourselves, without responsibilities or tasks to fulfill.
First, for all the reasons described above, I felt like living the journey alone. To have time for myself and just follow my own pace.
Besides, I never felt in danger and I was rarely totally alone because I always found people along the French route (which is also the most popular of all the Xacobean routes). On the other hand, following the route, we meet more pilgrims coming from the Primitive Way in Melide and the Northern Way in Arzúa, so little by little the number of people you meet every day to Santiago de Compostela increases.
In fact, I have travelled many miles with wonderful people who shared their experience with me. Just traveling alone allows you to be more accessible to others, to be more open to meet new people.
I really recommend it to everyone!
The things I liked most on the way
Of course, I find it very complicated to describe a similar experience in words. And even more complicated is to choose what I liked the most, but I will try anyway.
Although, before I started my journey, I thought that the conditions of the present moment had changed the spirit of the journey too much, I was able to live a unique experience.
Without a doubt, the obligation to wear the mask, maintain social distance, use the hydro-alcoholic gel continuously and see many hotels and clubs closed along the way, was rather uncomfortable and strange.
Nevertheless, I sincerely believe that the atmosphere among the pilgrims was even more special than usual, in some way warmer. Precisely because of the situation caused by COVID19 there was a mix of melancholy and desire to be all together in this beautiful place.
This human participation was undoubtedly one of the positive elements that I will take with me as a souvenir after this trip.
We all wanted to experience an escape from everything that had happened and is still in the air. All the pilgrims I spoke to expressed the same desire to live a few days in contact with nature, a safe travel alternative at this time.
Moreover, it was felt that even though there were not as many pilgrims as in previous years, the feelings experienced both by the lucky ones who were on the route and by the professionals who work along the way reflected a very strong involvement.
Another fundamental aspect was undoubtedly the places I crossed along the way. In fact, I must admit that I did not expect to find so many different scenarios. It’s incredible to see how in a single stage you can cross oak forests, rivers, open fields, farms and ancient villages. All in a distance of about 20 km.
It’s just wonderful!
Now, some of you may find what I’m about to explain strange, but maybe others may understand me.
One of the things I liked most about the camino was, in fact, the physical challenge. For example, seeing me able to overcome stages like the one from Palas de Rei to Arzúa, without too many complications.
Of course this same 29km stage was, let’s say, “interesting”.
It’s no coincidence that they call it the leg-breaker because of its constant uphills and downhills. Without a doubt, it was a challenge for my feet and legs, but to finish it filled me with satisfaction. Being able to arrive in Santiago de Compostela in good physical condition allowed me to return home with an unexpected sense of gratification.
However, I must admit that, traveling with Galiwonders and having consequently included the luggage transfer service between one stop and another, I was only able to travel with a small backpack and this certainly made the difference!
To conclude, among the many things that have positively marked my trip I can list the achievement of the physical challenge, the beautiful landscapes, the wonderful people, the spirit among the pilgrims and finally … the Galician food!
The great culinary variety of Galicia allows you to try different food and wine specialities every day. Empanadas, octopus, fish, meat… not to mention its excellent wines.
Honestly, I can’t find any negative aspect of this experience, just that maybe I would have liked to follow more days on the road.
A real opportunity to live an unforgettable adventure alone or accompanied, by bike or on foot, each guided by their own reasons.
I personally recommend it 100%.
And what about you?
Tell us about your travel experience and share your feelings with us.
For any information contact us.
We at Galiwonders help you to create your perfect experience. Buen Camino!