I am studying with a program in Rome, Italy this semester, which actually just started two days ago. Before arriving in the Eternal City, I spent two weeks walking part of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage path that runs about 800 kilometers across northern Spain. I walked with two of my close friends who are also studying in Rome this semester, and since our time was limited we only did about 300 km of the hike. Still, it was a truly eye-opening and overwhelming experience.
Our typical day while on the Camino usually started around 5:30 or 6am. We slept in special hostels for peregrinos (the Spanish word for "pilgrims"), called alburgues, which are cheap and conveniently spaced along the path, but often very large and very crowded. Some of the alburgues we stayed in could sleep 200-300 people, and a lot of times the rooms would have between 30-40 beds in them. Most people like to get an early start, since a day's walk is typically about 25 km, but we still had to be quiet to make sure we didn't wake up the people who were trying to sleep in. Although it's a lot warmer in Spain than it is in our home state of Minnesota, the sun rises later, so in the morning it would be FREEZING until about 8am. We'd usually walk for an hour, stop for coffee, walk for a few more hours, stop at a supermarket and buy bread to snack on, and then walk until we got into town. Then we would eat everything in sight, which usually included bread, bread, and more bread. Literally, if you ask for a sandwich in Spain, they give you half a loaf of bread with meat in the middle. It is quite fantastic. We were usually so tired by the end of the day that all we wanted to do was shower and sleep, but we did try to take advantage of our free afternoons by exploring the town, playing cards, or hanging out with the other peregrinos. We definitely learned a lot of Spanish trying to check into hostels and order ice cream!