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Pilgrim in spirit?

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
 
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Anamiri

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
Just my opinion - I think that if your ultimate goal is to get to Santiago (or Rome) eventually, then you are a pilgrim.
I met plenty of people who walked a section each year or so, and eventually made it to Santiago.
They didn't seem less than pilgrims to me. In fact I think their commitment to continue the walk each year is commendable - and maybe if I lived closer I would do that as well.
I do plenty of other hikes as well, and in my mind pilgrimage feels different.
 
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Whenever I've walked shorter sections not ending in Santiago, I always wished I could walk all the way there. It was difficult to stop and go home each time. So I still felt like a pilgrim. I know I feel different when on other hikes that are not Caminos. So for me, personally, there is a difference between the two. But it is a thin line, and difficult to judge from the outside.

I remember on my first camino a day when an older peregrina was not allowed to stay in Rabanal's Gaucelmo, because that day she'd had her pack transported. The day before she had fallen and injured her head. Despite the injury she continued walking, but still wasn't allowed in, because of the pack. I was allowed in because I had walked that day with my pack.  But I had skipped a part of my camino that year by train when I got sick, and that was acceptable somehow (I had confessed to the hospitaleros at the check-in). It seemed strange to me, and I felt really bad for that lady, who had had a difficult walking day up that hill with a wound on her head, and was sent away. She was invited to come over for tea, though. Was she not a pilgrim worthy a bed? To me she was, more than myself maybe. Thin lines.

I am taking the bus quite often at the moment on my current Camino. I wish I could walk every step, but several injuries make it impossible right now. Many would probably say that I'm not a pilgrim and don't deserve a bed in the albergues. To be honest, I always feel guilty taking an albergue bed after having taken the bus. But I can't afford private rooms / hotels all the time, and the intention / hope is still to walk to Santiago, and I'm trying, walking in pain, whenever walking is possible. I do still feel like a pilgrim. But am I still one?

I also met several people this year who were on longer hikes through Europe, never planning to go on a pilgrimage, but who then somehow found themselves on a Camino route more or less accidentally (being told by locals, being asked about their credential which they had never heard about before) and went the direction of Santiago then after finding out more about it. They didn't start as pilgrims, and at least some of them didn't see themselves as pilgrims, but something was still drawing them into the direction. For me they were pilgrims without knowing it yet.

So to me there definitely is a difference, mainly about the state of mind while walking, but that is just a personal opinion.
 

roving_rufus

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
Traditionally pilgrimage always has a destination, across Europe there have been local, national and then major centres of pilgrimage in Christian tradition which includes Santiago de Compostela, but no matter how the journey was made there was a destination in mind.
I section walk but each section is another piece on that journey to Santiago or Rome.
But I know others that will just walk a particular piece - on the Via Francigena it's often the "pretty" bit in Tuscany (and that is a question often asked on Facebook about it), with the camino it maybe for example the Camino Madrid. I actually get more annoyed with those looking to walk the pretty bit of the VF, as Rome has no interest to them. But generally those walking bits of camino routes in Spain have often already walked a camino to Santiago and they have a mindset that is directed towards Santiago, even if they will not reach it.

I think it's that mindset, that even without Santiago being the current destination it is still central in your heart and mind in that camino journey.
 
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sarahchicago

Trail snail
Time of past OR future Camino
May 2022
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
Pope Francis famously asked, “who am I to judge?” And I think this is a pretty good question to ask oneself before opining on others’ motivations for walking the Camino. When I walked from sjpdp to SdC in may- June of this year several other pilgrims asked me why I was walking. Frankly, I found this question extremely nosy and didn’t answer it. I also found that every pilgrim who asked this really just wanted to tell me why they were walking and didn’t really care why I was walking.
If I’ve understood correctly, you and your spouse have been volunteer hospitaleros in an albergue with very few visitors - some days none at all. Yet you sent away some young men because they didn’t convince you of their sincerity as pilgrims (was their youth- mentioned twice in your description of them- a factor in your judgement of their sincerity?). Other visitors have walked to Santiago in the past and are just hiking around now but they qualify as “pilgrims” because of their previous experience. How pilgrimy is pilgrimy enough to qualify for a bed in the albergue? How much of one’s personal motivation must one reveal to strangers to be accepted as a pilgrim-enough? I had hours of very non-pilgrimy thoughts and feelings while walking to SdC and have spiritually moving days walking through grimy neighborhoods in Chicago on the regular.
Are you hoping to define the line between not-quite-pilgrim and definitely-pilgrim so that judging who gets to stay in the albergue is clear?
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
Yes, pilgrims are usually quite sure they are pilgrims although judgements by other pilgrims are always lurking and sometimes judgements about ourselves being worthy of the status crop up. I can say that on the little traveled routes like the Argonnes where I was working this year there were plenty of beds available especially for pilgrims where I was volunteering.

Beds for hikers, hotel rooms, and even whole apartments were also easily available at a higher cost. I have heard similar stories about people looking for a "cheap" bed on the Norte who did not have pilgrimage as their purpose.

But if I know I am only going to walk the Aragones route and then stop (which is what we did this year) am I a pilgrim? Those if you who read our thread from earlier in June and July know there were complications which kept us from going past Artieda on pilgrimage, but it was not our express intention to walk to Santiago on this trip, only to experience the route so we could help pilgrims know what to expect when we were hospitaleros later. We were able to do that with first hand knowledge of the routes, location of water points, where to stock up on provisions, etc. It was helpful, but I question now my self designation as a pilgrim.

I am compelled now to come back and walk either by myself the route and on to Santiago (which would be faster) or with Phil if health circumstances permit him to increase his stamina and speed or to walk in a different season where heat does not become a danger factor.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
How pilgrimy is pilgrimy enough to qualify for a bed in the albergue?
That's really the core question, isn't it? Who, in 2022, may benefit from the hospitality of those albergues who strive to emulate the 'traditional' hospitality of the Middle Ages and/or later centuries?

When you look at Gronze.com, you will see that some pilgrim albergues are listed as "pilgrims only" but many are listed as "oriented towards pilgrims but not exclusively for pilgrims"; this includes places that offer a communal meal, and I guess that numerous guests may not even be aware of it not being a place strictly for Camino pilgrims.

As I understand it, volunteer hospitaleros have to follow the instructions that the owners of such pilgrims-only albergues (often the town or the region, i.e. a political-administrative entity) and/or the managers of such pilgrims-only albergues stipulate (often non-profit organisations and entities affiliated to the Catholic Church such as religious orders or parishes). Presenting a pilgrim's credencial is a formal requirement to benefit from their hospitality, and the volunteer hospitaleros can see on the basis of the stamps collected so far how 'credible' the owner is as a pilgrim with the intention of going to the tomb of the apostle in Santiago - at least formally because I think we are under no illusion that the tomb is not really the 'meta' for most Camino pilgrims any longer. We don't live in the Middle Ages and our mindset and reference frames, even as model pilgrims, are fundamentally different ones.
 
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Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
This is a very complex issue that is far more nuanced than doling out “free” beds.

On one hand, we must remember that SdC is not the only pilgrimage destination in that area: Lourdes, Manresa, Fatima, and Mont Saint Michel are all Catholic holy sites to which people journey for spiritual reasons, each of which cross and/or share paths leading to SdC. One can be a pilgrim and not be headed to the tomb of St James.

On the other hand, the hospitaleros must abide by the rules of the managing organization and locality. In a small village like Canfranc Pueblo, accepting non-pilgrims into the albergue takes business away from the local accommodation providers. The albergue should not be a threat to their livelihood.

In short, hospitaleros ARE tasked with “judging” those seeking to stay and are given some leeway to use their discretion, but overall must abide by the direction they have been given.
 
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Currently I am reading a book on Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago. It is illuminating. If it were a play, a spotlight would highlight the question you ask, Janet. There has never been a clearly evidenced proof of THE camino to Santiago, nor the reasons for undertaking same.
I am no expert, but I nod my head and smile when reading some of the paragraphs in the book. St James arrived in Ireland long before Patrick, for example. Bits of him are all over the place.
Aye, right, as a true 😈Glaswegian might say.
I like to think my pilgrimage in 2006 set the tone for my adjusted approach to the rest of my life.
If I walk at home, I am not on pilgrimage. I don't hike when on camino.
For what it is worth, a contribution to your thread.
 

markie6

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2018, 2019 2022
I thought it was the Credencial that entitled you to "cheaper" accommodation reserved for Pilgrims but from experience many walkers , cyclists and pack free peregrinos all view each other with suspicion at times hahaha

The judgement is real , hard to leave it at home if we are honest but trying to is key. Why we walk, how we go about it are often very personal questions and as a previous poster mentioned .. at times a way of letting us know their reasons, that they want to discuss.

From memory, the many types of accommodation have different rules, some won't let you book at all, others won't let you have a bed if you are on an assisted trek , no cyclists before 6pm etc etc
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Beds for hikers, hotel rooms, and even whole apartments were also easily available at a higher cost. I have heard similar stories about people looking for a "cheap" bed on the Norte who did not have pilgrimage as their purpose.
Why is it wrong for a young person without much money to want to find somewhere cheap to stay? If there's plenty of room it makes no sense to turn someone away, as long as they follow the rules and respect other pilgrims.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Primitivo.
St James Way, England.
Currently I am reading a book on Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago. It is illuminating. If it were a play, a spotlight would highlight the question you ask, Janet. There has never been a clearly evidenced proof of THE camino to Santiago, nor the reasons for undertaking same.
I am no expert, but I nod my head and smile when reading some of the paragraphs in the book. St James arrived in Ireland long before Patrick, for example. Bits of him are all over the place.
Aye, right, as a true 😈Glaswegian might say.
I like to think my pilgrimage in 2006 set the tone for my adjusted approach to the rest of my life.
If I walk at home, I am not on pilgrimage. I don't hike when on camino.
For what it is worth, a contribution to your thread.
Which book are you reading Kirkie?

Cheers, Michael.
 
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How can anyine know what another truly feels? Each of us can only hope to know our own intentions.
Certainly so.
At the same time it's worth mentioning the difference between judgment and discernment.
Not giving an albergue bed to GR hikers seeking free accommodation (discernment) is a lot different than looking askance at fellow pilgrims because they go to Santiago differently than we do (judgement).
 
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Why is it wrong for a young person without much money to want to find somewhere cheap to stay?
Nothing. But reserving a pilgrim accommodation for pilgrims is the right of the organization running the albergue. There are youth hostels (and tents) for people on budgets. Kids thinking they can take advantage of albergues to have a 'free' vacation endangers the viability of the donativos, because they rely on generosity to keep going.

Edit: It's about intention. The culture of kindness and generosity that thrives in pilgrim circles doesn't care whether you walk for a week or for three months.
 
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Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Nothing. But reserving a pilgrim accommodation for pilgrims is the right of the organization running the albergue. There are youth hostels (and tents) for people on budgets. Kids thinking they can take advantage of albergues to have a 'free' vacation endangers the viability of the donativos, because they rely on generosity to keep going.
Of course, but if they say they are pilgrims, who can say?

After all, many who walk all the way to Santiago have no real interest in spiritual aspects at all, and want to get our of Santiago as quickly as possible. How are these people different to any other hiker?
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Nothing. But reserving a pilgrim accommodation for pilgrims is the right of the organization running the albergue. There are youth hostels (and tents) for people on budgets. Kids thinking they can take advantage of albergues to have a 'free' vacation endangers the viability of the donativos, because they rely on generosity to keep going.

Edit: It's about intention. The culture of kindness and generosity that thrives in pilgrim circles doesn't care whether you walk for a week or for three months.
Also, what puts donativos at risk is people not paying. It makes no difference whether the non-payers walk all the way to Santiago or just a short part of the path, or whether their journey is a spiritual one or not.

Why do you think these lads would be less likely to leave a donation than anybody else?

Characterising people you don't know in this way is not very generous.
 
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endangers the viability of the donativos, because they rely on generosity to keep going.

In this context, there are a few "incongruencies", in my humble opinion.

The new pilgrim albergue in Canfranc Pueblo is indeed a "donativo" albergue. It is new in the sense that it is in a former official parish building that had been renovated and refurbished recently, at the cost of 600,000 euros. It is owned by the town. On the website of the Canfranc town administration, it is actually listed under the header "Tourism" and described as follows: Themed with the help of the advice from the Asociación del Camino de Santiago and included in the cross-border project "Arles-Aragon", co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It has received European funds from the Huesca Provincial Council and the Canfranc Town Council, and will be managed by the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago.

The rules for admission and stay are described, though: No se aceptan reservas. Exclusivo para peregrinos. Donativo. (Credencials are not mentioned). 19 beds.
 
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Also, what puts donativos at risk is people not paying. It makes no difference whether the non-payers walk all the way to Santiago or just a short part of the path, or whether their journey is a spiritual one or not.
Of course, you are right, strictly speaking.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have fun.
And sometimes pilgrims cannot pay.
Paying or not is not necessarily linked.
But the intention and the attitude are different. It has become a thing (eg., on the Norte) for young vacationers on a budget to go up and down the camino, taking advantage of a donativo infrastructure that was not meant for people just looking for a cheap - IOW, free - fun time. You can object and that's fine. but people like that are freeloaders.
Why do you think these lads would be less likely to leave a donation than anybody else?
Characterising people you don't know in this way is not very generous.
I wasn't there, but I trust the account of those who were, and their discernment.
 
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The people that were did not suggest they turned people away because they wouldn't pay!
They were turned away because they were deemed not to be telling the truth about being pilgrims in order to get cheap (free) beds.
beds for hikers, hotel rooms, and even whole apartments were also easily available at a higher cost. I have heard similar stories about people looking for a "cheap" bed on the Norte who did not have pilgrimage as their purpose.
I will add that my response is influenced by stories I have heard (from two very reliable people) about the same phenomenon on the Norte that is mentioned in this quote.
 
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I like how at Granon they don't even ask about a credential. They apparently just assume that if you end up there, you're likely a pilgrim.

Those who are not might become one after having witnessed the pilgrim spirit there.

Also, I don't see why a hiker is less likely to donate than a pilgrim, after you explained how it works. But still, the pilgrim's only donativos feel like a safe haven, they're very special, and it would be sad to see them overrun by people who don't at least respect the concept.

But the good thing is that many donativos offer far too little comfort for freeloader tourists. If there are no beds and no WiFi, and it is in the middle of nowhere far away from beaches, cities or interesting wilderness hikes, most people just looking to have "fun" probably have no interest staying there. If someone is happy to sleep on the floor amongst smelly, snoring pilgrims, just to be woken up at 4:30 and kicked out at 8:00, I'd say they fit in well!
 

Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
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2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
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Interesting discussion here. I walked the last 7 years on caminos. I don't consider myself a pilgrim, I am a "non-practicising" atheist and don't want to walk to Santiago anymore ,(also to avoid the crowds and the "commerciality"). Most of the times I stayed in albergues, because of the possibilities of meeting people and also because of the price. I like the idea behind the donativoprinciple but in practice I prefer albergues with fixed prices. In all my caminos I never have been asked at registration with which intention I walked, let alone that that would be decisive for allowing me to stay there. Of course any organisation is free to decide on their "door policy" If an albergue wants to serve only "real" pilgrims with spiritual, religious motivations it should be clear beforehand and perhaps have influence on the "program" , daily routine. That way it would attract people who are walking with religious motivation
 
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I find it astonishing that people who are themselves looking for a "cheap" bed can possibly condemn other who want the same thing!
I'm not primarily looking for such a thing, nor are many others. Some people staying at albergues offer as much or more than they would pay at a pension. There is a culture of generosity that keeps the system going and that is an incredibly valuable part of it.

I find it astonishing that someone who has never set foot on the camino can be so sure that there are no people trying to use the system to their advantage. Of course there are!

Edit. This is an old discussion, actually and what I am describing is hardly new:
Of more than 400 places to stay on the Camino Frances, 30 are still donativo. Many that once were donation-based still charge 6 euro or less, just to keep themselves alive on a trail plagued by freeloaders who won’t pay anything unless it is required.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
2023
I am a simple person and it seems simple to me. The are two different questions that I think you have conflated.

1 Who are you permitted to offer beds to? For this question, follow the instructions given to you.

2 Who is a pilgrim? I believe that anyone who self declares as a pilgrim is a pilgrim and nothing else matters to us. Not destination, not "spirit", nothing else is any of our business.
 
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Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
I'm not primarily looking for such a thing, nor are many others. Some people staying at albergues offer as much or more than they would pay at a pension. There is a culture of generosity that keeps the system going and that is an incredibly valuable part of it.

I find it astonishing that someone who has never set foot on the camino can be so sure that there are no people trying to use the system to their advantage. Of course there are!

Edit. This is an old discussion, actually and what I am describing is hardly new:
So, because you can afford to pay more you think it's OK to criticise those who want somewhere affordable to sleep?
 
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Freeloaders and scammers exist on the camino, but in my experience they're rare and easy to spot.

Like the guy pretending to have no/little money and looking for cheap food, who wasn't interested in any advice where he'd find a supermarket closeby or cheap/donativo place to stay, but instead wanted other pilgrims to buy him a restaurant meal, being very pushy about it also. Claimed to have walked for a year already, had close to no tan in the middle of a heat wave (I would have liked to know his real story, but he didn't seem willing to share).

Or the guys checking into a municipal with loads of big suitcases. It was very obvious they weren't walking anywhere, but they had a credential, so the shocked hospitalera let them in anyway.

The cyclist who was sent away by the hospitalero and then shows up again 20 minutes later with a brand new credential, "sorry it was a misunderstanding, of course I'm a pilgrim".

For hospitaleros I can see how difficult it must be to decide who can come in and who is not allowed to stay there. Guidelines probably exist, but your heart might not always agree with them.

Our personal definition is a completely different thing from set rules for a certain albergue.
 

Pafayac

On the way...
Time of past OR future Camino
2021: Le Puy-Cahors. 2022: Cahors-Puente La Reina.
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
Each summer I walk a segment of the Camino because I have not enough holidays to go to Santiago. After 2 years starting from Le Puy, I have left in Puente La Reina. If God wants, I will finish next year.
Who knows who is really a pilgrim or not ? God only knows. As hospitaleros, is that your job to judge what are the reasons which send us on the way ?
Il advice that you should just write a message on albergues: "We are volunteers and want to help any pilgrim than need help: please, do not take advantage of it if you do not really need it".
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Suffice it to say I haven't yet stopped walking
The definition of a true pilgrim is an individual who claims to be a pilgrim. If someone wants to lie about it, it is their problem and loss and does not concern me.
The owner of an alberque has the right to create whatever rules they want to serve a specific subset of all those who walk the Camino. If that bothers anyone, then buy a building yourself and run the type of albergue the way you prefer. Until then, learn the rules of each alberque and observe them. If you want to cheat the system, then it is your choice.
This is not a topic that should cause heat/conflict. It is simple - this system has been working for hundreds of years. Enjoy the Camino as much as we can because there will come a day when you cannot walk it.
 
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Flog

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
My 2 cents before the thread goes south:

Of course volunteer hospitaleros in charge must be guided by the rules set out by management and agree with them in principle if they are to carry out their duties as required of them.

But as it was reported, I'm sorry... the idea of 3 adults grilling a couple of kids who have clearly demonstrated that they've been walking for some days, and then turning them out into the night when there are plenty of beds, doesn't sit well with me, genuine 'pilgrims' or not. Who is to say they wouldn't be humbled by the experience and leave with a different outlook if they were given a chance, a Christian one perhaps?
 
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RRat

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning 2017
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
Do you have a habit of poking the bear?
 
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I remember on my first camino a day when an older peregrina was not allowed to stay in Rabanal's Gaucelmo, because that day she'd had her pack transported. The day before she had fallen and injured her head. Despite the injury she continued walking, but still wasn't allowed in, because of the pack.
This is rigid and very mean spirited. A cruel example of lack of compassion and mercy. This hurts.
So many questions posed on this post are so interesting.
Hospitality itself is open and broad, welcoming and embracing. How sad to see lack of initiative and creativity, and how life affirming it is when you find them.
 
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StuartM

Active Member
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Camino Frances (2012)
It's an interesting question. When I walked the CF I did it for personal reasons with the intent of getting to the cathedral in Santiago. When I did the Salvador it was just a nice walk across the mountains, I didn't care much about any spiritual aspect of either the walk or the destination. I didn't even bother with a credencial or completion certificate. Was I a pilgrim on one but not the other? When I next do the Frances it'll be a trip down memory lane for sure but it will definitely be in the "nice walk in the countryside" category. Will I then stop being a pilgrim for that one?

Everyone is going somewhere for their own reasons so maybe you could argue everyone who walks with a destination in mind is on a pilgrimage. I'm an atheist so I can't really lay any claim to much significance of the shrine of St James for me but it was as good an end point as any. I still took a Compostela and still went to the mass, though, so maybe I'm not as much of a fraud as I think.

In practical terms, I don't really see any problem with the "members only" kind of attitude of the albergue in the OP. There are plenty of huts and bunkhouses that are only open to members of certain organisations like mountaineering clubs, etc. But equally I would hope they wouldn't turn away people in need if there was no shortage of beds. I think the creed of hospitality should beat any others, no question. Plenty of parts of the world turning away a stranger who needs a bed would be shameful. Sadly, Europe isn't one of them.

There is a wonderful book by a 19th century Hungarian linguist who fakes being a Muslim pilgrim so he can walk from Baghdad (if I remember right) to Bukhara in Uzbekistan. He wrestles with the ethics of what he's doing as he takes hospitality and the special treatment he's given as a Haji along the way (especially as he faces death if he reveals the truth). I can't remember the name of it but it's a fantastic read.
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
Thank you all for your feedback. In a few days I'll be back home and back at my regular job where no one really knows or understands anything about the Camino. Other than my husband I have no one else to discuss these things with and I appreciate the viewpoint of each and every person. It helps me be a better pilgrim and ultimately a better hospitalera.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I appreciate the viewpoint of each and every person


Though we may not want to get into a debate over who is a true pilgrim, I think there can be no doubt that the OP’s attitude gets a “true pilgrim medal.” I don’t want to unrealistically lionize them and what they’ve done, but they have accomplished some pretty unpleasant physical tasks in the albergue that are clearly above and beyond the norm in terms of day to day tending to pilgrims. Not to mention the TLC of the banana bread and other treats.

Hospitaleros have to make these judgment calls all the time, and there are undoubtedly cases where two stupendously marvelous hospitaleros would have reached opposite decisions.

I think we can focus on the general question posed by the OP without slamming the on-the-spot decision they made in good faith and based on a context that none of us were present for.

I’ve seen many decisions made by hospitaleros that I thought were a tad unfair (in my own case, with a bad infected blister in Lugo, the hospitalero told me I’d have to go get a medical dispensation from a clinic far away before he would let me stay a second night). But I think we should recognize what a difficult line this is to walk, and that in the final analysis, it’s the hospitaleros themselves who have to be the ones to implement the association’s policy to the best of their ability.
 

Juliawalking

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: 2005 2007
Hospitalaria Canfranc
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
Great to hear from a Canfranc volunteer, I was a hospitalaria in April at the albergue. Interesting questions you bring up. There were indeed many who were just doing part of the Camino but seemed very much in the spirit and spirituality of pilgrims. I also did a 'short' walk, I walked in to the albergue, which is the tradition. However (to avoid the snow over the Somport pass), the wrong way, from Sanguesa to Canfranc, but I did not feel less a pilgrim. I am in my mid-seventies and though I am fit, that was already a challenge with a pack and rain. The first time I did the Camino Frances, I did it in three visits over two years, I did not feel less of a pilgrim not being able to reach Santiago every time I was on the Camino.
We were not very busy when I was at Canfranc and we could be flexible, eg people come their first night, store a bag with us and then come and stay a night on their way home. It was just lovely to see them again and hear of their pilgrimage.
 
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André Walker

Never losing my way: always standing on it
Time of past OR future Camino
2018
The difference between hiking and pilgrimage.
I agree: it's a most interesting subject to think about. When is one a pilgrim and when not?

Definition
First of all let's see what dictionaries have to say about it. After looking at a couple I've learned that various dictionaries have more or less the same definition. Two examples:

1659450447772.png

1659450470256.png

These old definitions are very clear: you're not a pilgrim, unless you're doing the Camino for religious reasons.

Raising some questions
On the other hand, a lot of people walk (or bike, or ....) a Camino for the purpose of reflection (spiritual reasons). Could be religious, but doesn't necessarily have to be.

And what about non Catholic people walking (or biking, or ...) a Camino? They might have religious reasons to do a Camino, but just don't do it for the sake of worshipping the shrine of St. James (which is, originally, the reason for pilgrimages to SdC).

So do spiritual and non-Catholic people not qualify as pilgrims?

Most likely, the vast majority of the non-religious ones and a fair number of the religious ones would say that spiritual and non-Catholic people are pilgrims as well. In which case the definitions as given by the various dictionaries don't qualify anymore.

Or, to look at it this way: in recent years a growing number of people from Europa and the USA walk the Shikoku trail (the trail of the 88 temples) in Japan, without being Buddhists. Still they consider themselves to be pilgrims (without being Buddhist!).

So I think it's fair to say that in modern times old (sometimes ancient) definitions don't always apply (things change). But if there is no valid definition to tell us how to distinguish pilgrims from non-pilgrims, there is no real answer to this question. Which means it's open to interpretation.

So someone who doesn't do a Camino for the sake of worshipping the shrine of St. James might be considered being a pilgrim. If so, it raises the question if someone actually has to reach the shrine of St. James to be called a pilgrim.

Final conclusion
I don't consider myself wise enough to be able to determine if a fellow walker (or ...) can be called a pilgrim or not. I do consider myself wise enough to leave that judgement to person in question (and to albergue owners/volunteers who will have to judge because it's their job).

Non-pilgrim becoming a pilgrim in hindsight
On my Camino Frances in 2011 I came accross a man from Ireland. We became friends and are still in touch with each other. He is (and was) not only an atheist, but is a very rational person (not spiritual at all). When I asked him why he was walking the Camino he told me he loves hiking and that the Frances is ideal because of the very affordable infrastructure. During his Camino he met quite a few people (including me) who were walking for either religious or spiritual reasons and talked with them. When we were mailing with each other a couple of months after finishing the Frances he told me that, despite being a non-religious and non-spiritual person, the Camino had 'taught' him to respect other people (even religious ones) and that he had become less judgemental (he used to 'hate' religious people). So you could say that he started walking the Camino as a non-pilgrim, but in hindsight ended it as a pilgrim. The Camino works in strange ways....
 

JesperK

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2013-2016x2-2018 CP:2014 CF:(2022)
Does it really matter anymore? It might be a pilgrimage for a minority. But most people we meet on the various camino routes are clearly tourists. They want to try it - it sounds exciting - my cousin did it last year etc etc.
 

Robi Diaz De Vivar

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (2016), Norte (2017), Portuges (2018), Mozarabe (2019), Primitivo (2019), Via de La Plata (2
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
I have never walked a "full" Camino.....my personal circumstances do not allow it, but I have walked a bit of a number of Caminos. When I walk any Camino it is with the sense that I am on a CAMINO. The Camino does not always give it back. I walked the Norte from San Sebastian to Bilbao and there was nothing to suggest that it was the Camino de Santiago, I really missed the spirituality of the Frances; the Portugues from Tuy to SC and the Primitivo were better. I really do not see it as part of a hospitaleros job to vet the "devoutness" of any walker. Surely it is a fundemental part of what the Camino stands for, that the albergues accept anyone who presents themselves needing a place to sleep.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
I think people think too much. I think thinking too much especially on the Camino isn't the smartest thing to do. Think less and do it. If you say you are a pilgrim then you are. If you say you are a hiker then you are. If someone thinks differently and gives you a hard time or a lecture who gives a flying $#*&!
It is probably not the only thing they are thinking of to blow out their wazoo!
 
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Antonius Vaessen

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I don't quite understand what is so complicated about the meaning of the word "pilgrim". Let's keep it simple and follow the definition in the dictionaries. "A pilgrim travels/ walks for religious reasons" To expand the meaning to " spiritual reasons" is a step further, but a logical one.
To me it's clear that the decisive factor is the intention with which you walk. That walking can have a mental or spiritual effect does not make you a pilgrim
I don't consider myself to be a pilgrim and have no ambition to be considered as one. Still I like to walk the caminos and interact with my "fellow travellers", be they hikers, pilgrims
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
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I don't quite understand what is so complicated about the meaning of the word "pilgrim". Let's keep it simple and follow the definition in the dictionaries. "A pilgrim travels/ walks for religious reasons"
The reason it's complicated is because that narrow definition excludes (probably) most of the people who walk the Camino de Santiago.
 
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FourSeasons

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Being a Hospitilaro must be difficult to say the least. Most always a non stop cleaning regimen followed by cooking a meal (maybe) and a never ending greeting process where I personally would exude so much excitable energy to each pilgrim who came for a bed. I honestly could never turn anyone away nor would I want to. Especially that poor woman who had a head injury, all because she was in need of bag transfer that day, perhaps the next day too. So what?

Being a Hospitilara somewhere on the CF is a dream for me someday. I'd pray I would be placed in an alburgue who welcomes all. You know the ones that put out extra mattresses on the floor, the ones that make room for the weary, the hungry, the pilgrim. The ones that make for the best memories.

As for being a pilgrim, yes I've always been a pilgrim just like most of you, we just didn't know it until we walked The Way, until we answered the call.

Buen Camino :)
 
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FourSeasons

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2013, 2016, 2019 ---- the next is a mystery.
I don't quite understand what is so complicated about the meaning of the word "pilgrim". Let's keep it simple and follow the definition in the dictionaries. "A pilgrim travels/ walks for religious reasons" To expand the meaning to " spiritual reasons" is a step further, but a logical one.
Unfortunately, I believe there are fewer and fewer who walk for religious reasons anymore. Sure there are many but fewer and fewer as time goes on. Many are on a holiday, a tour, a check off the bucket list kind of walk. Many don't care about the history that is steeped in the Camino. It's just the sign of the times I suppose. :(
 

Phil W

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2016; Hospitalero 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
Off topic but just wondering if you are selling credentials in this albergue. A while ago I believe you wrote to me that the Canfranc albergue had credentials. A few days ago, if I read it correctly, Rebekkah Scott said there were no credentials to be sold at the albergue. I am going in late October and I know things can change.
We had credentials to sell. We didn't sell many though.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
I object to the suggesting that some young lads out hiking and asking for a bed at a hostel are "freeloaders".
I would think that as hospitaleras, they would be able to judge well, and if that albergue is designated for pilgrims, then they made the right decision.
Dont forgot they see pilgrims all the time, and as the people on the spot, they have to make that decision.

I encountered 'freeloaders' as well - a group of party goers, it wasnt hard to identify - they were also the people who complained about the mattresses, hogged the bathroom, used all the hot water, then came in drunk, really late, turned on the lights, woke us all up, talked loudly, and were still snoring and sprawled out when we left in the morning.
 
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One bleak morning in April 2012 I walked that beautiful if occasionally challenging bit of trail from Riego de Ambros down to Molinaseca. I'd vowed to pick litter on every day of that Camino and I did so that day. Wine bottles; Water bottles; Beer cans; Limonade cans; Bocadillo wraps, Energy Gel sachets, a pair of worn-out trainers: any tissues that didn't have shit stains on and, all the rest of it... Trouble was by the time I'd done half of those 4.6km I had filled every bag I had and couldn't pick anything else up without spilling something. I walked on. Found a dumpster in Molinaseca and walked on. That night in the Albergue parroquial San Nicolás de Flüe I was still angry, tearful, frustrated... one of the
voluntarios, Chico, took me out into the garden with a cup of tea and listened to my rage for a while as I cursed Tourigrinos, scumbags, desecrators. When I'd spilt most of it he gave me a hug and explained: "there are no Tourists on the Camino, just, sometimes, Pilgrims who have not yet found their Way"
 
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Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
Many of us feel "holier than thou" (referring to freeloaders) because we consider and label ourselves as pilgrims, or at least spiritual, or religious, or because we discover ourselves while walking, or love nature and a challenge...but if we go back to the beginnings of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrim was of the Catholic faith. If we are not Catholic, we have trodden "their paths", and have chosen to define walking the Camino to our own individual liking and new rules. Life evolves, times change, and technology is marching along, but if we go back to the basics isn't it a Catholic pilgrimage? Not Protestant, Muslim, Buddhism, etc.? If we want to get down to the nitty gritty, most of us who walk are a type of charlatan, are we not?
I am not trying to criticize, and I am not Catholic, but this thread and many of the great replies got me to thinking. I know "The Church" has had to make concessions for the rest of us over the years, but I doubt "in the beginning" it was so. Camino tourism is much of what it has become and money is generated into Spain's economy...a good thing.

Edit- My words are not meant to discredit any of us who walk Caminos, nor our reasons for doing so. There are lovely, compassionate, and interesting non-catholic "pilgrims"; I read their posts on this forum, and I've walked and rubbed shoulders with others o them on the Way.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
please see signature
How pilgrimy is pilgrimy enough to qualify for a bed in the albergue?
That's really the core question, isn't it?
This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported.

An interesting thread. And @J Willhaus has not, I think, clarified whether the lads hiking had a credential or not. And because of the post, it seems this was a unique, one-off situation.

This thread reminds me of a post a few years ago (about crowds from Sarria) of the writer encountering a very noisy, boisterous group of teenagers. In the post the writer queried the motives of this group saying things like it just being a cheap holiday and getting in the way of pilgrims.

That is, the writer said, until they all (teenagers and the writer) arrived at Compostela. Then the writer understood the teenagers were walking in memory of one of their group that had died recently. And that they knew how to conduct themselves in the Cathedral.

So, back to Albergue Canfranc. The situation may have been an ideal opportunity to have a brief, non judgmental discussion about pilgrimage and let them stay the night. Then, in the morning speed them on their way, as though they were pilgrims. And finally in this matter, report to the proprietors the unique pastoral decision made.

Was it Martin of Tours whose saintly emblem is a half a cloak, the missing half having been shared?
 

Rita Flower

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 Via del la Plata
Interesting discussion here. I walked the last 7 years on caminos. I don't consider myself a pilgrim, I am a "non-practicising" atheist and don't want to walk to Santiago anymore ,(also to avoid the crowds and the "commerciality"). Most of the times I stayed in albergues, because of the possibilities of meeting people and also because of the price. I like the idea behind the donativoprinciple but in practice I prefer albergues with fixed prices. In all my caminos I never have been asked at registration with which intention I walked, let alone that that would be decisive for allowing me to stay there. Of course any organisation is free to decide on their "door policy" If an albergue wants to serve only "real" pilgrims with spiritual, religious motivations it should be clear beforehand and perhaps have influence on the "program" , daily routine. That way it would attract people who are walking with religious motivation
@Antonius Vaessen Please don't sell yourself short. Even a 'non-practicing' atheist has experiences of 'spirit' even if you don't call it that. Feelings of awe, connecting with nature, connecting with fellow humans and more all fall into my definition of spiritual. The definitions of what a 'real' pilgrim are many and varied but you sound pretty 'real' to me.
 

Rita Flower

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 Via del la Plata
Does it really matter anymore? It might be a pilgrimage for a minority. But most people we meet on the various camino routes are clearly tourists. They want to try it - it sounds exciting - my cousin did it last year etc etc.
Feels a bit that way to me these days .... but who am I to judge?
 
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WOW. I can not remember a post that has attracted such interest in less than 24 hours.
So here is my 10 Euro cents:
Is it the destination or the journey? Having trekked the Frances twice any return would have as its goal to investigate some of the alternate routes or take in places of interest (historical).
I am still hoping to walk the Porto (from Porto) with my brother and that will definitely be for the journey. The two of us sharing time together, something that we have not had over the past 50 years.
As for pilgrims walk the Camino in sections - I came across this back in 2013 on my first Camino - on the Via de la Plata. A number of the French, Dutch and German (and even Spanish) pilgrims walked it in stages - 250/300/350 km - and came back later in the year or following year.
 

dbier

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last 114km Camino Frances, Jul 21
2023 - Camino P
Some thoughts...
...first, if you choose to volunteer as a hospitalero/a (just as if you choose to volunteer at a refugio, a homeless shelter, a disaster response tent, a race tent, a convention), then it is on you to know the rules and apply them as wisely as possible. Which the OP and the others did, to the best of their ability.

If a volunteer doesn't like the rules and doesn't want to apply them, then it is in the best interests of all that that volunteer find somewhere else to donate their time. In this case, the rules said very clearly, exclusively for pilgrims ( even with my bad Spanish, I can read that). We may not like that, or may suggest they be explicit about requiring stamped credencials...but objecting to a volunteer doing their best to comply seems pretty judgy in turn. If you, personally, would do differently, then volunteer somewhere else.

Who is a pilgrim? As many wiser than I have observed, ya can't tell by lookin at em.

Even though I personally am a practicing Roman Catholic ( and the Lord knows I don't have it right, thus the practice 😅), I often identify with the U2 song...." I still haven't found what I'm looking for. "

I submit that it's the looking that distinguishes a pilgrim from someone taking a walk. You may well not be looking for St James (or you may). You may not be looking for a spiritual experience (or you may). You may not even know why you're on the Way. But you are. And if you really open up to look, you will find.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
What does it mean to walk "unsupported"? I am planning to walk the entire Camino Frances as a pilgrim as I am walking for a spiritual reason. I have bone-on-bone arthritis w/ bone spurs in my foot, and an old rotator cuff injury. (62 years old). I can't carry a full pack so am getting transport help for the pack, but walking the entire route. (God willing!). Does that mean I am not walking unsupported and thereby not welcome in the alberques?
 
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Coming back this morning to the OP, after reading the many good posts here since last night.

are we just hikers?
Well. If we were why come all the way to Spain? We could as easily hike/tramp/walk at home.
You actually seem to have answered your own question, @J Willhaus:
I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.
Q.E.D.
If you have a pilgrim attitude and feel that in your heart, you are. Regardless of how far you walk. Heading to Santiago, even for a few days, is still heading for Santiago - and it frames the experience differently. That different perception is supported and highlighted by albergues and hospis along the way, the countless acts of kindness received, and the awareness that our footsteps are a few among many past, present, and future.

The whole question of determining from the outside who is a 'real' pilgrim is actually unrelated, and impossible to answer by a dualistic yes/no black/white response. 'Who knows?' seems the wisest response most of the time, especially when we are not the ones involved in an interaction. That said, who is not a pilgrim is sometimes easier to spot. Experinced hospis have antennae, conditioned from long experience - and while stress may cause mistakes, as often as not they are right (not to mention that there are specific guidelines that they are bound to follow).
 
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Does that mean I am not walking unsupported and thereby not welcome in the alberques?
Breathe, a SantaMonicaPeregrina. ❤️
You're walking. The whole way. With an injury and age to deal with. And an inner intention. Not on a sag wagon-supported tour with flash support and a few kms of walking each day here and there along the camino (and maybe a stay at an albergue for the sake of atmosphere).

That said some old-school albergues will not accept people who hare their pack transported. Rabinal is the one that immediately comes to mind, and there may still be others, I don't know. @Rebekah Scott and the experienced hospis amongst us are better placed to answer that.
 
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That said some old-school albergues will not accept people who hare their pack transported.
Those “old-school” albergues often don’t accept baggage free pilgrims because said pilgrims travel faster than those burdened by bags, sometimes grabbing one of the few available beds simply due to speed. However, there is another reason why this policy exists.

Sometimes bags are not accepted because there will be no one there to take them inside. In a small village like Canfranc Pueblo, there may be no business of any kind open when the packs are to be dropped off, putting the liability on the the transport agency. Albergues who post that they don’t accept bags are limiting the chance that unattended bags get stolen and making the transport agencies aware that no one may be there. We’d like to think of Camino paths as safe and secure, but sadly they are not always so.

A little homework and you’ll know who does and does not accept bags as well as if those not carrying their bags are welcome there.
 

lalaone

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2007
I have just finished my time as hospitalera at Canfranc's Elias Valina Albergue. This albergue is only for pilgrims with a credential who are walking unsupported. Our last night we had a couple of lads who "claimed" to be pilgrims, however, they were were just boys out hiking one of the popular GR routes and wanted a cheap bed. We didn't allow them to stay, but it did get me to thinking...

Of the pilgrims who stayed with us, only a handful expressed the intent to walk all the way to Santiago. Many were experienced pilgrims wanting to walk a less traveled route and planned to leave the Camino at or before it met with the CF at Puenta la Reina.

Many of us only walk a short segment each year without the intention to go to Santiago, myself included, although some pilgrims walk a short section and then return to finish eventually in Santiago. It does seem like after the first Compostella is earned that the Santiago goal is less important to many.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers? Should we stay in albergues with the pilgrim spirit? I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.

I am sure this thread will generate opinions, so please let's be civil to each other. I just want to reflect on what makes us feel different between hiking and pilgrimage.
In the end, what did you feel about your experience as a hospitalera? While that obviously intersects meaningfully with pilgrims, it is also possible to deflect questions of identity onto them rather than upon yourself. Did you feel ownership over them during their interactions with you? Did volunteering there give a sense of ownership over the albergue itself? It might make some pilgrims feel uncomfortable to rub against unstated expectations, however kindly conceived or presented, as in a loaf of banana bread with details of its travail attached. Perhaps it's a give-and-take dance and lesson that way, along the way - for hospitaleros as much as peregrinos?
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
Again thanks all for the responses. We documented our hospitalero time and activities in another thread. We love serving each year. This is my 4th albergue and my husband's 5th albergue.

All the places we have worked are "old school" rules. Some more strict than others and we are expected to enforce the rules at each place and abide by them. This year's is the most strict of the group.

Walking unsupported means you don't ship your bag, you don't take the bus or a cab, you don't have a support car or vehicle. You are walking with all your stuff. The bus times are well established and locals in the community do watch to see which way you might be arriving-from the bus or from the Camino. At least that is in Canfranc Pueblo.

There are other places to stay on this part of the route for people who don't meet this criteria who accept pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike. There is another albergue, a hotel, and a casa rural in this tiny community as well as albergues, hostels, hotels, and AirBNB's in the town nearby with a short walk.

My introspection here is mostly about "when am I a pilgrim, and when am I not" and I have appreciated the comments some if you have shared in that regard. Thank you again for your engagement in the discussion.
 
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dougfitz

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
These old definitions are very clear: you're not a pilgrim, unless you're doing the Camino for religious reasons.
Cherry picking two narrow definitions to suit your argument when there are broader definitions that don't hinge on travelling for religious purposes. The rest of the argument presented here then falls apart. There is ample scope for non-Catholics and non-religous pilgrims.
 
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Perhaps it's a give-and-take dance and lesson that way, along the way - for hospitaleros as much as peregrinos?
I so appreciate this response, because from the pilgrim side we rarely consider such things.
Thanks, @lalaone, that's something to reflect about a bit, from all sides.
 
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Google is your friend
No problem. I just did not want to derail the thread. I took photos of front and back covers. It is not a book I can say I am loving reading, but I am enjoying learning through the information in it. I am sure you would be able to borrow it from your library, but if you are interested in more learned books, it could be something you might want to buy. I got mine in Kenny's of Galway, online, free postage worldwide.
Good luck, and buen camino.
Pelerine, sorry, am using my phone and did not see that it was you who had asked for the information! Now you have it.
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Google is your friend
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Why is it wrong for a young person without much money to want to find somewhere cheap to stay? If there's plenty of room it makes no sense to turn someone away, as long as they follow the rules and respect other pilgrims.

My understanding is that the reason was they did not comply with the rules of that albergue - they did not have a credential.
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
My understanding is that the reason was they did not comply with the rules of that albergue - they did not have a credential.
That's fair enough.

That wasn't my understanding. My understanding was that it was their motivations for walking that were being questioned, and the probability that they did not intend to walk all the way to Santiago.
 
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Perhaps useful to point out that there is no higher entity or authority that regulates the definition of "Camino de Santiago pilgrim" or "Camino de Santiago pilgrim albergue". Perhaps one could even go as far as to say that a number of agents compete with each other about the direction that the contemporary pilgrimage to Santiago and its hospitality ought to take.

I also don't quite understand what "old school" albergues are. I mean how "old" is old here? I am thinking of the pilgrim albergue of Roncesvalles, probably without a doubt the most famous pilgrim albergue on the Camino de Santiago with the oldest roots and the longest tradition of caring for pilgrims and (formerly) other travellers. They allow online reservation, albeit only for a certain percentage of their beds, they allow backpack transport (albeit only by one operator), they are owned by a diocese (and were formerly owned by a monastery/chapter of canons), daily management is in the hands of international volunteers under the supervision of local staff, and you can arrive by bus or taxi from Pamplona or SJPP and buy a credencial there and then. Is that old school or new school? :cool:
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
On my first camino (2001) almost every refugio (including that at Roncesvalles) had the following rules:

1. Only those with an official credential were admitted.
2. Only unsupported walker, bicyclists or horse riders were admitted - that meant no pack carrying, no vehicular support.
3. Only walkers were admitted up to a certain time (usually 6pm), then if there were spare beds bicyclists.
4. No pre-booking, walk up (or ride up) only.

The theory behind (2) was that those with support could stay in normal commercial accommodation, and (3) was that bike riders could more easily travel off camino or to the next village or town, if beds had run out.

By the time I had walked my third camino (in 2004) we were staying in "albergues" and private ones were relaxing the rules. Now that also applies to many of the public, municipal and religious albergues.
 

Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
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2017 Salvador
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@Antonius Vaessen Please don't sell yourself short. Even a 'non-practicing' atheist has experiences of 'spirit' even if you don't call it that. Feelings of awe, connecting with nature, connecting with fellow humans and more all fall into my definition of spiritual. The definitions of what a 'real' pilgrim are many and varied but you sound pretty 'real' to me.
I don't see the point of expanding the meaning/definition of a word so far that in the end it means not so much anymore. ( Like when somebody asks me "Do you love me?" Your answer would be "I love everybody") When I walked the Coast to Coast or in Nepal for instance I walked with exactly the same intentions, the question if I could be considered a pilgrim never occurred ( neither for my other walkers)
 

pelerine

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Mozárabe
Google is your friend

Google may be your friend, Jim, but most certainly is not mine! Cannot do without, but friend?

No problem. I just did not want to derail the thread. I took photos of front and back covers. It is not a book I can say I am loving reading, but I am enjoying learning through the information in it. I am sure you would be able to borrow it from your library, but if you are interested in more learned books, it could be something you might want to buy. I got mine in Kenny's of Galway, online, free postage worldwide.
Good luck, and buen camino.
Pelerine, sorry, am using my phone and did not see that it was you who had asked for the information! Now you have it.
75CA4573-D5F8-42B0-85A8-DD5366FA179E.jpeg 02828334-2A0B-4E03-B548-98A293EE4936.jpeg
Thank you, Kirkie. Found it, and am getting it and Kenny's have got a new customer....
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
Coming back this morning to the OP, after reading the many good posts here since last night.
Good idea, I would like to do the same below.

So, are we pilgrims when we want to walk part of a Camino or are we just hikers?
Well. If we were why come all the way to Spain? We could as easily hike/tramp/walk at home.
You actually seem to have answered your own question, @J Willhaus:
If my home is close to Spain and even closer to other camino routes in Portugal, does that change the equation?

Plus, I'm not sure distance travelled distinguishes pilgrims from hikers. Hikers will travel far to Nepal/Switzerland/Argentina/wherever to go on a hike and see mountains.

I still feel like a pilgrim when I walk the shorter distances and that feeling is different than when I am a hiker at home in the mountains where I live.
I agree but I am about to 'test' this in a way that I never have before. A few days ago, I decided that since I have a window of opportunity at the end of this month, I would walk the CP coastal solo. I'm only going to walk from Porto to Vigo, having already walked the parts after that (or after Redondela, more accurately) twice, including this June. So if I'm only walking for seven days, not ending in Santiago, not walking a historic route, and only doing it because I have never walked this route before and because I like walking, is it still a pilgrimage or is it like the Rota Vicentina?

I guess I'll find out within myself.

Coincidentally, I received a credential in the post today for another pilgrimage (not the Camino de Santiago). The attached letter included the following line:

It (the credential) distinguishes the true pilgrim from any other traveller and therefore must be used responsibly and correctly.

That would suggest that the responsible organisation, which is a religious one, considers the credential all that is necessary for someone to be a pilgrim.
 
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trecile

Moderator
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Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
No problem. I just did not want to derail the thread. I took photos of front and back covers. It is not a book I can say I am loving reading, but I am enjoying learning through the information in it. I am sure you would be able to borrow it from your library, but if you are interested in more learned books, it could be something you might want to buy. I got mine in Kenny's of Galway, online, free postage worldwide.
Good luck, and buen camino.
Pelerine, sorry, am using my phone and did not see that it was you who had asked for the information! Now you have it.
75CA4573-D5F8-42B0-85A8-DD5366FA179E.jpeg 02828334-2A0B-4E03-B548-98A293EE4936.jpeg
For some reason I am not able to click on the photos to enlarge them. I get this error message "You do not have permission to view this page or perform this action." @ivar - what does this mean?

BTW, the book is Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago De Compostela by Bernadette Cunningham
 

Bristle Boy

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
Today I started my camino much the same way that I have started and finished caminos in the past.
I walked in contemplation and gratitude to the resting place of a man who died protecting everything that I hold most dear. His name is largely forgotten but his deeds and sacrifices never will.
He rests in no Cathedral but in a simple village churchyard with a simple sandstone headstone and gave his life protecting the freedom and way of life not just of his family and country but to the many countries of Europe and to a peoples he had never met.
He was returned not in a stone boat but in any means available in times of strife and conflict.
My only burden that I carried was my trusty "push me pull you" mower and shears. No judgement was made as to why I went or the purpose of my visit. It was a journey I make in any churchyard I visit. To give thanks to men I never met but had such a profound affect on my life.
 

pelerine

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Mozárabe
For some reason I am not able to click on the photos to enlarge them. I get this error message "You do not have permission to view this page or perform this action." @ivar - what does this mean?

BTW, the book is Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago De Compostela by Bernadette Cunningham

Hi Trecile! I had the same problem, copied into Word, managed to enlarge a bit, used a magnifying glass and mailed to Kenny's leaving out the word "Irish". Halleluja!
 
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For some reason I am not able to click on the photos to enlarge them. I get this error message "You do not have permission to view this page or perform this action." @ivar - what does this mean?

BTW, the book is Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago De Compostela by Bernadette Cunningham
Thanks, Trecile. I am sorry the trouble it caused trying not to derail Janet's thread!
 
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dougfitz

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What does it mean to walk "unsupported"? I am planning to walk the entire Camino Frances as a pilgrim as I am walking for a spiritual reason. I have bone-on-bone arthritis w/ bone spurs in my foot, and an old rotator cuff injury. (62 years old). I can't carry a full pack so am getting transport help for the pack, but walking the entire route. (God willing!). Does that mean I am not walking unsupported and thereby not welcome in the alberques?
There is a long discussion on this here https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...he-pilgrims-who-dont-carry-their-packs.11630/ that started in 2011 and was active again a couple of years ago. While the credential text puts the onus on the individual, I cannot see how you can come to any other conclusion than that one is walking supported if one regularly uses a pack transport service. How welcome you will be in albergues is a separate matter, and one which I would only be speculating about.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Google may be your friend, Jim, but most certainly is not mine! Cannot do without, but friend?


Thank you, Kirkie. Found it, and am getting it and Kenny's have got a new customer....
I think "google is your friend" is just an American expression. You could plug alot of nouns instead of Google. I do not think it is meant to be taken literally. But I agree Google is many things but not my friend either.
 

Peter Fransiscus

Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Time of past OR future Camino
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
Perhaps useful to point out that there is no higher entity or authority that regulates the definition of "Camino de Santiago pilgrim" or "Camino de Santiago pilgrim albergue". Perhaps one could even go as far as to say that a number of agents compete with each other about the direction that the contemporary pilgrimage to Santiago and its hospitality ought to take.

I also don't quite understand what "old school" albergues are. I mean how "old" is old here? I am thinking of the pilgrim albergue of Roncesvalles, probably without a doubt the most famous pilgrim albergue on the Camino de Santiago with the oldest roots and the longest tradition of caring for pilgrims and (formerly) other travellers. They allow online reservation, albeit only for a certain percentage of their beds, they allow backpack transport (albeit only by one operator), they are owned by a diocese (and were formerly owned by a monastery/chapter of canons), daily management is in the hands of international volunteers under the supervision of local staff, and you can arrive by bus or taxi from Pamplona or SJPP and buy a credencial there and then. Is that old school or new school? :cool:
It's a good mix.🙏🏻
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Pope Francis famously asked, “who am I to judge?” And I think this is a pretty good question to ask oneself before opining on others’ motivations for walking the Camino. When I walked from sjpdp to SdC in may- June of this year several other pilgrims asked me why I was walking. Frankly, I found this question extremely nosy and didn’t answer it. I also found that every pilgrim who asked this really just wanted to tell me why they were walking and didn’t really care why I was walking.
If I’ve understood correctly, you and your spouse have been volunteer hospitaleros in an albergue with very few visitors - some days none at all. Yet you sent away some young men because they didn’t convince you of their sincerity as pilgrims (was their youth- mentioned twice in your description of them- a factor in your judgement of their sincerity?). Other visitors have walked to Santiago in the past and are just hiking around now but they qualify as “pilgrims” because of their previous experience. How pilgrimy is pilgrimy enough to qualify for a bed in the albergue? How much of one’s personal motivation must one reveal to strangers to be accepted as a pilgrim-enough? I had hours of very non-pilgrimy thoughts and feelings while walking to SdC and have spiritually moving days walking through grimy neighborhoods in Chicago on the regular.
Are you hoping to define the line between not-quite-pilgrim and definitely-pilgrim so that judging who gets to stay in the albergue is clear?

There is a real easy answer to why these young men were not allowed to stay in the albergue. The albergue, according to Gronze states that it is for "Pilgrims" only. If they were pilgrims and did not have a credential they could have asked for one. It seems to me that your reply is as full of judgements regarding the actions of @J Willhaus. He and his wife devote a great deal of time and energy to help pilgrims by volunteering in albergues. They were just following the rules of the set down by the albergue. Like it or not there are many people who see a donativo as a free place to stay and to just take and not give. I am sure they used their judgement and the guidance from the rules to make this call. There were lots of other places for these people to stay. You have a right to your opinion but as I said your comments are full of judgements.
You wrote:
I had hours of very non-pilgrimy thoughts and feelings while walking to SdC and have spiritually moving days walking through grimy neighborhoods in Chicago on the regular.
I have no idea what you are really trying to say here but I grew up in the 1960's in the Bronx in one of those "grimy" neighborhoods with a few burnt out storefronts and some drug dealing not only on the "regular" but every day of my life where we had lots of moving experiences just playing or running away so we didn't get our butts kicked in or worse. "Grimy" to you was home for me.
Donativos are for pilgrims if that is what the donativo's mission statement is.
Not trolling anyone here but expressing my opinion as you have yours.
 
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lt56ny

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10/22 Aragones/Frances
The OP specifically states that they said they were pilgrims and she decided that they weren't.
Did they have a credential? I do not know. Anyone could say they are a pilgrim and may be just looking for a free ride. I believe that the OP (what does OP even stand for?? haha) is someone with experience, good judgement and good intentions . I base this on the many, many posts I have read from them. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and I have a feeling his/her gut instinct in this matter is probably pretty good. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I still agree with the determination not to allow them in. My opinion and about 3 bucks will get you on the subway!
 
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Been thinking about this thread overnight, and the word that keeps leaping into my head is "ableist." Now, I moved to Portugal from the US a bit over a year ago, and have noticed in all my travels here that in general, Europe isn't as good in dealing with people with disabilities as the U.S. I know that part of that is that it's awfully hard to re-adapt stone buildings and the like, but in general, there's a different mindset to begin with, and I suspect that's a part of what we're seeing here. The No Support rule in particular is a real shame - I think about that poor woman with the head injury and how no accommodation was made for that, and I think about people who for whatever reason cannot always (or at all) carry their full packs, and I think while of course the hospitaleros need to enforce the rules handed down to them, perhaps those who write and hand down the rules need to look at the message they're sending, and that's that only the able-bodied need apply.
 
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Oh! Can I be poster 100? Someone asked what is OP. Either Original Poster or Original Post.
There are alternatives to Google.
My viewer opens my own photos perfectly well!
Jungleboy has offered something simple and valuable in the development of the conversation.
Well done, Janet, in asking for opinions. You have received a lot...and we have all been given a chance to consider the point you offered in your final sentence...
thank you.
 
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