I have rebelled against routine most of my life. As a child, my mom was big on routines. Thursday morning at 10:00? She would be in the Jewel grocery store. Every week. Saturday dinner? Steak and home-made french fries with green beans. Another day was dedicated to waxing the floor, another for laundry. Unvarying. You could set your clock on my mom and her routines.
I wanted none of that. And it has been to my detriment. “When did I change the furnace filter?” “Do I need to go to the grocery store today or can it wait?” “Oh no, that bill is due today!” I have created unnecessary drama in my life, been less efficient, wasted money and dropped the ball too often to count. But the idea of a routine felt too stifling to me.
Here on the Camino I have fallen into a comfortable and peaceful routine. Every day, I get up, do the usual tooth brushing and contact wearing, put the same things in my back pack and in my luggage, fill my water bladder in my back pack, have breakfast, strap my back pack on, put my phone in my pocket for easy access for picture taking, have my map and pilgrim credential in my hand and pop my ibuprofen pills. And I walk. I don’t stop until I have reached my destination, except for a few rare times to take a bathroom break or once to have a drink. Otherwise, my days have a steady rhythm and routine.
There is a routine to the walks as well. The familiar roads of small and large stone, of hard ground and ground softened with needles, of asphalt and mud (all while maneuvering around the cow and horse manure). The sounds of cows mooing, the bells around their necks, of roosters crowing all day long, dogs barking, horses neighing, tractors working, pilgrims chatting in various languages and accents. The sights of bars full of pilgrims having what seems like parties along the way, of turning into villages with the familiar stone barns, homes and albergues, of women in scarves and men in work clothes. The smells of manure, flowers, cooking. Corn stalks, sunflowers, hydrangeas of every possible hue, ivy and moss on stone fences, ferns and eucalyptus trees, stone bridges, canopied walks under tress giving blissful shade. Everyday I have encountered all of this. It is part of the daily experience of the Camino.
I find that these routines have been quite freeing. And comforting and safe. No decisions to make, no drama, no surprises. The day is laid out for me, I have a destination to reach, and that is what I have done for ten days. The rhythm, the familiarity had become expected, part of my life.
As I wrap up my time on the Camino, the prospect of the days ahead in Paris and elsewhere make me a bit tense. I need to make decisions about what to do each day. I won’t have my routine anymore! What if I don’t optimize my time in Paris? How will I structure my days? I will miss the sights, sounds and smells I have had on the Camino. Except probably the manure.
How different from the person who rebelled at routines. Maybe I will shop for groceries every Thursday morning in Paris…