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2019 Camino Guides

Solo walking questions

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#1
I’ve been mulling over my upcoming solo camino......
“Walk in sight of someone else” is advice I have read - but what if no one else is walking?
If you’re the only pilgrim when you arrive at an albergue is it rude to lock the front door while you take a shower? (Perhaps i’m Paranoid about this one after a guy forced the lock into the shower twice in three minutes when I was showering on my last camino)
What do you do if you’re alone in an albergue and someone turns up knocking on the door at midnight? I would be hesitant to open up but aware they might be a pilgrim who got lost or had a late train from Madrid or something.
What if some guy you’re uncomfortable with turns up when it’s too late to walk on?
It’s starting to sound like i’m Not good material for a solo walk but i’m anticipating that if I think through these issues I will gain confidence.
Until this year I had never spent a night alone in a house - there has always been at least a parent or husband or child - this first night alone in 48 Years was strangely empowering even though it was in a familiar environment (my home!)
What can you experienced solo walkers suggest?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, De Soulac, Norte, Madrid-Salv-Primitivo
#2
Hi Rachael,
I think one is either very confident and unafraid to be alone, or the complete opposite: imagining all the worst possible scenarios.
Only you can determine which one is you.
However, you strike me as being a very strong person, so I think you’ll be in the first category.
Sure, lock the doors while you shower, don’t open the front door until you have established who is on the other side . . . . . and revel in the solitude, it can be extremely liberating.
You’ll be fine, a bit scarey at first, but you can do it.
Jill
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#3
Walking alone has its challenges, I have done it five times. But, do go!

I learned to try and keep others in sight but sometimes that is just not possible. Take care. Many times pilgrims are only a few minutes behind or in front of you.

I've have been alone in a dorm with odd, very odd, looking male pilgrims. I took my stuff went to another room. If they were offended too bad. I needed to feel safe.

Another time a drunken pilgrim feel asleep asking me for sex at the albergue in Burgos that used to be in middle of park. We two were only ones in albergue. I knew he was too drunk to do anything about it. So, I rolled over and went to sleep.

Another time a young French woman asked me to walk with her for a bit. Some flasher had shown her his, bits and bobs.

Now, winter 2014 I walked SJPP to Valcarlos. Around 8 or 9 that night I saw headlights in window of dorm. Two guys opened door, located me, asked my name, relayed my whereabouts on radio and left. Because I had not arrived in SJPP that day. The authorities came to make certain I was okay.

Another time I stayed in Negreira two extra days. The albergue was so comfortable. When I finally arrived in Hospital the Hospitalero told me if I hadn't showed up that day they were going to look for me.

I NEVER ceased to be amazed at the care and protection Spain has for its pilgrims.

Yes, those of us on forum have heard about rape, peregrina beaten up in Portugal, and it is scary.

But, I did and will do so again: walk solo.

Vaya con Dios!
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
#4
There were times when I walked with no one in sight, but I never experienced any of the other scenarios.
I’ve been mulling over my upcoming solo camino......
“Walk in sight of someone else” is advice I have read - but what if no one else is walking?
If you’re the only pilgrim when you arrive at an albergue is it rude to lock the front door while you take a shower? (Perhaps i’m Paranoid about this one after a guy forced the lock into the shower twice in three minutes when I was showering on my last camino)
What do you do if you’re alone in an albergue and someone turns up knocking on the door at midnight? I would be hesitant to open up but aware they might be a pilgrim who got lost or had a late train from Madrid or something.
What if some guy you’re uncomfortable with turns up when it’s too late to walk on?
It’s starting to sound like i’m Not good material for a solo walk but i’m anticipating that if I think through these issues I will gain confidence.
Until this year I had never spent a night alone in a house - there has always been at least a parent or husband or child - this first night alone in 48 Years was strangely empowering even though it was in a familiar environment (my home!)
What can you experienced solo walkers suggest?
There were times when I walked with no one in sight, but I never experienced any of the other scenarios.
 

CdnDreamer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2015 & 2018) San Salvador (2018)
#5
I am planning on walking the Salvador route this May, and it does feel a little scary as I may be the only one out walking on a particular day. You are right that you may not be able to walk with someone in your sights. But I have been reading the Salvador threads, and all the blogs and it certainly sounds like the people in the small towns and villages are updated daily on who is walking. You can certainly call ahead and then you know someone is expecting you at the end of the day. I haven't read any of the Madrid threads, but I bet you will find reassurances there.

When I walked alone on the Frances, my safety plan included sending a Whatsapp message home every day, so my family knew where I was. I just sent the name of the town and didn't expect an answer from them. (I don't know what they would have done if I had stopped sending messages to them - we never discussed that!)

I really think that you will find very caring and thoughtful people along the Salvador route, and you will be surprised how many Spaniards are watching out for you as you pass by.

As for your specific questions - No one should be knocking on the albergue door at midnight. Unless you know that a pilgrim went out for dinner and didn't return, you shouldn't be letting in an unregistered person at midnight. What real pilgrim would be walking til midnight? If someone is arriving at midnight in Madrid they can find a hotel.

I don't know that you will need to lock the albergue to have a shower. You may just need to lock the bathroom door. You will have to check the layout of each albergue and decide when you get there. You can always ask the hospitalero as well.

Someone uncomfortable would be different than someone that you know in your gut is bad. If your gut doesn't like the person, maybe you could call the hospitalero, or move to a hotel/hostal in town. Or maybe there will be another room that you can move to and lock the door.

You have been so brave taking your whole family on caminos - once you start walking you will wonder why you were worried. Have a great trip!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#6
No one asks for trouble. However I ,too, have had my share of 'unhappy' moments and from time to time felt the cold frisson of true fear. Luckily long ago I was taught by my father self-defence. Twice over the years I have been physically attacked; once when 35 while walking to work through Central Park when I knocked the guy down by swinging my briefcase into his groin and unfortunately more recently on the camino when at 71 I knocked a drunk off me while I was trying to take a siesta on a bottom bunk. Both incidents were duly reported to the relevant police; both those incidents left me shaken and wary but never stopped me continuing.

October 2007 I hiked 24 k against the wind to Sahagún. After a delicious lunch at Casa Barrunta in the village of San Nicolas the 'fun' began. From the highway which parallels the camino a taxi horn honked several times. One Spanish pilgrim rushed across the road. She explained that a young hoodlum wearing camouflage was walking the camino. For my safety she offered a ride. I said thanks but I would continue to walk.

Within 10 minutes footsteps crunched the gravel path. Bingo! It was a young guy wearing pink and grey camouflage! We looked at each other. I say "Hola!"; he grunts and passes. Arriving at the municipal albergue I try to explain the situation to the hospitalera. She gave me a key to lock myself in since the place is huge and I was the sole pilgrim. Time passed. While in the shower I hear heavy footsteps mounting the stairs. Covered in soap suds I dash for my poncho. Two big cops and two slim male cyclists appear! "Senora, we've brought you some protection" said the cops. We all laughed, shook hands and I clad only in the poncho brew tea for the five of us. After tea GREATLY relieved I finished my shower and climb into my bunk to blissfully sleep protected.

Margaret Meredith
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#7
@Kiwi-family I think everyone who is human has moments of fear. I've often been alone on my caminos, and there are uncomfortable moments. The upside is the extraordinary feeling of freedom, resilience, self-confidence and real joy, that comes with being alone and not having to consider anyone else. I think that is especially so for women who have spent much time nurturing others.

You will feel moments of fear. It is part of the deal. The trick, for me, is to do something physical if necessary to lower the immediate stress (flight or fight - or if you can't for some reason, to stand still and do some deep considered breathing). To remember that fear is just an emotion - like any other - to talk to myself logically, to try to assess in real terms whether my fear is justified. It usually is not. Then to deliberately be brave. As my daughter says - feel the fear and do it anyway. Then - whoopee, I coped!

I only once found myself hyper-alert, and not able to get myself out of that state, and I made the decision to get myself to the nearest public transport and go somewhere else. I then unwound by sitting in a plaza for a day, watching the world go by, visited a church and an art gallery, and had a good night's sleep. There are multiple alternatives and when you are by yourself you can choose any!

You'll be fine.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#9
@Kanga is right...fight, flight or freeze. And noone knows what their response will be until they are in that particular situation. However, I am sure mentally rehearsing for the worse and hoping for the best is the way to go. Far better chance of fighting back if you have mentally prepared for the worst. Wish I had done that. I set off after a completely incident free first camino walked with others, absolutely confident that the second, walking alone and at a different time of year, would be more of the same. It wasn’t but in the end I was fine. It was just a bit more incident prone and a bit more scary.

The first few times I slept alone in albergues or hostals, especially those without resident hospitaleros/owners, were fairly scary but I just gave myself a good talking to and got over it. If the door of the dorm didn’t lock I have been known to jam a chair under the handle. ;) I’ve also changed beds to get to a room or a place near an exit where I felt safer.

I have slept in albergues with only one other male pilgrim and maybe I was lucky but having slept alone several times all I felt was protected and safe.

I did have a male hospitalero walk in on me when I was naked while I was getting ready to shower. As you would well know @Kiwi-family, you can sometimes lock shower doors but rarely bathroom doors and just as often as not the showers only have a shower curtain and sometimes even no door or screen at all. Many showers have no space to undress or dress and you simply have to do that outside in the bathroom before getting into the shower. After what happened to me, I walked with a very cluey Brazilian woman who taught me in that situation to keep my undies on to step into the shower. I do that everytime now if unable to lock shower door. Probably silly but makes me feel better.

I know you always walk with poles. I don’t but always have them in my backpack. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and get the poles out at the very first hint of something that either is or may not be right. Like a car cruising or some sad old bloke jerking off or whatever.

You are doing all the right things and you have to trust you will fine. I know I am preaching to the converted when I say that you know that the risks you face on the camino are no worse and probably less than what you face at home.

Someone else on this forum recently posted one of my favourite quotes:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Buen camino, mi amiga.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#11
Still thinking about this thread, and this is probably not for your benefit, Kiwi Mama, because you would know but for any new pilgrims who might be reading this post, if your instincts are telling you that something is not right then turn around and walk back. There is a far greater chance of walking back to meet pilgrims approaching from behind than there is of catching up with any pilgrims walking ahead unless of course you know there is someone just up ahead.
BTW I have at least another camino that I want to walk. And I’ll be doing it alone and in the off season.
Buen camino a todos.
Edit: Need to add that this info hopefully complements the recommendations that the mods regularly post on this forum. I have alert police downloaded and next time every intention of following the instructions to the letter.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Francés
De la plata
#12
I’ve been mulling over my upcoming solo camino......
“Walk in sight of someone else” is advice I have read - but what if no one else is walking?
If you’re the only pilgrim when you arrive at an albergue is it rude to lock the front door while you take a shower? (Perhaps i’m Paranoid about this one after a guy forced the lock into the shower twice in three minutes when I was showering on my last camino)
What do you do if you’re alone in an albergue and someone turns up knocking on the door at midnight? I would be hesitant to open up but aware they might be a pilgrim who got lost or had a late train from Madrid or something.
What if some guy you’re uncomfortable with turns up when it’s too late to walk on?
It’s starting to sound like i’m Not good material for a solo walk but i’m anticipating that if I think through these issues I will gain confidence.
Until this year I had never spent a night alone in a house - there has always been at least a parent or husband or child - this first night alone in 48 Years was strangely empowering even though it was in a familiar environment (my home!)
What can you experienced solo walkers suggest?
I walk alone all the time, very often with no other soul in sight. I am also often the only person in the hostel, sometimes after being let in by a male hostelier. I have never had any problems at all (Spain, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland). I do not know the future. I try to live in the present. I stay fit and I am always trying to find greater inner self confidence andddvo strength. I believe that I will deal with whatever arises the best I can and that 'good' and 'bad' stuff could happen anywhere, even home. The silence and personal choice of travelling this way is just amazing.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's SJ to Sahagun 2015, Sahagun to Santiago 2016, Le Puy Route, SJPDP to Santiago (2018)
#13
Excellent thread people! I have walked the Camino a couple of time now and will be embarking on my first solo camino in May. Despite any feelings of ; No problem, I can do this, etc., etc. There is a little apprehension lurking in the brain. Reading everyone's opinions and suggestions has made me even more excited to begin my newest journey. Buen Camino to All
 

cindyjo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012
Camino del Norte /Primitivo (2014)
Chemin la Puy (2016)
Camino Portuguese (2017)
#14
I agree with Kanga and others that walking solo has so many wonderful benefits. I’m an older woman and I find that walking alone and making decisions for myself reminds me that I am capable and competent regardless of my age. I’ve been fortunate not to have had any bad experiences and I’ll be walking my 5th Camino in March. My sister will be walking the VDLP with me because she doesn’t want to walk alone. I respect that. Everyone knows what they are comfortable with. You’ll make the best decisions for you. Buen Camino
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
#15
I’ve been mulling over my upcoming solo camino......
“Walk in sight of someone else” is advice I have read - but what if no one else is walking?
If you’re the only pilgrim when you arrive at an albergue is it rude to lock the front door while you take a shower? (Perhaps i’m Paranoid about this one after a guy forced the lock into the shower twice in three minutes when I was showering on my last camino)
What do you do if you’re alone in an albergue and someone turns up knocking on the door at midnight? I would be hesitant to open up but aware they might be a pilgrim who got lost or had a late train from Madrid or something.
What if some guy you’re uncomfortable with turns up when it’s too late to walk on?
It’s starting to sound like i’m Not good material for a solo walk but i’m anticipating that if I think through these issues I will gain confidence.
Until this year I had never spent a night alone in a house - there has always been at least a parent or husband or child - this first night alone in 48 Years was strangely empowering even though it was in a familiar environment (my home!)
What can you experienced solo walkers suggest?
Hi KiwiCamino. I have walked solo many times including paths that are not well trodden...like Austria, Geneva route and other parts of France. I never used to even take a mobile phone in the early days. I have moved lodgings once or twice when I did not feel comfortable with a situation, but overall have felt safe and really enjoyed my own company. Once in the Geneva route I did not meet any other walkers for 6 days and I was really happy to finally have company! 5 men and we shared the 6 bedded room after a hilarious evening hunting for food.
My friend from Canada recently walked the Madrid route solo and felt very safe. You might just bump into people and form a group...have you put the word out on the forum? As far as your questions go.. I would lock door while having shower and I would ring the hospitalero if someone knocks on door at night...
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#16
....if your instincts are telling you that something is not right then turn around and walk back. There is a far greater chance of walking back to meet pilgrims approaching from behind than there is of catching up with any pilgrims walking ahead unless of course you know there is someone just up ahead.
This is good advice, depending on where you are. We have an instinct to keep going and logically that may be the wrong thing to do. I don't naturally have much situational awareness but it is something I am training myself to have, so that it becomes (hopefully) second nature.
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#17
Thanks for chipping in with your stories Experienced Solo Walkers (and for the PM People too). I appreciate you taking the time to offer your perspectives and share pertinent advice.
 

Vikita

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(May 27 /June (2017 - Hopefully)
#20
I, too, walked the Camino alone last year, and I'm so glad I did. I needed to know that I could do this alone and be OK with it. There were hours and hours when I did not see another pilgrim, but I wasn't afraid. However, if presented with danger, your hiking poles would be a good defense. Also, make sure you always carry a phone. Stop occasionally and look back on the path if you hear something behind you. I often wondered if one could bring pepper spray along. Anyone know?
I was never alone in an albergue, but if I were, I would have locked the door when taking a shower.
Worrying doesn't do anything but ruin our present moments. Some of us tend to project the worst and keep going over it in our minds; therefore, we live it over many times when, truth be told, it probably won't happen.
 

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