It’s a foggy morning and I wake up early, my eyes and mind forced awake by the choir of snorers surrounding me. My muscles are sore, but I lift myself out of the top bunk, lace up my hiking boots, grab my walking stick and go find breakfast: fresh-squeezed orange juice, a tortilla and a hot cup of Cola Cao. Then it’s time to hit the road and hike 20 miles. I’m hiking el Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) on the French route, stretching 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


This was my first day hiking on the Camino—the day I left France and entered Spain. I met this family from Venezuela who was biking the pilgrimage. They let me try riding a bike—I quickly decided to stick with hiking the steep Pyrenees mountains instead. (Olivia Rutherford)


During summer 2016, I packed up and left. To find myself? To escape responsibilities? To get Instagram likes and have a rad adventure? All of the above (and more), I guess. I think we as millennials really just want to run away and have a job we’re super passionate about, right? I mean, if I were to have my dream life, I’d probably get married and then we’d buy a dog, buy a van, and take off on the road—with our social media somehow magically paying for everything we need—and then eventually score a job with National Geographic. Yeah. Pretty millennial.


But one of my favorite aspects of the Camino last summer was that I got a little taste of that freedom, of that escape from the 9 to 5 monotony. Sure, it was walking every day and I really did mostly have the same breakfast every day. But everything I needed I carried on my back. Every day I saw new places and met new people. I was my own boss and all I had to do was walk the dirt path in front of me, always moving forward to something new.


 —Kjersten Johnson, Stowaway Social Media Manager