Are you suffering from depression over the loss of a loved one? Perhaps you made a huge mistake in your life and are looking for a way to redeem it. Perhaps you want to discover the meaning and purpose of your life. Or you may want to find solitude, serenity, and happiness amidst your hectic lifestyle. Then you need to take a vacation—but not just any normal vacation.
The troubles that hound you are rooted deep in your soul. You need something more spiritual, something that digs into your spirit. You need to walk the Way of Saint James in Spain.
The Way of Saint James, or the El Camino de Santiago, is a conglomerate of pilgrimage routes from many parts of Spain, France, and Portugal that all lead to the shrine of St. James the Apostle in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. According to tradition, the Cathedral houses the remains of the Christian Saint.
Ever since its inception, thousands of Christian pilgrims and other people who want to fill their souls with positive energy, renewal, healing, and understanding undertake this holy trip. There are several routes with starting points in many places. However, the most popular one is Via Regia, and its last part, the Camino Frances. However, there are plenty other starting points such as the Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Somporton, all located along the French Border. Routes may take days, weeks, or even months to complete.
Pilgrims travel along the route by foot or bicycle. Some also travel by donkey or horseback, much like their medieval counterparts. These religious pilgrims are often joined by other people who walk the Way of St. James; most of them are hikers and travelers who embrace the challenges of walking for weeks in a foreign land.
Finding your Way
The Way of St. James may be hundreds of miles long at many points, but you don’t have to worry about getting lost. In fact, you probably won’t get lost because the trail is marked with posts with distinctive symbols. Sans the posts, you can easily find the trail by spotting the St. James shell, a scallop, which is the symbol of the saint. The shell is usually posted on walls of chapels, cathedrals, pillars, and other structures that mark the trail.
As mentioned earlier, the pilgrimage route is hundreds of miles long, which means it can’t be completed with one day. Thus, along the common routes, there are pilgrim’s hostels and inns. Most of these accommodations are rudimentary, with nothing more than beds, small tables, basic kitchens, and baths. Pilgrims are expected to stay only one night in any given hostel and should leave early in the morning to continue their pilgrimage. Such accommodations, which are run by local parishes and city councils, can cost between 6 to 10 Euros a night.
Pilgrims need to carry a credencial, a document stamped with the seal of St James and issued from a Spanish tourist agency, cathedral, or church. Purchased for a few Euros, the credencial allows a pilgrim to walk the route. Also, by presenting the credencial, a pilgrim may enjoy free overnight accommodation in refugios along the way.
Walk the Way of St. James and be enlightened.