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Camino Family Experience

mlhhome

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF (X3), VDLP, Madrid ‘12-‘22
Now that my walking is completed, I continue my Camino passion through the Forum, books and memories. The past few weeks I have been reflecting on my Camino Family experiences and I appreciate your thoughts and comments.


It seemed a natural dynamic process of building a Camino Family on the Frances. The difficulty of the first week (regardless of your starting point) finds you needy for physical, emotional and all other areas of support. What I remember is that each member of our family took on a particular role or roles. Podiatrist (blister repair), encourager (mom/dad), weather watcher, equipment guru, Camino expert, restaurant picker/ head chef, translator (families are international), foodie (always had chocolate or cookies), photographer and peacemaker.

I am curious- what was your experience?, did you have role? What roles did I miss?

Thanks

Mike the Compeed Keeper/Master Taper
 
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I absolutely dislike the concept of a Camino family.
If I connect with someone I will walk with them and share dinner or a drink. But if we go our own ways then this is perfect too.
Once I was translating for a group of international pilgrims in a restaurant and it was a tiring affair. Too much for this introvert.
Family I have at home.

I do not need external support on a Camino. Kindness is appreciated but I do not need support.

My job implies lots of listening and talking so I do not seek this on a Camino.
 
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I think I may be more of a loner, too. A few weeks ago I walked with a ready-made Camino Family of University students. I was the leader and although I am glad I had the experience, I think I'd just rather walk with Phil or by myself. I was all those things you list for 10 other people. It can be a bit much...
 
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I always enjoy hearing about those who found themselves part of tightly knit "family" groups during their Camino and valued that experience. My experience, however, was quite different.

Although I became close with some amazing people during my Camino — several of whom I still am in regular contact with two years later — I can't say I/we were part of what is generally regarded as a "Camino family", but rather individuals who (gloriously, serendipitously) happened to be in some of the same places at the same times. The few occasions I did spend time with a "Camino family" who had been walking together for days or weeks before I met them — while sharing a room in an albergue, say, or walking the same stretch of road for a few hours — I always felt like an interloper. Part of that could have been self-consciousness on my part. But I'm wondering how much if it was due to the way most families tend to close ranks when they encounter someone who's not part of their group. (Edit: This post from last year perfectly expresses what I'm trying to convey here - shades of high school cliques indeed!)

Like @SabsP above, I liked the freedom of being able to come and go as I pleased (the only child in me, no doubt) and was fortunate enough to find and provide support from and to others depending on circumstances, not because I fell into any kind of regular "role" or expected other to assume one. For me, that made for a more fulfilling and less restrictive Camino experience.
 
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I think I may be more of a loner, too. A few weeks ago I walked with a ready-made Camino Family of University students. I was the leader and although I am glad I had the experience, I think I'd just rather walk with Phil or by myself. I was all those things you list for 10 other people. It can be a bit much...
I just declined the "opportunity" to run a field course... for exactly these reasons -- 15 people... responsible for their well-being *and* their learning outcomes?? the anxiety it induced... and I already have health things of my own to deal with.
 
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Remember
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
– Henry David Thoreau,
Walden, 1854

and/et

" Jamais je n’ai tant pensé, tant existé, tant vécu, tant été moi-même, si j’ose ainsi dire, que dans les voyages que j’ai faits seul ou à pied. "
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Les Confessions, 1782, livre IV
 
Never have I experienced a camino family and to be honest, I don't think it should be posed as a "natural process" of one's camino. Maybe yours, but that is hardly a universal truth. I've heard lots of folks express disappointment that they didn't "find their camino family", or expecting they should fall into a family.

The notion of family can conjure up painful memories for many people, myself included, and good lord I do not need another set of parents on my pilgrimage, nor am I looking to fulfill a role for anyone else (especially peacemaker-no thank you). I'll echo Señor Jacques' comment; I like my freedom, to come and go as I please, and to allow others to do the same.

Which...doesn't automatically make one a loner.
 
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In multiple caminos the closest I've come to having a 'Camino family' was walking a short less-traveled route with 4 friends. It's certainly not the same thing.

And to be honest, I can't understand the myth that having a 'camino family' is something universal to the Camino experience, because it's not something I've ever experienced - nor would I want to. Loose flexible connections, yes, many - coming and going. This is definitely a lovely part of walking the Francés. But not a fixed group that walks stages in lockstep and stays together.

I'm not a 'loner.'
Neither am I an extrovert.
I just don’t come to the Camino for connection. Rather I seek space and simplicity.

The difficulty of the first week (regardless of your starting point) finds you needy for physical, emotional and all other areas of susupport.
This is not something everyone experiences. The phyisical challenge is universal, but neediness in response to that is not.

Nor is there a universal desire for fixed groups. Loose and spontaneous connections with a wide range of other pilgrims is (in my experience, anyway) much more common.
 
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I just declined the "opportunity" to run a field course... for exactly these reasons -- 15 people... responsible for their well-being *and* their learning outcomes?? the anxiety it induced... and I already have health things of my own to deal with.
It was a good experience for me to do it. I am a good teacher and a good planner, but dealing with the day to day drama of 20 something aged women was what surprised me and what I did not enjoy as much. Perhaps my Army experiences and the experience of having only sons did not prepare me well for hurt feelings among friends and outbursts of tears.

Honestly, no one complained much about the walking, the cold, or the rain, etc. It was the picky eaters and interpersonal dynamics that make me think it isn't for me.
 
It was a good experience for me to do it. I am a good teacher and a good planner, but dealing with the day to day drama of 20 something aged women was what surprised me and what I did not enjoy as much. Perhaps my Army experiences and the experience of having only sons did not prepare me well for hurt feelings among friends and outbursts of tears.

Honestly, no one complained much about the walking, the cold, or the rain, etc. It was the picky eaters and interpersonal dynamics that make me think it isn't for me.
That's exactly what I was dreading... the emotional stuff... Also, I think... I just don't want to mix up my casinos with my campus life.
 
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I always enjoy hearing about those who found themselves part of tightly knit "family" groups during their Camino and valued that experience. My experience, however, was quite different.

…. — while sharing a room in an albergue, say, or walking the same stretch of road for a few hours — I always felt like an interloper. Part of that could have been self-consciousness on my part. But I'm wondering how much if it was due to the way most families tend to close ranks when they encounter someone who's not part of their group. (Edit: This post from last year perfectly expresses what I'm trying to convey here - shades of high school cliques indeed!)
I’m sorry you had that experience of feeling like an interloper, but it is somewhat reassuring that my companions and I weren’t the only ones. It happened only in one albergue in the morning while in the common area getting ready to leave. Besides my two companions and myself, the others seemed to be all of one group. I don’t recall what the night’s sleeping arrangements were, but that morning we all picked up an unwelcoming vibe, like they were afraid we would try to horn in on their group, which could not have been further from our minds.
 
I didn't have a Camino Family either. I did have a few people that I would run into part way through the morning and walk and chat with them, I'm still in touch with two people.

To answer your question: I was the one who had what you needed. Flagging and in need of water because you didn't bring any? I've got you. The chairs and tables are wet from the rain? No problem, let me wipe that down. Strained muscle? Would you like some ibuprofen gel? Flagging and in need of sustenance? Have half my banana and a handful of nuts. It's your birthday? Hurrah! Here's a chocolate bar I just bought. Don't know where your albergue is? Let me check Google maps (in some cases I was looking up addresses for non-pilgrims lol) You've had a really hard day? Here's a tissue, sit and have a glass of wine with me. And then after my long day of walking, talking and assisting, I retired to my private room and shut the door and was blissfully alone.
 
Hi, Mike, it sounds like you had a wonderful experience - I'm so glad! Some pilgrims find themselves in groups that do feel very much like families, and absolutely love it--maybe that's what their camino was supposed to be for them. As you can see, some of us do not have the same sense of family on camino, nor do we seek it out, but we don't feel we're missing anything. I prefer to walk alone, encountering people and being friendly, but detached. I have met a couple of amazing people on both caminos I've walked, and we continue to stay in touch. But I'm not drawn to groups - a polite way of saying I avoid them! Both times I've walked in Spain have been deeply personal experiences so I sought out and appreciated the solitude. (And it was nice not being assigned a role by anyone...such a difference than life away from pilgrimage.)

This forum can sometimes feel like family to me, for the encouragement and support it offers, and the squabbles that can occur. Like on pilgrimage, I can join in the conversations or walk away, as suits me ;) Buen camino!
 
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Mike, it's cool that you had that experience! Don't be too surprised at the responses you're getting.

I found that my personal growth was greater when I wasn't needed to fill the roles I expected to fill. To wit, I needed help more than i gave it in the early days, but I gave more than i needed later on, all from unplanned, unscheduled
meetings.

In the end, I was gifted with temporary relationships with people. I don't know their names, didn't exchange phone numbers, and so mostly haven’t heard from them again. And that's OK too.
 
Now that my walking is completed, I continue my Camino passion through the Forum, books and memories. The past few weeks I have been reflecting on my Camino Family experiences and I appreciate your thoughts and comments.


It seemed a natural dynamic process of building a Camino Family on the Frances. The difficulty of the first week (regardless of your starting point) finds you needy for physical, emotional and all other areas of support. What I remember is that each member of our family took on a particular role or roles. Podiatrist (blister repair), encourager (mom/dad), weather watcher, equipment guru, Camino expert, restaurant picker/ head chef, translator (families are international), foodie (always had chocolate or cookies), photographer and peacemaker.

I am curious- what was your experience?, did you have role? What roles did I miss?

Thanks

Mike the Compeed Keeper/Master Taper
On my first Camino we became part of a family, people we noticed on the first day but gelled organically after 3-4 days. a loose group of 20 or so that we kept meeting up with and a tighter group of 6, aged from 69 to 26. From NZ, Canada, USA, Denmark. We often left together in the mornings, but walked at different speeds so didn't walk together at all during the day. So we didn't eat together during the day either due to our walking alone. Met up in the evenings, and generally stayed at the same places, but not always, and not exclusively. We didn't fulfil any roles, just enjoyed their company - but also the company of others.
Next time it took until Leon, to form a loose group of 4. That Camino wasn't a particularly social Camino, although we walked with a cousin for a week during it. No less memorable.

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After reading other comments, maybe our family wasn't a family at all, as we didn't actually walk together, just socialised in the evenings. In my case I think that made it better, as I like walking on my own, and rarely walk with others. Regardless I think of them as my Camino family, even if technically they weren't.
 
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Never have I experienced a camino family and to be honest, I don't think it should be posed as a "natural process" of one's camino.
Not a natural or necessary part of the Camino, but when it happens the formation of the Camino family is a natural process, at least in my experience.

On my first Camino a little group or "family" formed right away, and everyone enjoyed seeing each other on the trail, walking together in couples or small groups, and meeting up in the evenings. But we all had different wants and needs on the Camino, so by Logroño there were just a few of us left together. Eventually, I broke off on my own because I was feeling like I was relying on the others too much, and wanted to be more independent, even though we really enjoyed each others' company.

After that I moved in and out of several groups, and that's been my pattern for most of my Caminos. Last year on the Primitivo a small group formed that I was very happy with. We didn't usually stay in the same places, but we generally walked together most days and had dinner together. But for me the really special thing was not being the "mom" of the group even though the others were all around my children's ages. I loved that we were just pilgrims together despite our age differences.
 
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That's exactly what I was dreading... the emotional stuff... Also, I think... I just don't want to mix up my casinos with my campus life.
Not into camino families, but "casino" families! I'd like to hear more about that!

I am starting to feel sorry for the OP, who had such a nice experience with her Camino family and then got so many responses here, abhorring the idea. I think the movie "The Way" captured the quirkiness of a Camino family in a nice way; people who never would have likely been friends anywhere else. The relationships you develop while traveling often seem to become deeper faster than those you make at home, because you know your time with them is short and the experience you are sharing is unique.

I have to admit that every time I ended up walking together with somebody, I secretly starting planning ways to ditch them. No matter how interesting they were. If I'm conversing with somebody, I'm missing so much else that's going on around me. I really like walking alone. And what if they are faster or slower than you? Or want to stop for coffee when you don't? If they have blisters you feel obliged to help with or continually express sympathy about or slow down for? Etc, etc. That being said, I DID sometimes walk a stage or two on and off with the same few people and really enjoyed their company. And some of the people I just serendipidously ran into again and again, sometimes on a remote side route I still keep in touch with and I cherish those relationships. My friends and family at home really don't want to hear about my walking the camino, but the people I met there, do.

And mspath, I love your quote:
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
– Henry David Thoreau,
Walden, 1854
 
each member of our family took on a particular role or roles.
Yes, on one Camino I found myself on the outskirts of some very nice people who acquired roles - parents, the young people, an eccentric uncle or two, etc. However, I felt like a second cousin who was welcome but not emotionally bonded. I deliberately got off stage and was much happier to be independent.
 
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I have to admit that every time I ended up walking together with somebody, I secretly starting planning ways to ditch them.
I have had some interesting random encounters on my Caminos. And now and again I walk for a few hours with someone. But there have also been days when I have added 10km or more to my day to leave someone tiresome well behind me.
 
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Not a natural or necessary part of the Camino, but when it happens the formation of the Camino family is a natural process, at least in my experience.

I agree.
On my first Camino (Frances) I was loosely part of a couple of Camino families. We never really walked together or stayed in the same accomodation though, which was fine.
#2 and #3 (Frances) no 'family' all.
#4. (Vdlp, Invierno, Muxia) not really, though I enjoyed 'being' with others a couple of time for 10 days or so. We would stay in the same places, eat together etc.

I wouldn't really want to be part of a 'family'.
I'd feel I was constantly compromising on where I wanted to walk, stay, eat.
And having walked mainly alone, that is what I prefer and what provides me with the Camino experience I seek. Last time I walked a 10 day stretch without ever talking to another Pilgrim, eating a meal with one or staying in accomodation with one. There weren't any!

Don't misunderstand me though. I'm generally very social.
I enjoy the company of other Pilgrims for meals etc.
I just don't want to walk all the way with you, or feel obliged to 'hang out' with you ;)

I met wonderful people on my last Camino.
The first two, you know who you are, we hung out for about 10 days together.
Heading for the same places, often staying in the same accomodation/room, meals together.
Great company. We parted ways when our paths diverged. (still in touch today)
The second two, much the same, till our paths again diverged. (still in touch)

We are all different I guess.
I'm happy alone.
Or with 2-3 like minded others.
More than that can become a bit of a constraint to keep everyone happy I think.

But hey. All to their own. ;)

For some people the Camino Family is the best part of walking a Camino.

Afterthought, having re-read some of the posts above.

On my last Camino, I genuinely loved being with the two pairs of people that I spent considerable time with. It was a great dynamic. We became good friends and had many of those long lazy meals 'putting the World to rights'. It was fun. And just being three of us, decisions on where to stay or eat were easy. Often others joined us at meals.

But........

There was never an 'expectation' that we would walk to the same place, walk togethr, or even take the same route. There were times when we might take different alterative routes and stay in touch on Whatsapp, so we could loosley co-ordinate meeting up again later.

There were many times when we stayed in different accomodations. But we would usually arrange to meet up for meals. We usually started out at different times in the morning and might see each on the trail next day or not. Before ending up at the same place together again. Often we shared rooms.

I guess what I'm saying is, that they were close relationships but within which all parties 'did their thing'. If that makes sense.......

Actually in terms of roles, thinking of those two 'pairs'. There was indeed in each case, the natural leader, and the translator. (I was neither) But other than that, we just supported each other as Pilgrims do.

We all walk our Caminos in a manner that we enjoy.
If you enjoy 'families' go for it :)
 
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To go off track slightly...........
This got me thinking about group dynamics and teams.

A friend of mine (Andrew O'Keefe) wrote a book a while back, called "Hard Wired Humans".
A lot of his insights are based on the work of Dr Jane Goodall who you may have heard of, in relation to her lifelong work with apes.
A great read by the way.
Facinating to see how similar our social behaviour it to apes! Like really similar!
Chimps are in fact our closest relatives in terms of very similar DNA I believe.

Anyway. I've asked Andrew to lecture to a few groups over the years and some of things that he spoke about resonated in relation to our thoughts on Camino familes.

For example, if you look at 'traditional' hunter/gatherer/farmer groups such as those found in some areas of Africa, the Masai and others, there is a 'natural' order when looking at harmonious group sizes. The same is found in the military, from Roman times to the present day. It's where we see Regiments, Battalions, Companies, Platoons, Sections coming from. These are the 'ideal' sizes of groups to operate and be managed effectively.

The smallest effective Army group is typically 7-9. (UK)
Then 4-5 groups of 7 fall under another more senior leader, and so on.
UK Army Platoon is 28-30.
From memory, the same with Masai groups.
With a village head overseeing maybe 120-150. (A UK Army Company size)

I wonder if we see this with Camino families? The 'natural order' of things, and an ideal group size being around 7. Any larger, and it starts to become fractured in relation to harmony, group dynamics and decision making. Unless it spilts into two groups.

I recall Andrew talking about humans in a work / social setting. (he teaches human behaviour / dynamics to corporates). It was something to do with conversations at cocktail parties.

He had us grouped in pairs having a conversation. Then spilt some, so that we were now in threes. Still the conversations flowed well. All three engaged and particpating. Then we were in fours, and the dynamics changed a bit, sometimes the conversation being amongst two pairs.
Then when in fives, it started to be two conversations of a two and a three, or a group of four, listening to the dominant person and so on.

With those who enjoy the Camino Family concept.
What size was your family and how were the dynamics?

I'm starting to understand why I'm very comfortable with three.
It's relaxed, with just one converastion going on.

Sorry to go off track.
But I do have ADHD.
Think I just saw a squirrel in the tree outside my window......... :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Probably also why I get overwhelm in larger groups with multiple simultaneous conversations going on..........
 
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Probably also why I get overwhelm in larger groups with multiple simultaneous conversations going on..........
My problem is just that I struggle to hear, multiple conversations just become a jumble, and I have to really concentrate to pull one conversation out of the total hubbub. I find it exhausting.
So I hate people suggesting a noisy bar to have a chat.
Apparently I have full range of hearing. I can even hear high pitched sounds my husband, a musician, cant.
But it seems my brain doesn't like to have to unscramble it.
 
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My problem is just that I struggle to hear, multiple conversations just become a jumble, and I have to really concentrate to pull one conversation out of the total hubbub. I find it exhausting.
So I hate people suggesting a noisy bar to have a chat.
Apparently I have full range of hearing. I can even hear high pitched sounds my husband, a musician, cant.
But it seems my brain doesn't like to have to unscramble it.

I get it totally. I also have some deafness in one ear. So that combined with ADHD makes conversing in a noisy bar very stressful.
My wife Pat is used to it now.
She knows I don't want to sit anywhere noisy or with loud music.
Or with my back to the door! But that's an unrelated gunfighter thing ;)
 
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This got me thinking about group dynamics and teams.
The smallest effective Army group is typically....

Your musings are interesting, but for me, they do not apply to the Camino. The Camino is typically not a team effort. I certainly (admittedly selfishly) do not take on the responsibility of getting anyone else to Santiago. Even if a group of friends forms, we are not generally problem-solving together, at least not in any significant way where the success of the team depends on each of us doing our part. That is where the word "effective" was significant on your statement about Army group size - that group needs to be effective in accomplishing a group goal, which is not really the case for the Camino. where a bunch of people are really just socializing together in whatever way/degree they individually prefer.
 
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Your musings are interesting, but for me, they do not apply to the Camino. The Camino is typically not a team effort. I certainly (admittedly selfishly) do not take on the responsibility of getting anyone else to Santiago. Even if a group of friends forms, we are not generally problem-solving together, at least not in any significant way where the success of the team depends on each of us doing our part. That is where the word "effective" was significant on your statement about Army group size - that group needs to be effective in accomplishing a group goal, which is not really the case for the Camino. where a bunch of people are really just socializing together in whatever way/degree they individually prefer.

Good points. Mere musings ;)
But things like deciding where to wak, where to sleep, where to eat get very hard with groups who want to do everything together :rolleyes:
Heck I've walked around in circles as 5 or 6 people try to decide!

I was just curious about what size families seem to work?
Is smaller better?
I suspect as in all things Camino, it depends....... :)
 
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Good points. Mere musings ;)
But things like deciding where to wak, where to sleep, where to eat get very hard with groups who want to do everything together :rolleyes:
Heck I've walked around in circles as 5 or 6 people try to decide!

I was just curious about what size families seem to work?
Is smaller better?
I suspect as in all things Camino, it depends....... :)
I enjoyed your musings annd agree with response!

In fact in many ways I can’t think of too many things less ‘teamy’ than a Camino. It’s quite a selfish endeavour. I don’t mean that in the negative sense of the word, but more a need to be single minded, tunnel visioned and adopt a ‘me first’ approach which for some people will be the first time they have done it. You effectively ‘ditch’ your normal role, whether that’s your job, parent, carer, partner etc and trade it in for 30 days ‘me time’.

As the old saying goes ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team’ but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Camino’.

A lady came on here recently and talked about in a long marriage she had devoted herself to her partner and never put herself first and she was determined to now do something for herself . Other people have said similar and talked about guilt. Many of course are in a situation where they can put themselves first much of the time.

I am not a fan of Camino families. I am quite outgoing and find it easy to meet people, but I also have loner tendencies and compromise isn’t my strength. Yes I am an only child! I always walk alone (I am very slow anyway but like to walk into the early evening). Like many I build up a loose network of people that I look forward to meeting as and when.
 
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I enjoyed your musings annd agree with response!

In fact in many ways I can’t think of too many things less ‘teamy’ than a Camino. It’s quite a selfish endeavour. I don’t mean that in the negative sense of the word, but more a need to be single minded, tunnel visioned and adopt a ‘me first’ approach which for some people will be the first time they have done it. You effectively ‘ditch’ your normal role, whether that’s your job, parent, carer, partner etc and trade it in for 30 days ‘me time’.

As the old saying goes ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team’ but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Camino’.

A lady came on here recently and talked about in a long marriage she had devoted herself to her partner and never put herself first and she was determined to now do something for herself . Other people have said similar and talked about guilt. Many of course are in a situation where they can put themselves first much of the time.

I am not a fan of Camino families. I am quite outgoing and find it easy to meet people, but I also have loner tendencies and compromise isn’t my strength. Yes I am an only child! Inalways walk alone (I am very slow anyway but like to walk into the early evening). Like many I build up a loose network of people that I look forward to meeting as and when.
I guess I would add that meeting people is great but not a priority, which is ironic as I always meet loads of great people which I find is pretty much a ‘given’ in terms of a ‘backpacking’ lifestyle. Maybe this varies by your everyday life and how much you meet folks from very different background. If you live in a major city in USA and Europe you will probably be meeting people from so many different nations everyday! In fact for many the Camino may well be les diverse than everyday life.
 
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Now that my walking is completed, I continue my Camino passion through the Forum, books and memories. The past few weeks I have been reflecting on my Camino Family experiences and I appreciate your thoughts and comments.


It seemed a natural dynamic process of building a Camino Family on the Frances. The difficulty of the first week (regardless of your starting point) finds you needy for physical, emotional and all other areas of support. What I remember is that each member of our family took on a particular role or roles. Podiatrist (blister repair), encourager (mom/dad), weather watcher, equipment guru, Camino expert, restaurant picker/ head chef, translator (families are international), foodie (always had chocolate or cookies), photographer and peacemaker.

I am curious- what was your experience?, did you have role? What roles did I miss?

Thanks

Mike the Compeed Keeper/Master Taper
Did not feel a need for support. Interaction with others for minutes or days was welcomed but not required.
 
Hmmm. So... I just want to pipe in to muse a little as well... because I don't think that the camino is an individual effort at all. It only looks that way.
Yes, many of us go alone, or we go sometimes with a very select group from some other part of our social lives...

But there are actually thousands of people helping us to reach destination. Maybe some of us are very selfish about it and make no apologies for that because that alone space is something desperately needed. That's all good (I tend to be a bit of any oyster myself)... but I observe that if any of us thinks we are going it alone, then that person is mistaken. There is the obvious infrastructure... but there are the words of encouragement, the extra time taken by the pharmacist to help you, the villagers who seek to give you fruit from their trees, the volunteers who mark the way... Ender on the Salvador who went out last winter to *tamp* the whole route after an unexpected snow -- to make sure that any brave pilgrim would not get lost...

We are supported and moved along by the invisible efforts of thousands of people... and I have not even mentioned the *hospitaleros*.

And yes, I would slow down for a relative stranger in an emergency to see that person through to safety, and once that safety was secured, yes I would move on.

I suspect that this kind of willingness to help those in need is closer to the truth of most walkers than "There's no I in team, but there's an I in camino..."

And I prefer to interpret "It's my camino" as a recognition that experience and interpretation is up to us as our effort to show up for, be responsible for, and not to read it as "And everyone else better try to go along with the fantasy that I am the only person whose experience matters."

Pilgrimage to me cannot ever be a purely individual effort, and it must also allow the space for something uniquely our own and very personal to become evident.
 
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The difficulty of the first week (regardless of your starting point) finds you needy for physical, emotional and all other areas of support.
Although I don't consider myself a true introvert (I've been a hospitalera several times) I've never found myself in need of the support you mention. I actually cringe at the idea of being part of such a large group, I guess I enjoy my freedom too much. While walking I don't like to be pinned down and plan as little as possible. As Sabine mentioned maybe this also stems from my work as a physiotherapist which involved caring for others.

My connections when they spontaneously occurred were with one or two people rather than a whole group.
 
I am curious- what was your experience?, did you have role? What roles did I miss?
To be honest I was completely dumbfounded by these 3 questions. You are walking for yourself, first and foremost and only for yourself and your reasons. You walk and if you are lucky the energy, awareness and joy will unfold by the power of the camino and your willingness to accept it. Even the idea of the expression that we all walk our own camino, (I have learned this and borrow this concept from one of the wisest and most wonderful people on this forum, who shall remain nameless) is anathema to me. None of us own the camino or it is ours to keep. It is a privilege to walk to Santiago and whatever camino you are on, we must respect the camino, its energy and spirit, the local people we encounter or pass, whether the experience is good or otherwise and give thanks we are on it. I think you may have missed what is your only role.
When I first walked 12 years ago the concept of a "camino family", did not exist, at least to me. I met wonderful people who came into and out of my life. I saw many of the same people almost daily, I am sure this is due to the fact it was late in the year and the infrastructure of the CF was nothing like it is today. In fact many of the thriving towns you walk through on the Meseta were almost ghost towns then. If we met walking we may have chatted a little. If we saw each other in a bar at a break or lunch we sat together but people left when their bodies told them it was time to walk. Never in a group. At night if I saw a few of my camino friends we made food together and invited anyone in the albergue to join us. Pitch in for food and we had wonderful suppers. Amazingly when I walked alone into Santiago within about 18 hours all those people had arrived. We were also, amazingly all staying at San Martin Pinario. Then no reservation was needed for a pilgrim room. I wouldn't have even been able to call as I didn't even have a cell phone.) We spent 2 days together meeting for lunch, or dinner, we all ended up at the same Pilgrim Mass and it was a wonderful way to be in Santiago before my departure to walk to Finisterre.
My next camino was from Le Puy and even though I got to SJPP on the same day as when I started my first camino I was amazed by how many more pilgrims there were. On my SJPP to Santiago leg of my camino I first encountered camino families. People were of course nice but so very cliquish. Even though. knew some of these people casually when I would see them in a bar at lunch or in the albergue getting ready for dinner, I as well as other single pilgrims we were never asked to join them. Fine with me. I can distinctly remember on 3 occasions meeting pilgrims who were suffering from bone spurs or really awful blisters telling them they needed to stop and see a doctor to rest and get their blisters or spurs attended to. Their answer was the same, I need to keep up with my camino family. That if they rested they would be left behind. I gave the same response each time. They are not your family at all. They all have their own agendas and time frames. If you were walking with your real family, your mom or dad or siblings do you think they would make you stop? Do you think they would leave you behind? Of course not. They are your only family and they love you. I never got a response to my statement.
Today I walk far less traveled caminos. I have walked over 8,000K and do far less traveled Caminos like the Vasco, VDLP and the Aragones. This year I will walk the Aragones again then go to Madrid to walk the Camino Madrid and take a bus sometime in late November and rewalk the Portugues coastal. I walked it as my final leg last year but as it rained and poured every day I wasn't able to appreciate its full beauty at all times. But at all times I thanked the Camino for the privilege of allowing me to walk and having the health at age 69 to still walk 850 or so kilometers.
Your only role as a pilgrim is to walk and be thankful and respect what the Camino is generous enough to give you.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I did meet some Camino families and my niece who is in her 20's had a Camino family when she walked before Covid as a study abroad college student. She continues to travel with these same people years after her walk to their weddings overseas. My husband and I have also encountered them as hospitaleros. In general they are usually younger persons although there are sometimes one or two middle aged people. The ones I encountered tended to be quite fast walkers and sometimes wanting to "save a bed" for others in their group (not allowed at places we volunteer. )

One family had formed around a mother and infant and her two teenaged twins (family unit from Cape Verde). Other young adults in the Camino Family group were concerned about them, helping with the infant and ensuring they would be accepted. I am certain the help was appreciated.

I have also seen younger people concerned about older walkers. This was true with my student group who wanted to save a bed for an older American woman walking with our group two days this winter. They spontaneously invited her to eat with us and inquired about her health and safety. She had stage 4 cancer and was walking a Camino between scans and treatments. I think my future nurses saw it as gift to meet her.

Nothing wrong with forming a Camino Family if it suits you, but for the most vocal ones here on the forum, it seems it is not common.
 
The ones I encountered tended to be quite fast walkers and sometimes wanting to "save a bed" for others in their group (not allowed at places we volunteer. )
I would hope that would be the policy for any albergue which does not routinely accept reservations in advance. First come, first served. Having someone sprint ahead to stake a claim to half an albergue for their friends would undermine the principle.
 
As the old saying goes ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team’ but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Camino’.
And it's a CAMino, not a CO-mino. Even though a cam really does kind of work as part of a team in an engine. And that's one of the only things about a Cam I No. Okay, sorry.
 
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One family had formed around a mother and infant and her two teenaged twins (family unit from Cape Verde). Other young adults in the Camino Family group were concerned about them, helping with the infant and ensuring they would be accepted. I am certain the help was appreciated.
Yeah, I think I mentioned this before, but once I saw a woman with a baby in a stroller struggling to get up a rocky hill on the camino. I thought about helping her. I didn't do it, but I thought about it.
 
I was just curious about what size families seem to work?
Is smaller better?
Just like real families, there is no ideal size, and the idea of "what works" depends on your values, objectives, idiosyncrasies, and circumstances.

I have a family at home, and they are the first priority in my life. However, I am an adult who likes to do some things independently and am fortunate to be able to do so. The Camino is such an activity. Even when I choose to set out on a Camino with the company of another pilgrim or two, it is clearly understood that we are making independent decisions, and we have no commitment to each other. We are free to enjoy each others' company, collaborate on a daily basis, and, for that matter, form a stronger bond with each other or others.

Hmmm. So... I just want to pipe in to muse a little as well... because I don't think that the camino is an individual effort at all. It only looks that way.
Yes, many of us go alone, or we go sometimes with a very select group from some other part of our social lives...

But there are actually thousands of people helping us to reach destination.
Yes, this is absolutely true, but I think your musings go in a different direction than @Robo's thoughts about group dynamics and teams. Those thousands of people are generally not functioning like modern teams - thankfully so, for some of us. The lack of a governing structure (with organized hierarchy, teams, and responsibilities) is one of the endearing characteristics of the Camino. Somehow, this collection of 1000s of people, past and present, mostly walking as individuals or small loose groups, keeps moving towards the same destination.

I am not a social scientist, and I tend to think that the Camino defies such analysis.
 
I would hope that would be the policy for any albergue which does not routinely accept reservations in advance. First come, first served. Having someone sprint ahead to stake a claim to half an albergue for their friends would undermine the principle.
Even at the Xunta albergues this is not allowed so either M. Or I had to hang around the desk waiting for our students to drift in and pay one at a time.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Although I don't consider myself a true introvert (I've been a hospitalera several times) I've never found myself in need of the support you mention. I actually cringe at the idea of being part of such a large group, I guess I enjoy my freedom too much. While walking I don't like to be pinned down and plan as little as possible. As Sabine mentioned maybe this also stems from my work as a physiotherapist which involved caring for others.

My connections when they spontaneously occurred were with one or two people rather than a whole group.


This is what I posted a couple of years ago on another thread.

Yes, group dynamics.
It was in Obanos , on that first Camino for me that I met a Dutch lady ( the fact that we heard each other talking in English with a Lowlands accent made us laugh and we continued in Dutch ).
Anyway, we met daily ( did never walk together though ) and more or less chose the same albergues for the next weeks. But in Calzadilla de la Cueza she decided to slow down a bit ( partly because of kneeproblems ) and decided to do some shorter distances while I continued and we said goodbye to each other. Everything in a very friendly way ( we met in later years for local walks here ).
I remember how strange some of our fellow pilgrims found this. One even accused me of abandoning " my Camino sister ".
 
In multiple caminos the closest I've come to having a 'Camino family' was walking a short less-traveled route with 4 friends. It's certainly not the same thing.

And to be honest, I can't understand the myth that having a 'camino family' is something universal to the Camino experience, because it's not something I've ever experienced - nor would I want to. Loose flexible connections, yes, many - coming and going. This is definitely a lovely part of walking the Francés. But not a fixed group that walks stages in lockstep and stays together.

I'm not a 'loner.'
Neither am I an extrovert.
I just don’t come to the Camino for connection. Rather I seek space and simplicity.


This is not something everyone experiences. The phyisical challenge is universal, but neediness in response to that is not.

Nor is there a universal desire for fixed groups. Loose and spontaneous connections with a wide range of other pilgrims is (in my experience, anyway) much more common.
Yes, I agree. Not family, with all its connotations good and bad but connections. The brief connections I experienced, the kindness and charity, to me, make the Camino special. I’ll never forget the warmth of many locals, the help offered when needed by fellow pilgrims and the sense of a shared journey. There’s nothing like it. Hello Geraldine, Richard, Steve and the countless unnamed people I will likely never see again 👋 Not family but precious nonetheless.
 
Hmmm. So... I just want to pipe in to muse a little as well... because I don't think that the camino is an individual effort at all. It only looks that way.
Yes, many of us go alone, or we go sometimes with a very select group from some other part of our social lives...

But there are actually thousands of people helping us to reach destination. Maybe some of us are very selfish about it and make no apologies for that because that alone space is something desperately needed. That's all good (I tend to be a bit of any oyster myself)... but I observe that if any of us thinks we are going it alone, then that person is mistaken. There is the obvious infrastructure... but there are the words of encouragement, the extra time taken by the pharmacist to help you, the villagers who seek to give you fruit from their trees, the volunteers who mark the way... Ender on the Salvador who went out last winter to *tamp* the whole route after an unexpected snow -- to make sure that any brave pilgrim would not get lost...

We are supported and moved along by the invisible efforts of thousands of people... and I have not even mentioned the *hospitaleros*.

And yes, I would slow down for a relative stranger in an emergency to see that person through to safety, and once that safety was secured, yes I would move on.

I suspect that this kind of willingness to help those in need is closer to the truth of most walkers than "There's no I in team, but there's an I in camino..."

And I prefer to interpret "It's my camino" as a recognition that experience and interpretation is up to us as our effort to show up for, be responsible for, and not to read it as "And everyone else better try to go along with the fantasy that I am the only person whose experience matters."

Pilgrimage to me cannot ever be a purely individual effort, and it must also allow the space for something uniquely our own and very personal to become evident.
Thank you. I certainly appreciate that a lot of people contribute to the Camino a person walks. I think that goes for all things in life but yes from the shops on the routes themselves, the pilot that flies you there, the people that manage the ALSA and Renfe website and indeed the folks who manage this forum. Even (and maybe especially) the person that approves your time off work!).

But it’s a stretch for me, one I can’t quite achieve, to imagine it as a ‘team effort’. Not in you the climbing a mountain might be, or for example a relay running race versus running an individual race.

I quite like it that’s at. No one relying on me, and me not relying on anyone (acknowledging that staff along the Camino are povitally important).
 
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And here I go again on my own
Going down the only road I've ever known
Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone.
Lyrics to a Song by Whitesnake

Being human is funny. We are tribe like yet individual. When we happen upon like minded we celebrate and hope it lasts. Some hold on tight, letting go can be hard. The Camino ebbs and flows and to truly get out of it what it offers one must let it roll and roll with it.

Play the role you were given and play it with gusto, share with one and all. 😎👣🌻
 
I absolutely dislike the concept of a Camino family.
If I connect with someone I will walk with them and share dinner or a drink. But if we go our own ways then this is perfect too.
Once I was translating for a group of international pilgrims in a restaurant and it was a tiring affair. Too much for this introvert.
Family I have at home.

I do not need external support on a Camino. Kindness is appreciated but I do not need support.

My job implies lots of listening and talking so I do not seek this on a Camino.

I quite agree.

I have met very few people who I am comfortable walking with all day every day. Sure, it can be nice to meet up here and there along the way, but it is not something I would plan.
 
And here I go again on my own
Going down the only road I've ever known
Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone.
Lyrics to a Song by Whitesnake

Being human is funny. We are tribe like yet individual. When we happen upon like minded we celebrate and hope it lasts. Some hold on tight, letting go can be hard. The Camino ebbs and flows and to truly get out of it what it offers one must let it roll.

Play the role you were given and play it with gusto, share with one and all. 😎👣🌻
Great tune with some great lyrics!!!!

Agree ‘play the hand you are dealt’ which is the UK version of what you have said!
 
Train for your next Camino (or keep the Camino spirit alive) on Santa Catalina Island
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
– Henry David Thoreau,
Walden, 1854
Love this quote, it’s so true.
On the few occasions when I set out with other pilgrims, my Camino magic faded in the distance. We arrived later into town due to frequent stops only to find Albergue Completo, so off we go to find a bed. Another time we went way off course causing the longest stage to be even longer, unbearable.

I enjoy connecting with other pilgrims especially when I can give something of myself to them. A smile, a chat etc… I love walking alone even more. 😎👣🌻
 
I always enjoy hearing about those who found themselves part of tightly knit "family" groups during their Camino and valued that experience. My experience, however, was quite different.

Although I became close with some amazing people during my Camino — several of whom I still am in regular contact with two years later — I can't say I/we were part of what is generally regarded as a "Camino family", but rather individuals who (gloriously, serendipitously) happened to be in some of the same places at the same times. The few occasions I did spend time with a "Camino family" who had been walking together for days or weeks before I met them — while sharing a room in an albergue, say, or walking the same stretch of road for a few hours — I always felt like an interloper. Part of that could have been self-consciousness on my part. But I'm wondering how much if it was due to the way most families tend to close ranks when they encounter someone who's not part of their group. (Edit: This post from last year perfectly expresses what I'm trying to convey here - shades of high school cliques indeed!)

Like @SabsP above, I liked the freedom of being able to come and go as I pleased (the only child in me, no doubt) and was fortunate enough to find and provide support from and to others depending on circumstances, not because I fell into any kind of regular "role" or expected other to assume one. For me, that made for a more fulfilling and less restrictive Camino experience.
Exactly my thoughts, too. Still in the late 90's you recognized and at some level interacted with most people who had started within a few days before or after you. Seeing them every now and then on the road and in the refugees and walking a bit with the same rythm untill someone took a rest day - and then meeting again after some days. Then in 2007 it was allready far more people walking, and people seemed to stick more with their original companions or a 'family' that had been formed in the early days of the Camino.
 
I can agree with each post, even when opposite opinions have been shared; at least in part as I relate to much of what has been said. No two Caminos are identical experiences, and sometimes we "win" and experience some great interactions with others, and sometimes not. I enjoy people and need them in my life, am more of an ambivert, but would not want to be part of a Camino family. That said, I have met a few true friends along the Way, they have enriched my experience and the connection with them has continued.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
In fact in many ways I can’t think of too many things less ‘teamy’ than a Camino. It’s quite a selfish endeavour. I don’t mean that in the negative sense of the word, but more a need to be single minded, tunnel visioned and adopt a ‘me first’ approach
My understanding of my experience is different. For me, one of the glories of the Camino experience is how it is cooperative rather than competitive; how everyone is everyone else's cheerleader; how pilgrims seem to support each other. To me, that is the antithesis of the sentiment described above. I have vivid memories of an encounter in Santiago in 2016 when I came across a pilgrim I had seen once, a few nights before, when he was really struggling with physical issues. To be honest, I felt happier for his successful arrival in Santiago than I did for my own.

That was a Camino where I was not part of a "Camino family". Neither was I on my 2018 Camino. This past year was the first time I experienced that. There were no Camino families on the Camino de Madrid. There couldn't be. There weren't enough pilgrims to form one. On the San Salvador, we had one that started, but it is such a short route that it was there only for a few days before we were done. There were a number of Camino families going on the Primitivo and I hung out with several of them before being invited to join one of them, "Floyd's gang". Floyd was the only one who really had a role of the type being discussed on the group. Floyd was leader and mascot. (Floyd is a dog.)
 
My understanding of my experience is different. For me, one of the glories of the Camino experience is how it is cooperative rather than competitive; how everyone is everyone else's cheerleader; how pilgrims seem to support each other. To me, that is the antithesis of the sentiment described above. I have vivid memories of an encounter in Santiago in 2016 when I came across a pilgrim I had seen once, a few nights before, when he was really struggling with physical issues. To be honest, I felt happier for his successful arrival in Santiago than I did for my own.

That was a Camino where I was not part of a "Camino family". Neither was I on my 2018 Camino. This past year was the first time I experienced that. There were no Camino families on the Camino de Madrid. There couldn't be. There weren't enough pilgrims to form one. On the San Salvador, we had one that started, but it is such a short route that it was there only for a few days before we were done. There were a number of Camino families going on the Primitivo and I hung out with several of them before being invited to join one of them, "Floyd's gang". Floyd was the only one who really had a role of the type being discussed on the group. Floyd was leader and mascot. (Floyd is a dog.)
Thanks David. I wasn’t really referring to whether people are supportive or cooperative. To me that’s just part of everyday life and for most easy to achieve despite a sharp focus on your own journey. Yes of course people will be pleased with other folks achieving their objectives. Again (thankfully) that’s just normal human behaviour. A sharp focus on your own journey and wanting the best for others can co-exist.

It’s early here so please forgive me but I didn’t really understand the second paragraph. I don’t know much about Camino families and always saw them just a la a loose group of people who keep bumping into each other, but clearly it’s more than that as this thread has shown me. When you say you were invited to join that’s sounds a bit bizarre. Some people get invite to join and some don’t. I didn’t understand the ‘dog’ aspect and how he was leader.. and what his role might be, and the relevance to teams. I am guessing that it was just something quirky to make the group stand out against others?
 
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Thanks David. I wasn’t really referring to whether people are supportive or cooperative. To me that’s just part of everyday life and for most easy to achieve despite a sharp focus on your own journey. Yes of course people will be pleased with other folks achieving their objectives. Again (thankfully) that’s just normal human behaviour. A sharp focus on your own journey and wanting the best for others can co-exist.

It’s early here so please forgive me but I didn’t really understand the second paragraph. I don’t know much about Camino families and always saw them just a la a loose group of people who keep bumping into each other, but clearly it’s more than that as this thread has shown me. When you say you were invited to join that’s sounds a bit bizarre. Some people get invite to join and some don’t. I didn’t understand the ‘dog’ aspect and how he was leader.. and what his role might be, and the relevance to teams. I am guessing that it was just something quirky to make the group stand out against others?
The second paragraph was less of a response to you and more of a response to the OP, who was asking for people's "camino family" experiences. That might help to explain the confusion about it. When I was invited to join their WhatsApp group, I felt that I was being invited to join the "family". One of the "family" members, was walking with a dog (a "perrogrino", Floyd). They named the WhatsApp group they used to keep in touch when not walking together, or sleeping in different places (and which is still being used to keep in touch) "Floyd's gang". So - not relevant to teams, relevant to my personal Camino family experience which I was sharing in response to the original question at the top of the thread. I hope this helps to clarify things.

As for the first paragraph, sure there is supportiveness in everyday life. I just found it at another level on my Caminos, something that draws me back to the experience. I recognize that experience may be unique to me, although from what I've read and discussed with others, I don't think it is. And I didn't feel I had a sharp focus on my own journey. Sure, I was on a journey, but my view was broader and not so focused. Again, that might just be my own experience.
 
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I enjoy the Camino Family idea when it happens, though I'm not sure there is a 'one definition fits all' narrative for it. In '18 I walked with, what I would consider, a "Camino Family". It was a large, core group of 8-10 people, all walking [mostly] together every day, stopping [mostly] together at the same break spots, staying [mostly] together at the same albergue, or AirBnB apartment in the large cities, eating and drinking together and being supportive of one another, physically, mentally and spiritually all along the way, eventually arriving to Santiago together. It was more than just 'bumping into each other at dinner', or staying at the same albergue by chance. But, there weren't any 'roles' that I recall anyone falling into, or being played. Anyone could leave or join as the situation called for as it wasn't a restrictive group, and some did join, and some left, too. We all stay in touch with each other 6 years later. I look back on it as a unique situation where a large group got along so well together that we chose to experience the Camino together. It didn't happen the second time I walked, and that was okay. I had a great and different experience nonetheless.
 
I will reach setenta años this year. Even the most extroverted—and I am the opposite—cannot possibly keep up with the number of people I can remember being friends with. I can’t even keep track of my biological cousins. So, though I enjoyed conversations with many in Spain, I don’t feel a trace of disappointment at not adding them to my family.

(Though in many months as hospitalero, a dozen or so folks doing the same did become family.)
 
Interesting. I guess I'm in the minority here. My (first) Camino was social and I loved it. To me, the people WERE the Camino. The Camino was just the device to join with others.

This surprised me because I'm very introverted and not very social at home. So maybe the Camino gave me what I needed most - social interaction.

OP- yes, I noticed loose roles forming. The navigator, the doctor, the communicator, the lodging finder, the food carrier, the chocolatier, etc. We discussed this, it wasn't a dark secret or anything.

Not what I would call a "family" exactly but several people who would frequently land at the same Albergue or church or bar usually by chance but sometimes planned. It was very loose and individuals would move forward or behind.

But it was always a nice surprise when one of them would walk in the door or I would enter and there was someone I knew and liked. Big "high fives" and hugs and maybe a whoop.
 
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I didn't have a Camino Family either. I did have a few people that I would run into part way through the morning and walk and chat with them, I'm still in touch with two people.

To answer your question: I was the one who had what you needed. Flagging and in need of water because you didn't bring any? I've got you. The chairs and tables are wet from the rain? No problem, let me wipe that down. Strained muscle? Would you like some ibuprofen gel? Flagging and in need of sustenance? Have half my banana and a handful of nuts. It's your birthday? Hurrah! Here's a chocolate bar I just bought. Don't know where your albergue is? Let me check Google maps (in some cases I was looking up addresses for non-pilgrims lol) You've had a really hard day? Here's a tissue, sit and have a glass of wine with me. And then after my long day of walking, talking and assisting, I retired to my private room and shut the door and was blissfully alone.
Hi dear, when reading this, I wasn't sure you're describing your way of walking caminos or mine, actually. 🤣
 
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To me, the people WERE the Camino.
Yes, that can be important even for those of us who don't want a "Camino family." On one Camino on an route with few pilgrims, when I was mostly alone and feeling a bit aimless, I was lucky to encounter 3 Spanish men (they were old friends) walking together on similar stages. We chatted, parted, met up again, etc. They, and I, were always careful not to be intrusive or have expectations of walking or eating together (although we often did).

I think that our deliberate respect for being "separate" was a big reason we truly welcomed each other when we did meet. Any apparent expectations would have spoiled it. In the end, I was honoured when they invited me to their celebratory dinner in Santiago, we wandered the square to watch the "tuna," we hugged goodbye, and that was that. My ephemeral relationship with those three gentlemen is my most joyful memory of that Camino.
 
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I have walked three Caminos and never had a "Camino Family". Like most pilgrims, I kept meeting the same people on and off at the albergues I stayed at. We had some great conversations but were not a "Family" as such. On my last Camino with my daughter, we kept coming across the same people. Three Spanish men, one Spanish couple, one French couple and two separate older French ladies. None of these people could speak English and we knew not a word of their languages other than "hello". We always called greetings to each other when we met on the trail or passed at a bar. When we stayed at the same albergues we all did our best to converse using some simple words and a lot of sign language. Regardless of the language problem we all became good friends and they are the people we remember most from our trip.
 
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Official Camino Passport (Credential) | 2024 Camino Guides
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