Here's hoping I will look more graceful on the camino. Photo: Sateless Suitcase

Sooo I have some exciting news – I'm walking the Camino de Santiago! And I start today (gulp). Needless to say, I'm kind of terrified but excited for the long journey ahead.

What is the Camino?

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that dates back to medieval times. For centuries, pilgrims from all over Europe walked to Santiago de Compostela to see the bones of Saint James, one of Jesus' apostles.

Nowadays, pilgrims have many reasons beyond religion for doing the camino. For most people, it seems that the camino serves as a time to self-reflect and disconnect from modernity.

How long is it?

From Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the traditional starting place of the Camino Francés, it's about 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela. This is where I'm starting from.

Soooo how did I decide to do this?

Last month when I was flying from Uganda to London, I started reading Torre deRoche's new book, The Worrier's Guide to the End of the World in which she completes part of the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage through France and Italy.

Then it hit me.”Why don't I do the Camino de Santiago while I'm in Europe? I've wanted to it since high school.”

Naturally, I had this brilliant idea only hours after leaving my camping equipment at home in Uganda. I guess inspiration never promised to be convenient.

My motivation behind doing the camino

You might be wondering why I'm doing the camino. There are several reasons.

First of all, it's been a dream of mine for about a decade. I got the idea to do the camino when I was 17 and I traveled to Santiago de Compostela with my brother. As we stood in front of the cathedral, I remember feeling awestruck by the long-suffering pilgrims as they completed their pilgrimages.

Secondly, I was a Spanish major, so I'm eager to visit all of the towns and regions I read so much about in college. I'm also looking forward to brushing up on my Spanish.

And finally, I fell into a depression last summer and felt zero excitement about anything. The camino was the first thing I truly wanted to do.

When I´m feeling down, the best thing to do is to do something hard, and to do it by myself. It seems to be the most effective way to regain my strength and self-confidence.

I'm also hoping the camino will give me clarity and direction. I am at a crossroads and think it might help me find the answer. And even if it doesn't, it will still be an incredible experience.

Overall I feel so grateful that I have the time and resources to do the Camino. I know that many people dream of doing the camino, and I won't forget for one moment how lucky I am.

Have you ever wanted to do the camino?

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Uganda. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Colorado. She's been to forty countries but somehow still gets lost in her home town. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour magazine.
Ashley Fleckenstein
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