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The Day Before You Hike The Camino

When I hiked my first Camino, I arrived in St-Jean by train at 11:30 pm after nearly 48 hours of nonstop travel. The next morning with hardly any sleep or food in my stomach, I began hiking over the Pyrenees Mountains. Needless to say, this was the absolute worst way to begin the Camino. Most pilgrims are so blinded by excitement and adventure that they forget to pause for a moment. 

No matter what time you arrive at the starting point, try not to begin the Camino the next day. Give yourself a night to sleep without worrying about walking in the morning. St-Jean is a beautiful town with a rich history that deserves to be explored. Spend a day meeting locals, chatting with other pilgrims, enjoying new food, and immersing yourself in a new environment. Everyone is always a little nervous and anxious before the Camino, so shedding as much of this beforehand will make the experience more enjoyable. A clear mind will allow you to focus on your own rhythm. Every step, breath, and sight is meant to be cherished on this journey, so put yourself in the best mental state to accomplish this.

Make sure to find a moment to organize your belongings. After what was likely several flights and long train rides, you probably spent some time searching for an item in your pack. Looking for a misplaced item is the last thing you will want to do before walking in the morning. Take the time to lay out your items on the floor and think about where everything will be stored. Picking different pockets to hold specific items and putting more commonly used items towards the top will save you stress. Hiking the Camino quickly becomes a regimented activity, so make sure you are organized.

After spending the day getting to know St-Jean, take the time to enjoy a long shower before going to sleep. Beginning the Camino clean and fresh will boost your spirits. Although sweaty skin and dirty clothes will quickly become your new normal, extending your cleanliness closer to the beginning of the Camino will make the first day better. Besides taking care of the outside of your body, make sure your stomach is full the night before you begin. Find a good meal with protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Vigorous hiking can be exhausting, so having fuel in your system is important. Your meal will probably also have wine, so make sure to drink lots of water. Dehydration can creep up easily. A good meal in the morning is also important, but overeating should also be avoided before hiking. You can find a light breakfast with coffee at any of the numerous cafes in St-Jean. Many pilgrims wait until Orisson to find a more substantial meal on their first day.

If you plan on keeping a journal on the Camino, your entry before you begin will be one of the most important. Jot down your fears, observations, and expectations about the journey ahead. Looking back on this entry will be valuable in the coming weeks. Your thoughts about the Camino may change substantially by the end. Many people embark on this pilgrimage with the goal of “discovering themselves,” so try to define what you want to discover.

One last goal before beginning the Camino is to find some good company for the trail. Some of the most memorable acquaintances you make will be during the first few days. Everyone is always very talkative and friendly as they prepare for their big adventure, so take advantage of this opportunity to make friends. Even if you are shy or apprehensive to meeting new people, the Camino will provide the company you need. There will usually be someone from St-Jean who you see again in Santiago. Buen Camino!

To read about my own experience on the Camino, be sure to check out my book My Own Pace. Click here to order your copy on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook.

10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Hiked The Camino

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How To Be Safe On The Camino

10 Best Things About The Camino

Leave a comment or send me a message if you have suggestions for articles about the Camino you would like to see!


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