Good boots and a good attitude are required, but anyone of any age can walk the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims of all nationalities, religions, physical conditions and ages leave their worldly concerns behind and walk the Path of St. James across northern Spain. Generally, young people under sixteen are not walking, but there is no upper age limitation. Personally, I celebrated my 55th and 63rd birthdays on the Camino. There were many pilgrims older than that encountered throughout the journey. Additionally, the majority of walkers confess that they did no prior training before beginning their trek.
The terrain over the main route is varied. Beginning with the decent of the Pyrenees Mountains, you will trek over the undulating central meseta (tableland) full of wheat fields and vineyards, wind through the Leon Mountains with incredible vistas, abandoned villages and wild goats before entering lush green Galicia. As you travel from village to village, the route is well marked with yellow arrows painted on rocks, trees and buildings in addition to signposts with stylized shell symbols and distances.
With the pilgrim’s credentials you receive at the beginning of your journey, you have admission to the alburgue hostels where you can shower, do laundry, sleep and sometimes even cook. You carry everything you need in your backpack. One of the best tips is to travel with a little weigh as possible. Life is simple on the Camino. Walk, eat and sleep. Get up and do it again. Between dawn and dusk, there is the road.
You can walk a few miles a day or as far as your feet will carry you. After a few weeks on the Camino, you will find that your strength increases, your blisters heal and your endurance builds. Unenlightened pilgrims boast of the miles covered that day, rather than what they had seen. The Camino is a journey, not a race. There are no set deadlines or pace. It is your pilgrimage. If you want to linger over a meal, take photographs, visit a church, play dominos with the locals, or spend an extra day in a special location, just take your time and make the trip meaningful to you. One graffiti alone the way said, “the best speed is your speed.”
Pilgrims may ask what country you are from or where you started the walk; however, they almost never ask how old you are, what you do for a living, what your financial status is or other superficial irrelevant questions. Being a pilgrim walking the Camino is a great equalizer. What matters is whether you carry your own load, have a positive friendly attitude, do not complain or harass, respect the environment and communities you are passing through, help other pilgrims when needed and are a kind compassionate person. There is a lot of camaraderie among pilgrims, as though you are all sharing a great secret of life.
Be prepared, the Camino will push your to your physical, spiritual and psychological limits—then nudge you a few steps further. Being a pilgrim broadens the mind and raises the spirits. If you are thinking it might be impossible to walk the Camino at your age, forget it. The world needs more people who specialize in the impossible. Grab your pack and boots and let’s go!