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Our Pre-Trip Thoughts on the Camino de Santiago


A warm welcome in our room at L'Esprit du Chemin.

We definitely have to catch up on a few more posts…our time in Narbonne, as well perhaps, on our brief stop at the Atlantic coastal town of Anglet, France. We did however want to be sure that we jumped to “real time” for a moment to talk about our next adventure: The Camino de Santiago!

Since we began planning our RTW trip, we have been talking about the opportunity to participate in the Camino.

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, has existed for over 1,000 years. Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. Those Christians who made this pilgimage to the holy city were absolved of a lifetime of sins. Nifty!

There are a number of routes to Santiago, and the route Shawna and I have decided to venture out on is the Camino Frances: a 780 km route from St.Jean Pied de Port, France across northern Sprain, ending in Santiago.

Today there are a couple hundred thousand pilgrims who complete their Camino each year. It is not always done for religious, or even spiritual purposes these days, although that can still play a role.

Yesterday we arrived at the start line, and checked into our hostel, L’Esprit du Chemin and just wanted to give you a little insight as to how we are feeling the morning we begin this journey.

The streets of St.Jean Pied de Port are buzzing with activity!


When we first talked about the Camino, it was something that I couldn’t get out of my head. I had envisioned it as one of the highlights of our entire time away, and at this point I will not be disappointed.

Walking into the Citadelle, the main pilgrims area in St.Jean, and then checking in with Arno & Huberta at their hostel I was immediately overcome with the positive vibe, the spirit of the place. To me, I compared it to summer camp as a child or when we go to the Winnipeg Folk Festival back home each July. Just a real feeling of togetherness, a huge number of people getting together with a common objective in mind.

The crew at L'Esprit du Chemin were extremely helpful.

Arno & Huberta, are more than helpful. They created an incredible environment for us to organize ourselves for the trip, provided us with outstanding homemade meals, and to top it off…they actually found a family who would purchase our bikes off of us! This was a huge weight off our shoulders, so thanks guys!

Walking nearly 800kms over 5 weeks isn’t something to be taken lightly, and we probably aren’t totally prepared, but it hasn’t stopped us so far!Bring on the Camino!! I truly could not be happier!

I have to admit that after reading a book about the Camino written by a famous German comedian, I had developed some concerns about this adventure. I was worried that this pilgrimage might be overly touristy and the book made the pilgrimage hostels sound really crowded and busy…much different than the serene, physical and spiritual journey I had in mind. Skott told me to keep the faith in this idea that we’ve been planning for over the past 6 months and see for myself what “The Way” has to offer.

I always hate to admit this…but Skott was right! As soon as I got off the train in St.Jean and walked through the famous city centre, I could feel a buzz in the air. This was a place where things were happening! People of all nationalities and ages were preparing to begin a journey of a lifetime and it didn’t feel overly touristy at all-it felt like camaraderie!

Swapping stories with our fellow pilgrims.

In the following 2 nights at our first pilgrim’s hostel, we shared an aperitif and our personal story with our fellow pilgrim’s before dinner. Some people had already finished the journey and were about to head home and others, like us, were just about to start. It was so inspiring. I feel ready to walk, excited to meet more people along the way…and ready to experience all the thoughts and ideas a person can come up with when they spend approx. 34 days walking.

Ready to start our journey!

First steps...

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13 Responses to “Our Pre-Trip Thoughts on the Camino de Santiago”

  1. Richard August 8, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    We also stayed at L’Esprit du Chemin the first day of our Camino in 2007. A wonderful start to our pilgrimage.
    Although, you are much younger than us (we were in our sixties when we started out), I was bothered by your light-weight shoes and lack of essential hiking poles. We saw so many young people fail due to their lack of proper equipment. I advise you to get some good boots and poles A.S.A.P.
    Good luck anyway – going downhill is far tougher than going up.

    • Skott and Shawna August 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

      Hey Richard ,

      Thanks for your feedback. It is true, running shoes, and no nordic poles…at least for now….actually we will likely grab poles in the next day or two…but we are going to try with these shoes as long as they will take us. It is crazy, people seem to be walking in everything, so this one we will have to play it by ear. We were only able to fit one pair of shoes in our backpacks for the RTW trip, and runners were it…but yes, if it did get too bad, we would buy boots.

      Thanks again for the wishes….and I am with you on the downhill….tough indeed and our poor knees!

  2. RenegadePilgrim August 9, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    I loved Arno and Huberto at L’Esprit du Chemin! I stayed there when I was starting on my Camino last year. A wonderful way to start the Camino. Buen Camino!!!

    • Skott and Shawna August 9, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks Heather!!! Yes, Arno and Huberto were truly inspirational…. we were thrilled to have been able to stay at their place, and would go again in a heartbeat!

      PS. Day 3…so far, so good!

      • RenegadePilgrim August 10, 2011 at 12:25 am #

        Yay! So, everyone will tell you how to do your Camino…..just remember two things. 1) It’s your Camino and 2) the Camino provides….whatever you need you will get, trust me!

        There is a great store in Logrono and also should be one in Pamplona if you need new shoes or trekking poles. Not everyone needs them….your feet may “grow” though, so your shoes may not fit after a while. Sounds like you have already been traveling for a while, so maybe that won’t happen. Either way, you two are off on a great adventure and all will be good!

        • Skott August 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

          Great advice Richard – we just left Pamplona this morning, and we were talking all the way to Puente La Reina about the possibility for boots….we will check things out in Logrono…appreciate the heads up.

  3. Rob Enns August 11, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    Good luck guys, I’m sure it’ll be a blast.

    • Skott August 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Thanks bro!!!

  4. Katherina August 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi! I’m spanish, but I haven’t had yet the chance to walk the Camino de Santiago (hopefully I’ll do so in the next couple of years…). My mom has walked 800kms of the Camino del Norte this year and looking and your and her pictures really makes me want to go so badly! I hope you keep on posting and enjoying it! :)
    Katherina recently posted..Photo Essay: Hiking in Aletsch, Switzerland (Part II)

    • Skott and Shawna August 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

      No worries – we will indeed keep on posting! Camino del Norte is supposed to be incredible…..would love to walk this one sometimes in our lifetimes! Thanks so much for saying hi Katherina!!!

  5. Gia August 31, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I have not been to Spain but the way you narrate it in your blog it gives me a complete idea on how beautiful it was. Love travelling and I really love all your photo’s. I’ll keep in touch on this site for your next travel.
    Gia recently posted..Medical Assistant Certification

    • Skott September 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

      Hi Gia – thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you loved the stories and photos…please keep reading there are many more adventures to come!


  1. Skott Reflects on 101 Days of Travel | Get Up and Globe - September 28, 2011

    [...] the mood)1) If I can’t pick the entire Camino, I will at least pick the first and last day. On the first day, I remember Shawna and I walking out of St.Jean at 10:00AM Sunday afternoon, totally naive as to [...]

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