Are you contemplating going with kids on Camino de Santiago but dreading a meltdown that may happen when they realize it requires being outdoors all day? Does the idea of six days without their electronic device strike fear and terror into your child’s heart? Take a deep breath, because we promise you, that with some careful planning, your kids will not only survive, but enjoy their outdoor adventure along the Camino de Santiago.
The Child Mind Institute writes, “according to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.” The most simple of outdoor items, the roses that fill the lanes, a baby goat or an ancient Roman bridge can become a focus of “soft fascination” for a child. This “effortless attention” means that absorbing local culture, history and geography becomes a natural extension of a child’s openness to the world around them. And, oh, how much there is to absorb on the Camino with kids!
Kids on Camino, no matter which path you choose, can not hide from the deep cultural and historical significance of this land. A visit to the library in the weeks before you leave for the Camino can yield excellent children’s books about the area you are visiting. This easy prepping lets children be knowledgeable about where they are going. It also enables them to exercise their voice in the Camino planning, by signaling where their exploration interest may lie. Are they more interested in Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus or the Knight’s Templar? Famous women of Portugal, such as Queen Isabel, or Antónia Pusich, the first woman to “openly publish a newspaper?” Or Spanish queen Isabela I of Castille who sponsored Columbus’ voyage to America?
If your kids break out into hives at the mere whisper of the word “history,” but can deliver a 30 minute monologue on the intricacies of their latest Lego™ creation or how the latest tweak the robotics team made is epic, then your young travelers can help create a “designer’s” adventure. They can march over numerous ancient Roman bridges. Spend a pleasant afternoon pondering, as you travel, how medieval workers constructed the amazing spire at the Monasterio in Oia. You can play their favorite card game in the shade during a rest break or they can read a book downloaded to their IPad at home before the trip.
Whether you spend your walk discussing Queen Isabel’s attempts at constructing peace or what it was like to design and build the stained glass windows in churches, it doesn’t matter, because you will be doing what travelers along the Camino have done for hundreds of years: talking, observing, and opening yourself up to the world around you as you are experiencing the joys of the journey with kids on Camino.
When the need for solitude and quiet comes to your traveling group, the focus of the trail once again turns to the geography of the Camino and the physical challenges it presents. Your mind focuses on the sound of your feet rhythmically slapping against old cobblestones, to the feel of the gentle breeze in your face after a quick swim in the ocean on Coastal Portuguese Camino or a stop to collect seashells on Camino Finisterre. The tingling in your calves as you leave Ponte de Lima and travel up over the Alto de Portela Grande will be a pleasant sense of achievement.
Pacing yourself to their stride, coaxing them up the last steep push to a vista, stopping for 10 minutes to pet the cat sitting in a rose-covered doorway or a cute puppy wagging its tail, these moments provide simple connection with your child. Inevitably, after the history is forgotten, and the churches have all blurred together in your memory, you will still remember the feel of the sun on your face at the top of the Alto De Portela Grande and your favorite munchkin holding your hand.
They will certainly remember the tangy lemon they picked from the tree and squeezed in their water or bunch of sweet ripe grapes an elderly local lady picked for them from her grapevine. They may say later that the best thing about the Camino de Santiago was the WI-FI at the hotels, but you know they will always recall the first things they learned to say in Spanish – helado and zumo de melocoton (ice cream and peach juice). Whoever enters the hotel first, gets ice cream!
Traveling with kids on Camino will expand the comfort zone for your entire family and will be a stepping stone to help your young adventurers build confidence in unfamiliar environments and improve their problem solving skills. They may even venture to try Galician specialty dish – pulpo (octopus). Beware, they could turn into lifelong travelers and explorers and ask you to return to walk or bike a different route.
Pleasantly fatigued at the end of the day, as you sit at a café in fresh clothes from your suitcase that arrived earlier at your hotel, courtesy of Adventure Camino, the sun sets and the cool night air sends you off to sleep. Focused time with both your traveling group and within nature leaves the traveler, no matter how young, in a state peaceful happiness. We know that a well-planned adventure with kids on Camino can be a positive, life changing event, so contact us to begin your journey.