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The future of Camino Hospitality

Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#1
This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So,


We stand here together in the present, at a crossroads.

We all have come here from a vast and varied place called the Past, a country that for most of us included at least one long, hard voyage along the Camino de Santiago.

Most of us are weathered veterans. Out there you walked until you were ready to drop. When you needed it most, you found a place with a bed and maybe a beer and maybe a smiling face: a welcome. A Camino Welcome. Stop there. Look around at the place your mind has chosen to illustrate “Camino Hospitality.” Where are you? Your subconscious chose this particular place, of all the many places you stopped and stayed along the Way. So set down a marker here.

Continue on with me.

Into the here and now. We are gathered here today in Atlanta, far away from the physical Camino, but immersed in a virtual Way that’s made up of people much like us.

From our comfortable chairs we look today into an entirely new country, an unexplored territory, wild and woolly and probably scary. We’re looking at The Future.

My name is Rebekah Scott, an American pilgrim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My Camino Past goes back to 1993, when I first stepped onto the Camino de Santiago. I went there as a travel journalist, an honored guest of the Tourist Office of Spain – it was a marketing ploy on their part. They wanted our articles in North American newspapers and magazines to lure well-heeled tourists to this “adventure destination.” There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the Camino in those days, hospitality and accommodation-wise. We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.

When I think of that first taste of the Camino, and I think of hospitality, I think of a stranger who stepped out onto the road as we passed through a little Leonese village. He greeted us, offered us a glass of his home-made wine. There was no price tag. He did it just because.

I met Jesus Jato, a mad man with a ramshackle albergue growing up inside his burned-out greenhouse in Villafranca de Bierzo. He needed a haircut. My coffee mug was unwashed. The showers were garden hoses stapled to the wall, with cold water only. The place was more like a refugee camp than an albergue, but the hollow-eyed young Spanish pilgrims bunking there did not complain. This was a pilgrimage, they told me. It was all about roughing it, doing without, crucifying the flesh.

I stayed and talked – as much as I could – to the pilgrims and Jato and Jato’s wife. I took tons of notes, and photos. They invited me to stay for dinner – lentils and bread, wine and cheese. There were six of us there that night. When I asked what I owed, Jato pointed at the donation box. “Whatever you want to pay,” he said.

I said goodbye. “We’re just getting started, you know,” he told me. “I’ll see you again.”

I am not a prophet, but Jesus Jato is. He could see the future. He saw mine.

I came back alright. In 2001 I finally walked the whole thing. I knew then I needed to change my life, become a part of this phenomenon.

I became a volunteer hospitalero in 2003, trained at an APOC/Canadian Company joint gathering in Toronto. I went back to the Camino time after time and served two-week stints at pilgrim shelters all over the caminos. I learned the caminos from the other side of the desk.

In 2006 I emigrated altogether. My husband and I bought an old farm in the middle of the camino, and opened the doors to pilgrims who need a place to stay – a little like mad old Jato, but on a much smaller and more private scale. In the years since I’ve written guides to alternative trails, trained new volunteers for the Spanish hospitalero voluntario program, wrote a training program now in use in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I wrote a camino novel, even.

We have been hosting pilgrims on the Camino for more than a decade now, and are as integrated into the Spanish pilgrimage infrastructure as two foreign hermits can be.


SO… Now that we have my past out of the way, We all can move forward.

Which requires a quick look at the Present.

Nowadays I am hospitality coordinator for the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago, a camino activist group founded two years ago by some of the latter-day camino founders, including Jesus Jato and George Greenia.

I oversee the volunteers at two pilgrim albergues still dedicated to donations-based accommodation. We do good, on a donation basis, because that’s our franchise. Free-will accommodation is a major part of what makes the Camino unique. We have an overwhelmingly international group of volunteers…

Every single year is a record-breaker on the camino de Santiago, pilgrim-numbers wise. More than 270,000 people walked the camino last year, people from 160 countries. They walk all the year around, right through December and January – months when we used to rarely see anyone on the Road. The makeup the of pilgrims has changed greatly too. There are just as many women walking as men. Spaniards are now only 47% of the pilgrims. It’s not just a European phenomenon, either: the numbers of Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Korean pilgrims have increased more than 200 percent since 2011. In the summertime we open the church in Moratinos, our little town on the Meseta. Last year we saw our first pilgrims from Burundi, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde. People who can afford to fly from around the world are not poor.

The number of Camino routes has increased greatly as old routes are rediscovered and new routes are invented. Ten years ago, the paint was just drying on the Camino Portuguese waymarkers – now it’s the second-most traveled trail to Santiago. Another interesting change is the drop in the number of cyclists on the Camino. In the 1990’s, 21 percent of pilgrims rode bikes. In 2015, only 10 percent did it that way.

On the Camino Frances alone, there are now more than 400 places for pilgrims to spend a night. There are 1,200 places to stop and eat. I am not a statistician, but I can blithely say the number of pilgrim-targeted businesses on the camino Frances has quadrupled in the ten years I have lived on the trail. The increasing number of pilgrims has attracted the attention of the marketers, the entrepreneurs, the Capitalists.

And hereby hangs a conflict.

I will try to give a nice, value-free, balanced view, but I will warn you going into this Future that I am an idealist, and a Christian. I am judgmental. I consider the Camino de Santiago a sacred place, a monument that merits our respect and preservation.

You can travel the Camino de Santiago without being a pilgrim. It’s a beautiful place with a bargain-priced infrastructure and 3G and a fun vibe. You might have a great time, but you won’t have the same deep experience as many of the people you see out the bus window. You might have to come back again. “Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s pilgrim,” after all.

But this is a pilgrimage trail. If you are not a pilgrim, you are not fully invested in this experience. You should not expect to be treated as a pilgrim.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival. The person who seriously wants a pilgrim experience will go as minimalist as he can. He’ll leave behind technology and comforts and distractions. He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years. He’ll depend on the kindness of others to provide him with a place to sleep, something to eat and drink, without presumption or entitlement. Pilgrims who take that kind of risk find themselves borne on a wave of providence. It’s a radical thing to do. It’s crazy, it’s scary. It’s kinda miraculous. And it still works.

This radical minimalism flies right into the face of our ingrained consumerism, and the travel industry -- the people who are selling a safe, clean, dreamy Camino. Check out any FaceBook Camino page. There you’ll see the hotel and transport and “adventure destination” marketers; the folks who say that “real pilgrims” buy this or wear that or stay at this place, who tell you this trail, soap, backpack, sock, scarf, diary, app, bandage, credential, or guidebook may lead to a blister-free, painless, Camino Nirvana.

We Americans eat it up. We are born and raised to get and spend. We are born Consumers. “Value for Money” is the prime objective, “convenience” is ours by birthright. We live by “the customer is always right,” as well as “I spent good money on this, and I expect a return on my investment…” In recent years entrepreneurs along the trail have jumped up to meet our demands for clean, charming, and predictable accommodation, offered at a price we well-funded Westerners are prepared to pay.

So…

We find the camino. We hear the call. We being born consumers, our first impulse is to Shop.

Second impulse? Find out everything possible in advance, read books and websites, and plot our course down to the last scripture verse and well-rated coffee bar.

We want it all, on our own terms.

We want an adventure, but we don’t like surprises.

We want all the enlightenment and excitement of a tough hike across a new land, but we want it safe, hygienic, and predictable, served with a smile at less than 20 Euros.

We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!

Comfortable consumer Capitalism, and the primal simplicity of the Camino, (and pilgrimage,) are deeply at odds with one another.

And this is why the Camino de Santiago, when we finally get it, blows our American minds.


We are consumers, walking into a world where Less is More.

Where everyone is just as good or important or respectable as everyone else on the trail.

Where uncertainty and risk and flexibility… and even sacrifice and suffering (O my!) are built-in parts of the experience, maybe even requirements for a truly successful outcome.

In my opinion, North Americans are perfect pilgrim material. We are full of demands, expectations, dreams and plans and fears and derring-do. We carry hundreds of dollars’ worth of new equipment, as well as other great burdens. We have a lot to lose, bringing our complicated selves to such a simple, demanding place.

And on the Camino we find out quickly that our Stuff won’t save us. It only makes us suffer.

We find a place to sleep, with or without reservations. We find out how little stuff we need to get by. We find that no one cares what our hair looks like. We find people who care for us, no matter how we look or feel or act or even smell.

We find places to stay where we’re not viewed as walking wallets, where we are treated as friends, made welcome, offered comfort and simple food and care by people who volunteer to come and do this work.

Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.

Remember that place that stands out in your mind, that albergue where you felt so welcome? Bring that back to your mind. Think about what it was that made it so special.

What made them stand out? Was it value for money? The number of power outlets? The swimming pool? The sparkling clean showers? The dinner, wine, laundry service? The massage?

Or was it the welcome? The hospitaleros?

These are small, often volunteer-run places. Often they are donativos, or they recently were.


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.

Pilgrims traveling without resources, the people who albergues were originally aimed-at, are now back to sleeping in the street, as the low-cost beds are now full of, well… who are these pilgrims?

The donativo ideal is almost dead on the Camino Frances. Beloved, old-school albergues like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Las Carbajales in Leon, and the Benedictinas in Sahagun all have given up on the donativo/volunteer model in the past few years, simply overwhelmed by the demand of something-for-nothing accommodation.

If pilgrim numbers continue to grow, or if they even level off at current levels, donativos will disappear, victims of high overhead costs, pilgrims who leave nothing in the box, as well as new provincial laws written to favor hoteliers. Plenty of people will continue to walk, but the Camino gold rush may really succeed in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Last summer, up at Foncebadon, I heard some handsome American pilgrims discussing that former ghost town brought back to life in the past 20 years.

“This place is great! We did this. It’s our pilgrim money that brought this here,” one of them said. “Someone ought to invest in some nice paving, signage, marketing. Some safety measures, maybe. Imagine what some decent branding could do up here.”

“Yeah, clean this place up and you could make some good money. This could be really cute.”

Yeah, just imagine. Scruffy Foncebadon, and Tosantos, and Calzadilla de los Hermanillos… scrubbed down and paved and Disney-fied and cute.

I almost went Full Prophet on those guys, but I contained myself. They are consumers. They obviously had not walked up that mountain. They don’t know anything different. Unfortunately, many of the people who want to plasticize the Camino are thinking the very same way. People who see beautiful, unique things as opportunities to make money… or even well-meaning people who see something scruffy or rural or strange and feel compelled to “improve” it.

FICS is dedicated to exploring and dealing with this phenomenon. We have our work cut out for us. We work hard and make lots of noise, but we don’t have a lot of illusions.

Eventually, large parts of the camino will be as Disney-fied as the final 100 kilometers from Sarria, and the overbuilding and paving and improvements will render the Camino accessible and do-able to anyone with money. Families who open spare rooms to pilgrims will be outlawed, minimum charges will be levied on all accommodations, and Compostela certificates will be issued by vending machines or print-your-own apps.

Once the Camino is fully commodified, numbers will peak even higher than we see now. People in search of easy grace and instant karma will flood in and have a whale of a time. Prices will rise, accommodations will become more private and luxurious as the low-cost/bunkhouse aesthetic is swept away in a flood of profit-making tourism. Groups like APOC will close down their hospitalero training programs, because hospitality will be turned over to the professionals. The crazy old prophets and healers will be distant memories – cardboard cutouts standing outside souvenir shops.

The camino as it is today is not sustainable. A corporate camino, with all its good-will hospitality stripped away, will be even less so. We will eliminate the ver simplicity that make the camino unique.

Maybe the great blow will come in a flash. Tourists are notoriously fickle and fearful. A single serious terror attack would strip out a good 50 percent of that year’s pilgrim numbers, and continue to affect the phenomenon for years after.

Maybe it will be a slow slide. Eventually, everyone who is anyone will have done the camino. It will fall out of fashion, and numbers will slowly drop off. Like Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” The expensive hotels will die first, and slowly the rest will fall away, too, over many years. The pavement will crumble. Trees will grow tall and drop their leaves on the path, year after year. What’s cool today will be history in just a few years. Our grandchildren will look at our pilgrimages, and maybe they’ll laugh a little at our silly trendy-ness, and wonder why we bothered fighting so hard for a nasty old footpath. The plastic camino will die, yet again the victim of changing times. I believe that within 70 years of today, the camino will go back to sleep.

But it will not die.

Farther, deeper into the future, a few people will read our old accounts, and feel the pull of that old road. A few of them will put on what passes for a pack in those future days. They’ll find a handy starting-place, and they’ll start walking.

Somewhere along the Way, a resident will meet the traveler, and invite him in for a glass of wine, or a meal. He’ll offer a bed in the spare room, or the barn. He won’t ask for money. The pilgrim won’t offer to pay. Once again, as through the ages, the pilgrimage will not be a transaction. It will be a work of grace.

The bartender will give the rain-soaked wanderer an extra cup of broth, because his grandma used to do that for pilgrims, back in the day. There won’t be a hundred other pilgrims pushing in the door, so he’ll be able to talk to the stranger, hear his story.

On Sunday morning, if he’s lucky, the pilgrim can follow the church bell into a parish church, and be welcomed as a special, lucky guest at the neighborhood Mass.

He’ll sleep wherever he can find a bed. He’ll probably pay, and probably be ripped-off now and then. He’ll sleep outdoors some times. He’ll be rained-on, sunburned, bed-bugged, and blistered. He will sing out loud, and laugh at his own jokes, and learn difficult truths about himself.

And eventually he will reach Santiago de Compostela, where the cathedral will, perhaps, award him with a Compostela certificate. Or maybe they’ll have gotten out of the souvenir business by then.

This is my prophecy:

The camino has survived all kinds of abuses over hundreds of years – plagues, wars, famines, Renaissances, Reformations, Fascists and Republics, even the Spanish Inquisition! It will survive Consumerism, too. We humans crucify the very thing that makes us most alive. It dies, and is buried. But on the third day, it rises again.

The Camino will survive us. The pilgrims will not stop walking, and the trail will not fail to rise up and welcome them, until we utterly destroy the Way. Or we destroy our selves.
 

SYates

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

Now: http://egeria.house/
#5
...
This is my prophecy:

The camino has survived all kinds of abuses over hundreds of years – plagues, wars, famines, Renaissances, Reformations, Fascists and Republics, even the Spanish Inquisition! It will survive Consumerism, too. We humans crucify the very thing that makes us most alive. It dies, and is buried. But on the third day, it rises again.

The Camino will survive us. The pilgrims will not stop walking, and the trail will not fail to rise up and welcome them, until we utterly destroy the Way. Or we destroy our selves.
... As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
 
#10
For me you convey that elusive and ever beating heart of the Camino with great clarity, thank you.[/QU
Hi Reb,

I consider myself a poet, wordsmith and pilgrim but I would be nothing without my camino. Your words are such a clear declaration of what that means to me. I am what they call a lapsed Catholic but there is still something in my heart which responds to your words. Your timing is perfect for I was thinking exactly what you wrote, only a little while ago and feeling fearful that something was being lost. Then I remembered my ancestors, those old Celts who walked into the West to see the dying sun. Our Camino may well die but like you, I believe it will rise in its own sweet way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words. I fly to Madrid 6 weeks from today to try and finish off the vdlp from Salamanca to Astorga. and ok I will have to bus a bit and taxi a bit but I will walk where I can. I have not booked a return and couldn't care less! At 79 I aint in a rush!

Vaya con Dios,


The Malingerer.
 

mvanert

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona - Santiago 2014, St. Jean to Estella June 2016, Estella to Santiago April 17, 2018
#12
This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So,


We stand here together in the present, at a crossroads.

We all have come here from a vast and varied place called the Past, a country that for most of us included at least one long, hard voyage along the Camino de Santiago.

Most of us are weathered veterans. Out there you walked until you were ready to drop. When you needed it most, you found a place with a bed and maybe a beer and maybe a smiling face: a welcome. A Camino Welcome. Stop there. Look around at the place your mind has chosen to illustrate “Camino Hospitality.” Where are you? Your subconscious chose this particular place, of all the many places you stopped and stayed along the Way. So set down a marker here.

Continue on with me.

Into the here and now. We are gathered here today in Atlanta, far away from the physical Camino, but immersed in a virtual Way that’s made up of people much like us.

From our comfortable chairs we look today into an entirely new country, an unexplored territory, wild and woolly and probably scary. We’re looking at The Future.

My name is Rebekah Scott, an American pilgrim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My Camino Past goes back to 1993, when I first stepped onto the Camino de Santiago. I went there as a travel journalist, an honored guest of the Tourist Office of Spain – it was a marketing ploy on their part. They wanted our articles in North American newspapers and magazines to lure well-heeled tourists to this “adventure destination.” There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the Camino in those days, hospitality and accommodation-wise. We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.

When I think of that first taste of the Camino, and I think of hospitality, I think of a stranger who stepped out onto the road as we passed through a little Leonese village. He greeted us, offered us a glass of his home-made wine. There was no price tag. He did it just because.

I met Jesus Jato, a mad man with a ramshackle albergue growing up inside his burned-out greenhouse in Villafranca de Bierzo. He needed a haircut. My coffee mug was unwashed. The showers were garden hoses stapled to the wall, with cold water only. The place was more like a refugee camp than an albergue, but the hollow-eyed young Spanish pilgrims bunking there did not complain. This was a pilgrimage, they told me. It was all about roughing it, doing without, crucifying the flesh.

I stayed and talked – as much as I could – to the pilgrims and Jato and Jato’s wife. I took tons of notes, and photos. They invited me to stay for dinner – lentils and bread, wine and cheese. There were six of us there that night. When I asked what I owed, Jato pointed at the donation box. “Whatever you want to pay,” he said.

I said goodbye. “We’re just getting started, you know,” he told me. “I’ll see you again.”

I am not a prophet, but Jesus Jato is. He could see the future. He saw mine.

I came back alright. In 2001 I finally walked the whole thing. I knew then I needed to change my life, become a part of this phenomenon.

I became a volunteer hospitalero in 2003, trained at an APOC/Canadian Company joint gathering in Toronto. I went back to the Camino time after time and served two-week stints at pilgrim shelters all over the caminos. I learned the caminos from the other side of the desk.

In 2006 I emigrated altogether. My husband and I bought an old farm in the middle of the camino, and opened the doors to pilgrims who need a place to stay – a little like mad old Jato, but on a much smaller and more private scale. In the years since I’ve written guides to alternative trails, trained new volunteers for the Spanish hospitalero voluntario program, wrote a training program now in use in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I wrote a camino novel, even.

We have been hosting pilgrims on the Camino for more than a decade now, and are as integrated into the Spanish pilgrimage infrastructure as two foreign hermits can be.


SO… Now that we have my past out of the way, We all can move forward.

Which requires a quick look at the Present.

Nowadays I am hospitality coordinator for the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago, a camino activist group founded two years ago by some of the latter-day camino founders, including Jesus Jato and George Greenia.

I oversee the volunteers at two pilgrim albergues still dedicated to donations-based accommodation. We do good, on a donation basis, because that’s our franchise. Free-will accommodation is a major part of what makes the Camino unique. We have an overwhelmingly international group of volunteers…

Every single year is a record-breaker on the camino de Santiago, pilgrim-numbers wise. More than 270,000 people walked the camino last year, people from 160 countries. They walk all the year around, right through December and January – months when we used to rarely see anyone on the Road. The makeup the of pilgrims has changed greatly too. There are just as many women walking as men. Spaniards are now only 47% of the pilgrims. It’s not just a European phenomenon, either: the numbers of Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Korean pilgrims have increased more than 200 percent since 2011. In the summertime we open the church in Moratinos, our little town on the Meseta. Last year we saw our first pilgrims from Burundi, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde. People who can afford to fly from around the world are not poor.

The number of Camino routes has increased greatly as old routes are rediscovered and new routes are invented. Ten years ago, the paint was just drying on the Camino Portuguese waymarkers – now it’s the second-most traveled trail to Santiago. Another interesting change is the drop in the number of cyclists on the Camino. In the 1990’s, 21 percent of pilgrims rode bikes. In 2015, only 10 percent did it that way.

On the Camino Frances alone, there are now more than 400 places for pilgrims to spend a night. There are 1,200 places to stop and eat. I am not a statistician, but I can blithely say the number of pilgrim-targeted businesses on the camino Frances has quadrupled in the ten years I have lived on the trail. The increasing number of pilgrims has attracted the attention of the marketers, the entrepreneurs, the Capitalists.

And hereby hangs a conflict.

I will try to give a nice, value-free, balanced view, but I will warn you going into this Future that I am an idealist, and a Christian. I am judgmental. I consider the Camino de Santiago a sacred place, a monument that merits our respect and preservation.

You can travel the Camino de Santiago without being a pilgrim. It’s a beautiful place with a bargain-priced infrastructure and 3G and a fun vibe. You might have a great time, but you won’t have the same deep experience as many of the people you see out the bus window. You might have to come back again. “Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s pilgrim,” after all.

But this is a pilgrimage trail. If you are not a pilgrim, you are not fully invested in this experience. You should not expect to be treated as a pilgrim.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival. The person who seriously wants a pilgrim experience will go as minimalist as he can. He’ll leave behind technology and comforts and distractions. He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years. He’ll depend on the kindness of others to provide him with a place to sleep, something to eat and drink, without presumption or entitlement. Pilgrims who take that kind of risk find themselves borne on a wave of providence. It’s a radical thing to do. It’s crazy, it’s scary. It’s kinda miraculous. And it still works.

This radical minimalism flies right into the face of our ingrained consumerism, and the travel industry -- the people who are selling a safe, clean, dreamy Camino. Check out any FaceBook Camino page. There you’ll see the hotel and transport and “adventure destination” marketers; the folks who say that “real pilgrims” buy this or wear that or stay at this place, who tell you this trail, soap, backpack, sock, scarf, diary, app, bandage, credential, or guidebook may lead to a blister-free, painless, Camino Nirvana.

We Americans eat it up. We are born and raised to get and spend. We are born Consumers. “Value for Money” is the prime objective, “convenience” is ours by birthright. We live by “the customer is always right,” as well as “I spent good money on this, and I expect a return on my investment…” In recent years entrepreneurs along the trail have jumped up to meet our demands for clean, charming, and predictable accommodation, offered at a price we well-funded Westerners are prepared to pay.

So…

We find the camino. We hear the call. We being born consumers, our first impulse is to Shop.

Second impulse? Find out everything possible in advance, read books and websites, and plot our course down to the last scripture verse and well-rated coffee bar.

We want it all, on our own terms.

We want an adventure, but we don’t like surprises.

We want all the enlightenment and excitement of a tough hike across a new land, but we want it safe, hygienic, and predictable, served with a smile at less than 20 Euros.

We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!

Comfortable consumer Capitalism, and the primal simplicity of the Camino, (and pilgrimage,) are deeply at odds with one another.

And this is why the Camino de Santiago, when we finally get it, blows our American minds.


We are consumers, walking into a world where Less is More.

Where everyone is just as good or important or respectable as everyone else on the trail.

Where uncertainty and risk and flexibility… and even sacrifice and suffering (O my!) are built-in parts of the experience, maybe even requirements for a truly successful outcome.

In my opinion, North Americans are perfect pilgrim material. We are full of demands, expectations, dreams and plans and fears and derring-do. We carry hundreds of dollars’ worth of new equipment, as well as other great burdens. We have a lot to lose, bringing our complicated selves to such a simple, demanding place.

And on the Camino we find out quickly that our Stuff won’t save us. It only makes us suffer.

We find a place to sleep, with or without reservations. We find out how little stuff we need to get by. We find that no one cares what our hair looks like. We find people who care for us, no matter how we look or feel or act or even smell.

We find places to stay where we’re not viewed as walking wallets, where we are treated as friends, made welcome, offered comfort and simple food and care by people who volunteer to come and do this work.

Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.

Remember that place that stands out in your mind, that albergue where you felt so welcome? Bring that back to your mind. Think about what it was that made it so special.

What made them stand out? Was it value for money? The number of power outlets? The swimming pool? The sparkling clean showers? The dinner, wine, laundry service? The massage?

Or was it the welcome? The hospitaleros?

These are small, often volunteer-run places. Often they are donativos, or they recently were.


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.

Pilgrims traveling without resources, the people who albergues were originally aimed-at, are now back to sleeping in the street, as the low-cost beds are now full of, well… who are these pilgrims?

The donativo ideal is almost dead on the Camino Frances. Beloved, old-school albergues like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Las Carbajales in Leon, and the Benedictinas in Sahagun all have given up on the donativo/volunteer model in the past few years, simply overwhelmed by the demand of something-for-nothing accommodation.

If pilgrim numbers continue to grow, or if they even level off at current levels, donativos will disappear, victims of high overhead costs, pilgrims who leave nothing in the box, as well as new provincial laws written to favor hoteliers. Plenty of people will continue to walk, but the Camino gold rush may really succeed in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Last summer, up at Foncebadon, I heard some handsome American pilgrims discussing that former ghost town brought back to life in the past 20 years.

“This place is great! We did this. It’s our pilgrim money that brought this here,” one of them said. “Someone ought to invest in some nice paving, signage, marketing. Some safety measures, maybe. Imagine what some decent branding could do up here.”

“Yeah, clean this place up and you could make some good money. This could be really cute.”

Yeah, just imagine. Scruffy Foncebadon, and Tosantos, and Calzadilla de los Hermanillos… scrubbed down and paved and Disney-fied and cute.

I almost went Full Prophet on those guys, but I contained myself. They are consumers. They obviously had not walked up that mountain. They don’t know anything different. Unfortunately, many of the people who want to plasticize the Camino are thinking the very same way. People who see beautiful, unique things as opportunities to make money… or even well-meaning people who see something scruffy or rural or strange and feel compelled to “improve” it.

FICS is dedicated to exploring and dealing with this phenomenon. We have our work cut out for us. We work hard and make lots of noise, but we don’t have a lot of illusions.

Eventually, large parts of the camino will be as Disney-fied as the final 100 kilometers from Sarria, and the overbuilding and paving and improvements will render the Camino accessible and do-able to anyone with money. Families who open spare rooms to pilgrims will be outlawed, minimum charges will be levied on all accommodations, and Compostela certificates will be issued by vending machines or print-your-own apps.

Once the Camino is fully commodified, numbers will peak even higher than we see now. People in search of easy grace and instant karma will flood in and have a whale of a time. Prices will rise, accommodations will become more private and luxurious as the low-cost/bunkhouse aesthetic is swept away in a flood of profit-making tourism. Groups like APOC will close down their hospitalero training programs, because hospitality will be turned over to the professionals. The crazy old prophets and healers will be distant memories – cardboard cutouts standing outside souvenir shops.

The camino as it is today is not sustainable. A corporate camino, with all its good-will hospitality stripped away, will be even less so. We will eliminate the ver simplicity that make the camino unique.

Maybe the great blow will come in a flash. Tourists are notoriously fickle and fearful. A single serious terror attack would strip out a good 50 percent of that year’s pilgrim numbers, and continue to affect the phenomenon for years after.

Maybe it will be a slow slide. Eventually, everyone who is anyone will have done the camino. It will fall out of fashion, and numbers will slowly drop off. Like Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” The expensive hotels will die first, and slowly the rest will fall away, too, over many years. The pavement will crumble. Trees will grow tall and drop their leaves on the path, year after year. What’s cool today will be history in just a few years. Our grandchildren will look at our pilgrimages, and maybe they’ll laugh a little at our silly trendy-ness, and wonder why we bothered fighting so hard for a nasty old footpath. The plastic camino will die, yet again the victim of changing times. I believe that within 70 years of today, the camino will go back to sleep.

But it will not die.

Farther, deeper into the future, a few people will read our old accounts, and feel the pull of that old road. A few of them will put on what passes for a pack in those future days. They’ll find a handy starting-place, and they’ll start walking.

Somewhere along the Way, a resident will meet the traveler, and invite him in for a glass of wine, or a meal. He’ll offer a bed in the spare room, or the barn. He won’t ask for money. The pilgrim won’t offer to pay. Once again, as through the ages, the pilgrimage will not be a transaction. It will be a work of grace.

The bartender will give the rain-soaked wanderer an extra cup of broth, because his grandma used to do that for pilgrims, back in the day. There won’t be a hundred other pilgrims pushing in the door, so he’ll be able to talk to the stranger, hear his story.

On Sunday morning, if he’s lucky, the pilgrim can follow the church bell into a parish church, and be welcomed as a special, lucky guest at the neighborhood Mass.

He’ll sleep wherever he can find a bed. He’ll probably pay, and probably be ripped-off now and then. He’ll sleep outdoors some times. He’ll be rained-on, sunburned, bed-bugged, and blistered. He will sing out loud, and laugh at his own jokes, and learn difficult truths about himself.

And eventually he will reach Santiago de Compostela, where the cathedral will, perhaps, award him with a Compostela certificate. Or maybe they’ll have gotten out of the souvenir business by then.

This is my prophecy:

The camino has survived all kinds of abuses over hundreds of years – plagues, wars, famines, Renaissances, Reformations, Fascists and Republics, even the Spanish Inquisition! It will survive Consumerism, too. We humans crucify the very thing that makes us most alive. It dies, and is buried. But on the third day, it rises again.

The Camino will survive us. The pilgrims will not stop walking, and the trail will not fail to rise up and welcome them, until we utterly destroy the Way. Or we destroy our selves.
A perfect remembrance of what the camino was, is and could be. I hope it is not a eulogy.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
#14
Perhaps the next post on finding a tour company, or the best albergue, will receive no responses...
An alternative falcon269 is perhaps to ask everyone joining the forum to read this post first, so then they can can put into context why some folks might sometimes sound snappy, and therefore understand that it is because they feel protective of something precious they see as under threat.
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#19
This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So.....
That was just beautiful Rebeka!

Such a beautiful and truth prophecy...It made my day!


I`ve been away from the forum since finishing my last camino back in nov/dec 16 (we actually met on the alto of mostelares where you guys were cleaning the paths for the season... It was such a joy to meet you all, even for that short period of time when we were trying to move away from the pilgrim wave).

Me being away from the Forum is directly related to several things mentioned in your post... Things I have seen in my past caminos, and how "everything is changing" form the way they were in the past. But... I`d like to think that maybe I`m just on one of those times were we need to "digest" the last camino before getting in touch with it again (Forum included).

Today I had my first real Camino Blues since coming back, and decided to scam through the forum and just read this post which I found amazing.

I really hope you are right and wrong at the same time...

I completely agree with you though... I think it would be very hard for anyone else to have said it better than you did about how things were, and to where things are going!

I feel a mix of sadness and happiness...

And I - as I always pray after my caminos - trully hope I will still be able to enjoy the Camino several more times whilst alive on this "life rotation"we are in...

Thanks for bringing me back to the Forum, and... to a place we all can never ever leave again, The Camino de Santiago.

Kudus on the amazing work you guys do...

Nothing but, a good camino to you;

Vagner from Brazil.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
2014 Pamplona to burgos
#21
Excellent summary hopefully overly pessimistic

Planning is the curse of the modern world
The best moments of the way are the unplanned ones
Hopefully the over prepared pilgrims will see this as they walk
But we have to remember that for some this is very much outside their comfort zone and that we should be understanding to their fears
I will be returning to the Camino after 3 years and hope I will still find those moments that made it special last time
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#22
Hola Rebekah - gee I would really have loved to have been in the audience to hear you deliver that paper "live" - not sure I would have stopped the tears. Whilst the Camino experience I will have in May this year will be the modern one, I can't help wondering what it would have been like to have walked the Frances in the 1980's. I get the feeling (wrong or right) that the Camino Frances is in danger of being "loved to death" (especially during Holy Years), which may go a long way to explain the new found popularity of the Portuguese and those on the Spanish Atlantic coast.

One small point (question) whilst the percentage of cyclists may have decreased I doubt the actual numbers would have halved. Hopefully I will see you and Paddy at Peaceable Kingdom for a catch-up and a coffee (sometime around 15 May).
Cheers for now.;)
(BTW _ I hope you do not mind but I am taking a copy of your speech so I can study it and really absorb your comments, opinions. )
o_OPS - I knew I would forget something - I heard your podcast interview with Dan Murray (from Oz) and it totally captivated me. But your speech above expands much of what you and Dan discussed!

Buen Camino
 
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Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#23
A great piece, thank you for sharing.

And as with all great writing it raises questions and doubts in the mind of the reader ;) I know you wrote mainly about Hospitality, but it naturally raises other thoughts too.

To me the Camino is a Pilgrimage. Not a walk. No doubt. It is a deeply spiritual and personal journey. But perhaps there are a number of 'legitimate' ways to undertake that journey, whilst still respecting the journey and the place?

The rampant commercialism and hordes of 'tourists' do detract from the experience. But I have to confess some guilt there too.

As a result of poor / excessive training, on my first Camino I started injured. After 18 months of waiting and planning I would not listen to medical advice and delay my journey. The calling was too strong. If I had to give up after one day, so be it. Others in far worse shape then I had made the journey. But as a result I couldn't carry the load of a full pack more than about 500 metres. So my heavier gear had to be transported.
Did I feel 'less' of a Pilgrim. Yes I did. Every day I hoped to get stronger so as to be able to carry my full load, but in fact the opposite happened. I just got slower and slower as my Physio had predicted.

But did it impact my 'Pilgrim experience'? I don't think so. It was deeply profound in so many ways. I opened myself totally to the experience and it gave back 10 fold.

Did I stay in Albergues? No. Partly because of medical reasons, but also because I was seeking a largely solitary experience. And also, because I could afford not to. Why would I take a 'cheap' bed from those who had more need of it than I?

I walk my 3rd Camino next year, with my wife. We have 12 months to get our medical challenges under control, as we both want to carry our loads all the way from St Jean. Will we stay in Albergues? Probably not. 1) we can afford not to and 2) with a combination of frequent trips to the bathroom and snoring I would prefer not to 'impose' us on others.

Will we respect the history, the spirit and the true purpose of the Camino? Absolutely! It's why we go.

To my mind at least, the true 'essence' of the Camino is how we the Pilgrims behave, and in the people one meets along the way. Fellow Pilgrims, Hosts and all those who support the Pilgrims along the way. Does it matter where we stay, or what we eat? I'm not sure it does. It matters more IMHO what we bring to the Camino and to our fellow Pilgrims, what is in our hearts, and what we learn from the experience.

Sadly, those who merely enjoy a long walk or who are seeking a cheap holiday with a 'difference' have also found the Camino. Inevitable to a degree. And when their numbers swell to such an extent that they dilute the experience of Pilgrims too much, then I suppose 'Pilgrims' will move to a less well travelled path, and repeat the process as required...

My first Camino was the Frances. And I love the Frances. Whilst I enjoy walking mostly alone I also love the interaction with other Pilgrims along the way. And due to our physical inability to walk long distances (more than about 20 km per day), the infrastructure suits us well.

So once the Frances fills up too much, where will we go next I wonder?

Some last thoughts.

On my first Camino in 2015, I was almost dreading the final 100 kms from Sarria. In fact I talked here about alternative routes. Along with many other 'dumb' questions that some of us ask before our first Camino.

Due to worsening injury, I was down to about 12 kms per day from Sarria. It almost seemed like punishment! I was being made to endure this crowded commercial stretch even more ! I honestly felt that God had more lessons for me to learn... He wasn't done yet.

So I was 'stuck' with it. I resolved to find good in each day and to learn from each day, and to talk to some of these new 'short walkers' every day.

Some of my most profound lessons and experiences came about through those final 100 kms. I learned time and time again not to judge or to jump to conclusions.

Like the day I met two ladies walking to meet their husbands who were with the 'backup car'. One of the husbands was blind along with other severe disabilities. He walked when he could, as far as he could. And then his brother would pick him up in the car. His wife had led him over the Pyrenees on their first day.......

Sorry, I have rambled on a bit Reb.

I loved your writing and totally support the sentiments.
And it got me thinking......as all good writing does :)

If next year on the Frances has already become too busy, we'll just have to jump to another Camino ;)
 
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Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
#24
Rebekah, I hope you will be proven wrong on the decaying part. But I agree on many points. But rest assured: This pilgrim will return, understand the meaning and concept of donativo, sit on a rock admiring the view, not rush, enjoy the now, share and not thinking too much budget, and say a prayer for all the insight many years on the Camino so generously has taught me. The Camino made me a better man (IMHO, but who am I to tell...). For that I am forever thankful.

And most likely I will show up another afternoon with a choriso in my mochilla (mostly) for the dogs, at your doorstep.:)
 
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xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
#25
Last August and September I walked the Camino Frances from SJPDP to Finisterre for the second time. I must admit is was an eye opener for me. On the first walk, I did not walk alone and therefore did not pay much attention to what other hikers were doing. On this last trip I was alone and talked to many , many, walkers. I found out that MOST people sleeping in the fields were not doing it to see the stars--they could NOT afford to stay in even the cheapest albergues. Bought some meals and bought some beds for these people but not for as many as I would liked to help.

When you sit down to a big supper after walking all day, give a thought to a beautiful young German woman I met, who was grateful that for three days she did not go hungry--she had found a Zucchini and a small bag of Chips that had been dropped by another pilgrim.

And for those who have heard my story of last year, I'm going to repeat it again with a better ending.

As I walked along a dirt path on the Camino , I saw a Shell lying in the leaves. Picking it up, I put it into my pocket. About an hour later I met a woman on the trail and after walking with her for an hour, I noticed she did not have a shell on her pack. I asked her why and she replied," I have a friend who is a mystic. She told me to not buy a shell as a man who will be important in my life will give me a shell."

Pulled my extra shell from my pocket and gave it to her. Walked all of the way to the End of the Earth with her.

Sometime around April 20th, 2017 , We will return to the End of The Earth and while there I intend to ask her to marry me.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#26
Excellent summary hopefully overly pessimistic

Planning is the curse of the modern world
The best moments of the way are the unplanned ones
Hopefully the over prepared pilgrims will see this as they walk
But we have to remember that for some this is very much outside their comfort zone and that we should be understanding to their fears
I will be returning to the Camino after 3 years and hope I will still find those moments that made it special last time
One of the hardest aspects of the Camino, is explaining it to others who have never walked it.
What it is. And what it isn't.

It needs to be experienced to be truly understood.
And yet I am sure many walk the Camino, and still don't 'get' it........ They merely enjoyed a long hike.

Whilst 'post Camino' members here are genuinely very helpful with new members questions, perhaps we add fuel to the fire by prolonging discussions over gear, where to stay and what to see :oops:
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#27
I got no beef with Camino's logistics.
I kinda like being able to get a hot shower, clean (actual) bed/bunk, hot meal and cold beer everyday while walking the Camino. I have no desire to suffer. Live austerely. Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Not looking to do it on holiday. Yup folks. Walking the Camino is a holiday. You sure as hell ain't working. If you ain't working you are either retired or on holiday.
I have no desire to depend upon the kindness of strangers for a free meal. A free place to stay. I got my own money. I like to spend it. I don't need charity and I don't want it. I won't play the role of a beggar in an attempt to create a nostalgic environment. Now I'm not talking about hospitality. I have fond memories of that on the Camino. The older woman who came out her house in a small village and gave me a bag of grapes. The time I walked a short day. Was the first one at the albergue. The hospitalero saw me waiting outside and gave me a cold beer. That's just to name a couple.
So who am I to judge the locals in Spain who have benefited economically from the growth of popularity of the Camino? How many of them are now able to retire more comfortably? Send children to the university? Buy a bigger home? Take care of relatives? Go on holiday?
It's easy to say someone else should keep eating bread and water whilst you are dining on champagne and caviar.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#28
Nice post Mark and some good points. But I'm not sure I fully agree with "Yup folks. Walking the Camino is a holiday. You sure as hell ain't working. If you ain't working you are either retired or on holiday" ;)

Now we'll have a big debate about what a Holiday is LOL. I have a similar background to you. Decades of communal and 'hard' living. I have no desire to try to 'recreate' that for whatever purpose. It somehow doesn't seem honest to do so.

What was the line in 'that' movie. "Do we honour the Poor by imitating them"?

Surely we honour the Camino and past Pilgrims by setting out with the right intentions, behaving in an appropriate manner, respecting those around us, and being willing to learn and grow from the experience?

Oh, back to your point Mark. A 'holiday' to me is sitting on a beach, sightseeing, doing a tour......whatever.

For me at least, the Camino is not a Holiday in the true sense. I'm not retired, I still work, and I take holidays. But I also spend time on other things. Lots of other things. Things that stretch me, challenge me, and help me learn to be a better person, or to be more content with my life. Like charity work.

But top of 'those' things, is walking a Camino ;)
 
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MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
August 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
July 2019: Cammino di Assisi (La Verna to Assisi)
#29
We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!
uh oh. I'm kind of maybe just a little bit guilty here ...
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#30
Nice post Mark and some good points. But I'm not sure I fully agree with "Yup folks. Walking the Camino is a holiday. You sure as hell ain't working. If you ain't working you are either retired or on holiday" ;)

Now we'll have a big debate about what a Holiday is LOL. I have a similar background to you. Decades of communal and 'hard' living. I have no desire to try to 'recreate' that for whatever purpose. It somehow doesn't seem honest to do so.

What was the line in 'that' movie. "Do we honour the Poor by imitating them"?

Surely we honour the Camino and past Pilgrims by setting out with the right intentions, behaving in an appropriate manner, respecting those around us, and being willing to learn and grow from the experience?

Oh, back to your point Mark. A 'holiday' to me is sitting on a beach, sightseeing, doing a tour......whatever.

For me at least, the Camino is not a Holiday in the true sense. I'm not retired, I still work, and I take holidays. But I also spend time on other things. Lots of other things. Things that stretch me, challenge me, and help me learn to be a better person, or to be more content with my life. Like charity work.

But top of 'those' things, is walking a Camino ;)
Well, where I am from when you take some time off from work and go and do something, anything, you are on holiday or vacation. No way could I ever say with a straight face to anyone I know that I jetsetted off to Spain. Roamed around. Did a walkabout. Saw beautiful, centuries old cathedrals and other historical buildings. Met all kinds of cool people. Drank wine. Ate tapas. Saw Pamplona, etc etc etc........tell them all that, and finish with, "but I wasn't on holiday, mind you". ha ha :D
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#32
Well, where I am from when you take some time off from work and go and do something, anything, you are on holiday or vacation. No way could I ever say with a straight face to anyone I know that I jetsetted off to Spain. Roamed around. Did a walkabout. Saw beautiful, centuries old cathedrals and other historical buildings. Met all kinds of cool people. Drank wine. Ate tapas. Saw Pamplona, etc etc etc........tell them all that, and finish with, "but I wasn't on holiday, mind you". ha ha :D
I would suggest Mark, that you were indeed on Holiday ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#33
Rebekah, I hope you got a long standing ovation for that, because you sure deserve it.
The words, the message--both are perfect. There isn't a 'like' button here that's big enough.
So thank you--we wring our hands over what we see now, but there is the bigger picture.

As long as people are people, there will be some who seek depth and wisdom. It won't be the majority, and it's not easily found. And that yearning doesn't vanish, even if the means to fulfill it seem to disappear.
Meanwhile, we can be sure that regardless of why people come to the Camino, whether it be for fashion, or work, or for a cheap holiday, or to race, or...for whatever other reasons anyone cares to invent...we can be sure that some of those who come to the Camino with a 'shallow' intention will emerge deeply and profoundly touched.
Look at Rebekah.
That is what the Camino provides. And it always will, as long as it survives. Scratch the commercial surface and it's right there, even today.

(And no, @Mark Lee, for me walking the Camino is not a holiday. It's out of the dualistic box of work versus not work...something else altogether that is not easily explained so I won't even try.)

Just a footnote...
It ruffled a few feathers
Oh? It would be interesting to hear more...why people's knickers got in a twist, for example.
Do some people actually believe a commercial model of the Camino is sustainable? Or are they simply stuck in the illusion that it is not really changing, not really becoming more commercial? Or that that's actually OK?

And edit...I second SEB's motion (below). Seriously. I'm not kidding. Reb's post explains so much that cannot be easily explained.
An alternative falcon269 is perhaps to ask everyone joining the forum to read this post first, so then they can can put into context why some folks might sometimes sound snappy, and therefore understand that it is because they feel protective of something precious they see as under threat.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
There are many different Pilgrim Routes and Caminos in life.
#35
The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott
I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.
You are excellent in the way you capture and uphold peoples attention. Loved the way you write and the essence of the contets.
I heard the clear bell ring in your voice as I read that.
...and so did I. So clearly that if I one day get to meet @Rebekah Scott I wouldn´t be surprised if she really talks with that exact voice I could hear in my mind.
Thank you. Make it a sticky.
You are spot on, sometimes a simple thanks goes a long way, but in this case.. Thank you @Rebekah Scott! Make it sticky.
 
Camino(s) past & future
St.Jean-Santiago (2017)
#36
Rebekah's presentation was prepared for presentation to the "weathered veterans" of the American Pilgrims on the Camino organization. Having not yet set foot in Spain, I can't pretend to bring such insights into this discussion. Even so, parts of Rebekah's speech did resonate with me, both positively and negatively.

I particularly liked her historical perspective of how the essence of the Camino has survived far more catastrophic events than recent commercialism. I agree that the Camino is likely approaching a local maximum in activity. It will likely continue to wax and wane in cycles of enthusiastic social embrace and self recovery. Hopefully before Rebekah's most dire predictions materialize.

It took awhile but the negative vibes I intuited from the presentation stirred memories of notes I'd written several years ago about the book "Off the Road" by Jack Hitt

The specific passages that I captured were:

"...All of us participate in these groupings in some way or another. And in these maneuverings and jostlings, one can feel a kind of low-grade panic. We are trying to assert an approach to the road or an interpretation of it that is in some sense bigger than ourselves....

...The rest of us are anxious. Madame Debril’s words haunt everyone, even those who may not have encountered her. Are you a true pilgrim? This frantic effort to make the road into something else, either through history or tradition or endurance or mere enthusiasm, is tangible. It is a kind of competition.

---- Hitt, Jack (2005-02-22). Off the Road (pp. 144-145). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


Some of Rebekah's words and many of the comments afterward begin to sound a bit like the anxiousness that Jack observed.

Am I a true pilgrim? Should I be required to study the sacred scriptures of those that have gone before me prior to participating in the community, virtual or otherwise? What's next, a pilgrim's oath?

I hope that our reaction to the changes we see don't drive us towards generalizing, categorizing, and re-educating the various pilgrim's, hospitaleros, citizens, farmers, city dwellers, and all the rest of humanity we meet along the way about the true.

I don't really think this was the intent behind Rebekah's presentation. More, it serves to open our eyes to the changes and some of many potential futures for the Camino. In the end, the Camino rules the Camino, and it will be around long after we have all passed from this earthly realm.

Thank you Rebekah.

=jgp
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#37
Should I be required to study the sacred scriptures of those that have gone before me prior to participating in the community, virtual or otherwise? What's next, a pilgrim's oath?
@jgpryde, my goodness, I hope not.
If you do a search, you'll find many (too many!) threads about the 'Real pilgrim' topic. We've beaten that dead horse over and over, but the controversy never fails to start anew--it's a place with strongly held views and opinions, on booth sides. So I don't intend to bring it to life again here.

I simply want share my experience, by way of reassurance, that I have never ever felt judged on the Camino as somehow 'less than' because I'm not Catholic, or because I do not know the scriptures up one side and down the other. And I'm a Buddhist nun, so I'm seriously not Catholic. So you can rest easy about that.

What I have felt is an almost tangible sense of connection with the millions who have walked before, 1000 years since until now. We have all put aside who we are, our constructed social identities, and simply walked, just as 'peregrina' or 'peregrino.' There is a powerful sense of community in that, one that transcends belief or faith or dogma.

It's my experience that people who are at ease in themselves have no inner turmoil about this--the question as to whether they are "real pilgrims" or not never even crosses their minds. But if there is any existential unease, or a habitual need to fit in, or discomfort with conformity, or social neurosis...well, then it will all come up to be seen and dealt with. This is one of the great gifts of the way.
Wishing you a very buen camino--may the way offer it's gifts to you in abundance.
 

SYates

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

Now: http://egeria.house/
#40
The mods already stickied it for you ;-) Now it stays always on the top of this board! BC SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#42
Excellent essay Rebekah. truly captures.
Only thing that jarred for me was your description of yourself as "a Christian" and, right next to that "I am judgmental." - I don't see how the two can to together.

Mark Lee - the Camino as pilgrimage is old, you know that; the old rendering and meaning of Holiday was Holy Day .... there is an aspect of Camino that is nothing to do with a cool beer walking holiday - Buen Camino ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
#43
The key to the Camino is that everyone does it their own way. There is no judgement implied that mine is better than yours. There may be a bit too much judgement in her remarks (both well spoken and insightful).

I have two simple assumptions:

1) Everyone's Camino is good as long as the next assumption isn't violated.
2) My Camino cannot overly intrude on others who I encounter or those that come after.

What I do see is that in everyone's zest for their Camino, some will also try to twist everyone else's reality to theirs. It's the ultimate ego action. Whether you stay in a hotel or auberge and how much money you spend is less important than whether or not you're loud, obnoxious, disrespectful of nature or your fellow travelers, or just a plain fool who litters along the way.

Today's technological world is good and has saved me from getting lost a few times. But to suggest to someone I'm walking with that they should use it because I use it violates the nature of the Camino. The journey is spiritual but spiritual, eclectic, and austere are different dimensions of everyone's journey. I view the options on the Camino like all the information channels you now have at your disposal. You can look at them all, use only a few, and believe even fewer.

As a good example, I was using my iPhone to figure out where the heck I was and how long I would have to walk with some starting blisters when a pilgrim came by walking on bare feet. Far more austere than I would consider smart. But my reaction was not to critique his lack of sense (in my egotistical view) but to respect him for trying and to think about what he must be feeling. That twist of the Camino being able to get you to imagine from other's viewpoints is the magic that I think will always be there.

In my view, the Camino is not whether you use or not use any specific tool, room, food group, social interaction, viewpoint, opinion, or bias, but it does put into perspective your use of all of these items, shows their context within the simplicity of putting one foot in front of another, and hopefully alters your perspective to one of more tolerance and respectful use.

If indeed, as the author fears, we end up with the Camino being a Disney ride that is quickly forgotten other than a "been there done that", the fault is within us all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#44
Only thing that jarred for me was your description of yourself as "a Christian" and, right next to that "I am judgmental." - I don't see how the two can to together.
I can't speak for Reb, David, but I can speak for me. Because I'm Buddhist and judgemental. Those don't go together either.
But when I say that, I don't mean as an identity or as a blanket statement about how I am all the time. Sometimes judgement arises. I can't pretend otherwise--that would be a lie. It's a habit. Hopefully I have enough presence of mind and kindness not to feed it or let it out--but believe me, it can arise. So can greed, envy, fear, schadenfreude and any number of other unwholesome but 'juicy' mindstates.
So it will be until my path is finished and there are no bad habits left to purify. But for now I'm very human and it's work in progres. And if I can't be honest with myself and others about what can come up there's no hope in you-know-where of doing that inner work.
 

TaijiPilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2011), Camino Frances (2015), Camino Ingles (2017), Camino Muxia (2017)
#45
This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So,


We stand here together in the present, at a crossroads.

We all have come here from a vast and varied place called the Past, a country that for most of us included at least one long, hard voyage along the Camino de Santiago.

Most of us are weathered veterans. Out there you walked until you were ready to drop. When you needed it most, you found a place with a bed and maybe a beer and maybe a smiling face: a welcome. A Camino Welcome. Stop there. Look around at the place your mind has chosen to illustrate “Camino Hospitality.” Where are you? Your subconscious chose this particular place, of all the many places you stopped and stayed along the Way. So set down a marker here.

Continue on with me.

Into the here and now. We are gathered here today in Atlanta, far away from the physical Camino, but immersed in a virtual Way that’s made up of people much like us.

From our comfortable chairs we look today into an entirely new country, an unexplored territory, wild and woolly and probably scary. We’re looking at The Future.

My name is Rebekah Scott, an American pilgrim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My Camino Past goes back to 1993, when I first stepped onto the Camino de Santiago. I went there as a travel journalist, an honored guest of the Tourist Office of Spain – it was a marketing ploy on their part. They wanted our articles in North American newspapers and magazines to lure well-heeled tourists to this “adventure destination.” There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the Camino in those days, hospitality and accommodation-wise. We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.

When I think of that first taste of the Camino, and I think of hospitality, I think of a stranger who stepped out onto the road as we passed through a little Leonese village. He greeted us, offered us a glass of his home-made wine. There was no price tag. He did it just because.

I met Jesus Jato, a mad man with a ramshackle albergue growing up inside his burned-out greenhouse in Villafranca de Bierzo. He needed a haircut. My coffee mug was unwashed. The showers were garden hoses stapled to the wall, with cold water only. The place was more like a refugee camp than an albergue, but the hollow-eyed young Spanish pilgrims bunking there did not complain. This was a pilgrimage, they told me. It was all about roughing it, doing without, crucifying the flesh.

I stayed and talked – as much as I could – to the pilgrims and Jato and Jato’s wife. I took tons of notes, and photos. They invited me to stay for dinner – lentils and bread, wine and cheese. There were six of us there that night. When I asked what I owed, Jato pointed at the donation box. “Whatever you want to pay,” he said.

I said goodbye. “We’re just getting started, you know,” he told me. “I’ll see you again.”

I am not a prophet, but Jesus Jato is. He could see the future. He saw mine.

I came back alright. In 2001 I finally walked the whole thing. I knew then I needed to change my life, become a part of this phenomenon.

I became a volunteer hospitalero in 2003, trained at an APOC/Canadian Company joint gathering in Toronto. I went back to the Camino time after time and served two-week stints at pilgrim shelters all over the caminos. I learned the caminos from the other side of the desk.

In 2006 I emigrated altogether. My husband and I bought an old farm in the middle of the camino, and opened the doors to pilgrims who need a place to stay – a little like mad old Jato, but on a much smaller and more private scale. In the years since I’ve written guides to alternative trails, trained new volunteers for the Spanish hospitalero voluntario program, wrote a training program now in use in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I wrote a camino novel, even.

We have been hosting pilgrims on the Camino for more than a decade now, and are as integrated into the Spanish pilgrimage infrastructure as two foreign hermits can be.


SO… Now that we have my past out of the way, We all can move forward.

Which requires a quick look at the Present.

Nowadays I am hospitality coordinator for the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago, a camino activist group founded two years ago by some of the latter-day camino founders, including Jesus Jato and George Greenia.

I oversee the volunteers at two pilgrim albergues still dedicated to donations-based accommodation. We do good, on a donation basis, because that’s our franchise. Free-will accommodation is a major part of what makes the Camino unique. We have an overwhelmingly international group of volunteers…

Every single year is a record-breaker on the camino de Santiago, pilgrim-numbers wise. More than 270,000 people walked the camino last year, people from 160 countries. They walk all the year around, right through December and January – months when we used to rarely see anyone on the Road. The makeup the of pilgrims has changed greatly too. There are just as many women walking as men. Spaniards are now only 47% of the pilgrims. It’s not just a European phenomenon, either: the numbers of Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Korean pilgrims have increased more than 200 percent since 2011. In the summertime we open the church in Moratinos, our little town on the Meseta. Last year we saw our first pilgrims from Burundi, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde. People who can afford to fly from around the world are not poor.

The number of Camino routes has increased greatly as old routes are rediscovered and new routes are invented. Ten years ago, the paint was just drying on the Camino Portuguese waymarkers – now it’s the second-most traveled trail to Santiago. Another interesting change is the drop in the number of cyclists on the Camino. In the 1990’s, 21 percent of pilgrims rode bikes. In 2015, only 10 percent did it that way.

On the Camino Frances alone, there are now more than 400 places for pilgrims to spend a night. There are 1,200 places to stop and eat. I am not a statistician, but I can blithely say the number of pilgrim-targeted businesses on the camino Frances has quadrupled in the ten years I have lived on the trail. The increasing number of pilgrims has attracted the attention of the marketers, the entrepreneurs, the Capitalists.

And hereby hangs a conflict.

I will try to give a nice, value-free, balanced view, but I will warn you going into this Future that I am an idealist, and a Christian. I am judgmental. I consider the Camino de Santiago a sacred place, a monument that merits our respect and preservation.

You can travel the Camino de Santiago without being a pilgrim. It’s a beautiful place with a bargain-priced infrastructure and 3G and a fun vibe. You might have a great time, but you won’t have the same deep experience as many of the people you see out the bus window. You might have to come back again. “Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s pilgrim,” after all.

But this is a pilgrimage trail. If you are not a pilgrim, you are not fully invested in this experience. You should not expect to be treated as a pilgrim.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival. The person who seriously wants a pilgrim experience will go as minimalist as he can. He’ll leave behind technology and comforts and distractions. He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years. He’ll depend on the kindness of others to provide him with a place to sleep, something to eat and drink, without presumption or entitlement. Pilgrims who take that kind of risk find themselves borne on a wave of providence. It’s a radical thing to do. It’s crazy, it’s scary. It’s kinda miraculous. And it still works.

This radical minimalism flies right into the face of our ingrained consumerism, and the travel industry -- the people who are selling a safe, clean, dreamy Camino. Check out any FaceBook Camino page. There you’ll see the hotel and transport and “adventure destination” marketers; the folks who say that “real pilgrims” buy this or wear that or stay at this place, who tell you this trail, soap, backpack, sock, scarf, diary, app, bandage, credential, or guidebook may lead to a blister-free, painless, Camino Nirvana.

We Americans eat it up. We are born and raised to get and spend. We are born Consumers. “Value for Money” is the prime objective, “convenience” is ours by birthright. We live by “the customer is always right,” as well as “I spent good money on this, and I expect a return on my investment…” In recent years entrepreneurs along the trail have jumped up to meet our demands for clean, charming, and predictable accommodation, offered at a price we well-funded Westerners are prepared to pay.

So…

We find the camino. We hear the call. We being born consumers, our first impulse is to Shop.

Second impulse? Find out everything possible in advance, read books and websites, and plot our course down to the last scripture verse and well-rated coffee bar.

We want it all, on our own terms.

We want an adventure, but we don’t like surprises.

We want all the enlightenment and excitement of a tough hike across a new land, but we want it safe, hygienic, and predictable, served with a smile at less than 20 Euros.

We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!

Comfortable consumer Capitalism, and the primal simplicity of the Camino, (and pilgrimage,) are deeply at odds with one another.

And this is why the Camino de Santiago, when we finally get it, blows our American minds.


We are consumers, walking into a world where Less is More.

Where everyone is just as good or important or respectable as everyone else on the trail.

Where uncertainty and risk and flexibility… and even sacrifice and suffering (O my!) are built-in parts of the experience, maybe even requirements for a truly successful outcome.

In my opinion, North Americans are perfect pilgrim material. We are full of demands, expectations, dreams and plans and fears and derring-do. We carry hundreds of dollars’ worth of new equipment, as well as other great burdens. We have a lot to lose, bringing our complicated selves to such a simple, demanding place.

And on the Camino we find out quickly that our Stuff won’t save us. It only makes us suffer.

We find a place to sleep, with or without reservations. We find out how little stuff we need to get by. We find that no one cares what our hair looks like. We find people who care for us, no matter how we look or feel or act or even smell.

We find places to stay where we’re not viewed as walking wallets, where we are treated as friends, made welcome, offered comfort and simple food and care by people who volunteer to come and do this work.

Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.

Remember that place that stands out in your mind, that albergue where you felt so welcome? Bring that back to your mind. Think about what it was that made it so special.

What made them stand out? Was it value for money? The number of power outlets? The swimming pool? The sparkling clean showers? The dinner, wine, laundry service? The massage?

Or was it the welcome? The hospitaleros?

These are small, often volunteer-run places. Often they are donativos, or they recently were.


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.

Pilgrims traveling without resources, the people who albergues were originally aimed-at, are now back to sleeping in the street, as the low-cost beds are now full of, well… who are these pilgrims?

The donativo ideal is almost dead on the Camino Frances. Beloved, old-school albergues like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Las Carbajales in Leon, and the Benedictinas in Sahagun all have given up on the donativo/volunteer model in the past few years, simply overwhelmed by the demand of something-for-nothing accommodation.

If pilgrim numbers continue to grow, or if they even level off at current levels, donativos will disappear, victims of high overhead costs, pilgrims who leave nothing in the box, as well as new provincial laws written to favor hoteliers. Plenty of people will continue to walk, but the Camino gold rush may really succeed in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Last summer, up at Foncebadon, I heard some handsome American pilgrims discussing that former ghost town brought back to life in the past 20 years.

“This place is great! We did this. It’s our pilgrim money that brought this here,” one of them said. “Someone ought to invest in some nice paving, signage, marketing. Some safety measures, maybe. Imagine what some decent branding could do up here.”

“Yeah, clean this place up and you could make some good money. This could be really cute.”

Yeah, just imagine. Scruffy Foncebadon, and Tosantos, and Calzadilla de los Hermanillos… scrubbed down and paved and Disney-fied and cute.

I almost went Full Prophet on those guys, but I contained myself. They are consumers. They obviously had not walked up that mountain. They don’t know anything different. Unfortunately, many of the people who want to plasticize the Camino are thinking the very same way. People who see beautiful, unique things as opportunities to make money… or even well-meaning people who see something scruffy or rural or strange and feel compelled to “improve” it.

FICS is dedicated to exploring and dealing with this phenomenon. We have our work cut out for us. We work hard and make lots of noise, but we don’t have a lot of illusions.

Eventually, large parts of the camino will be as Disney-fied as the final 100 kilometers from Sarria, and the overbuilding and paving and improvements will render the Camino accessible and do-able to anyone with money. Families who open spare rooms to pilgrims will be outlawed, minimum charges will be levied on all accommodations, and Compostela certificates will be issued by vending machines or print-your-own apps.

Once the Camino is fully commodified, numbers will peak even higher than we see now. People in search of easy grace and instant karma will flood in and have a whale of a time. Prices will rise, accommodations will become more private and luxurious as the low-cost/bunkhouse aesthetic is swept away in a flood of profit-making tourism. Groups like APOC will close down their hospitalero training programs, because hospitality will be turned over to the professionals. The crazy old prophets and healers will be distant memories – cardboard cutouts standing outside souvenir shops.

The camino as it is today is not sustainable. A corporate camino, with all its good-will hospitality stripped away, will be even less so. We will eliminate the ver simplicity that make the camino unique.

Maybe the great blow will come in a flash. Tourists are notoriously fickle and fearful. A single serious terror attack would strip out a good 50 percent of that year’s pilgrim numbers, and continue to affect the phenomenon for years after.

Maybe it will be a slow slide. Eventually, everyone who is anyone will have done the camino. It will fall out of fashion, and numbers will slowly drop off. Like Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” The expensive hotels will die first, and slowly the rest will fall away, too, over many years. The pavement will crumble. Trees will grow tall and drop their leaves on the path, year after year. What’s cool today will be history in just a few years. Our grandchildren will look at our pilgrimages, and maybe they’ll laugh a little at our silly trendy-ness, and wonder why we bothered fighting so hard for a nasty old footpath. The plastic camino will die, yet again the victim of changing times. I believe that within 70 years of today, the camino will go back to sleep.

But it will not die.

Farther, deeper into the future, a few people will read our old accounts, and feel the pull of that old road. A few of them will put on what passes for a pack in those future days. They’ll find a handy starting-place, and they’ll start walking.

Somewhere along the Way, a resident will meet the traveler, and invite him in for a glass of wine, or a meal. He’ll offer a bed in the spare room, or the barn. He won’t ask for money. The pilgrim won’t offer to pay. Once again, as through the ages, the pilgrimage will not be a transaction. It will be a work of grace.

The bartender will give the rain-soaked wanderer an extra cup of broth, because his grandma used to do that for pilgrims, back in the day. There won’t be a hundred other pilgrims pushing in the door, so he’ll be able to talk to the stranger, hear his story.

On Sunday morning, if he’s lucky, the pilgrim can follow the church bell into a parish church, and be welcomed as a special, lucky guest at the neighborhood Mass.

He’ll sleep wherever he can find a bed. He’ll probably pay, and probably be ripped-off now and then. He’ll sleep outdoors some times. He’ll be rained-on, sunburned, bed-bugged, and blistered. He will sing out loud, and laugh at his own jokes, and learn difficult truths about himself.

And eventually he will reach Santiago de Compostela, where the cathedral will, perhaps, award him with a Compostela certificate. Or maybe they’ll have gotten out of the souvenir business by then.

This is my prophecy:

The camino has survived all kinds of abuses over hundreds of years – plagues, wars, famines, Renaissances, Reformations, Fascists and Republics, even the Spanish Inquisition! It will survive Consumerism, too. We humans crucify the very thing that makes us most alive. It dies, and is buried. But on the third day, it rises again.

The Camino will survive us. The pilgrims will not stop walking, and the trail will not fail to rise up and welcome them, until we utterly destroy the Way. Or we destroy our selves.
Rebekah, I read your incisive speech on another forum, and I am glad you posted it here so I could personally thank you for the historical perspective and the articulation of some of my own feelings and concerns. You often provoke thought by telling it as you see it, and that is what a forum is meant to do. Thank you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
#46
The key to the Camino is that everyone does it their own way.

That twist of the Camino being able to get you to imagine from other's viewpoints is the magic that I think will always be there.

In my view, the Camino ... within the simplicity of putting one foot in front of another, and hopefully alters your perspective to one of more tolerance and respectful use.
If indeed, as the author fears, we end up with the Camino being a Disney ride that is quickly forgotten other than a "been there done that", the fault is within us all.
John Sikora,

Thank you for your post John, but may I suggest rephrasing that first sentence to 'everyone walks with respect and consideration for others.' then I can agree with most of what you say.


For me there is no judgement in Rebekah's post, she is just telling it as she sees it. She lives on the Camino, she has witnessed the changes, she is simply the messenger - and a very eloquent one at that - of a message that some don't want to hear because it touches on personal responsibilities, but your last words chime with what she is saying.
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#47
One thing I noticed every time I walked the Camino while on holiday, is that I saw almost none of what I would call the faithful poor. To whom walking the Camino entails considerable sacrifice, mainly in finances and time. Time that could be spent earning more, much needed money. Honestly, the faithful poor these days don't have the time to play pilgrim. Sew a silly patch on a pack, dangle a shell from it. Whoo hoo! Instant peregrino.
What I did see is mostly people like me. Financially secure with enough disposable income to afford getting to Spain, and taking a long walk. The time and greenbacks to do it. To spend lots of money on equipment. Lodging. Meals.
Honestly, nobody in that category truly faces hardship walking the Camino. Nothing is a true hardship as long as there is an egress point from it you can use whenever you want, and instantly go back to a comfort zone, a safe place.
and like I stated earlier, to be critical of local Spanish for taking advantage of the situation is to be too insulated in a bubble. Unrealistic and egocentric. "How dare they with their chance at a better life financially, ruin my roaming about thinking deep thoughts and staring at sunrises, trying to yank out my inner self".....
There also seems to be a bit of an elitist air to some of the comments. Someone's reasons for walking the Camino is more important, or more what they consider sincere than someone else's. Like they are the important minority of pilgrims. The wheat and the rest are chaff.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
#48
Mark Lee you write that 'Nothing is a true hardship as long as there is an egress point from it you can use whenever you want, and instantly go back to a comfort zone, a safe place.' That may be correct if limited to strictly material considerations, but for some who walk the Camino, the elimination of that comfort zone, whether through bereavement or illness, is the very reason they are prompted, 'called', however you want to term it, to make the pilgrimage. Returning to that 'safe place' is not an option, what is done is done so the journey is made in a state of emotional rawness, and spiritual trust and acceptance, which is no bad state to be in when walking to the tomb of St James.

There is a saying that making reference to one's self is only ever acceptable if it is used as an example, so I hope it is acceptable to members of the forum to share the following. A year after walking the CF and two years after the death of my partner, a friend was saying how well I had coped with his loss and that if he had been alive then I wouldn't have had the experience of walking the Camino. I cannot overstate the positive impact of being able to make that journey, but his death was the reason I walked, not an opportunity to expand my horizons, and of course I would have preferred to have him healed, alive and at home rather than to go on any pilgrimage.
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#49
A matter of intention, state of mind perhaps.

"Two men stared out of prison bars,
One saw mud,
The other stars."
yeah, yeah...
the old bit of "is a glass of water half full, or half empty?" Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, etc etc etc.
There's a million cliche's for the same thing, huh? ;)
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
#50
Thanks Reb. The 'disneyfication' is another reason IMHO for not extending the km requirement as it would just extend the 'disneyfication' further back. Sad, but I fear probably true.
The Camino, gracias a Dios, has survived the centuries with ups and downs, pilgrim surges and downswings. We maybe are just so much more aware because of social media etc but I believe that the Camino will survive us as it has in the past. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#51
There also seems to be a bit of an elitist air to some of the comments. Someone's reasons for walking the Camino is more important, or more what they consider sincere than someone else's. Like they are the important minority of pilgrims. The wheat and the rest are chaff.
Maybe. But wheat and chaff have less to do with motive than sincerity and honesty. Anyway, whether someone's on holiday, or not, who knows what's really going on in their life and what brings them to the journey? I don't honestly think anyone who sincerely walks this path escapes form the Camino without deep inner gifts, whether they intend to receive them when they start or not.

And I so appreciate what @SEB so beautifully said: some of us might seem to have a safe place to go back to, but there's no way to tell, really. The bottom line is that life has the capacity to drop us off the deep end into a place where there is no easy retreat to comfort and ease, and the only way out is through. Walking the Camino makes that possible.
 

JRO

Member
Camino(s) past & future
santiago to muxia
#52
"Thank you" isn't really enough to convey my appreciation to you for this beautiful (yes, but not enough), prophetic (yes, that you are), and truthful/painful (ok this is closer...) view of the beloved Camino (all of them). It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me mad, but in the end it made me take a deep breath and realize that indeed the Camino is eternal. But not the signs, the refugios, the markers, the beds or lack thereof....THEY aren't necessarily eternal and change, disappear, are re-created all the time. The part of the Camino pilgrimage that IS eternal goes back farther than any of us. It is summed up in the line "Love one another, as I have loved you."
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
#53
I can only say "AMEN!" to all the kudos. The only thing better would have been to see your presentation in person. Gotta get to that gathering sometime.
Ultreia!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#54
One thing I noticed every time I walked the Camino while on holiday, is that I saw almost none of what I would call the faithful poor. To whom walking the Camino entails considerable sacrifice, mainly in finances and time. Time that could be spent earning more, much needed money. Honestly, the faithful poor these days don't have the time to play pilgrim. Sew a silly patch on a pack, dangle a shell from it. Whoo hoo! Instant peregrino.
What I did see is mostly people like me. Financially secure with enough disposable income to afford getting to Spain, and taking a long walk. The time and greenbacks to do it. To spend lots of money on equipment. Lodging. Meals.
Honestly, nobody in that category truly faces hardship walking the Camino. Nothing is a true hardship as long as there is an egress point from it you can use whenever you want, and instantly go back to a comfort zone, a safe place.
and like I stated earlier, to be critical of local Spanish for taking advantage of the situation is to be too insulated in a bubble. Unrealistic and egocentric. "How dare they with their chance at a better life financially, ruin my roaming about thinking deep thoughts and staring at sunrises, trying to yank out my inner self".....
There also seems to be a bit of an elitist air to some of the comments. Someone's reasons for walking the Camino is more important, or more what they consider sincere than someone else's. Like they are the important minority of pilgrims. The wheat and the rest are chaff.
Great post!!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
#55
I don't know how to make stickies. I am not sure just what they are. Admins?
Yes, my post was meant for some admin to pick up and take action. It's worth it, IMHO.
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from St. Jean to Santiago (2012)
Camino Portuguese Porto-Santiago (2017)
#56
Well, where I am from when you take some time off from work and go and do something, anything, you are on holiday or vacation. No way could I ever say with a straight face to anyone I know that I jetsetted off to Spain. Roamed around. Did a walkabout. Saw beautiful, centuries old cathedrals and other historical buildings. Met all kinds of cool people. Drank wine. Ate tapas. Saw Pamplona, etc etc etc........tell them all that, and finish with, "but I wasn't on holiday, mind you". ha ha :D

Why not tell them? Human activity is not divided cleanly into work and vacation, there are many way of living a life, and walking pilgrimage is an important one.

But at any rate, I daresay, no matter what motives drives a person to walk the Camino (and walk the Way it seems you did, Mark?), it is usually a complex of motives, not just the conscious ones. Mark, you are also active on this forum, which tells me where your heart is.:) You must have noticed that the Camino has its way of working on you, even if you think you are not working. Oh, yes indeed, there is important work being done.

I would guess from your picture and your voice that you are probably in your twenties or thirties, which is the portion of life concerned very much with doing: advancing a career, building a family, establishing an identity and taking an active stance in the world. I am of an age where I am exiting that phase and entering the phase of being, which has an altogether different flavor and set of values.

It is hard not to judge--such a hard practice--but the Camino teaches us this at every turn. Being an American as I am, it is hard not to feel ashamed of our perceived national inclination to exploit, commercialize and dominate the planet, no matter where we are, but this too is a judgement about my fellowman, and I need to reign that in. But I cringed when I read in Reb's speech about the Americans in Foncebaden. It seems to me that Americans, perhaps more than most on the planet, need to be exposed to the lessons that the Way offers to humankind in the form of compassionate caritas, humility and empathetic understanding of the strange and the stranger--the gifts and fruits of the spirit, those intangibles that we crave to receive and give one another.

I have rambled, but I would like to offer this possibility: that the success of the Camino represents the growing hunger across the planet for inner transformation which may be a harbinger of outer transformation for all beings on the planet. Yes, this will create tremendous pressure on those who strive to be hospice workers--those holding the hands of many who are leaving a dying world and also growing pressure on those attempting to be midwives to those who are entering the newly resurrecting world, but all of you are SO NEEDED as we transition through a global, and greater, paradigm shift.

Blessings and gratitude, Reb, for you and all of you who serve so beautifully and eloquently in this microcosm of the world--the Camino de Santiago. I know I have been blessed many times over by your presence on this forum.
 
Camino(s) past & future
frances 2017
#57
Regional planner and economics professor is not all that I am, but no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I always think about such things as employment/unemployment for local residents. As of January 2017, Spain had one of the highest unemployment rates among the developed nations. It was 18.2%, while in the US and the UK it was 4.7%. Being responsible--planning-wise--for an area that includes both resorts and historic tourist attractions and also considerable rural poverty, it sometimes seems a luxury for me to complain about tourists cluttering up our quiet streets and waterfronts, since I know that they create jobs and put food on the tables of a lot of people living near the poverty line. Galicia and other areas of Spain are also grappling with this dichotomy. No one solution seems to make everyone happy.
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
#59
All good points ...

However I wonder if it is fair to say, that Rebekah's observations might only or should only apply to the Camino Frances route and maybe some of the more well known routes, and less so to those less known off the beaten paths?

In other words...

the spirit of the camino continues to live on but maybe not so much on the "way" that many equate it to.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, 2014
Camino Portuguese 2015
Camino Francis, 2016 & Hospitalera in Viana Spain
Etc.
#60
Perfect. Thank you for writing such an intense personal piece filled with your conviction and love. May our beloved camino continue to endure and rise up to welcome generations of pilgrims yet to come.
My truth has been spoken. - sandi
 
Camino(s) past & future
chemin du puy, camino frances, camino muxia, vezelay
#61
Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.

Yes, yes, yes...!!

The Camino is alive: nourished, cleansed and regenerated by the generous streams of earth energy and the electromagnetics from sun-moon-star energy. Nature.
It is a privilege to walk for weeks on end. It is the process, all be it an ancient one, that allows for our hearts to open.

Thank you kindly :Dfor the post.
 
Camino(s) past & future
St.Jean-Santiago (2017)
#64
@jgpryde,
If you do a search, you'll find many (too many!) threads about the 'Real pilgrim' topic. We've beaten that dead horse over and over, but the controversy never fails to start anew--it's a place with strongly held views and opinions, on booth sides.
Viranani - I took your suggestion and searched on "Real Pilgrim". Gosh, I had no idea there was so much, er, diversity of viewpoints expressed on this topic already.
it's reassuring to hear that the anecdotes reported here as well as the prognosis for the Camino doesn't really reflect the more typical Camino experience. Maybe I was trying too hard to find a correlation between this OP and Jack Hitt's perception.
Thanks for responding.

-jgp
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#65
Viranani - I took your suggestion and searched on "Real Pilgrim". Gosh, I had no idea there was so much, er, diversity of viewpoints expressed on this topic already.
Scary, isn't it? There is no shortage of opinion.

Fortunately, what others write about the Camino is never the same as the real thing--and your Camino will be different from anything you might be able to imagine based on what other people say.
But one thing that seems universal is that what you put out to other peregrinos, you get back in spades, sometimes instantly. So an open-minded and non-intrusive interest is appreciated in others, and almost universally reciprocated. Of course there are exceptions, but the bozos are not the rule.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#66
I have seen many many Sunsets.
Unexpectedly..once or twice a lifetime
There is "the sunset"

A twilight of the gods
The dying of the light..so simply exquisite that the real isolation
The
Realization of its uniqueness
Happened right then and there if a person of perspicacity opens up and sees the totality of the moment

Your vision is frightening, yet indicative
As the Eagles said
"You call it Paradise..kiss it goodbye"

But what of the latent spark

The
What has become of me...moment

Will we always wonder...
Wander about in search of the intangible
What Fado will call out to man and say
Come to me?

Will the anti cynicism be enough
Will one be strong enough to rise to the bidding
Come to me...

Will one understand the call
And resolve the dissatisfaction of distance and time
To answer that still silent voice
Echos
Hechos
Etched..in eternity

Will that gravitational attraction be enough?
Or will we spin away into the darkness
Dissatisfied and question forever posed on lips...

All the dusty aeons behind

Someday, a shell adorning my graves stone
A simple shell
And a pair of boots weathered

Who will wonder?

Very well written and thought provoking.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#67
There are cycles, in all things ... growth, stability, decay, new growth ... every religion has within it the teachings of the old ones now lost and forgotten .... kings and empires now dust with new cities built upon their ruins ... it is now as it has always been ... once the Camino was not, in time to come it will be not again, just a few ruins and vague folk memories of foreigners walking through the land, reasons unknown ...

"I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#68
That cannot be the ends of all things..

Embittered cynic
Hermit...who sits and railes against the coming of the darkness

Hermit...
Becomes prophet
Becomes legend
Become myth

Deep ness of heart says
"This cannot be the" ends" of all things
To what end did all the toil,privation and strife serve.

Is it the ends..of things..which are ideas made into objects....to sit and say
I..We..were here...

Ms.Scott is absolutely right

There must be more to this idea than an abstract construct
To sit away the winds and sands arrival
Patient,pathetic,pathos

The unknown is frightening
The inevitable is subjective to the emotive idle catastrophising
The ends are forever in the hazy future.

I guess I better carpe diem before it's paved over and has the intangible ripped away in saddened silent screams

Forgive..my muse is a tad cynical tonite
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#69
Forgive..my muse is a tad cynical tonite
I'm not exactly sure what your poem means, William, but of course you are forgiven. If your muse is a wee bit cynical, she would have good reason to feel that way. Deception and greed are all around us.
And if we don't like it, then it's just up to us to live better--and to give shape to the good we know in our bones.
In growing darkness that will shine out like a ray of light, like Rebekah's post.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#70
The key to the Camino is that everyone does it their own way. There is no judgement implied that mine is better than yours. There may be a bit too much judgement in her remarks (both well spoken and insightful).

I have two simple assumptions:

1) Everyone's Camino is good as long as the next assumption isn't violated.
2) My Camino cannot overly intrude on others who I encounter or those that come after.
.
Not so sure about any of the above.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances & Camino Ingles -- Oct./Nov. 2016
#71
Such a gift you have for expression! I can feel what you're feeling; maybe a single sad tear on my cheek, but a smile that never leaves as I remember. The changes are coming swiftly now. They are easy to spot as you walk from day to day. The circle of life. I'll still return; I can still walk my own walk. Thanks for the reflection.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
#72
Viranani,

I was imagining what the last pilgrim would have to say..and what others have to say looking at them.

A...Camino that..was

To a new beginning
A ..once there was a place ..as David mentioned in his post.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#74
We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.
hmmm, regardless of other contents that have been posted in this thread -- these facilities were downright comfortable compared to what I encountered on the French half of my Paris to Santiago pilgrimage in 1994.

Yes, there were some great stops and amazing welcomes there too, but there was far more sleeping on the floor of a presbytery school room, or in a garage, or outdoors, with zero cooking facilities, no possibility of even a cold shower, no possibility to keep your clothes clean, no organised infrastructures whatsoever, no yellow arrows nor any other way markers to show you the way, no other pilgrims, no companionship nor sharing of experiences, indeed exactly nothing of what so many pilgrims simply take for granted as being somehow part of "the Camino experience".

The comparative experience of the stark naked Camino that exists outside of the well-trod paths and the highly commercialised "tourigrino" version neither elevates the one nor diminishes the other IMO -- each has its negatives and its positives -- but there is no way that I'd want to repeat that stark 1994 experience ever again, though I did to some extent in 2005, regardless of how invaluable it was. The nature of the Camino remains unchanged.
 
#75
As a pre-2000er I did not see hardship. The Camino may have become an industry but as a result there may also be a return of people to some of the towns and villages on the way.

Most hardship I have noticed in Spain is post 2008.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#76
This comment is not addressed to you personally, @JabbaPapa, I just use this quote to continue a line of thought. And perhaps this should go into a separate thread. The narrative of austerity, hardship and the warm local welcome in the pre-2000 Camino days are usually told from the foreigner's or stranger's point of view. The "good" old days when external visitors were rare and when the locals and the region was so much poorer than today and a hidden or maybe suppressed regret that is no longer the case? I know this is not popular and may already border on the political but the reason why money was and is being poured into this areas, including building and maintaining the Camino infrastructure, is to make them as prosperous as others ... OTOH, I sense that some see the Camino (as in "Spirit of the Camino") as a model of a different kind of society, although there is not a global uniform model.
I think there's a significant degree of false narrative about a kind of "golden age", long lost, of what the Camino "used to be", and that it's frankly entirely unhelpful to the pilgrims of today, simply wanting to make their own Way in the circumstances of the here and now.

No -- the Camino was in no way "better" in the 1990s than the 2010s, no more than it was "better" in the 13th Century than in the 20th or 21st. Nor "more genuine" nor whatever else.

Fake nostalgia is of no help whatsoever to those simply trying to make of their Camino what they will and what they need in their present circumstances, which willy-nilly includes all sorts of mod cons like the internet, and smartphones, and an organised Camino micro-economy (that dear Bekkah has herself helped to build up), and support from international discussion forums, and all sorts of novelties that have cropped up over the past 20-30 years ...

Nobody's a "fake pilgrim" or "tourigrino" simply because they've never been forced to sleep rough nor spend a day without food nor endure sundry other unwanted hardships.

The major loss that I've noticed is that in those needing a bit of a tougher Camino than most, there's still not enough realisation that SJPP is too close to Santiago to be a good starting point for them, despite the fact that it used to be. The Francès itself is still fine, and except for some details, hasn't much changed in character since the 1990s -- and I think for the majority of pilgrims, it's probably better than it was. But those needing something more "old school", instead of starting at SJPP as if that were "the whole Camino" would be better off starting from Barcelona or Lourdes or Vézelay or Arles or some other starting point -- and preferably even from their own front door -- so as to more organically integrate the Camino into a sense of normality, instead of running the risk of viewing it as some sort of "magic place" inhabited by "special people".

The Camino in its genuine essence has more in common with your front garden pathway or your walk to the local shops than with any dream about some manner of "stairway to heaven" -- as such, the comforts that you undoubtedly enjoy in your own front yards or in your trips to pick up your groceries are not foreign to what the Camino is intended for ; they are germane to its very nature, and we should be thankful for the lessening of the hardships that once existed, rather than resentful against their disappearance.
 
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Albert R

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2017)
#80
Straight up wonderful post! Should be a sticky.
I suppose that a pilgrimage, is in fact a state of mind. Having spent several years in Afghanistan, sleeping in a field, in a friendly nation, is well nigh luxurious!
Having said that, I believe the experience should scourge the soul and mind, if not the body, and clear the extraneous minutia from us.

"Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival."
"He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years."

Of course, it's easy for me to accept that premise, as I am more than well acquainted with harsh and unforgiving environments. There are many here who may not be prepared (I don't mean this in a pejorative way,) to experience hardship. It requires resilience, education, savvy, gumption, and a good dose of hard-headedness! Having said that, hardship is also a state of mind, so one person's abysmal accommodations, may be another's five star suite!
I will say that this post has cleared my mind of many worries about what to pack, how to tie my shoe laces, or how many cubic inches my rucksack should be. I'm just reaching into my tuff-boxes and grabbing what I need for an extended foray into an area I am unfamiliar with. I know I can survive and thrive indefinitely with the gear I choose!
Buen Camino my friends! I hope to meet many of you on the road to Santiago!
Albert
 
#81
Thank you. A clear, stimulating, concise, thought provoking, powerful post.
Your love for The Way certainly comes through.
It will survive, but maybe not in the way we would all hope.
Living in Galicia all I can see is the Xunta advertising tourism here based on the Camino. The Disneyfication phenomenon is happening everywhere; sadly even in the part of Galicia I am privileged to live in.
One point your thoughts have missed are tour groups. A rather controversial subject, maybe?
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#83
This appears to me, but I defer to Ivar, to be the most LIKED post ever.

Is it? I am just curious... I certainly deserves to be.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
#86
Thank-you Rebekah + responders for providing me with a topic ideal for meditative thought as I walk the early stages of the Camino de Santiago de Levante. There's no evidence of Disney that I can see here in Castille-La Mancha province, just wonderful landscapes and some very hospitable people and community associations. If only.....
 
T

Tigger

Guest
#87
I will let you all know my more knowledgeable impressions after I walk my first Camino in the next month or two however my impression is that each 'generation' of pilgrims needs to find ' a balance' of what is sensible, meaningful both for the 'visitors' and the local people, in context with the wonderful history of The Way' and there are' horses for courses'. It would, however, be a shame to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. My only other comment is that Kanga was hesitant NOT to take me on Camino Frances for my first Camino experience, as we will probably walk the VDLP and I am not in the least bothered exactly 'where' I walk.

I will walk.
 
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patk

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, De la Plata, Norte, Portugal, Primitivo, Ebro, Madrileno, Norte again (2016)
#89
Thank you Rebekah for this kind sharing of your wisdom and great experience of the Camino and its futures, possible, probably, plausible and preferable. I have been walking Caminos since 2007 and of course I have noticed the huge differences in the way and in those who travel it.
Unrestrained growth as you describe it will of course change much of what makes the camino so special. The Spanish government I imagine are attracted by something that pours money into Spain's struggling economy and especially into rural Spain. I don't think this is sustainable.
It might be possible to limit the numbers of credenciales issued each year but of course a business would start up forging them I am sure.
I suspect that the people who trash the Camino with tissues, cans, bottles and general muck don't read Ivar's wonderful site, which is in English anyway and thus limits who can access it.
I am with those who believe that the Camino is greater than all of us, with its many messages and 'angeles'.

That is my hope. Thank you Rebekah.



This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So,


We stand here together in the present, at a crossroads.

We all have come here from a vast and varied place called the Past, a country that for most of us included at least one long, hard voyage along the Camino de Santiago.

Most of us are weathered veterans. Out there you walked until you were ready to drop. When you needed it most, you found a place with a bed and maybe a beer and maybe a smiling face: a welcome. A Camino Welcome. Stop there. Look around at the place your mind has chosen to illustrate “Camino Hospitality.” Where are you? Your subconscious chose this particular place, of all the many places you stopped and stayed along the Way. So set down a marker here.

Continue on with me.

Into the here and now. We are gathered here today in Atlanta, far away from the physical Camino, but immersed in a virtual Way that’s made up of people much like us.

From our comfortable chairs we look today into an entirely new country, an unexplored territory, wild and woolly and probably scary. We’re looking at The Future.

My name is Rebekah Scott, an American pilgrim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My Camino Past goes back to 1993, when I first stepped onto the Camino de Santiago. I went there as a travel journalist, an honored guest of the Tourist Office of Spain – it was a marketing ploy on their part. They wanted our articles in North American newspapers and magazines to lure well-heeled tourists to this “adventure destination.” There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the Camino in those days, hospitality and accommodation-wise. We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.

When I think of that first taste of the Camino, and I think of hospitality, I think of a stranger who stepped out onto the road as we passed through a little Leonese village. He greeted us, offered us a glass of his home-made wine. There was no price tag. He did it just because.

I met Jesus Jato, a mad man with a ramshackle albergue growing up inside his burned-out greenhouse in Villafranca de Bierzo. He needed a haircut. My coffee mug was unwashed. The showers were garden hoses stapled to the wall, with cold water only. The place was more like a refugee camp than an albergue, but the hollow-eyed young Spanish pilgrims bunking there did not complain. This was a pilgrimage, they told me. It was all about roughing it, doing without, crucifying the flesh.

I stayed and talked – as much as I could – to the pilgrims and Jato and Jato’s wife. I took tons of notes, and photos. They invited me to stay for dinner – lentils and bread, wine and cheese. There were six of us there that night. When I asked what I owed, Jato pointed at the donation box. “Whatever you want to pay,” he said.

I said goodbye. “We’re just getting started, you know,” he told me. “I’ll see you again.”

I am not a prophet, but Jesus Jato is. He could see the future. He saw mine.

I came back alright. In 2001 I finally walked the whole thing. I knew then I needed to change my life, become a part of this phenomenon.

I became a volunteer hospitalero in 2003, trained at an APOC/Canadian Company joint gathering in Toronto. I went back to the Camino time after time and served two-week stints at pilgrim shelters all over the caminos. I learned the caminos from the other side of the desk.

In 2006 I emigrated altogether. My husband and I bought an old farm in the middle of the camino, and opened the doors to pilgrims who need a place to stay – a little like mad old Jato, but on a much smaller and more private scale. In the years since I’ve written guides to alternative trails, trained new volunteers for the Spanish hospitalero voluntario program, wrote a training program now in use in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I wrote a camino novel, even.

We have been hosting pilgrims on the Camino for more than a decade now, and are as integrated into the Spanish pilgrimage infrastructure as two foreign hermits can be.


SO… Now that we have my past out of the way, We all can move forward.

Which requires a quick look at the Present.

Nowadays I am hospitality coordinator for the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago, a camino activist group founded two years ago by some of the latter-day camino founders, including Jesus Jato and George Greenia.

I oversee the volunteers at two pilgrim albergues still dedicated to donations-based accommodation. We do good, on a donation basis, because that’s our franchise. Free-will accommodation is a major part of what makes the Camino unique. We have an overwhelmingly international group of volunteers…

Every single year is a record-breaker on the camino de Santiago, pilgrim-numbers wise. More than 270,000 people walked the camino last year, people from 160 countries. They walk all the year around, right through December and January – months when we used to rarely see anyone on the Road. The makeup the of pilgrims has changed greatly too. There are just as many women walking as men. Spaniards are now only 47% of the pilgrims. It’s not just a European phenomenon, either: the numbers of Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Korean pilgrims have increased more than 200 percent since 2011. In the summertime we open the church in Moratinos, our little town on the Meseta. Last year we saw our first pilgrims from Burundi, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde. People who can afford to fly from around the world are not poor.

The number of Camino routes has increased greatly as old routes are rediscovered and new routes are invented. Ten years ago, the paint was just drying on the Camino Portuguese waymarkers – now it’s the second-most traveled trail to Santiago. Another interesting change is the drop in the number of cyclists on the Camino. In the 1990’s, 21 percent of pilgrims rode bikes. In 2015, only 10 percent did it that way.

On the Camino Frances alone, there are now more than 400 places for pilgrims to spend a night. There are 1,200 places to stop and eat. I am not a statistician, but I can blithely say the number of pilgrim-targeted businesses on the camino Frances has quadrupled in the ten years I have lived on the trail. The increasing number of pilgrims has attracted the attention of the marketers, the entrepreneurs, the Capitalists.

And hereby hangs a conflict.

I will try to give a nice, value-free, balanced view, but I will warn you going into this Future that I am an idealist, and a Christian. I am judgmental. I consider the Camino de Santiago a sacred place, a monument that merits our respect and preservation.

You can travel the Camino de Santiago without being a pilgrim. It’s a beautiful place with a bargain-priced infrastructure and 3G and a fun vibe. You might have a great time, but you won’t have the same deep experience as many of the people you see out the bus window. You might have to come back again. “Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s pilgrim,” after all.

But this is a pilgrimage trail. If you are not a pilgrim, you are not fully invested in this experience. You should not expect to be treated as a pilgrim.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival. The person who seriously wants a pilgrim experience will go as minimalist as he can. He’ll leave behind technology and comforts and distractions. He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years. He’ll depend on the kindness of others to provide him with a place to sleep, something to eat and drink, without presumption or entitlement. Pilgrims who take that kind of risk find themselves borne on a wave of providence. It’s a radical thing to do. It’s crazy, it’s scary. It’s kinda miraculous. And it still works.

This radical minimalism flies right into the face of our ingrained consumerism, and the travel industry -- the people who are selling a safe, clean, dreamy Camino. Check out any FaceBook Camino page. There you’ll see the hotel and transport and “adventure destination” marketers; the folks who say that “real pilgrims” buy this or wear that or stay at this place, who tell you this trail, soap, backpack, sock, scarf, diary, app, bandage, credential, or guidebook may lead to a blister-free, painless, Camino Nirvana.

We Americans eat it up. We are born and raised to get and spend. We are born Consumers. “Value for Money” is the prime objective, “convenience” is ours by birthright. We live by “the customer is always right,” as well as “I spent good money on this, and I expect a return on my investment…” In recent years entrepreneurs along the trail have jumped up to meet our demands for clean, charming, and predictable accommodation, offered at a price we well-funded Westerners are prepared to pay.

So…

We find the camino. We hear the call. We being born consumers, our first impulse is to Shop.

Second impulse? Find out everything possible in advance, read books and websites, and plot our course down to the last scripture verse and well-rated coffee bar.

We want it all, on our own terms.

We want an adventure, but we don’t like surprises.

We want all the enlightenment and excitement of a tough hike across a new land, but we want it safe, hygienic, and predictable, served with a smile at less than 20 Euros.

We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!

Comfortable consumer Capitalism, and the primal simplicity of the Camino, (and pilgrimage,) are deeply at odds with one another.

And this is why the Camino de Santiago, when we finally get it, blows our American minds.


We are consumers, walking into a world where Less is More.

Where everyone is just as good or important or respectable as everyone else on the trail.

Where uncertainty and risk and flexibility… and even sacrifice and suffering (O my!) are built-in parts of the experience, maybe even requirements for a truly successful outcome.

In my opinion, North Americans are perfect pilgrim material. We are full of demands, expectations, dreams and plans and fears and derring-do. We carry hundreds of dollars’ worth of new equipment, as well as other great burdens. We have a lot to lose, bringing our complicated selves to such a simple, demanding place.

And on the Camino we find out quickly that our Stuff won’t save us. It only makes us suffer.

We find a place to sleep, with or without reservations. We find out how little stuff we need to get by. We find that no one cares what our hair looks like. We find people who care for us, no matter how we look or feel or act or even smell.

We find places to stay where we’re not viewed as walking wallets, where we are treated as friends, made welcome, offered comfort and simple food and care by people who volunteer to come and do this work.

Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.
 

NicP

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata, Seville to Santiago de Compostella via Astorga, then Finisterre... April and May 2016
#90
A fantastic post, generating an interesting debate. Thank you Rebekah for expressing your views so eloquently, and also to the others who have expressed a different take on things. It certainly provides food for thought!
 

MariannaP

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2011, Frances 2012, Portugese 2013, De Levante 2015, Mozarabe, VDLP 2016
#91
This is an address delivered at the 2017 gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in Atlanta, Ga. last weekend, on "the future of hospitality on the camino." It ruffled a few feathers, which is always good. I post it here by popular demand:

The future of hospitality on the Camino. Rebekah Scott


I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what the future holds, and anyone who says he can has pants on fire.

I can tell you, though, about trends, and about what I’ve seen on the ground on the Way over a period of more than 20 years. I am as trustworthy a guide as anybody. So,


We stand here together in the present, at a crossroads.

We all have come here from a vast and varied place called the Past, a country that for most of us included at least one long, hard voyage along the Camino de Santiago.

Most of us are weathered veterans. Out there you walked until you were ready to drop. When you needed it most, you found a place with a bed and maybe a beer and maybe a smiling face: a welcome. A Camino Welcome. Stop there. Look around at the place your mind has chosen to illustrate “Camino Hospitality.” Where are you? Your subconscious chose this particular place, of all the many places you stopped and stayed along the Way. So set down a marker here.

Continue on with me.

Into the here and now. We are gathered here today in Atlanta, far away from the physical Camino, but immersed in a virtual Way that’s made up of people much like us.

From our comfortable chairs we look today into an entirely new country, an unexplored territory, wild and woolly and probably scary. We’re looking at The Future.

My name is Rebekah Scott, an American pilgrim from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My Camino Past goes back to 1993, when I first stepped onto the Camino de Santiago. I went there as a travel journalist, an honored guest of the Tourist Office of Spain – it was a marketing ploy on their part. They wanted our articles in North American newspapers and magazines to lure well-heeled tourists to this “adventure destination.” There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the Camino in those days, hospitality and accommodation-wise. We visited “refugios,” – abandoned schools, convent dorms, and remodeled garages where pilgrims could stay for little or nothing.

They were usually rather dirty and cold -- the refugios as well as the people inside. Pilgrims cooked their own meals, or ate from cans and packages they bought at supermarkets and carried with them. Menu del Dias were only on offer in big towns. Pilgrims walked in huge mountain-hiking boots, or sneakers and jeans and t-shirts. They carried their things in school bags and Army backpacks. There was no wifi. No one even had a mobile phone. It was 24 years ago, but it was the Stone Age of the modern camino. About 26,000 people made the trip, and that was a special holy year.

It was scruffy and ancient and full of character. I fell in love.

When I think of that first taste of the Camino, and I think of hospitality, I think of a stranger who stepped out onto the road as we passed through a little Leonese village. He greeted us, offered us a glass of his home-made wine. There was no price tag. He did it just because.

I met Jesus Jato, a mad man with a ramshackle albergue growing up inside his burned-out greenhouse in Villafranca de Bierzo. He needed a haircut. My coffee mug was unwashed. The showers were garden hoses stapled to the wall, with cold water only. The place was more like a refugee camp than an albergue, but the hollow-eyed young Spanish pilgrims bunking there did not complain. This was a pilgrimage, they told me. It was all about roughing it, doing without, crucifying the flesh.

I stayed and talked – as much as I could – to the pilgrims and Jato and Jato’s wife. I took tons of notes, and photos. They invited me to stay for dinner – lentils and bread, wine and cheese. There were six of us there that night. When I asked what I owed, Jato pointed at the donation box. “Whatever you want to pay,” he said.

I said goodbye. “We’re just getting started, you know,” he told me. “I’ll see you again.”

I am not a prophet, but Jesus Jato is. He could see the future. He saw mine.

I came back alright. In 2001 I finally walked the whole thing. I knew then I needed to change my life, become a part of this phenomenon.

I became a volunteer hospitalero in 2003, trained at an APOC/Canadian Company joint gathering in Toronto. I went back to the Camino time after time and served two-week stints at pilgrim shelters all over the caminos. I learned the caminos from the other side of the desk.

In 2006 I emigrated altogether. My husband and I bought an old farm in the middle of the camino, and opened the doors to pilgrims who need a place to stay – a little like mad old Jato, but on a much smaller and more private scale. In the years since I’ve written guides to alternative trails, trained new volunteers for the Spanish hospitalero voluntario program, wrote a training program now in use in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I wrote a camino novel, even.

We have been hosting pilgrims on the Camino for more than a decade now, and are as integrated into the Spanish pilgrimage infrastructure as two foreign hermits can be.


SO… Now that we have my past out of the way, We all can move forward.

Which requires a quick look at the Present.

Nowadays I am hospitality coordinator for the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago, a camino activist group founded two years ago by some of the latter-day camino founders, including Jesus Jato and George Greenia.

I oversee the volunteers at two pilgrim albergues still dedicated to donations-based accommodation. We do good, on a donation basis, because that’s our franchise. Free-will accommodation is a major part of what makes the Camino unique. We have an overwhelmingly international group of volunteers…

Every single year is a record-breaker on the camino de Santiago, pilgrim-numbers wise. More than 270,000 people walked the camino last year, people from 160 countries. They walk all the year around, right through December and January – months when we used to rarely see anyone on the Road. The makeup the of pilgrims has changed greatly too. There are just as many women walking as men. Spaniards are now only 47% of the pilgrims. It’s not just a European phenomenon, either: the numbers of Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Korean pilgrims have increased more than 200 percent since 2011. In the summertime we open the church in Moratinos, our little town on the Meseta. Last year we saw our first pilgrims from Burundi, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde. People who can afford to fly from around the world are not poor.

The number of Camino routes has increased greatly as old routes are rediscovered and new routes are invented. Ten years ago, the paint was just drying on the Camino Portuguese waymarkers – now it’s the second-most traveled trail to Santiago. Another interesting change is the drop in the number of cyclists on the Camino. In the 1990’s, 21 percent of pilgrims rode bikes. In 2015, only 10 percent did it that way.

On the Camino Frances alone, there are now more than 400 places for pilgrims to spend a night. There are 1,200 places to stop and eat. I am not a statistician, but I can blithely say the number of pilgrim-targeted businesses on the camino Frances has quadrupled in the ten years I have lived on the trail. The increasing number of pilgrims has attracted the attention of the marketers, the entrepreneurs, the Capitalists.

And hereby hangs a conflict.

I will try to give a nice, value-free, balanced view, but I will warn you going into this Future that I am an idealist, and a Christian. I am judgmental. I consider the Camino de Santiago a sacred place, a monument that merits our respect and preservation.

You can travel the Camino de Santiago without being a pilgrim. It’s a beautiful place with a bargain-priced infrastructure and 3G and a fun vibe. You might have a great time, but you won’t have the same deep experience as many of the people you see out the bus window. You might have to come back again. “Today’s tourist is tomorrow’s pilgrim,” after all.

But this is a pilgrimage trail. If you are not a pilgrim, you are not fully invested in this experience. You should not expect to be treated as a pilgrim.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, a discipline, a process of stripping away everything unneeded for basic survival. The person who seriously wants a pilgrim experience will go as minimalist as he can. He’ll leave behind technology and comforts and distractions. He’ll throw himself onto the mercy of the trail itself, just as pilgrims have done for a thousand years. He’ll depend on the kindness of others to provide him with a place to sleep, something to eat and drink, without presumption or entitlement. Pilgrims who take that kind of risk find themselves borne on a wave of providence. It’s a radical thing to do. It’s crazy, it’s scary. It’s kinda miraculous. And it still works.

This radical minimalism flies right into the face of our ingrained consumerism, and the travel industry -- the people who are selling a safe, clean, dreamy Camino. Check out any FaceBook Camino page. There you’ll see the hotel and transport and “adventure destination” marketers; the folks who say that “real pilgrims” buy this or wear that or stay at this place, who tell you this trail, soap, backpack, sock, scarf, diary, app, bandage, credential, or guidebook may lead to a blister-free, painless, Camino Nirvana.

We Americans eat it up. We are born and raised to get and spend. We are born Consumers. “Value for Money” is the prime objective, “convenience” is ours by birthright. We live by “the customer is always right,” as well as “I spent good money on this, and I expect a return on my investment…” In recent years entrepreneurs along the trail have jumped up to meet our demands for clean, charming, and predictable accommodation, offered at a price we well-funded Westerners are prepared to pay.

So…

We find the camino. We hear the call. We being born consumers, our first impulse is to Shop.

Second impulse? Find out everything possible in advance, read books and websites, and plot our course down to the last scripture verse and well-rated coffee bar.

We want it all, on our own terms.

We want an adventure, but we don’t like surprises.

We want all the enlightenment and excitement of a tough hike across a new land, but we want it safe, hygienic, and predictable, served with a smile at less than 20 Euros.

We want to stay at the albergue everyone else rated best, take the best photos of the local food and wine, write the blog everyone will read. And dammit, We want to look pretty and put-together at the end of the day!

Comfortable consumer Capitalism, and the primal simplicity of the Camino, (and pilgrimage,) are deeply at odds with one another.

And this is why the Camino de Santiago, when we finally get it, blows our American minds.


We are consumers, walking into a world where Less is More.

Where everyone is just as good or important or respectable as everyone else on the trail.

Where uncertainty and risk and flexibility… and even sacrifice and suffering (O my!) are built-in parts of the experience, maybe even requirements for a truly successful outcome.

In my opinion, North Americans are perfect pilgrim material. We are full of demands, expectations, dreams and plans and fears and derring-do. We carry hundreds of dollars’ worth of new equipment, as well as other great burdens. We have a lot to lose, bringing our complicated selves to such a simple, demanding place.

And on the Camino we find out quickly that our Stuff won’t save us. It only makes us suffer.

We find a place to sleep, with or without reservations. We find out how little stuff we need to get by. We find that no one cares what our hair looks like. We find people who care for us, no matter how we look or feel or act or even smell.

We find places to stay where we’re not viewed as walking wallets, where we are treated as friends, made welcome, offered comfort and simple food and care by people who volunteer to come and do this work.

Camino magic happens to us. It’s another world, another economy. An economy based on giving, not getting.

Remember that place that stands out in your mind, that albergue where you felt so welcome? Bring that back to your mind. Think about what it was that made it so special.

What made them stand out? Was it value for money? The number of power outlets? The swimming pool? The sparkling clean showers? The dinner, wine, laundry service? The massage?

Or was it the welcome? The hospitaleros?

These are small, often volunteer-run places. Often they are donativos, or they recently were.


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.

Pilgrims traveling without resources, the people who albergues were originally aimed-at, are now back to sleeping in the street, as the low-cost beds are now full of, well… who are these pilgrims?

The donativo ideal is almost dead on the Camino Frances. Beloved, old-school albergues like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Las Carbajales in Leon, and the Benedictinas in Sahagun all have given up on the donativo/volunteer model in the past few years, simply overwhelmed by the demand of something-for-nothing accommodation.

If pilgrim numbers continue to grow, or if they even level off at current levels, donativos will disappear, victims of high overhead costs, pilgrims who leave nothing in the box, as well as new provincial laws written to favor hoteliers. Plenty of people will continue to walk, but the Camino gold rush may really succeed in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Last summer, up at Foncebadon, I heard some handsome American pilgrims discussing that former ghost town brought back to life in the past 20 years.

“This place is great! We did this. It’s our pilgrim money that brought this here,” one of them said. “Someone ought to invest in some nice paving, signage, marketing. Some safety measures, maybe. Imagine what some decent branding could do up here.”

“Yeah, clean this place up and you could make some good money. This could be really cute.”

Yeah, just imagine. Scruffy Foncebadon, and Tosantos, and Calzadilla de los Hermanillos… scrubbed down and paved and Disney-fied and cute.

I almost went Full Prophet on those guys, but I contained myself. They are consumers. They obviously had not walked up that mountain. They don’t know anything different. Unfortunately, many of the people who want to plasticize the Camino are thinking the very same way. People who see beautiful, unique things as opportunities to make money… or even well-meaning people who see something scruffy or rural or strange and feel compelled to “improve” it.

FICS is dedicated to exploring and dealing with this phenomenon. We have our work cut out for us. We work hard and make lots of noise, but we don’t have a lot of illusions.

Eventually, large parts of the camino will be as Disney-fied as the final 100 kilometers from Sarria, and the overbuilding and paving and improvements will render the Camino accessible and do-able to anyone with money. Families who open spare rooms to pilgrims will be outlawed, minimum charges will be levied on all accommodations, and Compostela certificates will be issued by vending machines or print-your-own apps.

Once the Camino is fully commodified, numbers will peak even higher than we see now. People in search of easy grace and instant karma will flood in and have a whale of a time. Prices will rise, accommodations will become more private and luxurious as the low-cost/bunkhouse aesthetic is swept away in a flood of profit-making tourism. Groups like APOC will close down their hospitalero training programs, because hospitality will be turned over to the professionals. The crazy old prophets and healers will be distant memories – cardboard cutouts standing outside souvenir shops.

The camino as it is today is not sustainable. A corporate camino, with all its good-will hospitality stripped away, will be even less so. We will eliminate the ver simplicity that make the camino unique.

Maybe the great blow will come in a flash. Tourists are notoriously fickle and fearful. A single serious terror attack would strip out a good 50 percent of that year’s pilgrim numbers, and continue to affect the phenomenon for years after.

Maybe it will be a slow slide. Eventually, everyone who is anyone will have done the camino. It will fall out of fashion, and numbers will slowly drop off. Like Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” The expensive hotels will die first, and slowly the rest will fall away, too, over many years. The pavement will crumble. Trees will grow tall and drop their leaves on the path, year after year. What’s cool today will be history in just a few years. Our grandchildren will look at our pilgrimages, and maybe they’ll laugh a little at our silly trendy-ness, and wonder why we bothered fighting so hard for a nasty old footpath. The plastic camino will die, yet again the victim of changing times. I believe that within 70 years of today, the camino will go back to sleep.

But it will not die.

Farther, deeper into the future, a few people will read our old accounts, and feel the pull of that old road. A few of them will put on what passes for a pack in those future days. They’ll find a handy starting-place, and they’ll start walking.

Somewhere along the Way, a resident will meet the traveler, and invite him in for a glass of wine, or a meal. He’ll offer a bed in the spare room, or the barn. He won’t ask for money. The pilgrim won’t offer to pay. Once again, as through the ages, the pilgrimage will not be a transaction. It will be a work of grace.

The bartender will give the rain-soaked wanderer an extra cup of broth, because his grandma used to do that for pilgrims, back in the day. There won’t be a hundred other pilgrims pushing in the door, so he’ll be able to talk to the stranger, hear his story.

On Sunday morning, if he’s lucky, the pilgrim can follow the church bell into a parish church, and be welcomed as a special, lucky guest at the neighborhood Mass.

He’ll sleep wherever he can find a bed. He’ll probably pay, and probably be ripped-off now and then. He’ll sleep outdoors some times. He’ll be rained-on, sunburned, bed-bugged, and blistered. He will sing out loud, and laugh at his own jokes, and learn difficult truths about himself.

And eventually he will reach Santiago de Compostela, where the cathedral will, perhaps, award him with a Compostela certificate. Or maybe they’ll have gotten out of the souvenir business by then.

This is my prophecy:

The camino has survived all kinds of abuses over hundreds of years – plagues, wars, famines, Renaissances, Reformations, Fascists and Republics, even the Spanish Inquisition! It will survive Consumerism, too. We humans crucify the very thing that makes us most alive. It dies, and is buried. But on the third day, it rises again.

The Camino will survive us. The pilgrims will not stop walking, and the trail will not fail to rise up and welcome them, until we utterly destroy the Way. Or we destroy our selves.
I hope that you are a prophet. Many can see Camino being in trouble, some say - just changing; yet you said it so perfectly (and timely, with Easter upon us) - after all these troubles, Camino will rise up to what it really is meant to be, a spiritual journey.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues (May 2008)
Camino de Invierno (June 2017)
#92
My first Camino was probably the best pilgrimage experience of my life, and I can't wait to go again later this year. I met all kinds of fellow travelers in 2008 - some looking for a cheap holiday, some looking for a hike with plenty of infrastructure and support, some making a spiritual pilgrimage, though perhaps only doing the bare minimum to qualify for the compostela. My hope for everyone walking the Camino is that they will have come to a deeper experience of the mystery of life, whatever their expectations when they started their Camino. The Camino is revelation, and the more open we are to the possibilities, the deeper our experience will be.

I think Rebekah's point is well-taken; we live in a secular, consumerist age, and the commercialization of at least some Camino routes is a consequence. Pilgrimage routes have always been big business in history, whether it was Canterbury or Jerusalem, Rome or Santiago. I don't judge the people who see a business opportunity in catering to the walkers, any more than I judge the people who need to take advantage of modern conveniences or short stages in order to make the Camino. I understand Rebekah's concern to be that the spirit of charity and hospitality is in danger of being crowded out by the rapid commercialization of the Camino. But she sees the big picture of past, present, and future. The Camino has been there before any of us; most of us in the forum have been fortunate enough to walk the Camino or are planning to do so; having walked it, we will one day dream of doing so again. The call of the Way transcends whatever human failings attach themselves to it. The timeless meaning of the Camino will always reveal itself to those who will look and listen and seek hard enough for it.
 

Mark McCarthy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2014 2015
Lourdes 2 SdC 2016
Sarria 2 SdC April&Oct 2016 & (April 2018)
Camino Baztan June 2017
#93
I think there's a significant degree of false narrative about a kind of "golden age", long lost, of what the Camino "used to be", and that it's frankly entirely unhelpful to the pilgrims of today, simply wanting to make their own Way in the circumstances of the here and now.

No -- the Camino was in no way "better" in the 1990s than the 2010s, no more than it was "better" in the 13th Century than in the 20th or 21st. Nor "more genuine" nor whatever else.

Fake nostalgia is of no help whatsoever to those simply trying to make of their Camino what they will and what they need in their present circumstances, which willy-nilly includes all sorts of mod cons like the internet, and smartphones, and an organised Camino micro-economy (that dear Bekkah has herself helped to build up), and support from international discussion forums, and all sorts of novelties that have cropped up over the past 20-30 years ...

Nobody's a "fake pilgrim" or "tourigrino" simply because they've never been forced to sleep rough nor spend a day without food nor endure sundry other unwanted hardships.

The major loss that I've noticed is that in those needing a bit of a tougher Camino than most, there's still not enough realisation that SJPP is too close to Santiago to be a good starting point for them, despite the fact that it used to be. The Francès itself is still fine, and except for some details, hasn't much changed in character since the 1990s -- and I think for the majority of pilgrims, it's probably better than it was. But those needing something more "old school", instead of starting at SJPP as if that were "the whole Camino" would be better off starting from Barcelona or Lourdes or Vézelay or Arles or some other starting point -- and preferably even from their own front door -- so as to more organically integrate the Camino into a sense of normality, instead of running the risk of viewing it as some sort of "magic place" inhabited by "special people".

The Camino in its genuine essence has more in common with your front garden pathway or your walk to the local shops than with any dream about some manner of "stairway to heaven" -- as such, the comforts that you undoubtedly enjoy in your own front yards or in your trips to pick up your groceries are not foreign to what the Camino is intended for ; they are germane to its very nature, and we should be thankful for the lessening of the hardships that once existed, rather than resentful against their disappearance.
Best and most challenging post in this thread, particularly found the bit about SJPP being too close hit home, though I am not sure I could face the loneliness of walking all the way from home.
 
Camino(s) past & future
chemin du puy, camino frances, camino muxia, vezelay
#95
Yes, I am thankful for hot showers, somewhere to sleep and to wash my clothes. Pharmacies (in abundance) for blister ointments and ibuprofen...

The Camino reveals, teaches and offers us the opportunity to cultivate gratitude.
This quality; this consciousness, is what gives life greater meaning.
Gratitude is a state of mind and it is a generous blessing to bestow. Sometimes we are required to receive and sometimes we are required to give.
The quality of mercy is not strained...
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#98
I was raised Catholic, currently of no belief or religion. Also a priviliged, uptight American who is walking CF starting in less than 2 weeks. Not exactly sure why, but I am and hope "we" don't ruin what I imagine is a beautiful thing.
With respect, but completing the C/F WILL cause you to reflect on that "lapsed Catholic" status, at least IMHO and direct experience. Just be open to what the Camino provides. You may be surprised. Merely pay attention to what unfolds around you, interact with others along your pilgrimage, and follow the Golden Rule.

At the end, if you remain conflicted, when you arrive at the Pilgrim Office, seek out either Sister Katherine or Sister Marion at the chapel adjacent to the office. Together, they coordinate the "Camino Companions" ministry.

They are there to listen, support and console. Their mission is to provide emotional and religious support to all pilgrims regardless of faith persuasion or status. They are not there to judge. Both are trained therapists and are at least tri-lingual.

They are lovely people and eager to help. Tell them Tom the volunteer guy sent you.

I hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2004 and Via de la Plata 2015
#99
Speaking to a manager of a private albergue in Extremadura along the Via de la Plata in 2015 I found out that he worked for a hotel chain that was taking over municipal run albergues along the Plata. He said they had taken over three and were negotiating for more. They took reservations (there was a reserved sign on two beds) and didn’t seem to care if their client was a peregrino or not. His albergue was clean, well laid out, with a washer and a vending machine. However, he mentioned the first thing they did when they take over an albergue is take out the kitchen for liability reasons. I am not against private albergues, quite the opposite. They are an important part of the Camino infrastructure. But when municipalities sign over their albergues to a for profit organization this may not bode well for peregrinos with limited resources as these albergues are more costly and you cannot cook in them. Also peregrinos could be displaced by day tripping individuals.
 
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