Resetting Mind, Body & Spirit: 500 Miles, 30 Plus Days & One Great Beard (Walking The Camino De Santiago On Foot)

April 29, 2014

If you’re reading this you’ve either A) been redirected here by my email auto-responder or B) got a sick interest in what I’m doing with my life. I’m hedging my bets on A. Someone as busy as you doesn’t come here by accident or by leisure now do they?

Or perhaps you do. Nonetheless, I’ve hung up my old judgemental boots. And on the shelf they shall stay if this new challenge is anything to go by. It’s 500 miles you see. Overland in two countries. All on foot.

I’m guessing after I’m done boots are the last thing I’m going to want on my sweet little feet. Boots, and a backpack weighing down on them. Because that’s how it works see. I’ll be schlepping all the gear I’ll need for 30 plus days on the road with me as I go. But that won’t be too much of an issue. Considering I’ve gone more minimal than your average with this one.

But I’m guessing, spare the intrinsics, you want to know why I’m not responding to any emails, texts or calls you might be sending me. Well, besides the fact that I don’t much like you, the best answer I can give is peace. Historically speaking the Camino Frances (the particular route of the Camino de Santiago – or the Way of St. James –  I’ll be walking), stands as a major pilgrimage for Christians looking to get closer to God. For me however, it’s simply designed as a month long break. A way to disconnect. An excuse not to think about all the normal shit one thinks about when going through the motions.

It’s also the type of challenge I need right now. Something that’s physical. Something with a finite beginning and end. Something that doesn’t involve me dipping my wick into the technological abyss.

Doing it for Jesus (or, more accurately, the apostle St. James)  is simply a bonus.

Why Am I Walking 500 Miles?

OK, so it’s not about the big J. Nor anything bordering on organised religion. But I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t doing it as a result of any kind of spiritual motivation. I’m not the kind of pussy that refuses to talk about feelings or the realities of life. And the fact is, despite the clean sheen the images we broadcast often have, a lot of people go through shitty times in their lives where nothing seems that clear or obvious. I’ve been in that camp for a long time now. So I guess that’s why I’m walking really. Because it gives me something simple to focus on. That’s social. That’s physical. That puts you in nature.

There’s also the fact that almost a year ago now I found myself, thanks to a debilitating illness, dreaming of the ability to just walk across a room. Remembering what it’s like to have mobility suddenly plucked away from you, I feel it’s only right to celebrate, where others, more unfortunate, possibly can’t, the sheer opportunity to do something like this.

I get that people walk the camino for lots of reasons. There doesn’t really have to be any kind of justification. “Shits and giggles”, which, coincidentally, makes up the third reason behind my motivation, is just as good a reason as any. I figure it would be kind of fun to wind my way across the countryside of Northern Spain. Get pissed on in the May rain. Get dizzy on cheap wine after pounding the pilgrim path (before picking a fight like any typical Brit abroad of course). Getting kidnapped by ETA. Then fed my own shoes.

That all basically explains it.

(Also: I just want to be Emilio Estevez.)

How Am I Walking 500 Miles?

With one of my gargantuan feet placed in front of another. For I knew there was a reason the Good Lord graced me with at least one satisfactorily-sized pair of body parts.

But you want to hear about logistics right?

Well sorry this isn’t another one of those tired I’m-Walking-the-Fucking-Camino type posts. This is one that’s much less factual or informative. And basically useless unless you’re 28-years of pure hulking muscle with abs to die for too.

So how do really cool people walk the French Way?

They do it with rugged aplomb. Cultivating facial hair.

My training beard: taken after 140 miles in 10 days

My training beard: taken after 140 miles in 10 days

They do it with the bare minimal possible weight. This is my 22 Litre (yes, 22L) Osprey bag that I’ll be carrying.


They do it with two sets of underwear, two T-shirts, one rain jacket, one fleece and three pairs of socks.

They borrow or steal much of anything else. And they also refuse to adhere to most of the conventional advice that tells you to take headlamps, sleeping bags and all the other effeminate accoutrements that make it seem as if Joan Collins herself is gearing up for 500 miles of loud and louche limping.

Oh and they don’t take any technology except an iPhone which they’ll only switch on to listen to Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill”.

Maybe a bit of Shania.

Where Am I Walking 500 Miles?

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m walking the “French Way”. That means I start in France. In one of the last border towns in the Pyrenees, Saint Jean de Pied du Port.

From there I’ll walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia Spain. Which I’ve had the grand pleasure of visiting before. Thanks to ill-informed people on a previous blog voting for me to live there.

Galicia is the region of Spain that’s basically that little nubbin above Portugal that most people forget about. On my way there I’ll go through the Basque Country (hence the earlier terrorist joke) and cities like Pamplona, Leon and Burgos. If I’m still digging having walked all that way I might (read: might) continue on to the coastline at Finisterre.

That’s if it all goes well of course. I might well just say fuck it two days in. Much like I did when people voted for me to go last time.

I’m much more disciplined when it comes to business and other lifestyle pursuits.