The Road Less Travelled: Camino de Santiago

 

Even thinking about the Camino de Santiago makes me almost fall over backwards in a rush to get my walking shoes on and go for a really long walk.

 

There was a time, not so long ago, when any mention I made of the Camino was received with a blank look:

 

“You know, that walk across the north of Spain.” = blank look.

“Ancient pilgrimage trail. 800 kilometers. Really long walk.” = blank look.

 

These days though, ‘Camino’ is almost a household word. Almost.
(If you haven’t come across it yet, you can read about it in my Way To Santiago post)

 

forest along the Camino de Santaigo

All photos by Cherina Hadley. Camino de Santiago. Spain.

 

Everyone knows about it, knows someone who has walked it, or is planning to walk it themselves.

 

I have people telling me all about this amazing walk they’ve heard about.

 

My Facebook news feed is peppered with references to walking the Camino and discussions about ‘The Way’, a delightful film by Emilio Estevez  about one man’s journey on the Camino.

 

My Dad even called the other day to tell me that someone who works at his local pub in my old hometown (which I might add, is about the size of my fingernail) is “walking the Camino”. Seriously?

 

I for one, think it is fantastic that people are doing something a little left-of-centre with their travels.

 

But is it just me, or is everyone walking the same route?

 

Camino de Santiago

 

While the Camino Frances is considered the main way to Santiago, there are in fact numerous less-trodden and just as inspiring routes.

 

Traditionally, to begin the pilgrimage to Santiago, one would simply step out their front door, wherever that happened to be, and start walking in the general direction of the western coast of Spain.

 

old door on the Camino de Santiago

 

There is nothing I would love more than to be able to do this. My front door being in Melbourne, Australia unfortunately poses a slight obstacle.

 

But my point is that you can start your walk anywhere.

Anywhere!

 

When I first walked the Camino in 2002, it was still more or less under the radar anywhere outside of Europe.  I tackled the walk again a couple of years ago and chose to walk during winter to avoid the ever-growing popularity and pilgrim crowds, which has grown to epic proportions.

Both times I walked the Camino Frances.

 

My cousin and fellow walking companion and I made up our minds that last time that we would not walk the Frances route again.

 

She has just returned from walking the Le Puy route through France. My next Camino will be the northern coastal route, El Camino Norte, through the glorious Basque region later this year.

(Am I counting the sleeps yet? Um…maybe.)

 

This increasing popularity and the seeming lack of inclination to walk these other alternate routes has got me wondering:

Do travellers just not know about the alternatives?

Or does the fact that the alternate routes are less-travelled make them seem like too much of a challenge?

 

Camino de Santiago

 

If you are thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago or know someone who is, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so.

 

But don’t be afraid to stray from the well-worn path.

 

Share the love around a little!  Actually that applies to wherever you are planning to travel to.

 

There is always another, less travelled road and the extra challenges they bring are almost always worth it. Promise!

 

If you would like to find out more about the different routes that lead to Santiago, visit the official site of the Confraternity of Saint James

 

beach at Finnistere, Spain

 

 

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