The El Camino de Santiago translated as, The Way of Saint James, is the heart on my European adventure. The El Camino, for anyone who is not familiar, is a network of trails all across Spain and other parts of Europe all leading to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The tradition of taking a pilgrimage to Santiago originated over 1,000 years ago. The Camino began as a Christian pilgrimage to Santiago where it is believed that the remains of Jesus’ apostle Saint James, lie. The Camino has transformed over the years, and is not only walked by pilgrims for religious reasons, but also for personal and spiritual reasons, as well as many others. Thousands of pilgrims embark on this life-changing adventure each year, choosing one of the many routes leading to Santiago de Compostela.
I have chosen to travel the Camino de Santiago Frances, The French Way, the most traveled of the many routes. The French Way begins on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains in St. Jean Pied de Port and then along the interior of Northern Spain ending in Santiago. This particular route is 490 miles, however I will be taking an extension from Santiago to Finisterre. Finisterre translates literally to “end of the world,” this was believed to be the end of the world until Columbus discovered the Americas. This extension is an additional 124 miles, making my journey a total of 614 miles.
The symbol of the El Camino is the scallop shell. This is the way-marker of the El Camino, you will see this symbol all along the many routes to Santiago. As well as marking the way, you can identify a pilgrim by the scallop shell they wear usually on their packs or around their necks.
Many people embark on this journey for many reasons. My reason for embarking on this life changing journey, is self-discovery. I want to get down to me; who am I? What do I want from life? What do I want from/for myself? What do I aspire to be? What truly makes me happy? I want to look at the world though different eyes. There is no better way to answer these questions than the El Camino, with the added bonus of breathtaking scenery and the friends I will make along the way, all of us on a journey of our own.
In preparation for my upcoming pilgrimage I have done a LOT of research and bought many books on what to expect: how to prepare myself, packing list, history of the El Camino, when is the best time to take the pilgrimage…the list goes on and on. I have learned a lot from my research and many books but what I also learned is that you can’t get caught up in too much planning. A large part of the experience is not knowing what to expect. It is good to be prepared, but only to an extent, before you are actually taking away part of the experience.
I look forward to finding and discovering the new me, and learning what my purpose in life is, as well as coming back home (if that’s where I am meant to be) and fulfilling my dreams and purpose.