I am the type of person who likes to think things through before setting out on a course of action. When it came to walking the Camino, this meant that I spent quite a bit of time setting up a notional plan for my pilgrimage. I thought about how far I might hike each day, where I might stay each night, plus a pile of other related information.
There has been a fair amount of discussion on the Camino forums about this sort of pre-planning. The two primary schools of thought seem to be a minimalist approach, with little pre-planning, and a more detailed approach, with considerably more planning. A lot of this has to do with your personality and the amount of comfort or anxiety you might feel as you prepare for your journey. The minimalist school says that if you are a “true pilgrim” you will not think things through so much and will let the adventure unfold as it will. “The Camino will provide” is a commonly heard epitaph. This group of people feel that too much thought about the details detracts from the Camino experience. On the other hand, I am a member of the detailed planning school since I like to have some idea of where I will be on any given day and feel a little anxious about just setting out and letting nature take her way. It’s just a reflection of my personality.
My plan was laid out in a calendar format and included lots of information such as the calendar date, the destination town for the day, the number of days since the start of the pilgrimage, suggested lodging, the number of actual walking days to date, the daily distance in miles and kilometers, the total distance walked to date, the distance remaining to reach the end of the pilgrimage, a reference to the associated guidebook map, and the total days in the EU. Once the planning was done I had an excellent idea of where I would be at any point along the way.
But, I want to reiterate that my plan was just that – a notional plan – not a blueprint that had to be precisely followed. I felt totally free to deviate from my plan as needed and adjust expectations as I made my way toward the ultimate destination of Santiago de Compostella. I thought it might be fun to share with you how the original plan looked and how the actual plan played out. So, I have included two images here that illustrate the point. The images show the plan for my pilgrimage during the month of September as I had it laid out prior to my trip and the actual plan as I marked it up to reflect my actual experience.
You can see that the best laid plans of mice and men are often quite a bit different from reality. So, I guess my take-away from this is to recommend that any future pilgrims plan as much or little as they feel comfortable with, but above all, be prepared for changes along the way. I never stressed out about any of the changes. They just helped me, on my personal journey, keep track of where I was along the way and understand what additional changes might be in order going forward.
Bon Chemin et Buen Camino!