Welcome to the Camino de Santiago

When my wife, Marshall, and I lived in Brussels from September 1988 to August 1992, we traveled extensively throughout Western Europe, mostly in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France but also in Germany, with trips to other countries.

Wherever we went, we would encounter small villages with beautiful churches and towns with magnificent cathedrals which had been built hundreds of years ago. I would look at the churches and try to imagine what life was like when these magnificent structures were being built.

I had never even heard of the Camino de Santiago and the millions of people who made pilgrimages there until one vacation we visited a small town, Conques, in the Department of Aveyron, France. It was there that I first heard of millions of people walking to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I looked around and noted what rugged terrain it was and tried to visualize what it had been like and imagine what had caused those people who lived such a harsh life by modern standards to undertake such a journey. The seed was planted but I took no action for several years.

At Journey's End

Me on arrival at the Cathedral in Santiago on my second pilgrimage.

It was a cold and rainy day....

When we learned in the spring of 1996 that Marshall's next assignment would be Madrid, my first thought was what was I going to do. My second thought was that this would give me a chance to look into the Camino de Santiago. My concept then was to write a book, combining my interests in travel, history and old maps to produce something that would be a guide to modern travelers wanting to travel the Camino by car. I was able to continue my employment utilizing the internet and travel but I cut back on the hours. I was thus able to spend time looking into the Camino de Santiago.

I soon learned that the Camino had already undergone a revival and there were modern travelers making pilgrimages. I decided that reading about it was not enough. I had to make a pilgrimage myself. I took leave from my work and on 26 May 1997, four weeks shy of my fifty-seventh birthday, I started out from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to walk to Santiago de Compostela, about  500 miles away. It was a transforming experience. My interest in the Camino grew and I realized that all of the material I had read had been of two types; narratives of people's personal journey and experiences or guides written from a European perspective, mostly English translations of guides written for Spaniards. I decided to write a guide for people from the United States and Canada, building upon my experiences.

I was well into a first draft but it was incomplete as we approached the end of our time in Spain. I felt I needed to make a second trip. I knew that my one experience did not make me an expert. I also wanted to validate some of the conclusions I had reached on how to prepare for the trip. So in April of 2000, I started out in Salamanca to walk the Mosarabic route to Santiago. It was truly a solitary journey. I walked by myself and only encountered one other pilgrim, a young woman who was making the pilgrimage on bicycle from Seville. I considered another pilgrimage by horseback while I was learning to ride in Buenos Aires. Alas, I experienced back problems when I returned to the US and had to give up riding. In 2008, I decided to make another pilgrimage, this time starting in Portugal at Porto, and following the Portuguese Route to Santiago.

This site is a vehicle for sharing my experiences, helping others to gain an understanding on what to expect, how to plan the entire trip from home in the US to Santiago and back, and how to prepare to minimize problems. It is a book that was never completed but I hope you will find it useful in this form. Once I have completed putting out all of the information I have on this web site, I will make it available in PDF form so it will be easier to print and refer to. I have had this site up for some time but there are missing portions. I am now (January 28, 2011) starting to review and update what I can and flag missing portions. They will be marked in red text.

If there is any message I'd like you to carry away, it is that the Camino is a metaphor for life. Do not be daunted by the journey; take it one day at a time. You will be stronger at the end than when you started.

© Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016 Richard W. Tripp, Jr.