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Multi-timers: Compare your Camino experiences

2020 Camino Guides

Lucho

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Apr/May '18
I am very curious to hear people with multiple Caminos under their belt compare their experiences on each Camino.

To be clear, this is not a thread seeking rankings or 'the best' or any silly click-bait like that. Rather, I'm curious how your experiences changed each time: what you liked or didn't, what evolved, what stayed constant, etc.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF last 150 to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
#1 was the best. Everything was unexpected and 'new'.
#2 was good, a shorter one with my wife. Great to see it through her eyes.
#3 was OK. Again with my wife. But I realised I prefer to walk alone. It's a totally different experience. And more the type of experience I seek. :oops:
All 3 on the CF.
#1 800 kms.
#2 150 kms
#3 800 kms.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
All of them have been good, in different ways.
What really makes a difference between a good camino and one that is both good and making a deep impression are two things.

First, length. A month for me is ideal and two weeks is the minimum length of time to really 'go deep.' Anything less than that is (usually but not always) just a long walk.

The second factor - which can make a short camino much more than a long walk - is challenge. And not just any challenge, but one that offers the chance to face fear and vulnerability...and walk anyway.

Last year fulfulled both criteria...so for me it was a 10-star experience, that I'm still digesting.
 

Lucho

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Apr/May '18
#1 was the best. Everything was unexpected and 'new'.
#2 was good, a shorter one with my wife. Great to see it through her eyes.
#3 was OK. Again with my wife. But I realised I prefer to walk alone. It's a totally different experience. And more the type of experience I seek. :oops:
All 3 on the CF.
#1 800 kms.
#2 150 kms
#3 800 kms.

Yeah, I did only one (CF in 2018) but it was kind of a dual-experience: I started in SJPdP alone and then met my 75-yr-old dad halfway (Leon) and we walked to SdC. It was great to see it through his eyes but there was a definite shift in the experience. Of the two, I liked the alone walk better. (Sorry, Dad).
 
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jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Hard to encapsulate in a few sentences but I'll try.

#1 - Camino Francés
Everything was new and exciting but adjusting to the daily walking rhythm was difficult in the beginning (especially because my wife developed plantar fasciitis literally on the first day). Because we were used to wilderness hiking, and because most other pilgrims seemed a fair bit younger or older than us (we were in our late 30s), it took us a while to find our way socially too. By the second half we had adjusted better on both fronts and began to feel the spirit of the camino more and more. Being able to walk through so many different regions and see the changes from one to the next was a real highlight.

#2 - Camino Primitivo
This seemed like the ideal camino in terms of pilgrim numbers. By Bodenaya we had come together as a nice group of about 12-15 people doing basically the same stages and crossing paths along the trail or at the end of the day. Because the scenery in Asturias and Galicia is similar, it didn't have the same 'epic sweep' feel as the Francés with all its different regions and landscapes. The weather wasn't very good but we had such a great group of people that spirits were always high. Easily my favourite 'social camino'.

#3 - Camino de Madrid
I loved this camino but my wife would have preferred more pilgrims (we only saw about five the whole way, and all very briefly except one who we walked on and off with for the second half of the camino). It had easily the least pilgrim interaction of our caminos but the most local interaction. As others have noted, one thing that makes the CdM really attractive is that there is just enough pilgrim infrastructure so that you can stay in albergues virtually every night and feel like you're on a camino, but also that it is quite undiscovered as far as caminos go so you feel like you're off the beaten track at the same time. That seems like a rare combination.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
We started with a fairly long one (405 km on Camino Francés), but have since then only had time for a week or ten days here and there - but quite a lot of them, often several times a year lately.

The landscapes have been different, and whether we met other pilgrims or not, since we walk at unpopular times, how much contact we have had with the local population... But really, looking back at it all, I see all my caminos as one long journey, through several countries, interrupted by long stays at home and working. I have had many memorable meetings, seen some truly great views, met some really nice people, eaten some terrific meals, had some exceptional conversations with my husband and son while walking - it's all a little jumbled in my head.
It is no longer important to me which year or where it was that we met that mad Italian woman with the 14 kilo backpack and boyfriend troubles, the priest who picked us up so we'd get to the Encuentro in time, the Michelin-starred lunch that knocked us out so we had to stay an extra night in the village, the New Year's Eve at the tiny hotel where we had a nap in front of the fireplace, the freezing cold albergue where we had to heat water for washing with the immersion coil. I have so many of these experiences in my head now, and they all belong to the unspecified category of "Camino".

Sure, I remember more of the first Francés, since it was the first and longest, but it has all been great.

(We came back after a week walking the Canal du Midi in France this weekend. Felt like a Camino, though it wasn't, really.)
 

The Kolbist

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
1 - short CF more like and introduction to Camino but it was enough to trigger the question "When do we get back?"
2 - CP - From Lisbon to Fatima (a very religious camino during the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima). I was a great experience. Then we walked again from Porto to Santiago. A beautiful but the least physically draining experience among the routes we have done. Lots of waterfall. The Portugese people are very friendly.
3 - CF from SJDPP. Our mainstream camino whom we walked with different people from different countries and learned a lot. The scenery is also very varied but taxing.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
1) - Camino Frances (full length) 2 months on the road was a first for me so everything was new, wonderful, and exciting. No real problems. Only a bit of rain (well four days worth), so it was a great experience. Kind of learned as I went with regard to blisters, Spanish, and general customs. Thought it would be the only Camino

2) Six months after #1, I got the Camino itch and planned the CP from Lisbon to Santiago. Totally different experience. I knew what I was getting into which made it a bit predictable but perhaps more fun overall. Totally different from the CF. More urban, more road walking. Less pilgrims.

3) After that, I was hooked and did the VDLP (first half) from Seville to Salamanca. Wonderful experience but a challenge in that you have to really plan ahead each night since there are few stops between stages. Very, very few pilgrims. Very little English so my Spanish go better. The VDLP is more of a mind game where you have your own company and little else except the silence and solitude of the road (but talking to cows is a great experience - they listen to whatever you say and rarely complain).

4) Coming up Salamanca to Santiago. You never know what to expect.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Camino #1 was the best and the worst - A wonderful new adventure. However, shin splints and blisters from being encouraged to take the SJPP-Roncesvalles section in one day slowed me down the rest of the route.

Camino #2 was the worst - I was learning to lead a group and took FIFTEEN people! I was a failure in the "dealing with difficult people" scenario and learned a LOT

Caminos #3 though #20-something have all been great but there've been a LOT of changes between 2006 and 2020:

Increases:
Number of pilgrims
Number of tourists
Need to make reservations
Albergues accepting reservations
Prices for albergues
Bag transport companies
Electric washing machine options
Electric dryers
Hot water
Private Albergues
Wifi Connections
People carrying phones
People carrying laptops, GPS, iPads, and other electronics
BEDBugS!
Trash and TP along trail

Decreases:
Locatorios (where you paid to call home or use the computer)
Comraderie
Days where you walked alone and didn't see any other pilgrims or very few pilgrims
Prices of flying to Spain

Constants:
The beauty of Spain, its people, culture and food.
The benefits of health and joy I gain from walking
The feeling of peace and accomplishment when I reach Santiago each time!

I have hopes (selfish ones) that before I'm too old to walk, the Camino traffic will slow down and I can again walk some peaceful days with no pilgrims pushing up behind me.
And the one thing left on my bucket list is to fly to Spain First Class someday.
 
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aname4me

aname4me
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
I am retired and have walked 4 times. All in the Fall. All the Camino Frances

Most common question asked of me: Why the Camino Frances every time?
A: Before each Camino, I look at the many choices of routes. The answer is always the same.
-Norte is TOO hilly.
-Portuguese is short (to fly across the Atlantic for).
-the rest... under developed and not many Pilgrims.

The CF offers greater flexibility in distance per day (less planning), lots of coffee/water stops, and endless social encounters.

Camino 1, 2, and 3 were walked with my Wife
Camino 4 was with my Son (31)

Camino 1, 3 and 4 from SJPdP
Camino 2 from Ronc.

#1 (same) Everything was unexpected and 'new'. Made many NewBee mistakes.
#2 Worked on improving accommodations (all private rooms) and improving the main meal (no more “Pilgrium Meals” at Bars).
#3 Half the stops were different, added many Communal Meals, searched out Bakeries with real “made in house” treats. Tried a few alternate routes.
#4 Walked with my Son (he's very social) added a completely new perspective. More Bars. More Young People. Longer distances per day. Learned how younger people can not function without a “phone”. Did all the alternate routes I could find.

Camino #3 produced the best set of pictures.

For every Camino, my backpack gets lighter.

Would I do it again: Already dreaming
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
I have done five Caminos and have walked the CF, Norte, Portuguese, Le Puy and FInestere.
The first is always in some ways the most magically and challenging because it is the first and it is unknown.
From number 2-5 they have all had their joys and some pain and always memorable experiences. I have walked crowded caminos, not so crowded and very solitary caminos (solitary Le Puy in France. I walked all the way to Santiago on that one and even though it was 2014 and not as crowded as today it was a shock to the system when I got to Saint Jean). After the split with the Primitivo, the Norte was probably quieter than Le Puy. I only stayed 2 days in Santiago and thankfully it was really quiet. When I got to Madrid to spend 3 days before I left it was REALLY overwhelming the number of people.
Now I like to walk quieter Caminos.
It is also great to walk different caminos. I have found the vibes different and actually the pilgrims, I felt, were a little different. Although on the Portuguese and CF they are pretty similar after Porto. It is also great to walk in different countries to capture the sights, food and people from different cultures.
Each Camino is unique. The only thing I would say that is the same is you will never capture the "same or similar" experience from one Camino to the next. Thankfully each is brand new.
 

Sjp007

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 St James
2020 St James
I am retired and have walked 4 times. All in the Fall. All the Camino Frances

Most common question asked of me: Why the Camino Frances every time?
A: Before each Camino, I look at the many choices of routes. The answer is always the same.
-Norte is TOO hilly.
-Portuguese is short (to fly across the Atlantic for).
-the rest... under developed and not many Pilgrims.

The CF offers greater flexibility in distance per day (less planning), lots of coffee/water stops, and endless social encounters.

Camino 1, 2, and 3 were walked with my Wife
Camino 4 was with my Son (31)

Camino 1, 3 and 4 from SJPdP
Camino 2 from Ronc.

#1 (same) Everything was unexpected and 'new'. Made many NewBee mistakes.
#2 Worked on improving accommodations (all private rooms) and improving the main meal (no more “Pilgrium Meals” at Bars).
#3 Half the stops were different, added many Communal Meals, searched out Bakeries with real “made in house” treats. Tried a few alternate routes.
#4 Walked with my Son (he's very social) added a completely new perspective. More Bars. More Young People. Longer distances per day. Learned how younger people can not function without a “phone”. Did all the alternate routes I could find.

Camino #3 produced the best set of pictures.

For every Camino, my backpack gets lighter.

Would I do it again: Already dreaming
Great answers!!
 

Rj7797

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
Hard to encapsulate in a few sentences but I'll try.

#1 - Camino Francés
Everything was new and exciting but adjusting to the daily walking rhythm was difficult in the beginning (especially because my wife developed plantar fasciitis literally on the first day). Because we were used to wilderness hiking, and because most other pilgrims seemed a fair bit younger or older than us (we were in our late 30s), it took us a while to find our way socially too. By the second half we had adjusted better on both fronts and began to feel the spirit of the camino more and more. Being able to walk through so many different regions and see the changes from one to the next was a real highlight.

#2 - Camino Primitivo
This seemed like the ideal camino in terms of pilgrim numbers. By Bodenaya we had come together as a nice group of about 12-15 people doing basically the same stages and crossing paths along the trail or at the end of the day. Because the scenery in Asturias and Galicia is similar, it didn't have the same 'epic sweep' feel as the Francés with all its different regions and landscapes. The weather wasn't very good but we had such a great group of people that spirits were always high. Easily my favourite 'social camino'.

#3 - Camino de Madrid
I loved this camino but my wife would have preferred more pilgrims (we only saw about five the whole way, and all very briefly except one who we walked on and off with for the second half of the camino). It had easily the least pilgrim interaction of our caminos but the most local interaction. As others have noted, one thing that makes the CdM really attractive is that there is just enough pilgrim infrastructure so that you can stay in albergues virtually every night and feel like you're on a camino, but also that it is quite undiscovered as far as caminos go so you feel like you're off the beaten track at the same time. That seems like a rare combination.
I can definitely understand the age thing. I was 35 on my camino and felt in between the age groups for the first couple of weeks. Later though everyone just kind of put all that aside as they got comfortable and it was a lot of fun.
 

celinehenriette

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Zwolle - Rome 2013
Jacobsweg Austria 2018
Camino Frances 2018
Camino Portugues 2018
Finisterre 2018
First pilgrimage at 26 years old, Netherlands to Rome, about 2000 km. I found it was loneley but still think it was the best one, because it was the most intence experiences of my life.
Second one was the Jacobsweg when I was 30/31 (birthday on the camino, yay!). Starting in Vienna, had to stop in Innsbruck after about 450 km because of the pain in my heels. The way itself was great, but long distances and at some point I felt like I needed to be around people. So I traveled to St. Jean Pied de Port to continue, that was a bit of a culture shock, but so much fun! After a while on the Frances I got a bit bored actually. Every time you feel like you are having a difficult time, someone is there to pick you up and sometimes I feel like I should be able to pick myself up. I'm a bit weird that way, sorry! For me the lonelyness is kind of nice to feel sometimes, don't know why..Maybe the experience was so different from the one I just came from that it was difficult to adjust
The third was the central route from Porto to Santiago, same year, that one was just fun! Not too long, nice area to walk through. And the glorious weather and great company (thanks Andy) also helped. But I never really felt the challenge, so that is why I continued the day after I arrived to walk to Finisterre. I only gave myself two days, so I needed to walk great distances. That was good for me, it truly felt like an accomplishment when I arrived.
Maybe I need the challenge, to be pushed to my limits, and that is not for everyone. But what I have learned, there is a Camino for everyone who wants to walk one, whether you want to meet people or you want to be by yourself. The camino really does provide, whatever you need :)
 

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:
First CF in 2002. We walked it in 27 days - sometimes doing less than 20 km per day and then had to play catch-up and walk 40 km stages. It was a fabulous hike - physically challenging, great landscapes, wonderful people, but not particularly spiritual! There were only ± 160 albergues back then, some very basic. We avoided any with no hot water, no beds and no electricity, so slept in many private habitaciones, pensiones and up-market albergues.
I had a Camino workshop in my home in 2003 and 5 people came who had done the Camino and 7 wannabe pilgrims. The 5 people waxed lyrical about dinners by candlelight, oraciones (blessings) and sing-a-longs. I thought they'd walked on a different planet!
In 2004 I decided to walk again and chose to walk with a friend from Paris to Spain - then drive to Sarria and walk from there. It was a great hike (again!) We didn't see any pilgrims for 900 km until we reached the south of France, so no camaraderie or pilgrim friendships. Still no refugios with atmosphere or candlelight dinners.
(The walk on the Via Francigena from Switzerland in 2006 was similar to the Via Turonensis - no pilgrims, no dedicated pilgrim accommodation, so a nice long-distance backpacking experience but not very 'Camino-like).
In 2007 I walked the CF again in 37 days with a friend and a local Catholic nun. I made sure we marked the 10 best albergues for traditional spiritual experience - as voted on by this forum. We stayed at Tosantos, Grañon, San Bol (with the Italian, weed-smoking Rastas!) We stayed with Thomas-the-Templar at Manjarin and with the German Hippie at Albergue Vegetariano in La Faba. My friend and I loved it! The Catholic nun was horrified and moaned and griped about every albergue!!
In 2009 I walked the Aragones route from Lourdes to Pamplona, and then the Camino Ingles, and then to Fistera. I served in the San Roque Albergue in Corcubion for 2 weeks. These were the last two walks that I carried a full pack and slept in dormitories.
After starting amaWalkers in 2010 I've only stayed in pre-booked rooms, some in private albergues but mostly pensiones, hostales and hotels. We send our luggage ahead every day and I LOVE it! I love the freedom of not being a part of a bed race. I know my limits and love knowing that no matter how tired I am I'll have a bed and a hot shower waiting for me at the end of the day. I love being able to get up later than most pilgrims and start walking after they have gone. I really like having a leisurely lunch (I'm not a big night time eater) and being able to wait for a church to open, or do a detour to a special church or monastery. I even like being able to to stay up late it I want to and not worry about a curfew or being locked out! I am proud to be a tourogrino!
 

anthikes

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP > SdC
2018 Porto > SdC
2019 Sevilla > SdC
My personal take on the three I have done...

CAMINO FRANCES

Like all the Caminos I enjoyed this one very much! I have actually been on the CF three times - first time I quit at Fromista when I got an irresistible urge to jump on a train to Madrid as I walked past the station - totally unplanned but wasn't feeling it! Second time I did it all and third time was from Astorga after the VDLP.
Probably still rates as my favourite. Super sociable of course and I think it was the best for variation of scenery too.

PORTUGUESE

Probably the least favourite of my three. Despite the big numbers of pilgrims, I just found it a little less social than the Frances. Maybe it was my bad luck, but I kept coming across very cliquey groups of pilgrims who didn't seem interested in letting others in - complete opposite to what I found on the CF and VDLP!
Found the cobble stones and dangerous driving a challenge too. It's a little odd as I actually prefer Portugal to Spain, and have even taken up residency as a result of Brexit. Anyway, still plan to do the whole thing again but from Lisbon and taking the coastal route after Porto. Hoping to have a better experience next time.

VDLP

Really enjoyed this one and more than the Portuguese, but not quite as much as the Frances. The fewer number of walkers made it very sociable too. I took the path less trodden to Astorga which I probably wouldn't recommend as it was a bit soulless after the Sanabres turn off.
Probably more challenging than the other two in terms of distances and requirement to carry food. Spent many mornings looking for coffee and ended up only finding closed bars which got a little frustrating!

All our experiences are completely subjective of course. I guess the CF stands out for me because you meet so many new pilgrims who have all that wonder and enthusiasm, as oppose to just multi timers who have been there and done it - it's good to have a balance of the two and perhaps the Portuguese offers that?

To sum up, they are all great and I will be forever grateful to the friend who got me into them!
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#2 - Camino Primitivo
Because the scenery in Asturias and Galicia is similar, it didn't have the same 'epic sweep' feel as the Francés with all its different regions and landscapes. The weather wasn't very good but we had such a great group of people that spirits were always high. Easily my favourite 'social camino'.
Galicia and Asturias have quite a few differences but it is possible that some of them are difficult to find for outsider people (including Spaniards from other regions). Because I am Galician I enjoied very much detecting those differences on my first Camino.
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
#1 was an introduction. It was powerful but not transformative. It wasn't as long as #2, and wasn't that bubble of time away from my regular life, as it was just a part of a much longer trip.

#2 was over 25 years later. It had the greatest impact. I walked with my son. It changed what was important to me.

#3 was a refresher.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
The first time I walked the Camino was the most memorable of course, and for all the reasons a new experience like that is. I think everyone would have that same opinion. The first time I walked the Portugues rekindled that newness of a Camino. All the other times I walked they were all unique experiences in their own way, even if I had walked the route before.
The only time I wished I had postponed walking a Camino Frances was when I walked it once not being fully healed up from aggravating an old leg injury, and also coming off of a nasty cold. Made the first few days really tough getting over the jetlag plus feeling like crap from the cold. Felt weak and unmotivated and even took an early day off on the Camino and stayed an extra day in town at a hotel. The leg injury later slowed me to the point I jumped over two days of walking by catching a bus so as to be in Santiago on a certain date as I had a plane reservation.
 

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