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Walking the Camino de Santiago Solo

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 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.

Female Walking the Camino de Santiago Solo

Read More: Find more inspiration stories and practical advice with these Camino de Santiago books.

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.

Read more: Pack everything you need with this ultimate Camino packing list for women.

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.

Hiking 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. Five years later, I’ve decided to go back and tackle the bits of the Frances that I missed last time.

  • Practical Tip:
    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.
  • Inspirational Tip:
    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.
  • Follow me at Wayfaring Views
    You can read more about my adventures by subscribing to my newsletter or liking my Facebook page.

Pro Tip: Consider getting travel insurance for your Camino. It’s good not only for unexpected cancellations but also medical emergencies and injuries. Check out travel insurance with Allianz.

““The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A very wise hiking quote from Lau Tzu and very applicable for the Camino, where your pilgrimage begins when you walk out of your front door.

Advice from Shanti, a Serial Pilgrim

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!

  • Practical Tip
    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.
  • Inspirational Tip
    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!
Albuerge on Camino de Santiago

Read more: If you are flying into or out of Madrid for your Camino, check out this three day itinerary.

Advice from Laura of Roam Far and Wide

Advice from Laura: I’d had an exceptionally difficult year and in a moment of desperation I googled “long walk” and the Camino appeared as the first result. I’d never heard of it before, and never done anything similar, but after reading for five minutes, I knew I had to do it. I was called.

  • Practical Tip:
    Slather your feet in petroleum jelly and wear two pairs of socks to prevent blisters.
  • Inspirational Tip:
    Walk your own Camino at your own pace.  Try not to get caught up in the worries, anxieties or expectations of other people.  There is no “right” way to do it.
  • Follow Laura at Roam Far and Wide:
    Laura can be found at Roam Far and Wide. While there, you can read about her Camino adventures and check out her profiles of other solo females who have walked the Camino de Santiago.
Message Walking the Camino de Santiago
photo courtesy of Roam Far and Wide

Get a FREE downloadable Camino packing list

Inspiration from Sherry of Otts World

Sherry is a digital nomad and veteran solo female traveler. She’s been all over the world and has had some pretty amazing experiences. And yet, the Camino managed to work its magic on her as well. In this post (approx midway through her journey), she talks about how the mental part of the pilgrimage started taking over. The slow pace of the trail and the pleasant pastoral scenery gave her the head space to really think.

  • Practical Tip:
    Sherry offers a great FAQ on her blog. One very practical tip is that you can easily do the Camino for about €30 a day. Less if you make your own meals and stay only in the municipal albuergues.
  • Inspirational Tip:
    The Camino de Santiago is called “The Way”. In this post, Sherry talks about how her pilgrimage taught her to make her own way both on “The Way” and in her life off the trail.
  • Follow Sherry at Ottsworld:
    Sherry can be found traipsing around the globe and also at Ottsworld. If you are a cube-dweller, check out her advice on how to take a career break and go on some epic adventures.

Inspiration from Flora the Explorer

Flora is grateful to the Camino for many things, most particularly, the Camino taught her to have faith in her own abilities.

  • Practical Tip:
    In her post called “You Know You’ve Walked the Camino When…“, she talks about the three key liquids that you need in order to survive walking the Camino de Santiago: cafe con leche, water and vino tinto. Amen to that.
  • Inspirational Tip:
    Flora advises that you go ahead and rely on the kindness of strangers. She relates many kindnesses that she received on her pilgrimage, starting from her very first day. In her post, she mentions the “donativos”. These are little roadside stands manned by locals and they offer fruit, juice and snacks to pilgrims for free or for a small donation. One afternoon, a little donativo 5 miles outside of Astorga saved my life with juice and hard boiled eggs. I told the guy running it that he was an angel.
  • Follow Flora at Flora the Explorer:
    Flora can be found at Flora the Explorer. She has had many adventures including volunteering, learning Spanish and living all over the world.
Camino de Santiago end in Santiago Spain

Hiking the Camino de Santiago Solo Will Make You Adventurous

Take a look my blog and those of the other adventurous ladies mentioned here. When you do, you’ll begin to see a pattern. You’ll find that we went into the Camino thinking that we were doing an epic walk but we came away changed in unexpected ways. You’ll see a pattern of further adventures such as the Europe Peace Walk. You’ll see an ethic of volunteerism. You’ll see struggles and hilarious misadventures. You’ll see women who aren’t afraid to go out and tackle the world. You can become that woman by walking the Camino de Santiago solo.

Further Resources for Doing the Camino

  • Head back up to the top of this page and sign up for the FREE budgeting spreadsheet and packing list.
  • Read up on the Camino with this list of 31 books featuring inspiring memoirs and wacky tales of derring do.
  • Find the right Camino de Santiago app or guidebook for you.
  • Budget your Camino with this cost calculator.
  • Check out this astonishingly thorough packing list.
  • Plan a longer stay in the region with one of these guidebooks for Spain.

So…as they say on the trail….Buen Camino.

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Walking the Camino de Santiago solo is an epic adventure for women. Flex your sense of adventure and travel on your own terms as you enjoy your time on the pilgrimage
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Joanne

Wednesday 6th of September 2017

I walked from St Jean to Finestere with my hubby. We transported our bags. Then had to return to walk from Lisbon to Santiago this time carrying our bags. We are currently in San Sebastian seeing people on the Norte and it brings back fond memories. I an certainly a changed person. More chilled and able to take things as they come. Thanjs for rekindling memories.

Trees Rotteveel

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

Very impressive post!

Hilda Olivier

Friday 21st of April 2017

Wow Carol, you have the knack of easing our minds and their "busyness" about all that needs doing in preparation for an exciting adventure. I am inclined to overthink everything but I am surprisingly relaxed about my first pilgrimage. I'm walking la via Podienses (Le Puy to St Jean PdP) in September. I am almost ready in terms of gear and only need to buy the small items ie toiletries, first aid and the like. I am 60, and a woman walking solo which is how I prefer it. I am already teying to prepare myself to go into it without expectation and a state of mind of simply allowing what each step may bring, physically, mentally and emotionally. Like you and many others, I am at a crossroads. Thank you for your insighful knowledge and for your valuable presence. Best regards, Hilda

Carol Guttery

Monday 24th of April 2017

You have the perfect attitude Hilda. I wish you the best on your pilgrimage. Buen Camino

Julia Neves

Sunday 8th of January 2017

Dear Carol, I would just like to thank you so much for sharing your experience!!! I've just started preparing for making the Camino as soon as it gets warm and I got absolutely fascinated and inspired by your posts. Simply amazing! Your writing is so good and truthful! Thank you very very much!

Carol Guttery

Friday 13th of January 2017

Thank you so much Julia. I really appreciate it. And best of luck on your pilgrimage

Laura

Monday 13th of June 2016

Thanks so much for including me in this inspiring post.

Carol Guttery

Wednesday 15th of June 2016

Glad to have you