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02nd Aug 2019

My Camino with Maria Walsh Day 1: Why I’m walking ‘The Way’

Leslie Ann Horgan

“A perfect place to gift yourself time and space for reflection.”

Maria Walsh is a newly-elected MEP. From Shrule, Co Mayo, she was crowned Rose of Tralee in 2014. This week, she is walking a stretch of the Camino De Santiago and chronicling the experience for Her…

It’s been a busy and adventure-filled few months and as I found myself ending my EU election campaign, I promised myself… time. And folks, if you want time, space and a beautiful adventure, the Camino is a perfect place to start. I am joined for this adventure by my best friend, Mary Hickey. She has walked the Camino previously, going from Sarria to Santiago and covering 100km.

This is not a new experience for me, either. I have been a Camino advocate since 2016, after walking for 30 days of ‘The Way’ from St. Jean Pied de Port, in the French Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain. A beautiful adventure, yet one that was challenging in every sense of the word.

Maria walking the Camino in 2016

This route that we are walking this week is coastal. It’s historic. It’s a perfect place to gift yourself time and space for reflection. Over the course of seven days, we will walk 120km.

We are journeying from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre, before ending our final day in Muxia. This is a special route, as you follow the footsteps of thousands of previous pilgrims – the name derived from the Camino’s religious history that’s given to all walkers – and arrive at what was believed to be the ‘end of the world’ in Roman times. In more recent years, pilgrims have burned their clothes, boots and belongings as they reached the end of their walk at the Cape of Finisterre.

Pilgrims I met who have walked the Camino de Santiago have shared with me that a journey along ‘The Way’, is broken up into sections. The first 10 days is your physical journey. The second 10 days is your mental journey, with your final 10 days capturing your spiritual journey. Looking back on my own 2016 Camino experience, there is undeniable truth to this.

Cape Finisterre. Photo: Camino Ways

I ‘fell into step’ with Camino Ways last year. It’s a brilliant company that organises trips for new and experienced Pilgrims to routes across Europe. Ireland even boasts its own Celtic Way, which Camino Ways has been integral in sharing with people.

Mary and I are doing things slightly different for this trip. We are staying in hotels and have a distance to walk each day set out for us by Camino Ways. This is great for busy-minded people who are looking for support and help in navigating their journey.

But it will still be hard. I like push myself, and the time and daily distance we’ve been set is a little shy of the precious 27-30km distance I would have done in 2016. However, it’s exactly what I need right now – structure, relaxation, and time to listen to my busy brain and body.

What do you pack for the Camino?

There has always been something about the Camino and Santiago de Compostela. I am excited to share my time, my thoughts and my energy as Mary and I journey to the ‘end of the world’.

Buen Camino! Maria x