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 – http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/el-camino-frances/topic19035.html
Here is Steve’s blog – http://steve2013dotnet.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/day-32-i-walked-with-god-today-2/