In the fall of 2019, my best friend and I joined 16 other Road Scholars on a learning adventure along part of the Camino de Santiago — the famous walking route that ends at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.

A regular day in our journey consisted of meeting our Group Leader César after breakfast and riding in our bus to the starting point for the day’s hike. En route, we’d learn about the history of the region or what to expect along our journey. According to César, our walks would be “easy peasy.” After each day’s hike we’d head back to the hotel and then explore the city and finally end with a lovely Spanish dinner. Every couple of days, we’d move to a different city but followed a similar schedule.

As we continued our walk, we met many other pilgrims who were carrying big packs and had started in France — their Camino travel would cover 300-500 miles. I decided there were three ways to walk the Camino. The first was the purist way, where mostly younger people started in France and carried their packs with them. They usually stayed in hostels and shared rooms with lots of people. Then there is the comfy hiking group who work with an adventure company that transports their luggage to a new inn or hotel every day and gives them a map with directions with the hopes that they find their way there. But the third way — and the one I recommend — is with Road Scholar.

Road Scholar took us to the best parts of the trail each day, thereby avoiding walking through industrial areas, or suburbs. They provided interesting talks about the history of each section of the Camino and made sure we knew the significance of each place we visited. Road Scholar finds local experts and knowledgeable instructors — and their goal of broadening our horizons is easily met with these people.

Of course the best part of Road Scholar trips is getting to know the other Road Scholars! This trip was different than others that I’ve been on in that it was a walking trip and we averaged six miles per day. However, you need to factor in the miles we walked on the city explorations after we got back to town. Several others used their smart phones and swore that we were logging nine miles per day! As we got to know each other I could see that our motivations for walking the Camino varied. Some of us were on the trip because of a love of hiking — in fact, several had completed the Appalachian Trail. Then, some of us were there to see a part of Spain that isn’t on most travel itineraries. And finally, some of us were there because of the spiritual draw of walking on the Camino de Santiago.

Arriving in Santiago was a memorable day and here’s a picture of me on the Mountain of Joy. This was the first place where pilgrims could see the cathedral and know that they were completing the trail. In the Middle Ages, some of the pilgrims would bathe in the nearby river and run naked into the city. (We didn’t follow in their footsteps and kept our clothes on.)

We ended our hike on the Atlantic Coast at Cabo Finisterre. Without a doubt, this trip will give you an appreciation for the thousands of pilgrims who walked this Camino over the centuries and their experiences. You will also get to know this part of northern Spain, its history and its culture.

Patti Phelps is a retired teacher, administrator and fundraiser who has worn many hats through her career. After raising her family in Colorado, she moved to North Carolina with her husband after retirement so they could pursue their love for sailing.


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