A Day on the Camino
Walk, breathe deeply, hydrate, eat, rest, listen. Repeat. After walking on the Camino for a few days the rhythm of the journey centers on the pace of your stride, and the sound of your breathing. You are more aware of your surroundings than at home, because your surroundings are unfamiliar. The sounds. The smells. The temperature. The sun or rain. The light.
Here are some favorite tips from our team, and a look at what a typical day on the Camino might look like for you. When you arrive at your destination for the night, whether it is an albergue or a hotel, register or check in, pay, and get your sello (stamp) in your credenciál. The reason for doing this on arrival is that it will allow you to get up in the morning and leave when you wish. Albergues almost always require payment when you register, but you might need to prompt a hotel desk to do this. Albergues usually allow check-in after 2 PM. During peak seasons you may see backpacks being queued up as early as noon as a way of holding a place until check-in. If you know what town you’re heading for tomorrow night, ask today’s hospitalero for a recommendation of a place to stay, and then ask if he will phone ahead and reserve you a spot if that seems right to you. Find your bed, or go to your room and put down your heavy pack. Check the seams of the mattress for signs of bed bugs. If you see any, go get a refund and find another place to sleep.
Begin your wash ritual, which might be something like this. Take off your trail shoes and socks, slip on your Crocs, grab your fresh clothes minus fresh socks. Take your towel, valuables bag, and toiletries bag and head for the showers. We like some version of showering with your clothes on as a way to wash your clothes and body at the same time, conserving water. Peel off the wet clothes and rinse them and yourself well. Dry off. Put on your fresh clothes, and return to your bed. Hang up your wet clothes and towel on drying racks or clotheslines, or use your safety pins to hang them up around your part of your bed.
Begin your foot ritual. Remove any soiled dressings, if you didn’t do that already during your shower. Do a 5-minute foot soak in cool water or water with ice, if you have a source. Pat your feet dry. Elevate your feet for 10 minutes while they dry more. Apply new blister dressings if necessary (we like the Spenco Second Skin Blister treatments carried in our online store). Slip your Crocs on and explore a bit. If it is chilly wear a fresh pair of socks with your Crocs, and then use these in the morning. Buy any snacks or water you might want and decide where you will have dinner. Meet up with friends for a beverage and snack before dinner. This is also a good time for a nap if you are so inclined, or at least lie down and elevate your feet for rest. Some gentle yoga type stretching is always a good idea.
Some albergues and hotels have cafés and restaurants, but otherwise you will need to search nearby for a place serving dinner at a time appealing to the early- rising peregrinos. Many eating establishments advertise a Menú del Día (Menu of the Day), or Menú de Peregrino (Pilgrim Menu) which they begin serving around 7 PM before customary Spanish dinner times, which are usually not until 9:30 or 10 PM. The typical pilgrim menu is three courses including salad or soup, meat, dessert, and includes your choice of water or wine. The cost ranges 8-12 Euros. Some albergues offer a communal meal, but even when you choose a café or restaurant, your host will often seat you with other peregrinos. These can be some of the most fun social times you will have on your trip.
Begin your going-to-bed ritual by 9 PM, as lights out for a communal albergue is 10 or 11 PM. Many peregrinos will be asleep before lights out, and since you are sharing space and taking turns in the bathrooms it makes sense to allow some extra time. Make a pillow for yourself by stuffing some clean, soft clothes inside a tee shirt or other soft item. A headlamp comes in really handy for reading in bed, but should be turned out at lights out so as not to disturb neighbors. (If you have to get up after lights out and need your headlamp to see, hold it in a closed hand to block as much light as possible from shining in your neighbors’ faces.) Sleep in some of the clothes you will wear the next day to walk in, and load your pack with everything you can before going to sleep. Keep your valuables bag safe by putting it inside at the foot of your sleeping bag or sleep sack. Put in your earplugs. The Mack’s Ultra Foam Earplugs we recommend are VERY good, and super helpful for canceling out most of the snoring and rustling of other peregrinos. Mack’s are different from other foam earplugs, and very inexpensive.
Begin your morning routine of dressing in your bunk and visiting the bathroom for your morning wash. Not all peregrinos will be as mindful of others as you will be, and some will begin the morning wake up routines earlier than you like. Someone usually turns on the ceiling light when it looks like at least half the peregrinos are up. Finish packing everything. Peregrinos must be out of albergues in the morning by 8 AM. If coffee or tea is available, enjoy some with friends. Otherwise begin walking and stop for coffee and breakfast later.
In warm months, most peregrinos get up and start walking early to finish before the extreme heat of the afternoon. Remember to pace yourself, stop to drink and fill up your water bottles at fountains along the way, and take rest breaks with a snack as you have need. Check with your hospitalero or guidebook to find out whether there will be a place to buy lunch when it is that time, and if not, be sure to have some snacks or a picnic lunch in your pack that day.
To get the most out of your Camino journey make plenty of room for spontaneous decisions or what some might call divine interruptions. Welcome interruptions as friends. Change what you can that needs changing, but have the grace to accept what you cannot change.
For more details and good advice like this, invest in our Guidebook, Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money.