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Thru Hikes v Camino - Motivations?

Robo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
OK, let's keep this a civil discussion :cool:
Neither is better than the other OK.

And they are quite different things, I think ?;)
Though that 'infamous' blog post "The Camino Sucks" perhaps didn't appreciate that they are like apples and oranges. :rolleyes:

Let's not get into those types of negative comparisons.

But, for those who have done both, and I know a few of you are here, I think it might be an interesting conversation.

What got me thinking about it?
Am I about to head off the the AT or PCT? No. Not at all.
They really hold no appeal for me. (due to #1 in my motivations list mainly)

But I was watching a lot of videos made my Thru Hikers as they have some great tips on lightweight gear, nutrition and all kinds of other stuff.

I've just ordered an Ultra Lite 'Ass Pad' as a result.
Who knew, it's a thing! Better than a square of bubble wrap! :)

So why do people embark on a Thru Hike?
We all know why we walk a Camino. (though the reasons are many and varied)
Are the motivations that different?

Obviously the trail is.
We sleep in a bed at night, and don't need to carry tarps/tents, cooking stuff, and 3-7 days of food.
(OK a very few of you carry tents and stuff)
And we are never far from a store! Or a taxi in case of emergency.....

From my perspective, which of course is the only one I have........
My motivations for a Camino are.........
  1. A spiritual journey of reflection and contemplation enhanced by the path and infrastructure itself.
  2. * A chance to totally unplug from daily life.
  3. * The opportunity to live simply.
  4. * To get closer to nature and the 'earth'
  5. To undertake a journey through a country of amazing history and culture.
  6. To 'pause' at times to further experience the surroundings/culture/history.
  7. * To meet others along the way undertaking their own journeys.
  8. To live in a 'World' or 'Environment' that seems more natural, rewarding and 'human' than the one we inhabit day to day.
  9. * For the physical and emotional 'challenge'.
* Whilst I have not done a Thru Hike, I imagine it might meet my goals * 2, 3, 4, 7, 9 and perhaps 1 (a little bit). But perhaps in different ways, I'm not sure.

I've watched quite a lot of Thru Hike type videos, and my observations are: (which might be totally off course)

A. It's generally a younger crowd. (the physical demands would dictate that and appeal to a younger crowd)
B. It seems to be more about completing the journey, than the journey itself (that might be unfair)
C. There seems to be quite an emphasis on maintaining a good 'speed' and not to many 'zero days' that could all prolong the journey too much.

I'm sure the terrain must dictate this focus. If I have 6 days to the next town and re-supply, there is no way I want to go slower. That means carrying more supplies, or running low.

And this might be a totally unfair observation / thought.
Are Thru Hikes 'manufactured' journeys? Rather like setting up an endurance test? (perhaps there is a long history of the routes I'm not sure)

Whereas perhaps a Camino could be more like a journey back in time/history to tread the paths taken by Pilgrims for a Thousand years and Roman Soldiers over 2,000 years ago.

Just some thoughts.

I'd be very interested to understand the motivations for Thru Hiking and what the similarities might be.
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
All that I can tell you is that I love to travel, and I love to walk. When I found out that I could walk across a country and sleep in a bed and take a shower every day (not to mention not having to cook!), I was ready to go!
Of course I learned that the Camino is so much more than that. I love the cameraderie of being part of a mass of humanity walking towards a common destination.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
This is a fascinating question for me, but I am not really qualified to answer it. The only long walks that I have done have been in the Canadian Rockies, and on the caminos de Santiago in Spain, with a couple of shorter backcountry walks in New Zealand. By preference, when I can I choose the longer walks and the less busy: the North Boundary and South Boundary trails in Jasper and Banff National Parks, the Aragones to the Frances, VdlP, Madrid to Frances to Invierno, and the Levante to VdlP to Sanabres (for this fall, if possible) in Spain. I say that I choose them, but really, they choose me. I walk alone, and have minimal contact with other walkers. However, I feel I have something in common with the walkers on the longer trails, although we never talk about it. It is spiritual. So why am I not a through-hiker? I considered the Appalachian Trail when I lived in Montreal, but I always went west to the Rockies in summer. From what I heard and read, the through hikes were getting busy, and I found the thought of having to leave the trail every few days to get food disagreeable. I had rather walk for two weeks in the Rockies, then finish the walk and go home. I am delighted to now be able to walk for a couple of months in Spain. I enjoy my occasional interactions with locals and other pilgrims. It is a Holy Way that we walk, if we do not discuss it. I long to continue on the Way.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
From what I heard and read, the through hikes were getting busy, and I found the thought of having to leave the trail every few days to get food disagreeable.

Really, I had assumed the trail led through small areas of habitation where hikers could re-supply.
Leaving the trail all the time would kind of break the rhythm a bit.
 

Arctic_Alex

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Finished: Camino Frances April/May 2019
Canceled: Primitivo May 2020
Neither is better than the other OK.

And they are quite different things, I think ?;)

I could not agree more! I think the heavy disappointment some long distance hikers experience on the Camino is only a question of false expectations. They think the Camino is something which it turns out it is not and never has been. That leads to frustration, absolutely understandable.
I remember my grandfather telling me about the first tomato he ever ate (around 1911). As it was red and looked sort of fruity he expected a sweet taste. When he took his first big bite with that expectation in his mind he was mildly said bitterly disgusted! He threw the tomato as far as he could and never touched one again for years – even though later he found out that tomatoes actually are quite nice when you approach them with more justified expectations :)
But, for those who have done both, and I know a few of you are here, I think it might be an interesting conversation.

I have neither done the PCT or the AT, but I have started with long distance (wilderness) hiking off the grid many decades ago. My first Camino only came 2 years ago and I never considered it to be yet another of my usual hikes but something completely different. And I was not disappointed at all.
So why do people embark on a Thru Hike?
We all know why we walk a Camino. (though the reasons are many and varied)
Are the motivations that different?

For me long distance hiking is about
1. to be all with myself and nature, to wake up in my tent in privileged places with privileged views which no other accommodation could offer. And away from the crowds
2. to reduce live temporarily to the basic necessities such as shelter, food and water. A good reminder of in what luxury most of us live. Yes, you can use reason and tell yourself, but only if you experience thirst, hunger, coldness and being exposed to the elements first hand ... only then will you really understand how much the basic needs are worth and how content one can be when these and only these are fulfilled.
3. the sense of achievement, mileage per day, reaching that peak, finding a perfect site to put up camp.

To comment briefly on your 9 motivations and compare them for long distance hiking vs. the Camino:

1. A spiritual journey of reflection and contemplation enhanced by the path and infrastructure itself.

The spiritual aspect of the Camino was much less important to me as I found all that many times on my other long-distance or nature hikes already. An important reason for the CF was, however, the infrastructure. That to me meant for the first time I do NOT need to bother about anything really. It was probably the most comfortable hike I ever had for that reason – and almost risk-free compared to the many (calculated) risks on my usual adventures. Also on the Camino here were far less crucial decisions to be made on a daily basis (no fording of rivers, no path-finding).

2. A chance to totally unplug from daily life.

Works fine on my other hikes ... and equally fine on the Camino.

3. The opportunity to live simply.

Yes and no. Compared to my normal life the Camino was an extreme reduction in complexity. My wilderness hikes are also a reduction in complexity, but on a different level it seems – maybe a bit more raw as an experience.
On the other hand the Camino was pure luxury compared to my normal life if I judge it by the consumption of wine and calories ;-)

4. To get closer to nature and the 'earth'

Yes for my usual hikes, not for the Camino, at least the CF. If I had expected the Camino to be a close to nature experience, I would have been rather disappointed. The Camino in its more scenic parts still leads to a heavily cultivated landscape, agriculturally exploited, the wells poisoned by fertilizers, not much space for wildlife and nature. Do not get me wrong, I really enjoyed the cultured landscape, but this is not nature. Where I live we have more nature around our house (with bears, moose, eagles wolverines you name it) than on the whole Camino, so probably my perspective is different from that of many others.

5. To undertake a journey through a country of amazing history and culture.

For the Camino: YES ... and this is one of the things I expected from it and I was not disappointed. For my usual long distance walking. NO.

6. To 'pause' at times to further experience the surroundings/culture/history.

I actually pause on my longer hikes to enjoy the surroundings, with a nature focus or just being lazy. I did pause a bit now and then on the Camino, and then it was for culture and history.

7. To meet others along the way undertaking their own journeys.

my normal hikes: NO ... the Camino: YES ... the other strong motivation for me to walk the Camino, and I was not at all disappointed.

8. To live in a 'World' or 'Environment' that seems more natural, rewarding and 'human' than the one we inhabit day to day.

This is a bit related to 4. I feel this stronger on my nature-hikes than on the Camino. But it was partially there on the Camino as well, no question. Just not as uncompromised.

9. For the physical and emotional 'challenge'.

On my usual longer nature hikes this used to be an important thing. The Challenge! But as I got older this motivation was slightly reduced :cool: It is still there, but I am also happy to walk only half the day and then put up my tent at a nice stream and enjoy the afternoon sun with some food.
Funny enough: On the Camino the physical challenge and the race against myself became more important again! With the result that I finished weeks before the plan as on the best days I did over 40k a day where only 25 or so were planned. But it was still fun and I even managed to visit churches, museums and all that along the way – but when on the road, I was just hiking at top speed ;-)

There was never any emotional challenge in walking the Camino, expectedly. Walking for weeks is just too natural for me to stir that kind of emotions. If this is an emotional process, I probably gradually did experience that process in small steps over the other hikes I did before. But I am not sure. I always felt rather at peace with myself.
I did however, at the end of the Camino when coming home, feel even more reassured that I like my daily life as well. Not needed, but a nice reminder :)

A. It's generally a younger crowd. (the physical demands would dictate that and appeal to a younger crowd)
B. It seems to be more about completing the journey, than the journey itself (that might be unfair)
C. There seems to be quite an emphasis on maintaining a good 'speed' and not to many 'zero days' that could all prolong the journey too much.

I cannot speak really for the American Thru Hikes as I never did any of those, but close friends of mine are crazy ATers and PCTers. In their mid-50ies they are fighters and up for any mileage-challenge.
Looking at them A does not really hold.
As it goes for B, they do it for the daily demanding challenge, for the achievement and for completion ... and for the landscape and the experience and to see and feel the path. So it is actually both completion AND the journey itself. However what makes/defines the 'journey' they would probably define differently from how you would do.
As for C, if you really want to do it as a through hike, you have not that much choice regarding seasons and weather and days off. So this pressure comes from practical reasons: you do not want to be stuck in deep snow on either the start or the end of the hike for example ;-)
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
All that I can tell you is that I love to travel, and I love to walk. When I found out that I could walk across a country and sleep in a bed and take a shower every day (not to mention not having to cook!), I was ready to go!
Of course I learned that the Camino is so much more than that. I love the cameraderie of being part of a mass of humanity walking towards a common destination.
Ditto!
In addition I will add...no tent, no cooking supplies, no meals to carry(only snacks), no heavy backpack, no bugs(on 5 camino's), and no bears(so far).
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (14), Portuguese (15), Le Puy (17), Ingles (17), VDLP (18), Lana (18), Madrid (19) + more
As a thruhiker and a Camino addict..... both types of walking have their charms.

The biggest difference is that the Camino doesn't have the challenge of supporting yourself independently in the wilderness. The degree of safety, level of preparation, and past hiking experience required is much lower.

Not all thru-hikes are created equal. The experience on the "busier" Appalachian Trail with well blazed trail, trail shelters and frequent road crossings is much different --- than crossing the Negrev Desert on the Israel National Trail, or cross-country mountain route finding on the Continental Divide Trail.

Here is a video from The Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 when I did a "slackpack". I got a lift to a trailhead and hitched back into a town at another trailhead. This means I didn't need to carry my camping gear or food for the day. I forgot my headlamp is which is VERY bad to do! It is possible to "slack pack" many short sections of the big American thruhike trails if you have an aversion to tenting.
Sara on the Pacific Crest Trail Day 66 VLog

Wilderness thru-hiking and Camino de Santiago pilgrimages have brought balance and happiness in my life. I will never give up either - both are essential to who I am as a person.
 
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Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Year of past OR future Camino
2014
So, on a long peak-bagging day hike this past summer, ending with a lovely night in our truck camper, we shared the trail head with some Continental Divide thru hikers. One of the couples shared their dream with us, capitalizing on a new trend called "slack packing." It's where the lightweights among us, who find schlepping seven days of living needs on their backs as undesirable, can still enjoy the fabulous thru hikes of their dreams! They were going to set up a company whereby they resupplied all your organic, pre-made food, water and other needs. Not sure if they were going to transport your backpack too, but I imagine that any level of service at the right price could be obtained. A quick Google search shows that it is already possible. https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trai...=For those that aren't,miles at a faster rate. So there you go! I guess we Camino addicts are almost slackpackers!
 

Helen1

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
I’ve not done any of the US Thru Hikes but, from watching films/videos and doing short hikes in the US my sentiments generally match yours. I think if I were to hike the AT I might get a bit bored of woodlands and clock up some very long days to get a change of scene :) .

Outside of the US I am not so sure I agree. There are plenty of hikes that are wilderness treks but also plenty that are brimming with culture/history and can be done with a nice place to stay and wine on tap every night (I think you can do the entire GR10 that way and get wilderness, nice food, a bed and culture).

Agree very much with Artic_Alex’s comments. Thru Hikes can be extremely spiritual experiences both in terms of feeling at one with nature and being moved by nature/power of nature/destruction caused by man and the occasional need look very deeply inside if the going gets tough.

I see the CF is a fairly manicured and at times urban experience (which makes it very accessible) but not a way I would choose to get close to nature.

Pausing is an interesting one. I am working so most trips have to fit within a specific time window and as a result they’re fairly organised with time for pausing effectively planned into the trip (or not). The two places where I have felt unable to pause were the Inca trail where I was with a group who had to get everywhere first and, sadly, on the CF. The stupidly early starts, infectious concern about accommodation that dominated conversations, literal bed races, etc. made for a bit of a race where no one seemed to stop. As a result I’ve tended to book accommodation so that I can have a more relaxed experience, get up later and walk different hours to most but you still have to get to your accommodation each day.

I feel very shallow saying this but my motivation for a camino or a thru hike are pretty similar – I want an experience that I will enjoy and will give me what I need. Sometimes that means a trip into the wilds, sometimes that is something more spiritual, sometimes a physical challenge, sometimes a R&R beach holiday!
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I could probably have managed one of the American thru-hikes when I was younger and still fit -- but really I didn't want to. Mountains are NOT my surface.

There are still strong similarities between a US-style wilderness thru-hike and a very lengthy Camino from home, whereas the principle difference is that Europe has been undergoing transformation through civilisation for thousands of years -- whereas the Americas hundreds.

So that even the Via Alpina, which in its toughest version is likely tougher from a purely hiking perspective than any of the US thru-hikes, and IIRC longer, is nevertheless also a series of hikes from hostelry to hostelry, village to village.

But the psychology in solitude and loneliness of a very lengthy Camino from home is something I've always bonded over with the few US thru-hikers I've met on the Camino, and there's some fundamental and deeper similarity between the two that I'm perhaps at a loss to explain.

Though it's true that the Camino Francès alone is rather different to a US thru-hike ...
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
B. It seems to be more about completing the journey, than the journey itself (that might be unfair)
erm, so really is the Way of Saint James.

The journey is not its purpose. It's a means to an end, and completion is a huge part of that.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Roncesvalles to Sahagun Oct 2016
Sahagun to SDC April 2017 Burgos to SDC April 2018
As a thruhiker and a Camino addict..... both types of walking have their charms.

The biggest difference is that the Camino doesn't have the challenge of supporting yourself independently in the wilderness. The degree of safety, level of preparation, and past hiking experience required is much lower.

Not all thru-hikes are created equal. The experience on the "busier" Appalachian Trail with well blazed trail, trail shelters and frequent road crossings is much different --- than crossing the Negrev Desert on the Israel National Trail, or cross-country mountain route finding on the Continental Divide Trail.

Here is a video from The Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 when I did a "slackpack". I got a lift to a trailhead and hitched back into a town at another trailhead. This means I didn't need to carry my camping gear or food for the day. I forgot my headlamp is which is VERY bad to do! It is possible to "slack pack" many short sections of the big American thruhike trails if you have an aversion to tenting.
Sara on the Pacific Crest Trail Day 66 VLog

Wilderness thru-hiking and Camino de Santiago pilgrimages have brought balance and happiness in my life. I will never give up either - both are essential to who I am as a person.

The main difference I found in a Camino and the App. Trail was the people. The age, in my experience, appears to be younger on the A.T. As well, people seem to more task oriented on the A.T. I need to get to the next point. This makes for a series of meetings which range from a quick nod, to a short chat about fellow hikers, unseen for a few days and worried about. Then off again at separate paces. Hikers who walk at different paces for a week, tend not to arrive and stay at supply points at the same time. Don't ever get in the way of a thru hiker on a town day.

Walking 6 or 7 days between supply points seem to be a whole series of different hikes. The sleeping arrangements are different as well, obviously. The AT requires one to carry a different load each day and to sleep in shelters out of doors. Each shelter is three sided and uniquely situated to have the open side face into the prevailing wind. Must be compensation for no showers.

The AT can seem more relentless as there are not the numerous small towns, with churches, cafes, and helpful people standing on the corners of the towns.
The AT does not have the warm shower and pilgrim meal at the end of each day. I have posted the following in an earlier post, so bear with me.

Each departure from a supply point on the AT opens one up to the following mental journey: Day one and I am getting comfortable again. Day two: "I think I stepped in something" Day three: nope that odour is me. Day four: actually I don't mind the odour. Day five: I wonder where the odour went. Day six: rinse and repeat. Actually over the week most people begin to smell the same and so the general wafting off of bodies is the same and so no one notices it much. Go a couple days without showering' on a Camino, and you run the risk of visits from vigilantes

The experiences are different and are often entered into with different expectations. They each are uniquely moulding in both a spiritual and physical way.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
All that I can tell you is that I love to travel, and I love to walk. When I found out that I could walk across a country and sleep in a bed and take a shower every day (not to mention not having to cook!), I was ready to go!
Of course I learned that the Camino is so much more than that. I love the cameraderie of being part of a mass of humanity walking towards a common destination.

Sums mine up too, pretty much exactly. Although prior to my first Camino, I did not like to walk, I figured I would learn how because I was so deeply attracted to the idea of being able to learn abut a country at ground level this way.
I have walked twice in Spain now, and once from Coimbra in Portugal.
I am dreaming of the LePuy, and of the Francigena from Lausanne. And the Irish routes, some of which tie to the Camino, some of which do not.
And other routes in Spain I wish to do are many.

The payback of people I have met along my different ways.... one very special person per Camino... and they remain cherished friends.

The payback of new cultural understandings, the something more than that Trecile mentions...

I’m never going to become an adventure hiker or a through hiker. I hate camping.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Each departure from a supply point on the AT opens one up to the following mental journey: Day one and I am getting comfortable again. Day two: "I think I stepped in something" Day three: nope that odour is me. Day four: actually I don't mind the odour. Day five: I wonder where the odour went. Day six: rinse and repeat. Actually over the week most people begin to smell the same and so the general wafting off of bodies is the same and so no one notices it much. Go a couple days without showering' on a Camino, and you run the risk of visits from vigilantes
The Camino could be a LOT like that back in the early 1990s ...
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
The AT has no appeal for me. Simply not enchanted by wilderness though I am glad it is there and it is possible to nibble around the edges at some if our national parks. Have walked Camino Frances and the Portuguese and enjoyed both. Liked: ability to find food and lodging after short or long days, contact with locals, being near real farms, and small towns, and happen upon a market day or local festival, the simplicity of life, no need to carry much (could send pack ahead, no need to tent...) etc. No judgement on what appeals to others!! I enjoy reading about your adventures.
 
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easygoing

Camino Sharon
Year of past OR future Camino
I have walked the Camino Francis 7 times, twice in 2017 and 2018. (2019)
I've been hiking all my life because I just love walking and the rhythm of walking is like a form of meditation that renews my mind. I am an experienced thru hiker-- I've hiked the Pacific Crest trail twice, the Arizona trail once, the wonderland trail 30 times and climbed Mt Rainer 20 times.
I liked the PCT experience because having everything I needed with me gave me a feeling of total freedom. Plus I found I was able to connect with like-minded people and became more outgoing as a result.
However, when I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015 I walked it like a through hike covering 20 miles or more a day. I felt I missed the experience and came back to walk it like a pilgrim. I stopped at churches to pray and I formed friendships with people from all over the world because I would see them again and again. Although I did meet people from all over the world on the PCT I find it more interesting to meet them on their own turf because I'm joining their culture.
I haven't read all the previous posts but one advantage to the Camino de Santiago is the ease of planning. When I planned a four-month trip for the PCT it took me a month to pack all the resupply boxes and then had to have a person to mail them out for me at the appropriate times. Yes we passed through some small towns or hitchhiked into the bigger towns which far from being a distraction is a welcome rest and a shower.
Another problem on the PCT is the time constraints. We are forced to hike long days if we want to finish by September.
Although I loved the PCT I love the Camino more because of the history, the historical buildings and the wine with every meal. (And showers every day 😉)
The person who walks the Camino expecting it to be a wilderness thru hike will be disappointed, but the person who walks it looking for adventure, friendship, spiritual growth and a whole lot of fun will not be disappointed.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I haven't done a long thru-hike, but I used to do multi-week backpacking trips. My pack was MUCH heavier, stopping at the end of the day - after a lot of rugged hiking up and down mountains - involved a lot more work: finding level ground, setting up a tent, hauling water, cooking over a temperamental little stove, extreme weather variations in a single day, and sometimes rain or early darkness confining me to my tent for many long hours. But the highs were SO high. I'd save a chocolate bar for day four and it tasted like absolute heaven. I'd bring some high proof rum in a Nalgene bottle and mix it with powdered lemonade and water. Like the best cocktail ever, but only if you are out on the trail. Sipping that, watching the sun set over an above-timberline lake was like nothing one could imagine.

Older now, I really, really appreciate a lighter backpack, a soft bed at the end of a day, sauntering to a cafe for a glass (or two) of wine and dinner, and walking through ancient little stone villages. But I am wistful for those early days in the wilderness.
 
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AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
please see signature
Neither is better than the other OK.

And they are quite different things, I think ?

@Robo, I agree, neither is better than the other

Having completed many multi day tramps/hikes/whatever and also completed many multi day pilgrimages in western Europe, I think I am qualified to say differences are in the detail. For each trip.

My motivations for a Camino are.........
  1. A spiritual journey of reflection... enhanced by the path and ...
  2. A chance to totally unplug from daily life.
  3. The opportunity to live simply.
  4. Get closer to nature and the 'earth'
  5. Undertake a journey through ... amazing history and culture.
  6. 'Pause' ... to further experience surroundings/culture/history.
  7. Meet others along the way undertaking their own journeys.
  8. To live in a 'World' or 'Environment' that seems more natural, rewarding and 'human' than the one we inhabit day to day.
  9. For the physical and emotional 'challenge'
At the risk of trying to split hairs across the Ditch, a Camino is a way, a journey, a trip.

I think my planned 250 km trip for next month will include two 1,000 metre hills, eight suspension bridges, a spiral, two villages and two towns and quite a few ups and downs.

Despite the apparent solitude, I expect to meet and chat with locals and fellow travellers. The culture and history will be there and different from that in western Europe.

I will bring the spirituality.

One way or another, I think I have ticked off each of your nine points. And I will be as far away from Spain as it is possible and still be on dry land.

@Robo, kia kaha, kia maia, kia mana'wa'nui (be strong, confident and patient) and get going when safe for you and all you will encounter.
 
I've already written about my thru-hiking the AT in 1996 (I was 51). Here's a few things I found:
1. I and others start out with high hopes and over planning. I prepackaged dry goods (trail mix, hamburger helper, dried potatoes, rice, etc,) postcards, udder butter, socks, Band-Aids. All preaddressed and tagged so my wife could mail to post offices along the trail. I threw out or gave away the Trail Mix. After awhile it lost its allure and weighed too much.
2. Some purists only walked the White Blazes (approved trail), even in a lightning storm. I walked the Blue (alternate trail) because of safety.
3. Some shelters are quite small and open on one side. You can take a ground cloth to cover in a raging snow storm. On one particular night a young hiker lit up a joint. I asked him to put it out. He said no. So, I threw him out into the weather. The joint went out.
4. At some point a "scenic overlook" loses my interest. If I walk to the overlook that's one mile away and return to the very same spot; I'll skip the over look and make two miles farther along the trail.
5. Trail heads that feed larger shelters from a short distance away draw weekend campers.
- Advantages: they bring in food they don't want to carry out. Bonanza for a thru-hiker.
- They often leave unopened alcoholic beverages. Bigger Bonanza
Disadvantages: A group of weekenders (say six people) will create a "pack explosion" and completely take over a site that should hold twelve. Other Thru-hikers that got to know me, would wait until I entered the shelter. Once in the shelter, I mentioned I was one of four Thru-hikers that will arrive shortly. Trail etiquette calls for each occupant to use an area about the dimensions of their sleeping bag from deck to ceiling. I'm going to get water. When I return, I better see four areas cleared out.
6. Thru-hikers are well prepared for weather related events. "Section hikers" (five to ten days) may not be. The Section hikers wear the wrong footwear, Levis (big no no...get heavy and won't dry out when wet). Over pack with non-essentials. Over the first twenty-thirty miles of the AT starting from Springer, you can collect several backpacks of top quality gear that's discarded by these hikers. I even saw a 20 lb cast iron skillet. I did not pick it up.
7. Some stretches are likely to be quite lonely and you may not see another hiker for days. On one section in Pennsylvania, I was walking a ridge line in 90 F/32 C degrees. The only waterpoint was 1/2 mile down the ridge. The shelter could hold twelve comfortably. As I set up at one end and began my journal entry, a group of Mennonite women (50s to mid-teen) approached, each wearing full dresses and carrying nice packs. When they saw me they stopped. I said hello and told the leader the water point was dry until well down the hill. She huffed and led the tribe down. Two teens at the end of the line, curtsied and said thank you. On the way back the leader nodded in my direction. I told her I had a tent and was willing to give up the shelter. So shook her head no and led them off into a clearing several hundred yards away. Later that evening, as I was about to turn in, they returned. Stood outside the shelter and sang some of the most beautiful songs. True Trail Angels.
8. I celebrated my 51st birthday in Harper's Ferry. The local hotel had a nice restaurant. Once I cleaned up, I entered the restaurant and the hostess (I guess I didn't do the cleaning thing to her approval) set me well back from the majority of those present. As I placed my order, I mentioned I was celebrating my birthday and had started thru-hiking from Georgia on 1 March. My birthday is May 21st. When my salad appeared, it was accompanied by a bottle of red wine. The hostess indicated a couple across the room were happy for me. I had a great steak. A decadent Double Chocolate Cake (with a candle) and the red wine. When I asked for my check, the hostess indicated another couple had already paid for it. Trail Angels!
I could go on and on. After all, when you are on a Thru-hike that lasts five months and four days, you will have some really cool adventures and meet awesome people. I treasure the memories, but would never do it a second time. The many long miles, not knowing what awaits at your hoped for campsite (I got tired playing ranger), dried up, or fouled waterpoints, filthy campsites and shelters (human and animal feces) and, the necessity to put one's self in danger trying to rescue ill-prepared hikers (guiding fifteen hikers in a blizzard who had no maps and no idea where they were), searching for hikers in another snow storm that abandoned a fellow hiker, who we found later that night dead from the cold.
No, no more Thru-hikes for me. The Camino has it's own advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, with minor exceptions, help is available from more savvy pilgrims, or competent first responders and solid medical care.
Buen "Now where is my udder butter?" Camino
Arn
 
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We have some caminos behind us and have hiked some on sections of the AT, CDT and PCT and there is too much for my one finger typing on a phone to do without mental editing first.

I'm deviating from Robo's topic a bit here. What I wish to say for non-residents of the USA is that a 3 month visit is relatively easy to get but for one of the big three trails you will need to get a 6 month visa. It's not impossible but it will involve an interview with embassy or consulate staff. On one AT hike I spoke with a Mexican (a camino veteran) who said he had an easy time of it. He went into the interview excited about and knowledgeable about the hike and brought stuff with him. I was left with the impression that the official ended up jealous. A few years later at a place 500 miles away I met an Austrian on the AT. I asked if he had trouble getting the 6 month visa. He said it was very difficult but, unfortunately, we had to part ways at that instant so I couldn't get more information. Anyway, as I said, getting the visa isn't impossible and going prepped should help you out.
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
please see signature
@David Tallan, thanks for posting the short video above.

In my view there is a lot in common with:
  1. Appalachian Trail and Te Araroa and similar long distance tramps; and
  2. Pilgrimages whether those with lots of infrastructure (eg from Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela) or with lots less (eg Canterbury to Rome)
And those who have completed long distance tramps/hikes/walks/whatever have many skills and equipment that are easily transferred to long distance pilgrimages.

Just we have to change our mindset when changing from one to the other.

Kia kaha (take care, be strong)
 

davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Why do I Thru-Hike: To enjoy the adventure, test myself, and to surround myself with, and marvel at, the natural world that God has created.

Why I do a Pilgrimage: To give myself a deliberate separation of both time and distance from the everyday rush of life that competes for God's attention;. It is a deliberate time for building that Spiritual relationship, seeking to understand how to better put my faith into practice, and how I can be better at building my relationship and bond with Him.

Plus, while I like the desert, 40 days and 40 nights of it can get a bit tedious, and I do not like scorpions. Not to mention that there is no Spanish Fanta Naranja, tapas, tortilla de patatas, or jamon in the Mojave.
 
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Robo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
For waht it's worth, here's a short video (just under 20 min) comparing the Camino de Santiago to the Appalachian Trail by someone who has walked both (although with a lot more experience thru-hiking than Camino-walking):

A good balanced perspective.
Dixie makes good videos. Have watched quite a few.

Though of course for anyone who walks a Camino for Religious / Spiritual reasons (she makes it clear she didn't), that brings a totally different dimension and makes the 2 experiences poles apart I think.
At least IM very HO :)
 
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A good balanced perspective
In my opinion she compares appels with pears (as we say in german).
And as the only camino she‘s talking about is the frances the conclusions can be misleading when other caminos come into consideratian i.e. via de la Plata, camino de levante or de la lana.
But, to return to the subject of this thread: I‘m a conviced thru hiker and I prefer the longer caminos, about 1.000 km at least. The simple reason is that I need about 2 weeks to come into this certain flow that I love so much. This makes ist to me a complementative experience. And this feeling I‘d like to keep as long as possible.
For this, of course, it‘s not necessary to reach Santiago but to me it helps to have a destination. That, in turn, on my first camino after 2800 km had a bad outcome. I fell into a hole mentally. For my next caminos I‘ve been aware of that danger and startet to prepare my conciousnes a week before arrival. And I used the Muxía and Fisterra way to come down to real life.
 

mikebet

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPdP to Pamplona (2016); Baiona to Santiago (2018); Sarria to Santiago (2018)
I have only done short sections of the PCT or AT so I can't say much about the super-long thru-hiking, but I have done some pretty demanding multi-day hikes such as the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, the infamous Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea -- both back in the day before guides or other assistance -- as well as the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island and in the John Muir Wilderness in CA. In retrospect I can see that I saw those hikes as more of a challenge than a treat -- it seems like finishing the hike was always in mind, and for that reason there was a tendency to hurry along toward the destination rather than to savor the experience while underway. By contrast the various Caminos present a more relaxed experience which reminds you that every minute of the journey itself is more important than finishing it. Give me the Camino experience every day.
 

eviemonkey

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances August 2016, Camino Primitivo August 2018
Motivation-wise, I think there are some similarities between a Camino and a thru-hike (in my case the PCT). Both attract adventurous spirits who are drawn to a particular challenge. One that offers you a sense of purpose each day, and a tangible reward in the form of miles made towards a end goal. There is a lot of noise that clutters up our day to day lives, but on the road or the trail, you only had two choices each day, to keep walking or to go home.

On the Camino, I felt there was a sense of people needing to take some time out of ‘normal life’ for a while. Now there are more ‘pull factors’ involved on any Camino than on a thru-hike. It is perfectly reasonable for anyone to want to spend time in northern Spain, sampling the culture and history of the region. Then, a warm bed, hot shower and a cooked meal awaits you at the end of each day’s walking. A Camino experience feels accessible if you can just muster the courage to take the first step.

Whereas I found many of the people who feel compelled to undertake a thru-hike seem to be motivated as much by ‘push factors’, the idea of removing themselves from mainstream society for a while, as much as any great love of nature. That’s not to say the love of the outdoors isn’t present, it has to be, but the wilderness is just the best environment in which to be able to live a more simply or traditional lifestyle for a while.

The PCT feels harder, and so motivations can be tested fairly quickly on trail. The desire to live out in the wild may be enough to motivate you to travel across the world to the Mexican border, but can it sustain you every day for five months as you walk to Canada? The romantic vision of a nomadic lifestyle is tested fairly quickly in the first week as you sleep under a bridge to avoid 40 mph winds in the desert, or you cross the first snow section in week three. Drop-out rates are high in those first two weeks.

The novelty of walking 20 miles every day and camping under the stars fades as the second month becomes a third month. You crave the stimulation of sitting outside in the plaza in Burgos at night, or marvelling at the stained glass windows of the cathedral in Leon. Ultimately, I left the trail at this point. Record snow levels were the main factor driving me off trail, but loneliness/boredom was another. I missed the people I had met in the desert that had either soldiered through the High Sierras in mountaineering gear, quit or returned home temporarily to wait out the snow. After travelling north to northern California, there were days when I barely saw another hiker and that loss of connection takes its toll mentally.

I think one of the biggest takeaways from any long walk, is not to treat it as this big one-off event, that once finished, returns you to the same life as before. It’s about taking home the perspectives and experiences you’ve gained, and applying them to become a more authentic version of yourself. De-cluttering your lifestyle, living closer to nature, challenging yourself more or whatever the case may be.

‘Success’ on the Camino or the PCT was never really about Santiago or Canada. Success started the day you conceived of the very idea of a long walk, taking risks, pushing through your comfort zone, learning new skills, reaching out to strangers, forming close bonds with like-minded people, your kind of people.

That need for connection and the importance of living simply, feels more acute now than ever before. The perseverance and perspective you gain on long distance walks are particularly valuable under the current circumstances we now live in.
 

patgreen

Member
Really, I had assumed the trail led through small areas of habitation where hikers could re-supply.
Leaving the trail all the time would kind of break the rhythm a bit.
I walked a section of the Appalachian trail and it deliberately avoided going though habitation most of the time. On a few occasions I hitched into town.
 

Dromengro

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPdP - Leon 1984
Frances (2021)
The biggest difference is that the Camino doesn't have the challenge of supporting yourself independently in the wilderness. The degree of safety, level of preparation, and past hiking experience required is much lower.
Surely this depends on where you start "The Camino", those starting in Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia, or even further afield would disagree about the lack of wilderness or challenging situations that would be better tackled with high levels of safety, preparation and experience, even closer ones can be just as wild depending on the route taken.
That's why I avoid using the "C" word but rather the "Way of St James", so as not to confuse walking/hiking along a Spanish path with a Pilgrimage to Santiago. I also think that by using the C word that the Pilgrimage part is in danger of being lost and becoming a "thru hike". At least I'm presuming that the OP original intention, is to compare Pilgrimage to Long distance walking, not just Spanish trails to American ones.

I think that all of Robo's points can apply equally to both,
I've been motivated slightly by all of them at some point for many long distance paths, and wilderness hikes, even though maybe number 1 and 7 would not be a motivation, but could be experienced along the way,
I've never felt the need, unless my life depended on it, to complete a walk, reach a summit or even to follow a set route, and have never felt disappointed that I didn't achieve what I set out to do, so I don't think that completion or the challenge is in itself a motivation, and although I used to walk extremely fast and cover large distances, I would just as often stop and linger if I found somewhere interesting along the way if I could. I've certainly never done it to I get a badge or bragging rights.
I live fairly simply and relatively unplugged, so not sure if that is much motivation either, apart from sleeping below the stars.
I have walked a lot of old drover trails motivated by historical reasons, researching and finding their forgotten history along the way,

The Frances was by far the easiest and the least remote walk I'd ever done, but at the time I too thought it sucked, and stopped around Leon, partly due to extreme heat but more the lack of wilderness also strangely loneliness and boredom, which is strange as I was used to spending weeks at a time in the barren Scottish mountains without seeing anyone at all, barely seeing a house or any other sign of civilization.
Since then I have learnt to enjoy less remote areas, and even done urban thru hiking/camping, which I actually now often prefer more than wilderness, and can be just as challenging and adventurous in some cases more so.
Yet somehow I feel that because I did not reach Santiago that the journey is somehow incomplete, in a way which has never bothered me before.
It's hard to define the difference, yet I feel that there is one or at least there should be one, whether that's for religious/spiritual reasons or not.
Maybe, even though I thought I was doing it as a pilgrimage rather than just a walk, (I even went to church several times, a first for me) I was probably more in thru hiker mode. Maybe Mdme Debril was right about me, not being a true Pilgrim. Maybe I just like walking.
 
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Frank Wortley

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
French Caminos - April/May 2013, March/April 2017 and (Sept/Oct 2018)
OK, let's keep this a civil discussion :cool:
Neither is better than the other OK.

And they are quite different things, I think ?;)
Though that 'infamous' blog post "The Camino Sucks" perhaps didn't appreciate that they are like apples and oranges. :rolleyes:

Let's not get into those types of negative comparisons.

But, for those who have done both, and I know a few of you are here, I think it might be an interesting conversation.

What got me thinking about it?
Am I about to head off the the AT or PCT? No. Not at all.
They really hold no appeal for me. (due to #1 in my motivations list mainly)

But I was watching a lot of videos made my Thru Hikers as they have some great tips on lightweight gear, nutrition and all kinds of other stuff.

I've just ordered an Ultra Lite 'Ass Pad' as a result.
Who knew, it's a thing! Better than a square of bubble wrap! :)

So why do people embark on a Thru Hike?
We all know why we walk a Camino. (though the reasons are many and varied)
Are the motivations that different?

Obviously the trail is.
We sleep in a bed at night, and don't need to carry tarps/tents, cooking stuff, and 3-7 days of food.
(OK a very few of you carry tents and stuff)
And we are never far from a store! Or a taxi in case of emergency.....

From my perspective, which of course is the only one I have........
My motivations for a Camino are.........
  1. A spiritual journey of reflection and contemplation enhanced by the path and infrastructure itself.
  2. * A chance to totally unplug from daily life.
  3. * The opportunity to live simply.
  4. * To get closer to nature and the 'earth'
  5. To undertake a journey through a country of amazing history and culture.
  6. To 'pause' at times to further experience the surroundings/culture/history.
  7. * To meet others along the way undertaking their own journeys.
  8. To live in a 'World' or 'Environment' that seems more natural, rewarding and 'human' than the one we inhabit day to day.
  9. * For the physical and emotional 'challenge'.
* Whilst I have not done a Thru Hike, I imagine it might meet my goals * 2, 3, 4, 7, 9 and perhaps 1 (a little bit). But perhaps in different ways, I'm not sure.

I've watched quite a lot of Thru Hike type videos, and my observations are: (which might be totally off course)

A. It's generally a younger crowd. (the physical demands would dictate that and appeal to a younger crowd)
B. It seems to be more about completing the journey, than the journey itself (that might be unfair)
C. There seems to be quite an emphasis on maintaining a good 'speed' and not to many 'zero days' that could all prolong the journey too much.

I'm sure the terrain must dictate this focus. If I have 6 days to the next town and re-supply, there is no way I want to go slower. That means carrying more supplies, or running low.

And this might be a totally unfair observation / thought.
Are Thru Hikes 'manufactured' journeys? Rather like setting up an endurance test? (perhaps there is a long history of the routes I'm not sure)

Whereas perhaps a Camino could be more like a journey back in time/history to tread the paths taken by Pilgrims for a Thousand years and Roman Soldiers over 2,000 years ago.

Just some thoughts.

I'd be very interested to understand the motivations for Thru Hiking and what the similarities might be.

Dear Robo


Thanks for this blog as it taps into a lifelong experience for me. I’m 69 and I put my first pack on when I was 18 and at this stage in my life feel almost naked if I don’t have the pack on my back.


I have completed three French Caminos since 2013 and had planned to do one last year. With a friend I spend between four and seven nights between what you have called Thru Hiking and what I is an Australian call bushwalking. We did it as a deliberate spiritual exercise supporting a more extensive routine maintenance that rolled on year by year. Decidedly different from a Camino the outcomes for us had a strong equivalence in that we would come away with new resolves, directions, and insights to take with us into our futures. We would often not encounter any other walkers and this enhanced intensity (in a good way) of our time in the bush. There is a deep unstructured history in our bush and a profound spirituality has to be experienced to be understood. I suspect all countries have this for those open to the experience. These bush trips were one of the ways I kept in training for the traditional Caminos and they kept me spiritually tuned for that experience.


The packs are definitely heavier and for eight-night nine-day trip (depending on the opportunity to water resupply) we might carry 25 kg.


My observation of our culture is that we do not get many young people stepping into this challenge but rather more of the old foggies (pronounced with a long oh) like me.


Hope this has been helpful
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
Surely this depends on where you start "The Camino", those starting in Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia, or even further afield would disagree about the lack of wilderness or challenging situations that would be better tackled with high levels of safety, preparation and experience, even closer ones can be just as wild depending on the route taken.
That's why I avoid using the "C" word but rather the "Way of St James", so as not to confuse walking/hiking along a Spanish path with a Pilgrimage to Santiago. I also think that by using the C word that the Pilgrimage part is in danger of being lost and becoming a "thru hike". At least I'm presuming that the OP original intention, is to compare Pilgrimage to Long distance walking, not just Spanish trails to American ones.
I think when most people here or elsewhere talk about "the Camino" they are talking about established routes with some supports for walking, either in Spain or the various routes in France (from Arles, Le Puy, Vezelay, or Paris) or the Jacobsweg in in German-speaking countries, etc. While I don't doubt that there are people who walk from Scotland or Russia, I think their experiences are hardly representative. People who are walking south from Scotland or west from Russia, can certainly be said to be on a Camino, but I'm not sure if I would say they are on the Camino, until they join that European-spanning network of established trails.

I think the network of Camino trails does provide more support. It tends to take people through villages more than it seeks to avoid them. That's because, to some extent, the motivation is different. It is about supporting people on the way to Santiago rather than getting away from people and settlements to experience the wilds of nature.
 

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