The future of Camino Hospitality


2018 edition Camino Guides

fraluchi

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
... a hotel chain ... was taking over municipal run albergues along the Plata. He said they had taken over three and were negotiating for more. ...
One could assume that these municipal albergues' upkeep had been costing in excess of the communities' financial capabilities. Professional hospitality operators, contracted under clear terms (including serving bona-fide pilgrims), might eventually prove to be a workable solution to either provide services or simply close. :cool:
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012) VDLP (2014) Portuguese (2015)
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.
Thank you for this - hard to say anything more after this post - the only thing I would like to add is "Please pilgrims lets keep the camino as it should be - a place where we long to come back to again and again ........
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015
Portuguese 2016 (inc. Rota Vicentina)
Le Puy 2017 (inc. Paris to Moulins)
Italy 2018
...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...
Finally! I imagine there were pilgrims back in 1993 who lamented all the newbies who used backpacks instead of wicker baskets, had boots instead of sandals, and used maps instead of dead reckoning. Short version of the original post: Things change.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Finally! I imagine there were pilgrims back in 1993 who lamented all the newbies who used backpacks instead of wicker baskets, had boots instead of sandals, and used maps instead of dead reckoning. Short version of the original post: Things change.
I was put up by one ex-pilgrim who did it in the 1950s, and who clearly thought that even the yellow arrows were a shameful luxury compared to the "real" Camino of guessing your own way, in complete solitude, and relying on nothing but the kindness of strangers ... he only started respecting me after I spent a night on a dirt floor and after it emerged I'd done exactly that in '94 :rolleyes:
 

David

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Finally! I imagine there were pilgrims back in 1993 who lamented all the newbies who used backpacks instead of wicker baskets, had boots instead of sandals, and used maps instead of dead reckoning. Short version of the original post: Things change.
Oh dear .... I wonder what they would make of the new backpack carrier I just bought ....just going through the road test before they deliver it ....or perhaps it will deliver itself ;)

 

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Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes - Santiago April 2015, Via Francigena 2017
Wow, beautiful piece of writing, by someone who obviously cares deeply about the spirit of the Camino, and indeed the area it runs through.

I fully buy into the idea that the Camino Frances route has run the course from off-the-beaten-track experience - pilgrimage - to basically a modern-day mass tourist attraction. However I study social change as a human phenomenon, so for me it's merely fact, not romance, and therefore my take on the future is different.

Will the Camino die out, as the writer predicts? No, never. Everyone knows the town of Positano on the Italian coast, right? Seventy, eighty years ago it was a small fishing village and the hangout of bohemian poets, writers and artists such as Hemingway. Then it got 'discovered' and tourists flocked there. I was there a few years ago and essentially it's a tourist trap, and has apparently been that way for two or three decades. Did it die out? No, in fact it looked quite flourishing, as was the rest of the Amalfi coast. Same with the Camino. I predict that the economic GDP of the route will continue to climb for quite some time, like, decades. From a tourism perspective it's still relatively under-developed compared to places in France and Italy. Certainly, it's not the high end hotels that'll close down, I expect more to open their doors. But unfortunately, as the writer hinted, it's the low end accommodation that will close down first, or at least change their model. And yes, with it dies the spirit of pilgrimage.

I just hope that sooner or later it'll lose its moniker as a 'pilgrimage route' because it isn't that anymore, as the writer also says. Call it whatever route you like - wine on foot, adventure route, walkathon, whatever, but not pilgrimage. It's not even about the fluffy soulseeking-self-discovery stuff that's more and more difficult to find; it's simply that per definition it's not longer a pilgrimage. On pilgrimage you focus on a destination where you expect some kind of salvation. Is that still true for the Camino de Santiago? Perhaps, but less and less so.

And now for the good news. The Camino de Santiago, which is the focus of the writer's address, is only one of, may I say, hundreds of pilgrim routes in the world, and quite a few dozen in Europe. So people wanting a truly back-to-basics pilgrimage route will start seriously considering the Via Francigena, where infrastructure is starting to open up, or for those looking for cold showers and cowshed accommodation, the Via Egnatia. When Syria opens up again I'll be one of the first to walk to Jerusalem. Personally I don't think the Camino de Santiago will be on a prospective dyed-in-the-wool pilgrim's to-do list much longer. It's simply become a victim of its own success.
 

SEB

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
'I just hope that sooner or later it'll lose its moniker as a 'pilgrimage route' because it isn't that anymore, as the writer also says. Call it whatever route you like - wine on foot, adventure route, walkathon, whatever, but not pilgrimage. It's not even about the fluffy soulseeking-self-discovery stuff that's more and more difficult to find; it's simply that per definition it's not longer a pilgrimage. On pilgrimage you focus on a destination where you expect some kind of salvation. Is that still true for the Camino de Santiago? Perhaps, but less and less so.'

@Charl I couldn't disagree more. Being identified as a 'pilgrimage route' is far more than a 'moniker', it is about centuries of meaning and function. But even if that doesn't count for much in the twenty first century for some who walk the various Camino paths, it counts for an awful lot of people who travel thousands of miles because they have felt called to do so. Some who have felt that call would not necessarily describe themselves as religious, but we all know people who began at SJPDP (and other towns) as walkers and ended in Santiago de Compostela knowing they had been/were pilgrims. You say that 'on pilgrimage you focus on a destination where you expect some kind of salvation.' Who says this is so? The evidence of so many posts on this forum would easily refute that claim as to motivation and personal meanings. Often the walking itself is the time for spiritual reflection and prayers. I don't know of anyone of the many people I met who saw the Camino as goal-oriented, rather it is a process, a gift, grace in some cases. If people are walking for pleasure, or to see the sights of Spain I have no problem with that and welcome their joyful company. They are often the cheerful leavening amidst the sorrow of others and raise the spirits of those they meet along the way. On the other hand, if those people act like it is a cheap holiday, with cheap booze and behave to the detriment of those making pilgrimage, then they are being disrespectful, not only to their fellow walkers but also their host country. Rebekah's post was a long and detailed one because there are no simple analyses for the situation she discussed, but she highlighted what is/has been precious about the Camino and what could be lost. As to the journey being 'no longer a pilgrimage', to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes - Santiago April 2015, Via Francigena 2017
'I just hope that sooner or later it'll lose its moniker as a 'pilgrimage route' because it isn't that anymore, as the writer also says. Call it whatever route you like - wine on foot, adventure route, walkathon, whatever, but not pilgrimage. It's not even about the fluffy soulseeking-self-discovery stuff that's more and more difficult to find; it's simply that per definition it's not longer a pilgrimage. On pilgrimage you focus on a destination where you expect some kind of salvation. Is that still true for the Camino de Santiago? Perhaps, but less and less so.'

@Charl I couldn't disagree more. Being identified as a 'pilgrimage route' is far more than a 'moniker', it is about centuries of meaning and function. But even if that doesn't count for much in the twenty first century for some who walk the various Camino paths, it counts for an awful lot of people who travel thousands of miles because they have felt called to do so. Some who have felt that call would not necessarily describe themselves as religious, but we all know people who began at SJPDP (and other towns) as walkers and ended in Santiago de Compostela knowing they had been/were pilgrims. You say that 'on pilgrimage you focus on a destination where you expect some kind of salvation.' Who says this is so? The evidence of so many posts on this forum would easily refute that claim as to motivation and personal meanings. Often the walking itself is the time for spiritual reflection and prayers. I don't know of anyone of the many people I met who saw the Camino as goal-oriented, rather it is a process, a gift, grace in some cases. If people are walking for pleasure, or to see the sights of Spain I have no problem with that and welcome their joyful company. They are often the cheerful leavening amidst the sorrow of others and raise the spirits of those they meet along the way. On the other hand, if those people act like it is a cheap holiday, with cheap booze and behave to the detriment of those making pilgrimage, then they are being disrespectful, not only to their fellow walkers but also their host country. Rebekah's post was a long and detailed one because there are no simple analyses for the situation she discussed, but she highlighted what is/has been precious about the Camino and what could be lost. As to the journey being 'no longer a pilgrimage', to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
Thank you for your reply! To clarify, I'll rephrase my definition of pilgrimage: a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. That's the dictionary definition, and states what the purpose and intention was when pilgrimage originated. That's what it still is for the majority of pilgrims in the world (think Mecca or India). But in the modern world the definition and the experience has broadened significantly, so I agree with your descriptions too. The nature of pilgrimage isn't the central point here however. I'm talking about a physical route - the Camino Frances - here, and it's relation to the pilgrimage experience, and how that will play out in future. What I'm trying to put across is that the commercialisation of the Camino Frances route is a natural process that will untie it from the pilgrim experience, and that's an irreversible expression of social change. Historical significance alone won't save it, and you can't put the whole thousand kilometers in a museum. But there are a myriad of other ancient routes rich in history and spiritual depth waiting to be walked, it's not like pilgrim routes are an endangered species. I just thought the original poster was being a bit sentimental about the changes taking place, which was the reason for my post. On the other hand I also empathise, because living on the route and dedicating your life to pilgrims and pilgrimage, and then seeing the environment rapidly change can't be easy.
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
August 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Mecca might not be the best example. Or maybe it's the perfect example. There's been a huge debate the last ten years in the Muslim world over the commercialization of the city, the destruction of ancient buildings, and the building of new high rise hotels. Some say it's turning into Vegas, others into Disneyland. You can take a luxury tour. Chanel, Gucci, and even Paris Hilton have shops in the Mecca Mall (and people were pissed about Hilton!)

And yet the hajj still happens. It's still a pilgrimage for millions.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes - Santiago April 2015, Via Francigena 2017
Michael, you have a point, perhaps the Haj is becoming the Camino de Santiago of the Muslim world ;) Their dilemma is probably much more serious than the Camino because Mecca is THE destination and there aren't any alternatives. At least Christians have Rome and Jerusalem to, in a manner of speaking, fall back on.( I'm surprised that the 'churches route' in Turkey isn't a popular pilgrim route.) At this stage the pilgrimages in Tibet and India may be the best examples.

In the final analysis I think pilgrimage should be viewed as a sort of archetype that, ultimately, bears no linkage to physical place. It has more to do with space, than place. But that's a totally different train of thought.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
In the final analysis I think pilgrimage should be viewed as a sort of archetype that, ultimately, bears no linkage to physical place. It has more to do with space, than place. But that's a totally different train of thought.
It can be tempting to think so, but in my opinion it's inaccurate -- the Camino is essentially different to other pilgrimages because it's alone among the longer ones to have the means of travel as an important element of what it signifies.

Foot pilgrims on the Assisi or Rome Ways do have a degree of extra recognition whilst they are still on their journey, but at the end, all pilgrims to Rome are just some among many, and a train pilgrim is no different to a plane or bus or foot one.

Fatima and Lourdes partake of a bit more of the Camino spirit, because Lourdes was in the Middle Ages an important shrine along the Way to Rome from Navarra and northern Spain, and because Fatima has become linked with the Portuguese Way. But this is not the same as the almost organic link between walking and the Camino, and its extremely unusual historic acceptance of non-Catholics as worthy pilgrims.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
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Does this refer to the four lines in a long poem? Surely they weren't worthy pilgrims but rather travelers worthy of Christian love, care and hospitality?
The original of that is not a poem. It's advertising.
 

SEB

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
Recent comments seem to have strayed some way from the content of Rebekah's post and I count myself as guilty as anyone. I have a marked, but regrettable, tendency to pontificate. It's all too easy to lapse into philosophising from the comfort of a chair in front of a computer. But Rebekah's considerations are those of someone who chose to relocate to another country because of her love for the Camino - she is serious about what she says see and thinks. People new to the forum might not be familiar with her 'ditch-pigs'. Every year, she organises a team made up of herself, her husband and other forum members who give their time to clear litter, soiled toilet paper (and worse) from the Camino trail. I noticed that @Charl said something about Rebekah being 'a bit sentimental about the changes taking place.' I think that when you spend time cleaning up the **** left by other pilgrims, welcome them into your home to stay overnight, or for coffee, organise the visit of a priest to the local church specifically to offer services pilgrims, work as a hospitalera, raise money to improve facilities at San Anton albergue, regularly encounter at first hand the good and the bad of those walking the Camino, and still think it is worth fighting to save what is special about the route, the experience and its religious significance, you are as far from sentimentality as it is possible to be. Additionally, Rebekah regularly attends meetings where important Camino-related matters are discussed, and updates the forum on those discussions. Rebekah is in no need of defenders, I simply state these things for those who didn't already know, because as the forum has a continually rolling membership, newbies can't be expected to know the back story of all our Veteran Members and understand why many of us hold them in esteem.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April (2017)
Thank you Tom. I will walk open minded & respectful of all. My post was to offer a perspective of a walker who is not "religious" but happy to be able to share this experience with others here and on Camino.
 

FrankieBallz

Wandering; Not lost.
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances & Camino Ingles -- Oct./Nov. 2016
I replied earlier, but had a few other thoughts. I walked the Frances for my first trip. Some areas crowded with pilgrims, other areas not so many. There are many paths to Santiago. I'm sure none of these others are as popular or well known as the Frances route. My point is you have options. I was born and have lived in the Tampa, FL area for almost 62 years. The entire Disney/Kississimmee meagaplex is only about an hour away. Orlando can be impossible to drive through at times. I stay away from this area! Yet less than an hour away, you have remote campgrounds in the woods with an abundance of wildlife and bubbling freshwater springs. You can find many less crowded paths to walk in Spain that are not that far away. It depends on what you're looking for.
 

NicP

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata, Seville to Santiago de Compostella via Astorga, then Finisterre... April and May 2016
One of the fabulous things about "the camino" is that there are so many Caminos that one can chose to walk. I walked the Via de la Plata, my first camino, starting a year ago today, joining the Camino Frances in Astorga and then on to Santiago de Compostella. The two (the Via de la Plata and the last part of the camino Frances) were extremely different to one another, and some of that is about the different level of commercialism on the Frances, and its higher volume of pilgrim traffic. They were both spectacular experiences, I am lucky to have had the opportunity and the ability to walk on both of these paths. Each had something unique to offer. I'm not worried about how the camino is changing - living is change, in my view. After what was, at times, a quite solitary experience (with ample time to reflect, to absorb the moment on the road, and yet still with wonderful fellow pilgrims along the way) on the Via de la Plata, the Camino Frances from Astorga offered me something very different, and my Camino experience is much richer for it.

Whilst I can not dispute any of what Rebekah has said, I remain a camino optimist! Buen Camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances -SJPdP - Burgos Sept (2017)
Thank you saying what needed to be said. The same applies to every other beautiful site that we humans flock to, and eventually destroy its original purpose.
I felt the same after visiting Prague and it's Disney-Like facade.
 
Camino(s) past & future
chemin du puy, camino frances, camino muxia, vezelay
Agreed... living and Life is change...
A deep learning the Camino can offer is respect: for oneself, others, and the land upon which we walk...
Indeed, the miraculous earth itself, spinning in a field of stars
 
T

Tigger

Guest
Thank you saying what needed to be said. The same applies to every other beautiful site that we humans flock to, and eventually destroy its original purpose.
I felt the same after visiting Prague and it's Disney-Like facade.
I would have to disagree with you about Prague. I have been there three times, once for a month because my daughter lived and worked there for a year and in my mind it is a spectacularly beautiful and 'authentic' city. The fact that tourists have discovered its attractions in their droves can never take away from its intrinsic beauty and fascinating history. It is like saying that that Versailles or the Taj Mahal is a 'Disney-Like façade'. I was first there for the celebrations of its (I think 25 years) of freedom from Russian control, 9 years ago and I was thrilled that both Prague and the Czech people had been able to move on.
 
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A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Thank you saying what needed to be said. The same applies to every other beautiful site that we humans flock to, and eventually destroy its original purpose.
I felt the same after visiting Prague and it's Disney-Like facade.
I spent 10 days in Prague in 1993. No hoards of tourists back then, just post-Iron Curtain enough. A bed in a pension was $10, a huge mug of beer a dollar, goulash galore and many concerts each evening free. Safe, gorgeous, inexpensive. And if you left the historical city core ... it was like being back in the USSR (I had just come back from studying at Moscow State, and had had quite enough of that. Little did I know that a year later I would be moving to Ukraine for a year. Clearly it is not just when stepping on the C. that one checks their brain out. :p)

All this to say that I can imagine how touristy it may now be, especially with all the intra-Europe discount flights.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances ('09, '11 - entire, '14, '16),
Finisterre ('11, '16),
Madrid ('14),
Invierno ('14),
Levante ('15+'??),
Sanabres ('14, '15 - entire),
Muxia ('15),
Bayona ('16),
Salvador ('16),
Ingles ('16)...
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
... I was first there for the celebrations of its (I think 25 years) of freedom from Russian control, 9 years ago ...
That was most possibly 15th anniversary of the Czech Republic because it dissolved from Slovakia in 1993 ;)

Sorry for off-topic, mods...
 

Nandy61

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2010 CF StJPP to Santiago
2014 CF Leon to Santiago
2015 Primitivo
what an amazing piece. I too wish I had made it to the gathering, if only to hear this. I am the chair of the Boston Chapter APOC, and I had to make a decision: the gathering or another Camino this year. It was simple. And as far as a "holiday" is concerned, from someone who has been on many religious retreats, from my perspective, this is just a moving one! Hope to see you @Rebekah Scott this September!
 

Anniesantiago

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2006,9,11,12,13,14, 16, Aragones 2011,12,
VDLP 2011, 13, Lourdes 2012, Portuguese 2008, Madrid 2014, (2016)
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.
This does make me a bit sad :(
 

Anniesantiago

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2006,9,11,12,13,14, 16, Aragones 2011,12,
VDLP 2011, 13, Lourdes 2012, Portuguese 2008, Madrid 2014, (2016)
Recent comments seem to have strayed some way from the content of Rebekah's post and I count myself as guilty as anyone. I have a marked, but regrettable, tendency to pontificate. It's all too easy to lapse into philosophising from the comfort of a chair in front of a computer. But Rebekah's considerations are those of someone who chose to relocate to another country because of her love for the Camino - she is serious about what she says see and thinks. People new to the forum might not be familiar with her 'ditch-pigs'. Every year, she organises a team made up of herself, her husband and other forum members who give their time to clear litter, soiled toilet paper (and worse) from the Camino trail. I noticed that @Charl said something about Rebekah being 'a bit sentimental about the changes taking place.' I think that when you spend time cleaning up the **** left by other pilgrims, welcome them into your home to stay overnight, or for coffee, organise the visit of a priest to the local church specifically to offer services pilgrims, work as a hospitalera, raise money to improve facilities at San Anton albergue, regularly encounter at first hand the good and the bad of those walking the Camino, and still think it is worth fighting to save what is special about the route, the experience and its religious significance, you are as far from sentimentality as it is possible to be. Additionally, Rebekah regularly attends meetings where important Camino-related matters are discussed, and updates the forum on those discussions. Rebekah is in no need of defenders, I simply state these things for those who didn't already know, because as the forum has a continually rolling membership, newbies can't be expected to know the back story of all our Veteran Members and understand why many of us hold them in esteem.

I wish I could triple "like" this!
 
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