• April 17, 2015

Walking to Find the Way

Alexa Keefe

Michael George was just out of college and unsure what to do next when he first walked the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way. The route winding through the countryside of France and Spain has called to many thousands of people over hundreds of years—at first Christians on the way to see the enshrined remains of St. James at the route’s end in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and increasingly, people like George who are looking for a quiet place for reflection and soul-searching.

A pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago
Benedicte from Denmark outside Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
Photograph by Michael George

George Instragrammed along the way, sharing stories of his travels with friends and a growing audience of followers. Their enthusiastic response convinced him he had the beginnings of a documentary project.

Thomas, a young shepherd from the Pyrenées
Photograph by Michael George

He returned to walk again a year later, this time to meet and interact with as many people as he could, turning their experiences, and his own, into a window on the unique culture of the Camino. He took his journey further, beyond Santiago de Compostela to the westernmost part of Spain on the Camino de Finisterre, a place once thought of as the end of the Earth. The people and places he encountered became a multimedia narrative of journal entries, pictures, and sound, one chapter for each of the five legs of the journey.

A room for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago
George’s room in Saint-Georges Seminary in Le-Puy-en-Velay, France
Photograph by Michael George

George describes the Camino as a place where traditional barriers like culture, age, and socioeconomic status don’t matter, where you can walk or share a meal with someone of a totally different generation, where people share of themselves. In short, everything that makes us human, says George. That includes, of course, the physical challenge of carrying a 50-pound pack 10, 15, or 20 miles a day, with blistered feet, sunburn, and the occasional bedbug.

A pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago
Sean from Tallahassee in Hospital del Órbigo, Spain
Photograph by Michael George

George still keeps in touch with some of his fellow pilgrims, and often gets emails from people who see his photos and want advice about walking themselves. As for George, “I am going to do it every decade of my life.”

A selection of foods eaten on the Camino de Santiago
“On my last day on the Camino I made a little universe of the foods you most often eat on the Camino,” writes George. Photograph by Michael George

Michael George will be answering questions about walking the Camino on the National Geographic magazine Facebook page on Friday, June 19 at 12 p.m. EDT. Tune in and join the conversation!


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There are 52 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Dee
    July 20, 2015


  2. sat
    July 11, 2015

    i wish to find the photography

  3. sdorttuiiplmnr
    June 24, 2015

    Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is amazing, nice written and include almost all vital infos. I’d like to see more posts like this.

  4. Shari Posey
    June 19, 2015

    Lovely video. The only thing I disagree with is that coming home and taking a long walk is not a substitute for the Camino. We got back home 2 weeks ago and miss the Camino and all the friends we met. Walking at home is nothing like the real thing, in fact, it’s harder to find satisfaction walking at home after such a great experience.

  5. arvind
    June 10, 2015

    Nice gallery for photography lover people.

  6. Bruce Nichols
    June 3, 2015

    Loved the video by Michael George. My Camino in 2004. From St. Jean Pied de Port to Finisterre in 28 days. April/May. Holy Year. If I go back, I’ll go slower.

  7. Julianne Ziefle
    May 18, 2015

    I have a friend who did this last year. He’s in his 60’s. Next year he has a map planned out to walk from London to Rome. I am thinking and walking on a treadmill as I contemplate a walk of my own.

  8. Tracy Aron
    May 2, 2015

    I am addicted to the Camino! Planning my third for spring 2016 beginning in Sevilla, Via La Plata.
    Walked Camino Frances in 2012,
    El Norte in 2014. I’m on the every other year plan 😉

  9. Isabel Dagg
    May 2, 2015

    Great article. Six years ago, my sister, my cousin and myself walked from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. We were in our mid-sixties and first time ever carrying are own back-packs. The walk was absolutely wonderful. Met so many people of different ages, backgrounds, some on bikes and even a few on horses. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

  10. Jan Harkness
    May 1, 2015

    We are currently on the Camino, eating breakfast in Sarria. We began our journey 33 days ago in St. Jean Pied de Port. We experience a profound appreciation for the antiquity -buildings that 800-900 years old, still being used with varying degrees of restoration. Lifestyles we observe carry the same sense of history and continuity. For people of a country as young as ours (United States), the wisdom of age is enriching.

  11. Rod Ismay
    April 30, 2015

    I’m 68 and this looks wonderful. I walk with a cane so I don’t know if I could do it, but love reading about it and seeing pictures. Thanks

  12. Marlys
    April 30, 2015

    I will be flying to Paris on May 22 and then spend a few days at Lourdes. I will then start my Camino from St. Jean on May 26! – I am looking forward to this soul-searching journey!

  13. adam
    April 30, 2015

    kolejne piękne miejsce na naszj ziemi …

  14. Stephen Mason
    April 28, 2015

    I love reading about other’s Camino journey. Mine started on 9/15/15 in France and ended on 10/22/15 in Santiago. Met wonderful people along The Way and still keep in contact with a handful. Several people in our group are doing it again this fall and I and my wife will meet up again, as I’m taking her on a driving tour of the Camino, as she wasn’t physically able to accompany me last fall. I did blog everyday and if interested go to: http://www.abundantway.wordpress.com to read about my Camino walk. I turned my blog into a book for my kids and grandkids. It’s a great legacy to pass on to the next generation. Best,

  15. Canyon Williams
    April 28, 2015

    Man, someday I’d like to walk The Camino. Canyon

  16. Joan effertz
    April 27, 2015

    Last Aug., 2014 I walked the Camino starting on Porto, Portugal , arriving in Santiago on the 14th. There were record numbers of peragrinos . As I queued up to receive my certificate I gazed around me at my fellow travelers and was profoundly moved.

  17. Maureen
    April 27, 2015

    I am flying to Paris on May 11th, spending two nights then taking the train to the start of the Camino Frances. I plan on walking the entire route, I have always wanted to do this, and the opportunity has come this year. I think it’s going to be life changing! Will let everyone know!

  18. Patrick
    April 27, 2015

    “everyone walks their own Camino…enough of the “you did it wrong self righteousness.

  19. Dave
    April 27, 2015

    I cycled the Camino in 2007 and experienced the same spiritual and emotional rejuvenation as the author. After 15 days and over 900 KM, I was truly “one with the bike” and with my inner self. If you have a family and a full-time job, cycling “The Way of St. James” is an alternative to the long walk.

  20. Dave
    April 27, 2015

    I did the Camino in the spring of 2002 and there are still times when I feel the desire to go back and enjoy the solitude of the trail. The companionship all along the way is phenomenal. I started off with a 10kg pack plus a mesh food bag for breakfast and snacks along the way, mostly fresh bread from bakeries , cheeses and salamis small stores. I kept a written journal and did some pencil sketches along the way, a camera or other recording device is just too much to contend with. To all that do the Camino good fortune will be your companion and he will commiserate with you after a hard days walk.

  21. Peter McGlamery
    April 27, 2015

    I hiked from France to Ponferrada in ’13 and from Ponferrada to Compostella in ’14. What a wonderful time! I will return in ’16… In autumn, to do it all again! It was so good for my spirit, it showed and my wife said, yes, by all means, you must go again!

  22. barbara
    April 26, 2015

    There’s a wonderful movie from 2011 called ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen. Although it’s a fiction movie, it brought this walk to my attention. I would love to do this…..soon!

  23. Sean O Tuama
    April 26, 2015

    Walked the Camino from St Jean to Finisterre in 2006,what a fantastic journey and top drawer when it comes to achievements very special indeed with do it again in a heart beat.Bon Camino.

  24. sue ville
    April 26, 2015

    Nice walk , nice story , thank you Georges!

  25. Chris Fish
    April 26, 2015

    I look forward to reading the article in NatGeo. I leave for my first Camino on June 10th.

  26. Diane
    April 26, 2015

    Camino de Santiago was the best time of my life. In many ways my heart is still on The Path. Walked 5 weeks, 500 miles in the fall of 2013. Thanks for the memories & Buen Camino!

  27. Gustavo Rivas
    April 26, 2015

    I saw your video and I´ve got a great emotion with the images of Finisterre.
    All my ancestors came from there or from the towns around.
    Fortunately I´ve visit this lands with my father few years before he died.
    I pray to do the same with my two sons.
    Thanks for share your “Camino de santiago” with us.

  28. Angela Ancill
    April 26, 2015

    I’m planning my walk September 2016…it’s going to be a wonderful adventure!

  29. Paul
    April 26, 2015

    Thank you George and NatGeo. You have captured the beauty of this pilgrimage and why we return to follow in the footsteps: followinginthefootsteps.org

  30. Therese-Marie O’Sullivan
    April 26, 2015

    Hizo una pequeña parte del Camino de Compostela sin mobile, camera y nada de esto…es un camino espiritual de descubriendo el alma….

  31. D. M. Urquidi
    April 26, 2015

    Over 8,000 people were fortunate to acquire “death certificates” for the Church and they populated the world. Their journey was made beautiful and peaceful as living travelers who had evaded the Church rules until Columbus saved even more when he told the world that he had “discovered” the Americas on Oct. 12, the feast day of la Virgen at Muxia at the End of the Land in Portugal.

  32. reinaldo
    April 26, 2015


  33. Donald T Campbell
    April 26, 2015

    Walking to Find the Way. Walk with God, Walk for good, Walk with energy, Walk for Life. Just Walk. Thanks to all who walk and don’t drive.

  34. laurel
    April 26, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your story. I plan on walking the Camino in the near future.

  35. gwen
    April 23, 2015

    I wish someday i can go to santiago de compostela love the pictures 🙂

  36. Nicolas Sardella
    April 21, 2015

    Plan on walking this one day, looks like a great experience!

  37. Eduard
    April 21, 2015

    Also I will apriciate if you tell me the way upload of my video like yours into NG. Thank you!

  38. Edward
    April 21, 2015

    It is realy impressive and nice for you as such way of walk hiking with a back and tent and friends whom you are meeting along the road. And special a knife ” Opinel” witch one of my favor tool in a trip-such tourist get of my deep hiking respect and experience!

  39. Edward
    April 21, 2015

  40. jul
    April 20, 2015

    I plan on walking The Way and embracing the transformation

  41. Matt
    April 19, 2015

    I leave in three days for the Camino. I was about to throw my nat geo away when thought to at least look at the articles. Much to my surprise I saw this! Quit my job to fiend the next three months on various branches of the Camino from France to Portugal! Thanks to the universe for letting me know it was the right decision. Buen Camino!

  42. Mike Davis
    April 19, 2015

    Nice. I walked the way in 1979, when there were few peregrinos. It’s nice to see the land again.

  43. Donna
    April 18, 2015

    Walked from St Jean to Finisterre last year – and it was the most wonderful thing I’ll never do again! Ps my backpack was 18 lbs with everything I needed for 6 weeks!

  44. 3bole
    April 18, 2015

    if you´re instagrammed and writting emails you´re doing something wrong. the norm for walk the Camino is walk…. you have not understood the essence… buf sure, you will be very famous and all that staff…

  45. 3ebole
    April 18, 2015

    If you are walking te camino instagrammed ordenar writting mails, you are doing

  46. Christina Fernandes
    April 18, 2015

    This shows real life, a good pathy you have found. Thank you for writing and to let us see the pictures.

  47. Arlos
    April 18, 2015

    wonderful article but my exception as a perigrino is, the average pack weight is around 16 lb. It is the single most high point on foot I have ever done. My first day after listening to others who have done this multiple times was what is wrong with them as I live at sea level and the Camino is one hill after another. After a few weeks I found myself planning my next Camino. Buen Camino!

  48. Marilynn Vander schaaf
    April 18, 2015

    Plan to walk the way next year

  49. Melinda
    April 18, 2015

    I wish I could walk to Find the Way…

  50. Sam
    April 18, 2015

    If you’re walking the Camino with a 50 lb pack, you’re doing something wrong. The norm for the Camino is 12-15 lbs.

  51. Monika Vermaak
    April 18, 2015

    Brings back goooood memories!!! Thank you!

  52. Ashok Aranha
    April 18, 2015


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