No doubt those are the first thoughts of many people when I told them I would be, not only walking an almost 500 mile pilgrimage across northern Spain, but also taking my 17 month old daughter with me!
If you have not heard of the Camino, let me give you a little background on it. The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. The most popular route is the Camino Frances, which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles), from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port, France to Santiago. This is the route we will be walking. It is the route I am most familiar with since I walked part of it by myself back in 2012 and have spent a lot of my time researching before I walked and since then. It is the most well known route and has steadily become the most populated route with pilgrims each year.
Over the years I have gotten a lot of different responses from people when I’ve told them about my excursion. Some people cannot even begin to understand why anyone would want to throw on a backpack and walk, day after day, for a month or more. Other’s see it the way I do, as a great adventure and enlightening life experience that is unlike anything we could ever have in our everyday lives. In fact, I think more people must think this way since the Confraternity of Saint James shows the number of pilgrims receiving the Compostela (certificate you get in Santiago for walking a minimum of 100 km) has increased from 2,491 in 1986 to 277,915 in 2016! I am sure there are more than that actually walking, since not everyone who walks receives a Compostela. When I walked in 2012, I did not walk all the way to Santiago, so I did not get a Compostela, yet it is listed that 192,499 people did! That’s a huge increase of pilgrims in just the five years since I walked.
Ok, so a lot of people are into throwing on a backpack and walking a really long distance, but why throw a baby into the mix of blisters, shin splints, snoring pilgrims and long walks?……Why not?! What an amazing life experience for anyone of any age! But ok, if you have to have a reason…
My oldest daughter is 18 and graduating high school this year. She knows the life path she wants to start out on, has made her school plans, living plans, grown up life plans. She went through her school years as a smart girl, working hard to get good grades, find that thing in life she thinks she wants to do with the rest of her life, that she’s interested in and would be good at. I’m a proud momma for sure! With all of that comes a lot of stress and anxiety unlike anything I ever saw or felt when I was growing up. To my surprise, since it is completely unlike her, she decided she wanted to take a gap year. My first thought was, why not utilize some of that time for self reflection and relaxation while also exploring and learning about different cultures?! The fact that I had a toddler only discouraged me a little and only for a brief moment. I knew there were people who had walked with children, even babies before. I had seen it first hand even! When I walked the first time, there was a mother who pushed her two small children in a jogging stroller by herself, and even had their dog in tow! When I had seen this the first time, I thought it was unusual, but that the mother was brave for taking on such an experience by herself. It never crossed my mind that I might, someday, be doing the same thing. I have read blogs and social media posts of many others who had also walked with their children. Some with babies as young as only a few months old! It certainly isn’t impossible to do, so why shouldn’t I be able to do it?!
So here we are, a few months worth of preparation and training and only four days before we begin our adventure! In the next few days, I hope to post some of the experience of preparing for such a trip and then our experiences along the way.