May 19, 2017
Walk the Camino de Santiago
2.30 A.M. RONCESVALLES, SPAIN
It’s the middle of the night in Roncesvalles, Spain. My muscles ache and the only noise I can hear is the sound of the rain against the windows of this old monastery. Sleeping around me are 100 very tired pilgrims. Despite my own exhaustion, I’m wide awake recounting my thoughts on the Camino.
The Camino de Santiago, Road to Santiago or Way of Saint James, is a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds walk the Camino — some for religious pilgrimage, some for an escape, others just for an inspired adventure. Travelled primarily by foot, but also by bicycle or horse, the Camino’s network of ancient pilgrim routes stretch across Europe and come together at the tomb of St. James. Your journey can be as long or short as you choose, starting wherever you’d like in Europe — even from Italy or Germany if you wish.
My wife Alice and I embarked on our 4th Camino adventure this year, starting in Lourdes, France. We hiked the Pyrenees through part of the GR11 (also known as the Ruta Transpirenaica) and then joined several Caminos in Spain coming from routes Francés, Batanes, Norte, Vadiniense, San Salvador and Primitivo. We ended up travelling about 750 miles over the course of two months.
Here, on the Camino, life is easy. You wake up and walk 15-20 miles. In the evenings, when you arrive at the hostels along the Camino called the Albergues, you only have time to take a shower and eat before falling into bed, exhausted. It may sound odd, but you cannot imagine how many people walk the Camino just to experience this feeling. The more tired your body is, the happier your face looks. Sometimes you walk alone for hours and, for just a moment, time is suspended. All you can hear is your breath and your rhythmic steps on the ground, letting everything else in the background fade away. If you have something going on in your mind, something that keeps you awake at night, this is often the place to finally find some peace.
My very first time walking the Camino, I met Alice — and here we are again, on the Camino for the 4th time, with tired legs and huge smiles. Our families and friends keep asking us “crazy” people “WHY? Why do you do it?” There’s no real explanation, just one universal answer — TRY IT!
For us, the Camino is always a life-changing experience and that’s why we keep returning to experience that change, over and over again.
Luca is a freelance photographer based in Sardinia, Italy. Both he and his wife Alice quit their attorney and architect careers to travel and photograph Europe in their beloved black van. They have been adventuring ever since. See more of Luca’s work on Stocksy >>