Post Camino #13 – The Times they are a Changing…

There’s an interesting debate going on at the moment on one of the Camino forums –

An experienced pilgrim, who’s walked the Camino several times, has had some recent bad experiences, and she voiced these in a post. She complained that the Camino was different this year – there were many more people, and some were rude, thoughtless, and aggressive.

In the thread that followed, some blamed this on the popularity of the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, which has helped increase numbers. (I know from my experience that many people are walking the Camino because they’ve seen that film.)

Others have lamented the use of wifi, tablets and smartphones as being contributive to a breakdown of the “Camino spirit.” Some have suggested not walking the Camino Frances at all, and choosing another pilgrimage route.

They’ve disparaged what they call “tourigrinos” who see the Camino as nothing more than a cheap vacation. They walk short distances then take buses and taxis, they ship their backpack on ahead to the hotel that they’ve pre-booked, and they use iPads.

Folks, the times they are a changing…

What’s wrong with a popular film encouraging more people to walk the Camino? If the Camino is a transformative spiritual experience, why should it be restricted to just those select few “in the know?” Why shouldn’t as many people as possible experience the wonder of the Camino?

Okay, the infrastructure might have to play catch-up, but that pours more money into the Spanish economy that right now desperately needs it. And it supports the smaller towns and villages along The Way, those that aren’t on the routine stage stop-overs.

And what’s the problem with using wifi, iPads and smartphones? Hundreds of years ago before this technology, church leaders, heads of state, and merchants used pen and paper, riders and messengers to communicate. I’d hazard a guess that if they were walking the Camino today, they’d be using iPhones or Galaxies. And if they needed to catch a taxi or a train for a stretch, that’s what they’d do.

Cutting yourself off from communications doesn’t make you more of a “true” pilgrim. Not everyone is retired. Not everyone can go five weeks without staying in touch, whether it’s family, their business, or whether it’s simply to post a blog each day.

I have a friend, his name is Steve, and he’s walking the Camino at the moment. At the outset, he said he had no commitment to walk the Camino. Those were his words. I gave him encouragement, by posting on his blog. So did others. Today he posted a blog which was titled: I WALKED WITH GOD TODAY. 

Bloody hell. What a switch-around! This is the guy who wanted to give up after the first week. This is the guy who said he had no commitment to the pilgrimage.

This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been blogging. If he hadn’t had his iPad and wifi.

Of course the Camino is going to get more crowded, as more people discover that it can change your life. Should we be trying to restrict this to just “true” pilgrims?

I don’t think so.

Here is the Camino Forum thread –

Here is Steve’s blog –

Rosa by Canal 6

42 thoughts on “Post Camino #13 – The Times they are a Changing…

  1. Thank you for this blog. I’ve been planning my Camino for a year and a half (since before I saw The Way) and one thing that continues to plague and hamper my zeal is this exact thing you’ve written about. Even peregrinos who I would consider tolerant occasionally disparage those who take buses or don’t walk the entire route.
    Although I have no need to fulfill someone else’s idea of a pilgrimage…I’m doing this for my own personal reasons, after all…it still makes me wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t even try if others will put me down for how I choose to do. I don’t have the time available to walk the entire length and yet…I do want to start at Roncesvalles because there are areas of the Camino that I really want to visit. So, I’m planning a walking/riding trip across Spain.
    And…because of the disparaging remarks, I’m considering starting somewhere closer to Santiago so that I won’t have to save time by taking the bus at times and then making excuses for why I’m taking the bus on a walking tour.
    I shouldn’t even have to give this a second thought. I realize that the Camino becomes a part of your soul and being able to walk the entire distance and stay in albergues every night would give a pilgrim a sense of superiority for doing it how it should be done. Such superiority has no place in the heart of a pilgrim. Let’s not ‘should’ on others.
    People need to walk their walk and let others do the same. We all have different needs, wants and reasons for going.
    Thank you for your post.


    • Hi Julie,
      Please don’t be “chased away” from what YOU want to do on YOUR Camino. Please re-read your last paragraph – it’s what the Camino is. What you have been planning for a year and a half is a wonderful thing – don’t change your plans now. Just come up with pleasant remarks and good cheer if you run into disparaging folks. They need the kind words. And do it YOUR way. Buen Camino!!
      ~ Terry, a future walker of the Camino also.


      • Terry, I am themSteve Bill referred to in his blog. I skipped about 90 miles of it as my wife was having foot problems and we quit at the halfway point. I thought I would,head back to themU.S. because I really had nothing to prove by walking another 400 kilometers. But the Camino had another idea. My travel agent could not change my ticket, so I took it as a sign and returned to Astorga and started again alone. I have my iPhone and I bought an iPad just for the trip. I won’t stay somewhere without wifi. I spend a couple of hours on my blog every night. I try to avoid albergues because I don’t sleep we’ll in them and I don’t think this is about giving up all comforts, but I,place no judgment on those who view otherwise. Taking on the Camino under any terms is a huge commitment, and whether you stay in an albergue or a nice hotel room, you still have to walk to,get there and,therein lies the challenge. So, don’t give a passing glance at all,the Camino experts. It is yours to walk as you see fit. Personally, I have not met anyone that was negative about anything. All have been supportive and no one has commented on me not doing,the entire 800 kilometers. and, by the way, I took a taxi through Ponferrada simply because I did not think walking through another industrial town would make me a better pilgrim. It is now 8:30 am on Monday morning and I am blogging, not walking, and I am enjoying the comfort of this beautiful country inn. So, do it your way and expect the best from the people you meet and I bet they give the same back to you. Don’t let the bad apples spoil the barrel. Buen Camino.


      • Steve, the walk into Ponferrada is actually surprisingly enjoyable, beautiful even at times, it’s just the few K’s from the town centre to the outskirts that can be a bit tedious, though there’s nothing hard about the walking aspect of it.

        Plus, you can just stop for a cerveza if you get too bored !!!

        So I’d say that’s a pity, but whatever …

        So, don’t give a passing glance at all,the Camino experts. It is yours to walk as you see fit

        Speaking as a “Camino expert”, I’d say that’s excellent advice !!!

        (I doubt there’s a single “Camino expert” who hasn’t become one by doing all of the “don’ts” themself in the first place)


      • Hi Terry – Thanks for your kind words. I’ve given this a lot of thought and am going to just go with the flow. Walk, rest, bus…whatever. I agree with giving kind words to those who need it (those who disparage others for walking their own path). I think there is plenty of room in Spain for all kinds of pilgrims. Buen Camino! Julie


    • Hey Julie

      I completely understand how you are feeling.
      I had some interesting comments made about me when I headed off to Spain in 2009 to walk 160km from La Faba to Santiago. Two years earlier a chance encounter with someone during Spanish lessons planted the little Camino seed and then a horrible experience, three surgeries and rehabilitation germinated that seed…. Within two weeks of looking into the Camino further, I found a tour company and I was booked. I didn’t feel confident to go by myself ( I was pretty broken at the time) and all I wanted and needed to do was just walk. The tour company I went with were amazing…they left me alone….and I just walked. It was the most amazing bliss I have ever experienced.

      At one stage while walking I did a quick scan around me and saw that there was no one in front or behind and then I screamed out…. IM IN SPAIN!!!!!! I made it GOD!!! Im here!!! That felt amazing!

      I never felt like people I meet were judging me for walking with a company or staying in private accommodation. Although some peoples comments on the forum did upset me for a while after I returned.

      But the thing is Julie…..everyone starts their Camino in a different place, both in time and location. Its not when you first step foot on the path in Spain, or how long you walk, or how heavy your pack is/isn’t, or if you are staying privately or in a hostel, or riding etc.

      The Camino starts when you first make the decision to go….that is the only step that counts.


  2. Hi Julie, don’t worry about what other people might think. Your pilgrimage is your pilgrimage. Doesn’t matter how you do it. Those that judge you have no right to do so. They should do three or four extra Caminos in penance!

    It sounds to me as though you have the Camino spirit very much in your heart, and that’s all that matters.



  3. Hi Bill – spot on post! I saw Annie’s post on the forum yesterday and I agreed with some of the other posters that she should take a rest day or two so that she’d meet an entirely different set of people. ‘Hope this happened. The discussion of true pilgrims, tourogrinos, and hey, cyclists too(!) is bound to create some really spirited conversation but you know, I often think that if St James were alive today, he’d welcome EVERYONE to The Way, and he wouldn’t judge ANYONE for the way they’re doing their Camino – he’d just be so happy that they could experience the miracle that is the Camino. Cheers, JennyH.


  4. When I saw that thread, I felt so sad. Selfishly too, because I haven’t had the chance to walk it yet.But then I thought as you did, that there is enough Camino for everyone.And if some are not sensitive to all the gifts of the spirit that are there for them, perhaps those who have been transformed by the Way can help them see it. It doesn’t have to end up a crowded disaster.I think the more people walk it, the better the world becomes, and those of us who have been blessed with a new inner light from the Camino experience, can shine that light so the rest can see their way by it too. Perhaps those who believe could say a prayer for the Camino and everyone who walks it, so they can grow from walkers into pilgrims-and that we try to be more patient with those who haven’t yet quite found their Way


  5. hi jenny, you are sooooo right! St. James would be chortling that everyone is taking this pilgrimage so seriously!

    I have seen so called “tourigrinos” start off the Camino with the sole intention of having a vacation, and by the time they arrived at Santiago they’d become genuine pilgrims. The experience of walking the camino changed them. Andnow they’re making plans to go back again, not to have a second vacation, but to walk the Camino as a pilgrimage.

    So you can’t judge ANYONE.



  6. Right you are, what’s the problem with letting your unknown friends have the same camino experience as you? Selfish and not ok.
    I’m just now in a kind of post camino trauma or at least thinking, still in SdC and I’ve just figured out that camino pt 2 will start. The first part is the actual transportation and everything that happens during the walk, the second part is way larger and will probably follow you in the rest of your life (in your mind and in the most you will do).

    I’ll just want you to know that the nice lady up in Manjarin now have nice hiking shoes instead of broken Crocs. – just so you know…

    I will do some more comments when I’m back.. hohome again, I’m just 1,5 mite


  7. Something out of my control.
    I wanted to say that Im just 1,5 months behind you and your blog has been working fine for me as a preparation before my first step.

    // Jan


    • hi jan – is this post meant for me? nice lady in Manjarin? Broken Crocs? not sure what you mean.

      But just to comment on your previous post – “what’s the problem with letting your unknown friends have the same camino experience as you? Selfish and not ok.” Again, not sure what you’re referring to, but I don’t believe two Caminos are ever the same – or experiences can ever be shared or replicated. If someone wants to try and have an experience I’ve had, then they’re more than welcome to try! And if it’s a good experience I’ve had, then I hope they have a similarly good experience!



      • bill you posted a picture of a lady, with a beautiful face, and eyes, poorly dressed with broken shoes ,that was crocs.


  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have spent my day reading your entire Camino blog. You are a fabulous writer and now I would like to see some of your films.

    I plan to do the Camino in seven years. I don’t know what is calling me but something is.

    You have inspired me today to stop making excuses and get out and do the things I want. Ignore or work through the pain. This weekend I will do my 50 km bike ride. Just keep pedalling, just keep pedalling. (Think Dory in Nemo.)

    Thank you again. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.


  9. Well, thank you!

    But why wait seven years to do the Camino? Why not seven months? Or seven weeks?

    I wore Nike track pants on my Camino, so I guess I’m allowed to say: JUST DO IT!



    • Mother guilt. I’m waiting until my kids finish school so I don’t have to carry the guilt of leaving them for a couple of months with me. Mentally I’m ready to go now.

      By then you will have done it a couple more times and I can live vicariously through you.


      • I don’t mean to be seditious, or cause domestic unrest, but you COULD just buzz off for a few weeks. You don’t need to do the whole Camino in one hit. Your family could survive without you for a short while, no?

        If you are anything like me, and others that I know, you are on a slippery slope which you now can’t get off. Once the Camino bug has bitten you, it’s not a matter of IF you’ll do the Camino, it’s WHEN. And as I say in my blog, the pressure starts to build and build and build until you feel like you’ll burst unless you get over there and start putting one foot in front of the other.

        (i hope you husband doesn’t get on this blog and tell me to butt out!)


        • Ha, no I’m safe there. This is about walking therefore he won’t read it.

          This sounds crazy but doing part of it is something I’ve never actually considered before. I’ve always imagined doing the whole thing – basically the same route you took. I’m now going to have to go and ponder that. And my niggling knee injury.


      • hello , I think Bill is right , why waiting so long, ? waist of time. The benefits of doing the Camino will be good for your kids , too. Unless they are very young, I mean below 3 years old ( and even though ) they will survive 4 weeks without you with no problèms.


      • I hear what you are saying about waiting until the children are older and less in need of mother. Yet, when my kids were in HS, I had to travel often to take care of my dying dad. I had numerous “spiritual” experiences during that time because for the first time in my life I was only responsible for myself when I was traveling and staying in hotels. I literally could hear myself think and pray/meditate in solitude. I always came back with a heightened awareness and love for my family… was good to get away, not bad. And, honestly, it didn’t hurt my hubby to make the mac and cheese dinners and drive for ball practice now and then. 😉

        That being said, I believe you will know when the time is right to do your Camino. Your intuition will guide you…….


  10. Or you could go right now and take them with you and be back before school starts. What a great start on life for those kids. I saw a photo on someone’s blog of a pilgrim with a baby on his back. I think he also had a wheeled pack for stuff. I seriously doubt the kids will interfere with your walk, as out in nature like that, they’ll be very busy with their own walks. Then you might even take another alone in 7 years.

    I’ll confess, right now my walks are to the mailbox with my 96 year old mom and sitting too much of the day is a lot harder on my knees than walking. Also, no, I haven’t done the Camino yet either, except vicariously through you bloggers. Another good reason to have wifi on the trail. Look how much wealth you share. Thank you for taking the time to do that.


    • Hi Barbara – I took that shot of the young couple with the baby. The baby was 11 months old, and they were doing a stage of the camino, not the whole route.

      Then there’s the day who did the walk with her two daughters. They walked the entire way, and finished in May. It is possible.



  11. My walk is suppose to start next September (2014) and Bill is right about the pressure building…it is in my thoughts in everything I do. I have to hold back when I am with people because that is what I want to talk about and it has been that way for months!

    I go for hikes and I am looking around and thinking about the Camino. I live on the Central Coast of CA and people ask me why I want that so much when we have miles and miles of beautiful hiking trails with ocean views. I am thankful for what I have but the Camino calls me and I need to do this. It is an amazing force that I can’t understand!!


  12. What’s changing is actually a LOT more subtle than what people are talking about in that forum thread, and as for the “tourist-pilgrims”, well, they were there 20 years ago as well, they haven’t just popped up like a ring of toadstools overnight !!!

    What’s changing is that there is a certain international group of people who think that they have some kind of special entitlement rights to the Camino, and that those who don’t think in the properly approved manner are far too easily viewed as being somehow “not-us”.

    The notion, to set a completely contrary example to what people are bitching about in that thread, that someone might walk the Camino in a fully Catholic spirit, would seem to be as equally “not-us” as a pilgrim walking the Camino despite their state of extreme poverty.

    The member of the forum ranting about $5/day “trash” was particularly revealing of this mindset, which is BTW entirely foreign to the True Spirit of the Camino itself (as I’m sure you well know, Bill).

    There always has been a kind of obsessive “repeat-pilgrim” mentality, among those who never really come back from the Camino, and instead decide to focus a large part of their lives around an artificial and false conception of it. They long for what they call the “camaraderie”, whereas instead the Camino has become for them like some kind of psychological comfort zone, whereby not only any challenges to this comfort zone are viewed as personal attacks, but also whereby the Camino itself, and especially the albergues, need to be transformed into exclusive, bourgeois, comfortable hotel rooms, simply re-organised for communal sleeping.

    But that’s NOT the Camino. (though it would be both rude and destructive to point this out to them on their own internet forum)

    The final goal of the Camino is HOME.

    The True Pilgrim isn’t the one who gets stuck forever somewhere in the social peregrino womb of “us” between the Meseta and O Cereibro ; the True Pilgrim is the one who turns his back upon Santiago and Fisterra, turns his back on the Camino itself, and resolutely sets one foot in front of the other to make the way back home.


      • From that thread — an exact illustration of what I’m talking about :

        The part that i find disturbing amongst them is they are all trying to FIT it in whilst holidaying in europe and only from Sarria



    • Julian, I can see why you didn’t join in the debate on that forum thread. Your views would be both confronting and antithetical to some there. (I had to tone down my post – did three edits before I posted!)

      But what you say above is insightful, once again, and true. If the Camino is a transformative experience, then surely it’s about how you USE that experience, not the experience itself.

      One of these days we have to meet.



    • Interesting and entertaining post.

      FWIW though, if you read the accounts of pilgrims from centuries ago, what strikes you is less the differences in their experience, but the amazing similarities — indeed, the familiarity of their experiences as compared to ours.

      Including all the bitching about the pilgrim menus, bad footwear and blisters, variously friendly or helpful locals, thieves on the Camino preying on pilgrims, the rich pilgrims travelling in horse and cart versus the poor ones slogging it on foot all the way, scarcity of beds at the albergues/hospitals, friends family and acquaintances treating you like some kind of nutcase, the proper pilgrims and the fake ones, the pilgrimage as a mediaeval tourist industry, etc etc etc — but also all the same glory in the spirituality of the Camino itself, in the joys and pains of the walking, and the deep sense of Life bursting out of those accounts just as it bursts out of one’s own taking that Way to Santiago into one’s own life.

      The only major differences between the mediaeval pilgrimage and the modern are :

      1) no more packs of wolves

      2) no more bands of armed brigands

      3) FAR more choice as to where one can cross any of the major rivers

      4) speedy public transport back out of Santiago

      5) we all get to talk about it to each other on the internet ;o)


      • julian – I haven’t read these accounts but it all makes a lot of sense. Also, fundamental human nature doesn’t change. There are still the braggarts, the thieves and opportunists, the dreamy-eys idealists, the poets, the mendicants, the aesthetes and ascetics, the philanderers, and those true of heart.

        At least we don’t have murderers, disease, and lousy footwear. Thank God for insoles.



      • Yes, JP. Or even read and watch this great scene from the comfort of our air conditioned living rooms. It is a real pleasure to meet each of you via my computer screen. Buen camino to each of you.
        With much admiration,

        Steve used to share ski trips and boats and airplane rides with us when he had those things. Now he shares his camino. Isn’t he a great brother!

        Even his mom wrote two comments last night. She reads all of you but at 96 her eyes and fingers are slower than her will and her mind..


  13. Hi Bill,
    I really appreciated your blog post. I just completed a feature length documentary on the Camino “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” and have had very mixed feelings about how the film will likely inspire many people to walk and there is a good chance there will be a lot more Americans on the Camino because of our film. As we Americans aren’t known to be the best travelers, I feel a bit apprehensive about this, but I would say we are known for being good pilgrims!

    My film is really about the transformational nature of the Camino so I’m optimistic that the film will inspire pilgrims to go – not people looking just for a cheap vacation.

    Also saw in another post that you are a filmmaker too and are looking to make a film on intuition. Congratulations! Sounds fabulous. I actually made this documentary or rather I let the Camino make the documentary in so many ways and allowed my intuition to be a very big guiding force in the project.

    We just finished the film in March and since then been in 5 festivals and won 4 awards! It’s been very rewarding – especially as it was almost 5 years in the making.

    Anyway thanks again for the great blog!
    Lydia B. Smith


  14. Hi Lydia – congratulations on making your film – and on the success you’re having!

    Where can I see it? Is it possible to download? (I’ll pay!)

    I wouldn’t worry about your film attracting more people to the Camino. Part of your function in society is to communicate and disseminate ideas. The Camino should not be restricted to just a special few – it should be available to everyone. A film like yours makes it more accessible.

    The Way, the Martin Sheen film, has certainly spiked popularity. I met so many people on the walk who said they were there because of the film, which I regard as a good thing. If you had a special medicine that could make people better, would you want to restrict it to just your friends? Nope. So then why not share the benefits of the Camino, because the benefits are very real.

    Anyway, thanks for getting in touch. If you want to contact me personally, do so at:

    I hope your film keeps kicking goals, as we say in Australia!



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