A California walking route that connects the historic missions and the towns and cities along the Camino Real – now that sounds exciting!

I’m one of those people who is seriously addicted to long-distance walking. I came to it kind of late – I was already in my 50’s when I completed the Bruce Trail in southern Ontario, a 900-km footpath running along the Niagara Escarpment. I loved that experience so much I flew to Spain and started another long walk, this time along the famous Camino de Santiago. And, no sooner was I home than I knew I needed to do it all over again, which I did 20 months later. 

There are people who think of me as crazy. Why would I walk for days on end when I can drive, or fly, and see so much more? Why would I tire myself out when I could spend my vacation relaxing on a beach somewhere? Well, I’ve tried the other forms of travel, too, and I know they have their place but I have to say there is something very special about doing it on foot. Walking for me is slow travel, slowed right down to its most basic form. It continues to amaze me that, one step after the next after the next, I actually cover very long distances, much longer than I could have imagined. What’s better, compared to other forms of travel, walking affords me a much deeper connection to the landscape and the villages and fields I journey through. 

There’s so much more I could say, about the joy of being outside day after day. About experiencing morning sunrises, or the nip in the air at the beginning of the day followed by the warmth of the midday sun. Or the pelting of rain on my poncho and how it draws me into places inside myself that I normally don’t connect with. About the physicality of this kind of walking, about being totally inside my body, feeling its strength as well as its aches and being filled with wonderment at its ability to heal itself night after night. Of the friends I make as we fall into step together, and of the times of solitude where it’s just me, discovering stillness and finding peace within.

    It’s a magical thing, this walking. I am so grateful that I have discovered something so basic and accessible, and at the same time so wonderful.

Magdalena Vanderkooy