First Steps on the Camino de Santiago

In about two hours I will board a plane headed for Santiago de Compostela to walk 120 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago with several members of our group from CIEE. We will be completing the tail end of the French path, beginning in Sarria and walking for five days to reach the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, stopping in small towns, sleeping in albergues (lodging for travelers on the pilgrimage), and sharing meals in northwestern Spain.

Arrows point the way to the Camino from Alicante to Santiago de Compostela, with the basilica in the background.

This experience is linked to one of the classes I have been taking this semester, which focuses on the history, Catholic tradition, and practice of the Camino, beginning with the discovery of Saint James’ tomb in the 9th century and continuing on to its present-day popularity. It has been fascinating to look at how the Camino has changed, from a penance and pilgrimage in the Catholic tradition to a multitude of reasons for embarking on the journey in the 21st century: religious reasons, hiking, reflection, the list goes on and on. One of the most important aspects of the Camino is being in community with other peregrinos (pilgrims). Along the walk we will encounter many other people, some of whom may have been walking for 30 days or more to reach the point at which we are starting. I’m sure I will come back next Wednesday with many stories to share.

A walking stick and a seashell, two symbols of the Camino, reside in the basilica to greet peregrinos.

Yesterday the group took a trip to the Basilica de Santa María, which is the oldest church in Alicante. There is a camino that runs from Alicante all the way to Santiago de Compostela, and it starts at the doors of the basilica. There we received our first stamp on our pilgrimage credentials, marking where we are coming from. The first steps and the first stamps have already begun!

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