Part 1 - The preparations
It takes a lot to willingly pack your bags and leave the comfortable situation at home to go on a trip packed with challenges, sore feet and hundreds of kilometers of distance to cover. But that is exactly what the brothers, Mads and Mikal, are doing when they leave home to walk the Camino. Their route starts in Saint Jean Pied and ends in Santiago, Spain. You can follow their journey on the Instagram profile.
Mads & Mikal
The two brothers grew up in Nyborg, Denmark. Actually, they have a third brother, but he is busy with work and school and is not so interested in getting sore feet.
Mads (to the left), is 23 years old and works in sales. In the summer of 2021, he decided to make some changes in his life, to find out what his dream for the future is. It ended with a great desire to walk the Camino - at first on his own. The trip was planned, and he had quit his job. After half a year of weight loss and training, he was 19 kg lighter and ready to take on the challenge.
Mikal (to the right) is 30 years old, lives in Copenhagen, and works in the creative industry as a director - especially within the musical genre. He has a background in the military, so his experience with heavy backpacks and sore feet is significantly bigger than his brother's. However, this will be his first hike in a foreign country - but definitely not the last. The brothers have already planned the next one, which will take place in Scotland next year.
Another thing the brothers have in common is that they are both in committed relationships. The emotional challenge of being away from home for such a long time will probably be as big a factor as the physical. Therefore, the brothers are happy to have each other to share the experience.
The motivation behind the trip
For Mads, the trip is a break from his everyday life - a social one with challenges and a lot of impressions to react to. At the same time, it is an opportunity to let his thoughts flow freely and think about the future and past.
For Mikal, the trip is also a much-needed break from the busy freelancer life, and he sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get away from it all, and at the same time spend quality time with his brother. Mikal has just turned 30 years old, which for him calls for a status update on his past, present, and future.
Mads is an active person, and his 10.000 steps a day comes naturally. But in order to be 100% ready for the trip he sought professional help in the fall of 2021. The focus was to build a healthier lifestyle and get in shape, which is important to walk the Camino. They also needed to find the right equipment and test it around the town. It is important to know what equipment works and is right for your needs - before you leave the country.
Mikal already has a lot of equipment, but naturally, he needed to upgrade a couple of places. He spent a lot of time researching what the Camino calls for in terms of equipment. He has upgraded his wardrobe, where merino wool plays an important role. In his words, it is the only thing that works, when you need to pack light and be away for so long. So, with a backpack filled with equipment, the brothers are starting to feel more and more ready to take on the challenge.
Another thing you need to do before leaving for the Camino is to choose your route. There are a lot of different distances and ways to do it, but the choice landed on the route “Camino Francés”. This is the classic route, at approximately 780 km, which will take around 35-40 days. The route is known for its beauty, and its high amount of different impressions, challenges, and experiences - so you can get the full Camino experience.
The brothers are very laissez-faire about the trip. Actually, there isn't a big plan at all. The route is marked clearly and there are plenty of housing opportunities along the way. The plan is to just live in the different hostels they come across.
They have set aside 5 weeks for the walk, which means that they on average need to walk 25 km per day. They also want to have time for the unknown and let the adventure unfold day by day. When you research the Camino walk, there are two things that they have come across on several occasions:
- Don't overthink it - just go!
- Don't worry - the Camino will provide!
So, even though the equipment and route are under control, the overall belief is that everything will be fine as long as they have each other. And generally - less is more, everything will sort itself out along the way.
When they return, daily life continues but the next adventure is always right around the corner..
Part 2 - Experiences from the Camino
The signs along the route now show less than 100 kilometers to Santiago, and we have been on the road continuously for 29 days. Time has flown by and is still flying fast.
"Rest days" and long distances means that the people we met in the beginning, are either stages behind, or in front. It places us among new people, new groups and new conversations all the time.
We enjoy the silence as well as the conversations we have along the way, and we both think that it is going really well! The Camino really has a lot to offer, both as a hiking destination and as a pilgrimage, whether your motivation to do it is religious or spiritual, or personally founded. We are in another world. Of people who, like us, have decided to "walk the Camino". People with the same goal of reaching Santiago because… because…
Everyone’s here for a reason. And with some thought about the significance of the journey. Physical and human.
We feel very grateful and privileged - both for each other, but also for the lives we have left at home, whom we miss and we look forward to being reunited with in a week. Physically we are also lucky, or at least in profit - we generally sleep well and we feel strong. Our basic form was good when we left, but has only gotten better.
When it is tough it is also where we can feel that we are alive. Some days are really tough and it does not necessarily have to be the days with long distances and high rises in altitude. Joints and muscles (feet!), and the whole corpse is gradually going tender. So how we rest after a day's walk has only become more and more important as the trip has progressed. We try to get 2-4 hours of rest/recovery every afternoon before dinner. That works really well, and makes us ready the next day with new energy.
But the crucial element is the surroundings. We enjoy being in nature and talking about the development we have seen from the first stage in Roncesvalles close to the French / Spanish border, through the flat Meseta and to now, where we again move around between mountains and almost untouched nature. It is so beautiful. And it can be hard for the eyes to understand some of the spectacular sceneries we see.
When it comes to our gear and attire - we are really satisfied! We have tried to think about whether we are missing something or whether we have overpacked. We have plenty of blister patches with us at least, but other than that, we think we have hit close to perfect! We do not really have anything with us which we have not used regularly, nor have we lacked anything.
Our clothing is top notch! We just have to say that. Wool is gold and it is invaluable to put clothes on every morning, which we know for sure will fit today's challenges no matter what it is. The wool does not smell, it regulates the temperature and then it is just comfortable to wear - and it looks good.
In addition to our wool, we have a shell set, consisting of a jacket and trousers that can be used in both cold and warm weather as it is light and breathable, it is also what works as our rainwear.
Now there is less than a week left. And that's weird. It is strange that this has now been our nomadic life for a month, our world, and now it is going to end abruptly. And we are going home to reality.
We look forward to enjoying the last days with sore feet, to the final stages with views we will never forget, and to the final Camino talks. It really has been an adventure. And something very special to share with each other.
Part 3 - Returning back home
It is now 5 months since we stood on the square in front of Santiago De Compostella. After 800km across Spain, and new acquaintances across countries, it has become everyday life again.
For Mads, it means back to retail and the next step up the career ladder.
You forget how easy it is to live in a backpack and how you appreciated even a semi-poor mattress in a hostel after 30km of walking. I wonder what James and Grant are up to, our two Australian friends. I wonder if they're getting on with their house building?
Equipment like trekking poles and camel bags have gone up in the attic for a while, but the clothing is still in the closet, and is used extensively in everyday life. NOW that was nice to wear!
It's with a smile on my face every time I scroll back through the camera roll or log onto our shared Instagram profile from the trip. The memories come back quickly and you remember both the breakfasts and the route and the final destination of the day. What a wild experience it was!
It’s hard to say if you'll use your experience from the Camino in your everyday life. But one step at a time, and the belief that you will finish every day, is a mindset that can be trained in many ways, and a mindset you use in many ways in your daily life. A healthy exercise for body and soul that we would not be without.
For Mikal, getting back home again meant that he started a new job straight away, a few days later. Time has flown and the new job has demanded all his time, focus and presence.
Coffee breaks have been frequently filled, with thoughts like "if only I could get on a plane and go again....." followed by a deep breath, and memories of the simple life on the Camino. Where you just were “alone", with yourself and your thoughts, feet and body, and could really enjoy the little things.
These thoughts often turned into dreams of another walk. Mikal likes to say that he could go again right away. Especially now, knowing what to expect. Maybe it will be another Camino, another route, in a few years. For example, the Camino Porto, the somewhat shorter trip, from Porto in Portugal and then north to Santiago - a trip of about 10 days.
"When I - in my head - pack my backpack for the next trip, it is with a different enthusiasm and focus, and now also with a different insight and experience in terms of needs. So I revel in the thought of "how little" I need to bring, how simple I can make it. With the right clothes and the right gear, you really don't need much. Other than to get going."
The Camino will forever be a memory of ultimate freedom, simple living, and peace of mind and body. Time stands still on the Camino. If you allow it. The Camino has been the ultimate break from everyday life - the ultimate break from the rush of everyday life. And also a reminder that you can do much more than you think.
The next walking adventure hasn't taken shape yet, but it undoubtedly will. In Denmark. Spain. Scotland. Iceland. Or even further afield. One thing is for sure - it will be with LOOW on our body and with LOOW in our backpack!
Mads & Mikal