Walking the Camino as a solo woman

Walking the Camino as a solo woman

Paloma García is a Spanish teacher and pilgrim who has walked the Camino de Santiago twice.

She has three passions: languages, cooking, and meaningful travel. She fulfilled her dream of learning French by moving to France and she’s a dedicated cook.

Her love for travel with purpose led her to walk the Camino de Santiago twice.

So, Paloma’s Caminos were not motivated by religion but rather by a desire for a different kind of vacation, a physical challenge. She was also someone who travelled with a lot of luggage, so the idea of travelling light was appealing.

You can listen to our conversation, in Spanish, in the podcast.

Or you can read a summary here in English.

Paloma’s first Camino experience was in 2017. She walked for a week with her partner, into Santiago de Compostela. For her first experience, she decided to combine different Camino routes to avoid the crowded final stages of the Camino Francés. 

Five years later, in 2022, Paloma decided to walk the Camino alone. For most Spaniards, Roncesvalles is the starting point of the Camino Francés. However, since Paloma lives in France, starting in Saint Jean Pied Port, was important for her. France. She wasn’t sure she would be able to make it all the way to Santiago (and she didn’t have the time either), but she wanted her second experience to be longer than the first, so she walked for 10 days. She hoped she could walk all the way to Burgos, but once on the Camino, she realised her goals were too ambitious and decided it wasn’t wise to push herself to reach Burgos.

For this 2nd Camino, several people offered to walk with her, but she really wanted the experience of doing it by herself. 

Although she is a social person, Paloma also enjoys quiet time by herself, to reflect and get lost in her thoughts. And the Camino provided the perfect opportunity. 


We  discussed the balance between solitude and social interaction on the Camino and how it encourages self-reflection and the development of emotional independence. 

In this context, we also commented on the cultural differences in people’s approaches to travelling alone and the respect for each other’s desire for solitude.

One of the differences she noticed is that Spaniards are more gregarious, and find silence uncomfortable, while people from certain other nationalities don’t seem particularly interested in socialising. 

Her second Camino was a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, to learn how to overcome her initial fears and embrace solitude. It was a very empowering experience, and a declaration of her right to travel alone without fear.

Does Paloma recommend a solo Camino?

Not necessarily. While she had a desire to walk by herself and she learned a lot from it, Paloma doesn’t think this might be the right choice for everybody. Every person is different and, depending on your characteristics and personal circumstances, may or may not be a good idea for you. 


Overall, our conversation explores the unique experiences and personal growth that come from walking the Camino de Santiago, particularly as a woman travelling alone, and how it offers a balance of solitude and social interaction.

About Paloma

As I mentioned at the beginning, Paloma is a Spanish teacher. You can find her at www.sicomprendo.net

She hosts Sí, comprendo, a podcast for intemediate-advanced students. In one of the episodes, she talks about the Camino. I was a guest in another episode where we talk about my experience walking ‘alternative caminos’ (or avoiding the Francés…). 


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¡Buen Camino!

Tips to improve your Spanish on the Camino

Tips to improve your Spanish on the Camino

There’s nothing like spending time in a Spanish-speaking country to improve your Spanish skills and learn about the life and culture of that country. The Camino de Santiago is the perfect opportunity for an immersion experience. After all, you’re going to spend at least one week in Spain, and you may spend several weeks, a month even.

It would be a shame not to take advantage of all that time to improve your Spanish a little. 

You’re going to be in Spain, surrounded by people who speak Spanish, things written in Spanish… so it’s almost impossible not to learn something. 

In this post you’ll find tips to get more out of your Spanish during this pilgrimage time.

You can listen to these ideas in the podcast, in Spanish.

Or you can continue reading in English.

Let’s start with the advantages of learning Spanish on the Camino compared to other destinations in Spain.

There are many routes and each one is different, but in general you’ll pass through a lot of towns and villages that are far from the most touristy areas. So, you won’t find many people who speak English or any other foreign language. It may not be so difficult on the Camino Francés because it’s the most popular one. But if you take other routes… Spanish will come in very handy. 

In general, people react very positively when someone makes the effort to speak Spanish, even if it’s very basic. So don’t be afraid. You’ll even notice that they treat you better than someone who doesn’t try. And I’m not the only one saying this, people who have made the effort have had access to special experiences that would have been closed to them otherwise.


Tips to improve your Spanish


  • The first one is quite obvious: Depending on the route you choose and the time of year, it’s quite possible that you’ll come across other pilgrims. Sharing the path with other pilgrims from around the world is an essential part of the experience. But why limit yourself to people who speak your own language only?  Roughly half of the pilgrims who walk the Camino every year are Spanish. Speaking Spanish will allow you to connect with them and it will obviously help you improve your Spanish. In addition, Spanish is an official language in more than 20 countries, so you can make friends not only with pilgrims from Spain, but with those from any other Spanish-speaking country.   

  • We tend to focus on relationships with other pilgrims and often forget about the people who live in the places we pass through. In the smaller towns, it’s common to find people, especially older people, who are eager to chat. Take advantage of this opportunity and greet them. Stop for a few minutes, ask them about life in the village, their festivals, history, customs, whatever comes to mind. Not only will you be practicing the language, but you will also be learning a lot about the culture and way of life. And you will be making this person’s day.   
  • In the bigger cities and towns, people tend to be in a hurry. They don’t have as much time to stop and chat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice. Look around you. You are surrounded by opportunities to improve your Spanish. There are billboards, signs in shop windows, information at bus stops, etc.  Pay attention to all of this. Do you understand everything or are there any new words? Surely you have a phone with an internet connection, right?  If you see a new word, you can look it up in an online dictionary. Or take a picture and ask someone later when you have the chance.

  • In these larger places, there is usually a tourist office. Look for it and go ask for information. They will be happy to help you and you will be practicing and learning.  
  • It’s common for bars and cafes to have newspapers. Take advantage of the breakfast or break time to read a bit if you don’t have anyone to talk to. In addition to practicing reading, you will also be up-to-date on current events and learning about other issues. What topics are given more space in the newspaper? What type of news is more frequent? Are newspapers in your country the same or different?  
  • At the end of each day, write a little bit, in Spanish, of course, about how your day went. You don’t need to write a long text with long, elaborate paragraphs. You can start by simply writing down words or very short phrases, and you’ll notice how your writing will get better every day.   


In order to help you with this last part, I have created journals for the Camino. Actually, you can start using them even before arriving in Spain. You can plan your stages, write your packing list or your thoughts. You also have space to write every day during your Camino, as as after your journey, while you are still processing your experience.


There are two versions of the diary:

There is one for those who are going to do a longer journey. In this one, you have space to write up to 40 days.

And for those who are going to do a shorter journey, there is a shorter version of the diary where you have space to write up to 15 days.

Or, if you prefer a simple notebook, you can get a Camino-inspired one.


>> Looking for the podcast transcripts? Click here to find them.


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¡Buen Camino!

Fabi’s advice for the Camino

Fabi’s advice for the Camino

I had a new guest in the podcast. Fabi, who is also a Spanish teacher, walked his first Camino in 2017. In our conversation, Fabi shares his experience on the Camino Francés, as well as some lessons he learned the hard way. So, if you’re planning your first Camino, pay attention to Fabi’s advice.

You can listen to our conversation in Spanish:

Or, if you’re not up for it, you can read here an account of what he told me. In English.

In 2027, Fabi walked the five final stages of the Camino Francés, starting in Sarria and ending in Santiago de Compostela, with 2 friends. He soon discovered that he wasn’t wearing the right shoes and after only one hour into his first day, he got his first blister. Luckily, he had a second pair of shoes, and those were a better fit, so he was able to continue.

Although he had traveled to Sarria with 2 friends, Fabi decided to walk by himself on the second day, because he wanted that time to reflect and think about his life and the future. But something else happened that second day. Half way to Palas de Rei, it started raining very heavily. Fabi was prepared for the rain. But, when he got to Palas de Rei, he couldn’t find his accommodation; so he tried to find his way with the help of his phone… but the phone got wet in the rain and it stopped working after he arrived at his albergue. The next day, on his way to Arzúa, he stopped in Melide to buy a new phone. And what do lots of pilgrims do in Melide? That’s right, eat octopus. So, that’s what Fabi did. And he drank some cider too. That was his second breakfast!

The rest of the days were less eventful, but an enjoyable experience all the same. He met pilgrims from other parts of Spain along the way and it was exciting to arrive in Santiago and sit on the square, in front of the cathedral, to celebrate together that they had made it. After that, they continued the celebration with a mariscada, or big seafood meal.

In the future, Fabi would like to walk again, either a different route, or the Francés again but in reverse, towards France.

His advice for those planning their first Camino:

  • make sure you got the right shoes, comfortable and not new.
  • the right socks are quite important too.
  • use some gel or vaseline to prevent blisters and chafing.
  • pack light. You can wash your clothes every day after you finish walking, so you don’t need to carry loads.
  • be open to new people, new places and don’t be afraid to go on your own because you will soon meet others.

Here’s where you can find Fabi:

– His website

– His podcast

– His Youtube channel

– His Instagram account

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¡Buen Camino!

Gordon’s Camino

Gordon’s Camino

In this new podcast episode I talk to Gordon Chong, who joins me from Canada.

Gordon first heard about the Camino some 40 years ago while studying European history. He was interested in the struggles of pilgrims, soldiers, and Christians in Spain and other European countries, as well as the Gothic churches in Spain.

But he wasn’t able to experience the pilgrimage, the culture and history until last year, when he walked the last 100 kilometers from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. In the end, he enjoyed the rural life and natural surroundings more than the churches and history.

Gordon has been learning Spanish for a while and the Camino gave him the perfect opportunity to practice. Speaking Spanish helped him to interact more with locals, and stay away from more touristy places. However, he was surprised to find out how many Galicians speak gallego, and not Spanish, in their daily lives.

It took Gordon a few decades to make to to the Camino but, as it happens to many of us, he’s already planning his next one! No definite plans yet, but he would like to walk with a group of Spanish friends, so he can fully immerse in the language and the culture.

You can listen to the whole conversation here:

Would you like the transcript of this episode (and the previous 4 too)? You can now get them all for free here.

If you’d also like to participate in the podcast, I’ll be announcing how you can do it soon…

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Nancy Reynolds

A conversation with Nancy Reynolds

Nancy Reynolds is a very experienced pilgrim.

She walked her first Camino in 2005, when she was dealing with many important changes in her life (divorce, quitting her job, turning 40). She came back for a second Camino in 2007. Since then, she has walked twice a year, most years. Mainly the Camino Francés, her love, as she describes it.

Nancy hosts the You on the Camino de Santiago podcast and guides groups on the Camino Francés.

The podcast is unique in that its focus is those pilgrims who are preparing for their first Camino and are full of doubts and questions. In each episode, Nancy shares her expertise on all things Camino and she also talks to people who haven’t walked yet and get to ask her about any aspects of the pilgrimage that worries them.

In our conversation for the Spanish for the Camino podcast, Nancy shared 3 tips with us:

  • Don’t be in a hurry. Take it easy, especially on your first days; you can only walk your first Camino once.
  • Spend some time thinking why? Why do you want to walk the Camino? What are your motivations?
  • Always look back! Enjoy the view, breathe… and check you’re not leaving anything behind after you stop for a break.

Nancy has been able to use the Spanish she learned in school on her many Caminos. Her ability to speak Spanish has allowed her to connect with the local people, to be a part of their daily life.

Regarding this, she has another piece of advice. Something, actually, I keep saying to anyone who wants to listen: start your conversations with a greeting. Whether you’re looking for a bed in an albergue, buying something from a pharmacy or a supermaket, remember to greet people. This is much more important, if you want to be polite and respectful, than saying gracias and por favor many times.

Nancy also shares her secret, which works both for when she’s speaking Spanish and when she’s speaking English to a non-native speaker: keep it simple. Simple grammar, simple vocabulary. Makes communication much easier for both parts.

You can listen to the whole conversation, in Spanish, here: 



Don’t forget to check Nancy’s podcast, You on the Camino de Santiago.

And you can also find out more about her guiding services at The Camino Experience.


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¡Buen Camino!