I spend most hiking conversations doing one of two things: 50% secretly convincing the other person that they should also walk across a country and 50% defending why I don’t go on “normal vacations.”
I’m very aware that I’ve spent a perhaps-unhealthy amount of time talking about the Camino de Santiago on this blog, but as I said, I am either defending my strange choices or slowly convincing you to join me.
I’ve already listed the lofty reasons to walk for a really long time. It can reorganize your brain, connect you with people on a genuine level, and shatter the way you see the world. Great.
I’m not here to talk about all that stuff. I’m here to talk about all the reasons I grasp onto when I can’t fathom all the lofty business. The I-don’t-want-to-make-dinner reasons. The I-don’t-want-to-answer-another-email reasons. So if you’re not convinced because of all the out-there stuff, think smaller.
Without further ado, here are:
13 Sensible Reasons to Walk Across a Country
1. It’s an Incredibly Cheap Way to Travel
I recognize that I am in a privileged position to go. I am healthy. I can leave my work. I can leave my home. We only care for our cats. My husband supports my travel because we’re independent humans that don’t believe in BS gender norms.
However, there’s still one financial point I’ve been dying to make for a while now:
For six weeks walking the Camino in Spain, I spent less than $3,000. This includes all gear, flights, food, lodging, insurance…everything. And this was living quite comfortably–it can be done for less.
This is no small chunk of change, but it is quite a steal when you compare it to the traditional vacation.
On the other hand, a four-night stay for the average Disney vacation is $1,590 a person. Four nights. And people go over and over. Do we question them? We do not. I rest my case, your honor.
2. You Don’t Have to Tweeze Your Eyebrows
I mean, while we’re on the subject, you don’t have to tweeze anything. You don’t have to shave, wax, or cover up a damn thing. The trail is a pimple, blemish, pudge-friendly zone. Let that belly go! Long-distance hiking means you are constantly surrounded by equally hairy and sunburned humans getting through the damn day. I’ve struggled a lot with the Catholic origins of the Camino, but I feel a sense of peace knowing that the nature of pilgrimage itself often flies in the face of patriarchal expectations.
3. You Can’t Lose Your Keys
You can’t lose your keys because you don’t have keys. You don’t have an apartment or a car. Without keys, there’s no sprinting around your apartment looking where the hell you put your keys. Think of all the time that saves.
4. You Don’t Have to Feed the Productivity Monster
By 2pm, you’ve probably walked somewhere between 10 and 15 miles if not more. You’re done, girl. Get a beer, take a nap, wrap up those blisters! (Yes, you should do your laundry in that bucket, but bring a beer.) You don’t need to feel bad about not practicing the violin, updating your website, or submitting for another audition. That makeshift hammock’s got your number and dinner isn’t until 7.
5. Music Sounds Better
As much as I like to remove distractions from walking, sometimes a good playlist brings a landscape to life. It can also be the life-saving boost to get you up that mountain or through that final stretch of sun. But you know the craziest thing? When I’ve listened to my standard playlist of folky-feelings music in the middle of the Spanish Meseta, with nothing but fields on the horizon, I’ve heard more intricacies of music than I ever did with the typical ambient sound around me.
Or, as shown above, it can be fun to coordinate with your friend and have a silent Hamilton dance party.
6. Think of the Calves!
Bodies are weird, y’all. I didn’t lose a single pound after my last 260km. So, I’m not saying to walk the Camino to lose weight, because I do not approve of that message. But if there’s pretty much one thing I can guarantee: you will have monster calves and beastly ankles by the time you’re done. You can do anything when you get home. Run. Walk really far. Tap dance. Other strong-leg things. Okay, this point wasn’t my strongest. But calves!
7. There’s No Traffic or “Train Traffic Ahead of Us”
8. You Don’t Have to Have Bullshit Conversations
I do most of my work in a co-working space around the corner from my apartment. I am surrounded by corporate-jargon-filled phone conferences where people talk about circling back and tabling ideas. You know, robot conversations. I could tell you far more about my Camino family’s spiritual, philosophical and political beliefs than anything about their day jobs. The only “circling back” you do is to make sure you didn’t miss that last arrow!
9. You Don’t Have to Balance Your Budget
Well, you technically do, but it’s pretty easy when all your cash for the week is in your wallet. When every hiking day costs under 30 euros, you spend far less time wondering if you broke your bank account after going out for cocktails. Because you didn’t go out for cocktails. You bought a 1-euro bottle of homemade wine from a man in a corner store and split it with 10 people who also bought 1-euro bottles of homemade wine. So you spent a euro, you have 29 left.
10. You Can Make Friends With Bugs
When you’re moving at a snail’s pace for 35 days, you can make friends with snails. Because you have the time, and you see them a lot. And sometimes they’re in the middle of the trail and you don’t want them to get stepped on, so you pick them up and place them safely on a leaf. And then you feel accomplished for the day (see number 4).
11. You Can Hang Out With Amazing Little Old Ladies
Connecting people who living in the Camino villages is one of my favorite things about being there. Sure, 10% of the people who I walk past have ranted after me about how I’m ruining the Camino by not going to church every day, but the other 90% have shown me kindnesses beyond description. Some will simply softly grab your arm and tell you to have a safe journey while others will set up snack tables in front of their homes with a “gratis” or “donativo” sign. I’ve also been invited by nuns to join my fair share of convents, which I take as a compliment.
12. You’ll Drink the Best Beer of Your Life
When I drink my favorite Spain beers back home, I recognize that they’re all pretty much the Budweisers of Spanish beers. Drink one of them after 15 miles in the direct sun, when your neck is covered in a strange heat rash, and the elastic in your socks literally melted to the back of your feet, and man, does that beer taste good.
13. You Have Something to Talk/Blog About
It’s raining in NYC today. It’s gray for the umpteenth day in a row. My coffee shop is packed with loud business types my brain is mush from writing about car insurance for five hours this morning. This list brings me back to a world without the confusion and loneliness of finding your way without trail markers. It’s my beacon when I don’t know how I ended up with a directionless writing career and a back-burner acting career. It’s something bigger than all that.
My favorite writers talk about getting out into the world and living a life so you have something to write about. Finding that thing can feel impossible when you’re an artist without a constant artistic home. To all my other lost artistic souls, I feel you.
We leave in 81 days. If I haven’t convinced you to go yet, I’ll keep trying. As always, thanks for reading.