A Conversation with Leigh

A Conversation with Leigh

A Conversation with Leigh |

The Camino de Santiago helped Leigh find new meaning in her life after a painful and difficult period. In the past year, she has co-founded The Camino Café, which serves the Camino de Santiago community with video interviews, podcasts, virtual happy hours… and Spanish lessons, among other things.

In this conversation, we’ll find out how the Camino has transformed Leigh’s life.


Please tell us a bit about yourself

Leigh Brennan

Hello, my name is Leigh Brennan. I currently live on Bainbridge Island in Washington. I am a Mom to an amazing 21 year old Daughter, Kiley, currently at University for Architecture and to a cute new Labradoodle puppy, Cooper. By vocation, I am a yoga teacher, a co-founder of Sacred Compass Journeys, a Yoga + Camino retreat company, and co-founder of The Camino Cafe Podcast, Zoomcast, and Facebook Community. In my spare time I love to walk, practice yoga, learn about the Camino, and interview Camino Pilgrims. 

When did you first hear about the Camino de Santiago? When or why did you decide to do it?

I first heard about the Camino several years ago while watching the Movie, The Way. A few years later, someone I knew went on a Camino Pilgrimage and when she returned, I was inspired by her transformation. I thought it would be something I would do many years from now during retirement with my husband. However, an unexpected divorce led me to take the Pilgrimage in 2019 to begin the process of healing my broken heart. 

How was your experience on the Camino? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

I am so grateful that I went on a Camino Pilgrimage. I walked in the Fall of 2019 with a group of women I just met who were walking to help process various life challenges. Our group was led by a therapist which very positively added to our experience. Although we went as a group, I walked solo most days with an hour or so mixed in walking with folks in my group and/or with Pilgrims I met along the way.

The Camino helped me find new meaning in my life again and helped me to see that I could still experience moments of joy despite the breakup of my long-term relationship. Upon my return, I decided to focus my life and work around the Camino. I plan to move to Spain once the world normalizes. 

The first anecdote I want to share is the advice a fellow Pilgrim gave me on day one.  He told me to keep in mind that “the Camino doesn’t give you what you want. It gives you what you need.” This advice helped me to let go of my expectations and to open up to what unfolded during my Pilgrimage. In the end, he was correct. The Camino provided me way more than I could have even dreamed. 

Conversation with Leigh

Another anecdote is one that a veteran Pilgrim and Albergue owner gave me a few days before arriving in Santiago. He told me that the “The Camino doesn’t end in Santiago, it begins.” I didn’t understand this quote until I got home. He was so accurate. My Camino has continued far beyond Santiago in so many ways. I consider myself a lifelong Pilgrim now and I can’t wait to walk again. 

You have plans to go back to the Camino…

Yes, I hope to walk the Camino Francés with my best friend and business partner in Fall 2021 and the Portuguese in Spring 2022 with my Dad, as well as, co-lead several Yoga + Camino tours for small groups in 2022. 

Conversation with Leigh

 Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think it had any impact on your experience? 

No, I did not learn any Spanish beforehand and once I arrived, I felt very inept by not knowing Spanish. On the first day meeting-up with my group, I was involved in trying to coordinate transportation to get us to our starting point. I greatly frustrated a busy cafe owner trying to get help with arranging a taxi. It was a powerful lesson.  I felt bad for not showing more respect by learning some Spanish before my Pilgrimage.

I found that in the smaller villages, very few people spoke English and even in the larger cities, I found it difficult ordering meals and communicating with albergue owners in several instances. I knew when I came back to the US that I needed to improve my Spanish speaking skills before returning.  I am so happy that I am now studying with Maria to help me in this endeavor.

Any words or phrases you wish you had known?

I wish I had known how to read menus and place orders more proficiently. Other things that would have been useful:

I want… – Quería…

I need… – Necesito…  (for items at the albergue like towels, etc check El albergue & La mochila).

Where can I buy/get… – ¿Dónde puedo comprar / conseguir…? 

What time do you open/close? – ¿A qué hora abren / cierran?

Would you help me get a taxi? – ¿Me puede ayudar a llamar un taxi?

Where is the train/bus station? – ¿Dónde está la estación de tren / de autobuses?

Do you have any yoga mats we can borrow? – ¿Tiene alguna esterilla de yoga que me pueda prestar?

Is there a space here where we can practice yoga? – ¿Hay algún sitio donde podamos hacer yoga?

May I get the bill/check? – ¿Me trae la cuenta, por favor?

May I get a diet coke with lemon and ice? – ¿Me pone una Coca cola light con limón y hielo?

What is your local wine/beer/cheese? – ¿Cuál es el vino / la cerveza / el queso local?

The Camino Café is on Youtube as well as on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can also follow Leigh on Instagram and don’t forget to check Sacred Compass Journeys too.


Today’s Spanish words & phrases

¿Dónde está la estación de tren / de autobuses?


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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Julia

A conversation with Julia

This week I’ve been chatting to Julia, a German pilgrim who walked the Camino Francés after she finished college. Read the whole conversation to find out how the Camino changed her life.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Julia, I am 35 years old and I am from Northern Germany. I’ve been living in Spain now for four years in a small town called Oliva, which is on the eastern coast, with my husband and our two children. I am a German teacher and I run an online language agency: www.milengua.com

When did you first hear about the Camino and why did you decide to do it?

I’ve always been up to traveling and especially to hiking and trekking. After finishing my university degree in German Philology I decided to go on a trip on my own and among all the different long distance trekking roads I chose the Camino de Santiago as it seemed to me physically not too difficult but very interesting. Besides, I wanted to get to know Spain, where I hadn’t been before. Also, I had a friend who did a part of the Camino and he highly recommended it.


Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

Basically, I got prepared by hiking on every possible occasion. Moreover, I was into running and biking at this time so I found myself in physically good condition. Mentally?  I don’t know. I had a book with the single legs of the way. But to be honest, I just started the journey without thinking too much about it. I was just excited about being outside everyday and walking as far as I could.


Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience?

It was certainly one of my best experiences ever. I met a lot of wonderful people and even though you only shared a couple of days together until each one went on at her or his speed, it felt always like a lifetime. You get to know people that deeply in an incredible short time and I remember almost all of them now 5 years later.

Another deep impression that I will bear forever is the feeling of freedom and peace of mind. You only have to walk. That’s your only mission for several weeks. Enjoying the simplicity of life and the beauty of nature made me feel really “light”.


How did it change your life? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My anecdote is a romantic one: I met my future husband here, to be precise, in Molinaseca near Ponferrada. From there we went the remaining way together to Santiago and later to Fisterra, where we separated. More than 2 weeks together on the Camino, that’s like 2 years in real time. We stayed in contact ever since but it took us 18 month until we met again. Soon after that I decided to move to Spain  – and I stayed.


Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Did that have any impact on your Camino?

Actually I didn’t know any Spanish before. I learned quickly how to order breakfast, to ask for free beds and to wish a “buen camino”. But it was actually a pity not to be able to talk to the locals. One time I met an older man walking with his dog and as we went the same way for quite a while, we started a conversation. He didn’t speak English so we communicated with gestures, by pointing at things; he showed me photos he had in his wallet and we drew in the sand with sticks we found.  I wished we really could talk as he seemed to be a very interesting person.

Without any Spanish you stay mainly with other pilgrims but you will miss the option to talk with the locals which is basically an important aspect if you want to get to know a country for real.  Another point is the medical assistance, if needed. Whether it’s at a doctors or just in the pharmacy: Some basic vocabulary to explain what’s your problem is more than helpful.



Julia’s words

I usually ask my guests to pick 5-10 Spanish words or phrases: the ones they think every pilgrim should know before their Camino, the ones they knew, the ones they learnt… Julia chose what she learnt on the Camino,  mainly food orders and one phrase that the Spanish pilgrims liked to say when they had wine for dinner: El vino te pone fino, peregrino.
I must confess I’d never heard this phrase before and it can be interpreted in several ways, as it plays on the meanings of the word fino, as well as a couple of expressions that contain it. It could simply mean that wine makes you drunk. But it could also mean that wines makes you wittier!
If you would like to know more about either the menú del día or menú peregrino, check this post.
The word cigüeña means stork and Julia learnt it because she was surprised at how many of these birds she saw while on the Camino. According to her, there are not many storks left in Germany.

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with David

A conversation with David

A conversation with David |

Less than ten years ago David had not heard about the Camino. Now he’s planning for his 5th. And that’s not his only connection to the Camino. If you’re curious about David’s story, read our conversation!


Please tell us a bit about yourself

My name is David and I’m from Dublin, Ireland. I love to write, and I have been keeping my own blog ClearskiesCamino.com for over 6 years. I also love the outdoors and have recently taken up photography. I love trying new things, and new gadgets!


When did you first hear about the Camino? When or why did you decide to do it?

I heard about the Camino de Santiago by pure accident! I hope your readers believe in fate. In late 2010, I was handed a leaflet with the words “Walk the Camino” framed across the top. I thought to myself, “this will be a great challenge” and I instantly registered. I raised €3000 for a mental health charity in Ireland and on the 6th of June 2011, we would start our Camino from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela on the  – the final stretch!

At the time, walking 10 kilometres was a struggle for me so walking 15 kilometres, 4 or 5 days in a row would really test me. But it was achievable. I also wanted to see another part of the world, to see the culture, to hear the language and see how people tick. All in all, it was an enjoyable week, despite the blisters.

We had a guide, a great guy from Australia who got us around. He had the Spanish even though I had a few simple phrases to get me by like Gracias, ¿Qué tal?Buenos días and of course ¿Dónde está?

I loved Santiago and was blown away when I arrived under the archway into the Praza do Obradoiro– it’s not something you see every day. I have my Compostela framed in my apartment in Dublin and I will treasure it.


You’ve done several Caminos after that. What is it about the Camino that makes you want to come back?

On return to Dublin, I felt that this was my one and only Camino experience and it was time to experience something else. I would return to work the following Monday and life would go on. It wasn’t until later in the year, however, when I received an email from the Australian guide checking up on me, just to see how I was.

At this stage, the Camino was just a memory but over the course of a week, a simple hello had changed my mind. I suppose if it wasn’t for his email I wouldn’t be where I am today, who knows?

Over the last 6 years, I have walked various parts of the Camino Francés and more recently I have walked from A Guarda to Santiago with my brother on the Portuguese Coastal Route.

I find the Camino is a great way to get away from strains of modern daylife. You can experience simplicity in all its forms – get up in the morning, carry all your belongings, just walk, and rest when you are tired. It’s as simple as that.

But the people you meet make it for me, and it is so easy to meet lifelong friends here. I also like the idea that I walk in the footsteps of thousands of people before me. I am walking from A Coruña in May – a route taken by pilgrims from Ireland in medieval times (for more info on this route: Camino Inglés).


How have your experiences been so far?

I have had very positive experiences so far, but with all things in life you learn as you go on. On my first Camino, I was badly prepared and suffered with blisters but over the years, you learn how to treat them and buy the suitable equipment. My Camino from León to Sarria in 2012 was much more enjoyable I found.


Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

On my Camino from Logroño to León in 2013, I met a large Camino family and we still keep in touch. There is one story that strikes a chord to this day and it is from May 2015. I was walking from Belorado in La Rioja to Molinaseca, just short of Ponferrada and had met a good bunch of pilgrims, from Ireland, Belgium, Holland and England.

We had reached Sahagún and I had run out of money before checking in at the albergue. I went to the ATM to get some more. An error message appeared. My heart sank. I asked the bank teller inside: “¿Hablas inglés?” “Yes”. OK. So there was a problem with the card. Now what…?

Hmm! I walked back to the albergue where the rest of the gang were. I explained my predicament and they said not to worry. The offer was there to pay for any expenses until I got fixed up. Three evenings later in León, I had money wired to me via Western Union. The Camino provides! I have always been grateful for my peregrino friends.


Walking the Camino is not your only connection to the pilgrimage to Santiago. Tell us about Camino Society Ireland and Shamrocks and Shells.

That’s correct. As I mentioned above, I have been writing since 2012 at ClearskiesCamino.com about my experiences on the Camino. I love writing and giving people hints and tips about how to prepare for their Caminos. In 2015, I became a member of Camino Society Ireland as a way of giving back and more recently, I started to volunteer. I just thought it was the next step after walking my 4thCamino and planning for my 5th.

Camino Society Ireland offers an opportunity to all those interested in the Camino to meet and share practical information and experiences. We meet for monthly walks throughout Ireland as preparation for a Camino and in the past, there have been talks, films nights and Information days for those who are preparing.

Shamrocks and Shells is Camino Society Ireland’s quarterly newsletter. Its first issue was published in Spring 2018. It was designed with the intention of publishing stories from pilgrims, news from Santiago and the Camino and practical advice on equipment. The great thing is when I normally come home from a Camino, I am always talking about life on the Camino, much to the bemusement of my family. So, if it is easy to talk about it, then it should be easy to write about. We are also looking to introduce more articles en español.

Our newsletter can be found at shamrocksandshells.wordpress.com.

Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think knowing (or not) Spanish had any impact on your Camino?

Yes, I tried Duolingo and several podcasts. I had some vocabulary, but it was difficult to use these in conversation. That said, I still use Duolingo today and find it useful.

My knowledge of Spanish prior to my first Camino was limited, however I found myself more switched on while in Spain. I remember routinely asking the guide what various items meant in English. I suppose I would have enjoyed it more if I was able to talk to the local Spanish people. By just saying Hola and Gracias, I felt a disconnect.

However, now that my level of vocabulary has improved through the years, I feel a lot more confident being on the Camino.

David’s words

Conversation with David

I asked David to pick a few Spanish words that she thought you should all know before you start your Camino and this is his list:

Sello: stamp (the ones on letters and on your credencial).

Credencial: Pilgrim Passport

Compostela: the certificate you can get if you walk the last 100km of any Camino

Shops and useful questions

¿Dónde está…?: where is…?

…el albergue: hostel

…la tienda: store

…el supermercado: supermarket

…la panadería: bakery

…la pastelería: cake shop

…el cajero automático: cash machine (ATM)

…la farmacia: chemist

 Lo siento, no sé: I’m sorry, I don’t know

Si, hablo un poquito de español: Yes, I speak a little bit of Spanish.

Perdón: Pardon / Excuse me

¿De dónde eres?: Where are you from? – Great way to meet people

¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does it cost?

Comida: food

Patatas bravas:  Fried potatoes with a spicy sauce

Jamón: ham

Pescado: fish

Pulpo a la Gallega: boiled octopus (with salt, paprika and olive oil; and served with boiled potatoes)

Chorizo: cured smoked sausage

Paella: rice with seafood and/or chicken

Tortilla española: Spanish omelette (with eggs, potatoes and, in most cases, onion)

La cuenta, por favor: asking for the bill.


Today’s Spanish words & phrases

About David

David Smith

My name is David, I live in Dublin and I am a pilgrim. I started to blog way back in 2008 writing about many different things, but in 2011, I discovered the Camino de Santiago. Since then, I return to the north of Spain to walk a part of this amazing trail, to take in its culture, to meet people and of course, give my spirit some food for thought.

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage but, in my eyes, it is also a challenge, a way of meeting people and a great way of getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life.

I love writing and talking about the various Caminos to Santiago and if you are one of the many people who has walked these routes, you may well feel the same. I also write and edit the Camino Society Ireland’s newsletter Shamrocks and Shells.

You can find me on Instagram @clearskiescamino also and I use this account the most while on Camino.


Make sure you don’t miss any posts by subscribing for free here. That way, when a new post is out, you will get it in your inbox. And… you get access to some exclusive content too.



¡Buen Camino!