Walking and Discovering the Camino de Santiago

More than 20 years ago, Kristin Jarvis Adams remembers her mother and friends taking a trip to the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) in Spain. “I was 29 at the time, raising a young family with no idea what life had in store for me. Each September after that, those same four women traveled together, and each year as I listened to the tales of their current adventure, inevitably one of them would mention the Camino and say: ‘Do you remember when … ’ Clearly, something about the Camino had made a significant and lasting impression on each one of them. It became something I dreamed of for myself, so when I turned 50, my husband and I celebrated by walking the Camino together across Galicia (Northern Spain).” We asked Adams to share her adventure with us. 

Photos by Kristin Adams

How far did you walk?
I walked 125km (or about 77 miles) on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) to Santiago de Compostela.

What sent you on this adventure?
Over 20 years ago, my mom walked the Camino with three of her best friends. 

What was most surprising about this adventure?
I had no idea how emotional the journey would be for me. One day, I walked for hours beside an 80-year-old couple who were both retired neurosurgeons, and the next day, I chatted with a 47-year-old man who told me he had made many mistakes in his life and was walking the entire 780km trail to figure out how to be a better husband and father. I passed by a pilgrim who carried a tiny pair of baby shoes swinging from a zipper on her pack, and later spoke with a woman who carried painted stones for each of her grandchildren. I am certain that each person I met on the Camino had a story to share, and I know that their loved ones were never far from their mind.

If other Eastsiders go, what should they absolutely fit into their itinerary?
You must go to the Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral de Santiago. Whether or not you come from a faith background, the ceremony embodies the spirit of the Camino by welcoming and celebrating pilgrims from every corner of the world.

What airline did you fly, and where did you stay?
We flew British Air to and from Madrid. We stayed at a variety of small auberges and guest houses along the Camino that serviced pilgrims.  

What was the best thing about your trip?
I loved the beautiful and ancient land we walked through. Some villages we passed though were built around ancient Roman ruins, and the same families had been farming the land for generations. People were kind, welcoming, and the whole trip felt like a celebration.

What was the coolest thing, or things you learned on this adventure about the people you met/or yourself?
On the Camino, the scallop shell painted with the red sword of St. James has become a symbol that breaks down every barrier we put between ourselves and others. We are not men, women, rich, poor, black, white, tall, short, fat, or thin. We are not privileged, and we are not impoverished. We are simply pilgrims. To me, this symbol is one of the most powerful and accepting symbols in our modern world. It represents humanity at its very best.

What else would you like to tell us about this adventure?
We chose to travel with a tour company that arranged for our accommodations each night and shuttled our luggage ahead to each place we stayed. This allowed us to carry light-weight day packs with water, snacks, emergency supplies, and a single change of clothes for the day.

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