One year ago we were preparing to leave for Spain and to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. While I had read plenty of books, researched websites, and checked out the images on sites like Flickr, there was nothing that really prepared us for the journey.
Walking and training at home a couple of hours in the evening, or 4 or 5 hours one day on the weekend does not really prepare you for walking day after day for 30 plus days. For us, the terrain and weather were different, if you can training every day for at least a short time and in all types of weather.
We were sleeping in a new bed each night, and for some of us, that can be more difficult than you might imagine. After all, sleep specialist tells us our bedtime routine, and our bed/nest is very important to a good night sleep. For some sleeping in a hostel/alberque, a dorm room full of strangers, some who snore, some who have to use the washroom during the night, and then some who get up even before dawn, to get an early start, all make getting a good night sleep a challenge.
These are not big problems, but not having a good night sleep can leave you looking like the guy in the wall mural above, and vulnerable to illness and or injury. It is important when planning your Camino to take these sleeping into consideration if you are going to enjoy the journey. An eye mask to keep the light out of your eyes will prevent you from being disturbed every time someone turns on their flashlight or the bathroom light. Ear plugs for the noise. Don’t just try these things out, wear them at home and get used to them, so the feeling isn’t new, so you make sure you have the right fit and a comfort level with them.
We are planning on walking another Camino, so I have been giving all of this more thought. Bill and I didn’t stay in many alberques, mostly because sleeping in a room full of people was more difficult than we had thought. We simply couldn’t get a good night sleep. I am not sure if the next trip will be any different, but we are planning on walking the Via la Plata also referred to as the Silver Route, in the spring of 2014. We have read that this route is not as busy, and many of the alberques are smaller. One Camino friend walked it last spring and there were times when he was alone or with a small number of pilgrims. Again I research the books and websites, look at the maps and Flickr sights, I am sure that having walked one Camino we will be better prepared, but I am also sure there will be many surprises, things we hadn’t expected, and days when we look and feel like the guy above.