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A note on reserving beds and the spirit of the Camino

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I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Edit (because I was mean): first, I’m glad the OP found a way that suited them on their Camino

original post:
A pet peeve of mine is the debate about bed reservations. People who reserve are not more anxious than those who don’t, nor are they less “true pilgrim” whatever that means. People who don’t reserve aren’t any more free spirited or spontaneous—if you haven’t figured out how far you walk in a day by Estella, let alone Leon or Sarria, you haven’t been paying attention.

Reserving a bed is necessary for many: their health may not be ok with walking further, their ethics may not be ok with violating someone’s private property by wild camping, etc. if people don’t want to reserve a bed: great! If they do: great! To each their own. Those who don’t reserve often have no issue with having a cell phone, using WiFi, having high tech camping/walking gear etc. So no pilgrim high ground here.

In short: feel free to reserve a bed or not. To each their own. People who reserve one aren’t cheating anymore than young fit folks who can out-walk the others.

jumping off soapbox and kicking it.
 
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roving_rufus

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
While on some pilgrim routes such as Camino Frances it is entirely possible to walk without bookings, and this can be a very interesting and rewarding experience. However, there are other routes or even off-season were it is necessary or at least polite to reserve in advance of at least a day. Planning does not necessarily diminish the pilgrim spirit or the unexpected joys that can happen. Though one's mindset about planning could effect the experience on the camino.
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
My wife and I walk the caminos with 2 different perspective on where we should lay our heads every night in the camino. I would rather have Camino provide for a place to stay every night which never fails afterall, people have been walking the camino for 1200 years but my wife wants more comfort so a room in a private albergue is always what she has in mind. However, my wife being a medical professional wants to run a tight ship this time because of covid delta variant so we are now reserving the first week and last few days of Del norte. Thanks to the horror stories i've read on this forum ;), we did this. The only problem with the reservation-ahead mentality is having no freedom to stop wherever you decide. You need to get to the place where you reserved no matter how far or short is the distance that you have to walk. I like your attitude though and I believe most if not all of the pilgrims of old have the same attitude when they once walked the greatest pilgrimage walk of all time.
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
The Camino clock has been turned back to the days of The Great Westward Walk by Antxon, translated into English by Rebekah Scott..
I am afraid the nostalgia will not last long once Covid is a thing of the past.
I share the OP's attitude except for the fact that there are a few of stops I am can't miss because of friendships I have forged over the years. Orisson, En El Camino, Peaceable Kingdom, just to name a few of my favorites....
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn:
Something too few “pilgrims” have learned is that there absolutely is no single right way, and each will find their own. Less concern about what others are doing, more inward introspection is always an option
 

Sheesh

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF (2009, 2013);
? (2020)
...The only problem with the reservation-ahead mentality is having no freedom to stop wherever you decide. You need to get to the place where you reserved no matter how far or short is the distance that you have to walk....

Actually, no - one has complete "freedom" whether they've booked ahead a night or two or not. There may be a financial penalty, depending on the cancellation policy of the booking(s), but that does not negate the fact that changes can be made. If one arrives at a locale and wants to or needs to stop for the night, and there is accommodation available, by all means do so.
 
I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
I am so happy that you were able to keep technology at a minimum. My first Camino in 2012, I had no phone, an IPod(yah, really), and that was it. The only reservation I made was for a place in Santiago itself. It was wonderful not having the pull to plug in. My second Camino(Portugal) I went with a couple who took over reservations, etc. so I could just walk. My 3rd in 2017 was as you described, the focus seemed to revolve alot around reservations and was very distracting. My next Camino (Norte) in 2022, I hope will be quieter. Thanks for sharing.
 

wabana

Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
I too hope to ( will try to ) pull the plug on technology and lesson the noise (in my head) - that being said my battery reserve gadget weight about 4 oz., my (Moon) guide book about 10 oz. there is another 1 lb of weight... maybe i get the book on my phone and learn to keep the phone off most of the time ! ....gee whiz, what a concept ! Like i said I'll try to adjust my behavior to focus on the walk and not extra stuff in my backpack and the ( j^$@)&( !) (obsessive compulsive) screen time !
 
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Tamarack

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Thanks, JJP, for this advice: "...keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way." I've reserved my first few nights and was debating whether to continue doing that, as it feels antithetical to the kind of Camino I want to experience. You gave me courage!
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
Actually, no - one has complete "freedom" whether they've booked ahead a night or two or not. There may be a financial penalty, depending on the cancellation policy of the booking(s), but that does not negate the fact that changes can be made. If one arrives at a locale and wants to or needs to stop for the night, and there is accommodation available, by all means do so.
right - freedom is not free. As pilgrims on a budget, i am not willing to pay for 2 accommodations on one night - most are cancellable only at least a day prior to your arrival - just because we have the freedom to go to another one. We as pilgrims are technically constrained by our budget that is the freedom that I meant. Now, if you're middle name is "Musk" or "Bezos" - you can probably have a chopper and a six-digit RV to follow you around. None of that is our idea of a pilgrimage so having a reservation constrains you to that reservation unless you have a clause that says that you will not have any penalty when you can cancel it on the day of your arrival but then again if that is the case, what's the point of having a reservation in the first place when the service provider could not guarantee your business. I have been travelling for the last 3 decades and havent found any hotel or hostel that doesnt charge you one full night if you cancel it after the check-in window of the day unless of course there was a catasthrophe or natural calamity or some emergency beyond your control. So at the end of the day, I dont call it freedom when I have to pay 2 hostel beds for one night when i'm only suppose to spend for one bed-nighht. BTW, if you know of a website that will allow you to cancel your reservation on the very day of your arrival with 10% penalty or less or free please share it with us here.
 

mikebet

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
SJPdP to Pamplona (2016); Baiona to Santiago (2018); Sarria to Santiago (2018)
It seems to me that the best way to make pilgrims (or just recreational walkers) unwelcome along the various caminos is to casually appropriate the "free" facilities along the way. Speaking as a former farmboy from Ohio I was particularly interested in the OP's mention of a haystack which provided a nice bed. HaySTACKS are stacked that way at some labor for the farmer's convenience in retrieving it and also for protection from rain. Nobody can sleep on a steep-sided haystack so the OP must have strewn some of it on the ground for a bed. I'm pretty sure if I were the farmer who constructed that haystack with my pitchfork and some sweat I'd be pretty unhappy with some hikers deconstructing it. And not to be indelicate, but where does a hiker sleeping in a rural setting find facilities for his or her morning necessities #'s 1 and 2? Where the cattle graze? Maybe there is just a lot of mitigating detail left out of the account, but this and other mentions of camping wherever the hiker wants to strikes me as being more than a little presumptuous. The affected farmer may be thinking of other ways to utilize his pitchfork even now.
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
On three Caminos so far: I typically start walking around 630am (a little earlier if it’s ridiculously hot) and get off the road no later than 2. Never once had trouble finding a bed. And avoided baking in that afternoon heat.
Ditto, after eleven years of walking various Camino, that is my plan exactly. I have missed 2020 and 2021 due to personal health issues and the Covid restriction so I don't know what the current situation is like, but I follow your schedule to a "T."
Up at 6:30, grab a cafe con leche around 9, finish walking at 20 or so kms, drop my backpack off in the queue at the door of an albergue, grab a beer or two and sus out the restaurant options, go get my bed at 1 or 2, take a shower, wash my sweaty clothes, go do the Menu del Dia and a carafe/bottle of vino tinto, take a nap and repeat the next day and the day after that, etc........
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Ditto, after eleven years of walking various Camino, that is my plan exactly. I have missed 2020 and 2021 due to personal health issues and the Covid restriction so I don't know what the current situation is like, but I follow your schedule to a "T."
Up at 6:30, grab a cafe con leche around 9, finish walking at 20 or so kms, drop my backpack off in the queue at the door of an albergue, grab a beer or two and sus out the restaurant options, go get my bed at 1 or 2, take a shower, wash my sweaty clothes, go do the Menu del Dia and a carafe/bottle of vino tinto, take a nap and repeat the next day and the day after that, etc........
Sounds exactly like (one of) my normal Camino days!
 

Felice

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
My very first camino - the Frances from SJPP to SdC - was very very special to me, precisely because it was so spontaneous and free. After the first 2 pre-booked nights in SJPP and Roncesvalles, I never booked again, and never failed to find somewhere for the night. Sometimes, I stayed in places I would at first glance, not have chosen to stay in, but often, these turned out to be the best nights of the journey.

On subsequent caminos - the Primitivo, and the Salvador - I again never pre-booked, but the spacing of accommodation meant that the ability to just stop wherever I felt, was not quite so possible.

In France, it is good manners to pre-book gîtes. For me, the need to plan ahead for the next couple of days detracted from the experience. For my daughter, who walked with me, it gave her reassurance.

I'm walking a stretch of the Welsh coastal path next month. Booking accommodation has been a nightmare because rooms are in great demand with people unable to go abroad this year. As I rejigged my schedule for the nth time, I thought wistfully of my time on the Frances....
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
right - freedom is not free. As pilgrims on a budget, i am not willing to pay for 2 accommodations on one night - most are cancellable only at least a day prior to your arrival - just because we have the freedom to go to another one. We as pilgrims are technically constrained by our budget that is the freedom that I meant. Now, if you're middle name is "Musk" or "Bezos" - you can probably have a chopper and a six-digit RV to follow you around. None of that is our idea of a pilgrimage so having a reservation constrains you to that reservation unless you have a clause that says that you will not have any penalty when you can cancel it on the day of your arrival but then again if that is the case, what's the point of having a reservation in the first place when the service provider could not guarantee your business. I have been travelling for the last 3 decades and havent found any hotel or hostel that doesnt charge you one full night if you cancel it after the check-in window of the day unless of course there was a catasthrophe or natural calamity or some emergency beyond your control. So at the end of the day, I dont call it freedom when I have to pay 2 hostel beds for one night when i'm only suppose to spend for one bed-nighht. BTW, if you know of a website that will allow you to cancel your reservation on the very day of your arrival with 10% penalty or less or free please share it with us here.
Pointing out that those in the no-reservation camp, if they want to stop but beds are gone, will walk further than they wanted and so really aren’t the masters of their universe they imagine. Some people must reserve: those unable to walk further due to age or health, those with emotional triggers that could melt down if told “no beds”, those of limited means who need to be sure to get a cheap bed and not pay for an expensive hotel, etc. so they wisely use the distance they know they can walk and book a bed. If they still have energy once there they explore the town and chat with locals. It’s a ver valid way of travel and no less spontaneous than those who pretend theirs is the one and only true way.

I was lucky: I purposely chose unpopular routes during less than ideal weather because I don’t like crowds, and as a side effect beds were generally available. I walked a double only once due to no beds and it was after I passed an albergue with beds at the end of the stage when there was promise another existed down the road. It didn’t. That was the Primitivo almost a decade ago. . I was in good health and could walk 1 1/2 to two full stages a day so walking on was never an issue. I budgeted to afford a hotel, either an inexpensive one or using points, so had a backup. But never in my wildest dreams did it ever occur to me to concern myself about what someone else was choosing to do, except the times someone needed my help figuring out lodging.

we each walk our own way. Since I wanted solitude the rare times that was intruded upon (especially after Lugo) was time for me to reflect on compassion and understanding of others and see the road through their eyes
 
Last edited:
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Peaceable Projects Inc.
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Past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
On three Caminos so far: I typically start walking around 630am (a little earlier if it’s ridiculously hot) and get off the road no later than 2. Never once had trouble finding a bed. And avoided baking in that afternoon heat.
Three Caminos after COVID and during a Holy Year?
 
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CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
People should do what makes their hearts happy, as long as their decision doesn't impact others in a negative fashion. However, if you have not booked a bed and arrive exhausted to a "Completo" sign, I just have a hard time feeling sorry for you, especially after COVID and during a HOLY YEAR summer, and especially after having been warned by those of us who have walked so many years! Maybe I'm just a meanie.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
It seems to me that the best way to make pilgrims (or just recreational walkers) unwelcome along the various caminos is to casually appropriate the "free" facilities along the way. Speaking as a former farmboy from Ohio I was particularly interested in the OP's mention of a haystack which provided a nice bed. HaySTACKS are stacked that way at some labor for the farmer's convenience in retrieving it and also for protection from rain. Nobody can sleep on a steep-sided haystack so the OP must have strewn some of it on the ground for a bed. I'm pretty sure if I were the farmer who constructed that haystack with my pitchfork and some sweat I'd be pretty unhappy with some hikers deconstructing it. And not to be indelicate, but where does a hiker sleeping in a rural setting find facilities for his or her morning necessities #'s 1 and 2? Where the cattle graze? Maybe there is just a lot of mitigating detail left out of the account, but this and other mentions of camping wherever the hiker wants to strikes me as being more than a little presumptuous. The affected farmer may be thinking of other ways to utilize his pitchfork even now.
This was exactly what I was thinking but said without the expletives I couldn’t figure out how to remove
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
Pointing out that those in the no-reservation camp, if they want to stop but beds are gone, will walk further than they wanted and so really aren’t the masters of their universe they imagine. Some people must reserve: those unable to walk further due to age or health, those with emotional triggers that could melt down if told “no beds”, those of limited means who need to be sure to get a cheap bed and not pay for an expensive hotel, etc. so they wisely use the distance they know they can walk and book a bed. If they still have energy once there they explore the town and chat with locals. It’s a ver valid way of travel and no less spontaneous than those who pretend theirs is the one and only true way.

I was lucky: I purposely chose unpopular routes during less than ideal weather because I don’t like crowds, and as a side effect beds were generally available. I walked a double only once due to no beds and it was after I passed an albergue with beds at the end of the stage when there was promise another existed down the road. It didn’t. That was the Primitivo almost a decade ago. . I was in good health and could walk 1 1/2 to two full stages a day so walking on was never an issue. I budgeted to afford a hotel, either an inexpensive one or using points, so had a backup. But never in my wildest dreams did it ever occur to me to concern myself about what someone else was choosing to do, except the times someone needed my help figuring out lodging.

we each walk our own way. Since I wanted solitude the rare times that was intruded upon (especially after Lugo) was time for me to reflect on compassion and understanding of others and see the road through their eyes
My stand on no-reservation was never about a stand on what is the real camino. Your pilgrimage is your pilgrimage - it is internal as much as external. I dont even impose the no-reservation view to my wife. My point is the obvious constraint it does to the daily life of our Camino of having a reservation if you're walking with a minimal budget. Each modern pilgrim is affected by their budget one way or another. We've walked 26-miler stages and we walked with a young man just barely out of high school who only stays in donativos and we walked with a couple who only does 10km a day but I believe either way - whether their lack of a sure-fire bed to which they can lay their head or a fancy bed had diminish the effect of camino to their lives. Cheers!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
My stand on no-reservation was never about a stand on what is the real camino. Your pilgrimage is your pilgrimage - it is internal as much as external. I dont even impose the no-reservation view to my wife. My point is the obvious constraint it does to the daily life of our Camino of having a reservation if you're walking with a minimal budget. Each modern pilgrim is affected by their budget one way or another. We've walked 26-miler stages and we walked with a young man just barely out of high school who only stays in donativos and we walked with a couple who only does 10km a day but I believe either way - whether their lack of a sure-fire bed to which they can lay their head or a fancy bed had diminish the effect of camino to their lives. Cheers!
And my point is not making a reservation also obviously puts constraints as you may find no beds in a town where you are exhausted or want to stop to explore and instead are forced to continue. It places a financial constraint because the cheap beds usually fill first. There are consequences of every choice—not making a reservation is not more freeing or spontaneous or true pilgrim like 🙄 it’s simply a choice. The right choice depends on the person and situation and isnt one that should concern anyone else. If it does, the person with concerns might consider walking further as they clearly have too much time and energy left over

edit: making a reservation doesn’t affect your budget negatively unless you have absolutely no clue how far you walk in a day. If you know that distance, book no further out, and if possible a few km short. Simple
 
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Akbunny59

Member
Past OR future Camino
2017 / 2018
Edit (because I was mean): first, I’m glad the OP found a way that suited them on their Camino

original post:
A pet peeve of mine is the debate about bed reservations. People who reserve are not more anxious than those who don’t, nor are they less “true pilgrim” whatever that means. People who don’t reserve aren’t any more free spirited or spontaneous—if you haven’t figured out how far you walk in a day by Estella, let alone Leon or Sarria, you haven’t been paying attention.

Reserving a bed is necessary for many: their health may not be ok with walking further, their ethics may not be ok with violating someone’s private property by wild camping, etc. if people don’t want to reserve a bed: great! If they do: great! To each their own. Those who don’t reserve often have no issue with having a cell phone, using WiFi, having high tech camping/walking gear etc. So no pilgrim high ground here.

In short: feel free to reserve a bed or not. To each their own. People who reserve one aren’t cheating anymore than young fit folks who can out-walk the others.

jumping off soapbox and kicking it.
Quite...! Well said.
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
And my point is not making a reservation also obviously puts constraints as you may find no beds in a town where you are exhausted or want to stop to explore and instead are forced to continue. It places a financial constraint because the cheap beds usually fill first. There are consequences of every choice—not making a reservation is not more freeing or spontaneous or true pilgrim like 🙄 it’s simply a choice. The right choice depends on the person and situation and isnt one that should concern anyone else. If it does, the person with concerns might consider walking further as they clearly have too much time and energy left over

edit: making a reservation doesn’t affect your budget negatively unless you have absolutely no clue how far you walk in a day. If you know that distance, book no further out, and if possible a few km short. Simple
the financial burden is when you already have a reservation but you need to stop short of the place where you reserved and is forced to find a place to sleep then you just paid for 2 beds and in our case it would 4. In all of our 3 caminos, what i noticed is that the beds/rooms on bookings.com or hotels.com are more likely to be more expensive than the albergues we randomly picked when we get to the town/city no matter how late. Again, having a reservation constraints you to that place only if you dont want to spend more money than you should.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
I know that so many people walk the Camino Frances. I know that so many people refer to the Camino Frances as the "Camino". I know that I did before my first pilgrimage. Mainly because I had no idea that there are lots of other camino paths that all have their own special personality, highs, lows and magic. We are in a new phase in the history of the Camino de Santiago. Yes the CF has more services but I do not think it has any more magic than other camino pathways. The magic happens if you let it no matter where you are walking. I have made great friends walking from Le Puy, from Irun, from Lisbon and soon I know I will from Sevilla. They say the CF is broken into 3 parts, body, mind and spirit. Well all the caminos have those parts, in and out of that order. I made wonderful friends in October and early November from Irun to the Primitivo and then was pretty much alone until the Norte merged with the CF. Walk with a group or make camino friends when there are people around, and when you walk alone learn to be your own best friend again. It will give you an opportunity to say F*%k it and rid yourself of all those thoughts that got you on the Camino in the first place.
The CF was stressed before the pandemic. It may be more stressed now.
There are other caminos that have albergues/pensions/hostels that are in need of pilgrims. Maybe more so than any open albergue on the CF.
It seems like the topic of beds, especially from Sarria can create the stress that so many went on the Camino in the first place to avoid.
Try another Camino. You may be surprised how much you may love it, how well you overcome hardship and learn that yes you can do it alone, and how deep your friendships can be without the crowds and the stress. Friendships from without and within.
 

Pancho

Peregrino 2018
Past OR future Camino
2018
I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
I walked in 2018, you described to a tee the method I followed. I will be on Primitivo this September. A new Camino, with new experiences. Buen Camino
 

shefollowsshells

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Several alone and with children
Edit (because I was mean): first, I’m glad the OP found a way that suited them on their Camino

original post:
A pet peeve of mine is the debate about bed reservations. People who reserve are not more anxious than those who don’t, nor are they less “true pilgrim” whatever that means. People who don’t reserve aren’t any more free spirited or spontaneous—if you haven’t figured out how far you walk in a day by Estella, let alone Leon or Sarria, you haven’t been paying attention.

Reserving a bed is necessary for many: their health may not be ok with walking further, their ethics may not be ok with violating someone’s private property by wild camping, etc. if people don’t want to reserve a bed: great! If they do: great! To each their own. Those who don’t reserve often have no issue with having a cell phone, using WiFi, having high tech camping/walking gear etc. So no pilgrim high ground here.

In short: feel free to reserve a bed or not. To each their own. People who reserve one aren’t cheating anymore than young fit folks who can out-walk the others.

jumping off soapbox and kicking it.
Totally agree! My first Camino I had no way of booking ahead and my camino was much like the OP described , at times walking to a different town with headlamp. While looking back on it those times sounded romantic and wonderful, at the time not so much…
Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Englais nothing booked. Then Le Puy to Santiago with five kids in tow nothing booked either but we did sleep out atleast 80 percent of the time. That was freeing!!!!! But at times We still had to worry and hunt a bit. Right now I’m on Le Puy and booked all but about seven nights. Right now I’m laying in my hammock, on the cele valley because the campground I stayed at last time appears closed for good…
but I did just book a KAYAK, for this next stage in the cele valley variant! all bevause I walked up to two pilgrims and asked “ wjere are you guys sleeping tonight”. I’m actually hammocking on the kayak rental property. I’m very glad that we have booked ahead for this Le Puy. I did it stateside before leaving home all via email.
Not certain how we’ll handle the Frances…
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Totally agree! My first Camino I had no way of booking ahead and my camino was much like the OP described , at times walking to a different town with headlamp. While looking back on it those times sounded romantic and wonderful, at the time not so much…
Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Englais nothing booked. Then Le Puy to Santiago with five kids in tow nothing booked either but we did sleep out atleast 80 percent of the time. That was freeing!!!!! But at times We still had to worry and hunt a bit. Right now I’m on Le Puy and booked all but about seven nights. Right now I’m laying in my hammock, on the cele valley because the campground I stayed at last time appears closed for good…
but I did just book a KAYAK, for this next stage in the cele valley variant! all bevause I walked up to two pilgrims and asked “ wjere are you guys sleeping tonight”. I’m actually hammocking on the kayak rental property. I’m very glad that we have booked ahead for this Le Puy. I did it stateside before leaving home all via email.
Not certain how we’ll handle the Frances…
Anyone who can walk anywhere with five kids in tow can handle anything. Very impressive!
 
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Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
the financial burden is when you already have a reservation but you need to stop short of the place where you reserved and is forced to find a place to sleep then you just paid for 2 beds and in our case it would 4. In all of our 3 caminos, what i noticed is that the beds/rooms on bookings.com or hotels.com are more likely to be more expensive than the albergues we randomly picked when we get to the town/city no matter how late. Again, having a reservation constraints you to that place only if you dont want to spend more money than you should.
All y'all seem to think that there are only 2 choices of strategy for sleeping arrangements. There is a third no one is mentioning that I have seen: talk to the hospitalero and ask if he/she recommends reserving for the next night, and either call yourself if you can or humbly ask their help if they say things are really busy, you need to call ahead.
This maintains the spontaneity, and also lets you not be locked into a certain arrival date in Santiago or another large city.

Also the famous question, if the place you walked into was completo, "tiene un recomendacion, por favor?"
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
All y'all seem to think that there are only 2 choices of strategy for sleeping arrangements. There is a third no one is mentioning that I have seen: talk to the hospitalero and ask if he/she recommends reserving for the next night, and either call yourself if you can or humbly ask their help if they say things are really busy, you need to call ahead.
This maintains the spontaneity, and also lets you not be locked into a certain arrival date in Santiago or another large city.

Also the famous question, if the place you walked into was completo, "tiene un recomendacion, por favor?"
yes, but thats on the side of no reservation and i have used the "tiene un recomendacion, por favor?" approach many times and it is effective. thanks.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Do what you are comfortable with, don't bother with the others. Do not let others try to "teach" you the "right" way to do your Camino. The good old book says "Judge, and you shall be judged".

I am quite sure that, up through the centuries, poor sinners dragged themselves across the land and found logdings where they could, while wealthy sinners had folks walking in front of them, preparing each night's stay. I am also sure some of them brought carriages and horses/donkeys to transport their stuff. Nothing's new under the sun. AKA known as staying in albergues/whatever you find, or preparing a lodging for yourself in advance. Whatever, we are all pilgrims, with more or less the same goal, IMHO..

Let us not polarize.
 
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AnneO

New Member
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2023
I think there can be different interpretations of what being “free“ means. Some might think going without a reservation makes them free because they can stop where they choose. i have not yet walked a Camino, but I know myself well enough to know that would not be freeing for me, but rather anxiety producing. I would worry the whole time about whether there would be a bed for me at the end of the day. It diesn’t matter whether that would be rational or not, but that is my personality. I intend to book ahead, because that will allow me the freedom to enjoy the walk each day knowing the “where will I sleep” issue is already taken care of.
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
I enjoyed reading the first post, and confess to feeling envious of people who can make a Camino without concern for deadlines. I've always been on a deadline - called a return flight to Australia which has always demanded careful planning, with a consequent implication of lack of freedom.
One thing though, should we consider donativos as costing less than 6 euros?
 
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Wow we all have something to say about this. I just walked 10 days, for my first Camino of what i hope will be many, on the CF. I had somewhat reluctantly reserved a month in advance as i was come from the US and wanted to make sure places were open. I found that having done all the planning in advance was wonderful because I didn’t have to make any decisions while i was walking. It was like having the structure of the Buddhist retreats i have often sat. Choice leading to choicelessness in that the choices had already been made - in my case i had made them, making sure I didn’t go too fast (i know my tendency to push) and injure myself, and go slow so I could see everything. For me reserving way in advance meant I could be more present on my Camino.
 

Blintintin

Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2018)
Glad it worked for you but it is very very presumptive to suggest what 'the vast majority' other pilgrims need to learn, particularly about trust and being open, and that they did not have similar enjoyable experiences, including rest & wine! Apologies but seems a very narrow lens in which to frame the spirit of the camino. Have you considered that you were able to meet and share time and experiences with those pilgrims because their circumstances including their planning, created that very opportunity and put them there with you in those moments? There is room to acknowledge that they made it happen, for them, in their way, regardless of whether that aligns with your way of doing things.
 

longwayhome

Member
Past OR future Camino
SJpdP to Santiago ( Sept-Oct 2018)
To some that which is Freedom of Choice and Spontaneity, to others is haphazard irresponsibility , and yet others may find unnecessarily anxiety provoking . Just part of the spectrum of human personalities and how we approach a project..none inherently correct, none wrong, no one "missing out" on anything..all ok .

I prefer to assume that things worked out for me on my Camino and my myriad of magic moments occurred because of what I put in to my pilgrimage, and not because of my sleeping preferences. So if Winging it down the Way is for you..enjoy and stay open to alternative views.

I suspect we all prefer to do it our own way without pressures from others doing it theirs.
.
 

Coachtolife

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Portugues in September
I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
This is an excellent example of how the Camino provides. Thank you so much for sharing. We all need this reminder about staying open.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Glad it worked for you but it is very very presumptive to suggest what 'the vast majority' other pilgrims need to learn, particularly about trust and being open, and that they did not have similar enjoyable experiences, including rest & wine! Apologies but seems a very narrow lens in which to frame the spirit of the camino. Have you considered that you were able to meet and share time and experiences with those pilgrims because their circumstances including their planning, created that very opportunity and put them there with you in those moments? There is room to acknowledge that they made it happen, for them, in their way, regardless of whether that aligns with your way of doing things.
I love this idea: What if the Universe and the Camino wants some of us to book ahead and others not to book ahead to create just the right mix of Camino Spirit for everyone who is walking? 😶

@jjp, I had a look at your previous posts to be able to better frame your comments. Not booking ahead is important to you, and this was not your first walk along the Camino Frances. In fact, it seems to me that you picked the Camino Frances because of its well-equipped infrastructure and its largely beneficial climate that allows you to trust in always finding a place to sleep. Are you considering other caminos or even not yet so fully developed trails for future experiences of trusting and being open to what comes? And, for example, do you trust that there will be a place on your next flight to Spain and you just roll up to the airport and book on the day of departure?

I'm just curious. The whole theory of trusting and not planning, including the continuous controversy about booking ahead, seems to revolve mainly around the Camino Frances with its impressive infrastructure for contemporary walkers.
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Not so for me @Kathar1na - I've not booked ahead on the Via de la Plata, the Portuguese, the Primitivo, the Sanabrés or the Madrid - as well as the Francés. I did book ahead on the routes in France, but only for by a few days when I knew it would be busy, or when I wanted an evening meal.

I don't agree that the cheapest beds get filled first, in my experience that is not the case. It seems to be the private albergues that have good online reviews, those that offer a bit more luxury, that get filled first. That then gives the impression that there is a shortage of beds, and people feel they need to book ahead. Even in the last 100 km, on the Francés after Sarria, I have found last minute accommodation without much trouble.

I suppose for old timers, like me, booking ahead is a change that we have to face following on from Covid. But please don't be critical of me if I preferred it the way it was.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
please don't be critical of me if I preferred it the way it was
Just to say that I am not critical of those who prefer not to book ahead or only to book for the next night. But I am more than slightly averse to being told that it is the only way to walk to Santiago.

I understand that the experience of not planning and not booking can be liberating for numerous people and that they are eager to share this personal experience with others. I walk sections as a matter of preference, and I have done this in Galicia in November: we booked for the next night only; it was nice to do so that but it didn't change my life. The weather was lousy on several days, btw, it was great to know that we could take off our wet clothes as soon as we had arrived at the pre-booked private albergue or small hotel and not had to knock on several doors to ask for a free bed or to "just walk on"; there were no haystacks available which I would never use to climb on or sleep in anyway ... but then, like @mikebet, I have a family background of small-scale farming - it's not something that we would ever do, sleeping in other farmers' haystacks on their fields. Nor would we bury our poop in their fields but I digress. At other times, I booked ahead for several days or even the whole section trip.

What the non-bookers describe - getting up before 6 am; having to leave before 8 am anyway when you would like to stay on for another 20 minutes and a leisurely breakfast; not walking after 1 or 2 pm instead of strolling into your bedroom around 6 pm; having to walk around town or having to walk on when you are hot, tired and your feet have been hurting for the last 2 km instead of heading straight to your pre-booked bed as soon as you see the sign announcing the town - all this says "straightjacket" to me personally and not "freedom".
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I don't agree that the cheapest beds get filled first, in my experience that is not the case. It seems to be the private albergues that have good online reviews, those that offer a bit more luxury, that get filled first. That then gives the impression that there is a shortage of beds, and people feel they need to book ahead. Even in the last 100 km, on the Francés after Sarria, I have found last minute accommodation without much trouble.
You are making a good point: the discrepancy between the actual dearth of beds in a region and the talked-about dearth of beds that doesn't exist in reality.

Also the misconception that there are not enough beds to be had anywhere along the 800 km of the Camino Frances when the actual bottleneck is only in a short span of less than 100 km, for example now in August this year between Portomarín and Santiago (due to a higher domestic demand for summer holidays within Spain in 2021 and a reduction of the number of available beds compared to previous years) or in early May and in early September between Roncesvalles and Pamplona during normal non-Covid non-Holy years.

And I agree, my gut feeling says also that it is the beds in private albergues, casa rurales and small hotels that get filled first and not the cheaper dormitory beds in public and donativo albergues.

It would probably be more helpful for newcomers to mention these practical aspects more often and in greater detail than to elaborate on the intangible benefits of booking/not booking.
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Maybe, maybe not. I stay hopeful. There are a number of posts here that attest to being able to wing it. And without a bed race. Until Sarria on the Frances, that is. After that it sounds more dicey.
It’s nice to stay hopeful! 🙂 I managed to ‘wing it’ on the last 100km or so of the Portuguese camino in July (this year). Nothing booked because I had not even planned this Camino, it was a last minute decision. I had no problems finding a room each day when I arrived. Maybe I was just lucky.
 
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Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances
When the time is right
I’ve not walked yet and have been reading this wonderful forum for over 4 years now about every topic imaginable in planning and experiencing Caminos. My conclusion: whatever mistakes I make on the Way I’ll learn from it and tweak for next time. I’ll walk the way I’m comfortable with and respect my needs and limitations. And I’ll be happy 😊 Whatever choices another pilgrim makes is none of my business. ❤️
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
I enjoyed reading the first post, and confess to feeling envious of people who can make a Camino without concern for deadlines. I've always been on a deadline - called a return flight to Australia which has always demanded careful planning, with a consequent implication of lack of freedom.
One thing though, should we consider donativos as costing less than 6 euros?
Donativos have the same costs, e.g. rent, electricity, gas taxes (although these may be less) etc etc as other albergues. They are not subsidised as the municipal albergues are (the price in a muni is less than the actual cost, according to Voz de Galicia, anyway). They also accommodate everyone without discrimination, including those who have somehow acquired the idea that 'donativo' means free, or may not be able to pay much. If you stay in a donativo, think about giving a bit more than you otherwise might, to make up for all those who pay less.
 

Phoenix

Generic member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I think there can be different interpretations of what being “free“ means. Some might think going without a reservation makes them free because they can stop where they choose. i have not yet walked a Camino, but I know myself well enough to know that would not be freeing for me, but rather anxiety producing. I would worry the whole time about whether there would be a bed for me at the end of the day. It diesn’t matter whether that would be rational or not, but that is my personality. I intend to book ahead, because that will allow me the freedom to enjoy the walk each day knowing the “where will I sleep” issue is already taken care of.
I've done it both ways—planning ahead/making reservations and not. Both have their merits; it's just simple logistics after all.

Your last sentence resonates with me; when the "where will I be staying?" question has an answer before beginning the day, I am free to take my time, to enjoy a beer at a cafe along the way and take in my surroundings, or the freedom to spend an unexpected 90 minutes at lunch with a delightful couple from Israel, or to soak my feet in a stream, or do whatever/meet whomever may come my way as I walk the way.

I hope your first Camino, whenever it may come, is everything you want it to be.
 
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Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
Donativos have the same costs, e.g. rent, electricity, gas taxes (although these may be less) etc etc as other albergues. They are not subsidised as the municipal albergues are (the price in a muni is less than the actual cost, according to Voz de Galicia, anyway). They also accommodate everyone without discrimination, including those who have somehow acquired the idea that 'donativo' means free, or may not be able to pay much. If you stay in a donativo, think about giving a bit more than you otherwise might, to make up for all those who pay less.
Agreed!!! I was somewhat in awe that there remains a concept that donativos are free or almost free as possibly suggested by the lead poster in this thread —possibly not. (We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos.)

Perhaps he meant something different.

My wife and I are Parochial volunteer Hospitaleros on the Francis which is a donativo. We provide beds in a large room and two private rooms for some pilgrims who need privacy for different reasons. we also make a full dinner for the pilgrims, coffee or tea 24 hours of the day and a small breakfast before they depart.
Most donate, not all do or can. That is the spirit of the donativo, if you don’t have the means that’s ok.
The donativos are in a tough position now
With the limits on number of beds etc-just like all the Albergues. But, the donativos were struggling to provide their service even before the Covid and where facing threats of closure simply because what comes in does not match what goes out.
The long in years and history of the donativos is in Jeopardy to provide a bed for any pilgrim on the Camino.

I thought long and hard about responding to the initial comment, but I felt the need to once again remind all of us that the donativos do not mean they are free. Every opportunity to dispel this thought needs to be undertaken.

Thank you all and Buen Camino—- Ed
 
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Frances (July 2020)
Agreed!!! I was somewhat in awe that there remains a concept that donativos are free or almost free as possibly suggested by the lead poster in this thread —possibly not. (We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos.)

Perhaps he meant something different.

My wife and I are Parochial volunteer Hospitaleros on the Francis which is a donativo. We provide beds in a large room and two private rooms for some pilgrims who need privacy for different reasons. we also make a full dinner for the pilgrims, coffee or tea 24 hours of the day and a small breakfast before they depart.
Most donate, not all do or can. That is the spirit of the donativo, if you don’t have the means that’s ok.
The donativos are in a tough position now
With the limits on number of beds etc-just like all the Albergues. But, the donativos were struggling to provide their service even before the Covid and where facing threats of closure simply because what comes in does not match what goes out.
The long in years and history of the donativos is in Jeopardy to provide a bed for any pilgrim on the Camino.

I thought long and hard about responding to the initial comment, but I felt the need to once again remind all of us that the donativos do not mean they are free. Every opportunity to dispel this thought needs to be undertaken.

Thank you all and Buen Camino—- Ed
Where is your albergue? I’d love to stay one day…
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I keep encountering a very romantic version of "the camino provides" and in addition to hearing in my head "The dude abides" (I will *never* understand the appeal of that movie), I feel the need to remind people that sometimes the camino "provides" theft, assault, and even death.

I do not blame victims, but I also think it can be sheer folly to just wander into the world *so blithely* that one is very much a sitting duck for things like heat stroke, heart attack, injury (beyond a little discomfort, or minor blistering)... People who set out with nothing more than 2 cups of water in a bottle that they intend to refill along the way. Yeah? and what about those 10-18 KM stretches with no fountain, no bar, no truck with provisions and the blistering heat that can still heat in autumn? People who set out wildly unfit and say that the camino will make them fit... uh huh -- a good reason to pay attention to how *young* are the the named men on the pilgrim memorial stones that line the way for the first 3-4 days out of SJPdP. Or the person who just trusts that if they walk on they will get a bed... and instead ends up with bursitis so awful that their intended journey to Fisterra ends at Logrono? etc. etc.

... and I personally also would never sleep in a haystack (for reasons others have mentioned) and I would, as a lone woman, avoid sleeping outdoors as I don't want to be vulnerable in all the ways that come to mind in such a circumstance.
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Where is your albergue? I’d love to stay one day…
Volunteer hospitaleros usually serve for two weeks at a time. This is for a lot of reasons, e.g. a lot of people want to volunteer (it is very rewarding work), it is very intense so there is a danger of burn-out, and also to renew the energy and specialness of the albergue. This means, of course, that the character of the albergue changes with each team so we shouldn't be too surprised if an albergue is very different to what it was last time, or what you expect. That is part of the delight of the system, I think. By the way, are you really a poet? Could we see one of your poems? Buen camino.
 
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F

Former member 97924

Guest
Wow, what have I started? I thought I'd receive email notifications for this thread, got only one and assumed no-one replied. Imagine my surprise when I come back and find 74 notifications.

First of all, if some has a question about something I wrote, don't assume; ask! E.g. donativos: what a way to quibble with me. I left more than 6 euros at the donativos I stayed at. In the OP I meant that they are in a different price-category from other albergues, because the price is up to the discretion of the pilgrim. You can't say a donativo is more or less than 2, 6, 10, 15, 20 euros or any other number.

I couldn't read all 60 replies in detail, but did the critical ones stop to wonder why I wrote the OP and to whom? 95% of the pilgrims I met this Camino didn't seem to be aware that there is another way to walk the Camino than making reservations and walking steadily until 1 pm and then stopping for the night. That's my audience and I wanted to make them aware that there's a whole other way to walk the Camino.

I reread the final line of the OP. If I had to write the OP again, I would keep it but I would add "it is possible" to keep planning and reservations to a minimum, etc. just to satisfy the critics. I wrote my own opinion and my own advice; it didn't occur to me that people would jump on it. I wrote it, because the vast majority of pilgrims I met seemed pleasantly surprised by how I walked the Camino. Their faces lit up and many said they wished they could have done the same but they were worried. In addition, I kept overhearing conversations about reservations and heard from people who said that having to reserve after Leon or Sarria detracted from their Camino or that they were stressed by it and it was overshadowing their Camino. If you want to reserve, fine, but it should not cause semi-perpetual stress. The topic started to dominate after about Leon and it should not dominate. My OP had one simple goal: It is possible to walk without reserving! Just be open. If you want to reserve, fine.

In my personal opinion, staying open regarding where to stop each night helps one stay open regarding what one will experience on and receive from the Camino and I'm entitled to this opinion, just as you are entitled to yours, but I don't claim my opinion to be true for everyone. Of course there are many ways to walk the Camino and on the Camino I delighted in finding people who had found their way and were embracing it, especially if their way was different from mine. Again, don't assume I claim my way to be the right way; ask me or just ask the question in your reply in general.

My OP was not directed towards the old hands here with many Caminos under their belt (they know the Camino and how they want to walk it) but towards those new to the Camino or at least the Camino during the pandemic. I wanted them to be aware that there is another way regarding reservations and that they should savour all the wonderful little moments of the Camino, because so few of the pilgrims I met this time did. There were of course marvellous exceptions - and no, they weren't all following 'my way' by any means.

As I said, I didn't read all the replies; it's up to you to decide if this reply of mine applies to you. Take it or leave it and if you are walking the Camino any time soon, be aware that another way does exist and that reservations, contrary to what the overwhelming majority of pilgrims I met after Leon or so believed, are not inevitable. The Camino has so much more to offer than what most of them imagined.
 

Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Past OR future Camino
2022
Wow, what have I started? I thought I'd receive email notifications for this thread, got only one and assumed no-one replied. Imagine my surprise when I come back and find 74 notifications.

First of all, if some has a question about something I wrote, don't assume; ask! E.g. donativos: what a way to quibble with me. I left more than 6 euros at the donativos I stayed at. In the OP I meant that they are in a different price-category from other albergues, because the price is up to the discretion of the pilgrim. You can't say a donativo is more or less than 2, 6, 10, 15, 20 euros or any other number.

I couldn't read all 60 replies in detail, but did the critical ones stop to wonder why I wrote the OP and to whom? 95% of the pilgrims I met this Camino didn't seem to be aware that there is another way to walk the Camino than making reservations and walking steadily until 1 pm and then stopping for the night. That's my audience and I wanted to make them aware that there's a whole other way to walk the Camino.

I reread the final line of the OP. If I had to write the OP again, I would keep it but I would add "it is possible" to keep planning and reservations to a minimum, etc. just to satisfy the critics. I wrote my own opinion and my own advice; it didn't occur to me that people would jump on it. I wrote it, because the vast majority of pilgrims I met seemed pleasantly surprised by how I walked the Camino. Their faces lit up and many said they wished they could have done the same but they were worried. In addition, I kept overhearing conversations about reservations and heard from people who said that having to reserve after Leon or Sarria detracted from their Camino or that they were stressed by it and it was overshadowing their Camino. If you want to reserve, fine, but it should not cause semi-perpetual stress. The topic started to dominate after about Leon and it should not dominate. My OP had one simple goal: It is possible to walk without reserving! Just be open. If you want to reserve, fine.

In my personal opinion, staying open regarding where to stop each night helps one stay open regarding what one will experience on and receive from the Camino and I'm entitled to this opinion, just as you are entitled to yours, but I don't claim my opinion to be true for everyone. Of course there are many ways to walk the Camino and on the Camino I delighted in finding people who had found their way and were embracing it, especially if their way was different from mine. Again, don't assume I claim my way to be the right way; ask me or just ask the question in your reply in general.

My OP was not directed towards the old hands here with many Caminos under their belt (they know the Camino and how they want to walk it) but towards those new to the Camino or at least the Camino during the pandemic. I wanted them to be aware that there is another way regarding reservations and that they should savour all the wonderful little moments of the Camino, because so few of the pilgrims I met this time did. There were of course marvellous exceptions - and no, they weren't all following 'my way' by any means.

As I said, I didn't read all the replies; it's up to you to decide if this reply of mine applies to you. Take it or leave it and if you are walking the Camino any time soon, be aware that another way does exist and that reservations, contrary to what the overwhelming majority of pilgrims I met after Leon or so believed, are not inevitable. The Camino has so much more to offer than what most of them imagined.
Thanks for both of your posts. They are a valuable contribution.

I suspect that the forum, almost by definition, attracts people who are uncomfortable when they don't know what is likely to happen next. The planner types who want to be in control. I could hear this in many of the replies, especially the forceful ones.

Of course, it is very useful to have people like that in many situations and I am often like that myself.

I often need to keep reminding myself that how I am being right now isn't the only way to be and, when I remember, I try to look through the eyes of the person who seems so different.

Thanks again heaps for raising this topic.
 

Lexicos

Jimmy
Past OR future Camino
2019
Ah, the virtues and the pitfalls of having an ‘opinion.’ Are there 300 active members in this forum? Let’s assume there is. You can be sure then, that there are 300 ways to walk the Camino. I accept and respect your way. I have only one rule, try to leave things as you found them. Oh, and one other rule, respect your hosts and their homes and environment, we are all guests. Apart from that, do it your way. It’s not for me or anyone else to judge. And finally, I respect other people’s views and opinions. There is a good reason for why they have them; personal, political, professional, private ….., etc. That’s the wonderful thing about it, each one of us is unique!!
And with that, Bon nuit.
 

meazara

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
Such a wonderful post to read in advance of my first Camino starting Sept 1. It fills me with great hope as I walk in your footsteps.
 

Tamarack

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Wow, what have I started? I thought I'd receive email notifications for this thread, got only one and assumed no-one replied. Imagine my surprise when I come back and find 74 notifications.

First of all, if some has a question about something I wrote, don't assume; ask! E.g. donativos: what a way to quibble with me. I left more than 6 euros at the donativos I stayed at. In the OP I meant that they are in a different price-category from other albergues, because the price is up to the discretion of the pilgrim. You can't say a donativo is more or less than 2, 6, 10, 15, 20 euros or any other number.

I couldn't read all 60 replies in detail, but did the critical ones stop to wonder why I wrote the OP and to whom? 95% of the pilgrims I met this Camino didn't seem to be aware that there is another way to walk the Camino than making reservations and walking steadily until 1 pm and then stopping for the night. That's my audience and I wanted to make them aware that there's a whole other way to walk the Camino.

I reread the final line of the OP. If I had to write the OP again, I would keep it but I would add "it is possible" to keep planning and reservations to a minimum, etc. just to satisfy the critics. I wrote my own opinion and my own advice; it didn't occur to me that people would jump on it. I wrote it, because the vast majority of pilgrims I met seemed pleasantly surprised by how I walked the Camino. Their faces lit up and many said they wished they could have done the same but they were worried. In addition, I kept overhearing conversations about reservations and heard from people who said that having to reserve after Leon or Sarria detracted from their Camino or that they were stressed by it and it was overshadowing their Camino. If you want to reserve, fine, but it should not cause semi-perpetual stress. The topic started to dominate after about Leon and it should not dominate. My OP had one simple goal: It is possible to walk without reserving! Just be open. If you want to reserve, fine.

In my personal opinion, staying open regarding where to stop each night helps one stay open regarding what one will experience on and receive from the Camino and I'm entitled to this opinion, just as you are entitled to yours, but I don't claim my opinion to be true for everyone. Of course there are many ways to walk the Camino and on the Camino I delighted in finding people who had found their way and were embracing it, especially if their way was different from mine. Again, don't assume I claim my way to be the right way; ask me or just ask the question in your reply in general.

My OP was not directed towards the old hands here with many Caminos under their belt (they know the Camino and how they want to walk it) but towards those new to the Camino or at least the Camino during the pandemic. I wanted them to be aware that there is another way regarding reservations and that they should savour all the wonderful little moments of the Camino, because so few of the pilgrims I met this time did. There were of course marvellous exceptions - and no, they weren't all following 'my way' by any means.

As I said, I didn't read all the replies; it's up to you to decide if this reply of mine applies to you. Take it or leave it and if you are walking the Camino any time soon, be aware that another way does exist and that reservations, contrary to what the overwhelming majority of pilgrims I met after Leon or so believed, are not inevitable. The Camino has so much more to offer than what most of them imagined.
This explains why your original post didn't rankle me, your intended audience, as much as it did others (except for the wild camping, perhaps on private property?). Thanks for encouraging first-timers to consider reservation-less days, if that's our preference. Gracias.
 
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good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
Book or don't book, it's all fine! If either doesn't work out for you, for whatever reasons: Adapt!


Personally, I'll continue to not book if possible, as I've always done, and will be happy to walk more kms to next town if needed. It helps to know how far you can walk - for me, 20-25km is comfortable, up to 35 is still alright, up to 45 is hard, and more (up to 60) is possible but very painful (would certainly prefer a bus/taxi then!). Overall, it's much less stressful to walk without booking when you know you'll survive until next town (or the one after that!) if one is full already. I will carry my tent also which I prefer to sleep in anyways, and which also offers more options. I do realize that's not how most people like to walk. You need to find out what works for you. Covid restrictions need to be considered, too.

Buen Camino!
 
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F

Former member 97924

Guest
This explains why your original post didn't rankle me, your intended audience, as much as it did others (except for the wild camping, perhaps on private property?). Thanks for encouraging first-timers to consider reservation-less days, if that's our preference. Gracias.
You're welcome! Not private property, as far as I'm aware, with one probable exception - it was 8 pm and we were too exhausted to continue walking; we encountered no private signs or fences, only a pitchfork. We left no traces after ourselves. I don't think this bothered any of the repliers, but as I said, I didn't read all the replies.
 

Peligro

I walk between cafe breaks
Past OR future Camino
St. Jean to SdC the slow way (Aug'15, Aug'17, Jan'18, Aug'18, Jan'19, Jul'19) Primitivo (May'20)
it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
Because of work and family commitments, it took me six trips over the course of four years from 2015 to 2019 to get from St. Jean to Santiago. It required an inordinate amount of planning and reservations and two of the trips were in January when lodging is hard to come by, there are fewer hours in the day to walk, and poor planning can be dangerous. The "vast vast majority of pilgrims" you encountered were unlike most that I encountered - I have been envious of most of the pilgrims I walked with in summer who were able to hope for space at the municipal and adjust when necessary.
My circumstances have changed so that I am now able to to walk for longer periods. I head to the Primitivo next week with plenty of time to walk as little or as much as suits my daily mood and still get from Villaviciosa to Santiago in time for my return flight. However, now there is COVID (and the bed space reductions it brings) as well as having to get a COVID test for my return flight. Posts in both this Forum and Gronze highly recommend reserving along the Primitivo, so I will when necessary.
I'm a firm believer that there is no wrong way to do the Camino - otherwise I would have never reached Santiago as I could not do it in a way that some would consider the "right way". To say that there's "a lesson...pilgrims...needed to learn" implies that you have some superior knowledge of the Camino and get more out of it than others. I think whether you walk the Mozarabe alone, or start in Sarria with a group of ten and have your pack shipped from town to town, there are life-changing experiences to be had along the way no matter how you do it.
 
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2012
I think it’s important that pilgrims, particularly first-timers, appreciate that using Berking.con; Tripeadvertiser; and even the renowned AirBDSM can enhance your Camino in all sorts of surprising ways. Nonetheless finding yourself in Atapuerca at 9pm with no prospect of a bed and the local taxi driver well in to his second bottle of tinto is not a good moment to test the “the Camino provides” concept. That occurrence, comfortably solved by my sleeping bag and a porch, led me to the conclusion that there is no sin in booking ahead just fewer opportunities 😉
 

meazara

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Ditto, after eleven years of walking various Camino, that is my plan exactly. I have missed 2020 and 2021 due to personal health issues and the Covid restriction so I don't know what the current situation is like, but I follow your schedule to a "T."
Up at 6:30, grab a cafe con leche around 9, finish walking at 20 or so kms, drop my backpack off in the queue at the door of an albergue, grab a beer or two and sus out the restaurant options, go get my bed at 1 or 2, take a shower, wash my sweaty clothes, go do the Menu del Dia and a carafe/bottle of vino tinto, take a nap and repeat the next day and the day after that, etc........
Love it 😍
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
There would not have been so many reactions if someone had just said: Hey, listen newcomers, you don't have to book ahead, you can manage without. But the title of the thread is: A Note on Reserving Beds and the Spirit of the Camino. I don't understand this as a listing of two separate items, but as a proposition that the two aspects are connected: Not booking ahead and the Spirit of the Camino belong together. Hence the numerous reactions.
 
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Tartrazine

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Gave up planning ahead and booking on the Norte as I found it was noticeably spoiling the experience. Of the 6 days to date I've been convinced I'd be sleeping out I found a bed on 4 and had a comfortable night in my bivi bag on two.

The first night in a church porch I was woken at around 4 by locals in two or three cars turning up for what I assume was an after the bars shut party ( it was Friday night Saturday morning ). They spotted me and kept the music down which was nice of them.

I have a bug net on my bivi bag, having been chewed on by mozzies here and there on my Camino it's enormously satisfying listening to their buzzing. Having smelt a delicious meal, they grow more and more angry as they zig zag back and forward over the net stopping every so often to pointlessly sink their fangs into it.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Personally, I'll continue to not book if possible, as I've always done, and will be happy to walk more kms to next town if needed. It helps to know how far you can walk - for me, 20-25km is comfortable, up to 35 is still alright, up to 45 is hard, and more (up to 60) is possible but very painful (would certainly prefer a bus/taxi then!). Overall, it's much less stressful to walk without booking when you know you'll survive until next town (or the one after that!) if one is full already. I will carry my tent also which I prefer to sleep in anyways, and which also offers more options.
Respect. That is impressive.

So, generally speaking, those of us like me who have covered a distance as far as 42 km on foot in one day only once in their lifetime and that was after months of preparation, walked as far as 30 km or 32 km only once on the way to Santiago (in France - can't remember what got into me to do this), don't own a tent or a bivi bag and are reluctant to purchase and carry either, know that our bodies are ok with walking 20-24 km per day but that's about it, rarely feel inclined to consider stopping for the day already after 5 km or 10 km, which reduces our options to "just walk on" eventually, and who, certainly in these Covid-19 times, feel only lukewarm about sharing dormitories with others ... could one conclude that the Camino's miraculous abilities to provide for us are quand-même somewhat limited? :cool:
 
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shefollowsshells

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Several alone and with children
I keep encountering a very romantic version of "the camino provides" and in addition to hearing in my head "The dude abides" (I will *never* understand the appeal of that movie), I feel the need to remind people that sometimes the camino "provides" theft, assault, and even death.

I do not blame victims, but I also think it can be sheer folly to just wander into the world *so blithely* that one is very much a sitting duck for things like heat stroke, heart attack, injury (beyond a little discomfort, or minor blistering)... People who set out with nothing more than 2 cups of water in a bottle that they intend to refill along the way. Yeah? and what about those 10-18 KM stretches with no fountain, no bar, no truck with provisions and the blistering heat that can still heat in autumn? People who set out wildly unfit and say that the camino will make them fit... uh huh -- a good reason to pay attention to how *young* are the the named men on the pilgrim memorial stones that line the way for the first 3-4 days out of SJPdP. Or the person who just trusts that if they walk on they will get a bed... and instead ends up with bursitis so awful that their intended journey to Fisterra ends at Logrono? etc. etc.

... and I personally also would never sleep in a haystack (for reasons others have mentioned) and I would, as a lone woman, avoid sleeping outdoors as I don't want to be vulnerable in all the ways that come to mind in such a circumstance.
I’ve used the term “ the Camino provides” often, but you are 100 percent to remind us that what it can potentially provide is not necessarily rainbows ans unicorns. My thoughts have been on Denise a lot lately as I plan out our Frances ( have nothing done it since 2012) and on Denise and what possibly trusting decision she might have made the day she was murdered. I think based on your post when I say this term again my brain will give it an asterisk * symbol. We must know that the spectrum of what it provides is limitless….
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I have stayed out of this debate but think there are some really good exchanges of opinions with a few unnecessary snarky insults thrown in to spice things up.

Whatever you think about the effect of reservations on your camino spirit, you should know that if you walk the Francés now without reservations, you have to be prepared for very long days or sleeping in a church portico or on the ground somewhere.

My pal @Krimpa, who very much ascribes to the “no reservations and freeing spontaneity” mode of camino walking, started in Pamplona and had a reservation in Maralotx only because I encouraged him to plan to stay there his first night (as I described in this thread). Yesterday his no reservation plan meant that he had to walk to Sansol to find a bed. He is a fast and strong walker, so 42 km didn’t do him in, but others wound up in taxis to remote expensive places (kind of a camino-spirit-killer, IMO).

For the past several years (pre-covid), September has become a hugely popular month for people who start the Francés in SJPP, Roncesvalles or Pamplona. So I expect that the current crush will continue next month.

What seems clear to me is that whatever your preference on the reservation spectrum, the no-reservation approach in September 2021on the Francés is likely to make sense only for those with tents, the ability to walk 40-50+ in a pinch, or the willingness to hop in a cab.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

Marbe2

Active member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
So we had to change the date of departure by a couple of weeks recently. We literally reserved the last available private room in Foncebadon! There were only a few rooms leftin Rabanal del Camino, or St Miguel el Acebo. So if you are the the CF in the second half of September and plan to stay in one of these towns, do consider booking ahead if you want a private room in this area.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I have stayed out of this debate but think there are some really good exchanges of opinions with a few unnecessary snarky insults thrown in to spice things up.

Whatever you think about the effect of reservations on your camino spirit, you should know that if you walk the Francés now without reservations, you have to be prepared for very long days or sleeping in a church portico or on the ground somewhere.

My pal @Krimpa, who very much ascribes to the “no reservations and freeing spontaneity” mode of camino walking, started in Pamplona and had a reservation in Maralotx only because I encouraged him to plan to stay there his first night (as I described in this thread). Yesterday his no reservation plan meant that he had to walk to Sansol to find a bed. He is a fast and strong walker, so 42 km didn’t do him in, but others wound up in taxis to remote expensive places (kind of a camino-spirit-killer, IMO).

For the past several years (pre-covid), September has become a hugely popular month for people who start the Francés in SJPP, Roncesvalles or Pamplona. So I expect that the current crush will continue next month.

What seems clear to me is that whatever your preference on the reservation spectrum, the no-reservation approach in September 2021on the Francés is likely to make sense only for those with tents, the ability to walk 40-50+ in a pinch, or the willingness to hop in a cab.

Buen camino, Laurie
Indeed! I had thought that by September things would be quieter, and all the young people and families would be back at work… but I was about 20 years younger at the time (2014) than the many, many, many retired teachers on the route. For so many of them it was their first September in 30 years or more without the structure of school to ground them and so they were on camino. In the group of 10 that I got to know in the first days, there were 2 sabbaticants (myself and a fellow from Dunnedoo), a retired lawyer, a retired history teacher, a retired HS principal and a retired phys-ed teacher. And there was a group of 3 from the UK who worked in health bureacracy of some sort with the NHS.
Until 2019 the numbers in September only went up… and I expect they will surge this year as many of us around the world are feeling the pressure, encountering messages at home that we may soon enough be grounded again.
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Norte post-pandemic
I suspect that the forum, almost by definition, attracts people who are uncomfortable when they don't know what is likely to happen next. The planner types who want to be in control. I could hear this in many of the replies, especially the forceful ones.

This is my takeaway as well; something I've noticed over the years on the forum.
 
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truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Norte post-pandemic
I do not blame victims, but I also think it can be sheer folly to just wander into the world *so blithely* that one is very much a sitting duck for things like heat stroke, heart attack, injury (beyond a little discomfort, or minor blistering)... People who set out with nothing more than 2 cups of water in a bottle that they intend to refill along the way. Yeah? and what about those 10-18 KM stretches with no fountain, no bar, no truck with provisions and the blistering heat that can still heat in autumn?

I don't recall the OP encouraging recklessness like how you just outlined. It was about reserving beds.
 
F

Former member 97924

Guest
I appreciate that it is ever harder to find a free bed without reserving and that those who walk without reserving risk having to walk more than their body is comfortable with, even though this didn't happen to me. The most I had to walk was 36K and that was before Estella, because a whole string of villages had all their albergues closed (be aware of this stretch, by the way, if you're starting your Camino Frances this year). Reserving wouldn't have helped me here. The most I had to walk extra because an albergue was full and I hadn't reserved a place was about 6K, I think - hardly a significant distance. [Sidenote: we didn't arrive after 5, 6 and once 8 pm because we walked huge amounts, but simply because we kept stopping whenever we found something of interest (which was really often!)]. The way albergues and then, after Sarria, comfortable spots by rivers, kept popping up, was nothing short of miraculous.

You can point out a whole string of problems and reasons to play it safe and reserve and I can't argue with most of them, except that the Camino had a way of providing for me and my friend in an uncanny way, all the time. If you want to take what is essentially a leap of faith, I say you will be rewarded with an unforgettably out-of-this-world beyond-marvellous experience. This isn't the one right way; it's a way that reaped fantastic dividends for me, my friends and a few others we met. Choose your own way, just be aware that the way I talked about does exist.

I suppose it's inevitable that a post that gets this much attention will be misunderstood and interpreted narrowly and quibbled with by some people. What I'm sad about is that they overlooked the little nuances and wonderful moments I hinted at in the OP and the atmosphere I tried to convey and instead homed in on something to object about. They missed the spirit of what I was trying to say, but that's their business. I don't need to justify myself. What matters to me is the people who got what I was trying to convey. I'm going to stop following this thread in a day or so. I will continue to integrate my Camino and its lessons into my everyday life. To everyone fortunate enough to be able to walk the Camino: remain open and savour the little moments. Buen Camino.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
@jjp, you may not have considered when you gave your advice - you say specifically that it is towards those new to the Camino or at least the Camino during the pandemic - that your audience is much wider and more diverse than you think.

Some 'newcomers' have never done anything like this before, whether it is walking just the 100 km from Sarria or the 245 km from Leon. 36 km is a big deal for them, and even an additional 6 km at the end of the day is much more than hardly a significant distance.

And while I don't want to dwell on it: some of them are women, younger as well as older ones, who have had harassment experiences - not a big deal, but yes, on the Camino, and from groups of young male locals, not from a single person, and harmless and without any physical aggression - but it will make some of them, not all of them, hesitate to even consider sleeping on their own on a porch in town for example. It is something that I have excluded for myself, and it is because of such a minor harassment experience that, as I said, is hardly worth mentioning and I don't dwell on it; I've put it away as "unexpected and unpleasant but things happen". BTW, I am someone who has slept numerous times outside under the stars elsewhere and adores it. I didn't do anything, I was just a recognisable foreign/non-local woman walking along the street; another female member of our group - we were walking separately - had the same experience on that day and in the same place. No big deal, hardly worth mentioning, but it shapes the experience. Another female poster mentioned the vulnerability that we feel; not everyone feels it but my guess is that it is largely outside of the range of experiences that shape male views.
 
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LesBrass

Likes Walking
Past OR future Camino
yes...
On my first Camino I booked my first night and from then on I just followed my nose. Since that first walk I've gone with a mix of booking and not booking. I've also taken a few groups and I feel that we 100% must book.

More recently I was diagnosed with Crohns and for me it's not a choice anymore... booking is pretty essential and following my nose isn't an option. I've found that after all of the many many caminos I've walked, booking a bed hasn't really detracted from the simple joy of putting one foot in front of another and walking in the beautiful and historic landscapes that unfold before us... with the amazingly diverse pilgrims that become friends. I'm just grateful that I can enjoy this time.
 
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Phoenix

Generic member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I appreciate that it is ever harder to find a free bed without reserving and that those who walk without reserving risk having to walk more than their body is comfortable with, even though this didn't happen to me. The most I had to walk was 36K and that was before Estella, because a whole string of villages had all their albergues closed (be aware of this stretch, by the way, if you're starting your Camino Frances this year). Reserving wouldn't have helped me here. The most I had to walk extra because an albergue was full and I hadn't reserved a place was about 6K, I think - hardly a significant distance. [Sidenote: we didn't arrive after 5, 6 and once 8 pm because we walked huge amounts, but simply because we kept stopping whenever we found something of interest (which was really often!)]. The way albergues and then, after Sarria, comfortable spots by rivers, kept popping up, was nothing short of miraculous.

You can point out a whole string of problems and reasons to play it safe and reserve and I can't argue with most of them, except that the Camino had a way of providing for me and my friend in an uncanny way, all the time. If you want to take what is essentially a leap of faith, I say you will be rewarded with an unforgettably out-of-this-world beyond-marvellous experience. This isn't the one right way; it's a way that reaped fantastic dividends for me, my friends and a few others we met. Choose your own way, just be aware that the way I talked about does exist.

I suppose it's inevitable that a post that gets this much attention will be misunderstood and interpreted narrowly and quibbled with by some people. What I'm sad about is that they overlooked the little nuances and wonderful moments I hinted at in the OP and the atmosphere I tried to convey and instead homed in on something to object about. They missed the spirit of what I was trying to say, but that's their business. I don't need to justify myself. What matters to me is the people who got what I was trying to convey. I'm going to stop following this thread in a day or so. I will continue to integrate my Camino and its lessons into my everyday life. To everyone fortunate enough to be able to walk the Camino: remain open and savour the little moments. Buen Camino.
Glad you had a good experience on the Camino, but bummed you've had a not-so-good one on the forum. From the onset of the pandemic, it has become more and more common for some folks on the forum to be snarky, overly opinionated, and pile on whenever an opportunity arises. Perhaps all the hunkering down has gotten to them...

Continue to walk your walk in your post-Camino (or between-Caminos) life, and share your positive experiences with those who might never have heard of the Camino. You may be the one who gives them the gift of getting to know The Way.
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
If someone were to ask me what advice I would give to pilgrims it would be 'don't give advice to pilgrims'. Information though, that's different, and the information right now seems to be that if you don't reserve, you probably won't have anywhere to stay. There is massive pressure on hostal and pensión accommodation in Spain and the albergues are either closed or on limited capacity so unless you want to walk 40+ km or sleep in a hedge, book. By the way, wild camping is illegal in Spain. The police are unlikely to bust pilgrims but if it starts to look like a problem, they might, and it is illegal.
 

ukjohn99

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2009 St Jean to Santiago
I returned from a five-week Camino Frances a few days ago, my second one, after having worried extensively beforehand about the need to reserve beds. I felt this would detract from the Camino spirit and the openness that I believe is essential to the Camino, yet most of the advice on the internet and this forum was that it was sadly prudent to book.

For the first two weeks or so from Saint Jean, only those people booked who were sending their backpacks ahead and therefore had to book. I had no problems finding a bed for the first couple of weeks and generally neither did they: sure, a lot of places were closed and a couple times I had to go on to the next albergue in the same village, because the first one I tried was full, but it didn't inconvenience me. Then gradually people started worrying about reserving, it became a frequent topic along the way and ever more people did it. I and the Camino friend I walked with refused to book, often arriving in a village at 5 pm or later and somehow still finding a bed. Once we arrived in a village at 6. I sat down on a bench while my friend checked the albergues: all full. I then looked up and say a sign: Albergue, free beds. Turns out I was sitting in front of the only available albergue within a good 20 kms. Another time we got turned away from a village and walked another 5 or so km. We called ahead to several villages: all booked. We then walked into a village and immediately saw an albergue that wasn't on any of the guidebooks; we got beds for 6 euros, the cheapest anywhere on the Camino apart from the donativos. And so it went, on and on. While everyone panicked and called and rushed to arrive early to get a bed and avoid the afternoon heat, not stopping along the way, we ambled along, absorbing anything that took our fancy: landscapes, birds, clouds, a bottle of wine once, churches, donativo cafes/rest-stops (and even an art studio!), rivers to swim in, etc. etc. It always worked out, because we remained open and trusted that something would happen. And it always did.

From Sarria onwards this was sadly untenable. I'd say the number of pilgrims increased tenfold and anyone who wanted a bed had to book several days ahead. We weren't having any of that, so we bought sleeping bags in Sarria and stopped by rivers the last 5 nights: a field, a burnt out house with a grassy floor and twice hay. I remember saying one morning that some hay would be nice and then in the evening we found our field of choice and surprise surprise, there was this enormous haystack in it, the biggest I'd seen all month. Another time my friend had a sore back and then we walked into a pilgrim who offered us an air mattress.

This is just a tiny amount of the instances of where things worked out for me on the Camino because I stayed open. As little as some people want to hear it in our secular age, sometimes you have to trust and things will work out. For few places is it more true than for the Camino. As soon as I started to worry, I ceased to have special experiences and problems would arise. It was uncanny. I'm writing this, because it's a lesson the vast vast majority of pilgrims I saw on the Camino this time needed to learn: keep planning and reservations to a minimum, take your time, stay open and savour all the little moments along the way.
Thank you for sharing your experience. All good and much appreciated. I would add that the people I met and walked with, gave me more confidence and added to my enjoyment of a more relaxed, leisurely Camino.
 

Reggitano52

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances
Edit (because I was mean): first, I’m glad the OP found a way that suited them on their Camino

original post:
A pet peeve of mine is the debate about bed reservations. People who reserve are not more anxious than those who don’t, nor are they less “true pilgrim” whatever that means. People who don’t reserve aren’t any more free spirited or spontaneous—if you haven’t figured out how far you walk in a day by Estella, let alone Leon or Sarria, you haven’t been paying attention.

Reserving a bed is necessary for many: their health may not be ok with walking further, their ethics may not be ok with violating someone’s private property by wild camping, etc. if people don’t want to reserve a bed: great! If they do: great! To each their own. Those who don’t reserve often have no issue with having a cell phone, using WiFi, having high tech camping/walking gear etc. So no pilgrim high ground here.

In short: feel free to reserve a bed or not. To each their own. People who reserve one aren’t cheating anymore than young fit folks who can out-walk the others.

jumping off soapbox and kicking it.
Great points you make in reserving ahead. I will be going on my very first Camino, starting in St. Jean next May.(praying it will happen—Covid concerns)
Yes I’m one that will book ahead and will focus more on my spiritual journey and enjoying my adventure. I will still walk the same miles and go through the same challenges as others who choose to stay in hostels without reservations. So please, to all those that may want to judge others that choose to book ahead, do not judge. We all have reasons for taking the path we do! Respect to all!
Buen Camino!!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Great points you make in reserving ahead. I will be going on my very first Camino, starting in St. Jean next May.(praying it will happen—Covid concerns)
Yes I’m one that will book ahead and will focus more on my spiritual journey and enjoying my adventure. I will still walk the same miles and go through the same challenges as others who choose to stay in hostels without reservations. So please, to all those that may want to judge others that choose to book ahead, do not judge. We all have reasons for taking the path we do! Respect to all!
Buen Camino!!
Buen Camino!
 
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andylm65

Member
Past OR future Camino
2018
And my point is not making a reservation also obviously puts constraints as you may find no beds in a town where you are exhausted or want to stop to explore and instead are forced to continue. It places a financial constraint because the cheap beds usually fill first. There are consequences of every choice—not making a reservation is not more freeing or spontaneous or true pilgrim like 🙄 it’s simply a choice. The right choice depends on the person and situation and isnt one that should concern anyone else. If it does, the person with concerns might consider walking further as they clearly have too much time and energy left over

edit: making a reservation doesn’t affect your budget negatively unless you have absolutely no clue how far you walk in a day. If you know that distance, book no further out, and if possible a few km short. Simple
I’d say, don’t injure yourself. There’s almost always a taxi availability on the major routes, for poor planning or whatever you want to call it.
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
By now we probably all know that the current situation makes it more difficult to walk without reservations. It's good to inform others, especially novice walkers, of that problem, so one can find ways to deal with that.

Whatever one then does with that information, is up to the individual and a matter of personal choice.

It's good to inform. It's not okay to judge others for their informed choices and opinions on this rather harmless topic.

At the moment, sadly, there seems to be a tendency to see those who still prefer not to book (or as little as possible) as more or less uninformed, ignorant and maybe even reckless, even though it's usually said between the lines.

With regard to the title of the op, I think one thing that makes the Camino, especially the Frances, so special, is that it is (or was?) possible to walk it in so many different ways: Make reservations or not. Sleep in albergues, pensiones or hotels, maybe even campsites. Private business type accommodation or volunteer-run donativos. Cook in the albergue or dine in restaurants. Walk very long or very short days. Carry a big pack or just a daypack. Walk alone or in a group. And so on. Having all these possibilities, the way being open for almost everyone, is one big factor that attracts people from all over the world and from different backgrounds, and what helps to make the way so diverse and magical, and is, in my opinion, part of its spirit.

If the new unwritten norm of "one has to book" stays around even after Covid, for whatever reasons, that would significantly change the character of the way. Apparently there are less people in albergues already because of covid restrictions, more in private lodgings, and many albergues that rely on volunteers seem to be closed from what I read; less communal meals, closed kitchens and so on. All that combined does change the Camino. Whether that's a good change or not is up to opinion.

Personally, I hope that change won't be permanent. If I wanted a prebooked hike from hotel to hotel with restaurant meals each night, or an independent nature hike with tent only, far away from civilization, I'd have plenty of choice. The camino, for me, is different from both.

I don't mind anyone booking or using companies or whatever. It's all fine.

I do mind if that is becoming the only option that's considered "normal".


Sorry if this is maybe a bit emotional and not very diplomatic.
 
What I'm sad about is that they overlooked the little nuances and wonderful moments I hinted at in the OP and the atmosphere I tried to convey
I assure that that not everyone missed the wonderful moments and wondrous atmosphere you tried to convey (and succeeded in conveying beautifully). Your post made me smile from ear to ear and filled me with gratitude. Thanks so much!
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A few times
It may be several years before the Camino(s) become "normal" again, if they even ever do. Normal in the sense of accommodations, logistics, prices etc. May not be able to put the toothpaste back into the tube, so to speak.
So I would think just walk it however you can, stay wherever you can. If you are up to it, bring a ground pad and a light sleeping bag in the event you find yourself spending the night in front of a church, on a haystack or wherever. Any preaching on how and where one stays is a bit tiresome at times. Didactic, perhaps. IMO of course.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
Only Martin Sheen, in….a movie….didn’t plan for a Camino! The rest of us plan!

We all pack, research gear, and buy an bus/ train/airline ticket. Most of us, use a cell phone app or book to research the routes. Whether it is day by day or weeks ahead, we all need to know where the towns are that have accommodations and places to get water and sustenance.


If you have the ability to walk 36km a day, you have more stamina and flexibility than many of us have. Good for you. If you can sleep in the court yard of a church-good for you! If you are willing to stay in a common room during Covid - I hope you remain healthy.

How much and how far ahead you plan is up to to your abilities and desires. No judgements here!

I plan more than some other folks because I know my limitations and do not wish to go beyond them. I hope you can understand that as well!
 
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alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I appreciate that it is ever harder to find a free bed without reserving and that those who walk without reserving risk having to walk more than their body is comfortable with, even though this didn't happen to me. The most I had to walk was 36K and that was before Estella, because a whole string of villages had all their albergues closed (be aware of this stretch, by the way, if you're starting your Camino Frances this year). Reserving wouldn't have helped me here. The most I had to walk extra because an albergue was full and I hadn't reserved a place was about 6K, I think - hardly a significant distance. [Sidenote: we didn't arrive after 5, 6 and once 8 pm because we walked huge amounts, but simply because we kept stopping whenever we found something of interest (which was really often!)]. The way albergues and then, after Sarria, comfortable spots by rivers, kept popping up, was nothing short of miraculous.

You can point out a whole string of problems and reasons to play it safe and reserve and I can't argue with most of them, except that the Camino had a way of providing for me and my friend in an uncanny way, all the time. If you want to take what is essentially a leap of faith, I say you will be rewarded with an unforgettably out-of-this-world beyond-marvellous experience. This isn't the one right way; it's a way that reaped fantastic dividends for me, my friends and a few others we met. Choose your own way, just be aware that the way I talked about does exist.

I suppose it's inevitable that a post that gets this much attention will be misunderstood and interpreted narrowly and quibbled with by some people. What I'm sad about is that they overlooked the little nuances and wonderful moments I hinted at in the OP and the atmosphere I tried to convey and instead homed in on something to object about. They missed the spirit of what I was trying to say, but that's their business. I don't need to justify myself. What matters to me is the people who got what I was trying to convey. I'm going to stop following this thread in a day or so. I will continue to integrate my Camino and its lessons into my everyday life. To everyone fortunate enough to be able to walk the Camino: remain open and savour the little moments. Buen Camino.
I agree wholeheartedly with you. I am very glad you apply your Camino experiences into "normal" life. I do too.

The Camino is an adventure: Be adventuorus. In 12 years, I have never stood without a bed for the night (but I normally quit around 1-2 PM after 20-25 kms).
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
@Marbe2 Not prebooking and not planning is not the same. I plan everything into detail, but always have a plan B, C and D to have different options depending on daily mood, weather, sudden changes in circumstances, whatever. I do call places sometimes (by phone, same day, usually during lunch break) to find out whether they still have room, especially if they are already option B or C. Pretty sure many others who prefer not to make reservations do the same or something similar.

I always read that people shouldn't judge those who prefer to book, use a company, send their pack ahead or sleep in hotels instead of albergues. That should go both ways, though.
 
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