(Originally posted on 22 August 2016)
There are many routes that lead to Santiago, and many ways to do the French Way (the most important and renowned route). You can start wherever you want, you can split it in several years, and you can take whatever means you prefer - all of this seems right to me. After all, El Camino is a personal thing, and everyone can approach it in his favorite way.
However, I don’t believe those who start from Roncisvalle can honestly sell to themselves and others that they had the real deal. This would mean avoiding climbing the Pyrenees and it feels like cheating to me. Because that very first stage is the hardest one of all, when you are not trained, when you are not used to carrying your backpack and enduring the heat, and when you don’t know what to expect from the Pilgrimage. And if you screw up the first stage, you’re basically f*cked. You will either have to walk every mile of the remaining 500 miles with tendinitis. Or you’ll simply be forced to go home.
There could be many explanations why you would start from St. Jean Pies-de-Port. Because you are crazy, because you are reckless, because you are pretentious, or because you are arrogant. But I prefer the one offered by my father: there are many possibilities to do something the wrong way. And only one way to do it right.