My name is Adam Lifshitz. At the age of 26, I left South Africa for Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Known to be one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the world, the Camino de Santiago (often referred to as The Way, as in this book) is a network of paths spanning hundreds of kilometers from a number of starting points, all leading to the old city of Santiago, with the most popular one being the Camino Europa crossing the entirety of Northern Spain.
Traditionally (and to date) it is travelled by foot, and has been for over a 1,000 years. Thousands of individuals take on the road with only a bag on their backs, heading towards the final destination - the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela - where St. James’ remains are buried.
Whilst the pilgrimage itself was originally a religious journey, over the last few decades it has become a spiritual experience undertaken by a variety of individuals for a range of reasons, attracting people from all walks of life.
Like many people my age, I needed a break from routine: the workplace, the repetitive lifestyle, the daily stresses. Many choose to travel in search for such breaks, to clear the mind, but I wasn’t looking for a laid-back holiday. I needed more, yet I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time.
An inebriated decision led me to spontaneously book a plane ticket to Spain. Why Spain?, I didn’t know, but the commitment was now made.
You should know that at that time I didn’t plan to walk the Camino. Hell, my sense of geography was so limited that I was convinced that the Camino pilgrimage was somewhere in South America (little did I know). Yet when I discovered the Camino was in Spain, and was to be travelled by foot (not by car as I stupidly thought), something was triggered in me; a refreshing gut feel, a driving force that fuelled an inner voice that firmly said: ‘do it’.
Was I fit enough to walk hundreds of kilometers? Hell no. Did I have a specific reason to do it? Not that I could think of. But my gut felt right, and I've grown to always trust it, even if the outcome seems terrifying.
And so, in May 2015, I made a decision that would change my life forever:
‘I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago.’
The excitement instantly kicked in but was soon overwhelmed by inevitable fear. This was way out of my comfort zone for a range of reasons, including:
I was to walk dozens of kilometers every day.
It’s a foreign country with a foreign language (my Spanish at the time was non-existent).
I would have to travel and live out of a backpack, which I had no experience of.
My living conditions alone would be far lesser than my current comfort (later I realised how snobbish that sounds).
Most of all, I will be facing all of the above, and far more, on my own.
But there was no turning back now, and over the course of the following 2 months I began preparing, in any way that seemed logical. Week by week I would hike and run in nature around Cape Town. Every week I would purchase another piece of gear with whatever money I had set aside: first a pair of good trail shoes, thereafter a reliable backpack, then socks, shorts, jackets and the works - until I had all I needed, or so I thought.
Then, on the 26th of August 2015, I flew to León and began the journey.
This book is not a guide to the Camino. It will not tell you where to go, what to see and how far you should walk every day. The Camino is yours to make what you wish of it, in a way that best works for you and your intentions. It is a personal journey like no other that will change your life in ways unimaginable. Instead, this book is about what I discovered on the way, and how a little spontaneous decision changed me for the rest of time.
I hope you’ll enjoy my record and findings, and that at the very least it inspires you to understand your own journey.