My Camino de Santiago walk

When I was first told about this walk I was not keen on any part of it. Walking for weeks, carrying a heavy backpack and staying in bunk bed hostels did not sound like any “holiday” that I was going to sign up for – but here I am, about to tell you about my personal Camino de Santiago journey or, as I like to call it, “the insane time I decided to take a very long walk and try not to lose my mind”…

In mid- September of 2016, I embarked on a walk across parts of Northern Spain. All I had with me was an 8-9kg backpack, my mom (a more seasoned hiker) and a hope that this would be a good journey for my soul (and my body, especially my slightly wobbly thighs). My Camino would be over 21 days (as that’s all the time we had). The basic plan: walk as far as I could every day and try not get any injuries.

Here are a few facts about me before my Camino journey:

  • I had never done any kind of hike this long before (or any big hike actually - Does Lions Head, in Cape Town, count?) 
  • I had never owned a pair of proper hiking shoes until I got my Salomon trail shoes a week before the trip (so I did not walk them in much before I started). 
  • I did not train at all before, I was medium fit… but in no way a gym bunny.
  • This was never on my bucket list (or any list of mine,  for that matter)
  • It was spontaneous –booked and paid for tickets 2 weeks before we left

Note: Now I am not telling you any of the above facts to make you think like I’m awesome for doing this without any experience. I am sharing this to let you know that if you want to do this pilgrimage, and you think it’s impossible because you are not very fit or a hiker, it is possible (seriously if I can do this, you probably can too)

What is the Camino? 

If you have never heard of the Camino walk before, let me give you a a brief explanation. The Camino de Santiago is the name of the pilgrimage routes that take you to the shrine of the Apostle St James, in the Cathedral of Santiago Compestela, in Galacia (in Northern Spain). It also takes you past many churches and cathedrals along the way.

People do the walk for many reasons ranging from spiritual growth to using it as a retreat/sabbatical, etc. In a nutshell, it's meant to be good for the soul and pilgrims have done it for centuries. Nowadays it's walked more by tourists and hikers than actual pilgrims.

Note: While the dictionary meaning for pilgrim is: 'a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons', most people are referred to as "pilgrims" while on the Camino (whether you are there for religious reasons or not)

Ways to walk it

The Camino can be done in many ways (and there is no "right" way to do it. It's your personal journey).

There are a few routes and people walk anything from a week to 7 weeks to complete it.  The original walk is from France and ends at the Cathedral in Santiago (it’s about 850km). However, many people walk only a part of it at a time. Some people take years to finish their Camino and do small sections of it each year. 

We chose to walk from Burgos to Santiago, which is about 500km walking distance and around 21-24 days of walking (depending on how much ground you cover per day)

My essential Camino packing list:

  • Good, all terrain shoes (I highly recommend Salomon’s)
  • 1 sturdy, mid-sized backpack with waist supports and a rain cover.
  • 1 waterproof, lightweight jacket
  • 1 warm, zip up top
  • 2 pairs leggings and/or hiking pants (full length)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2-3 easy drying t-shirts/tops
  • 1 sports bra and some underwear
  •  A hat
  •  Head torch
  • Travel towel
  • 2 pairs good socks (I often wore stocking socks underneath them)
  •  One luxury item – maybe a travel pillow or jar of nutella ;)
  • Medical kit – plasters, ointment, painkillers, KT tape
  • Comfy sandals – for after walking all day to air feet
  • A sarong or scarf - Handy to sit on or use when colder
  • Fold up, small bag (to use in shower or use as day pack when you get a break from backpack)
  • Travel sized toiletries
  • A copy of John Brierley’s book ‘Guide to Camino De Santiago’ 
  • A pilgrim passport, which you can get from the Confraternity of St James (which you will use along the way to collect stamps to record where you have been)

Biggest travel tip I have: Pack light! Always carry water and some fruit or a snack.

Thinking back

Most of the walk is a blur to me now. You walk through so many small villages, a couple of cities and across a lot of farmland, that eventually your brain just can’t recall them all (so keeping a journal or taking lots of photos with your camera phone is a good idea).

The one thing that sticks out to me the most is the quiet and the open spaces you are often surrounded by (There is a lot of both of those things between cities). If you decide not to bring along any music, you will find that the silence almost forces you to think a lot and this can be annoying at times, but also good. My advice is to use the time to think, to go within yourself and find your own truth. 

You meet a lot of people along the way. Some leave an impression, some don't. I will say, I found people were mostly friendly and often people greet each other with “Buen Camino” (which basically means “good journey”) all along the way. I found that there was a sort of comradery amongst pilgrims, which you grow to really appreciate on tough days.

Getting through it

Now I can’t tell you it was all easy or that I didn’t have one or two small meltdowns (think tears, swearing and a lot of “what the hell am I doing here”).  I do think the first few days really test your body, mind and can push certain people out of their comfort zones - but it’s much needed. Once you get past the first week of aches and develop your own sort of routine, it all gets a lot better and easier.

I was very fortunate that my wonderful shoes (Salomon Speedcross 4) kept me from getting any blisters. Though, I did end up getting a very annoying shin splint in the last week of walking, which I managed to handle with a days break from walking, KT tape and taking it slower.

We ended up walking about 450km by the time we reached the Santiago Cathedral. We had mostly stayed in Hostels (also known as 'albergues' in Spain) and spent a couple of nights in hotels (when we seriously needed to feel a little more luxury). We walked on average 20 - 25km a day (a few days only 15km). We carried our backpacks the entire time (some people do pay to get them sent ahead, but we wanted to keep it challenging).

Some things I learnt on the Camino:

  •  I am much stronger than I thought I was.
  • You need very little to be content
  • Challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone is the best way to grow.
  •  The journey is the lesson, the destination is just a goal.
  •  I like hiking and the freedom of walking in nature (something I was sure I disliked before)
  •  Sometimes not planning and just seeing where you end up is better.
  •  Everyone has their own issues and we all deal with it differently. 
  •  Keeping an open mind is important.
  • Simplicity is good for the soul (I think having too much stuff keeps us from being truly free)
  •  I would do it again – I never thought I’d feel that way (as I was happy to put it behind me), but I would definitely do it again.

  If you have any questions about the Camino. Please feel free to ask.  


  1. You flew and walked across Spain only to discover something I knew ten years ago, that you are much stronger and tougher than even you give yourself credit for. Looking forward to your next adventure Ms. Brazen

  2. That's wonderful that you and your mother did this together. Did you find you two were much closer, after the journey?

    1. We were already close and walking together really just confirmed that. It was good to know that we can spend that amount of time together and not kill each other ;)

  3. Yeeyy...Salomon Speedcross 4 combines light-weight, performance fit and an aggressive outsole to create an off-road racing shoe that excels in the worst of conditions Race-ready, amazingly comfortable.


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