The Road to the Camino de Santiago

Crystal and friend Janine in the canals of Amsterdam

I started my Camino journey a week ago, as soon as I stepped foot outside my door. My trip has already taken me to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Arles. I have had an amazing time visiting friends before starting the 1,000 km walk that will test my physical and emotional limits.

Crystal and friend Janine in the canals of Amsterdam

Crystal and friend Janine in the canals of Amsterdam

After a 10.5 hour direct flight from Portland to Amsterdam, I was excited to see my friend, Janine, waiting for me! Janine and I met volunteering in Tanzania back in 2008, and have met every summer since then. I only had 12 hours to explore this popular city, so I let Janine decide what we would see.

As we exited the main train station, we were immediately greeted with canals, bridges, and very old buildings. A canal boat tour was leaving soon, so we decided to hop on. Seeing the city from the many water ways was a great perspective. Following the boat tour, we walked up to Dam Square, then had lunch around the university at a little cafe on a canal.

Crystal at the Anne Frank House

Crystal at the house of Anne Frank

The Anne Frank house was next up on my speed tour. Janine had pre-purchased our tickets online, which saved us a 1.5 hour wait. Seeing the real house brought the Diary of Anne Frank to life. As an American, it is difficult to comprehend such a situation in which your own country has been taken over, let alone having to hide in an attic in lieu of being put to death because of your beliefs.

Other stops on my tour included the Heineken Factory, shopping, and of course, the Red Light District. Janine escorted me back to the airport, and I was off to Barcelona.

Noemi and Albert embraced me with smiles as I walked out of customs! I met them in the summer of 2012 while on an overnight trek north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We kept in touch, so when I told them I was coming to Spain, they offered to host me in Barcelona. This was such a blessing!

Upon arriving home from the airport, tapas and wine were waiting — such a treat! We stayed up late catching up and trading travel stories. The next day we woke up early, and had a full day.

Crystal on the beach having paella with friend Noemi

Crystal on the beach having paella with friend Noemi

We purchased a local SIM card for me, checked out La Sagrada Familia, the Viewpoint, had paella on the beach, walked through Plaza Catalunya, the Rambla, the Rambla de la Mer, Marina Port Ville, listened to a choir concert in Iglesia de la Santa Maria de Mer, walked around The Cathedral, and got lost trying to find the Metro back to the house!

I hopped on the bus early the next morning, destination Arles, France. Mon amie Magali was waiting for me at the station with open arms. I met Magali and her family of five while I was volunteering at Elephants World in Thailand. We immediately bonded because she has twin girls. We kept in contact throughout the winter, and when I told her I was indeed going to walk the Camino, she insisted I must make a trip to Arles. Lucky for me, her sister, Marion, was also in town.

beach of the mediterranean

Crystal and her “French Family” on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea

Magali and her family took me in as one of their own, I feel like I am now part of a  French family! We had a fantastic day on the boat and beach, I saw wild flamingos, was able to attend the girls circus performance, give them gifts from America, and even play a little piano for the family. Our late night conversations were incredible, and I am so thankful for our friendship. Magali, Fred, Zoe, Lou, Lili, I will see you soon!

I will embark on the 1,000 km route starting in Aire-Sur L’Adour on Friday, June 21. This path will take me through the French countryside, Pyrennees Mountains and Basque Country of Spain. Wish me luck — I may need a little.  :)


Crystal Steinmueller

I was born and raised in Vancouver, WA, and can't imagine living anywhere else. For the past 8 summers I have traveled extensively, and volunteered in 9 countries. I hit my goal of traveling to 30 countries by the time I turned 30 years old. During the rest of the year, I work in Special Education at Battle Ground High School. In the winter of 2012, I started a non profit, 2 Hands 7 Continents, to assist others in volunteering locally and abroad. I live downtown Vancouver on Officer's Row.

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