Camino de Santiago: Money, Time, Distance

Several people have asked me to comment on some of the practical aspects of my June-July 2014 Camino. I must emphasize that these are my opinions only, and that many will disagree. There are many available sources to use to form your own opinion.

Money: from California estimate $1500 or more for a round trip ticket, $300 more for travel in Spain (train, bus, taxi). For a 40 day trip, I would budget $60 a day…. around 40 Euros. This is high, but you will want the occasional hotel and dinner out. That makes $2400 + 1800 = $4200. You may also spend 300-500 on the right pack, shoes, small sleeping bag. Make sure you have a good working credit and debit card. Credit Unions have far lower fees than regular banks for withdrawing cash or using credit cards abroad, so get set up with a credit union. You can of course spend less daily. I often relied on a tomato salad with bread and tuna , fruit on the side, that I made in a hostel kitchen.

Time: I would give it at least 40 days for the whole thing. The Brierley guide is excellent, but if you want to stop to smell the roses, I would walk two days for each of his stages. Choose shorter stages, or choose a portion of the route to walk.

Distance: If you were backpacking in the Sierra, you probably would not walk 15 miles a day. Unless you are sure you can do it, 30 km a day is a long, long way. I saw many people injured and ill from trying to do too much. Also, starting in the Pyranees seems to me to be a point where many people injure themselves or get ill. Go shorter distances, start very very slowly, and WALK AT YOUR OWN PACE. This may not fit the guidebooks. I must emphasize that it is crucial you do everything you can to remain healthy. I saw so many people almost punishing themselves, and harming their bodies, on this trip, pushing on when they should have stopped.

You get a Compostella for walking the last 100 km into Santiago, starting in Sarria. So thousands of people, and schoolchildren, choose this route because it is the easiest way to the document. The path is very crowded and is a very different vibe than other parts of the Camino. That is the rule of the Catholic Church– walk the last one hundred. The Camino is far more than the document. You might consider an alternative route and skip the Compostela. God will understand.

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5 comments

  1. Sounds as if you had exquisite self-care whilst on your journey. Also the lesson of letting go of self-punishment. Sometimes discovering — and honoring — ones particular personal pace is a difficult call — for myself, I might think that if I just push on forward a little bit more…… I imagine this will be a lesson you will take with you — and it is one you impart to us all.

    I have also heard advice for those who do start at the Pyrenees — to send their pack forward the first couple of days until they reach the more level path — as the combination of ascending steep altitudes and swift descents is problematic when combined with the burden of a heavy pack — and by doing so help to prevent the injuries of which you spoke.

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    1. Yes. and one can also book a room half way through the first day in Orisson, I believe it is. To me, going through the Pyranees makes sense IF you had walked a bit of the prior pilgrimage trail from France. There are four to choose from. But it has always seemed suspect to me to somehow demand that you start in France for one day of a long Spanish trail. <i think starting by sending a pack is not a good idea. That just delays people finding out the harsh reality that their pack weighs too much and that they have brought too much.

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      1. I have a feeling that finding out the “harsh reality” that one packed too much would be an ongoing experience — it seems more gentle to let that sensation of burden and over-burden be somewhat postponed as one is concurrently challenged walking up steep terrains. Seems like a lot to ask from the first day…….I also do not know the logic of the traditional start just over the border in France….

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      2. I do have a strong opinion that it is important to carry your own pack, if you are able. I grew to like the feeling. With your pack and sticks you become the archetypal wanderer, self contained. You can spend the night anywhere, or completely change your plans, meet new people and go off-course, stop sooner or far later than you planned, and take your own time. When you send your pack ahead, you are obligated to go the place they send it. Your time and energy are divided by an outside obligation and anxiety: to join your pack. I donÂșt wish to seem to harsh. But sending your pack on right at the beginning of a trip feels counterproductive. You need to get to know it. Your pack is your friend and your home. The whole so-called first day in France is, I believe, not necessary, unless you have started on one of the French pilgrimage routes previously. Then it makes sense.

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