My Walk on the Camino de Santiago
This is the first of a three-part series written by a Woodstock Middle School student who spent his summer hiking through France and Spain.
Probably every kid’s favorite time of year is summer − the time when you have no school, no homework, and two months to do whatever you feel like doing. Sadly, like most things, summer comes to an inevitable end, and the school year gets back into session.
When you go back to school, a popular question is, “What did you do this summer?” Normally, the answer would be as simple as, “I went to the beach,” or even, “I went to visit my grandmother.” But, for me, when I started seventh grade this fall, my answer wasn’t that simple.
This summer, I was taught to cook a delicious dish called zucchini and leeks “pasta de monia” by an authentic Italian chef. I was inspired to start my own garden by the coach of a women’s college soccer team. I was blessed by a priest in a 1,000-year-old church. I met people from almost anywhere in the world you can think of (seriously). I went to three different weddings and never knew any of the brides or grooms. I slept in the same room with 200 complete strangers. I walked across a bridge built in the 11th century. I ate in the same cafe Ernest Hemingway hung out in while writing “The Sun Also Rises.” I saw two full rainbows simultaneously while walking over the Pyrenees Mountains in France. I saw the remains of one of the first human beings who settled in Europe more than 500,000 years ago. I walked through more than 60 medieval villages, and every single one was unique. I slept in the ruins of a 900-year-old monastery. I talked with an Australian beekeeper and learned all about beekeeping and how I can start my own hive. I took Spanish lessons. I talked with a university professor and scientist for three days about groundwater and surface water interactions, along with some great ideas for my upcoming science project at school. I met a member of the Notre Dame football team who was the first walk-on player to be named captain. I walked through historic buildings that are thousands of years old. I tried different and amazing new foods. I visited three UNESCO World Heritage sites. I walked down the street famous for the Running of the Bulls. I experienced culinary art in the form of tapas in the city where they were invented. I learned to wash my clothes by hand, plus much, much more.
And, I did all of this while walking 350 kilometers across northern Spain on the famous pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a pilgrimage path that leads to the city Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This is the supposed resting place of the Apostle Saint James. It is said that his bones were carried on the Camino de Santiago path to the city of Santiago. The trail has been around for thousands of years, and many different paths have been made. But, in the past couple of decades, the Camino Frances, or the French Way, has become very popular. It goes from St. Jean Pied de Port in southern France to Santiago in Spain. It takes about 35 days to walk this entire trail, and this was the route I was on, starting in France and going as far as we could in the three weeks we had. The Camino really has no exact starting place, only an official ending that is the city of Santiago.
I first learned about the Camino from my dad. He had been researching and wanting to do the Camino for years. I was a little bit unsure about going to Spain and walking 15 to 20 miles each day. But the more my dad talked about what an amazing adventure it would be, all the new and different foods we would be eating, and all the people we would meet, and the new experiences we would share, the more I wanted to go. The Camino sounded amazing, and I started to warm up to the idea of walking.
In the end, we decided it was going to be a guy’s trip, a father and son adventure! I went on the trip to Spain not only to try new things, meet new people, and to experience one of the most amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities ever, but to accompany my dad and have bonding time.