El Camino de Santiago = Life in a Nutshell

El Camino de Santiago = Life in a Nutshell

The beginning.
Two days after graduation, I was off on a plane to Bilbao, Spain. The only luggage I had on me was a 55 liter Gregory hiking backpack for the next six months of my life.

For being OCD, how did I fail this bad?
Before I left, I had still not googled “Camino de Santiago.” All I knew was that it a 600 km pilgrimage hike and I’d be hiking about half of it. In fact, I didn’t watch the movie, The Way, until the day before we entered Santiago.

Let’s just say… I arrived in Spain horribly, horribly unprepared, haha… My “hiking” shoes were a pair of Nike Frees. I brought my own pillow, a large 20°F sleeping bag, and a blowup-mattress. Funny thing is, there wasn’t a day on the Camino when we didn’t sleep in a hostel with thick mattresses, pillows, and blankets. My pack weighed 40lbs with my laptop, camera, tablet, hard drive, and God knows what else. The recommended weight for the Camino is about 18 lbs… By Day 3, I was a wreck: I had developed a form of tendonitis on both feet and my bunions were enflamed more than ever. Even then, the only thing that helped with the pain while walking 6-8 hours a day was simply the talking and listening–the conversations I had.

Time Flies When… but what makes PAIN fly?
Sure, we were surrounded by the most unbelievable scenery, breath-taking views of nature that would put the Hobbit movie to shame (kinda). But when both your feet are swollen tight in uncomfortably rigid boots, your back weighed down by a 40 pound “baby” on your back, and your stomach and shoulders cramping every 10 minutes from the weight––looking around at scenery doesn’t exactly take any of that pain away. Talking with the people around you––THAT–– would take my mind off the pain. That, was the only thing that made time go by faster.

A lesson on life
The whole experience of
fighting through the pain,
willing myself to keep moving forward,
watching other people struggle and make it to each village together,
finding relief in sharing conversations with fellow hikers,
meeting people who weren’t afraid to ask deeper questions,
complaining about the never-ending trails and concrete pathways,
gawking at the stunning landscape and beauty surrounding us,
––ALL of these things taught me so much about living life.

There’s a certain strength in willpower that builds up when every day for two weeks straight, you’re telling yourself, “come on, just 7 more hours to go, you can do it, just walk 3 more hours and there’ll be a rest spot, come on you can do it.” I mean, I took a few rest days so I wouldn’t permanently injure myself but I learned a lot about myself. I saw what it was like to set goals ahead and finally reach them and reap the satisfaction of saying, “I hiked 33 km today.” “I hiked over that mountain” “I reached our destination point.”

It brought me back to all the times where I just couldn’t see the end of the trail. When I just wanted to give up because the “village ahead” was just too far. When the task ahead seemed too overwhelming. When I just wanted to fast-forward to the future and forego the pain, the sweat, the learning and growth.

Diligence, discipline, distance, determination and saying “I DID it, are things that come to mind.

And last but not least, along the Camino, you couldn’t help but ponder the bigger questions in life. When you’re walking on a simple trail, with simple things, simple food, simple worries, and simple joys, you really start to see what really matters. It becomes more about life and less about work. More about loving people and less about material things. More about being and less about doing.

Have you ever walked for 13 hours?
There was one day, a day that I’ll never forget, when I walked for 13 hours straight with Zeb. We were both injured and limping for about 10 hours of it and I had the same song by Sam Smith on repeat. It was also the day we hiked through a mountain and took the most amazing pictures from the trip. Most of my stories from the Camino come from this one… what a terrifyingly long and gruesome day. *shudders

Would you do it again?

Of course, I do want to try the Camino again :). But I want to try it out with just Abba and my brother. It’d be an amazing time to have 6-8 hours a day just chatting with them and having an adventure together. We didn’t have much time to get to know each other growing up because Abba was always busy working and my brother and I went off to college over 5 years ago.

I also want to try it again later down the road with my future wife. We met an old couple along the way, both in their early 60s. One was a busy businessman and the other was a busy volunteer. They admitted that they have not had this much time together in a very long time. They looked so happy, their faces were glowing. Simply spending 3-4 weeks together, hiking the Camino must’ve been quite a refreshing season of their life, to finally share a love language (time) that may have been realistically hard to come by with life’s demands.

The Camino is no joke. It’s not a nice weekend hike with your light-as Camel Back. It’s still a beast of a journey–– you’ll be shivering cold with four layers on you at the butt-crack of dawn and drenched in sweat in the sweltering hot afternoon sun (yes, that means chafage). But what you experience on the Camino is worth it. It moves people forward. It whips your body AND mind back into shape. Reminds you to look up and think about things that really matter. By the end of the trip, a 3-hour walk to save money sounds like cake. Sleeping in a room with 20 people instead of 100, sounds so nice. Chatting with a dear friend for 3 hours, seems too short and wine that is more expensive than $2 seems like a rip-off.

Still, the beginning.
Two days after we reached Santiago, I was off on a bus to Lisbon, Portugal…Cairo, Egypt…and Kathmandu, Nepal. And the only luggage I had on me was a 55 liter Gregory hiking backpack for the next five months of my life. 🙂


  • Zebulun

    This is good. Real good, bro.

    (P.s. That day coming off the mountain was real good too! I don’t regret walking with you one bit! You are an amazing dude! Love you man!)

    • Zebulun

      p.p.s….who took that picture? Cumon, who did you a favor! 😉 #AmazingPhotographer

      • Sunoh Choe

        hahahha PC: ZEB
        lol i don’t regret that mountain too (yet… until I find out what permanent damage has happened to my foot when I get back to the US loL)

  • Lovin the Bruce Lee yellow in the photo!

    Great post.

    • Sunoh Choe

      hahaha #gottatrademarkthat

  • Neil Bruinsma

    The Camino is no joke. Glad to do it with you!

    • Sunoh Choe

      whenever i could keep up with you!

  • polonca

    Bravo Sunoh!I Great to reading this blog (oh ,memories…)

    • Sunoh Choe

      thanks Polonca!

  • Glace

    Beautiful. La verdad tambien. Great to walk and talk with you over all those klicks! I’m going back with my wife and kids next summer to finish what I began with you guys.

    • Sunoh Choe

      Haha that’s awesome David! verdaderamente, van a tener una experiencia espectacular!!, definitely write about it and let us know how that goes. Remember, light light light packs and compression socks and underwear haha

  • Carla Clark

    Hi Meghan, can’t wait to hear how your hike up Table Mountain went as I’m sure you will have experienced some divine “connections” through the Holy Spirit along the way. It’s so great to read about your “conversations with Him” through your posts as you and He seems to have a special connection. Can’t wait to here from you via Skype when you get a chance. God bless you above and beyond what you could hope for or imagine. Carla

  • Peggy Moffitt Chantlos

    What beautiful scars. So humbled to remember sitting in the nursery July 2013 allowing God to define our dreams for His next journey in the coming ministry season of your life. And then in Jan 2014 discovering the incredible journey you were about to launch. You make me smile and praise our Heavenly Father whenever your sweet face smiles at me from my computer screen. I love you Peggy

  • Desirae Holdaway

    Great story Betty! Thanks for sharing. You ladies are always in my thoughts and prayers. 🙂