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Is it rude to ask people why they walk

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As we say back home, I like to "read the room". I feel it's important to get a sense of the person or conversation before charging forward. However, many folks aren't wired to read and pick up social cues. I have pretty deep and involved reasons for walking my caminos, and quite frankly, not everyone deserves to hear my story.

An adjacent (and maybe not the best) example: I no longer automatically ask my fellow women "do you have children" or "are you married" while I'm on the camino...or for that matter, anywhere. Simple questions but often the answers ("yes, but my husband/partner died" or "a son, but they passed away") left me with the sense they may have divulged a painful memory they weren't necessarily ready to share with an overeager stranger. So I let folks open up to me and then go from there.
 
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It wouldn't offend me were you to ask. What would offend me were you to press the question and I were disinclined to respond. If I quote Blaise Pascal's line 'The heart has its reasons which the mind knows nothing of' or something similar, you might recognize that it's not something for further discussion. Others will have their own way of being polite about this.

ps and there might be some who use that expression and want to keep discussing the matter :rolleyes:
 
I did ask a few people why they were on Camino and received some very interesting answers, and some people asked me first. I didn't ask every person I met, but if we were walking together for a few hours the topic usually came up.

I don't think it's inappropriate to ask. People will answer as they wish. There were a couple of people that were obviously walking to figure out whether they should make a huge change in their lives and I did not press the issue, if they wanted to tell me about it they would have.
 
If someone wants you to know they will share when they are ready. Listen more than you talk and you will learn a lot about fellow pilgrims. My husband, Phil, has this gift of listening and pilgrims tell him all kinds of things. I am worried about taking care of their physical needs for clean rooms, food, hot showers, but he nutures their emotional needs.
 
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As we say back home, I like to "read the room". I feel it's important to get a sense of the person or conversation before charging forward. However, many folks aren't wired to read and pick up social cues. I have pretty deep and involved reasons for walking my caminos, and quite frankly, not everyone deserves to hear my story.

An adjacent (and maybe not the best) example: I no longer automatically ask my fellow women "do you have children" or "are you married" while I'm on the camino...or for that matter, anywhere. Simple questions but often the answers ("yes, but my husband/partner died" or "a son, but they passed away") left me with the sense they may have divulged a painful memory they weren't necessarily ready to share with an overeager stranger. So I let folks open up to me and then go from there.

I'm not married, never wanted children, so I think it was just a rote question I automatically asked without thinking about it. Also...there are about a 1,000 other questions I could ask women besides babies and marital status ;)
Thanks for your response. 😊 I think my friend may have found it easy to have that question on the tip of his tongue for ease of conversing.
 
For casual conversations, I avoid too personal questions. I talk about weather, how has been the journey, where people have started their walk, and other "neutral" topics. Nationality (or place of residence) provides also a quite safe and easy issue.
The reasons for walking come sometimes in communal diners, as you surely have noticed. It is almost customary that hospitaleros ask about them. Some people answer in very general terms; other volunteer more personal motivations.
As in every interaction, everything depends on the person and the context. There are not rules.
 
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For some the reason might be rather straightforward, such as having a break between jobs and wanting an adventure. Others, though, may have suffered a grievous loss and may not feel like sharing that information with everyone who asks why they’re walking. You can’t know if someone’s reason for walking is the latter. Better to get to know someone first. Eventually they may share their story if they feel it’s emotionally safe to do so.
 
In and of itself, it is not a rude question. But how many have people of any background have you seen demonstrate a lack reasonable presentation? So, as has been said, read the room. When familiar with the receiver, it can lead to an enlightening conversation. When delivered in an obnoxious or invasive manner, it can be beyond off-putting. So be nice, be genuine. Love one another.
 
Different cultures have different views on sharing personal things. Most Americans I met on the Camino and chatted to for a bit would share most of their life story in the first 30 minutes. Others from other countries I met took 30 days to open up. One guy was happy to share with us (but we had become friends already) but told someone else who asked him his reasons “none of your business”. Personally I think it’s a personal question that you shouldn’t ask randomly. Like any personal question it would depend on your relationship with the person, and you would know whether it would be appropriate to ask.
 
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I once walked with a peregrina who had attached to the back of her pack a pink teddy bear and a pair of hand cuffs. She was walking for a cause which I most ironically do not remember, but those two objects very much invited others to ask her questions.

I know another that will walk with a rosary in hand to send the opposite signal.

It’s not always that obvious but you learn quick.

I have asked this question hundreds of times to pilgrims as part of another project that I am working on and I will warn you that if you are going to ask the question you should be prepared to respond appropriately to any number of answers; as they may well contain enough tragedy for a lifetime.
 
I think as others have said, it's not rude to ask, only if you start insisting someone answers you. Also, I wouldn't open a conversation with it. I'd tend to ask something more general like "what brought you here?" or the like, which gives the other person a chance to keep it general if they want or answer more specifically.
 
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If someone wants you to know they will share when they are ready. Listen more than you talk and you will learn a lot about fellow pilgrims. My husband, Phil, has this gift of listening and pilgrims tell him all kinds of things. I am worried about taking care of their physical needs for clean rooms, food, hot showers, but he nutures their emotional needs.
I might have to plan a future Camino around your next hospitalero gig 😊. From your thoughtful and often humorous posts, you sound like such lovely people 💕

Re: OP question. I really did not like being asked this question, so I just answered with, “oh, why are you walking?” which diverted attention and let me comfortably keep private thoughts to myself.
 
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I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I agree with others that it is natural to ask after you have been walking a camino with others for awhile or sharing communal dinners. In many cases, it will be offered without asking.

Your question prompted me to recall an experience in Triacastela. We found a table outside a bar to sit , relax and enjoy a beer after completing the day's walk. Seated next to us were four young local Spanish guys. They saw our packs and asked us in Spanish "Why do so many of you Americans walk the camino?" I thought awhile, knowing that my ability was Spanish was too limited to explain the zillion reasons why Americans or anyone walk the camino, so I simply replied, "Many of us saw the movie The Way." They nodded and as we chatted for the next hour, they bought us three more rounds of beers.

Morale of the story: Answer the question and you may get free beer!
 
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As we say back home, I like to "read the room". I feel it's important to get a sense of the person or conversation before charging forward. However, many folks aren't wired to read and pick up social cues. I have pretty deep and involved reasons for walking my caminos, and quite frankly, not everyone deserves to hear my story.

An adjacent (and maybe not the best) example: I no longer automatically ask my fellow women "do you have children" or "are you married" while I'm on the camino...or for that matter, anywhere. Simple questions but often the answers ("yes, but my husband/partner died" or "a son, but they passed away") left me with the sense they may have divulged a painful memory they weren't necessarily ready to share with an overeager stranger. So I let folks open up to me and then go from there.
After my husband died - Are you married was a very difficult question to answer. And it always took me by surprise. Sometimes I would say something like - not any more - to avoid talking about it.

I think many ordinary questions can be difficult, so perhaps it's best not to be too inquisitive.
 
I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
Hi Lisa, if your friend would start by telling why they are walking, then it is likely the other would volunteer the information they are happy to share without being asked.
 
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I asked some people I got to know. I try to ask this in a way that people feel really comfortable not to answer. Like I might say, if you feel happy to share with me, can you tell me about your reasons for walking the way? If they say no or not now don't push just move the conversation onto something else

I also have a light touch answer for ppl who are over eager and or maybe don't know me at all. Because some ppl use the question as small talk, not realising it may be painful or deep for some. So in my last Camino in summer 2022 I told a lot of ppl: I was walking the Camino in Feb/ march 2020. I had to leave at Leon because of the pandemic. I got extremely sick with covid then long covid. Now I am recovered enough to "finish" that Camino I am really happy

This is true and there are also other deeper reasons that only my pilgrim family knew

It's really obvious to anyone who saw me on a hill that my asthma is quite severe! I preferred to explain why this is.

This also brought about another useful conversation: about vaccination. I have had COVID twice, long covid and 4 COVID vaccinations. If ppl revealed to me they were unvaccinated they represent a higher risk given my health condition. I can't do much about that but I remember avoiding choosing a bed near one of these people.

A really kind hospitalero also put me in a separate dormitory to someone who was sick (potentially with covid) as I am vulnerable. I appreciated that so much.

I met the man of a couple where the woman got covid on the Camino. They stayed in private rooms until testing negative and I was so grateful for that thoughtfulness and consideration

So in my case, I think revealing some of why I was walking helped me have a safer and healthier camino

Buen Camino, whatever path you are walking x
 
I am one of those who finds it difficult to "read" other people and am rather reserved. Those traits are probably linked but there is no way to know which came first, eh?

Anyway, I always find the question intrusive.

It does not make me angry with the questioner but neither does it endear them to me.

B
 
I am allergic to WHY questions in general, and would rather have others wait for a volunteered reason for walking.
I think it requires a developed trust and intimacy that comes with time walked tgether w sb....
My first time around, I was ruminating on my cancer treatment and losses 5 yrs earlier and had a strong need to privacy and secrecy.....
But you can volunteer your own quest, no problem....
 
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I think the OP's question ties in to a bigger question about motivation and our understanding of pilgrimage. Every so often someone laments when they see pilgrims busy with their phones instead of talking to one another. The implication being that when walking a Camino we should be especially open to others and directly engaged with them. And by extension those who keep a degree of distance from others on their journeys are failing in some way to enter into 'the Camino spirit'. I am a very private person in general. For me silence and solitude are very high in my priorities while walking a Camino. I welcome occasional encounters and conversations with interesting and sympathetic strangers now and again. But I do not consider it my right to demand them from others and I do not consider myself bound to entertain other pilgrims or to satisfy their curiosity. Perhaps the naturally extrovert who believe the Camino is "all about" meeting other people and "Camino families" should consider that others may not feel the same way.
 
On the eve of taking the first steps on the Camino, our host in SJPdP gathered us together in a small room and went around the table asking each, "why are you walking the Camino?" I was invited to be first. I admit I was flippant in my response: "Because it's there," I said. "But I may change my mind." I was essentially caught off guard because, frankly, other than it being a physical challenge, that was the best I could come up with in the moment. But it is a worthy question and in the days which followed as the trail unfolded before me, it compelled deeper thought. Ultimately, I settled on the answer with which I was comfortable: one is never too old to set ambitious objectives. I was 75 at the time. I did not mind when people asked me the why question, but it is not my nature to ask others that question. On that initial evening in SJPdP, some of the answers to the question were heart wrenching and painful to hear, yet instructive to absorb. Fundamentally, I felt it was not my business to know why folks were undertaking this highly personal journey. If the subject came about organically, fine. But I didn't think it was a particularly good conversation starter. Now, at 80, will I have a different and deeper reason when I return to the CF in 2025? Time and circumstance will tell.
 
it happened only once that someone asked me on CF why I did walk the Way and honestly I found the question intrusive. On the other hand several people told me their reasons spontaneously after some chat. I presumed they wanted to tell me as part of healing of non digested grief. So please be respectful because some questions can hurt.
 
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A really interesting thread, and great to hear the varying perspectives. I would say that as a consumer of copious amounts of Camino content over the past couple years, the impression I’ve had is that a large percentage of the pilgrims are happy to open up and bare their hearts to strangers, often shortly after meeting. After reading through the comments it’s clear that the percentage of people that are keen to discuss their motivations is probably smaller than the blogs and podcasts might lead you to believe. This is a good reality check.
 
I would say that as a consumer of copious amounts of Camino content over the past couple years, the impression I’ve had is that a large percentage of the pilgrims are happy to open up and bare their hearts to strangers, often shortly after meeting.
If you are only showing people who are happy to be filmed and have their faces and words posted for the world to see then perhaps the sample is not entirely random!
 
A really interesting thread, and great to hear the varying perspectives. I would say that as a consumer of copious amounts of Camino content over the past couple years, the impression I’ve had is that a large percentage of the pilgrims are happy to open up and bare their hearts to strangers, often shortly after meeting. After reading through the comments it’s clear that the percentage of people that are keen to discuss their motivations is probably smaller than the blogs and podcasts might lead you to believe. This is a good reality check.

I do think , though not scientifically proven of course, that those who blog and make podcasts are on the extravert side. Whereas the introverts , like me , shiver with the idea of making semi public confessions.

I remember a year , when in Santiago, that a German couple was writing " a Camino book"... .
My fellow German pilgrim replied , when the couple asked her why she walked a Camino ( yes it would be published in the book ! ) : " You go first , why do you walk a Camino ? ".
They were not prepared for that question and told they did not intend to walk at all.
Well, that ended the interview quite quickly ;) .
 
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I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I would say not at all, if someone doesn’t want to answer in full “for personal reasons or it’s private ” suffices and no one should ever take offence to that.
 
I do think , though not scientifically proven of course, that those who blog and make podcasts are on the extravert side.
Not to derail and get into discussion, but I'm not sure this is true, especially for a blog, which is written and can be done with virtually no direct human-human interaction. Appearing in a video is a different story.
 
I would just wait a bit and get to know somebody before asking that question. I personally love talking, so i don't mind... but I can gauge (I think) whether someone else does too after a bit of chatty discussion. If they really want to tell you, it will probably come out pretty quick. They even may ask you first!
 
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This was a question I sometimes asked pilgrims when I was an hospitalera at Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal when talking with everyone at the afternoon teas we served. It could be a good conversation starter but I saw that not everyone was comfortable with the question so I changed it to “how did you first hear about the Camino?” … safer ground for a conversation starter. I’ve used this enquiry for years now and the range of answers has been broad and always interesting.

Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
 
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It depends on the circumstances. If a person is surveying a room of people, no not Ilikely I would respond. Frankly, I have never volunteered why I walk.
 
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This was a question I sometimes asked pilgrims when I was an hospitalera at Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal when talking with everyone at the afternoon teas we served. It could be a good conversation starter but I saw that not everyone was comfortable with the question so I changed it to “how did you first hear about the Camino?” … safer ground for a conversation starter. I’ve used this enquiry for years now and the range of answers has been broad and always interesting.

Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
BTW, stayed there twice. Once with my mom and then later with my sister. I got in trouble though, because we were a little too loud with two friends met from Canada on my second trip. I remember my mother being so in love with that place. I always stay at rabanal whenever on the Frances, but that place hasn't been open for a while... Vespas a trip at the church. i have two stories, but I'll spare you.
 
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Hi Lisa, if your friend would start by telling why they are walking, then it is likely the other would volunteer the information they are happy to share without being asked.
True. I certainly didn’t ask everyone when I was walking but sometimes conversations developed. I was surprised to hear my friend say he asked everyone and therefore prompted my question for everyone here.
 
Well, I've just returned from a pleasant 10 km. walk along the waterfront where I met and said 'Hello' to at least 50 other walkers and that got me thinking about this thread.
I have walked and cycle toured in North, Central and South America, walked in China and several non Camino paths in Europe but on 5 Caminos this is the only time after "Where are you from?" am I asked "Why?"
I think the answer is quite simple, because we are on Pilgrimage and that creates many, many responses. I have yet to meet a person who says "Exercise" or "just breaking in my new boots".
 
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I have been puzzling over how to make this point, but when someone does share their story, that does not make it yours to pass on and share with others. I had this happen to me on my very first camino, when someone to whom I had revealed some sensitive matters took the liberty of talking about me to others. In doing so, they revealed these matters to someone who I don't think I would have shared with at the outset, and was even less less likely to have shared with as we got to know them better.

I know that there has already been some suggestion that people will include such stories in their writings. Let me assume that, if that is their intention, they have already made that clear to their interlocutors beforehand. Much the same as they might seek a release for any photographs they take of people they might want to use.

In short, if you haven't made it clear when you ask others about themselves that you might share their story, respect their privacy about the matters they share with you.
 
I have been puzzling over how to make this point, but when someone does share their story, that does not make it yours to pass on and share with others.

Absolutely. I would consider that a serious betrayal of trust. When I have a conversation with anyone I always assume what is said is personal and confidential unless it is clear from the context or stated explicitly that the other person is happy to have the details passed on. Perhaps a legacy of my professional life but I would always err on the side of caution.
 
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Some people can't wait to tell you why they are on the Camino while others find the question intrusive and too personal. The problem is knowing which kind of person they are in advance.😉
Safest not to ask - let people volunteer their reasons if they are so inclined.
I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I think people want to legitimately want to connect with others on this journey. If you feel it is intrusive, you can say your reasons are private, as many of ours are.
 
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I once walked with a peregrina who had attached to the back of her pack a pink teddy bear and a pair of hand cuffs. She was walking for a cause which I most ironically do not remember, but those two objects very much invited others to ask her questions.

I know another that will walk with a rosary in hand to send the opposite signal.

It’s not always that obvious but you learn quick.

I have asked this question hundreds of times to pilgrims as part of another project that I am working on and I will warn you that if you are going to ask the question you should be prepared to respond appropriately to any number of answers; as they may well contain enough tragedy for a lifetime.
If you’re not prepared for the response, I would tend to agree.
 
Personally, one time when it happened to me I felt it to be very intrusive especially as the lady in question and I had hardly spoken to words together when she came on quite forcefully with the question. I still remember that one occasion to this day with unease however I don't recall the other countless times that it has not bothered me. Wrong moment in time perhaps.
 
I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I would personally not want to be asked that until I got to know a person for a while. I would rather start with "Where are you from?" or "Where did you start?" or "Have you hiked this route before?", as these questions would naturally lead to a person's reason for hiking the Camino if they would like to share more. That way, they volunteer their reasons without being asked.
 
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BTW, stayed there twice. Once with my mom and then later with my sister. I got in trouble though, because we were a little too loud with two friends met from Canada on my second trip. I remember my mother being so in love with that place. I always stay at rabanal whenever on the Frances, but that place hasn't been open for a while... Vespas a trip at the church. i have two stories, but I'll spare you.
It’s fabulous isn’t Damien! Lovely albergue with the beautiful garden and the afternoon tea! Fantastic if they serve a homemade baked treat, which often happens.
I wouldn’t feel bad about getting into trouble there … I got into trouble once there too and I was one of the hospitaleros! … I blame the orujo at Antonio’s!
It’d be great to share your stories from Gaucelmo … perhaps a new thread? … Stories from Gaucelmo … 😉
Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
 
it happened only once that someone asked me on CF why I did walk the Way and honestly I found the question intrusive. On the other hand several people told me their reasons spontaneously after some chat. I presumed they wanted to tell me as part of healing of non digested grief. So please be respectful because some questions can hurt.
I understand this. It is true and I hope to always be considered and respectful.
 
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I can answer the "Why are you walking the Camino" question in a polite yet ambiguous fashion (which I have always done). I walk in solitude generally and use the time for introspection. And that is just me. The question that disturbs me when posed by perigrinos that I have just met is: "Do you believe in God?" I have been posed that question many, many times and I generally excuse myself from the discussion, shake their hands and say "Buen Camino." I have often wondered why an individual who does not have the slightest idea of who & what I am, would ask me such a personal and profound question.
 
I would personally not want to be asked that until I got to know a person for a while. I would rather start with "Where are you from?" or "Where did you start?" or "Have you hiked this route before?", as these questions would naturally lead to a person's reason for hiking the Camino if they would like to share more. That way, they volunteer their reasons without being asked.
Spot on, fellow Washingtonian, Lmccue!
 
Perhaps you should be asking another question: why do I want to know?

If you find the answer, surely that would be the more useful question.
 
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I can answer the "Why are you walking the Camino" question in a polite yet ambiguous fashion (which I have always done). I walk in solitude generally and use the time for introspection. And that is just me. The question that disturbs me when posed by perigrinos that I have just met is: "Do you believe in God?" I have been posed that question many, many times and I generally excuse myself from the discussion, shake their hands and say "Buen Camino." I have often wondered why an individual who does not have the slightest idea of who & what I am, would ask me such a personal and profound question.
Wow! I’d never expect that question either.
 
I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
When asked, I just say "because it is there", period
 
It is a not uncommon question (although not nearly as common as "where are you from?" and "where did you start (your Camino or today)?". I don't think it is necessarily rude to ask, although it certainly would be rude to pursue it if the question met with reluctance.

Myself, although I am generally not sensitive enough to social cues, I've picked up that some find it intrusive and have switched, as JennyH94 suggests above, to something along the lines of "Where did you first learn about the Camino?" - (a) because I'm interested and (b) because if the person is comfortable and interested in sharing their reasons, there is a natural flow from this question to the answer to that unspoken question, as they proceed from how they heard about the Camino to how they decided to walk. And if they don't want to share, they don't have to make the leap and the whole subject is deftly avoided.
 
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I do not consider it wrong to share someone's story after I have returned home with a friend or family member who has absolutely no connection to the person whose story it is, and no surname given. However, while on the Camino I would keep those stories to myself.
I also don't think a book written with individual stories shared is a negative; ficticious names can be used to protect identities.
Edit- I am speaking in generalities; there sometimes may be exceptions.
 
I understand this. It is true and I hope to always be considered and respectful.
For me it was a profound experience, I will remember each all my life.
Now , If I would walk again on the CF and another pilgrim would ask me why and so on, I would suggest her/him to walk at least just before Najera and read the poem on the wall in Spanish and German....The Camino is not always for everyone about lol.gedicht  muur Camino.JPG
 
When my husband and I walked the Frances, we came upon a group of people from a cruise who were doing a day trip to walk a portion of the Camino. At this point, we were about 730 some kilometres in (walking Palas de Rei to Ribadiso this day) and neither of us were having a good day. A man from the tour group stopped us to ask us why we were walking the Camino. I was taken aback by the question, and honestly it bothered me. It was as if it said in the cruise brochure “take a walk along an ancient pilgrimage trail, engage with the people you meet to find out what drives them to walk this spiritual path, stop for a cafe con leche…”

His question felt so intrusive to me, and yet I had certainly been asked it by other pilgrims and it didn’t bother me then. My husband barked out some sort reply to him, and we overtook the large group. Not our finest hour, and we should have been more kind, but as I said, it wasn’t a great day for either of us.
 
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I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I don't recall asking that question to anyone, unless they asked me first, then I would have been inclined to ask the same of them.
It wouldn't bother me to be asked my reasons. I even found that my answers changed the further along the Camino I travelled. In the end, the reasons seemed to dissolve into the experience of being on the Camino.
 
Surely showing an interest in other people and their various motivations is fascinating, and is an example of good social interaction? Of course, we should all be alert to signals from others with whom we are walking that they may not wish the topic to go beyond small talk. On the other hand, the matter may be the very one to draw out someone who is generally too shy to talk about themselves unless invited by a clearly interested fellow pilgrim. There will always be people who are, or who seem to be, too inquisitive, even to the extent of being ill-mannered; but I have had many fascinating conversations with fellow pilgrims on this topic, some very light-hearted and others at a much deeper level. The answer is surely sensitivity - firstly on the part of the questioner and the manner in which the questioned is framed to a particular person, and secondly on the part of the questioned if he or she does not want to discuss the topic to any depth or even at all. Normal politeness should cover both, I would have thought.
 
Normal politeness should cover both, I would have thought.
You need to realise that the rules of politeness are not universal. They differ from country to country and community to community. People you meet on camino may not share your views on what makes polite conversation.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
You need to realise that the rules of politeness are not universal. They differ from country to country and community to community. People you meet on camino may not share your views on what makes polite conversation.
I consider mself long enough in the tooth to realise that, Molly, but that is life. I believe that we should try not to be offended by, or even slightly put out by, the different cultural approaches of people that we meet. We might even use a tricky situation to enlighten ourselves and the other party about such differences. This especially applies on the Camino, where so many cultures come together, sometimes just for minutes, and sometimes for hours or even days on end. The key, as I suggested above, is surely sensitivity to other people, including those within our own culture who are, after all, almost as various as may be found from culture to culture. Of course, everyone is free to disagree entirely with the views that I express.
 
It is a personal question (sometimes intensely and sometimes not so much) so likely works best when treated as such by both people in the conversation. Personally I don't like people to feel they have the right to my inner thoughts and reasons until I want to express them so I find it a bit intrusive. But I also don't feel I need to answer that or any other personal question to a stranger no matter what his/her intention is.

On my first camino in 2003, it seemed that every person from a specific country (don't want to get political here) asked me what my profession was - as an introductory remark. Because I was focusing on being in the moment and found it an irrelevant question for the situation, I answered "for now I'm a pilgrim walking to Santiago" and wouldn't change that answer. I didn't understand their need to know except that it would help put me in one box or another, thus subtly elevating or decreasing my 'position'. At the time I felt it important that we should all be of equal status without relevance to education, career calling or whatever else might be important in that question. (One man from my own country - Canada - came up from behind me on the path, introduced himself by name and immediately said "I'm a lawyer - what do you do?"

Looking back, I tend to think "Oh well - what's the big deal?" But that first camino was intensely important to me and I thought the intrusion was trivial and not in the spirit of the camino. Since then, I've gotten over myself a bit - so those questions roll off my back a bit easier. Seems a bit odd to me now that I was so concerned about trivializing the whole experience. In hindsight, that would have been impossible!
 
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I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
I both ask and answer. However, I let the conversation develop before asking as that way I can judge if the other person wants to answer or not. If by the way, you ever meet me on the trail, do not ask unless you have the time to listen to me talk about it. I will go for it at the drop of a hat and folk will tell you. if talking was an olympic sport, I would win gold for Ireland
 
I say it is always fine to ask, but be respectful if you see they are reluctant to answer and move the topic along to something else. It was a pretty popular topic when I walked both times, but moreso along the Frances than the Norte/Primitivo and by the time I got to the Finisterre - not sure it was asked at all.

I see it as a good way to start a deeper conversation, if the participants are willing.
 
On my first camino in 2003, it seemed that every person from a specific country (don't want to get political here) asked me what my profession was - as an introductory remark.

It’s how we (easy to guess specific country) are taught to “plug in” to folks and to be clear, we aren’t trying you elevate or classify you. It’s simply an entry point.
 
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To me, if you're prepared to take time out of life to organise what is a relatively complex undertaking of research and commitment, a primary question of asking why others doing it probably means the its coming from a dull existence. In which case I'd be all ears and few questions until the feet find their way.
 
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I don't understand how you make that assessment. There's something behind this that I'm not seeing. Would you care to explain.

Come on Doug. Lets not play battle of the whits when you can only present a retort and not your opinion.

I don't need to or have experience in psychology to be able to explain why people who feel the need to ask others why they undertake life changing experiences. It should be be obvious it is for their own reasons and not to be questioned.

People have dull lives Doug. Some go on the Camino because they have no friends, some for personal reasons and some sit on computers all day typing when not on the Camino.

Sometimes we have our own reasons without a question to answer.
 
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Many who walk are struggling with grief , trauma, and loss ( not all ) and are fragile emotionally. The everyday physical exhaustion of walking increases that fragility. If you ask a question, you best be prepared to deal with the response. I believe those who want to share, will, and those who remain in their privacy should be respected. I am both a nurse and psychotherapist. In every one of my camino walks I heard disclosures of life secrets...childhood sexual abuse, rape, incest, murder, suicide, addictions, death, incurable disease diagnosis, etc...all of whom approached me. Unsolicited disclosure. Do I think it was random that they found me? ....a question for another day.
Be careful and thoughtful.
 
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Many who walk are struggling with grief , trauma, and loss ( not all ) and are fragile emotionally. The everyday physical exhaustion of walking increases that fragility. If you ask a question, you best be prepared to deal with the response.
Thank you. When I walked the camino it was during some very dark days of my life. If someone had asked me that question I would have been hard-pressed to come up with an answer, much less a polite one.
 
This discussion has been good for the many different opinions about a situation everyone on a camino will experience.

I think we will be better prepared to approach the time with skill, by trying to digest all the opinions expressed on the topic before resorting to an habitual stance.

What I have learned by reading, is that questions of this kind on the Way can be generally asked for one of two reasons: to focus on some issue of the person asking the question -or- to focus on being oriented positively toward the uniqueness of the person we are new to meet.

A person can ask questions for both reasons as appropriate and obtain good results. But knowing which of the 2 reasons I ask the question is a sure way to frame a question that shows respect for other, enhance the interaction, and reduce the risk of unintended insensitivity. A little self-examination before speaking.

Being able to do this on a camino is as important as bringing your phone and credit card with you, and that is why I think this topic is worth checking out with more than the usual scan.
 
Perhaps I have missed a post or two but surely the simply answer is to say” I am on pilgrimage”.
@ dougfitz, I am sorry that your trust in someone led to betrayal. Although being one of those forum members who love the Martin Sheen movie ‘The Way’ I do wonder if one or two folk see it as a template for their journey & seek out ‘interesting’ material to flesh out the narrative that they relay back home. I am an optimist by nature but increasingly a wary one.
Like others have noted, this has been a remarkably thoughtful thread.
 
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Many who walk are struggling with grief , trauma, and loss ( not all ) and are fragile emotionally. The everyday physical exhaustion of walking increases that fragility. If you ask a question, you best be prepared to deal with the response. I believe those who want to share, will, and those who remain in their privacy should be respected. I am both a nurse and psychotherapist. In every one of my camino walks I heard disclosures of life secrets...childhood sexual abuse, rape, incest, murder, suicide, addictions, death, incurable disease diagnosis, etc...all of whom approached me. Unsolicited disclosure. Do I think it was random that they found me? ....a question for another day.
Be careful and thoughtful.
I personally feel that it’s not random at all. A path that attracts those that need healing plus those who can listen.
 
In this hypothetical:
I would be excited to have a conversation with you about why I am walking the Camino. I would not find it disrespectful to ask. A lot of people are waiting for another person to come into their lives; companionship, even if temporary, is pleasurable. There is a lot that one can learn from others, and vice versa.
Please keep in mind that just because you asked me why I am walking does not mean that I want to get stuck in a 45-minute one-sided conversation about why you are walking the Camino; you should try to be egalitarian in a conversation. I do not suspect you are this type of person; however, it must be mentioned.
 
After my husband died - Are you married was a very difficult question to answer. And it always took me by surprise. Sometimes I would say something like - not any more - to avoid talking about it.

I think many ordinary questions can be difficult, so perhaps it's best not to be too
You need to realise that the rules of politeness are not universal. They differ from country to country and community to community. People you meet on camino may not share your views on what makes polite
I have a friend who asked everyone he met along the way why they walked the Camino. Another friend said it was a private thing and would have considered the question intrusive. Thoughts?
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses to my question. I recognise the need to be sensitive when interacting with others on the Way. Each interaction has the potential to be a positive experience, possibly allowing others to be heard, their stories shared and their burdens lightened a little. Buen Camino.
 
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Many who walk are struggling with grief , trauma, and loss ( not all ) and are fragile emotionally. The everyday physical exhaustion of walking increases that fragility

I can personally attest to this. There were times where exhaustion stirred up my already volatile and fragile emotions. Everything felt invasive. Even a chipper “buen Camino!” could get under my skin if the wind was blowing a certain direction.
 
I can personally attest to this. There were times where exhaustion stirred up my already volatile and fragile emotions. Everything felt invasive. Even a chipper “buen Camino!” could get under my skin if the wind was blowing a certain direction.
Yes tiredness brings it all out of us. I hope you found some peaceful moments as well.
 
To me, if you're prepared to take time out of life to organise what is a relatively complex undertaking of research and commitment, a primary question of asking why others doing it probably means the its coming from a dull existence.

People have dull lives Doug. Some go on the Camino because they have no friends, some for personal reasons and some sit on computers all day typing when not on the Camino.
What a bleak view of the world you have presented here. I hope that I never become so jaded that I cannot see that even ordinary people have interesting lives, and that others are curious enough to enquire about others lives and motivations. It might be just a conversation starter, or it might be that someone is searching for answers to questions that they have about their own lives. Either way, we have the choice to share our stories, and perhaps we owe it to those who ask not to have already judged their motivations.
 
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I'm on the surface an extrovert and love engaging with people. Generally WYSIWYG. But I'm not a joiner, not a networker, and frequently go off the air; sometimes taking the road less travelled. I intensely dislike cold calling, and if someone out of the blue asks me an intrusive question, I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.

Because I often get asked to talk about the Camino I've now grown used to the question - in my case it is not so much "why walk" as "why do you keep going back?" - and I've come up with a lengthy rehearsed answer. It serves.

We are all complex.
 
People have dull lives Doug. Some go on the Camino because they have no friends, some for personal reasons and some sit on computers all day typing when not on the Camino.
Wow.
This is not the same universe I inhabit.
Even those who sit on computers all day long can have interesting lives. And certainly anyone who chooses to walk across Spain has stories that brought them there.

But asking what those are isn't something I'd do as an opening to a conversation. Maybe if the topic came up some days in, after walking or sharing albergue space for a while - and even then maybe not. It depends.
 
Come on Doug. Lets not play battle of the whits when you can only present a retort and not your opinion.

I don't need to or have experience in psychology to be able to explain why people who feel the need to ask others why they undertake life changing experiences. It should be be obvious it is for their own reasons and not to be questioned.

People have dull lives Doug. Some go on the Camino because they have no friends, some for personal reasons and some sit on computers all day typing when not on the Camino.

Sometimes we have our own reasons without a question to answer.
So cynical!
 
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ask by all means, some may say for personal reasons or make one up! I have had some amazing responses! It’s not only politicians who have skills in this department. Lots of us enjoy sharing what brought us here.
 
I'm on the surface an extrovert and love engaging with people. Generally WYSIWYG. But I'm not a joiner, not a networker, and frequently go off the air; sometimes taking the road less travelled. I intensely dislike cold calling, and if someone out of the blue asks me an intrusive question, I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.

Because I often get asked to talk about the Camino I've now grown used to the question - in my case it is not so much "why walk" as "why do you keep going back?" - and I've come up with a lengthy rehearsed answer. It serves.

We are all complex.
We ARE all complex. Joking around I may try out ……I’m on a Middle Aged Womens Weightloss Programme. 🤪😬 That may serve me. I may seem shallow but at least I wont need to launch into anything deeper if I don’t feel like.
 
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I don't see a problem with asking the question, if the reasons are too personal there is no obligation to answer.
Yours is a simple sentence that easily solves the question. I think it is unproductive to worry needlessly that we may possibly offend every person we come in contact with on the Camino. General kindness and a bit of sensitivity can go a long way. Just don't be "a bull in the china cabinet".
 
His question felt so intrusive to me, and yet I had certainly been asked it by other pilgrims and it didn’t bother me then. My husband barked out some sort reply to him, and we overtook the large group. Not our finest hour, and we should have been more kind, but as I said, it wasn’t a great day for either of us.
When my then-boyfriend and I bicycled across most of North America, we found that after four and a half months we were tired of answering the exact same questions that every non-cyclist who saw us wanted to ask: Where are you going? Where did you come from? How far are you going today?? (We were polite, as long as the questioner asked politely; because it wasn't their fault they were the fifth person to ask us that day.)

But sometimes people weren't polite! There was once we were in a small town in Canada. We'd done eighty miles. We were sweaty and exhausted and in line at the local Subway because we didn't want to bother pulling out our campstoves at 9pm--and some random guy kept interrupting our conversation to ask us intrusive questions. We finally told him we were too tired to talk to him, thanks.

The irony is that when bicycle tourists meet each other on the road, guess what they ask each other? Where are you going? Where are you from? How far are you going today???
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
When my then-boyfriend and I bicycled across most of North America, we found that after four and a half months we were tired of answering the exact same questions that every non-cyclist who saw us wanted to ask: Where are you going? Where did you come from? How far are you going today?? (We were polite, as long as the questioner asked politely; because it wasn't their fault they were the fifth person to ask us that day.)

But sometimes people weren't polite! There was once we were in a small town in Canada. We'd done eighty miles. We were sweaty and exhausted and in line at the local Subway because we didn't want to bother pulling out our campstoves at 9pm--and some random guy kept interrupting our conversation to ask us intrusive questions. We finally told him we were too tired to talk to him, thanks.

The irony is that when bicycle tourists meet each other on the road, guess what they ask each other? Where are you going? Where are you from? How far are you going today???
I wonder if the difference is that, when the questions are asked by a fellow traveller it is an exchange of information. When they are asked by a local the information flow is one way.
 
I would never ask anyone their reason for walking nor disclose my reasons for walking. I found that once you got to know people it would usually naturally come up in conversation.
 
Just my opinion, but if I were asked in a reasonably curious or polite manner, I would not be offended by the question. I mean I haven't left yet and people are asking me why. :)
 
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When my husband and I walked the Frances, we came upon a group of people from a cruise who were doing a day trip to walk a portion of the Camino. At this point, we were about 730 some kilometres in (walking Palas de Rei to Ribadiso this day) and neither of us were having a good day. A man from the tour group stopped us to ask us why we were walking the Camino. I was taken aback by the question, and honestly it bothered me. It was as if it said in the cruise brochure “take a walk along an ancient pilgrimage trail, engage with the people you meet to find out what drives them to walk this spiritual path, stop for a cafe con leche…”

His question felt so intrusive to me, and yet I had certainly been asked it by other pilgrims and it didn’t bother me then. My husband barked out some sort reply to him, and we overtook the large group. Not our finest hour, and we should have been more kind, but as I said, it wasn’t a great day for either of us.
We always try to be kind to tourists, but it can be difficult! :D
 

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