5 mistakes I made on my first Camino de Santiago


5 mistakes I made on my first Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés-French Way)

1. Footwear.

I was initially planning to either walk the Camino or go on a beach holiday in Ukraine. In the end – at the last minute actually – my soul won over my shallow bodily need for sand, sea and party times, and I flew into Bilbao with pretty much everything I would need for a Ukraine beach holiday and very little for a 900km trek. As a result I bought a 20 Euro pair of knock off hiking boots from a Vietnamese shop in Pamplona and the result of this poor investment was that I had to throw them about a third of my way into my Camino. From there on I wore my garden shoes.
I cannot stress how important it is to invest before you leave for your walk in a decent pair of waterproof and lightweight walking boots or shoes. It is also important to walk your boots or shoes in before you leave so you avoid sore feet and blisters when starting your walk.
For my following Camino I bought a pair of Gore-Tex ankle support boots and spent weeks walking them in.

2. Diet.

If there was a competition for number of bocadillos eaten on the Camino then I am sure I would have represented Great Britain on that podium, to receive my Gold medal. I relied on these sandwiches as my main source of energy supply: the fast food of the Camino. ok, so a sandwich with cheese and ham isn’t exactly unhealthy, but for my next Camino I am going to make an effort to try and eat a more balanced diet – shopping more at supermarkets for example and buying fruit and vegetables for a salad – so that my body receives all the necessary vitamins and nutrients it needs when walking 30, 40 or 50km per day.

3. Weight of rucksack.

In my pre-Camino research I consistently read advice by seasoned pilgrims to take as little as possible. I did listen to this advice but still, my rucksack was too heavy and having a heavy rucksack affects your experience of the walk so much. As a result in the first week I found myself trashing some of the less important objects which I had brought with me. My advice is to really take only what is essential: the absolute bare minimum.

4. Camino guide.

One of the items I chose not to take with me was a Camino guide. I had read that the route was well-signed and I felt I didn’t want to become dependent on a guide and wanted to experience the Camino as it presented itself to me. Many of the pilgrims I met and walked with did have a guide and I soon realized how useful a guide is. A Camino guidebook shows you the length of each stage and which albergues you can expect to find and where they are located – paid or Donativo for example – and the guide shows you the elevation of the land and any notable landmarks. So where I was walking blindly and enjoying the scenery, others had more of an overall understanding of the day’s walk and where they might end up at its completion.

5. Security.

Towards the end of my Camino I became very enamoured with the essence of the Camino. I almost crossed over from reality into dream because you are walking everyday through beautiful landscape and with beautiful people, and I definitely felt in this wonderful bubble of wonder. Among pilgrims there is such hope, understanding, honesty and mutual respect. My guard was definitely lowered and I became unaware that pilgrims might be an easy target for criminal activity. One night I slept in a bus stop and had my rucksack under my head as a pillow and basically someone stole it from under my head. I would definitely make pilgrims aware that the Camino is a bit like a path of light running through the everyday and that you do need to be more aware of your belongings when you are in a city or close to one.

There you go, these were my 5 top mistakes I made on my first Camino de Santiago. I would write more but I have to attend my weekly BA (Bocadillo Anonymous) meeting. Nev 🙂

What mistakes did you make on your Camino?
Please feel free to leave a comment or question in the Reply box below.

Neville David Thomas

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8 comments

  1. I loved your blog post. My husband and I walked the French Route of the camino to Santiago de Compostela, fall of 2012. Like you we had read a great deal trying to prepare for our journey and like you our rucksack was too heavy, and we also discarded some items! it seems it cannot be said often enough, good footwear is essential, we investing in good boots and wore them enough to be comfortable during our walk from St. Jean Pied la Port.
    We found lots of little grocery stores to pick up lunch; fruit and veggies, drinks, snacks, sliced meats and cheeses were all available much of the time. A nice alternative to the cafes and bars.
    Security is always an issue, even in the Albergues and hostels. We heard a few stories of watches, and money going missing as well.
    It sounds like you have another pilgrimage planned, I wish you all the best, will you travel the same route or another?

    • Hi jmeyersforeman!

      Thank you for your comment.

      I imagine walking the route in Fall must be wonderful for the colours and I guess its harvest time right?

      This winter I’m walking from Prague to Finisterre: about 2,500km. Hence I needed to invest in a good pair of walking boots and not rely on my garden slippers this time (!!!).

      Nev 🙂

  2. Hello admin, i must say you have very interesting posts here.
    Your page should go viral.

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