There I went. Carrying a tremendously heavy backpack, I closed the door behind me and faced the freezing cold on my way to Santiago. On the 1st of March it was already one year ago that I commenced my journey! Time to look back, which I’ll do through a series of stories.

After last week’s post on the beginning and preparations of my pilgrimage, it is now time for the actual start: the first nine days of walking through the Netherlands.

extreme cold

Sooooo cold!

There was a cutting wind blowing, and my eyes were teary. My journey through the Netherlands predominantly cold, extremely cold. Frozen streams, stiff fingers, finding shelter somewhere warm, or just continue walking in a steady pace in the absence of such a place. I was wearing all my layers at once, ate mountains of food and only regained my normal body temperature at the end of day when taking a hot shower.

“Perhaps you’ve left a little early on in the year?” was a comment I frequently heard. Probably, I thought, but I couldn’t have waited a month longer. Cold or not, I had to go in March, afraid that I would make up my mind if I didn’t. And those hardships, they just make you stronger.

every day at home

Almost every night, I stayed at a guest family and every day I was pleasantly surprised by a warm welcome. Fun conversations, sincere interest, tea and biscuits, life stories… A world was opening up to me. I resided in small attic rooms looking out over the meadows, slept in a bed with pink plush blankets and received carefully prepared breakfasts. Wherever I was, every day I felt a little at home.

Breakfast made with love

In my travel journal, I found a poem of Antonio Machado. One of the hostesses had looked up it before my arrival and placed it in my room for me to read. It was a very special poem. Machado’s words reminded me that this was my journey. The way I would decide to walk didn’t matter, and neither did the destination of my journey.

Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.

Antonio Machado


When reaching day five I could barely walk. The pain in my back was unbearable and my knee was giving me massive grief. I booked a hotel to give myself some extra comfort and rest. Upon arrival I was shattered.

Wasn’t feeling fantastic after camping with temperatures below zero

After a shower and a massive meal, I sat on the bed. I realised that my bruised ribs had prevented me from training with a backpack and that my pack was too heavy to begin with. Furthermore, I had underestimated the effort it was costing me to cover the long distances. Although I wanted to continue, I decided to take an extra day to give my body some rest and go through the contents of my backpack.

Armoured with a knee brace and a backpack that was two kilos lighter (you’ve got no idea what you actually don’t need), I resumed my way through the Netherlands. Someone invited me for coffee when I was walking through a massive downpour, I was encouraged by a passing cyclist and didn’t sleep a single second when camping for the first time with temperatures below zero.

Belief it or not, but I made it after all: Belgium. More soon!