Traveling the Camino de Santiago, also called the Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage for the faithful and the curious, for hikers and cyclists, for individuals and groups. The Camino is a vast network of pilgrims’ routes leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried. There are five traditional routes passing through Northern Spain including the popular French Way, the Primitive Way, the Northern or Coastal Way, the Interior Way and the Liébana Route.

Unlike high-altitude climbs and treks, the main physical challenge for the Camino is the multiple days walking. “Even fit people will hit the wall at some stage,” said Jerry Perrin, the general manager at CaminoWays. “The hardest day of the Camino is on the first day of the French Way, where you have to cross the great mountain range of the Pyrenees over the Napoleon Pass.”


Trekkers hike up a pass in the Pyrenees on a sunny day.


Shirley MacLaine, the famous actress, singer and dancer, walked the entire French Way in 1994 when she was 60 years old. She explained that “the challenge of walking alone for 800 km (nearly 500 miles) and becoming essentially helpless and vulnerable along the way” intrigued her.

Australian-based film director Bill Bennett admitted a pilgrimage walk was a novelty. “I’d never done anything crazy like this before. I was also not an adventure traveler. For me, adventure travel was flying coach.”

Like Bennet, MacLaine, and millions of others, Marian Arslanian, a 68-year-old Global Rescue member from the U.S., set out to hike a portion the Camino during her first two-week vacation in a decade.


A older woman with purple lensed-sunglasses and a straw hat smiles for a photo.
Marian Arslanian, a Global Rescue member. Photo courtesy of Ms. Arslanian.


“Last summer I decided I was going to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, and I wanted to start in Portugal and walk up the coast,” she said.

As a church employee, Arslanian spends much of her time working with people who are struggling with very deep emotions. It can be draining. She wanted a retreat and to embrace the pilgrimage. “I needed that solitary time to recharge.”

Arslanian, a regular solo traveler, considered the risks associated with the region, the weather and the terrain.

“When I’m traveling, it’s by myself. I didn’t think there was any risk with that,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about any changes in weather. I researched it carefully and wasn’t heading up into high mountains. I felt comfortable about the time and was confident in going.”

Despite her research-based confidence, Arslanian decided to include a Global Rescue membership for her trip, ultimately persuaded by information provided by representatives at The Natural Adventure, a Global Rescue Safe Trave Partner focused on curating walking and cycling tours.


A Portuguese seaside, with ocean, rocky coast, and mostly cloudy skies.


She confessed that the possibility she would ever need Global Rescue services never occurred to her. “I was sure that I wasn’t going to need it.”

Four days into her pilgrimage she called Global Rescue.

Arslanian completed a few days of touring and hiking along the Camino. On the fourth day things started normally. She packed her gear and headed to the hotel lobby down a flight of stairs. That’s when a little boy came racing around and bumped into her suitcase. Losing her grip on the luggage, the suitcase started to tumble down the stairs, and she tumbled after it, landing at the bottom of the marble stairway with a serious leg injury.

Arslanian dismissed the irony of a knee injury as a result of a misstep in a hotel rather than on an historic, several hundred-mile pilgrimage trail. “That was the only saving grace, that I could honestly say to people it did not happen while I was out on the trails.”

Not realizing the extent of her injury, she tried to get up on her own but couldn’t. “The pain in my knee was severe. I just collapsed right back to the floor,” she said. Hotel staff came to her aid and the hotel manager wanted her to go to the hospital.

Arslanian resisted but after attempting to walk she quickly realized she needed medical assistance.

“I got up on my feet and locked my knee so I could walk. Then I tried to bend it to sit down and that didn’t go anywhere. I looked at the manager and agreed an ambulance would be needed to go to the hospital.”

She worried about what her care would be like due to the language barrier. The hospital was small, like a community clinic. Medical staff got her into a bed near the emergency room where she sat and began to gather her thoughts.

A radiologist took an X-ray and returned an hour later and, in broken English, said “No more. No more. No more Camino for you. Your patella is broken.”


[Related Reading: A Broken Kneecap in the Bahamas]


Arslanian didn’t know what to do until it suddenly occurred to her that she had a Global Rescue membership. She called and immediately felt more and more like somebody else was looking out for her.

“When I called, I was surprised how quickly the Global Rescue operations team went into action,” she said. “Nobody questioned what I had to say. They listened to me, and they asked me to pass the phone to an attending physician. I’m not sure what the conversation was but when I was given the phone back, I was told I was going to need a knee brace,” she said.

A brace and crutches weren’t available at the clinic so Global Rescue medical operations personnel arranged to find the medical equipment and have it delivered since the medical staff weren’t able to do it. Later that evening, Arslanian learned that she would need a doctor’s note that she was medically fit to fly but would need an upgrade to business class so her leg could remain extended during the flight.


A woman's leg in an inflatable cast rests on a plane seat.


“Boy, was I surprised. I had no idea how to find a doctor. But Global Rescue found one with the help of the hotel staff,” she said.

Global Rescue relocated Arslanian to another hotel in preparation for her flight home and remained in constant contact with her. “It was incredible, but most incredible was the relief I got knowing that when the next morning rolled around, I wasn’t forgotten. Global Rescue knew where I was and where I needed to be,” she said.

Arslanian returned to her home in Missouri to continue her treatment and recovery. She admitted that her friends and family initially gave her a hard time for traveling alone. But when they learned the accident happened in a hotel they calmed down.

They also asked what prompted her to obtain Global Rescue travel protection. “I explained that I had looked at the different options and saw that Global Rescue was clear, concise and had no hidden terms or exclusions,” she said. “Everything was right there, clear as a bell and eminently affordable. I would not travel anymore without it.”

Arslanian is nearly 100 percent recovered and no longer needs a brace or crutches. She is already planning on doing the Camino trip again, starting from where she left off and finishing it.

“I will never ever travel without Global Rescue,” she said.