Her name is Michelle Ryan, an avid hiker, a wife of nearly 26 years, a mother of three beautiful grown children, and a travel writer whose dream and intention is to hike the world. She has over the years made her mark in the hiking world through her blog, Walking Two By Two. The blog is a treasure filled space bursting with tips and advice on gear, shoes, routes all from her own personal experiences.
As a young girl, living in Perth, she was a member of the Brownies (Girl Scouts), Girl Guides and later Rangers, where she would camp, hike and participate in many outdoor activities. Michelle’s family were also very active: with her dad, sister and brother all being sailors and her mother, a local Brownie leader.
One interesting fact: Michelle is also is a long distance runner, with a preference to run out in the bush barefoot!
Michelle is also a proud finisher of the Camino de Santiago . Ever heard of it? Well lets hear about it from Michelle herself.
AC: How did you come to know and eventually walk the Camino de Santiago?
Michelle: I first heard of the Camino back in early 2000’s when I read a book about Shirley MacLaine, ‘The Camino; A Journey of the Spirit’. I don’t recall how I came across this book but I do remember just loving it! Loving the journey that she embarked on and reading about the challengers she faced as well as the sheer beauty she experienced. I knew that I wanted to have that! I wanted to challenge myself with that.So, I decided that by my 40th year on the earth I will walk the Camino, and I did, well by my 41st but hey close enough.
I chose to walk a different route to the one that Shirley wrote about. Originally, I was going to walk the same but on research of the different routes that the Camino has, I loved the sound and challenge of the Del Norte. This route follows the coast of Spain and I started my walk in the town of San Sabastian and headed to Santiago de Compostela just over 800kms later (over 500miles).
This route proved to be a challenge with it mountainous climbs and plenty of very slippery mud, which makes it more difficult as one tries to not slide down the other side of an extremely steep hill. The distances between places were very long and a lot of what we thought were towns on the map were no more than a farm house. The walk for me was just simply fantastic! I loved the challenge it gave me and it was at times very challenging. I loved the incredible country scenery as well as the spectacular cliff side views. The people throughout the walk that I met were just beautiful with eagerness to help us along the way. Many a time a local would walk and show us the way even though we couldn’t speak the same language. One day after a very long walk my friend and I arrived in a town, that according to our guide book had an Albergue (pilgrims hostel) and when we arrived and rung the bell a very confused lady answered. She did not speak English but we quickly realized that this albergue was no longer running and there was nowhere in town to stay. On seeing our desperation, she motioned us to wait and she disappeared for a moment and came back with her father. He waved us to follow him and took us into town to a local bar where he spoke rapid Spanish to the owner and then left us with her. We were confused but as it ended up we were given a bed, a warm shower and we were also welcomed to the family table for dinner. This is an example of many kind gestures that I have experience on my Camino walks.
AC: Tell us about your documentary on the Camino.
Michelle: I came about making my documentary on the Camino as I was asked to join 2 others in a presentation on walking the Camino. We all were given half an hour each and my first reaction was everyone will be bored and leave if all three of us are talking for an hour and a half about the same walk.
So, I put a slide show together and I would just talk for 10 mins and let the pictures speak for themselves. As I was getting the info together I thought it would be great to hear many different stories and meet different types of people who have embarked on such a journey. I started to film and it just grew from there, I was very happy with the outcome so I decided to share it with the world and publish it on my YouTube channel.
My hope is that it will inspire people to just go and try the journey of the Camino. I want everyone to know we can all do this if we want to but we all need to do it in our way. The Camino or any long walk really is a journey that will take you on a discovery of oneself, life, adventure and the world.
AC: As a finisher, any advice to those who would like to walk The Camino?
Michelle: If you do choose to embark on a journey like this, I would suggest that you take the time to plan, research and train. You need to really look at the route you plan to walk and find out pertinent information such as: When is the best time to go? What is the terrain like? What do I need for this journey? How long?
Join groups on social media sites and talk to people who have do this before. Ask as many questions as you can and DON’T ever feel like the questions may be silly or insignificant as they aren’t. Knowledge on such a journey is the best thing you can get and the best knowledge out there is from the people who have done it. Also, check out websites like mine that will give you a breakdown of the route and what to expect. The biggest advice I can give is train and get your body prepared physically. Walk a lot and change up the terrain, wear your backpack with weight in it as this will change the way your body preforms and feels. Wear the shoes you are planning on walking in while training, get your feet use to it.
Where Is Michelle?
Currently, Michelle is on the Bibbulmun Track In Western Australia and you can follow her 1000 km journey on her Website, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.