stok Weekly Lunch Run leader Devon Bertram showed her shoes across the Atlantic for some speedy explorations through Spain and Portugal. Though typically on the move, she found some time to sit and share a little of her journey to some of the quieter corners of one of the greatest walks in the world.
El Camino de Santiago, Spain
I’m still smiling as I reflect on my experience on El Camino this past June. I had heard some about this famous winding walk, but still didn’t know exactly what I was getting into as I prepared my pack, convened in Spain with good friends, and started on the way. El Camino de Santiago—Way of St. James—is a network of ancient pilgrim routes that run across nearly the entirety of Europe. Our chosen path was the final stretch of Camino del Norte, a slightly less traveled route along the Northern coast of Spain. Its varied, beautiful landscapes follow the coast before joining The French Way in Arzua, finishing with all other El Camino routes at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain.
We started on a sunny afternoon in the historic Galician city and small market town of Vilalba, with the ambitious goal of covering a hearty 122km over the next 72 hours to catch our bus in Santiago de Compostela. Hostels made for easy planning, so our nightly destinations were set and our daily itinerary was simply to enjoy the walk, following the scallop shell signs and faded yellow arrows that guide the way.
While other more populated and paved parts of El Camino have been built up over the years with growing development, our path through farm fields, woodlands, and remote expanses welcomed us into a tranquil and humbling solitude. The nights were marked by exhaustion and aching feet, but each town we reached—from Baamonde, to Sobrado dos Monxes and its stunning, breathtaking monastery, to Pedrouzo—had us rejuvenated with the slowness and stillness of the day, the stunning, expansive landscapes, and the stories, laughs, and feasts shared with fellow travelers throughout the day (miles of trail in dry heat made for leisurely, shaded lunches).
At least 100,000 people from over 100 countries experience part of El Camino each year, and its sense of community is palpable from the start. A simple nod, warm ‘buen camino’ (meaning ‘good path’), and a smile is a shared greeting by all you pass—whether pilgrims, hikers, cyclists, or locals. This continual exchange of wishing one luck and wellness in their physical and/or spiritual path creates an air of comforting kindness and care throughout each traveler’s unique journey.
They say, “the Camino provides”, and for sure it does. Today, my feet are healed and happy with a reminded appreciation for simplicity and endurance, laughter, deeper friendships, the care of community, and the gift of walking in nature.