What if I Only Have Two Weeks?
“I could never take a whole month away.”
“I don’t know if I can walk the whole Camino. What if I have two weeks. What can I do?”
Comments and questions like these fuel our conversations about the Camino de Santiago. Most guidebooks with maps lay out plans for walking the Camino Francés in 30+ days. We think a more realistic pace is 40-45 days if you plan to walk every step of the 800k/500mi distance. Since most people take a “two-week vacation” it’s a reasonable question to ask whether it is an option to walk less, and what that would be.
We recently counseled an American family of five—parents, two college age children and one high schooler—who had managed to get everyone to commit to a three-week block of time to make a trip to Spain. Their goals were to visit Barcelona as tourists, then walk some of the Camino. ‘What did we recommend for a two-week walk?’
If you find yourself wondering the same thing, here is what we suggested to them, which they have reported worked beautifully. Those of us traveling from another continent to Spain often want to make the most of the cost of our plane fare to do something in addition to the Camino, like these friends who went to Barcelona. Our friends and other pilgrims agree that they have been glad they attended to the additional event or trip first, and then the Camino last.
We strongly recommend this, and if you need another suitcase for the additional travel there are two services we know that will transport your extra baggage to any destination point along the Camino. The company called Jacotrans (Hock-o-tranz) picks up from any hotel or albergue, and for a few euros will deliver your bag to the next town or all the way to Ivar Revke in Santiago de Compostela to store for you until you come to claim it. El Correos, the Spanish national postal system also provides transportation for your excess baggage to the next town or all the way to Santiago’s post office.
What did we recommend for their two-week Camino? We first asked them what their Camino goals were. A few of them expressed concern about the physical challenge of walking long sections. One said he wanted to earn a compostela, and they all said they wanted family time walking in beautiful country settings.
We explained that to earn a compostela they would need to walk at least the final 100k into Santiago. On the Camino Francés that means beginning in Sarría. This is THE MOST popular section, and therefore the busiest, and to our minds it does not reflect the beauty of earlier parts. They were able to choose the common goal of walking together as a family in beautiful country. We suggested they choose some part of the Camino Francés because there are more places to stop for the night and they are closer together than some of the other routes. That suited their concerns about the physical challenge of wanting to walk shorter daily distances, too.
What section did we recommend? Pamplona to Burgos! They loved the plan we outlined, and completed it saying they all want to go back and walk more. Late May and early June meant cooler walking temperatures, green fields and flowers everywhere, and fewer pilgrims than the peak summer months. They had a wonderful family time, and were able to deal with a couple of mild injuries to finish well. It was easy for them to train from Barcelona to Pamplona to begin, and then from Burgos to Barcelona to fly home.
If you are dreaming about walking the Camino but thought the only way to do it was to take a 35-45 days and walk the whole thing, consider walking one section first. If you like it you can return and walk more. You can use your same peregrino credenciál (pilgrim passport) for subsequent trips that are walked in a reasonable amount of time. Many Europeans walk the Camino in sections year after year as they can take 10-14 days to work toward completing it. They begin the new walk in the place they stopped in the previous walk. Their air fares are not as high as those of us traveling from the west, and we’ve discovered that it is a fairly common practice for people from the UK and other countries in Europe to complete the Camino in this way.
Keep dreaming those Camino dreams, there’s probably a way for you to overcome any obstacle that is in your way. There is not just one way to walk. There are many.
Wick and Helen Van Wagenen first walked the Camino in 2007, and God has used every part of their experience to shape their lives since then. They have continued to make many more trips to research routes, test gear, and volunteer along The Way. In 2016 they founded Camino Provisions, which includes a website full of Camino resources and blogs, and are more active than ever before on FaceBook and Instagram encouraging others to discover and live the pilgrim lifestyle. You can contact them at Info@CaminoProvisions.com.