The pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago is a once in a lifetime experience where pilgrims get to learn more about themselves, the country they are crossing and the other travelers on the same route. Today we will talk about the adventure of a School Group on the Way of Saint James. Let’s find out their impressions of the Camino!
School Tour on the Camino de Santiago
Traveling with a school group can be extremely fun and it surely is an unforgettable experience. However, can be very challenging, too. Everything has to be planned in advance and there is no room for mistakes. Furthermore, in large groups you must be prepared for any eventuality, since anything can suddenly happen and you must be ready to face every situation. That’s why at Galiwonders we offer a great service to big groups, taking care of all the details. Indeed, this is a factor school must consider when they galiwonders.com/…o/portuguese-coastal-waychoose a local expert for organizing their Way.
By organizing the accommodation, the luggage transfers, the meals, the transfers from and to the airport in advance, Galiwonders wants to create perfect school trips on the Camino de Santiago. In this way the group leaders can be completely focus on the students’ needs and give them all his/her attention. We believe that the Way is such an intense adventure that all the pilgrims should channel their energies only to the route. For this reason we offer a 24/7 emergency phone. This way we are be able to assist our groups on the Way at any time.
To examine in depth how the Way can improve students’ life, we asked to an American teacher, called Molly, her impressions about the school trip that she did with a group of 20 in March on the Camino de Santiago. Below you can find out her description of their experience on the Way. Moreover, she tells us the great value this trip had for all the members of the group, especially considering that straight after their return to the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Molly’s experience in a school tour on the Camino de Santiago
Molly and her school group (Saint James School), walked the Portuguese Coastal Way from Oia to Santiago de Compostela. They went on their journey between the end of February/beginning of March 2020, right before everything would change for all of us. In terms of time of the year, this represents a great choice for large groups on the Way. In fact, it is easier to find accommodation for so many people since the Camino is not so busy. The weather can be a bit cold and rainy but it’s part of the adventure as she will explain us below. Now, let’s ask directly to Molly why she chose the Camino for her school tour and what her feedback about their experience is.
Hi, Molly, thank you for taking some time to answer to our questions. Firstly, why did you choose the Camino de Santiago for this school tour?
We chose the Camino de Santiago as a refreshing change from a typical spring break trip. We wanted to offer our students, and specifically this group of seniors, the opportunity to engage in a journey that would allow them to reflect on their high school careers and make memories with each other. We know that after high school graduation, it is unlikely for a group of seniors to ever fully gather again, so we knew this would be one final hurrah for them prior to graduation. We also know that our job as high school teachers is to ensure the development of the whole person, not only academically but also spiritually, so the Camino was a perfect way to enhance the work we do every day as teachers.
Were the students familiar with the Camino? What were their expectations?
We took some time to prepare them for the Camino, but none of us really knew what to expect, and that was part of the journey! We prepared by going on long walks around campus in the months leading up to our trip. We hosted a Christmas party to help them create shopping lists with items they needed for the trip, and the week before we left, we hosted a packing party for students and their families. We had a fun potluck dinner and everyone packed their backpacks together to be sure we had all that we needed. We all went into the experience with varying levels of expectations, and that was fine! The Camino will be an adventure no matter what you expect going into it!
Did the experience fulfill their expectations?
The experience did so much more than fulfill our students’ expectations. There were days where it was rainy and cold and we had to find a mental toughness we didn’t know we had. There were days where the weather was gorgeous and we walked along the ocean and spent time laughing and learning about each other. Mostly, it was about the time we spent together and with our own and each others’ thoughts. When we returned, the world plunged headfirst into the pandemic (we flew home on a Monday night, and international travel restrictions were imposed that next Friday). We all agree that the lessons we learned on the Camino about being flexible and always persevering, just putting our heads down and walking through the tough stretches knowing that we were all in it together are what helped us most in this trying global time.
Our students absolutely loved their afternoon and evening in Porto! It is a beautiful city by day, and the lights on the water at night are magical as well. Beginning our journey with an overnight in this city was a great welcome to Europe.
One day in the middle of our trip, a small group of us stopped at a tiny restaurant on the side of a hill to avoid the oncoming rain. When we got inside, we quickly realized that this was more of a local place and there was going to be a huge language gap, but it wasn’t a barrier. They knew we were tired and hungry peregrinos, and offered us a hot meal even though it was a strange time to eat; the chef just whipped up something for us! Two of our students got squid that were whole, much to their surprise! They had only ever eaten squid as calamari, but they just dug right in – we were hungry! It was funny to see the shocked looks on their faces, but the meal was memorable because it epitomized the importance of food (and specifically the gift of hot food for weary travelers) as a commonality across cultures and throughout history.
One night after we had walked in the rain all day long, we had dinner at our tiny hotel and needed directions back to the Camino for the morning. The hotel owner spoke no English and we spoke very rudimentary Spanish, but she took a few of us up to the hotel’s rooftop (in the rain!) to show us the way. We got by using lots of hand motions and facial expressions, and on the way back in, she put her arm around one of the girls and pulled her in close under her umbrella. This type of hospitality and genuine care for us as pilgrims, even if we came from far away and could not communicate much verbally, was a truly magical moment and a gift of the Camino.
Have you learned any lesson from the Camino?
The lessons learned along the Camino, especially those of flexibility, mental toughness, and reflection and perspective have been true gifts to us and to our wonderful students. Having that last adventure together before the students scattered to universities all over America was quite a miracle and they continue to express their gratitude.
Thank you for sharing your Camino experience with all of us and to explain so well the real meaning of the Way!
Thank you so much for the work that you do and for facilitating memories and life lessons for my students and for me. I send my best wishes for your good health and for the strong resolve of your beautiful country. Thank you for sharing it with us; we hope to return someday. If you ever have a teacher or other group leader who would like to talk to someone about their experience working with Galiwonders, I would love to volunteer my time to speak with them. I have nothing but the absolute BEST things to say about you, Galiwonders, our hotels, and our journey.
You can find Molly’s review on our Tripadvisor page. It was a real pleasure for Galiwonders to help her to create such good memories along the Way. Feel free to contact us if you are looking for a Local Agency with experience in creating School Tours along the Camino de Santiago!