PEREGRINO is the Spanish word for pilgrim, often referring specifically to anyone who walks to Santiago de Compostela in North-West Spain. Every year the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is completed by around 200,000 blistered and sore, soul-searching Peregrinos. They walk 20 to 40 kilometers a day, go to sleep at 10 pm, wake up at dawn, and through the course of walking 800km, develop a certain type of openness and honesty along the way. So tread lightly on their exposed souls!
1) Tell him “How hard can it be? You’re just walking. ”
Oh the dagger! First of all it’s not just walking. Walking 25 kilometers a day for 30 days while carrying a 10 kg backpack can turn your feet to ground beef. Furthermore, your hips and knees are at particular risk for damage and inflamation. But even if we ignore the physical toil, the mental challenge is enough to give a potential pilgrim pause. For a month, your living and sleeping quarters are shared with up to 50 people in the Municipal Albergues, meaning you have a serious lack of privacy. Yet that may matter little to others who carry on like they were at home, farting and screwing with the social decency of a rabbit.
And then there is the Meseta (plains), between Burgos and Leon, where it’s as flat and interesting as a piece of plywood. Here boredom can worm its way inside your tired pilgrim mind. You may even start to sing, because, damn its boring. I don’t know the words to a single full song, but that didn’t stop me from butchering about 60 of them, from Bohemian Rhapsody to Warren G’s Regulators. You just hope no farmer is beyond sight, but within ear shot, because, God do you suck.
2) Wake up a snorer
The worst snorers sound like they are sucking rocks through a garden hose. Sometimes they even team up to create a well timed symphony of sleep time mouth music – one whistling out while the other chortles in. It may be aggravating, but you have to learn how to cope with the cacophony of snorers. Get into your zen meditative state, listen to music or my preferred option, use earplugs, but for Santiago’s sake, don’t be a dick and wake up the guy snoring, and with him everyone else in the room, by jabbing your phone in his face and screaming “Turn around, turn around. You are snoring. Turn around!”. You are being so un-pilgrim when you do that.
3) Party all the time or be a grump
There are two sides to this coin. One side has the face and mouth of someone puking all over the backpacks and boots of other pilgrims in the Albergue because they partied to hard and couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time. The other yells SILENCIO loud enough that it could wake Santiago from his tomb to the pilgrims talking in the corner after 10 pm. Both equally piss you off. Just try to go with the flow. It’s better that way.
4) Be a backpack rustler
Listen – I know you are a go-getter and like to get up at 4:30am in the morning so you can beat everybody else to the Albergue in the next town, but please, pack-up everything you can the night before, not in the morning. No, its not time to dig out every plastic bag you have and transfer the contents from one bag to the other. Nor is it time to fish out that mid-layer you kept all the way at the bottom of your backpack. And finally it is definitely not time to clip your frickin’ toe nails. It’s time to sleep.
5) Be demanding of your Hospitalero (Volunteer)
The golden rule is that the tourist says “Give me …”; the pilgrim says “thank-you”‘. You are not staying at a five star resort. This isn’t the four seasons, so give it a rest on the guy that volunteers his time at the Albergues for two weeks out of the year. It’s not his fault that some of the pilgrims chose beds that weren’t theirs, causing a forty person mix up in bed allocation. You paid five euros, just like everyone else. You really want to force this volunteer to hassle for 2 hours, correlating pilgrim’s to their “correct” bed? Yes. Will you yell at him to get your way? Yes. But will you get your way? No, because it doesn’t freaking matter. Now be off with you to the holiday inn.
What do you think? Do you agree? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.