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For introvert crowd-averse pilgrims

vwzoo

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2018
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
 
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Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Time of past OR future Camino
2023?
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
Your feelings & reactions are far more common on the Camino & other trails than you probably think. Introverts make up a third of the planets population & we are thus represented on the Camino.

I'm 55 & now completely comfortable with my introversion (which seems to be getting stronger as I'm ageing) but it was quite a journey of realising, understanding accepting & then embracing it.
As introverts in an extrovert dominated world, it's all about developing strategies which don't diminish your overall experience. Although I don't have panic or anxiety attacks as you describe, I do feel very drained by group social situations even though I know I'm enjoying myself. My strategy is to stay in private accommodation; that way I can close the door & recharge my batteries. After initially walking the CF in 2012, I now choose 'the paths less travelled'...trails which offer a more solitary experience & where social engagement is more likely to be spasmodic & on an individual basis.
Like you, I have made strong connections with the special people I've met along The Way & friendships, already up to a decade long, that will last a lifetime.
As an introvert, you have to be brave & take 'the looks' when you say 'no thank you' or 'I'm going to leave now'...some won't understand but like-minded people will recognize a kindred spirit.

Thanks for sharing your story @vwzoo; there are many threads on this Forum about it but with newbies coming on board all the time, it will be of comfort to know they aren't alone...which always strikes me as ironic considering the attributes of being an introvert!
Happy trails.
👣 🌏
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
Like you I often find large groups uncomfortable and I have no desire to be part of a "Camino family". I have occasionally added 10 or 15km to my day in order to distance myself from someone who failed to take the hint that I would prefer solitude and silence to their constant voluble company. Having walked the Camino Frances three times and having seen the enormous growth in numbers walking it I now find myself drawn towards less-travelled routes. Luckily there are Caminos for us all these days.
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I have found it very easy to distance myself on the Camino from those I don't want to be with. Unlike @Bradypus I don't add kilometres to my day but rather do the reverse - I deliberately fall behind a day. Different method, same result. Or walk off piste, and see something on a side trail.

I try to be kind to those who are lonely, or not social magnets, or having difficulties, but the camino is usually a long walk and it seems sensible to ration my (rapidly decreasing) allotment of time on earth.
 
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Robo

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
@vwzoo . I can totally relate to your experience.
I love to walk alone, but enjoy the company of other Pilgrims at the end of the day.
But not en masse!

A few times I felt overwhelmed by the shear numbers around the table, which for me, made any conversation or connection impossible.

Prior to the meal commencing, I just made my excuses and left. No one will think ill of you.

I would either eat alone or with another lone Pilgrim sometimes....
 

StuartM

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2012)
I enjoy my own company generally but I've also had issues with PTSD that affect me in crowded, chaotic places. I loved the balance of the Camino in that it gave me time on my own when I chose and time with others when I chose. But also when they chose as well which is really important (and I think a lot of people forget). The only thing that really triggered my people aversion was being on the Camino del Salvador, which is really quiet, and ending up paralleling the one and only other person walking the route at the time who I really disliked. I have never felt so claustrophobic on any walk, the guy was unavoidable even when I was taking breaks to let him get ahead and the route is remote and isolated for much of it so was just me and him. It was a relief when the entire able-bodied population of one of the villages had decided to walk to Oviedo en masse. I was able to lose myself in the crowd.

The thought of a "camino family" drove me up the wall when I first heard about it on the road and I made a conscious effort to avoid those types of groups. I like being around other people who don't need to be around other people.
 

TrvlDad1

Covidyard Bob
Time of past OR future Camino
2017 Frances from Saria
2018 Finnisterre & Ingles
2019 Portuguese from Valenca
2020 Assisi(cancel.)
Off season walking is for me, as with many others who have posted about this, the answer to the conflicting emotions of crowd aversion, social needs and guilt. It’s easier to control the contacts and interactions when there are less pilgrims and many are feeling the same way.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Avoiding any mob scene was one of the reasons I always enjoyed walking in late autumn/winter This is exactly why I have chosen to walk later in the year too. I admittedly have made fewer friendships but have still made some deep connections. I may have given up more lovely landscapes but I have gained more peace, quiet and needed solitude.
@vwzoo . I can totally relate to your experience.
I love to walk alone, but enjoy the company of other Pilgrims at the end of the day.
But not en masse!
I am far from an introvert but I having time alone is at the top of my list. I have noticed on my caminos even when I end up eating in an albergue or a communal dinner with 6 or 7 or more pilgrims it seems to almost always be a mellower vibe. (Except of course when there are some Spaniards at the table as they love to have fun!!) I do like to meet and share with new people in the evenings but it is a different story during the day. For some reason I always feel like later in the year Pilgrims seem to respect each others space and need for privacy a little more. It is nothing I can prove just a feeling I have. Could be entirely wrong.
This is exactly why I have chosen to walk later in the year too. I admittedly have made fewer friendships but have still made some deep connections. I may have given up more lovely landscapes but I have gained more peace, quiet and needed solitude.
 

AnneO

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2023
I have always disliked crowds, but Covid social distancing really solidified it for me. I have learned to accept being an introvert and not see it as having the “wrong” personality type that needs to be fixed. I am reminded of the number of articles out there telling introverts how be more extroverted, but there are never (or at least fewer) articles telling extroverts how to recognize when to back off. It perpetuates the idea that being an extrovert is the desired and more acceptable trait.

When I walk my first Camino next year, I will stay in private accommodation. I hope to meet people of course, but like others here have said don’t feel a need for a ”Camino family.” I am happy to know people briefly and move on, though I wouldn’t reject a deeper relationship should one or two present themselves.
 
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neverlost4good

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
April 2015
In the past, I had trouble with an extroverted family member, who did not understand my need to be alone. They demanded that I walk right next to them and talk only with them: horrible. We didn't talk for years afterward. A lot of people want to walk the camino with me (want me to guide them). I've learned to have a "talk" beforehand, explaining what I can and can not do. It's been easier to explain to an extrovert: "you get your energy from engaging with people, and I get energy with silence." That is why the camino will appeal to introverts: that beautiful silent walk between Burgos and Leon. Ahhhhhhhhh
 

cathyjo

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances; 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022 & 2023
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
Very well said!! Thank you!!👍👏
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2012
I'm happy in a crowded pub; I'm happy in the mosh-pit at any music festival I attend; I'm even happy in that long queue for the Pilgrims Office that starts around about Sarria. I quite like other people and will often enjoy an opportunity to meet, greet and engage with a total stranger. But, if I'm in search of quiet space and the opportunity for contemplation I'd likely avoid all the above.

I've never really "got" Camino Families but I don't believe that's down to any 'ism. It's just, as in the words of that great philosopher and political thinker Groucho Marx, "I would never want to join the sort of club that would have me as a member". ;)
 
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cathyjo

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances; 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022 & 2023
I have found it very easy to distance myself on the Camino from those I don't want to be with. Unlike @Bradypus I don't add kilometres to my day but rather do the reverse - I deliberately fall behind a day. Different method, same result. Or walk off piste, and see something on a side trail.

I try to be kind to those who are lonely, or not social magnets, or having difficulties, but the camino is usually a long walk and it seems sensible to ration my (rapidly decreasing) allotment of time on earth.
My husband does the same thing!! It works great!!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
One or more times each year from 2014 - 2022.
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
I typically do not read long winded posts. But yours … All I can say is thank you and God bless you for the encouragement to others.
 

Fr Scott

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting El Camino Norte in Irun June 3, 2015
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
Well, that’s the only reason I haven’t walked the Camino Francis yet, but three other Caminos. Maybe I’ll give the Francis a try. Thanks for the article it really connected.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
I'm happy in a crowded pub; I'm happy in the mosh-pit at any music festival I attend; I'm even happy in that long queue for the Pilgrims Office that starts around about Sarria. I quite like other people and will often enjoy an opportunity to meet, greet and engage with a total stranger. But, if I'm in search of quiet space and the opportunity for contemplation I'd likely avoid all the above.

I've never really "got" Camino Families but I don't believe that's down to any 'ism. It's just, as in the words of that great philosopher and political thinker Groucho Marx, "I would never want to join the sort of club that would have me as a member". ;)
I too enjoy the company of friends and strangers in social situations it does add life and most often positive energy that we can all feel. I also never really got "camino families". IN MY OWN EXPERIENCE (I write it in quotes to avoid being inundated by those who think completely differently and I am sure some even angered by what I am about to say) .I think it often tends to isolate small groups who walk together and although they are friendly to others, I feel like there is often a wall around them. You can be friendly and chat but there is no chance for any deeper connection as they will quickly retreat back to their family. I have also noticed in my own experience, when I encountered someone who had terrible blisters, or other physical problems from walking or were quite ill that they greatly exacerbated their ailment or injury because they insisted on keeping up with their "family". They say well my "family" can't stop because Joe doesn't want to or Mary needs to be in Santiago by a certain date or whatever very good reason the other members want to keep walking regardless of how bad the injured/sick person is. I have asked straight out if you were walking with your Mom, dad, wife, husband etc would you be walking now? Of course not they are your real family who loves you and would never sacrifice your well being or safety over their personal desire because they love you. They ARE your family.
 

Rita Flower

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 Via del la Plata
I too enjoy the company of friends and strangers in social situations it does add life and most often positive energy that we can all feel. I also never really got "camino families". IN MY OWN EXPERIENCE (I write it in quotes to avoid being inundated by those who think completely differently and I am sure some even angered by what I am about to say) .I think it often tends to isolate small groups who walk together and although they are friendly to others, I feel like there is often a wall around them. You can be friendly and chat but there is no chance for any deeper connection as they will quickly retreat back to their family. I have also noticed in my own experience, when I encountered someone who had terrible blisters, or other physical problems from walking or were quite ill that they greatly exacerbated their ailment or injury because they insisted on keeping up with their "family". They say well my "family" can't stop because Joe doesn't want to or Mary needs to be in Santiago by a certain date or whatever very good reason the other members want to keep walking regardless of how bad the injured/sick person is. I have asked straight out if you were walking with your Mom, dad, wife, husband etc would you be walking now? Of course not they are your real family who loves you and would never sacrifice your well being or safety over their personal desire because they love you. They ARE your family.
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
One of the things I loved about Camino Frances in 2007 was that I could join up with others or 'unjoin' whenever it suited. No worries. All I said was - I would like to walk alone for a while, or, your pace is too fast/slow for me: maybe catch you later. We smiled our goodbyes and that was it.
Intoversion/ extroversion is on a continuum and we all sit in different places at different times in different circumstances.
Walk your own Camino / discover your own Camino - that is the Way.
 
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vwzoo

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2018
Well, that’s the only reason I haven’t walked the Camino Francis yet, but three other Caminos. Maybe I’ll give the Francis a try. Thanks for the article it really connected.
I think like the Granon story I mentioned it was a challenge at times, but all part of my Camino, just like the physical pains.
 

Roland49

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF2019, CP2022?
You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
As an Introvert myself (INFP-T), I need time to accustom into new situations or people.
The CF helped gain confidence and get more social on groups of people. The best training.

If you ask yourself, if you should do a pilgrimage or get called to one of the spanish Caminos: do it!
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
The first time I walked the CF (in February - as is my preference) I experienced only ‘Camino distant relations’ as some faces became familiar. I walked my own walk, however.

I passed through Sahagun on market day and felt genuinely discomforted by the crowds, so carried on through.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
"Excuse me, but I always walk alone. I have many things to think about", or some phrase to that effect, after some moments of "social talk", when a fellow pilgrim seems disposed to walk with me. It is not so difficult, and people don't seem to take it wrong.
I actually like very much meeting other people at diner, individually or in little groups, but avoid crowded situations. Not a big problem, on the other side; I just go to other place or take my meal silently. And, after my first experience in the Frances (which was actually great), I have walked secondary, less populated Caminos, mostly in early Spring or late Autumn.
I remember a like-minded Dutch fellow that had a smart trick: he carried and read a small, cloth bound book, so everybody supposed he was praying and let him alone (actullay, it was Dickens).
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
One of the things I loved about Camino Frances in 2007 was that I could join up with others or 'unjoin' whenever it suited. No worries. All I said was - I would like to walk alone for a while, or, your pace is too fast/slow for me: maybe catch you later. We smiled our goodbyes and that was it.
Intoversion/ extroversion is on a continuum and we all sit in different places at different times in different circumstances.
Walk your own Camino / discover your own Camino - that is the Way.
Even 5 years later when I did my first Camino it was very similar. You could easily find solitude or just as easily find a companion(s) to walk with whenever you wished or needed. I think nothing is more important and what I try to preach to people is to walk your own camino and let the camino unfold with each step you take. Buen camino RIta.
As I am retired and can walk when I want I wonder if in the peak of pilgrimage the luxury we discussed is as easy to achieve as it once was years earlier on the Camino Frances?
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
The first time I walked the CF (in February - as is my preference) I experienced only ‘Camino distant relations’ as some faces became familiar. I walked my own walk, however.

I passed through Sahagun on market day and felt genuinely discomforted by the crowds, so carried on through.
I know exactly how you feel. A few caminos back I stayed in Madrid for 3 days after my Camino Norte. It was so wonderful the last few weeks as I walked in solitude. I started to feel a little overwhelmed even when the Norte joined the CF for just two days and even a little more when I got to Santiago and it was December. When I got to Madrid it was just way too much for me. I told my wife and she actually gave me a short lecture that of course you are overwhelmed after your experience. Next time you finish and you have time find a place more peaceful and relaxing before you come home to me. Last year I after Santiago (Again in December) I walked to Muxia and Finisterre. I was on that Camino for 8 days and it made a big difference. I again returned to Madrid but just for a day and the next day went home. It really helped a lot.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
As I am retired and can walk when I want I wonder if in the peak of pilgrimage the luxury we discussed is as easy to achieve as it once was years earlier on the Camino Frances?
I met about 30 other pilgrims in total over the 800km of my first Camino Frances. During my most recent Camino Frances walk in 2016 I could often see more than that in a single glance around an albergue dining room or when looking at the path ahead. I think the days of genuine solitude on the Camino Frances are pretty much behind us now for much of the year. That's why I walk elsewhere these days.
 

LenB

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2022)
If you’re drawn to walk the Francés again and don’t care for the Sarria crowds, take a left when you reach Ponferrada and pick up the Camino Invierno - absolutely beautiful and very few Pilgrims.
I'm thinking of doing this... but I'm concerned about the availability of facilities on the Invierno. What is it like? Alburgues?
 

peregrin peregrina

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
april 2022
I met about 30 other pilgrims in total over the 800km of my first Camino Frances. During my most recent Camino Frances walk in 2016 I could often see more than that in a single glance around an albergue dining room or when looking at the path ahead. I think the days of genuine solitude on the Camino Frances are pretty much behind us now for much of the year. That's why I walk elsewhere these days.
hi- i just got back in june from the CF and as a slow walker found i had solitude the majority of the time except bars and albergues- but those weren’t overly crowded until after sarria. in my experience i would not say to avoid the CF due to crowds, solitude is still possible- at least if you are a slow walker!
 
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Roland49

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF2019, CP2022?
hi- i just got back in june from the CF and as a slow walker found i had solitude the majority of the time except bars and albergues- but those weren’t overly crowded until after sarria. in my experience i would not say to avoid the CF due to crowds, solitude is still possible- at least if you are a slow walker!
Or a fast one, ahead of the crowd.
I walked in July '19 and had very long stretches in total solitude. Very relaxing!
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
@Roland49 and @DoughnutANZ I think we may have very different notions of "crowded" and "solitude". They are fairly subjective ideas after all. I have made two long walks on pilgrim routes so far this year: the Via de la Plata and one of the Norwegian Olavsleden routes. On both of those I walked for several days at a time without encountering another pilgrim and spent most of my nights alone. A day when I met three other pilgrims on either route counted as a busy one! I choose my routes and seasons these days with that level of contact in mind.
 

Roland49

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF2019, CP2022?
@Roland49 and @DoughnutANZ I think we may have very different notions of "crowded" and "solitude". They are fairly subjective ideas after all. I have made two long walks on pilgrim routes so far this year: the Via de la Plata and one of the Norwegian Olavsleden routes. On both of those I walked for several days at a time without encountering another pilgrim and spent most of my nights alone. A day when I met three other pilgrims on either route counted as a busy one! I choose my routes and seasons these days with that level of contact in mind.
Oh, shortly after Puente de la Reina I was in total solitude until I reached Los Arcos. No other Pilgrim in sight. Only on the stop in Villamayor I had a conversation with the keeper of the Inn.
The same between Villafranca Montes de Oca and Burgos (no stop here). Between Itero de la Vega and Carrion.

If you don't walk the stages that most guides suggests you are able to avoid the crowds.
Even after Sarria I only encountered few bigger groups that I surpassed quickly.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 Camino Norte September
"I love humanity-it's the people I can't stand" lol People incredulously say to me "You are going alone?" My reply revolves around the idea that I do not want to be responsible for anyone but myself. If I come up on a person, I will make my presence know so as not to surprise them then ask if they wish to walk together for awhile. Yes, no, either way no problem, just move on-but you should inquire/respond, not stay silent and suffer. You can suffer at home lol.
 
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Rita Flower

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 Via del la Plata
Even 5 years later when I did my first Camino it was very similar. You could easily find solitude or just as easily find a companion(s) to walk with whenever you wished or needed. I think nothing is more important and what I try to preach to people is to walk your own camino and let the camino unfold with each step you take. Buen camino RIta.
As I am retired and can walk when I want I wonder if in the peak of pilgrimage the luxury we discussed is as easy to achieve as it once was years earlier on the Camino Frances
 
Time of past OR future Camino
please see signature
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge.
I also have this challenge.

For me, walking a part of Via Fracigena was absolutely brilliant. In three weeks I encountered two cyclists in a hostel and two possible walkers about 100 metres away.

All my other interactions were function and time limited.
But we could extend the interaction by tacit mutual consent.

A large part of my working life involved asking questions. So, when walking, if something seemed really interesting I would ask a question. And wait to see where that might lead. But both of us could close out at any time. A simple 'thank you" in response to a reply was a good closure.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui (take care, be strong, confident and patient) and, please, get going as often as you can.
 

Sansthing

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French Camino (2009), French Camino (2011), Via de la Plata (2012), Camino Inglês (2014),
On my first Camino a few years ago I met a pilgrim in O Cebreiro, a woman around my age, who turned into a bit of a problem as she wanted to be with me all the time. I explained that I wanted to walk alone at my own pace during the day, which she respected but every evening she would turn up and stay in the same albergue and follow me round everywhere. If I went to wash clothes so did she, if I went shopping or for a rest she came too. I found this most uncomfortable but didn´t really know how to deal with it without being unkind. After a few days I think she realised I was trying to avoid her and she palled up with someone else. I felt sorry for her and afterwards felt guilty at my lack of charity but like most introverts I needed my own space.
 

Pilgrino21

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances
I too enjoy the company of friends and strangers in social situations it does add life and most often positive energy that we can all feel. I also never really got "camino families". IN MY OWN EXPERIENCE (I write it in quotes to avoid being inundated by those who think completely differently and I am sure some even angered by what I am about to say) .I think it often tends to isolate small groups who walk together and although they are friendly to others, I feel like there is often a wall around them. You can be friendly and chat but there is no chance for any deeper connection as they will quickly retreat back to their family. I have also noticed in my own experience, when I encountered someone who had terrible blisters, or other physical problems from walking or were quite ill that they greatly exacerbated their ailment or injury because they insisted on keeping up with their "family". They say well my "family" can't stop because Joe doesn't want to or Mary needs to be in Santiago by a certain date or whatever very good reason the other members want to keep walking regardless of how bad the injured/sick person is. I have asked straight out if you were walking with your Mom, dad, wife, husband etc would you be walking now? Of course not they are your real family who loves you and would never sacrifice your well being or safety over their personal desire because they love you. They ARE your family.
Last winter on my first Camino I managed to relatively stay solitary until Los Arcos, then Najera, then Grañon. I heard about this camino family talk but I actually wanted to see how far I could go on my own. But a funny thing happened, I kept running into the same people. I softened my view when some of them were willing to stay back or go slower so we can meet up somewhere. A nice gesture that was hard for me to ignore.

My point is that any of the scenarios can happen. But sometimes people are put in your way for a reason. Still, up to the person to take it or not.

On my second time to complete my winter walk I didn't assimilate with existing families but met people as individuals. I was fine with this but I found myself in similar situations running into the same folks and they sought my company. We didn't walk together all the time but we kept in touch by Whatsapp.

Do I feel like I'm missing out? No because the Camino is first and foremost a walking experience. Everything else comes after. I feel like others seek the reverse to accomplish the first task, but this is one person's opinion. You walk your own Camino and that's how you make it your own. Otherwise, you are walking someone else's Camino.

It's really that simple. We tend to complicate things....
 

pac1952

Author of "An Impossible Dream"
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015); Portuguese Camino, Coastal Route (2018); Via de la Plata (2022, hopefully)
Interesting discussion, although I think that it rather drifted away from what @vwzoo was originally saying.

Unless one has quite strong introvert tendencies themselves, one is unlikely to be able to appreciate the full extent of the "dread" that can fill you when you are almost obliged to attend communal dinners and the like. For me this is not about being rude, or not wanting to connect with people, but it is about not putting yourself in a place of "danger" (psychological danger - and a strong word). I manage that by always booking private accommodation - even though "real" pilgrims stay at albergues, this being a manifestation of the extrovert world - and ensuring that I have some "me" time to explore all by myself every day.

That works perfectly for me, and allows me the space to both interact with others of all types, and also to protect myself.
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Last winter on my first Camino I managed to relatively stay solitary until Los Arcos, then Najera, then Grañon. I heard about this camino family talk but I actually wanted to see how far I could go on my own. But a funny thing happened, I kept running into the same people. I softened my view when some of them were willing to stay back or go slower so we can meet up somewhere. A nice gesture that was hard for me to ignore.

My point is that any of the scenarios can happen. But sometimes people are put in your way for a reason. Still, up to the person to take it or not.

On my second time to complete my winter walk I didn't assimilate with existing families but met people as individuals. I was fine with this but I found myself in similar situations running into the same folks and they sought my company. We didn't walk together all the time but we kept in touch by Whatsapp.

Do I feel like I'm missing out? No because the Camino is first and foremost a walking experience. Everything else comes after. I feel like others seek the reverse to accomplish the first task, but this is one person's opinion. You walk your own Camino and that's how you make it your own. Otherwise, you are walking someone else's Camino.

It's really that simple. We tend to complicate things....
I agree with you and your experiences like mine I believe illustrate how each pilgrim can assimilate their experiences and their need for walking their own camino. On my Camino in 2019 the people that I met and the people that I grew to love (it was November/December) all walked their own caminos and there were 7 of us who were in a whatsapp group. We would not see each other every day, but most days. Often we would come across each other in bars or on the camino and have a break together and walk a few kilometers together. But most of the time we all decided for ourselves what we would do. By the time we reached Sarria the group had tentacles that extended out to almost 20 people. We were all walking about the same distances that last week or so. So many would stay in the same albergue together. There were 2 young men that were chefs in Spain and Italy. We had communal dinners in albergues and sometimes there were almost 20 people. The meals were devine as these young chefs prepared simple but delicious dinners. We would all chip in for wine, salads, veggies and desserts. We had dinner that knocked the socks of any traditional pilgrim menu or anything I could make. But the best part was we sat in those albergues and talked and laughed for hours. I walked alone for all or most of each day and had the time of my life in the evening. I never had to contribute more than 5Euros and often less for dinners and company t remember night after night.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
On my first Camino a few years ago I met a pilgrim in O Cebreiro, a woman around my age, who turned into a bit of a problem as she wanted to be with me all the time. I explained that I wanted to walk alone at my own pace during the day, which she respected but every evening she would turn up and stay in the same albergue and follow me round everywhere. If I went to wash clothes so did she, if I went shopping or for a rest she came too. I found this most uncomfortable but didn´t really know how to deal with it without being unkind. After a few days I think she realised I was trying to avoid her and she palled up with someone else. I felt sorry for her and afterwards felt guilty at my lack of charity but like most introverts I needed my own space.
Never feel guilty about doing what you NEED to do for yourself on the Camino. I know how difficult and uncomfortable a conversation that you wanted to have with her would be. My solution would have been to walk two short days to let her get ahead (if you had the time to do it, of course). I often do that anyway just as a way to rest if I feel I want to walk but don't want to take a full rest day. Of course this depends on which camino you are on and if the infrastructure allows for it.
 

Blueboy456A

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2018
I walked the Camino in Sept 2018. I thought I would post my thoughts to encourage other potential pilgrim's that struggle with crowded situations. I was led, driven, to walk the Camino after initially being introduced by the movie The Way, but Paulo Coehlo's book The Pilgrimage, and Shirley MacLaine's book The Camino-A pilgrimage of courage, drove me to lose 100lbs and on my replaced my knees actually turn a dream into actually walking the Camino at age 56. But, beyond the physical challenge the part I most dreaded, and I read most people love is the concept of the Camino family. I can have panic attacks in crowded situations and I like, need, lots of alone time. I enjoy people one on one, a couple people, but groups not for me, not judging, just not for me. It took years to accept this in me. I enjoyed a table of four at Pilgrim dinners, but although I cherished my night in Granon, it was amazing being in that 11th century church lying on the pad listening to the rain fall on the roof in the night while listening to everyone sleeping. I felt so, so blessed. But, being in the middle of the table at the large communal table for dinner was almost nightmarish. I wanted out so badly. I was so tense, on edge, felt trapped
I am writing this for others that may also have this challenge. I had many great deep conversations with other pilgrims from all over the world that I will cherish forever on the Camino. The alone time on the Camino was all I thought and hoped it would be and it blessed me and changed my life. If you are out there, my words speak to you and are considering walking the Camino but have issues like me. You too can do it. Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable. You are who you are and it's ok not to be and feel like everyone else, and by all means be brave and walk it. It will change your life.
Thank you for this ,another introvert.ciao
 
Time of past OR future Camino
please see signature
Plan, strategize the group situations, leave and arrive at odd times, be polite but be brave and decline situations that make you feel uncomfortable
I also prefer to walk alone and two experiences confirm, for me, that choice.

In early October, I left Los Arcos, after a light meal, with Torres del Rio as my final intention for the day. It was extremely hot (I heard mid 30 celsius being mentioned). The path from Los Arcos is straight as a die for many kilometres and I was worried about finding some shade to rest under. When on the far horizon I could see nothing but a spreading tree with a very thick trunk. After a while I could see movement around the trunk, but still to far to make out any details - I assumed haze from the heat. On final approach to this boon, I realised the movement was people. And I was not welcome to break into the shady space this group saw as their property.

A few weeks later, on very grand day, I pulled up from La Faba and by late morning, with grand views of eastern Galicia, was approaching Alto del Polo. I put my pack on a seat by a table and raced inside to, in this order, get a cold beer and some food. The bar was quite small and ahead of me were two 20 year olds ordering drinks, not just for themselves but for a larger party. To the one bar staff the conversation had tit-bits such as "will Joe like .. how about Anne ..." as they pointed to the racked bottles: there was clearly much changing of minds. And the queue built up in the small space. And mutterings. My pick was the group was celebrating their first morning walking the Frances. Kia kaha to them. But they were in their impervious bubble.

And kia kaha koutou katoa (may you all take care, be strong).
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Yearly and Various 2014-2019
Via Monastica 2022
Yup, @vwzoo.
"Camino families" are a modern invention, more firmly entrenched in Camino lore thanks to Martin Sheen, followed by countless blogs and self-published camino books. (Walking in a large group for safety's sake is as old as the camino, but that is a totally different thing.)

If they are not 'you,' not to worry. They are not necessary for a richly rewarding camino. And as others have said, there are ways to walk alone should you wish to, even on the Frances.
The afternoon after about 2PM is a time when the way is pretty empty.

I remember a like-minded Dutch fellow that had a smart trick: he carried and read a small, cloth bound book, so everybody supposed he was praying and let him alone (actullay, it was Dickens).
Prayer beads or a mala work too.
(Even better if you're actually using them. 😇;))
 
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