One of the gifts of the Camino is the simple rhythm of life it provides. This laying off of the busyness of your “normal” life allows you to be more attentive to those things which we often struggle to find space to be present to, like our own hearts, others and the Divine. It may take you a few days to adjust to the cadence of the Camino, but soon you will find the pace to be life giving.
Here is what a typical day might look like. Do not feel like you have to follow this schedule. It is just the reality of what my days walking looked like. Your schedule may be a bit different, but this example does give you a good idea of what will fill your days. I am sure there will also be many unexpected and delightful moments and experiences. I encourage you to hold everything loosely.
6:00 am - Getting up early, around 6 am, and taking a half hour to brush your teeth, pack up your things and put on your shoes. Some will sleep a little later, but by 8 am most Albergues ask that you be on your way. Generally, unless you sleep like a rock, it is hard to sleep once the majority of pilgrims begin to stir.
6:30 am - Begin walking in the cool of the morning and the golden light of the sun. Some immediately find an open Café to grab breakfast. I would have a banana to eat to settle any hunger pains I might have felt and then waited until my first break of the morning to eat breakfast.
8:30 am - Walk for 9 to 12 km, usually there is a village or town about that distance where you can stop to rest and have breakfast. It is also a great time to be with and get to know others. Normally, I would stop for 30 to 45 minutes.
9:00 am - Walk the remaining distance for the day. If it is a particularly long day, you will want to take another break to rest and refuel. While walking there will be times when you are alone with your thoughts and times when you are walking with others, listening to their story and sharing yours. If you are open to what is taking place, the balance of solitude and being with others seems to take care of itself.
12:30 pm - Arrive in the village, town or city where you will be staying for the night. When leaving by 6:30 am, I usually arrived at my stopping place for the day between 12 noon and 1 pm. Because of this early arrival, I never had a problem getting a bed. If you plan on leaving later, walking at a slower pace, or walking farther, you may want to call ahead and book space at a private albergue or Refugio to ensure you have a place to lay your head.
1:00 pm - Most Albergues open at 1 or 2 pm. If you arrive earlier, put your pack in the line for check-in and find a place where you can keep an eye on it and hanging out with the friends you are making along the way. This may also be a good time to pick up a few things from the store for lunch, since they often close between 2 and 5 pm.
1:30 pm - Once checked into the albergue, I would shower immediately and then wash my clothes, so I could get them hung out to dry as quickly as possible. Usually, they were completely dry before dinner.
2:30 pm - After your gear is all settled, you are showered, and your clothes are drying you have the afternoon to rest, explore and refuel. You may want to take a nap, write, or just continue to get to know your fellow pilgrims. In some places there will be castles and cathedrals to explore. I often liked to find a church, which provided a silent, cool space where I could prayerfully reflect on the day and what was transpiring on my journey. Whatever you decided to do with your afternoon, I encourage you to find some way to soak in the local culture, even if it is just parking yourself at a café/bar and watching people walk by.
7:00 pm - Dinner can consist of a picnic in a park, a pilgrim’s meal at a restaurant, or a communal meal at an albergue. All of these can be a great experience. Find ways to share and enjoy them with others. One of my favorite ways to share dinner was when a group of us would make a meal together. I do not cook, so would help with setting the table, chopping vegetables, and washing dishes. I encourage you to help in whatever way you can. Sharing in the preparation and clean-up of dinner is a bonding experience. It helps give birth to Camino families.
8:30 pm - Linger at dinner. Lights out is usually at 10 pm. There is no reason to rush, enjoy the conversation. Listen to others. Ask questions. Laugh. These are such good times.
9:40 pm - Just before bed, pack up everything you will not need in the morning. I would leave early, so I wanted to be able to grab my pack, shoes, and sleeping sack and head into the common area, making as little noise as possible. Packing everything the night before made this possible. Once that is settled, go through your nightly routine to prepare to sleep, make sure your earplugs are nearby, and then as you lay in bed, spend some time reflecting on the day. It is particularly helpful to note those things which happened in the day for which you can be grateful.
10:00 pm - Light out in the Albergue. Sleep for 7 to 8 hours.
6:00 am - Get up and do it all again.
It is a very simple rhythm, and after about a week you will adjust to it quite well. Interspersed amidst the simplicity of sleeping, walking, resting and eating will be beauty, silence, openness, discovery, long conversations, laughter, physical strain, and a growing capacity to be present to the moment. Enjoy each one.