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Bunk-beds. Blisters. Stunning landscapes. World-class snorers. Hot searing sun, freezing cold rain. Kindness from strangers. Debilitating injury. Unexpected romance. No toilet paper when you really need it. Profound grief and deep doubt. Hunger. Laughing with new friends. Total exhaustion. Total exhilaration.

Can a single film motivate you to experience all of this and more? Can one documentary inspire you to walk 500 miles?

“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” can.

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago is a 90 minute documentary which provides up-close look at the ancient spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James.

Following the journeys of six modern-day pilgrims as they walk 500 miles and cope with blisters, exhaustion, and loneliness along the way, this documentary successfully captures the universal themes of this physically challenging, spiritually nourishing, and profoundly enlightening journey, and offers a very realistic insight into what a traveler attempting the Camino should expect from the journey.

There are many routes to Santiago, and Walking the Camino focuses on the most well traveled: the Camino Francés, which begins in St. Jean Pied de Port and ends in Santiago de Compostela. This 500 mile long journey leads each pilgrim to Santiago and most importantly, it ultimately leads them to their true selves.

Camino de Santiago

Walking the Camino. Following the journeys of six modern-day pilgrims as they walk 500 miles.

Since the 9th century, millions of people, from spiritual seeking or devoutly religious pilgrims to adventure-driven travelers, have embarked on an epic pilgrimage across northern Spain that is known to be profoundly enlightening, spiritually nourishing, and physically challenging.

Today, several hundred thousand people a year walk the Camino de Santiago, a mostly unpaved path, with little more than a backpack and a pair of boots. Although originally known as a Christian pilgrimage, the Camino now attracts people of all faiths and backgrounds, from atheists to Buddhists, adventurers to mourners, and college students to retired friends.

The Camino is world-renowned; UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site and the Council of Europe declared it the first European Cultural Itinerary. Millions of people from all over the world have traveled this trail for over 1,000 years – in 2010 alone, over 270,000 people attempted the arduous trek – each one a seeker of something.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago.

Walking the Camino is a total immersion experience that captures the trials and tribulations associated with a group of modern pilgrims who decide to walk the Camino de Santiago. The cast of people featured in the film run the gamut of ages (from age 3 to 73), as well as nationalities, religious backgrounds and motivations for coming to the Camino.

Through the stories of these six pilgrims and the priests, hospitaleros, and others featured along the way, Walking the Camino presents universal themes that highlight the communal and individual components of the Camino de Santiago. Solitude and community are inseparably intertwined as pilgrims seek to redefine the way they live their lives, deepen their relationships with themselves, and rediscover their connection with the world in which they live and in doing so, pilgrims become more self-aware.

Out of that self-awareness inevitably emerges open-mindedness and selflessness as pilgrims, both in Walking the Camino and the thousands of others who have walked the journey, help each other through their trials and struggles to reach the finish line.

Camino de Santiago

Reaching the finish line. Camino de Santiago.

If you wish to walk the Camino, nothing else will prepare you better for your journey than from watching this film. It truly is a total immersion experience, and the documentary allows you to develop  a relationship with each pilgrim, experiencing the Camino with them as they complete their own individual journeys.

The film follows the whole journey from day 1, documenting each pilgrim as they complete the trail, and offering a tour of each beautiful city and township along the way. It records personal feelings and reflections along the way, and holds absolutely nothing back in terms of offering a realistic overview of the difficulty of the trail, capturing the physical and emotional toll it takes on each pilgrim, and unveiling the ugly truth about blisters, and the symphony of snoring in the hostels each night!

“In the bigger hotels, someone is always snoring” says Tomas Moreno from Portugal.

In many ways the journey is an internal Camino. The film is immensely personal, and offers an insight into the soul of each pilgrim as they travel to find their inner peace. It captures the exchanges with one other, the long silences and meditation, and successfully shows transcendent experiences amidst a backdrop of unbelievably spectacular views.

Camino de Santiago

Showcasing transcendent experiences amidst a backdrop of unbelievably spectacular views.

Throughout the film, each pilgrim is shown absolutely vulnerable and broken along the way, though this rare insight into their souls only makes their triumphs even more exhilarating to share in and witness.

Tomas Moreno is a carefree 30-ish Portuguese business professional who hits the Camino on a whim and discovers he’s almost completely unprepared for the physical rigors of the experience. Wayne Emde is a 65-year-old Canadian retiree, undertaking the trek to honor his recently deceased wife. He is accompanied by his friend Jack Greenhalgh, an Episcopal priest. American Annie O’Neill, a middle-aged Los Angeles resident, is attracted to the challenge for religious and personal reasons, only to learn that her own physical limitations throw completion of the Camino into recurring doubt.

Each character is likable and each is very real. Their triumphs are your triumphs, and their trials are yours too.

Camino de Santiago

Samatha Gilbert – a Brazilian woman in her thirties who was desperate for some force to turn her unhappy life around

Walking the Camino is the best way to prepare for this journey. It offers insight into the kind of meals to expect while on the trail, documents the arrival process of each new hotel, and offers rare insight into church services and local congregations along the way.

It will make you rethink what’s in your pack, documents the comradery between strangers on the walk, and the unwritten rule that “when you see someone in need on the Camino you help them”, is apparent throughout. The underlying message from the film is that the Camino is about the people you meet along the way.

Even though I came alone, it was like I came with two best friends” said Tomas Moreno.

Camino de Santiago

Tomás Moreno – one of 6 pilgrims who feature in the documentary.

The documentary is expertly produced and incredibly inspiring. In the spring of 2008, Lydia Smith (director) walked the Camino herself, and the effects is had on her were truly life-changing.

The star of the film, the Camino itself, is showcased with elegant cinematography that captures and depicts the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking vistas from the raindrops on leaves to the fields of grass, mist covered mountains, colorful sunsets and truly inviting local people and historic surroundings.

Smith truly does the Camino justice in this phenomenal documentary, and chances are after watching you’ll find yourself reaching for a pair of hiking boots to complete the journey yourself.

Download the Film

**If you live in Australia or New Zealand, the documentary will be playing in movie theaters this upcoming year, so you will be unable to stream or download the documentary from the film’s website.

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Meg Jerrard is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

    28 Comments

  1. Ah! Yes! This is right up my street! I’d not heard of this documentary before. However I have seen a film called The Way starring Martin Sheen. I’ll put in on my list of documentaries to watch!
    Nigel recently posted…Movie Review – WildMy Profile

    • Thought you would enjoy this one 😀 Loved “The Way” – I watched that with my aunt a few years ago and it’s actually what inspired me towards wanting to complete the Camino myself. Hope you enjoy the documentary!

  2. I know lots of Friends who have done it and the tales of sore feet, blisters and hard Stone benches for sleeping are just too much for me.The Camino de Santiago is something I don´t think I could do myself s I´ll be sticking to watching the film.
    Molly recently posted…History of Granada – The Old City Wall, AlbaicinMy Profile

    • Well you should at least be able to get a really great feel for the trail through watching the film – the journey it’self isn’t for everyone, but I hope you enjoyed the documentary all the same 🙂

    • I hope you do manage to make the Camino happen one day Mandy – I’m inspired to get out there and do it myself, it sounds like it would be a complete transcendent experience! Absolutely once in a lifetime – it’s not every day you get to walk 500 miles through Spain!

  3. Wow wow wow Meg! Love this review. Very well written, almost don’t need to watch the documentary. I remember when i first heard about the Camino I thought it was something I wanted to do. Then it began to dawn on me what that meant and I gave up the idea, though I still LIKE the idea. 🙂
    Penny Sadler recently posted…Top Tips For Driving Highway 1: Ultimate California Road TripMy Profile

    • Thanks Penny – so glad you enjoyed the review! I tried to make sure I didn’t miss anything while still not giving too much away lol 😀 Still highly recommend watching the documentary of course :D!

  4. This reminded me of The Way, starring Martin Sheen, which is still on my list to see. Now I have two Camino films to watch and then help me determine if this is something I want to do. When I was in northern Spain, we would spot Camino hikers in the towns we were visiting. Hopefully some day I can complete this hike, if not, thank you for sharing this review and link to the film.
    Kiera Reilly recently posted…Flashback: It’s Cold Outside!My Profile

    • I loved that film also! That’s the film which actually introduced me to the Camino in the first place 🙂 I absolutely recommend both films – sounds like a fun marathon!!

      I do hope you can organize some time to complete the journey yourself – but for the meantime the films will definitely put you there in spirit!

  5. “Can a single film motivate you to experience all of this and more? Can one documentary inspire you to walk 500 miles?”

    In my case, it can and it did! As a direct result of watching this film in January of 2014, I walked the Camino Francés in June/July 2014 and will return to Spain this summer to walk the Norte and Primitivo.

    Great review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this film that changed my life.
    Elissa recently posted…Walking the Camino: How Do I Get Started?My Profile

    • So glad to hear Elissa! And congrats on making the journey! Would love to read all about it – heading over to your blog now!

  6. My daughter has walked three different Caminos and I’ve thought about it – but done nothing about it yet. I do get inspiration from movies – between the visuals and listening to the stories, I think it’s a powerful way to get moving.
    Very nicely written.
    Leigh recently posted…Snowshoeing in Jasper: The Medicine Lake – Watchtower Canyon TourMy Profile

    • Absolutely – so fantastic to hear that your daughter has completed three. Perhaps you could join her in the future and make it a family journey.

      All the best Leigh 🙂

  7. I have long wanted to do this pilgrimage in Spain. It’s one of those on the bucket list items that I now feel the need to bump up higher on the list. Really looking forward to watching this, especially after hearing a fellow traveller thinks it’s up to snuff.

    • You and I both – and why I love this documentary so much is because it really does give you a sense of what it would be like to actually make the journey yourself, as opposed to feature films which often glamorize or gloss over the facts 🙂

      Enjoy the film!

    • Sounds like you’re situated in the perfect position to make it happen after your house-sit ends!

      Happy trails!

    • Absolutely – though I have actually heard of the Gran Canaria one and that too looks amazing – let me know if you would like to complete an interview on your experience!

  8. I have never been to Spain. It’s on my bucket list and this adventure would be a dream too! I am not sure if I have the stamina to do it, but I love the concept and having a goal that is physical and spiritual at the same time.
    Great video!
    Cheers,
    Priscilla
    Priscilla Pilon recently posted…A Non-Tourist Walk in Paris 16th ArrondissementMy Profile

    • So glad to hear you enjoyed the review Priscilla – I’m sure you would probably actually surprise yourself re having the stamina for the walk. I think perhaps this is one of those which requires more will power than physical fitness.

      Wishing you all the best – I do hope you have the opportunity to visit Spain soon 🙂

  9. Great review Megan, I’ve been to spain many times but never this region. I love watching travel documentaries like this, it’s refreshing to see the trials and tribulations that others go through on their journeys.

    • Thanks Paul, so glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I hope you do download the film, it’s such a fantastic documentary, and as you said, it’s refreshing to see others complete the journey themselves.

  10. Looks like an awesome documentary! The only other film I’m aware of that covers the Camino at any great length is “The Way” with Martin Sheen…and not going to lie, it was a little melodramatic for my liking 😉 Definitely adding this to my “To Watch” list!
    Molly @ Molly On the Move recently posted…Of surfers and seagulls: Laguna Beach.My Profile

    • It really is! Love the Way as well, but totally agree that that specific film was a little more Hollywood than perhaps the trail truly is. Which is why I love “Six Ways to Santiago” because it’s actually very realistic and doesn’t gloss over or glamorize anything for the camera 🙂

  11. HI Everyone,

    Just wanted to let you know that Umbrella Entertainment is releasing this documentary in Australia from 11th June.
    After you watch the film you can also enter the competition to win a trip to Spain and walk the camino.
    More details at http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/movie/walking-the-camino/

    • Looking forward to it! Thanks for the info Achala 🙂

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