Let’s be real here, everyday life can be hard. Whether you’re studying at college, raising kids or kicking ass in your career, it is all too easy to get bogged down by the stresses of day-to-day living. For many ladies, the most appropriate reaction to this kind of burnout is arranging a girls getaway with a focus on rejuvenation and relaxation. This isn’t the only way to get your mojo back though. Sometimes the best thing to do is to prove yourself – not for the benefit of anyone else but for yourself. In this article I share why I think walking the Camino de Santiago is the perfect solution!
WHAT IS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO?
The Camino de Santiago was historically a Catholic pilgrimage which finishes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is here where the remains of Saint James are said to be held in the famous Cathedral. In modern times, the pilgrimage has been reborn, with the routes being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in Europe with the French Way being the most commonly undertaken. Let me show you why walking the Camino de Santiago is everything you didn’t even know you needed.
THE EXERCISE WILL MAKE YOU FEEL GREAT
When I first read that the French Way of the Camino de Santiago totals almost 500 miles, I nearly fell off my chair. I am not an athletic person! Luckily the trail is suitable for all abilities and can be completed within your own personal timeframe. Walking may be scoffed at by exercise enthusiasts but it is important that we don’t undersell its benefits. According to NBC, walking improves cardiac health, general fitness, and aids weight loss. This is not to mention all of the great things that walking does for the mind either. Studies show that walking regularly can help to reduce depression and tiredness whilst improving your overall emotional well-being and productivity.
IT WILL GIVE YOU TIME TO THINK
Sometimes, when life gets complicated and overbearing, the most useful thing we can do is remove ourselves from the situation and take some time to reflect on what is going on. Walking the Camino will allow plenty of time for you to gather your thoughts and look at them objectively, without the views of those closest to you clouding your judgement. Many decisions are hard to make and by giving yourself both the time and freedom to consider them, you are more likely to make the best choice.
LEARN ABOUT SPAIN’S CULTURE AND HISTORY
Spain is a country rich in history and culture and walking the Camino offers the perfect venue from which to explore this. With a number of notable historical sites en route, you can marvel at the architecture of Gaudi, check out Pamplona’s famous bullring and witness the swinging of the Botafumeiro incense burner inside the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. Be sure to check of the Museum of Pilgrimage at the end of your Camino journey to learn more about the pilgrimage’s medieval beginnings and evolution over time.
YOU CAN BRUSH UP ON YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS
Depending on the Camino route that you take, you will be walking through a minimum of one country where English is not the first language. The immersive nature of the Camino will help you to develop not only your Spanish speaking skills but potentially your French and Portuguese as well! Learning a second language is hugely useful both professionally and personally but has also been proven to have massive health benefits as well. Global Citizen claim that learning a second language can improve memory retention and even stave off neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s!
DID SOMEBODY SAY WINE?!
Who said physical holidays had to be all work and no play? The Camino will take you through some of Northern Spain’s most iconic wine regions so you can walk along the vineyards and even see how the grapes are harvested. Of course, the actual wine-making process is very interesting, but naturally the real draw comes from the tasting. With high-quality wines available to purchase for as little as two euros a bottle, you can really indulge your palate!
GIVE YOURSELF A DIGITAL DETOX
The internet and social media can be a great asset to the way we live our lives, however, when you feel down, it is easy to start comparing yourself to others. There are huge benefits for doing a digital detox, many of which are outlined in this post by Forbes. Walking the Camino de Santiago is the perfect opportunity to step away from the laptop, put down the phone and just do you for a while. By shutting out the menial details about other people’s lives that we are bombarded with on social media, you are allowing yourself the time to appreciate your own value. Remember you are great as well!
MEET LIKE-MINDED AND INSPIRING PEOPLE
The Camino de Santiago is not a wilderness hike and weaves through towns and cities throughout the journey. This makes it a great long-distance trail for novice hikers as help and medical aid is never far from hand. This accessibility means the Camino attracts a wide cross-section of society and is walked by people all over the world. Many people do the Camino for deeply personal reasons, some of which are truly inspiring. Whilst many people choose the do the hike solo, I don’t know anyone who has done the walk entirely alone. Being united towards a common goal acts as a catalyst for making friends, many of which will stick with you for life.
YOU CAN GET CLOSE TO NATURE
Northern Spain is relatively overlooked when it comes to the tourist trail with many people opting to visit the South. The Camino Francés follows a wide-ranging landscape which takes you through the mountains of the Pyrenees, the woodlands of Galicia as well as the dry plain of the Meseta. These beautiful landscapes will leave you in awe of the world around you and amazed at the physical determination needed to get there. A study was undertaken by the University of East Anglia, documents that spending time outdoors has a whole range of health benefits, including a reduction in high blood pressure and stress. Taking time out of the hustle of daily life reiterates just how little we need to survive and how refreshing it can be to go back to basics.
REMIND YOURSELF OF JUST HOW AMAZING YOU ARE
Of course, the Camino de Santiago is not a small undertaking and everyone (even those already walking!) will have moments of self-doubt. However, this is what makes the journey so important. In our everyday lives, it is easy to focus on the successes of others and let society and our own personal stresses bring us down. By taking on the challenge of walking the Camino, you will be amazed at not only how much you can learn about life generally but also about yourself.
I hope this guide has inspired you to do something different, take some time to do something different, and maybe one day do the Camino de Santiago walk for yourself!
Have you ever been on a long hike? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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