The 37 lessons I learned on the Camino de Santiago

A post from 2015, but still relevant today. One of our forum members lists 37 lessons that was learned on the Camino de Santiago. 

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A long post, so not for everyone. Might help newbies, and bring a smile of remembrance to oldies.

Lesson 1 (St Jean): get back to the albergue by 10pm or you WILL be locked out.

Lesson 2 (Orisson): if you want a bottom bunk claim your bed BEFORE you go for a beer.

Lesson 3 (Roncesvalles): give your real age (not “21+”); if you are over 50 you are allocated a bottom bunk.

Lesson 4 (Zubiri): don’t blindly follow the pilgrim ahead of you; he may have taken a wrong turn.

Lesson 5 (Pamplona): check your hotel room has hot water BEFORE you empty everything out of your pack and you are stark naked; you may have to change rooms.

Lesson 6 (Uterga): don’t try and keep up with your walking buddy, or you may never forgive him/her for rushing you over The Hill of Forgiveness.

Lesson 7 (Villatuerta): don’t walk on when the hospitalero says he has no bunk beds; what he means is: all his beds are single beds, no bunks!

Lesson 8 (Los Arcos): stop at the wine fountain, the opportunity doesn’t present itself again.

Lesson 9 (Logrono): check that you have EVERYTHING with you when you let yourself out of the pension early on a Sunday morning. The senora may not appreciate being woken up and letting you back in because you left your glasses on the bed.

Lesson 10 (Ventosa): if you make a new friend on the camino, exchange contact details BEFORE you realise that you are out of sync with him/her.

Lesson 11 (Ciruena): don’t believe the piece of paper you get from the pilgrim office stating which albergues are still open in October; things change.

Lesson 12 (Belorado): don’t check into the first albergue you get to in town; there are better ones further on.

Lesson 13 (Ages): bless those moments of loving kindness: the old man who beckons you over, and drops a huge handful of ripe figs into your hands.

Lesson 14 (Burgos): read your guide book, and take the pleasant river walk into the city.

Lesson 15 (Hornillos): don’t expect that the lively bar of the night before will be open for breakfast next morning. 10.8 kms slog before café con leche!

Lesson 16 (Castrojeriz): the best albergue is often the furthest away. Visit the castle.

Lesson 17 (Fromista): European men walk to the mixed showers in their speedos carrying only a bar of soap and a towel. Walk to the bar and shower later.

Lesson 18 (Carrion de los Condes): walk slow, stop for long breaks, drink café con leche, and chat to other pilgrims.

Lesson 19 (Caldadilla de la Cueza): some of the best times are sitting in the afternoon sunshine, drinking cold beers and laughing with friends.

Lesson 20 (El Burgo Ranero): animals are not welcome on the camino. Gonzales, who we first met in St Jean, and his German Shepherd, Attila, has been telling us the difficulties they have on finding places to stay. Attila wears little hiking boots to protect his foot pads.

Lesson 21 (Villarente): if there is a single pilgrim in the albergue, ask him/her if he/she would like to join you when you go out for the evening.

Lesson 22 (Leon): treat yourself to one night at the Parador, and luxuriate in a hot bathtub; book a couple of days ahead on booking.com.

Lesson 23 (Villadangos): NEVER walk this route again; walking alongside the busy road is horrid, especially in rain and wind.

Lesson 24 (Hospital de Orbigo): if the going gets tough, and your shins and knees are still sore from the long flat walk across the meseta, stop for the day, relax, and read a book.

Lesson 25 (Astorga): hug the lovely friend you lost on Day 10 and have found again; now exchange contact details, and go out for celebratory dinner together.

Lesson 26 (Foncebadon): be the last to arrive at the albergue; if it is full they will open up the overfill room for you, which you get all to yourself, complete with private bathroom.

Lesson 27 (Molinaseca): always take a top bunk from now on; bed bugs can’t fall on you up there.

Lesson 28 (Cacabelos): ET is still my favourite film, even in Spanish.

Lesson 29 (Trabadelo): it’s not true what they say on this forum, that the hospitalero will always know what to do if you arrive with bed bug bites; have plan B so you can nuke any little blighters yourself.

Lesson 30 (O’Cebreiro): this place is freezing cold in November. Stay at a lower altitude in the future.

Lesson 31 (Triacastela): if an old woman stops you and offers you a donativo crepe with a (teeny weeny) bit of sugar sprinkled on it, best to accept; her big dog may decide you cannot leave unless you do so.

Lesson 32 (Barbadelo): always buy TWO bottles of wine, when you think only one will do; you never know who you might be sharing a communal supper with in the albergue that evening.

Lesson 33 (Portomarin): there are lots of cows, and cow shit, in Galicia.

Lesson 34 (Palas de Rei): Xunta albergues are purpose built and have no character. They have beautiful kitchens, but unequipped, so unuseable. What pilgrim carries a cooking pot, plate and cutlery with him? They also have shared ablutions with no doors on the showers. Keeps their costs down, I suppose: nobody showers and nobody cooks.

Lesson 35 (Ribadiso): changed my mind (slightly) about Xunta albergues. This one (a renovated old pilgrim hospital) has SEPARATE mens and womens ablutions (yeay!) AND doors on the showers.

Lesson 36 (O Pedrouzo): do what the Spaniards do and enjoy an Orujo de Hierbas at mid-morning with your café con leche.

Lesson 37 (Santiago de Compostela): everyone slows down on the last day, as though they don’t want it all to end. But it does, so now give thanks to St James for having arrived safely, and for all the lessons you’ve learnt along the way. Then next year, go back to the beginning and start again, and learn something spiritual rather than practical.

Read all the responses on The lessons I learnt every day on the Camino here on the forum. 

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