Walking from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Lisbon

In 2013 I quit my job and walked both the French and Portuguese pilgrimage trails on the Camino de Santiago network.

Quick facts

  • 1630km in total
  • 70 days
  • Learned Spanish, Galician and Portuguese while walking

It all started with Pessoa

Tom Cooks Lisboa
Sharing views on handcarved walking sticks with Pessoa outside A Brasileira after 70 days of walking

Each of Fernando Pessoa's heterónimos has its own personality traits and writing style.

A poem written by one of them, Álvaro de Campos, moved something inside of me on a flight to Amsterdam. It was the first time art messed with me like that, and it did so at the right moment.

I found myself thinking about reaching Lisbon and visiting the places Pessoa frequented. I needed a break from the routine I was living in and that thought looked every day more like salvation.

The plan: no plan

One night, right before sleeping, I realized that to celebrate my 30s I wanted to radically change my life and embark on an adventure.

I quit my job and declared indipendence by reading more about the way of Saint James, a trip I always wanted to do but always postponed.

A few days after I was on a tiny train to the french village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

The gear

My backpack in front of the ocean of Muxía
My house in front of the ocean, Muxía 2013

The trick is to travel with baggage that is too small to cover your basic needs. Embracing the suck of having to fix the rest of your wants leads to happiness.

The packing list evolved as I was walking: a lot of excess baggage removed and better pieces of gear added.

This is what I was carrying when I arrived in Lisbon. There have also been my only possessions (plus a laptop later on) while I lived there for a year:

  • 20lt backpack (my beloved Quechua Arpenaz 20XC)
  • Cargo shorts
  • Handmade pilgrim seashell
  • Handcarved walking stick
  • Long kaki pants
  • Aluminium cup
  • Cooking set (pan, pot, dish, cutlery, oil, salt, pepper, chilli, dry meat)
  • Handsewn cotton pants
  • Small poncho
  • 3 small books received on the road
  • Thermos canteen
  • 4 tshirts
  • Little trinkets I crafted on the road
  • Document+cash freezerbag
  • 3 pair underwear
  • Ukulele
  • Boots
  • Sandals
  • Kefia
  • Light fleece
  • Washing kit (betadine, plasters, gauze, surgical needles, toothbrush, toothpaste, tiny scissors)
  • Small towel
  • Packing belt
  • Leather belt
  • 3 summer small socks
  • Industrial grade poncho
  • Lighter
  • Knife
  • Carabiner
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Smartphone and charger
  • Emergency brickphone and charger
  • Notebook and pen

More infos on my approach to the walk of Saint James can be found in my Santiago de Compostela ultralight article.

Mind you that the Walk of Saint James done this way is a bit hardcore; so if you are reading this article and want to have a safer and more enjoyable experience I suggest checking out my Santiago guide and packing list for first timers.

How much did I walk

I have no precise idea of how many kilometers I walked, and I think it didn't really matter during this trip.

But, for the sake of posterity and impending memory loss, I have tracked each place where I have got my papers stamped:

My credencial with the stamps I collected
My credencial for the French Camino de Santiago 2013
My moleskine used as a credencial
My moleskine used as credencial for the Portuguese Camino 2013
Three Camino de Santiago Compostelas
Trifecta: Compostelas from Santiago de Compostela, Muxía and Fisterra

Google Maps does not allow to measure distances for tracks with more than 10 waypoints, so I had to hand-code a gpx file of my Saint Jean Pied de Port to Lisboa hike.

For each segment I have picked the shorter walking distance offered by Google Maps; turns out I walked 1631.7km, an average of 23.31km a day (min 14, max 68.2).

Have a nifty map:

Detail of my French and Portuguese Camino de Santiago walk

Google Map screenshot of the very beginning of my walk
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the exact spot where everything started

Considering that my attempt at writing a detailed diary of my walk was a failed experiment, I will list a few highlights taken from my diary and notes (some names redacted to protect the innocent and the cheating):

  • 11/08/2013 IT BEGINS - met hippieman + italian
  • 14/08/2013 Almost dead
  • 15/08/2013 Ax.
  • 16/08/2013 Bull race w/ Ax.?
  • 17/08/2013 Hospital burnt legs + rastacouple?
  • 18/08/2013 Met Her. sleeping outside we got lost in las nientes
  • 20/08/2013 israeli girls + Her. + pool
  • 21/08/2013 heavyperitivo till late then walked all night w/ israeli + Her. towards big city lights
  • 22/08/2013 woke up outside someone's bar, owner arrived in the morning and almost died thinking we were dead bodies, spent all day in burgos hostel sleeping
  • 28/08/2013 German brogrammer, met Kat.
  • 29/08/2013 detour w/ Kat.
  • 31/08/2013 Kat? who was i there with
  • 01/09/2013 helped templars at Manjarín, beers + irish MILF
  • 02/09/2013 Crazy dutch girl, steamed all clothes i think helping templars gave me bedbugs
  • 03/09/2013 Spanish dude 2 italian girls
  • 04/09/2013 italomess + romanian girl
  • 05/09/2013 spanish psychologist amazing place
  • 06/09/2013 spanish rocker
  • 07/09/2013 ultraromance is octopus at ezequiel in melide, chilled white wine and a norvegian woman
  • 08/09/2013 punk bar (bar tolo?) + orujo + bed bugs in shitty bed
  • 09/09/2013 bug wounds people stare, atm sprayed with disinfectant after i used it
  • 10/09/2013 nobody would let me stay in hotel (albergue o lugoso + villa pepa), crossed forest at night, slept outside closed hostel
  • 11/09/2013 dude saves my life cleans bag and clothes, spanish hippie gurulawyer tells me about secret pagan temple
  • 12/09/2013 hospital checkup, meds and free betadine! met Pepe
  • 13/09/2013 trying to heal, reading wine, cooking
  • 14/09/2013 sharing views about life and women with irish retired badass, carving my walking stick
  • 15/09/2013 more cooking more taking it easy
  • 16/09/2013 more drinking
  • 17/09/2013 more crafting built a tobacco pipe
  • 18/09/2013 more healing
  • 19/09/2013 back to same place where i hoboed but this time inside
  • 20/09/2013 amazing cabodavila amazing fisterra
  • 21/09/2013 megahealing, learned to fish
  • 24/09/2013 slept in a metal box
  • 25/09/2013 fancy hotel, culture shock break yourself
  • 26/09/2013 german girls + negroni
  • 27/09/2013 woke up w/ hangover in girl bedroom lost tshirt forever + sold artisanal goods i made = life is good
  • 28/09/2013 portuguese girl
  • 29/09/2013 constant rain i smell like dead donkeys got job offer
  • 30/09/2013 dodged creepy hobowoman that talks to jesus bullet, shitty weather, met dude going same way, got job offer in brazil farm
  • 01/10/2013 portugal~
  • 02/10/2013 wine + bacalhao + restaurant alameda + oh susana
  • 04/10/2013 A.
  • 05/10/2013 A. ocean
  • 06/10/2013 A. yoga
  • 08/10/2013 eating a lot
  • 09/10/2013 portuguese married woman + eating a lot
  • 10/10/2013 ocean view
  • 13/10/2013 sick, punks try to steal stuff, slept on floor
  • 15/10/2013 portuguese xenofobia + fatima
  • 16/10/2013 eating a lot life is good
  • 17/10/2013 lost in las nientes, people are megakind
  • 19/10/2013 slept at nuns in hospice filled with dying old peeps
  • 20/10/2013 DONE - arrived at cafeteria a brasileira at 16:45


When I reached Lisbon I stayed in a fancy hotel for a few nights to decompress, then moved to the best hostel in Lisbon, Good Morning Hostel, where i stayed for a whole month while setting up my life in the portuguese capital.

The place itself, the people I met and the friends I made within the staff will always have a special spot in my heart and I will never thank them enough for all they did to make me feel welcomed in Lisbon.

I became enamored with the place, learned the language and explored the city inside-out; I have collected a few of the tricks I learned in my Lisbon hipster guide, if it helped you have a nice time there please let me know.