I walked the Camino de Santiago solo…and so can you. Everyone does the pilgrimage for a different reason but anyone who has done it agrees that walking the Camino de Santiago is a life-altering event. And doing the Camino de Santiago solo gives a female adventurer the opportunity to flex her independence and engage with the world on her own terms.
What?! You are Walking the Camino de Santiago Solo?
Cue the incredulous look as I answer “YES, I’m doing it solo.” If I had a nickel for the number of times someone asked me that question, I could buy the cathedral in Santiago. For heaven’s sake, the pilgrimage route is over 1,000 years old. It’s well marked and according to my own experience it’s easy to find your way. The network of albuergues and frequency of towns on the trail provide a great logistical support network.
According to the Pilgrim’s office, of the 250,000 annual pilgrims, 49% of are women. So you’ll have plenty of company while you are walking solo. I don’t wish to ignore the risks that any woman (or man) might experience while traveling. The normal cautions about being aware of your surroundings and keeping an eye on your stuff apply to walking the Camino. But the Camino is a special place. The travelers ethic that fuels the kindness of strangers is very strong on the trail.
My Experience Walking the Camino de Santiago
In 2014 I walked the Camino Frances from Burgos to Santiago, a route of ~300 miles. Along the way I earned my Compostela, a new friend, some sore muscles and a few blisters. I chose to walk the Camino because I was at a personal and professional crossroads. I had grown weary of the traditional 9-5 career and I wanted to try to redesign my life to give me more time for travel. So I quit my job.
Walking the Camino de Santiago helped me enter this new chapter of my life. The 24 day walk gave me time to think about my values and ponder my next move. I went into the Camino thinking that it would be a physical challenge. And it was indeed that. But, like any endurance event, it was also a mental challenge to keep myself focused and motivated as I slowly made my way to Santiago.
Pay attention to your nutrition. I found that I needed to adjust my meals to get more protein earlier in the day in order to fuel my walking.
Don’t be afraid to cry. The Camino is an emotional experience and you should just let it happen. I cried when I was lonely. I cried when I was physically wracked. And I cried with joy and relief during the stunning and theatrical pilgrim’s mass in Santiago. You can read about that experience here. Let you emotions guide you while walking the Camino de Santiago.
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Advice on Walking the Camino from Shanti of AWanderphile
Advice from Shanti: I suppose technically the Camino de Santiago is still a religious pilgrimage where people stride, meander and/or limp their way towards the esteemed city of Santiago de Compostela. Yet, these days people walk it for a myriad of reasons. For me as flippant as it sounds I just wanted the challenge of walking across a country. I love the simple act of walking and find it the best way to identify with not only the physical environment of a country but also it’s people and its, well.. soul.
A Camino is a beautiful uncomplicated and simplistic act of waking up each day with no responsibilities except to walk until you want to stop. Carrying everything to support yourself and your basic needs. Yet at the same time it is extremely physically taxing and probably even more so, mentally exhausting!
It’s ultra important to prepare yourself physically for the walk by spending as much time on your feet for at least three months leading up to your walk. But also to realize the mental side is probably what will throw you.
Ensure you don’t constantly rush to reach the next alburgue and instead enjoy the journey for what it is. Chat with the people around you! There are so many really interesting people from all walks of life. I’ve never had so many intense convos than on the Camino. Strangers just divulge their life stories and problems within minutes. Seriously. A Camino is completely all about the journey and not so much the destination. Also if you’re not religious (as I’m not) I’d really recommend trying to keep an open mind when it comes to some of the religious/ spiritual traditions along the way. Going to mass in Spanish, in churches that have heard voices for centuries is an amazing experience! You might find some of my Motivational Quotes for the Camino helpful during those moments where you need someone to tell you to keep going.
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Advice on Walking the Camino from Laura of Roam Far and Wide
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Inspiration from Sherry of Otts World
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Inspiration from Flora the Explorer
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Walking the Camino de Santiago Solo Will Make You Adventurous
Further Resources for Walking Solo
- Check out my Pilgrim Packing List for Chicks
- Stories about making friends and sharing intimacies on the Camino
- Peruse my adventures on the Camino
- Get more advice at the Camino de Santiago Forum
- Get tips on how to become a more adventur-ish traveler