The Challenges of Quitting

Camino de Santiago: walking through vineyards in winter

After only six days of walking, I have decided to quit my winter Camino.

I was looking forward to the long walk and prepared (I think) with gear and determination. I had visions of snowy, rainy and windy days; breaks from the cold in café/bars where a fire roared and pilgrims were welcomed with café con leche; long evenings in warm albergues where I could write, knit and visit with the few seasonal pilgrims; and the daily feeling of accomplishment.

Cathy with pack and poles ready to walk the Camino
Fresh and excited about the coming weeks

Well, as John Lennon expressed so accurately, “Life is what happens….”

Things turned out differently. All of southern Europe is experiencing a relatively dry winter. Winters are getting dryer every year, it seems. So, the weather turned out to be beautiful—almost springlike—only a little colder than spring. Most mornings I awoke to clear skies and calm. No battling of the wind. I can’t really complain about that. 

Puente la reina in the early morning
Puente la Reina

I knew that most albergues (hostels) would be closed. But I was armed with information from Camino planning sites, including a list of albergues open in winter which is updated regularly at www.aprinca.com/alberguesinvierno. As I started making plans for the first few days, a concern niggled at me. These albergues seemed to be pretty far apart. Some required reservations; some were only open on weekends; some only open for groups. So, I began including private guesthouses in my plans. Then I learned that post-covid inflation had heavily impacted lodging costs. Small private inns where one could get a room before covid for €25-30/night were now charging €50—70—or more—even during low season. It became a daily challenge to find lodging that was open, inexpensive, and less than 20 kilometers from my last stop. (In my early stages, I was hoping to only walk 10-15 kilometers per day.)

And those fire-warmed café/bars? They too were mostly closed. I walked through village after village—each one a ghost town—not even small bakeries were open. This meant that pilgrims needed to carry plenty of food to sustain them each day. (More weight to carry.) We were lucky that the weather was being reasonable, because we had to take our breaks outdoors. No long, lingering sits in a cozy bar enjoying a café con leche and tortilla.

Cafe con leche and tortilla in Spain
One day I was surprised to come to an open bar in a village. I was so delighted that I stayed there for an hour and a half, eating, enjoying coffee and writing.

The days when I was able to travel less than 20 kilometers, tended to be almost too short. One day, I had a choice of going 5 kilometers or 25. This was one main thing that I had not anticipated, and it had a fallout effect.

Elevation map for the Camino between Pamplona and Burgos
Another thing to consider when planning ahead was the difficulty of the route. Elevation maps were often consulted. Was the next day all uphill?

I had planned to walk shorter days early in the Camino so I could train and get use to the weight of my pack. Since this was not possible, my right hip (which has given me intermittent problems for many years) completely rebelled, making each step very painful. By only my seventh day, I was seriously concerned that I may be causing permanent damage. I started having second thoughts.

I took some rest days in Logroño and Santo Domingo de la Calzada to consider my options. A LOT of different ideas came to me, and I won’t bore you with them here. But they ranged from:

Continuing on using bus transport daily to take me back to lodging at night and return to the place I had left off the next day…

TO

Quit completely and find a place to just stay for a month or two in Southern Spain? Morocco? Northern Spanish Coast? Cornwall? Scotland?

I tried the bus idea for a couple days, but my heart was not into the additional planning required to make sure I could find the bus stops AND be there at the right time.

Several other things occurred to me that was contributing to my mindset—which I confess was not doing so well. I was very disappointed, discouraged, and becoming depressed and cranky.

My right shoulder which I injured in Istanbul and then again in Georgia was not appreciating my heavy pack and was making it very clear that it needed a break.

Those warm albergues were non-existent. They were usually in old stone buildings which are a challenge to heat. The hostelers usually only turned on the radiators in the evening while the stones continued to radiate their cold. The only place to be warm after about 4:00 pm was in your sleeping bag. And while I was huddled in my sleeping bag, I was not writing or creating cutesy videos to post on Facebook. I was trying to figure out my route for the next day. Which also meant finding markets that would be open so I could stock up on food to carry.

But the real killer was that I was probably just tired of moving from place to place so frequently. The last time I had spent more than a month in one place was in Georgia last August. I left Georgia in November and had been moving or planning to move since then. My longest stay was nine nights in Prezren, Kosovo over Christmas. This dedicated traveler had to confess that maybe she was just tired of traveling.

Map of the intended version of my journey from Georgia to Spain and beyond.
Map of my train journey: I had been moving every few days since November

After about a week’s contemplation of all this—with many ideas floating in and out, I finally decided to move on to Scotland and find a place to just BE for a while.

And even then, there was no way around it: Believe it or not, from Santo Domingo de Calzada to Forfar, Scotland would take FOUR days traveling. I thought of going overland by train, but it would have cost about six times as much to do so and my heart and head were just not willing to put in the effort to plan that trip.

So, on February 27, I embarked:

  • Feb 27: Short bus to Burgos, Spain so I would be able to catch 4:30 am bus the next morning to Santiago
  • Feb 28: Eight-hour bus trip to Santiago. I slept most of the way but made it to Santiago by 1:00 pm. I had to go to Santiago to retrieve my excess baggage which I had shipped there before beginning the Camino.  
  • Mar 1: Move to a hotel near the Santiago airport so I would be able to easily make my 6:00 am flight to Edinburgh the next day. (Taxi call at 3:45 am…yawn.)
  • Mar 2: Fly to Edinburgh; two busses to ForFar; taxi out to Owl’s Hoot Cottage.
  • Rest and relax for 25 days before Rebecca (my daughter) arrives and we begin our month-long adventure in Scotland.
Electric Bus from Edinburgh to Dundee
The electric bus in Scotland that took me from Edinburgh airport to Dundee. They have to charge for about two hours before beginning the trip back.

So that brings you up to date. I am looking forward to traveling with Rebecca, but I am also relishing my “time off” here at Owl’s Hoot Cottage.

View of the countryside near Forfar, Scotland
View from my room at Owl's Hoot Cottage.

Video of my last full day of my short winter Camino

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Cathy Fulton

Cathy Fulton

I am Cathy Fulton and I became a world nomad in 2014. Traveling has become a way of life for me. Except for the fact that I am a citizen of the United States, I don’t have a residence. I am retired and I like to travel solo and independently. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “You are living my dream.” My reply is, “It doesn’t have to be a dream. It can be a reality!"

5 thoughts on “The Challenges of Quitting”

  1. Don’t beat yourself up for not finishing your Camino. Some times a door closes so that another door opens up for a better reason and destiny.
    Take time to let your body heal. Maybe you can find out your Scottish roots. Enjoy your time with your daughter. Be proud and grateful for all you accomplished.

  2. Dear Cathy,

    So glad to here that you are safe and resting up for your next adventure. I must admit I was getting a bit concerned. I can only imagine how discouraging it was to have to change your plans, but as they say, “ Everything happens for a reason!” Take care! Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure❤️… Your little cottage looks wonderful! Karen M

      1. Scotland is an especially dear place to me. Would love to hear more about your stay there.. Hope your hip is mending❤️… Karen

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