Walking Camino de Santiago may be one of the best adventures of your lifetime. But as with any adventure, it needs careful preparation in order for everything to go smoothly. Though you shouldn’t get too worried about getting everything right – remember that The Camino has been walked by pilgrims for centuries, so there is some infrastructure which will enable you to make up for something you might’ve forgotten – you should definitely watch out to cover your basic needs on this wonderful journey.
Here some points on preparing for The Camino.
While many people expect the walking The Camino will build their stamina over the course of the road, it’s much better to prepare in advance. Start your training up to 3 months before the trip. The training consists of, you guessed it, walking, with some exercises added according to your needs. You will start with walking shorter distances on flat terrain, and then go on to a hilly terrain with a natural substrate, preferably walking in various weather conditions as well.
Before leaving, or ideally before starting to train for Camino de Santiago, it is advised to visit your doctor. Walking The Camino needs you to be in good general condition. Based on your health status, your doctor may warn you about your particular weak points, which is priceless. In general, heart conditions are the first and most important to watch out for, as there have been cases of people getting ill or even dying on the Camino trail.
For walking The Camino, probably the most important piece of gear you need are proper, quality walking/hiking shoes or boots. If you’re taking a longer tour such as Camino Frances, buy the shoes for the sole purpose of this journey and be prepared to say goodbye to them at the end (though that doesn’t always have to be the case) – it’s a long road for a pair of shoes to survive! Make sure to use your Camino shoes while training, so they can go soft and adjust according to your feet in time. Walking The Camino in brand new shoes could spoil your trip.
Your backpack should be spacey, sturdy and comfortable to wear. You wouldn’t want your backpack to be too heavy itself, as sometimes is the case with military backpacks
The list of things to bring on the road is too long for this article (you can find an example here), but remember that it’s important to stay dry an comfortable as possible, have garments that dry quickly, and have enough of them to cover you through the course of the journey. You will also want to be able to help yourself when hurt (first aid kit, medications) and be well informed (guidebook).
Documents and papers
Make a photocopy your passport, credit cards, and other important documentation and leave them friends or family if you happen to lose any of these things while on the road – they can send them to you, and that will save you a lot of trouble and help you carry on the journey.
For the pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago, a special “pilgrim’s passport“ – credential entitles you access refugios on The Camino. And if you want to receive a Compostela, you will use it as a proof of your pilgrimage, since every day on your route will be stamped with a date (which makes it a wonderful souvenir too!). You can get it when you arrive at your chosen starting point, but if you’re worried about forgetting, or not finding it there, you can order it by post in advance.
Gathering info on your chosen path – on the terrain, the infrastructure, and the weather you’ll be experiencing. Also, it might be useful to learn some basic Spanish. Though it’s not necessary, since Camino de Santiago became an international route a long time ago, but still, knowing Spanish promises for a more exciting and authentic experience.
During your preparations for the trip, you will probably mostly focus on physical circumstances, but don’t forget about those of non-physical nature – thoughts, beliefs and a general mindset you will take on the road. This is especially important if you’re taking upon Camino de Santiago as a way to deal with what’s been troubling you – whether it’s a divorce, a loss, an addiction, a disease or other uneasy life circumstance. And although you feel you might need some quiet time, being alone with a troubled mind does not always come easy.
Consider some learning some practice – breathing techniques, meditation (or prayer), mindfulness, yoga, breathing techniques – to help you calm down and focus in the case your mind turns dark. You’ll benefit from the same even if you’re not troubled in any particular way – the physical exertion and the fact you’re out of your comfort zone can make seemingly stable people vulnerable and even desperate.
But when you get over those moments of doubt and exhaustion, be sure that Camino de Santiago will be a very good overall influence on your state of body, mind, and spirit.