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Guided vs. Self-Guided Caminos

Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#1
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
 

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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#2
I have walked a number of caminos in Spain and long-distance routes elsewhere. Because I value solitude very highly when I walk and enjoy the freedom to change my plans at will I would never dream of joining a guided tour. Walking the Spanish Caminos - and most especially the Camino Frances - is such a straightforward business that I cannot see what benefit there is to to justify the extra cost and the restrictions which a pre-arranged guided tour would entail. Unless a person is a very inexperienced and anxious traveller there seems little to gain.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#3
I have walked a number of caminos in Spain and long-distance routes elsewhere. Because I value solitude very highly when I walk and enjoy the freedom to change my plans at will I would never dream of joining a guided tour. Walking the Spanish Caminos - and most especially the Camino Frances - is such a straightforward business that I cannot see what benefit there is to to justify the extra cost and the restrictions which a pre-arranged guided tour would entail. Unless a person is a very inexperienced and anxious traveller there seems little to gain.
Interesting perspective, thank you!
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#4
This is becoming a hot topic on forum. I was 39 on my first camino and 52 on my last. All were done without tours. I just do not understand the guided tour aspect of pilgrimage. If you have a guide and lodging and transport... Pilgrimage? However, if you need those things then do so.
Buen camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#5
This is becoming a hot topic on forum. I was 39 on my first camino and 52 on my last. All were done without tours. I just do not understand the guided tour aspect of pilgrimage. If you have a guide and lodging and transport... Pilgrimage? However, if you need those things then do so.
Buen camino.
Yes, it looks like there is a lot of in between as well. Some just assist with lodging, others are there for your EVERY step of the way. I guess it circles back to whatever an individual's purpose is, but I would not want to sacrifice being able to go at my own pace and being able to explore.
 

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Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
#6
... if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)?...
I've travelled extensively in Europe, both as an independent pilgrim and as member of a tour group.

When one is in a tour group, you don't have control of your schedule or your itinerary, your travel companions, your meal times or (often) places. When things go sideways, you have the tour director to help, or blame, or both. There is a real tendency to transfer responsibility for the travel experience from the individual to the tour director. One tends to not do as much research beforehand, or bother to learn the language. And one generally gets help with handling luggage, so it tends to be bigger.

When one travels independently, you have greater (but not complete) control over schedule, itinerary, meal times/places/menu. You can elect to associate with travel companions, or not, on this day or that week. When things go sideways, you learn about being vulnerable and not in control, and how to request and receive assistance from others. You are responsible for your own travel experience - there is no one else to blame. So one does the research, and learns some of the language. And since you are carrying your own bags, you pack more lightly.

These are entirely different modes of travel; and both are legitimate. It depends on what fits you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#7
I've travelled extensively in Europe, both as an independent pilgrim and as member of a tour group.

When one is in a tour group, you don't have control of your schedule or your itinerary, your travel companions, your meal times or (often) places. When things go sideways, you have the tour director to help, or blame, or both. There is a real tendency to transfer responsibility for the travel experience from the individual to the tour director. One tends to not do as much research beforehand, or bother to learn the language. And one generally gets help with handling luggage, so it tends to be bigger.

When one travels independently, you have greater (but not complete) control over schedule, itinerary, meal times/places/menu. You can elect to associate with travel companions, or not, on this day or that week. When things go sideways, you learn about being vulnerable and not in control, and how to request and receive assistance from others. You are responsible for your own travel experience - there is no one else to blame. So one does the research, and learns some of the language. And since you are carrying your own bags, you pack more lightly.

These are entirely different modes of travel; and both are legitimate. It depends on what fits you.
Thanks for the thoughtful response!
 

simeon

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP LosArcos 09\14 Tricastella SDDC 0515 Porto SDDC 1015 LosArcos Burgos 1016 Burgos Leon 0917
#8
I can understand why on ones first Camino you might want to have a guide. It does mean that you have less anxiety, however after a few days I found that my pre departure anxiety was unfounded and somewhat regretted not just going solo from the start. Going solo on the Camino is a bit of a bad description as if you are anyway sociable you will meet many fellow pilgrims.

and learns some of the language.
Don't worry about the language. I'm particularly bad at languages and only know two essential words vino tinto which is said like bino Tonto. And thank you gracias which is said like grass e ass with a smile....
If languages are easy for you it would make life a lot easier but not having it is not an issue either
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#9
Yes, it looks like there is a lot of in between as well. Some just assist with lodging, others are there for your EVERY step of the way. I guess it circles back to whatever an individual's purpose is, but I would not want to sacrifice being able to go at my own pace and being able to explore.
Then, by all means go alone. You will be ok. Even if you walk CF in dead-of-winter you will not be alone. One of the greatest joys of pilgrimage is spontaneity: stopping at will, meeting others on-the-way, etc. Enjoy.
 
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Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#10
I have done group tours on 'holidays' a couple of times. At the time they were a good choice for us. It allowed us to see a lot of places in a small amount of time without the need to be booking accommodation, transport, wondering where to go etc. And of course having a knowledgeable guide was a great benefit. No need to worry about language...All good stuff when doing the sights of Paris and so on.

I can understand how someone on their first Camino might think that going on some kind on group tour would offer similar benefits. Think again......

There is a huge difference between walking a Camino (particularly the Frances) and doing a traditional holiday tour......

You really can't get lost. You just follow the arrows and all the other Pilgrims.

You are part of a Group anyway, by default. Unless you walk in winter, you are part of a mobile community moving down the trail together. Why would you pay, just to be part of a fixed group, within that community, whose members you are stuck with even if you don't enjoy their company...

The locals have been dealing with and helping Pilgrims for a thousand years. For many we are their livelihood. They will guide you and support you... Language? Learn a couple of dozen basic words just as a courtesy......It's not essential though.

You will make new friends every day. It's kind of impossible not to! And you will stick with others whose company you enjoy. Everyone helps each other out.

You are not alone.............kind of ever! You have to try hard to get alone time sometimes........

Imagine doing a 4 week tour of Europe. The itinerary is already planned out. Eiffel Tower, followed by the Louvre, then on to Munich or wherever. You're going to see all the major sites. On day 1 you set out and find there are 300 other people following the same route. Exact same route. EXACT. Catching the same buses, trains, planes, in fact at every turn there are big signs saying 'this way'......

Everyone around you is going the same way. Exactly the same way! Following the signs. The only decision you need to make, is when to stop each day, and secure a bed in whatever town or village, you find yourself. And you'll look around for that bed, with others who have also decided to stop in the same place....

And where ever you decide to stay, there are more travelling companions staying there. In fact all the people staying there are all going the same way as you. So you can join them for dinner......you'll know some of the faces from seeing them that day anyway.

Getting the idea ;)

To go on a group tour would be a totally pointless exercise, a waste of money, and actually very limiting.....

Unless....... Due to some kind of physical limitation or maybe a total lack of self confidence, you need the security of a guide.... But even then..........go with a friend if you have to ;)

If you can manage to get yourself to a bus stop, and go across town to visit a new shopping mall......you are fully equipped to find your way along the Camino. Same degree of difficulty I reckon...... On reflection, the Camino is easier.
Except the walking bit.....and the sore feet ...... :oops:

P.S. One of the greatest joys of walking a Camino is the sense of Freedom.
Allow yourself to experience that ........
To not do so IMHO is to miss a core part of the Camino experience.

Check out these very short video clips.
On my own, but never really........ 2nd one down the page. Called Isolation.
Day 2 heading down to Roncesvalles.
http://robscamino.com/29th-of-april/

One of the many chance encounters.....
2nd one down. US Pilgrims. Near Torres Del Rio
http://robscamino.com/4th-of-may-on-the-road-to-estella-from-uterga-to-estella/

You don't need to Dine alone....... Look out for Pilgrim Central. Najera.
http://robscamino.com/8th-of-may-a-day-of-emotion-walking-to-najera/
 
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Saint Mike II

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#11
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Hola Christine - I am a two-time pilgrim, once on a bike, last May/June as a walker, so I am in the independent type.
My question to you is "what type of Camino Experience are you looking for?" If its just an organised holiday then opt for the guided camino experience; but if you are seeking a "true pilgrimage" (such as can be experienced in the 21st C) then I respectfully suggest that a solo self-guided camino is the way to go. Buen Camino:)
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x3), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham.
2018? CF, again :-)
#12
I agree with all the above. Wouldn't dream of joining a guided tour as I like/need to make my own decisions/choices... Where I stay, when I stop.... But that's just me of course, everyone is different. :)
I don't even walk well with my husband - even though we do get on very well in 'normal' life, phew! :D
Do whatever seems right for you ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#13
I can understand why on ones first Camino you might want to have a guide. It does mean that you have less anxiety, however after a few days I found that my pre departure anxiety was unfounded and somewhat regretted not just going solo from the start. Going solo on the Camino is a bit of a bad description as if you are anyway sociable you will meet many fellow pilgrims.



Don't worry about the language. I'm particularly bad at languages and only know two essential words vino tinto which is said like bino Tonto. And thank you gracias which is said like grass e ass with a smile....
If languages are easy for you it would make life a lot easier but not having it is not an issue either
This made me giggle :) I already speak French, which helps with Spanish, but I know more practice is definitely called for!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#14
I agree with all the above. Wouldn't dream of joining a guided tour as I like/need to make my own decisions/choices... Where I stay, when I stop.... But that's just me of course, everyone is different. :)
I don't even walk well with my husband - even though we do get on very well in 'normal' life, phew! :D
Do whatever seems right for you ;)
Thank you, domigee!!
 

Peter Fransiscus

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
#15
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Hi Christine , no guided tour for me . It’s my personal choice to do so ,
stop when you want , visit places and you can walk with pilgrims from all over the world . And when you want to walk on your one you can do .

At the end you will make a decission that is best for you .

Wish you a wonderfull time and a Buen Camino , Peter .
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#16
I don't even walk well with my husband - even though we do get on very well in 'normal' life, phew! :D
I can relate......So looking forward to 800 kms with my dearly beloved next year........... :eek:
It will be 'character building' ;)
I reckon walking a Camino with a spouse must be on a par with teaching them to drive......
Not for the faint hearted :D
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#17
Hi Christine , no guided tour for me . It’s my personal choice to do so ,
stop when you want , visit places and you can walk with pilgrims from all over the world . And when you want to walk on your one you can do .

At the end you will make a decission that is best for you .

Wish you a wonderfull time and a Buen Camino , Peter .
Thank you so much, Peter!
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x3), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham.
2018? CF, again :-)
#18
I can relate......So looking forward to 800 kms with my dearly beloved next year........... :eek:
It will be 'character building' ;)
I reckon walking a Camino with a spouse must be on a par with teaching them to drive......
Not for the faint hearted :D
Yes, that's a very good comparison! :D
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#19
Christine, What route and how much time do you have? I see in your profile that you just say (April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre! Are you planning on walking the Camino from Madrid? Or the Camino Frances, which doesn't go through Madrid? I've walked the Frances twice now, with no tour or prearranged lodging, the same way that it seems that most on this forum have. On the Frances it is definitely not necessary to pre-book or use a tour group.

You might want to join the Camigas group on Facebook, where you'll find lots of other women who have or will walk the Camino solo. https://www.facebook.com/groups/CaminoBuddySystemForWomen/
 
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Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#20
Hola Christine - I am a two-time pilgrim, once on a bike, last May/June as a walker, so I am in the independent type.
My question to you is "what type of Camino Experience are you looking for?" If its just an organised holiday then opt for the guided camino experience; but if you are seeking a "true pilgrimage" (such as can be experienced in the 21st C) then I respectfully suggest that a solo self-guided camino is the way to go. Buen Camino:)
Thank you, St. Mike!!
 

Rick of Rick and Peg

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
#21
Reading the first few posts I was coming up with the same thoughts that Robo expressed so well in his first post. Essentially, if you forego paying for a guide you will get a few dozen for free.

I also gave Robo a like for his second post above (the one about spouses and with the :eek:).
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#22
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Millions have walked a Camino pilgrimage over the centuries without the need for a tour company to do the planning. In fact, tour company planning is, in many ways, 180 degrees out of sync with the nature and the basis of a Camino since you are not walking according to your needs, but to those demanded of a tour company schedule.

There is nothing hard or complicated about gathering the information so that you can walk your own Camino. This forum is a wealth of knowledge, help, and guidance --- all for free :) You will spend a lot more money to have a tour company take responsibility for your camino, than it will be for you to embrace the individual spirit of camino and put together your own personal plan.

Good to have you here.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
#23
Since you have registered today, I suspect you have a lot of questions but there are many people in here; veterans; and in addition, use the search function exstensively: I believe all possible questions have already been answered before; You will learn a lot! You still have good time to read up before you go. But by all means: Fire your questions if you're missing some info!:)

As you can tell from my history (left side recordings of my Caminos) I am a veteran. But only in the context of numbers of Caminos; maybe after your first you'll know more than me!...;)

Since you are a newbie, I will nevertheless try to provide you with some basics. First of all, order a guide as soon as possible and read up. Personally (I take it that you want to walk from Sarria to SdC based on your personal info) I use this guide: It is light and inexpensive: https://www.csj.org.uk/product/camino-de-santiago-pilgrim-guides-camino-frances-2017/

You can also easily produce a climb plan: Where it is steep and where it is straight: Select your start and ending points, and print it (maybe laminate it, as I do): http://www.godesalco.com/plan/frances . You will see that it contains info about overnight stays etc., as well as the guide I linked to does. All you need to walk across Spain. :)

It contains all you need, really.

Going with an operator: Don't, IMHO. I can understand that you, coming from the US, feel far away from home. But so am I, when I go to Spain. As you can see from my profile, I have walked many Caminos. But when I undertook my 1st, I was like you. However, after studying the forum and asking questions here, I was able to set up a plan, and it worked. There are many factors that can influence your adventure, and going with an operator may limit you:
  • You may want to change your plans
  • You may need a rest day
  • You get blisters and need to rest a day or two
  • You may meet people you want to walk with
  • Your group may not be where you want to be
  • Distances may be different from your capabilities/wants
And so on.

If you go alone, you are free. Free to stop wherever, join people you'd like to be with, not being restrained to a specific group. Believe me, the sense of freedom is exceptional.

If you can, do not order a return ticket. You are setting out on an adventure. If however possible, set your return when you're ready. Two times I have had a return ticket; both times I have had to cancel and buy a new one. Many things can happen on the Camino.

All said in the spirit of helping you to understand that you are embarking on an adventure where you should have control.

At the end: Learn some Spanish phrases for hello, where is..., directions, and a little more. It will be very helpful to you.

Finally, I should tell you that at the beginning of my first Camino, I was so thankful, lying in my bed in the albergue in Pamplona, that the forum had provided me with all the information i needed to get there, and I knew that the next day, all I had to do was to get up and get going. It was never a problem: easy going without an organized company, and 50-fold cheaper :)

Finally, for the Camino: The best plan is to not have a plan... Let whatever happens guide you. :) Be free.

PS: Sorry for the lenghty post. DS.

Buen Camino!
 
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zrexer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15 & 16 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo (Sept.)
#24
My wife and although fit for our ages, were complete rookies hitting the Camino for the first time in 2014. We were avid walkers and cyclists, but had never back packed before. We did do a lot of research before going, but ultimately hit the ground in Spain and figured out the rest as we walked each day. The first time for anything is always the best. I guess the fact we have been back to Spain and Portugal in 2015, 2016 and 2017 would be an indication of how things went on our first year of walking a pilgrimage.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#25
Since you have registered today, I suspect you have a lot of questions but there are many people in here; veterans; and in addition, use the search function exstensively: I believe all possible questions have already been answered before; You will learn a lot! You still have good time to read up before you go. But by all means: Fire your questions if you're missing some info!:)

As you can tell from my history (left side recordings of my Caminos) I am a veteran. But only in the context of numbers of Caminos; maybe after your first you'll know more than me!...;)

Since you are a newbie, I will nevertheless try to provide you with some basics. First of all, order a guide as soon as possible and read up. Personally (I take it that you want to walk from Sarria to SdC based on your personal info) I use this guide: It is light and inexpensive: https://www.csj.org.uk/product/camino-de-santiago-pilgrim-guides-camino-frances-2017/

You can also easily produce a climb plan: Where it is steep and where it is straight: Select your start and ending points, and print it (maybe laminate it, as I do): http://www.godesalco.com/plan/frances . You will see that it contains info about overnight stays etc., as well as the guide I linked to does. All you need to walk across Spain. :)

It contains all you need, really.

Going with an operator: Don't, IMHO. I can understand that you, coming from the US, feel far away from home. But so am I, when I go to Spain. As you can see from my profile, I have walked many Caminos. But when I undertook my 1st, I was like you. However, after studying the forum and asking questions here, I was able to set up a plan, and it worked. There are many factors that can influence your adventure, and going with an operator may limit you:
  • You may want to change your plans
  • You may need a rest day
  • You get blisters and need to rest a day or two
  • You may meet people you want to walk with
  • Your group may not be where you want to be
  • Distances may be different from your capabilities/wants
And so on.

If you go alone, you are free. Free to stop wherever, join people you'd like to be with, not being restrained to a specific group. Believe me, the sense of freedom is exceptional.

If you can, do not order a return ticket. You are setting out on an adventure. If however possible, set your return when you're ready. Two times I have had a return ticket; both times I have had to cancel and buy a new one. Many things can happen on the Camino.

All said in the spirit of helping you to understand that you are embarking on an adventure where you should have control.

At the end: Learn some Spanish phrases for hello, where is..., directions, and a little more. It will be very helpful to you.

Finally, I should tell you that at the beginning of my first Camino, I was so thankful, lying in my bed in the albergue in Pamplona, that the forum had provided me with all the information i needed to get there, and I knew that the next day, all I had to do was to get up and get going. It was never a problem: easy going without an organized company, and 50-fold cheaper :)

Finally, for the Camino: The best plan is to not have a plan... Let whatever happens guide you. :) Be free.

PS: Sorry for the lenghty post. DS.

Buen Camino!
Thanks! Actually, I have traveled quite extensively internationally for work. Certainly no concerns there :) I do, however, have a limited time period so it' a strong consideration to have everything taken care of. Again, it seems everyone has their personal reasons for their respective journey. Interesting to see both sides to take into consideration!
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#26
I do, however, have a limited time period so it' a strong consideration to have everything taken care of.
Probably even more reason to 'go it alone'. Much more flexibility........ ;)

It might seem like everyone is pushing you towards 'self guided'. We are :D

Only through wanting to help you have a great experience though.....
 
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C clearly

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#27
On day 1 you set out and find there are 300 other people following the same route. Exact same route. EXACT. Catching the same buses, trains, planes, in fact at every turn there are big signs saying 'this way'......
Best explanation I've seen yet, to explain why an organized group is not necessary for most people!
I do, however, have a limited time period so it' a strong consideration to have everything taken care of.
I don't understand this reason. What takes the time on the Camino is the walking, not the "arrangements" on the ground! Which route, how much time and what month are you thinking about?
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#28
Thanks! Actually, I have traveled quite extensively internationally for work. Certainly no concerns there :) I do, however, have a limited time period so it' a strong consideration to have everything taken care of. Again, it seems everyone has their personal reasons for their respective journey. Interesting to see both sides to take into consideration!
Basically, the time it takes is about the same amount of planning whether you walk for 5 days or for 40 days. Figure out how many days that you want to walk, then decide where you want to either start your Camino or where you want to end your Camino. Based on how many miles per day you feel you can walk you can then decide where you will start point A in order to go to point B. There are lots of free tools to help you with that type of logistic; from what places there are to stay in any given city, town, or village, to what landmarks or cultural sites that you might want to visit. Places to eat, places to sleep, things to do, and what to see..... these things are so individual in taste, physical ability, and desire that I could not imagine turning that responsibility over to a tour company.

Oh, and did someone else mention that there is nothing special about a tour company planning a camino itinerary? Anything the tour company will arrange is something that you can arrange to better suit your needs, and it will be far less expensive. The time invested in your own planning is part of what will make the Camino a much, much richer experience for you. Remember, you are not alone either in planning your Camino or walking your Camino... unless that is what you wish to do. :)
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#29
Remember, you are not alone either in planning your Camino or walking your Camino... unless that is what you wish to do. :)
Lots of avid planners here who love to provide feedback on what you plan to do......
Not to forget of course, the packing list 'nerds' who love to give feedback on your packing list, what to leave out, what you missed etc....... :rolleyes:
 

HedaP

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#30
I can appreciate all of the above comments but when the camino calls sometimes the only way to do it is with the support of a tour. In which case it is for many the best option.
Almost every pilgrim I met who was on a tour asked me where I had started which to me was always an odd question because my pilgrimage is for far more personal reasons than distance. The usual response to my answer was that they were “not a real pilgrim” with the implication that I was a ‘real pilgrim’ BUT I am not even catholic! This always made me feel both sad and humble, especially as many of these pilgrims on tour were catholics.
For me pilgrimage is about a state of mind and a state of heart. It is a leap of faith (in the universal sense of the phrase) and about answering a call. It is about connecting with people of multiple races who have the same goal. It is about kindness and looking out for each other. It is about laughter and cherishing a strong sense of the ridiculous. It is about the physical challenge and that very much depends on ability, experience and age. It has nothing to do with tourism but in no way excludes enjoying local culture, sites, architecture, views, food, language and above all, the people.
IMO being on a tour does not mean that you are a tourist and not a pilgrim. We all do what we need to do for a whole range of reasons and buen camino.
Now I will dismount from my high horse. o_O:p:p:p
BTW don’t ask my why I walk the camino because there is a snow balls chance in hell that I will tell you. :p:p:p
And @Christine Maske may you have a very buen and independent camino.
 

Seamus68

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino St James Apr 2017
#31
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Definitely not guided unless elderly or time restraint.
The experience varies a lot, from the Pyrenees to the Meseta to Galicia, it’s fantastic.
Strange bu I hope it doesn’t become too touristy.
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#32
Definitely not guided unless elderly or time restraint.
The experience varies a lot, from the Pyrenees to the Meseta to Galicia, it’s fantastic.
Strange bu I hope it doesn’t become too touristy.
I don't see how a guided tour helps someone with a time restraint at all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April 2017 Sarria to Santiago de Compostela
#33
I have done one Camino - in April this year, Sarria to Santiago. It was a guided camino but I don't think I saw or spoke with our guide more than twice in the 6 days. I didn't need to.

The group was 18 in number and I walked with various members but always at my own pace. I never felt any restriction.

I'm hoping to do a self-guided camino next year, SJPdP to Sarria. Self guided means accommodation is arranged (therefore a schedule, which suits me) and luggage transfer. I will have a large suitcase as, coming from Australia, I plan to go on elsewhere after my camino and need clothes etc. for that.

I'm aware I can change my stops by using a 24/7 phone number to the tour company in Ireland.

So what do I get? Accommodation (which includes breakfast each day and most dinners) and luggage transfer plus a lot of logistical documentation and support. OK, it costs more than doing the organisation myself but as I'm unfamiliar with that part of the world, am in my senior years and like privacy for showering and sleeping (use a CPAP machine) I'm comfortable with what I'm planning and still believe I'm on a pilgrimage.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#35
Like everyone else, I'm firmly on the side of going solo - for all the reasons people have pointed to.
However, there is a middle ground between a guided tour and doing it yourself.
I did my first camino with a friend, who for various reasons had a camino travel company work out the stages and make all the bookings in hotels or casa rurales. After that we were on our own.
It wasn't cheap as guiding ourselves, of course. But it wasn't ridiculously expensive either.
That said, neither of us has or would do that again. There's no need: It's ridiculously easy to do for yourself. Get the body to a start point, and walk for as long as you have time for. You know how to walk, and there's no huge learning curve.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April / May (2016) CF
#36
I did the camino with a friend. However, in many towns in Italy, there are walking / hiking clubs, and every so often they get a group together to walk el Camino de Santiago. If you are interested in waling with a group, or just want to find a few other people to walk with and help with planning etc, you could look for a similar type of group / organization in your area.
 

stgcph

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
#37
(or something in between)?
My approach to my Camino was what I guess you may call an in-between approach. Not the total free improvising way and not the group and guide-led way.

I had my accommodations pre-booked all the way in hotels or casa rurales and as I didn’t want to contact all the places myself, I had a local (Galician) travel agent do that for me on the condition, that I decided the length of the daily stretches (as far as possible). And that was all they did. Of course, I had to pay for that service –everything comes at a price. But I was not part of any group, I walked by myself and I carried my own backpack all the way.

So I guess I sacrificed flexibility, at least to a certain extent. On the other hand I did not have to get up at s**t o’clock in the morning and be at the destination shortly after noon to secure a position in the bed-race; I can do without that kind of flexibility. I could walk steadily through the afternoon (I don’t mind the heat) knowing that here was a (private) bath and a bed waiting for me. It didn’t happen, but if at some point I would have had problems walking the planned distance, I could have jumped on a bus or a taxi. If I had wanted to stop short of a planned accommodation, I could just have phoned and cancelled the reservation and the next day I could take a bus to catch up on the planned stages. That would have been waste of money, of course, but everything comes at a price. So I don’t think the pre-planned approach is quite so inflexible as it is sometimes made out to be.

Then there is the question of being able to stay together with people you meet on the way. That could be a problem, but I met the same people again and again during the days and in the evenings, so I didn’t really feel I was missing much on “the social side”. I lost them in Sarria where I had a rest-day and they moved on. But hello’s and good bye’s are a part of all travelling.

Anyway, the pre-booking approach suits me well, and on my next camino (hopefully next summer) I will use it again -and it will not make me feel less of a pilgrim.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#38
I'm comfortable with what I'm planning and still believe I'm on a pilgrimage.
You most certainly are on a Pilgrimage Mack. ;)
Thanks for providing another perspective.
 

Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#39
I've travelled extensively in Europe, both as an independent pilgrim and as member of a tour group.

When one is in a tour group, you don't have control of your schedule or your itinerary, your travel companions, your meal times or (often) places. When things go sideways, you have the tour director to help, or blame, or both. There is a real tendency to transfer responsibility for the travel experience from the individual to the tour director. One tends to not do as much research beforehand, or bother to learn the language. And one generally gets help with handling luggage, so it tends to be bigger.

When one travels independently, you have greater (but not complete) control over schedule, itinerary, meal times/places/menu. You can elect to associate with travel companions, or not, on this day or that week. When things go sideways, you learn about being vulnerable and not in control, and how to request and receive assistance from others. You are responsible for your own travel experience - there is no one else to blame. So one does the research, and learns some of the language. And since you are carrying your own bags, you pack more These are entirely different modes of travel; and both are legitimate. It depends on what fits you.
Another helpful comment from you, Kitsambler, as always! I've done both modes of travel, too, and you have described the style of each so perfectly.
 

m108

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2011-2016
#40
while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.
exactly ! that's why I do not even want to be "guided" by someone else's system ;)! Now, quite seriously: I really can not imagine being part of a guided group. For me, 90% of all the beauty of such pilgrimage would have been lost. If it's pilgrimage, of course. For me, I repeat. It's probably important why someone goes to Camino: pilgrimage, sports achievement, getting to know new people, holidays, ...The most beautiful things happen when you go out of the comfort zone and let yourself be surprised
 

Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#41
I have done group tours on 'holidays' a couple of times. At the time they were a good choice for us. It allowed us to see a lot of places in a small amount of time without the need to be booking accommodation, transport, wondering where to go etc. And of course having a knowledgeable guide was a great benefit. No need to worry about language...All good stuff when doing the sights of Paris and so on.

I can understand how someone on their first Camino might think that going on some kind on group tour would offer similar benefits. Think again......

There is a huge difference between walking a Camino (particularly the Frances) and doing a traditional holiday tour......

You really can't get lost. You just follow the arrows and all the other Pilgrims.

You are part of a Group anyway, by default. Unless you walk in winter, you are part of a mobile community moving down the trail together. Why would you pay, just to be part of a fixed group, within that community, whose members you are stuck with even if you don't enjoy their company...

The locals have been dealing with and helping Pilgrims for a thousand years. For many we are their livelihood. They will guide you and support you... Language? Learn a couple of dozen basic words just as a courtesy......It's not essential though.

You will make new friends every day. It's kind of impossible not to! And you will stick with others whose company you enjoy. Everyone helps each other out.

You are not alone.............kind of ever! You have to try hard to get alone time sometimes........

Imagine doing a 4 week tour of Europe. The itinerary is already planned out. Eiffel Tower, followed by the Louvre, then on to Munich or wherever. You're going to see all the major sites. On day 1 you set out and find there are 300 other people following the same route. Exact same route. EXACT. Catching the same buses, trains, planes, in fact at every turn there are big signs saying 'this way'......

Everyone around you is going the same way. Exactly the same way! Following the signs. The only decision you need to make, is when to stop each day, and secure a bed in whatever town or village, you find yourself. And you'll look around for that bed, with others who have also decided to stop in the same place....

And where ever you decide to stay, there are more travelling companions staying there. In fact all the people staying there are all going the same way as you. So you can join them for dinner......you'll know some of the faces from seeing them that day anyway.

Getting the idea ;)

To go on a group tour would be a totally pointless exercise, a waste of money, and actually very limiting.....

Unless....... Due to some kind of physical limitation or maybe a total lack of self confidence, you need the security of a guide.... But even then..........go with a friend if you have to ;)

If you can manage to get yourself to a bus stop, and go across town to visit a new shopping mall......you are fully equipped to find your way along the Camino. Same degree of difficulty I reckon...... On reflection, the Camino is easier.
Except the walking bit.....and the sore feet ...... :oops:

P.S. One of the greatest joys of walking a Camino is the sense of Freedom.
Allow yourself to experience that ........
To not do so IMHO is to miss a core part of the Camino experience.

Check out these very short video clips.
On my own, but never really........ 2nd one down the page. Called Isolation.
Day 2 heading down to Roncesvalles.
http://robscamino.com/29th-of-april/

One of the many chance encounters.....
2nd one down. US Pilgrims. Near Torres Del Rio
http://robscamino.com/4th-of-may-on-the-road-to-estella-from-uterga-to-estella/

You don't need to Dine alone....... Look out for Pilgrim Central. Najera.
http://robscamino.com/8th-of-may-a-day-of-emotion-walking-to-najera/
Hi Robo, Lots of great points you've made. I'm a little off topic here, but I'd like to add this point....My husband and I sometimes have different ideas regarding travel, noticed more as we age and unfortunately have become somewhat more "unequally yoked" in this area. He is not nearly as enamored with overseas travel as I have been, but he's been willing to accompany me on a few European bus tours and various cruises, as they are easier to arrange. Would I have seen many of these amazing places without organized tours? Probably not, so for me they have had a positive impact on my life totally unrelated to the Caminos I've walked with our sons. Next up will be the Le Puy route with two Camino friends come June.
 

Dorpie

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
#42
Hi Christine,

I've been reading this thread with interest and like most have been leaning towards the go it alone side of the argument, but realise I've been very much neglecting a key question- what is it that you hope to get from the Camino?

I think the answer to this question will go a long way towards answering your initial question. For me the Camino was a test of what I could do in all sorts ways; physical, emotional, social, logistical and more and as such it was obvious I should go it alone. But had my priority been for instance historical interest or gastronomy a tour with a knowledgable guide may well have proven invaluable in getting the most from my time on the camino.

Whatever you decide I wish you a fantastic trip.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#43
My approach to my Camino was what I guess you may call an in-between approach. Not the total free improvising way and not the group and guide-led way.

I had my accommodations pre-booked all the way in hotels or casa rurales and as I didn’t want to contact all the places myself, I had a local (Galician) travel agent do that for me on the condition, that I decided the length of the daily stretches (as far as possible). And that was all they did. Of course, I had to pay for that service –everything comes at a price. But I was not part of any group, I walked by myself and I carried my own backpack all the way.

So I guess I sacrificed flexibility, at least to a certain extent. On the other hand I did not have to get up at s**t o’clock in the morning and be at the destination shortly after noon to secure a position in the bed-race; I can do without that kind of flexibility. I could walk steadily through the afternoon (I don’t mind the heat) knowing that here was a (private) bath and a bed waiting for me. It didn’t happen, but if at some point I would have had problems walking the planned distance, I could have jumped on a bus or a taxi. If I had wanted to stop short of a planned accommodation, I could just have phoned and cancelled the reservation and the next day I could take a bus to catch up on the planned stages. That would have been waste of money, of course, but everything comes at a price. So I don’t think the pre-planned approach is quite so inflexible as it is sometimes made out to be.

Then there is the question of being able to stay together with people you meet on the way. That could be a problem, but I met the same people again and again during the days and in the evenings, so I didn’t really feel I was missing much on “the social side”. I lost them in Sarria where I had a rest-day and they moved on. But hello’s and good bye’s are a part of all travelling.

Anyway, the pre-booking approach suits me well, and on my next camino (hopefully next summer) I will use it again -and it will not make me feel less of a pilgrim.
Yes, excellent points. I like the "pre-booking" aspect, but I still like being able to walk on my own.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#44
Unless there some type of physical limitations that require a guide, I would say no, do not walk the Camino with a tour/guided group. No way. That would be so restricting. Also, there is really nothing that a guide tour could do for you that a good guidebook and the internet couldn't.
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#45
Yes, excellent points. I like the "pre-booking" aspect, but I still like being able to walk on my own.
Pre-booking is easily done with apps like Booking.com, or by doing so online since wifi is extremely wide spread in Spain. It is amazingly easy to find any type of accomodation (alburgue, hostal, casa rural, hotel) with the amenities that you would like (private room with bathroom, room with shared bath, room with a few beds, breakfast or dinner or both included, location in the town, etc). You can use a Booking.com to pre-book the day before each stage of your walk, or pre-book all the stages before you start.

It really is exceedingly simple. :)
 

stgcph

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
#46
Threads like this sometimes makes me feel a little sad. Not because people are telling other people about their personal experiences and preferences – that is what this forum is all about (I think?). The problem is people telling other people, that their way of doing things is the only right one. There is no only right way; there is only The Way.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#47
Threads like this sometimes makes me feel a little sad. Not because people are telling other people about their personal experiences and preferences – that is what this forum is all about (I think?). The problem is people telling other people, that their way of doing things is the only right one. There is no only right way; there is only The Way.
Well, I did open it up to opinion, so there's that lol, but I agree with you. It seems like there is a lot of criticism; however, I do what I want to do and what suits me. I'm making my trip one to remember- the way I want to remember it...not the way someone else chooses to. No judgement on others. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to take such a wonderful adventure and will enjoy it wholeheartedly!
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#48
Yes, excellent points. I like the "pre-booking" aspect, but I still like being able to walk on my own.
I met with a woman who pre-booked all of her accommodations ahead using the Gronze website: https://www.gronze.com/camino-frances

Personally, I didn't want to be locked in to walking predetermined distances, but Your Mileage May Vary (pun intended:p)

I usually just got a bed in a hostel or private room when I got to town, but towards the end when it was very busy in August I booked a day ahead, using booking.com or phoning directly.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#50
Threads like this sometimes makes me feel a little sad. Not because people are telling other people about their personal experiences and preferences – that is what this forum is all about (I think?). The problem is people telling other people, that their way of doing things is the only right one. There is no only right way; there is only The Way.
I don't see it that way. I may be mistaken, but I believe the member who inquired asked for members "thoughts" about guided pilgrimages. I take that to mean an opinion....no?
Same as you describe..."preference". Is not a preference an opinion?
I don't believe anyone is "telling" anyone anything in such a forceful manner as you describe. Almost like a micro-aggression. No?
 

Doogman

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#52
I have never taken a guided tour, as it is just not for me, but over the years I have walked completely independently and have also used tour companies for self-guided tours. I would not say that I have enjoyed the independent walks any more or any less than the self-guided tours. They have all been very good. I find that the self-guided tours provide easy one-stop shopping, in that they arrange accommodation, arrange luggage transfer (if desired), and provide maps, guidebooks or route notes. It is obviously not necessary to have those items provided to you, and there is obviously a cost involved, but if you have done your research and some comparative shopping, and you are comfortable paying what they are asking for those services, then I would not hesitate to use those services if desired.

Due to my employment, I have primarily been limited to fairly short trips (i.e. 14 days of walking or less), so I have found that a self-guided tour works well for trips of that length. I doubt they would work as well for trips of longer duration, as there are just too many variables. I would not want to commit myself to a 35-day itinerary, but I would have little reservation committing to a 12 or 14 day trip.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(April-May 2018) Madrid, Sarria, Finisterre!
#53
I have never taken a guided tour, as it is just not for me, but over the years I have walked completely independently and have also used tour companies for self-guided tours. I would not say that I have enjoyed the independent walks any more or any less than the self-guided tours. They have all been very good. I find that the self-guided tours provide easy one-stop shopping, in that they arrange accommodation, arrange luggage transfer (if desired), and provide maps, guidebooks or route notes. It is obviously not necessary to have those items provided to you, and there is obviously a cost involved, but if you have done your research and some comparative shopping, and you are comfortable paying what they are asking for those services, then I would not hesitate to use those services if desired.

Due to my employment, I have primarily been limited to fairly short trips (i.e. 14 days of walking or less), so I have found that a self-guided tour works well for trips of that length. I doubt they would work as well for trips of longer duration, as there are just too many variables. I would not want to commit myself to a 35-day itinerary, but I would have little reservation committing to a 12 or 14 day trip.
Excellent points, thank you. Due to my employment, my schedule for timeframe is 10 days. Not a lot, but a good start. I'm planning it to coincide with my 40th birthday month!!!
 

Doogman

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#54
That's great. I hope you enjoy your trip. I started out on the Le Puy route in 2011 walking for 10 days. It really whet my appetite, so I returned in 2014 and again in 2015 to finally finish it off. Whatever route you are doing, 10 days should be enough to get a good feel for it, and then once you are hooked, you will spend the rest of your free time at home planning to go back. Enjoy!
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
Alone.
------------------------------
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
with my wife Pat.
------------------------------
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
together again :-)
#55
Threads like this sometimes makes me feel a little sad. Not because people are telling other people about their personal experiences and preferences – that is what this forum is all about (I think?). The problem is people telling other people, that their way of doing things is the only right one. There is no only right way; there is only The Way.
Very good point, for us all to remember.
People who are passionate about a topic can sometimes come across as 'pushy.
I think in this instance though, it's not a case of this way is the right way, but more a desire to help a Newbie realise that it's not hard to go it alone, and that there are some negative aspects of guided tours that might not have been considered.

Someone mentioned the 'mid' option of pre booking.
I actually did that last year as it was my wife's first short Camino, she couldn't carry much (injury) and did not want to worry about where to sleep at night.
We used a very good service (no commercial connection).
He generally does guided tours though and may not still provide the booking only option.
And to be fair, it is a business, so we let him book our accommodation, baggage transfer, trains etc. All of which he obviously makes a small margin on (to make it worth his time)
http://doncamino.com/
I stress again, this is not just an accommodation booking service. They don't do just that (won't).
They prefer to pre book everything for you.
But at least you get everything booked, and he sends maps, guides etc. Recommends places to eat....


Regarding the use of online apps, booking.com etc, obviously not all options are available on the apps. Though many are. So I'm learning a bit of Spanish so as to be able to make a phone booing if I have to.

I'm not quite in the 'free wheeling' camp of just arriving in a place hoping for a bed.
I prefer knowing I have a bed for the night and it causes less drama with my walking buddy.
She can relax more ;)

It's all about 'horses for courses' isn't it ?

After Pat's experience last year with everything pre-booked, (on a short 10 day Camino) she is now happy to just 'go for it'. To a degree......
We'll generally book a day ahead when we can (we use casa rurals, small hotels)
But she is even toting a lightweight sleeping bag to try the occasional Albergue!

Not bad for a City girl who does not like uncertainty in any shape or form :D
 
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Gillean

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Seven
#57
Everyone walks their own walk. But this is what I would recommend. Before worrying about a guided or unguided pilgrimage work out a plan to prepare yourself before the walk. Walk a bunch of km with a backpack. Maybe 250 or so. Work yourself up to walks of 15 - 20 km at a go. If you do this you've got a good chance of physically enjoying the camino. If you don't, it's a crap shoot. I've seen folks who run half-marathons each weekend hobbled up with blisters after two days on the camino. Be gentle with yourself the first few days. Don't overdo the mileage. If you are doing the last 10 days into Santiago you will be in some pretty hilly countryside - do some hill training if you can in Iowa. If you're physically prepared and want to be a pilgrim, walk your own plan in your own time. If you have physical or psychological limitations and are happy being a tourist, consider a package tour. You'll earn the same compostela either way. That's my two cents.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Portugues 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#58
Unless you have very specific requirements/problems that really NEED the help of a guided tour there is no reason in my opinion to spend so much money on something that you can do perfectly yourself. Buen Camino, SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
France's (2017)
#59
I have been on guided tours in countries where logistics and language made independent travel seem to me to be too hard - Morocco, Cambodia and Peru. I didn't regret it, I saw more than I would have independently and in a shorter timeframe.
However, when I cycled the Camino earlier this year I went independently and didn't regret that either. I wanted to be sure of a bed each night so I booked ahead day by day using booking.com or a friend with more Spanish language skills than me rang ahead. The route and destination was very clear and transport organised - bike or feet lol so no organisation was needed there, food and drink readily available, and friendly people well used to pilgrims everywhere.
Have a great time whatever you decide to do!
 

stgcph

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
#60
People who are passionate about a topic can sometimes come across as 'pushy.
I think in this instance though, it's not a case of this way is the right way, but more a desire to help a Newbie realise that it's not hard to go it alone, and that there are some negative aspects of guided tours that might not have been considered.
You are right. That's another good point that I/we should remember: That people are generally giving their contributions with the best of intentions.
Sorry if my previous post came out as judgemental.
 

docpam

Pam
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Aragonese May-June 2018
#63
I will be doing my 5th or 6th Camino next year. I have done non-guided caminos, the 'normal' Caminos up until now.

In the last two, on the Primitivo (2015) and San Salvador (2017) I was part of a 'family', the first time on a Camino as part of any group. It was so nice to meet the same people some time during the day and at most of the albergues in the evening. The families were in flux and changed about 50% over the time of the route. I realised the benefit of a 'family'.

These days on the busy French route having a tour with booked accommodation I guess is very useful!

Next year I will be doing a guided tour of the Aragonese route, accommodation pre-booked, breakfast and dinner for you to organise. This seems the best of two worlds, accommodation organised and a 'family' if you so wish.
 

Phil W

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Melide, May-early July 2016,
Back to the Camino, 2017
#64
Well, I did open it up to opinion, so there's that lol, but I agree with you. It seems like there is a lot of criticism; however, I do what I want to do and what suits me. I'm making my trip one to remember- the way I want to remember it...not the way someone else chooses to. No judgement on others. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to take such a wonderful adventure and will enjoy it wholeheartedly!
Well said and Buen Camino!
 
#65
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
I definitely hope you do it on your own. There is really no need for a tour company. I also feel that it will take away a lot of the experience that is essential to the Camino. The logistics are SO easy. Take a backpack that is good and that is packed with as little as possible. Good shoes. Good socks. Learn to use trekking poles and off you go. The infrastructure of the CAmino Frances makes it always possible to find somewhere to sleep, eat, get great coffee.
 

andreak58

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago/Muxia/Finisterre-Sept 2016
Valenca-SDC-Sept 2018
#66
A little over a year ago I walked from Santiago to Fisterra. I joined a guided group because an old friend from high school invited me to join. At that time (I had done very little research on the Camino and though there was only one route and you had to do it all) I took the opportunity that was present.
The day we met our guide, she looked at me and said “you don’t belong in a guided group” and I laughed.
However there I was, and I made use of the luggage transport and truly enjoyed the family owned inns that we stayed at.
I had the most profound experiences while walking, many epiphanies and magical moments. I attribute this to intention, openness to all experiences, and feeling like a pilgrim inside. It pretty much changed my life and I only walked 6 days. Pilgrimage is an inside job.
Next Sept I am taking my two kids and we will be walking a portion of the Portugal route.
Good luck in your decision[/QUOTE]
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
#67
Excellent points, thank you. Due to my employment, my schedule for timeframe is 10 days. Not a lot, but a good start. I'm planning it to coincide with my 40th birthday month!!!
I would not go for 10 days to coincide with a memorable birthday just for a bit of paper.
I think you had already made up your mind CM when you posed the question.
There is no way you could organise 10 days , not from StJPP or Roncesvalles
However the last 200km is a different matter,
Join the tribe mate and enjoy.
 

Busybody

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Now french Way
#68
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Hi Christine
I have just finished the Camino on a self guided tour and can see the pros and cons. I wanted my own accommodation and I liked the fact I did not have to worry about where I was staying. Quite often others were panicking about finding a room. But as I was getting closer to the end I was more confident and could have organized the accommodation but andaspain knew the best places to stay.
But the best thing was when I had a medical issue, they arranged an English speaking doctor for me at the hospital and a taxi to get me there. Self guided tours seem the best of both worlds. But be careful which company you go with. Some give no support once they have your money. With andaspain the cost was not that much more than if I had arranged the trip myself through booking.com.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
#69
Above all, whichever option you decided upon, tour, or independent, you need to know what your capabilities are? IF you book the last section Sarria to Santiago you will need to decide how many days you will need to complete these approximate 60miles. IF you do 10 miles a day then you will need six days. AS others suggested you need to have a sense of how far you can walk each day. A tour guide can not help you with that..
IF you allow yourself a couple of extra days on your own you can take a day off when you need it. TOurs prebook normally. I met folks this past year who were on tours and some of them had to take cabs to catch up with the group each day?
IF you plan on doing the Camino Frances during peak times....especially starting in Sarria, this includes, June, September and early Oct as well as Holy and Easter Week you may want to book a day ahead. You can also use Booking.com for private albergues and hotels. I almost fell over when I looked at the price of a private tour and knew I have stayed at similar places and ate the menu del Dia or ate alacart off the menu and did it for one fourth of what the tour changed. Have a great Camino whichever option you decide upon!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
#70
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Hi
I would definitely walk on your own. There is no need to go with s guide if you are doing the Frances Camino. It is fabulous and you will never be alone unless you choose to be alone. I went solo and met the most fabulous people who I would never come across in my everyday life in Australia. Have a great time....I am sure you will love your journey
Buen Camino
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#71
This question could have been titled: Guided vs Self-Guided or not guided at all!

As a veteran Camino pilgrim (9 times to Santiago, twice to Rome) - walking solo, with friends and taking groups with my amaWalkers Camino company - here is my tuppence worth.
I'm not advertising but I do want to emphasise that ours are not 'Guided Tours' as such, and our Group Leaders are not 'Tour Guides'. We appeal to first-time and veteran pilgrims who have limited time to walk from St Jean to Santiago (ours do it in in 21-days, skipping two sections in the middle) who want to walk at their own pace, where they can choose if they want to walk with a fellow group member or not, are not tied down to pre-paid meals, and there is no air-conditioned back-up Mercedes bus with healthy snacks waiting at a prearranged spot with your picnic lunch! (I would personally love to do one of these but can't afford them!)

Organised groups and 'tours' are not new. Walking with groups is as old as the Camino itself. From the beginning, villages, towns and whole cities organised group pilgrimages to many Christian shrines across Europe, including the long distance shrines like Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. Aimery Picaud travelled with a large group of clerics, clerks and servants and only stayed in the best monasteries they could find. Large caravans of joyous pilgrims trekked together for safety, carrying the flags of their guilds, local parishes, brotherhoods and confraternities. Saint Bona of Pisa led 10 such pilgrim groups from her hometown in Italy to Santiago in the 12th century and was made an official guide of the Knights of Santiago. She is the Patron Saint of couriers, guides, pilgrims and, more recently, flight attendants. (She is also our Patron Saint :)

There are probably as many reasons why people prefer to walk with an organised group as there are pilgrims but here are a few reasons - from my experience as an organiser of group walks:
  • Walking solo is scary for some people, not only for older women but for many men as well. They don't want to be alone, in a foreign country, on challenging paths - no matter how 'easy' people might tell them this is to do.
  • Many people (mainly older people), who don't want to sleep in dormitories or carry their heavy backpacks, don't have the skills to book accommodation or luggage transfers online. Some don't have a PC or tablet, or even a Smartphone, and the terms 'Camino Apps, online reservations, google translations, or GPS, are like foreign words to them!)
  • Many people don't want to be 'surprised' or have the 'adventure' of trying to find a bed at the end of the day when the COMPLETO signs have gone up, no matter how earnestly to try to convince them otherwise.
  • There are many shy people out there who do not make friends easily and who find the solo trek lonely. I met a lady in Ponferrada in June who walked some way with her husband and then solo from Burgos. She told me that she was feeling not only lonely, but also alone, as she didn't make friends easily.
  • Some protective families and relatives won't 'allow' their widowed mother or father, single sister or divorced aunty, to do the Camino on their own.
  • Since starting amaWalkers Camino in 2010 , many of our first-time walkers have returned to Spain to walk the parts of the Camino Frances we miss, on their own. They then come back to us to walk the Aragones route or Via Francigena to Rome, because they don't want to do these alone.
  • We have had people who have walked the Camino two or three times, on their own, and decided that having earned their stripes as solo, backpacking, double-bunk pilgrims, they wanted a different experience with a bed waiting for them at the end of each day, not carrying everything on their backs, without having to organise all of this themselves.
  • We have had pilgrims walk with our accompanied groups on the Camino Frances, Camino Aragones and Via Francigena three and four times. These are 'real' pilgrims - priests, nuns, doctors, housewives, professors, nurses, plumbers, farmers (many members of this forum - you know who you are!) ..... all real people, real pilgrims, all called to walk a Camino and who have done it their way, and have returned to walk again and again with our groups because they had a wonderful experience.
Reading some of the posts above, I wonder whether those who have never walked with a group, and so vehemently speak out against doing so, realise how intolerant it comes across to those (like the ones I have mentioned above) who do choose to walk with a group? It's good to give an opinion from one's own experience, but only if you have experienced both and can give an honest opinion on both alternatives.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#72
Reading some of the posts above, I wonder whether those who have never walked with a group, and so vehemently speak out against doing so, realise how intolerant it comes across to those (like the ones I have mentioned above) who do choose to walk with a group? It's good to give an opinion from one's own experience, but only if you have experienced both and can give an honest opinion on both alternatives.
Thank you for putting what appears to be the minority position so clearly. Sometimes people who feel strongly about their own personal experiences and opinions seem unable to recognise that others may quite legitimately see the world differently. I cannot agree with you that only those who have experienced both sides of any argument or experience have the right to comment on the matter. But we should be able to make a distinction between our own opinions, beliefs or prejudices and undeniable universal truths!
 

Mark McCarthy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2014 2015
Lourdes 2 SdC 2016
Sarria 2 SdC April&Oct 2016 & (April 2018)
Camino Baztan June 2017
#73
This question could have been titled: Guided vs Self-Guided or not guided at all!

As a veteran Camino pilgrim (9 times to Santiago, twice to Rome) - walking solo, with friends and taking groups with my amaWalkers Camino company - here is my tuppence worth.
I'm not advertising but I do want to emphasise that ours are not 'Guided Tours' as such, and our Group Leaders are not 'Tour Guides'. We appeal to first-time and veteran pilgrims who have limited time to walk from St Jean to Santiago (ours do it in in 21-days, skipping two sections in the middle) who want to walk at their own pace, where they can choose if they want to walk with a fellow group member or not, are not tied down to pre-paid meals, and there is no air-conditioned back-up Mercedes bus with healthy snacks waiting at a prearranged spot with your picnic lunch! (I would personally love to do one of these but can't afford them!)

Organised groups and 'tours' are not new. Walking with groups is as old as the Camino itself. From the beginning, villages, towns and whole cities organised group pilgrimages to many Christian shrines across Europe, including the long distance shrines like Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. Aimery Picaud travelled with a large group of clerics, clerks and servants and only stayed in the best monasteries they could find. Large caravans of joyous pilgrims trekked together for safety, carrying the flags of their guilds, local parishes, brotherhoods and confraternities. Saint Bona of Pisa led 10 such pilgrim groups from her hometown in Italy to Santiago in the 12th century and was made an official guide of the Knights of Santiago. She is the Patron Saint of couriers, guides, pilgrims and, more recently, flight attendants. (She is also our Patron Saint :)

There are probably as many reasons why people prefer to walk with an organised group as there are pilgrims but here are a few reasons - from my experience as an organiser of group walks:
  • Walking solo is scary for some people, not only for older women but for many men as well. They don't want to be alone, in a foreign country, on challenging paths - no matter how 'easy' people might tell them this is to do.
  • Many people (mainly older people), who don't want to sleep in dormitories or carry their heavy backpacks, don't have the skills to book accommodation or luggage transfers online. Some don't have a PC or tablet, or even a Smartphone, and the terms 'Camino Apps, online reservations, google translations, or GPS, are like foreign words to them!)
  • Many people don't want to be 'surprised' or have the 'adventure' of trying to find a bed at the end of the day when the COMPLETO signs have gone up, no matter how earnestly to try to convince them otherwise.
  • There are many shy people out there who do not make friends easily and who find the solo trek lonely. I met a lady in Ponferrada in June who walked some way with her husband and then solo from Burgos. She told me that she was feeling not only lonely, but also alone, as she didn't make friends easily.
  • Some protective families and relatives won't 'allow' their widowed mother or father, single sister or divorced aunty, to do the Camino on their own.
  • Since starting amaWalkers Camino in 2010 , many of our first-time walkers have returned to Spain to walk the parts of the Camino Frances we miss, on their own. They then come back to us to walk the Aragones route or Via Francigena to Rome, because they don't want to do these alone.
  • We have had people who have walked the Camino two or three times, on their own, and decided that having earned their stripes as solo, backpacking, double-bunk pilgrims, they wanted a different experience with a bed waiting for them at the end of each day, not carrying everything on their backs, without having to organise all of this themselves.
  • We have had pilgrims walk with our accompanied groups on the Camino Frances, Camino Aragones and Via Francigena three and four times. These are 'real' pilgrims - priests, nuns, doctors, housewives, professors, nurses, plumbers, farmers (many members of this forum - you know who you are!) ..... all real people, real pilgrims, all called to walk a Camino and who have done it their way, and have returned to walk again and again with our groups because they had a wonderful experience.
Reading some of the posts above, I wonder whether those who have never walked with a group, and so vehemently speak out against doing so, realise how intolerant it comes across to those (like the ones I have mentioned above) who do choose to walk with a group? It's good to give an opinion from one's own experience, but only if you have experienced both and can give an honest opinion on both alternatives.
Well said! Hands up my personal preference is to walk without a guide but if guided tours help more people experience the wonders of the Camino then that must be a good thing.
 

Doogman

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#75
@sillydoll states above that "Organized groups and tours are not new." Indeed, the wonderful book "Pilgrimage" by Jonathan Sumption notes the following in terms of pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the 14th century:

"The ship-owners of Venice provided the earliest all-inclusive package tours ...... The fare included food and board throughout the journey as well as in the Holy Land itself; the ship-owner, who was generally the master as well, paid all tolls and taxes, and met the cost of donkeys and pack-horses, guided tours of Jerusalem, and special expeditions to the Jordan."
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#76
Reading some of the posts above, I wonder whether those who have never walked with a group, and so vehemently speak out against doing so, realise how intolerant it comes across to those (like the ones I have mentioned above) who do choose to walk with a group? It's good to give an opinion from one's own experience, but only if you have experienced both and can give an honest opinion on both alternatives.
I think some of us are misinterpreting having a different approach as being intolerant.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
#77
This question could have been titled: Guided vs Self-Guided or not guided at all!

As a veteran Camino pilgrim (9 times to Santiago, twice to Rome) - walking solo, with friends and taking groups with my amaWalkers Camino company - here is my tuppence worth.
I'm not advertising but I do want to emphasise that ours are not 'Guided Tours' as such, and our Group Leaders are not 'Tour Guides'. We appeal to first-time and veteran pilgrims who have limited time to walk from St Jean to Santiago (ours do it in in 21-days, skipping two sections in the middle) who want to walk at their own pace, where they can choose if they want to walk with a fellow group member or not, are not tied down to pre-paid meals, and there is no air-conditioned back-up Mercedes bus with healthy snacks waiting at a prearranged spot with your picnic lunch! (I would personally love to do one of these but can't afford them!)

Organised groups and 'tours' are not new. Walking with groups is as old as the Camino itself. From the beginning, villages, towns and whole cities organised group pilgrimages to many Christian shrines across Europe, including the long distance shrines like Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. Aimery Picaud travelled with a large group of clerics, clerks and servants and only stayed in the best monasteries they could find. Large caravans of joyous pilgrims trekked together for safety, carrying the flags of their guilds, local parishes, brotherhoods and confraternities. Saint Bona of Pisa led 10 such pilgrim groups from her hometown in Italy to Santiago in the 12th century and was made an official guide of the Knights of Santiago. She is the Patron Saint of couriers, guides, pilgrims and, more recently, flight attendants. (She is also our Patron Saint :)

There are probably as many reasons why people prefer to walk with an organised group as there are pilgrims but here are a few reasons - from my experience as an organiser of group walks:
  • Walking solo is scary for some people, not only for older women but for many men as well. They don't want to be alone, in a foreign country, on challenging paths - no matter how 'easy' people might tell them this is to do.
  • Many people (mainly older people), who don't want to sleep in dormitories or carry their heavy backpacks, don't have the skills to book accommodation or luggage transfers online. Some don't have a PC or tablet, or even a Smartphone, and the terms 'Camino Apps, online reservations, google translations, or GPS, are like foreign words to them!)
  • Many people don't want to be 'surprised' or have the 'adventure' of trying to find a bed at the end of the day when the COMPLETO signs have gone up, no matter how earnestly to try to convince them otherwise.
  • There are many shy people out there who do not make friends easily and who find the solo trek lonely. I met a lady in Ponferrada in June who walked some way with her husband and then solo from Burgos. She told me that she was feeling not only lonely, but also alone, as she didn't make friends easily.
  • Some protective families and relatives won't 'allow' their widowed mother or father, single sister or divorced aunty, to do the Camino on their own.
  • Since starting amaWalkers Camino in 2010 , many of our first-time walkers have returned to Spain to walk the parts of the Camino Frances we miss, on their own. They then come back to us to walk the Aragones route or Via Francigena to Rome, because they don't want to do these alone.
  • We have had people who have walked the Camino two or three times, on their own, and decided that having earned their stripes as solo, backpacking, double-bunk pilgrims, they wanted a different experience with a bed waiting for them at the end of each day, not carrying everything on their backs, without having to organise all of this themselves.
  • We have had pilgrims walk with our accompanied groups on the Camino Frances, Camino Aragones and Via Francigena three and four times. These are 'real' pilgrims - priests, nuns, doctors, housewives, professors, nurses, plumbers, farmers (many members of this forum - you know who you are!) ..... all real people, real pilgrims, all called to walk a Camino and who have done it their way, and have returned to walk again and again with our groups because they had a wonderful experience.
Reading some of the posts above, I wonder whether those who have never walked with a group, and so vehemently speak out against doing so, realise how intolerant it comes across to those (like the ones I have mentioned above) who do choose to walk with a group? It's good to give an opinion from one's own experience, but only if you have experienced both and can give an honest opinion on both alternatives.
The girl is confident (I will do it as I see) travels often overseas for work , and as I have previously said has made up her mind,
Guided from O'C which would be a lovely 10 days.
It would also be a very easy section to organise with various lodgings and bags ahead.
On her return we may get an opinion which way she would do if walking again from StJPP
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
#78
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)? In determining what would be best for me within my alotted time frame, I've read many varying opinions . I've seen some very experienced pilgrims write that using the services of a guided group lessens the experience, while others say each Camino is very personal and the individual person decides what they want it to mean.

What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
I have never been on a guided tour and thought it was just a money making scheme taking would be pilgrims for a ride. However, I went along to a meeting one night organised by another pilgrim I knew who had started a business for taking people from Belfast on the camino. After talking to some of the attendees, I realised the value of this type of camino. A number of them said the same thing. They wanted to do the camino but were afraid. They wanted to use a short one or two week trip to give themselves the confidence to go the whole hog. It did not matter that they were the same age as myself and my reassurances were not enough. I thought back to my first time and how apprehensive I was being out of my comfort zone of a decent hotel and guaranteed bed. My son came with me for the first two weeks then went back to work so really, I was on a guided tour with him. So, in my opinion, going on your own is the way, but if you are really scared of it, do the group for a couple of weeks to build up your confidence. But believe me when I say, there will be dozens of other pilgrims around you each day to help and encourage you and in a short time you will find, you are the one helping and encouraging. Whatever you choose, buen camino
 

Older Guy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis -May 2016 by bike---Loved it
#79
Thanks! Actually, I have traveled quite extensively internationally for work. Certainly no concerns there :) I do, however, have a limited time period so it' a strong consideration to have everything taken care of. Again, it seems everyone has their personal reasons for their respective journey. Interesting to see both sides to take into consideration!
My response will be a little different. I believe that we are called to the Camino.

Even with a tour group, the Camino, unless just the last 100 km, will test your resolve. A tour group will provide you with the "illusion" of support, the illusion that someone will watch over you, the illusion that you will have less on your plate to think about.

You say you have limited time period, but have not explained that fully. Does this mean you have only 10 days, 14 days, ? Are you going to be arriving at your starting point jet lagged and needing to recover prior to starting? Are you on a tight schedule and have little ability to manage your own time? If you have read various Camino pilgrims tales, you will know that there are often contingencies where something goes wrong (weather, health, forest fires, a sudden desire to see something in more depth), do you want the Tour Guide to say no to you, to say do this instead?

Why are you going on your Camino? What has called you to the Camino?

Are you looking for a religious experience and the tour you are contemplating has you stay in religious organizations housing, or make sure you get to mass each day?

Are you looking for something that is a challenge, physically, mentally, spiritually?

When you end up in the Cathedral in Santiago, attend the mass, and then go behind the alter and hug St. James, what do you hope to achieve? Are you out to say, I did the Camino, or are you looking for something more. Either way a tour may or may not work for you.

2 years ago, I did the Camino Francis by bike. This past summer I did "coast to coast" bike ride from English Cathedral to Cathedral. Both times I started all by myself. Both times I was going on a pilgrimage to pray in various historic religious sites and to test myself, my resolve, and contemplate something larger.

Whatever you do, you will probably enjoy yourself, if you can get in the right mental state.

Good luck.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#80
... I believe that we are called to the Camino.

Even with a tour group, the Camino, unless just the last 100 km, will test your resolve.
Well, I don't know whether I was "called," but the only things that might have "tested my resolve" were the mud and the hills. And then "resolve" wasn't an issue—quitting in the middle of nowhere was not an option. :)
 

Older Guy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis -May 2016 by bike---Loved it
#81
Well, I don't know whether I was "called," but the only things that might have "tested my resolve" were the mud and the hills. And then "resolve" wasn't an issue—quitting in the middle of nowhere was not an option. :)
I met a fellow pilgrim in Leon at a laundromat. He suffered (and that was the word) a hernia early in his Camino. He was traveling with his brother and another person. Sometimes he could walk, sometimes he took a taxi and waited for his brother.

Every night at dinner, I asked pilgrims why the did the Camino. Many said it was because a friend was doing it and they wanted to spend time with their friend and it would be a good adventure. Others had more personal reasons.

I had been thinking about doing it for several years and found "shells" all over Spain and southern France on previous trips. Over several years, I toyed with the idea of doing the Camino. Then the Pope declared it a Holy Year of Mercy and pilgrims would get an indulgence. Actually they could gain an indulgence going to just about any major church around the world. Hey, if I was going to gain an indulgence, I might as well do one of the ultimate Catholic pilgrimages to earn it. That tipped the scale in my mind.
 
Camino(s) past & future
I do the Camino using <a href="https://santiagoways.com">Santiago Ways</a>
#82
It depends of what you are looking for along the Camino de Santiago... personally I recommend to do it by your own but sometimes your wife may prefer to book a organised package.
 
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marbuck

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
#83
I'm comfortable with what I'm planning and still believe I'm on a pilgrimage.
Good on you Mack, at least you are out there walking the Camino and I think you will make a very good Pilgrim.
 

Dave H.

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues (2017)
#84
I am a travel agent from Canada who did the coastal Portuguese route this summer with my wife the traditional way and now I'm organizing a group for next summer. The group only offers stays (pensions or B'n'B's as our least enjoyable experience was the poor sleep we got at most albergues due to thoughtlessness of some 'pilgrims') and baggage transfers from place to place. Breakfasts are included as well as a welcome and farewell dinner but other meals are open to the individual. A tour in Porto and Santiago and all airport transfers are also included. My purpose was to use our experience to tweak some things we didn't enjoy for the ease of the group. It's not 'guided' per se, everyone is welcome to walk at their own pace or with the group and a detailed personalized smart app will be available for guidance. I feel the way I did this group still allows for the freedom of the Camino yet gives some comfort for those who may be nervous about the experience. My motto is 'everyone walks their own Camino'.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
#85
our least enjoyable experience was the poor sleep we got at most albergues due to thoughtlessness of some 'pilgrims') an
I concur Dave , we found the user's of the alberques on The Portuguese the least considerate of all the Camino's we have walked.
And a certain nationality mate , NOT Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian
 
#86
Hello! I'm super excited about my very first Camino in 2018! I'm curious, for those more experienced pilgrims, if you've taken your journey on your own, with a guided group (or something in between)?...What are your personal experiences/thoughts?
Hola, Christine. Welcome to the Forum. It's an interesting space.

I like to walk alone for very long distances, for months and even years at a time. Sometimes out of the blue others appear on my Way. They ask to walk with me a few hours or days and I say, Bienvenue, Welcome ! If they are local souls what a relief it is to let go and hand over the organising. Along the way they call friends and aquaintances and it’s a celebration when we arrive at the end of the day.

This summer for the very first time I set off with an organised group. We walked together for a week or so from Tallinn to Pärnu-Jaagupi, after which I continued on my own to Poland. It was a lovely experience. We were all girls together. There was a support car too. It felt heavenly to lighten the load and occassionally walk pack-free. The camaraderie made me happy. It gave me strength for what lay ahead….

Buen Camino, peregrina!
Lovingkindness
 
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Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
#87
This is such a fascinating question and I've enjoyed reading the different responses especially Sillydolls. I really value what good tour guides can bring, they can help you understand the history and culture, experiment with food you hadn't thought to try, encourage you to learn the language, tell you what the birds/flowers are called, see things in a different way and so on. I've just got back from a guided tour trip in Malaysia following a hectic self-organized work trip and it was really lovely to be looked after and I thoroughly enjoy the experience of travel without needing to worry about the logistics.

Loads of people on the forum will disagree with me about this but I don't think the Camino is a wonderful experience for everyone. Not everyone finds a family or experiences the joys of communal meals. A fair number of people on the Camino are walking to recover from a death in the family, divorce or depression and may not be in top form. Some people find the whole experience really boring and for some it's a life changing experience. Bear in mind that this is a forum of enthusiasts who have had positive experiences. I've never done a guided Camino but I suspect it increases your chances of a more enjoyable experience.

Having said all that, travel on the Camino is super easy and safe. There is no real need to join a tour but I totally get the desire to have the logistics taken care of, especially if you are busy at work. Just watch the costs, some of the tours seem very expensive and I can't imagine how they justify the costs. I did see one tour advertised which mixed informal language classes whilst walking and formal language classes in the evening, I think I would have got a lot out of a tour like that!
 


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