El Camino de Santiago: I’m Walking ‘The Way’ Across Spain

Over Christmas, my friend announced that she’s planning to run the London marathon in April. She’s running for a cause important to both of us: her mum passed away from breast cancer three years ago, the same cancer that took my own mum.

My first thought was extreme respect – running for 26 miles straight is no easy task! – but then I felt a little deflated. If I was ever going to run a marathon, this would be the race and the charity I’d choose, but there’s no way I’m in a fit state to entertain the idea.

But couldn’t I do something different instead?

Walk first, run later

Putting one foot in front of the other is something I’ve been doing a long time. Long enough that over the last few years I’ve begun to take more interest in the art of walking.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

In South America, particularly, it was hard to avoid.

I hiked the Salcantay trail for three days to reach Machu Picchu in Peru; climbed down the bottom of the Arequipa canyon and back out again; and took part in a spiritual ceremony in Bolivia that required walking in a circle for eight hours under a full moon.

I also spent two separate occasions walking along the blockaded highways of Bolivia and Peru carrying most of my possessions due to transport strikes and belligerent locals. Not exactly the most joyous of walking experiences, but experiences nonetheless.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

For most of these walks I started out with my usual array of fears. We’re talking heights, narrow ledges and the possibility of falling, coupled with general embarrassment levels of whether I’m actually fit enough to last the distance – and yet nothing significantly terrible has ever actually happened.

Interestingly enough, I’ve found that although I’ve inwardly balked at the idea of these walks/hikes/treks, every single one has left me feeling strangely exhilarated at the end. Giving me a sense of achievement which meant all the more because I never really expected to succeed.

So with that in mind, it’s about time I took things a step further. It’s time I listened to that small portion of my brain which has spent years deliberating over whether I can handle El Camino de Santiago this year.

So what’s the Camino de Santiago?

The Camino has been a pilgrimage route since the 9th century, when the remains of the martyred Saint James were reputedly carried from Jerusalem and buried in today’s Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia in northwestern Spain.

And for some reason, pilgrims have been walking The Way ever since.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

There are a number of different routes, but the most popular, known as the Camino Francés, begins at the foothills of the French Pyrenees and ends at Santiago, Spain. That’s a distance of almost 500 miles, or 800 kilometres, across the entire width of the country.

Most ‘peregrinos‘ (pilgrims) who walk the Camino Francés take approximately four weeks, which evens out at 10-15 miles a day. But the beauty of walking a route like the Camino is there is no official schedule. As long as you’ve got your own time to spare, you can start walking from any place on the various trails and can take as long as you want on your journey.

The eventual aim is to reach Santiago’s cathedral, but apart from being stamped as an ‘official’ pilgrim once you arrive in the city, it’s not even obligatory to end in Santiago.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

I’m not a religious person, but luckily religion isn’t a prerequisite for the people who walk the Camino.

Searching through the hundreds of online forums dedicated to the journey throws up a multitude of reasons for walking: a search for peace and enlightenment, the loss of someone close, getting closer to nature and more in touch with oneself, and the sheer challenge of it are all common reasons to walk.

And obviously a lot of people just want to get a bit more fit.

Why I think it’s a good idea to walk for a month straight

As for me, there’s a variety of reasons. First off, I really want to challenge myself with something – something big, something different to anything I’ve done before.

From what I’ve gathered, there’s a profound simplicity about the Camino which allows you to disassociate yourself from your normal life. My ‘normal’ currently means working for a masters degree, a cafe job, freelance writing and running this site, all set in the frenetic pace of London. Since moving back here, I find myself rewriting the same to-do lists into different notebooks yet never feeling like I’m getting anything done. A brain that’s constantly in ‘scatty and disorganised’ mode brings nothing but stress, and the idea of having nothing ahead of me but walking, thinking and more walking is like a breath of fresh air.

Mentally at least. I guarantee I’ll change my tune pretty quickly after the first blister.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

I’m aiming to walk the Camino in May, (update: I’ve had to change my plans somewhat so I’m now planning my Camino for September) which gives me eight months from January to prepare myself. In regular life, I’m not the most fit or active of people; I work from home, in a position so sedentary that my toes are perpetually cold, and my daily exercise involves whizzing a fitness hoop around my midriff and trying not to hit the sofa.

Prepping for the Camino means a lifestyle change – one that I’m more likely to adhere to as I have the compete fear of a month of walking at the end of it. There’ll be a lot of walking to and from university classes in hiking boots, weekends spent on more challenging hikes around England, and deliberations over moisture wicking shirts, zip off trousers and wide brimmed hats.

At the very least, it’ll mean less money spent on London transport, and more understanding of London’s streets; at the most, I’ll get the faintest idea of what it’ll be like to spend most of my waking moments walking.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

Then there’s the travel aspect. I’ve long said I’m a proponent of slow travel – but then again, I took about twenty flights in 2014. While my ex-boyfriend often said this was a problem because of the air pollution factors (and he’d have a point), I think about it more in terms of being increasingly unable for my mind to digest those huge distances that my body travels on a plane. It’s like cheating on the travel experience.

With every type of transport I take, I eventually find myself staring out of the window at the scenery flashing past and imagining what’s going on in those places I’ll never get to see. Walking on foot is the slowest and most intense way to absorb the world around you, and doing so across the entirety of Spain is a challenge I’m totally fascinated by.

And let’s not forget it’s the perfect chance for me to keep up my Spanish skills by exploring the rural landscape, chatting to locals and translating those important looking signs along the way.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

Jokes aside, I know that a walk of this magnitude is no easy feat, and I’m more than a little terrified by the prospect of doing this. But there’s got to be a reason why so many thousands of people attempt the Camino every year and love it, right?

My real reason for walking the Camino 

As I said earlier, I’m not a religious person, but my mum was. At least until her first bout of cancer she was a Christian, and throughout her life she believed wholeheartedly in the goodness of people. I’ve been slowly dealing with her death for the last six years, much like my friend has with her own loss, and it’s high time I attempted to kick that cancer right back where it hurts.

So if my friend can mould her body and her mind into running charitably for 26 miles, I can do the same for walking. I’m attempting the Camino for my mum, and to raise money for Breast Cancer Research. I’ve set up a JustGiving page and though I’m not aiming for a particular amount, every bit obviously helps.

They say that the thoughts and conversations you have on the Camino stay with you forever. I know I can’t plan out what those will be, but I’m sure my mum will be a large topic regardless.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

I haven’t yet decided if I want to blog daily about this journey – like Kim from So Many Places did – or if I’ll abandon the tech and go back to scribbling notes on paper each evening. I’ll work it out later. At the moment I’m veering towards the latter, and a chance to become completely absorbed in the Camino life.

But that’s for a later date. My major reason for announcing this challenge was to make sure I can’t back out – and also to ask for help. I need input from you guys!

Help me prepare myself! PLEASE!

Any good walking routes you know about in England that I should practice on? Tips for how to train, and what to pack? Those clever tricks for avoiding blisters? And if you’ve actually walked the Camino before then (at the risk of sounding like a fangirl) TELL ME EVERYTHING.

I’m a total newbie going into this, but I still believe I can do it.

I hope you guys have a bit of faith in me too.

El Camino de Santiago: Walking 'The Way' Across Spain

I’ll be updating my progress on preparing for the Camino and will be linking to each post, so keep an eye out! If you’d like to donate to Cancer Research then head here to do so. 

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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93 Responses to El Camino de Santiago: I’m Walking ‘The Way’ Across Spain

  1. Claire @ Backpacking Bella January 8, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    Hey Flora, what a fantastic journey and for a very worthwhile cause. I’m sure your Mum would be proud. I have a friend who’s planning to do the same walk in a couple of months – it certainly sounds like a spiritual as well as a physical endeavour. Best of luck!

    Claire aka Backpacking Bella

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      Thanks Claire – I think it’s probably going to be a very enlightening journey!

  2. Laura January 8, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    What an awesome thing to do. I’ve only heard about it briefly, so I can’t offer any advice, but I’m sure like most physically difficult things it will all come down to your mentality. Good luck, I’m sure it will be one hell of a journey.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      Thanks Laura!

  3. Pips January 8, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    Compeed blister plasters will become your best friend. They really are magical!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      I reckon my blister kit is going to be the same size as all the other gear put together :p I’ve heard carrying a needle is a must too – to pop them…!

  4. chris January 8, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    I am intrigued by El Camino and look forward to your report. I vote for paper notebook. 🙂 I’m planning to walk The Haute Route in Switzerland this autumn and can commiserate with some of your worries. Mostly I worry about foot pain I sometimes experience. As far as preparing physically, I can’t recommend FitnessBlender.com enough. They are a husband-wife team that offers free workout videos via YouTube that are challenging, well structured for strength and cardio training, not obnoxious at all, and can be done in a small space in one’s home. Spend $10 on one of their 8 week plan eBooks and you’ll have a structured fitness program that schedules workouts (via hyperlinks to the workout videos) in such a way to help you stagger your cardio and strength and upper and lower body workouts in a good, safe sequence AND they incorporate the ever important rest/recovery days. Swap some of those workouts out for days of walking around England and you’ll be tough by the time you hit the trail!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      I think I’m angling more towards the paper too, Chris 🙂 Great tip on the YouTube videos too, I’ll check them out!

  5. Susan January 8, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Sorry, no advice yet, I’m planning to walk the camino this or next year, but want to walk the Via de la Plata. Looking forward to your report, whether daily or afterwards! Good luck!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      Thanks Susan! And good luck with prepping for your journey next year.

  6. Gerry January 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    Flora, good for you. I just finished reading the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It was also made into a movie and part of it was filmed right here inAshland, Oregon. It tells her tale of finding herself aft her mothers death at a very young age from cancer. Cheryl walked the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave desert up to the Bridge of th Gods in Washington state. You might enjoy her book if you have spare time to read anything other than your college textbooks. Enjoy getting ready for this journey. I can’t wait to hear all about it as you fill us in when you travel.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      Wild has been on my to-read list for a long time, Gerry – but I think it’s even more appropriate now 🙂

  7. Pauline January 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    AAAHHH!! That’s so awesome, Flora! You will have such an amazing time! I walked the Camino this past November and has been constantly thinking about it since I finished. I wasn’t as prepared as I would like to be, but the human body is VERY resilient and incredibly adaptable. I ended up with several blisters on my feet for the first week, but things cleared up and I gained strength as I continued to walk. There’s so many things I want to tell you about – the people are incredible, the conversations are inspiring, and the meals are delicious. It’s amazing how much joy you can get with next to nothing. I hope you’ll have fun!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      It’s so great to hear that you had an incredible time walking the camino, Pauline – I’m so excited!!

  8. Betsy Wuebker January 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    Congratulations on your decision! We are wanting to walk Via de la Plata. Have you read Sonia Choquette’s book “Walking Home” about the Via Frances? Will be following you.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Ooh, I haven’t heard of ‘Walking Home’ – I’ll check it out! Best of luck with your preparations, Betsy 🙂

  9. Katharina January 8, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Flora! First of all – what a brave decision, I’m sure you won’t regret it. I, personally, haven’t had the chance to walk the Camino yet (I was actually planning to do it early this summer, too!). My mom, however, walked it a few years ago and still raves about it. She did the Camino Francés – which goes along the coastline of the north of Spain.

    From what I understand, there are some “Caminos” that are more frequented than others, which has it’s pros and cons, of course. Pros: lots of chances to meet people, the paths are a bit easier and it’s well organised. Cons: if you’re going in season, it might be the case that you’d have to wake up really early to arrive on time to get a bunk bed at one of the “albergues”! I am extremely intrigued about the Camino Frances (reading all about it!). Anyway, where were you thinking of starting it off?

    By the way, I live in London too (hello!) and have no idea where it’d be best to practice for this. If you find something – do let me know!

    I’m very much looking forward to reading about the adventure 🙂

    • Katharina January 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

      Oops! My apologies – the “way” I mean that goes along the coast is not Camino Francés by the way (this one is inland), it’s called “Camino del Norte”. Check it out!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

      At the moment I’m pretty sure I’ll walk the Camino Frances (which is the most popular route) but I’ll do more research before I make up my mind for certain. Because I’m aiming to walk in May, the albergues shouldn’t be too crowded.. I hope, anyway!

      That’s wonderful that your mum’s walked it too! I’m sure she’ll be really instrumental in helping you prepare. In terms of preparing, my very vague ideas so far were to try and do at least a couple of big weekend hikes each month – i.e. just get the train somewhere and walk all day..! It’s a nice chance to do some exploring of England’s nature side (which I’ve barely ever indulged in). I’ll hopefully write about it here, but at the very least it’ll be on my Facebook page 🙂

      • Mike (Nomadic Texan) January 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

        We never got a chance to meet while I was in Cuenca. Funny it sounds like you will be walking about the same time as this old man.

        I am going to #TBEX in Costa Brava and then walking the Camino Frances. Maybe we can share a day or two of walking if our schedules coincide. Buen Camino.

        • Flora February 9, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

          Hi Mike, great to hear that you’ll also be walking the Camino! I’ve actually had to delay my walk until August/September now so I’m afraid we won’t cross paths, but I’ll certainly be at TBEX so we can chat about it then – and I’ll make sure to follow along with your journey! Y buen camino tambien 🙂

  10. Jessi @2feet1world January 8, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    How awesome Flora! I’ve always been strangely fascinated by the idea of the Camino but haven’t got anywhere near dedicating a month to it yet. I look forward to following your preparations… and I vote paper notebook too 🙂

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      Haha I think paper is going to definitely be the winner!

  11. Veena January 9, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    What a great idea and a great way to honour your mum! I have personally not completed the Camino, but I have a number of friends who have and who loved it. My friends Sarah and Cale just completed it about 6 months ago and wrote about it on their blog at http://twopairunderwear.com, if you’d like to read their words or get in touch with them.

    Good luck with the training, and I can’t wait to hear more about it!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      Great tip on your friends’ site, Veena – I’ll get reading 🙂

  12. Nina Travels January 9, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    So sorry to hear about your mum, but the walk you will do in a memory of her is amazing! Even though she is not with you anymore, I know you will walk the path together and make amazing memories.
    Do you know if it is possible to make it with a bike (cycling) as I cannot got such a long leave from work.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

      I’m pretty sure you can travel along the camino any way you like – on foot, by bike, even by horse, apparently! And thank you so much for your lovely comment, Nina 🙂 I hope she’l be there with me!

  13. Beverley | Pack Your Passport January 9, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Flora this is amazing!!! You’re doing it for a great cause and I think it’s brilliant that you’re challenging yourself. Can you let me know when your JustGiving page is up, I’d like to donate. And if you want a walking buddy in London I’ll walk with you! 🙂

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

      Yay! Although you might regret saying that :p fancy donning the hiking boots and waterproof trousers with me too??

  14. Andreas Moser January 9, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Luckily, in England you have plenty of long distance paths, like Hadrian’s Wall Path – https://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/hadrians-wall/ – or, closer to London, South Downs Walk.

    Most public libraries in London will have books like “50 Walks in England” or even “50 Walks around London”. In the latter case, you can go by train in the morning, walk all day and you will still be back by night.

    When I lived in London, I was also cycling a lot. It’s actually quite a bike-friendly city for its size and amount of traffic. Most drivers are very careful and considerate. And then of course you can go on long walks in London itself. For a while i lived in Tooting and I often walked to the center. It took more than an hour, but I took a slightly different route each time and I got to know the city.

    And Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Commons, Nonsuch Park! There really are no excuses for not working out when you live in London. Walking/cycling/running along the canals that lead out from Tottenham to the north is also nice.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Wonderful tips, Andreas, thank you! I think Hadrian’s Wall might be my first long walk away from London 🙂 As for the cycling, I think I need to work myself up to it..!

      • Mark March 2, 2016 at 6:14 am #

        Flora, I have walked the North Downs Way which is easily accessible from London and is 150+ miles long and also walked the South Downs Way. Both are cracking good walks and will set you up nicely to build fitness and stamina.

        The NDW is particularly accessible using public transport

  15. Andreas Moser January 9, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    My main advice for any long-distance walk: take as little weight with you as possible. Don’t carry a computer or other equipment.

    Walking is really no physical challenge, it’s the normal human way of moving about. Walking longer distances is no problem either if you do it slowly or with breaks. But carrying heavy stuff while walking, that’s not normal. Every kilogram hurts.

  16. Sergio January 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Hey Flora!

    There is a relatively low budget / independent USA movie about El Camino you might want to watch: “The Way” (2010) with Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen.



    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

      Thanks Sergio – it’s on my list of Camino preparation materials :p

  17. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon January 10, 2015 at 1:03 am #

    I’ve been using this as a general guide for what exercises to do while I train for the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. http://www.fitclimb.com/page/6-week-beginner-mountaineering I’m also a complete newbie don’t worry. I can’t even do the reps yet, I’m working on it. (And just forget the crunchies)
    Search for the ‘Ball Leg Curl (Hamstrings), Clam (Gluteus Medius and Outer thighs), Lunges, Side Lunges, Pile Squats (inner thighs), Overhead Press (shoulders), Dart (Upper back), Swimming (lower back), One leg calf raises (Calves).
    These are not included in the beginner mountaineering program, but most of them target different muscle groups which is really good. The guletus medius for example turns for foot outwards, pain in this can mask as back pain, and if you are carrying a pack the upper back is really important.
    Along with standard stretches that a really important – try the rag doll for hamstrings and a stretch for the IT band which is often overlooked.
    I have never been hiking in England but I’ve heard of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Cuthbert’s Way, West Highland Way, Pilgrim’s Way and Cotswald’s Way.
    Just start with day hikes and overnight hikes first. I tried a multiday one first off – oops.
    I hope that is helpful and that I’m not simply telling you stuff you already know.
    Good Luck

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      Sounds like a great guide, Zoe! I think muscle prep is probably a very good idea as I’m not that stretchy at the moment..! Good tip on not over-reaching on the length of prep hiking to start with as well.

  18. Caroline Eubanks January 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    I have complete and total faith in your abilities. I’m so impressed that you’re doing this and know it will be a great experience for you. Definitely watch the movie The Way because it made me want to do the Camino as well. Good luck and Buon Camino!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

      You’re awesome at the pep talks, Caroline 🙂 I seriously hope you’re getting over to London soon!!

  19. Adam January 11, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    I’ve walked the Camino & all I can say is that you won’t be prepared physically. You’ll work most of that out on the road, including blister, strains and generally weariness. To be honest, I never really got so fit during my month on the Camino that it got easy.

    As far as weight goes, take hardly any. I took 7kg and it was perfect and that included a laptop. I won’t be taking that next time as it’s simply not needed these days. If you’re taking more than 7kg, you’re taking too much. Having said that, many people walking the Camino carry 10+kg and do ok.

    My advice is to make sure you can walk 10km at least 5 times before you start the Camino. Make sure your shoes are worn in. And that’s about it. Roll up on the day and walk.

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks for the honesty, Adam! I’m already aiming for 7kg (although really don’t have any of the right clothes yet so we’ll see how that goes..). Great idea to aim for 5 sets of 10km before I start – that should be nice and doable over the next four months..!

  20. Katie @ The World on my Necklace January 14, 2015 at 12:00 am #

    That is so exciting Flora! Hiking is my favourite thing in the world (and the best way to explore the world) and I would love to hike the Camino as well. I am sure it will be a life changing experience 🙂

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      I think I’m partly aiming to end up with the same keenness for hiking as you’ve clearly got, Katie :p I sincerely hope it’s going to be incredible!

  21. Katrinka January 14, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    If you haven’t read An Unlikely Pilgrim (http://unlikelypilgrim.com/), I recommend it– Masha did the Camino and was so affected that she set out on a year of walking pilgrimages, which she’s currently in the middle of.

    Good luck!

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks so much for the recommendation, Katrina – I’ve just looked her up and I’m already hooked! Plus I didn’t realise she’s the woman walking through India with Torre de Roche! Small world 🙂

  22. Katrinka January 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Isn’t it? I met her here in Istanbul through one of my college friends– and then we realized we had all these blogger friends in common!

  23. Maggie January 18, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I did the Camino Frances this past year. It’s absolutely beautiful. I can’t say enough good things about it.
    For blisters there are special anti-blister socks you can get. Just google them, there are so many different brands! Compeed and Vaseline is also great for preventing blisters.
    Also seriously break in your shoes. Walk every where if you can. You will be walking through so many different of types terrain so it’s best to just start walking every where. Also train walking up and down hill.
    If you plan on staying in alberges bring a silk liner to sleep in. It will protect you from bed bugs. Depending on your comfort level, a sleeping bag might just be extra weight. Plus I found it got really warm in the shared rooms!
    When you get to Santiago I’d recommend looking into continuing to Finisterre. There is a bus you can take. It’s beautiful and personally was a great way to end the journey.

    On the Camino remember to listen to your body and take time to have a break if you need. It’s a beautiful experience both physically and mentally. Enjoy!

    Buen Camino!

    • Flora July 8, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

      Thanks so much for the tips, Maggie! I”m all over carrying a tin of Vaseline :p

  24. Toni - Reclaiming Your Future January 26, 2015 at 3:46 am #

    I think it’s great that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and do something so huge but yet so personal for you Flora.
    You will continue to learn so much about yourself and the strengths and weaknesses you have within you and personal learning is the best thing we can in life whether it’s reading from a book or walking through Spain.
    I’ll be keeping up with your prep! 🙂 x

    • Flora July 8, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

      Thanks Toni 🙂

  25. rebecca January 27, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    fantastic! very impressed good luck

    • Flora February 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      Thanks Rebecca!

  26. Jeffrey Wekesa February 5, 2015 at 7:30 am #

    Hey I would like to cheer you on! and wish you all the best in your preps.

    I am sure it will be an awesome adventure and you will have a hell of a time. I plan to walk the Camino in two years time…sounds far off but I think about it almost everyday.

    Why in two years time? because I would like the walk to coincide with my 40th birthday anniversary…. We have a saying back at home that says life begins at 40, so it is 2017 for me.

    I am kind of envying you, with only four months to go; I have close to 30 months to go.

    But in keeping abreast with you progress apart of me is already on the camino.

    So best of luck and keep us posted.

  27. Ryan February 12, 2015 at 3:09 am #

    This is such a great cause Flora, and what an amazing way to honor your mum and others that cancer has taken while proving to yourself you can overcome these odds as well. I am sure it will be tough, but fulfilling and an experience you will remember forever. I’ve wanted to do a long hike like this one, and I’ve thought of the Pacific Crest or Appalachian trail as well, but I have been looking for the right 4+ week hike to take on. Possibly in Italy as well. I wish you luck and I can’t wait to see what beauty and stories get scribbled on your notes. If you ever need a hiking partner in the future, I would happily take on one with ya, since I tend to love walking anyway. I know this is one for you and your mum, but when we run into each other, we’ll have to take on something! Good luck preparing!

    • Flora February 13, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

      Thanks so much Ryan 🙂 I’m definitely keen on teaming up at some point – Mongol Rally 2016 yeah?!

  28. Nadine February 20, 2015 at 2:02 am #

    I just found your blog and I’m hooked. 🙂 And so excited for you that you’ve decided to walk the Camino! I walked the Frances in June/July last year (and am already planning a return to the Norte this year… and addiction has started…), and I could write volumes of advice. But really, it’s simple: find a way to your starting point, get yourself a decent fitting pack and don’t carry too much, and break in your shoes. Then just start walking, everything sorts itself out.

    That being said… I was a total newbie when I was prepping, and I had dozens of fears. I trained so much (walks around trails in a local park, and eventually with my pack once I finally bought one), and physically, the Camino wasn’t too bad for me. Not getting blisters helped, and having a small-ish pack was definitely a plus as well. Vaseline on the feet, and lots of breaks with shoes and socks off to let my feet dry out and breath. I think it helped. Or maybe it was luck. Or a Camino angel…

    I kept a blog before/during the walk that could be helpful for you to check out, if you’re interested. 🙂

    Finally, have you heard of Cruz de Ferro? From what I read in this post, I think it’s something that you could really respond to, so remember to pack a rock! (it’s a pilgrim tradition on the Camino, you can pretty easily look it up to find more).

    Okay, I’m going to end this monstrous comment. Buen Camino!!

    • Flora July 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks so much for all the tips Nadine! I’m having a look at your blog now 🙂

  29. Diane February 27, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    You asked for training tips and other ways to prevent blisters, so here goes! I once participated in the 3 day walk for Breast Cancer. The walk was 17 miles the first day, 14 the second, and 23 the third day. The experience was magical and I will always remember reaching the end.

    Training – walk every day, start by walking a couple miles and work your way up to 10 miles a day. Be sure to do a few 10 mile days back to back so you know what that feels like.

    Stretch- Stretch during and after your walk. Stop EVERY hour to do a 5 minute stretch and be sure to stretch after your walk. Do not stretch before hand, your legs are not warmed up. Stretch ofte, your legs will thank you for it!

    Blisters – To avoid blisters first wear proper fitting shoes, second keep your feet dry. This may mean changing socks a few times a day, but moisture and friction are what cause blisters. If you do happen to get a blister or two, I certainly did, cover them with mole skin. This will protect them from further friction and help heal them.

    Water – drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, your body can’t perform at it’s best if it is dehydrated.

    Oh yeah, STRETCH!

    • Flora July 8, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks so much Diane! Stretching a lot is definitely a good tip 🙂

  30. Alejandra March 19, 2015 at 3:13 am #

    Hi Flora, I did the Camino de Santiago two years ago. I think it was the best experience I ever had, as you, I didn’t do it for a religious motive, it was just for me, I didn’t do all the Camino, just the last 200 km, and I did it in 8 or 9 days, we use to walk between 15 and 20 km every day. You should check all the hostels where to sleep, but on summer in almost all the hostels are open, and they cost between 5 and 10€ but you can always go to a hotel (I really recomend to go to the hostels, is where you meet the people)

    about what to pack… just two good T-shirts, good shoes, 3 or 4 pairs of GOOD socks, (that’s the most important, because if you start to have blisters, the trip is going to be the hell…) 1 walking trauser and underwear, small sweateter, and flip-flops. the backpack can’t weigh on more than 6 kg (you have to think about the water).. we used to clean the clothes every day or every two days… in almost all the hostels there are washing machines.

    I really recomend you to take a look of the hostels, and read about them before, becaus there are some really nice, I remember one close to Santiago, it was just next to the river and it was really really beautiful!

    If you have more questions or you don’t understand somethink let me know (sorry about my english…)

    Buen camino!

    • Alejandra March 19, 2015 at 3:18 am #

      ohh I forgot, you will need a small sleeping bag and a raincoat (in Galicia use to rain a lot)

    • Flora April 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks so much for these tips, Alejandra – I really appreciate it (particularly the raincoat suggestion!)

  31. roland March 23, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Flora, do you think its possible to telecommute for 1-2 hours a day while they walk the Camino

    • Flora April 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi Roland, I’m afraid I have no idea as I haven’t yet walked the Camino – but I can imagine it would be highly advised against! My main reason for doing the Camino is to disconnect and focus on myself, which would never happen if I was trying to keep up with work remotely at the same time. Maybe try to find a time to walk when you can put work to one side for a month or so?

  32. Kelly Marsden March 30, 2015 at 4:02 am #

    I don’t know if someone mentioned it, I am too lazy to read 60 comments (don’t judge), but the film ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen, directed by Emilio Estevez, is really good. It probably won’t prepare you but it is definitely inspirational. It was the first piece of information that made me want to do the Camino.

    • Flora April 10, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

      It’s on my must-watch list 🙂 And I would never judge you Kelly!

  33. bobtaylor101 April 11, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Flora!
    I’m also prepping for the Camino this summer (Aug/Sept) and have been doing walks such as The Yorkshire Three Peaks and Mt Snowdon (Wales), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Helvellyn (Lake District). I know you live in London but if you get a chance to get up North these would be some excellent walks for you… the South is far too flat in my opinion! Get yourself up a mountain and the leg muscles will be worked proper!
    Good luck with the walk, when I get a new bank card (stolen one night…don’t ask!) I’ll be visiting your justgive page – a worthwhile cause.
    Love your blog.
    Buen Camino!

    • Flora July 8, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks so much Bob!

  34. Chella June 6, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    That’s a great way to honor your mother Flora. Spain looks awesome and I bet there is no better way to experience that awesomeness that to walk along its most beautiful places in countryside. I also enjoy walking by the way.

    • Flora June 17, 2015 at 11:04 am #

      Thank you Chella 🙂 I’m growing more excited about my impending journey by the day!

  35. Lisa Gibbons June 23, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    Hi Flora,

    Good luck on your journey. It will be an amazing experience and you are doing it for a fantastic cause. When are you starting the walk? I have a packing guide and fitness prep guide that you can have.

    Buen Camino,


    • Flora November 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

      Thanks so much Lisa! I actually finished in early October – and had such a fantastic time 🙂

  36. adventureliesinfront August 4, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    This has been on my bucketlist for a long time now. I’m one of those people that absolutely hates and loves hiking at the same time. I’m so unfit but I love the sense of accomplishment and the amazing people you met and things you see along the way.

    I’ll be following eagerly!

    • Flora November 21, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

      Ohh I’m sure you’d love it – even if you don’t think you enjoy hiking, the Camino absolutely gets under your skin!!

  37. Elen August 5, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    My 70 year old uncle did this a few years ago. He had been ill with cancer a few years earlier, and trained quite a bit for this, but he completed it and loved the experience. So I’m sure you will be fine 🙂

    • Flora November 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      Aww, that’s fantastic that your uncle walked the Camino Elen! I actually met a lot of pilgrims in the older age range – it’s a really popular pursuit for retirees as they have a spare six weeks to dedicate to walking 🙂

  38. Jennifer Cowan August 5, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    Flora!! You are doing it!! And at the better time of year, I will say. I have SO much to say and SO many tips for you. I’m at work right now but will take the time to write a proper response. I’m so happy you are doing this….it is truly transformational. You will never look at life the same again. Sending you lots of love and positive vibes (you CAN do this!)

    • Flora November 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      JENNA!! I’m so confused – I swear I replied to this comment?! Anyway I was thinking about you so much throughout my time on the Camino, particularly when the topic came up with various people of ‘so when did you first hear about/decide to walk the Camino…?’ so much love to you!! xx

  39. Albert Smith September 5, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    I am doing the Camino next April/May 2016 to celibrate my 70th birthday and also to raise money for breast cancer research . the best tip I have found to reduce the chance of blisters is to properly lace your boots up and wear pop socks under your hiking socks. There is a good boot lacing tutorial on the Mountain Warehouse site which takes in to acount different shapes of feet
    I do a lot of hiking locally in the penines and am really looking forward to the Camino
    Buen Camino Flora

    • Flora November 21, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      That’s a really good sock tip, Albert – I wore a pair of thin sock liners underneath my thicker hiking socks and didn’t develop a single blister! Best of luck with your Camino in 2016 🙂 I’m sure you’ll have the most fabulous time!

  40. christina October 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    Hi Flora, I am planing to walk May 19th 2016 over 5 weeks , would love to know how you got on. I am happy to walk on my own but concerned about safety , would love to know of anyone else walking at that time. We all have are reasons, my mum broke her leg at 49, it was amputated at 54 and lead through emotional and medical issues to her early death a 70. I took a month out last year and walked 500 miles from Scotland to Brighton over a month in my 50th year, I would love to complete the Camino next year. I had never undertaken anything like that before, never realised I had it in me. Any advice would be great and good luck with it

    • Flora October 5, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

      Hi Christina! I’ve just got back from walking the Camino and will be writing a lot of articles about my experiences over the coming months, so keep a look out and hopefully they’ll answer any questions you’ve got about making your own Camino journey 🙂

  41. eleshap January 15, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    Yay! I’m so happy to have come across this post – and your blog! Walking El Camino de Santiago is next on my bucket list! I was inspired when reading Kim’s journey from So Many Places when she did it. I’ll be an avid reader of your updates and tips! 🙂

    • Flora January 16, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

      I’m so glad you’ve decided to walk! I have some good news – I actually already walked the Camino during this past summer 🙂 If you click on the ‘Camino de Santiago’ tab at the top of the site you’ll see all the articles I’ve written so far about the experience (there are still quite a few to come!) Best of luck with planning your own walk, I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time 🙂


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