I am leaving for my Spanish Camino Walk (Camino for Santiago). I walked a 2000 km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 2018. Why? Because my life had exploded like a bubble. You can read how I decided here. I am leaving: my Camino for Santiago.

I am leaving: My pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

The radical turn that turned my life overcame me like a thief in the night. At that moment I did what I had been doing for years: work really hard. A busy and stressful job swallowed my life. A working day of ten hours was the rule rather than the exception. And then I didn’t count the travel time of a few hours a day. I swallowed those hours, made a career. I had grown from junior to senior, followed by the step up to manager. I was not lacking anything, you would say. My life seemed to run smoothly. Until I met an important deadline and collapsed like a plum pudding. After months of struggling, I was finished. I could not hold on any longer. So tired, so terribly tired. Around the same time, my husband indicated: I do not want to continue with us. Yes, there was someone else in the game, I found out. To top it all off, I was fired in those weeks. And so all the chair legs were sawn from under me. My certainties, which I thought “made me”; everything was gone.

I am leaving: my Camino for Santiago (Spanish Camino Walk)

Black days followed. I couldn’t sleep anymore. I was not interested in food. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I wanted to escape all the negative energy and the sadness that was pulling me down. Maybe a pilgrimage would help me cope. And while walking I would gradually find more peace and regularity, I thought. What prevented me from leaving the Netherlands? I would still be paid for a few more months! I took the plunge. I leave for the Camino de Santiago. I chose to start my pilgrimage in Venzelay in France and walk via the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. In a short time, I gathered provisions, a backpack, and good shoes. Two weeks later I was in Vezelay, France. Here I would start my Camino to Santiago, so that I would be back in the Netherlands in exactly three months, to start the distribution of the stuff, my divorce, and a new job. I was a wreck physically and emotionally. Not exactly a good starting position to start a 2000 km pilgrimage and carry a 13-kilo backpack with you. Still, I wanted to try. The worst that could happen to me was that I would stop on my pilgrimage.

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I leave: the first steps on my Camino to Santiago

The first night as a pilgrim I slept with the nuns. I tossed on the hard mattress, too excited to fall asleep. “Do I find courage?” I asked myself. “Will, I ever reach the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela?” The next day I met Jeanine, a nice woman with whom I made my first meters. However, our paths soon parted that day, she chose a route to the left, I to the right. I continued step by step. A day, a week, a month. The time in France was lonely and sad, peaceful, and beautiful. Walking helped clear my mind. I saw, smelled, tasted much better, and lived more intensely. The uncertainty that I didn’t know where I would sleep that night, what I would eat… This was life. This enormous feeling of freedom.

Support from other pilgrims

I entered the churches I passed. Under the high vaults, I listened to organ music or enjoyed the silence and a sense of togetherness. I met other pilgrims, who became my support and support. They helped me in a practical sense and I was allowed to share my grief with them. After the Spanish border, my pilgrimage turned. Many pilgrims from all over the world start there. Thanks to my experience and my accumulated fitness, I was now the one who helped these novices. Now I could give others the support that would have helped me so much. I enjoyed the meetings. How we laughed, ate, and enjoyed the trip.

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Iron cross

After three weeks of hiking on the Frances Camino in Spain, I reached Cruz de Ferro via green hills and fields full of emerging sunflowers. Here is an iron cross. For centuries, the ritual of pilgrims laying a stone underneath has existed – as a symbol of a burden, worry, or guilt that they want to leave behind. I stuck a picture of my ex and me on the back of a stone and put it on top of the pile of stones. I’ll go on, I whispered inside. It hurts, but I move on. I sat by the crotch for hours with wet cheeks.

Back home

I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on August 10. And after three months I returned to the Netherlands. I had lost everything but became so much richer as a person. A large house, wardrobe, and lease bin; it didn’t mean anything to me anymore. All that matters, all that status. I turned out to be much happier with a lot less. It’s about who you are to others and to yourself. I came back differently. Yes, I came back as myself. Spanish Camino Walk gives me that calmness.

And then I decided: I am leaving for Spain

My story goes even further. In León, a Spanish town under Bilbao, where I spent two days as a pilgrim at the time, I saw a call from a Belgian girl who was looking for pilgrims to interview. I spoke to her and a few weeks later – while I was still on the road – she emailed me. She had quit her job. Whether it was something for me? I did not have to think long. I am leaving for Spain. Three months later I lived and worked in Northern Spain, the area I had lost my heart by now.

My life after my pilgrimage

With WAW.travel, I now work daily with the Camino to Santiago de Compostela and daily make sure that others can enjoy all the richness that this pilgrimage has to offer. Now more than two years later, I still get a lot of satisfaction from that. And yes, I found love here again in Spanish Camino Walk.

Spanish Camino Walk joy on face after Camino to Santiago
The moment I have enjoyed the entire Spanish Camino Walk

Best decision ever

Looking back, I think life has given me signs that something needed to change. I had pain in my body, was often tired and lifeless. I ignored those signals and kept going. Until life decided that things really had to change. It was a hard lesson, but life was right. I am much happier now, feel better about myself, and do a wonderful job! Leaving for Spain was my best decision ever!

Is it your dream to walk or cycle the Camino to Santiago? Then read my blog about 5 symptoms that let you know that it is really time to take action.