Last updated on July 16th, 2021
Photo credit: Rebecca B
How to keep safety top-of-mind while walking solo
By Rebecca Brown, Guest Writer
I had an overwhelming desire to walk the way that pilgrims walked for centuries, years before the dots finally connected, and I got to experience a unique and unforgettable journey with some of the most amazing moments.
Of course, just like most women out there planning to travel solo, I instantly googled what a woman hiking alone can expect while exploring the network of pilgrimages leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
As I decided to push through some of my fears, I want to share my personal story with other women who are weighing whether they should hike the Camino de Santiago alone.
I was surprised to learn that almost half of the hikers walking the Camino were women! And more importantly, if you hike during high season in the usual walking hours, you are not going to be far away from the next pilgrim.
When I first got to the treks, I was amazed at how many people were on the trail. It was heartwarming to see that pilgrims meeting along the Way of St. James are very friendly and supportive. If you are feeling uneasy at any point, you can join small walking groups.
If You Go
What to Pack
- Passport and health insurance information
- Phone, charger, power bank, and a backup phone, if you can
- Reusable water bottle and energy bars
- Clothes that are breathable and moisture-wicking. Avoid cotton. Polyester and wool are better choices
- A waterproof jacket and a hat
- Sunscreen and bug repellent
- First-aid kit
- Sleeping bag
Where to Stay
Stay at one of the traditional “albergues“
What to Eat:
Galician Style octopus, known as pulpo á Feira
Galician garlic soup
What to Drink
Orujo, a local brandy
Albariño, a local white wine
What gave me even more confidence was feeling a strong sense of camaraderie during my hike. Pilgrims would stop at any sign of another hiker needing assistance.
It may be comforting for you to know that the locals have been supporting pilgrims on the Camino for 1,000 years. As I learned during my journey, they are very happy and proud to welcome walkers and keep them safe along the way.
And there is another important fact to know: crimes along the Camino are extremely rare.
A Well-Traveled Route Is the Way to Go
I picked one of the most popular sections – the Portuguese Way, so I could rest assured knowing others will be passing by often enough.
This was not my first solo trip, and I am not a fearful creature, but since I made my journey during a very sensitive time in my life, I have to admit I was feeling more confident staying within sight of others.
The Camino provided me with the perfect combo: I was enjoying the alluring sights alone, while still getting to meet some awesome people along the way. I even got to bond with one amazing woman on the trails, and we have been friends ever since.
When I analyze my experience now, I felt safe and secure along the entire route, and I experienced the friendliness and care from the residents of the towns I visited.
A Few Tips If You Are Traveling Alone
As I was going through a rough patch when I embarked upon this journey, I needed to disconnect from everything and focus on some soul searching and getting in touch with myself.
That’s why I wanted to spend most of the time discovering the trails of the Camino on my own. Still, to make sure my experience was a positive one, I decided to follow some general advice of more experienced female travelers:
- Pack Light: I packed only the necessary things, leaving the expensive stuff like watches and jewelry at home.
- Keep your belongings with you: Throughout my walk, I made sure my documentation and money were with me all the time, and always carried a charged mobile phone.
- Safety in numbers: As an extra safety measure, I was always within a shouting distance of other pilgrims and I avoided walking after sunset.
- Get a guidebook: If you plan to hike alone, getting a Camino guidebook can help you manage better while hitting the trails.
When I completed the walk, I was so grateful I didn’t let fear stop me from enjoying magnificent places and soaking up the local culture. I enjoyed spectacular views of sandy Portuguese beaches, picturesque small villages, and met some amazing people while on the road.
While on my way home, I was going through all of the memories from this experience, and it was great realizing that when you dare to take upon an adventure and immerse yourself in life, you get to taste the fruits of your endeavour.
Whether you decide to walk for spiritual, cultural, or other reasons, exploring the Camino can strengthen you mentally and physically, and give you more confidence to embrace life and leave your comfort zone as often as you can.
Photos provided by Rebecca Brown
Need a Good Read About Spain?
Over the summer, our Book Club read and discussed Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, by Chris Stewart. Learn more about the book here or register for an upcoming book club event!