Families bond when they have a mutual challenge to overcome; even children who normally shrink from difficult or tedious chores will find themselves excited when given the opportunity to do something that really stretches them. Training up to hike the Camino de Santiago creates the excitement for the challenge and gives kids the physical skills and stamina to be able to bike or walk along the sacred path.
Preparing for Outdoors Time
Many children are accustomed to climate control, having as much food as they want at any point, and being entertained constantly by electronics, books, or lessons at school. Outdoors time is a rejuvenating way to reconnect with nature and get to know your family, but it can be a transition for children, depending on their habits.
One way you can help your child get ready for the Camino de Santiago is by creating space in their daily routines for outdoors time. A weekend trip to the woods, a nature center visit, or even just daily walks in the neighborhood will get them accustomed to the simple and small inconveniences of being outdoors. If they are already accustomed to being a little sweaty and seeing a bug or two, they will still have lots to learn while on the trail.
Preparing for Stamina on Long Days
Many children are fountains of energy, but many miles of walking or biking will make anyone a bit tired and cranky. To ramp up to the Camino, consider a series of weekend treks on bike or hiking trips that slowly grow in length, up to where you can do at least 75% of your longest planned day on the Camino. Your child will enjoy tracking his or her progress on a chart, and get a sense of accomplishment even before you head out on the trail.
Their feet and legs will also get accustomed to their shoes and the distance, and it is nice to be able to test the hiking shoes near the comfort of home rather than discovering the blisters on the Camino. Using the training as a chance to see a big project through to the finish will give your child resilience and follow-through. At the same time, you can make practical adjustments to your trip based on the training: does the child need a different set of hiking shoes or a different backpack? These changes can make the actual trip so much more comfortable, and everyone can focus on the beauty of nature and the new locations that much more.
Preparing for Traveling Light
If your child has grown up with all of his or her toys, books, and games handy at all times, it doesn’t hurt to practice the experience of packing light. Choosing to take only one toy or book, or having to sleep with just one special stuffed animal, can be a good thing to try early on rather than once you arrive in Spain or Portugal. The Camino de Santiago can be a great time to scale back and spend time really getting to know each other as a family. Since children put a lot of attachment into their possessions, it never hurts to let them go on a weekend trip or a sleepover with only a small backpack of necessary items and then have a thoughtful conversation about how it went. There may be some resistance at first, but children will surprise you: when everyone around them is modeling the bravery to go without things, they too will step up and do so.
It’s amazing how doing a long trip, with all the training and life lessons, can bond a family together and be a source of memories and reminiscences for years to come. Children can be surprisingly young when they do these journeys; while older kids can usually cover standard Camino de Santiago distances, Adventure Camino offers reduced-length itineraries specifically to accommodate young children’s shorter legs and lower stamina. We will also transport your backpacks every day.
In addition to all the pre-trip benefits of training up for a big challenge, children learn so much just from being on the Camino de Santiago. Are you ready to plan your family journey? Contact us to learn more and get started.