Search 58,412 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Advertisement
Camino Socks
Browse the Camino Socks collection on the forum shop
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Travel company or do it myself?

Past OR future Camino
2022
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
You can easily book your own accommodations without the expense of paying a company. I recommend booking the first few nights before you leave home, then book a day or two ahead. Don't get locked into someone else's schedule.
 
Last edited:
Past OR future Camino
2012
Hi Marylou, welcome to the forum. From previous occasions this question has been posed I think the majority on here will say "just go"; "do it yourself"; "the Camino will provide". And they'll say that because that is exactly what the vast majority on here did, and they had a great time, a really big adventure in the biggest, safest, adventure park on the planet ;)

If you've been browsing the forum, especially the "live from the Camino" threads you'll have seen that the Caminio is fairly busy in a difficult year and yet everybody gets a bed, and a meal. OK, so more people are booking ahead for a day or two or even more but you can do that yourself without needing to pay a Travel Company to do it. If you need baggage transport that's readily available too on the major routes and easily arranged as a package or more flexibly day by day.

There are no rules for Camino. You can stay in Albergues, Hotels, Casa Rural where-ever takes your fancy or meets your needs on a given day.

No-one knows what next year will look like 'till we get there, but it'll be fun when we do.

buen Camino
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
If you book your own rooms I suggest checking out gronze.com (if you don’t speak Spanish you can have the browser translate and if you don’t know how to do that hundreds here will jump in to tell you) and booking.com.

I walked in an unpopular time on less popular roads so only once booked a room ahead (actually on the day of arrival I called—because the Primitivo had few lodging options and the flyer I was handed on the road said they had a private room ), but I did book hotel rooms ahead for cities I was planning to spend an extra day exploring, or when I changed between caminos. Those I booked a day or two ahead using booking.com

there is only one reason I could think of to use a tour group (maybe two): they will have someone to help if you don’t speak Spanish well)—but if you’re on the Frances most will speak some English, and you will have an automatic group of travel companions (this could be good or bad). You will also be stuck with traveling at the set schedule of the group. I preferred to walk alone but I think most would say you will soon make your own friends along the way
I also think planning your own route is more fun!

Buen Camino!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Re camaraderie, albergues that have communal meals do add to that, and to a lesser degree even if they don’t. Some private alburges might let you just pay for a communal dinner (I never tried but occasionally saw signs that implied that). Another option is some private albergues have a few private rooms as well as a dorm (sometimes with own bath, often shared bath in my experience) which would let you decide how much camaraderie you want 😉

edit: w/ covid who knows if communal meals will even occur (end edit)

if you naturally are outgoing you will soon have friends. If you aren’t you may need to put yourself out a bit more than is natural to you—your pack and shell will mark you as a pilgrim, other singletons and groups may start chatting but you can also approach others (covid willing of course) to ask to join their group for the walk, or lunch, offer to take their picture etc—of course w/covid who knows if people will still be distancing next year.

enjoy your pilgrimage
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I’m a do-it-myself pilgrim. I have, however, had a couple of interesting chats with pilgrims who’ve used a tour company.

One was a fellow in his late 60s. I’d been resting at a picnic table near the entrance to Viana when a tour company van arrived and their guy politely set up a picnic for incoming walkers. The first pilgrim arrived and sat with me and proceeded to be served a delicious looking salad. He said he walked his first camino on his own, but liked the service attached to these subsequent caminos. Food and beverages appear at regular stops. A bed in a nice hotel is waiting for him each day. The others on his tour had become his ‘camino family’. He still walks alone but the worry is gone. The only issue would be if he couldn’t walk the whole daily distance.

Another time, I met a family. They had booked through a company and were not completely happy. They would frequently arrive in a town at the end of their daily walk, and find their detailed information would then tell them to call a taxi to take them to their hotel - often some distance off-trail. Of course they’d need another taxi the next morning to return to the trail. The hotels were good and often had pools, which they liked, but the taxi part annoyed them. I think their tour company did the bookings and gave them the detailed info, but no on site service.

I guess the key is to be very clear what the tour company is providing to you.
 

TMcA

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
Given your situation - 72, female, travelling alone, first Camino, April 2022 start - I'd recommend taking a deep breath and just consider the responses that your post will generate. You have months before you need to make your decision. In addition, I'd try to get in touch with some women who started alone just as you plan to. I would think that you could readily find such women near Madison. Conversations with them would inform you, allow more of a two way dialogue as far as answering your questions, and make you more comfortable about making your decision.

As Tincatinker mentioned, most people on this forum fall into the "adventurous traveler" category and many have done multiple Camino routes. So their advice tends always towards the DIY reservation method. Doing it yourself is not as formidable as it seems and it is generally cheaper and always more flexible.

Tom
UW Madison grad - a long time ago ;)
 

MisterH

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2017, 2018 neither successful
I reccomend that reservations be set up until you have left Ronchavelles, assuming that you are going on the Camino Francis. After that askmyout hosts to make reservations for another day or two. On my trips that worked out well. If as you travel you find an interesting place then you can spend a day or two exploring it. I liked Pamploma and spent a couple of days there. Even if you are a dedicated single minded pilgrim, zero days are nice. There is a special problem with Pamploma and that is near the "Days of the Running the Bulls" when it gets a bit crowed.

I like to be assured of some place to stay when I get off an airplane so reservations are nice to have. Because airplanes, and other public, transportation services sometimes "miss" connections, I recommend planning a " spare" day in Saint Jean. I needed it when my hiking poles didn't make it and I found that wandering around the town was nice and that helped me find new poles in an unstressed atmosphere.

There is a Facebook group CAMIGAS that is for female travelers only. I have no idea if it would be useful for you as a single female on a trip.

Have a great trip!
 
Last edited:
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.

Pilgrim9

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
SJPdP-SdC (2017)
SdC-Muxia-Fisterra-SdC (2017)
Lisboa-SdC (2018)
Ferrol-SdC (2018)
I book my lodgings about 3 days in advance of need, with a strong preference for places that offer free cancellation - and, of course, free ensuite WIFI. I just use Booking.com or the website of the hotel/lodging place itself (which is usually a bit cheaper). Do-it-yourself on-line bookings is so easy nowadays that I never use any kind of full-service travel agency to find and book transportation or lodgings, or provide tour packages.

In my experience, Camino businesses and folks are, for the most part, helpful and supportive.

Hoping you have a wonderful walk!
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations... Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
You posed your question with two extremes - either have a travel company take care of everything, or go with no reservations and "let the Camino provide." There is a lot of room in between!

Here on the forum, you can ask any question that concerns you, and we can help you through the process. You will get some conflicting opinions, of course, but there is enough common sense here on the forum that you should be able to determine which approach will suit you best. In fact, I'd guess that you would get more personalized advice and help right here than you would from a travel company.

However, if you are really anxious about the whole endeavour, or you simply need someone else to take the planning load off your mind, then maybe a "package" from a travel company will suit you better.

By the way, I dislike the expression and I distrust the sentiment behind "the camino provides." I would never go halfway around the world to a foreign country, expecting any nebulous non-entity to provide me with my needs or wants. But that doesn't mean that I need to go to the other extreme, whereby "the travel agency provides."

I do my best to be prepared and safe, without being a burden on others, but I still have lots of room to make spontaneous decisions and experience surprises, along the way.

If you want to try out the "the forum provides" service, fasten your seatbelt for the onslaught of advice, and tell us a bit more about your situation. You've already indicated that you would generally prefer private accommodation. Other factors would include, fo example:
  • How much time do you have for the Camino? Do you have an idea of where you want to start?
  • Have you traveled much, at home or internationally?
  • What is your physical condition? Do you walk regularly?
  • Do you speak any Spanish?
  • Do you want to walk with others, usually, or do you prefer just your own company?
  • Can you carry a 12 pound backpack comfortable all day?
  • What has motivated you to walk the Camino?
As @trecile pointed out, we'd love to help!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Another resource is finding a local group of prior pilgrims, either via neighborhood apps like Nextdoor or here:


Sometimes local groups have get togethers or local walks and everyone who’s ever walked wants to talk about
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
C clearly and Trecile are the experts when it comes to advice for newbie and I completely agree with what they have offered you. Go it alone, for sure.
The only comment I would add is to check the weather conditions before you choose your starting point. SJPdP in April can present you with an iffy starting point if winter decides to stick around later next year. Just remember the line from that "movie" about how Daniel got lost.
To start in Roncevalles or Pamplona are ideal places to begin your Camino, stay flexible.
 
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
If anniesantiago and sillydoll revive their accompanied no-frills small group walks for beginners, I can recommend them both wholeheartedly.

 
Last edited:
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Another resource is finding a local group of prior pilgrims, either via neighborhood apps like Nextdoor or here:


Sometimes local groups have get togethers or local walks and everyone who’s ever walked wants to talk about
Hello, @maryloufrommadison,
I live about 65 miles from Madison. I would be happy to meet you at a halfway point for coffee somewhere and have a nice chat about the Camino. 🙂
You can PM me if interested.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Hello, @maryloufrommadison,
I live about 65 miles from Madison. I would be happy to meet you at a halfway point for coffee somewhere and have a nice chat about the Camino. 🙂
You can PM me if interested.
@maryloufrommadison if you don’t already know you can PM Camino Chrissy by clicking on her name then “start conversation” ….not that it took me a while to figure out or anything 🙄
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I personally do not tell someone that "the Camino provides", but the Camino being such a unique experience, often provides opportunities to meet folks willing to help a pilgrim in distress, no matter their problem...needing food, water, first aid, translation, a taxi, or a generous offer of a ride or help from a local.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Past OR future Camino
2022
You posed your question with two extremes - either have a travel company take care of everything, or go with no reservations and "let the Camino provide." There is a lot of room in between!

Here on the forum, you can ask any question that concerns you, and we can help you through the process. You will get some conflicting opinions, of course, but there is enough common sense here on the forum that you should be able to determine which approach will suit you best. In fact, I'd guess that you would get more personalized advice and help right here than you would from a travel company.

However, if you are really anxious about the whole endeavour, or you simply need someone else to take the planning load off your mind, then maybe a "package" from a travel company will suit you better.

By the way, I dislike the expression and I distrust the sentiment behind "the camino provides." I would never go halfway around the world to a foreign country, expecting any nebulous non-entity to provide me with my needs or wants. But that doesn't mean that I need to go to the other extreme, whereby "the travel agency provides."

I do my best to be prepared and safe, without being a burden on others, but I still have lots of room to make spontaneous decisions and experience surprises, along the way.

If you want to try out the "the forum provides" service, fasten your seatbelt for the onslaught of advice, and tell us a bit more about your situation. You've already indicated that you would generally prefer private accommodation. Other factors would include, fo example:
  • How much time do you have for the Camino? Do you have an idea of where you want to start?
  • Have you traveled much, at home or internationally?
  • What is your physical condition? Do you walk regularly?
  • Do you speak any Spanish?
  • Do you want to walk with others, usually, or do you prefer just your own company?
  • Can you carry a 12 pound backpack comfortable all day?
  • What has motivated you to walk the Camino?
As @trecile pointed out, we'd love to help!
Wow. Questions. Are you ready for all these answers?

The Camino has been a dream of mine for many years, but more seriously since 2016, when my husband and I started training for a spring, 2017 start. Even though we never made it together (he died last January), I haven't been able to give up the dream. I read about it, talk with others who have gone, watch video blogs, etc., and am determined to finally get there myself.

I have lots of time, as I am retired. I have always thought I would start in SJPDP, but may decide that in April it would be better to start in Zubiri or Pamplona, and would like to finish in Finesterre, with several 2-night stops in interesting towns. I'd like to keep the walks at 12-15 miles per day, but could do more if necessary. I walk a lot, usually 5-7 miles at a time, but did 13 the other day with no bad effects. I travel a lot, here and in Europe. I am learning Spanish, but don't believe I'll be anywhere near fluent by then. I don't mind being alone, but would like a mixture of time with people and time with myself. Ideally, I will splurge to have my pack driven from place to place, so I only have to carry a day pack. (advice on that would also be appreciated!) The preference for a private room is mainly because I think it would mean Covid is less of a risk (though I've already had it and recovered quite well--not the Delta variant), and I don't know how much rest I would get in a room with a lot of beds. But I'm open to a mixture of albergue and hotel accommodations.

I am so grateful to have found this forum, and look forward to all the answers. Thank you!
 
Camino Socks
Browse the Camino Socks collection on the forum shop
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Past OR future Camino
2022
Yep, I’m of those “Do-It-Yourself”-ers. I did my first when I was 65, my second at 67. My preparation was reading and following the advice on this forum. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, “I Walked Alone.” I was overly safety conscious in the beginning, and discovered the ins and outs of being a pilgrim through trial and error.
One of the most important pieces of advice I got from this forum so many years ago, was a motto I used every day I walked - “Start like an old man so you can finish like a young man.” In other words, don’t try too hard to keep up with others, especially in the beginning. Go at your own pace. Skip stages, stay longer than planned, make it up as you go along.
Listen to your body and your “spider-sense.” Don’t get involved in situations you feel uncomfortable with, but don’t be afraid to risk. I am one of the fools who does subscribe to “The Camino will provide,” because that has been my experience.
I am planning my next, albeit postponed, Camino, for May 2022. I’ll be right behind you, Maryloufrommadison, and I hope to share a bottle of grand rioja with you at a cafe off the plaza in front of the Cathedral in Santiago.
Welcome to the forum, ask lots of questions, and Buen Camino!
 
Last edited:

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
Wow. Questions. Are you ready for all these answers?
Well, from those answers, I have no doubt that you have no need for the travel company.

To put bookends around your trip, you need to decide on flight routing and dates. I think that buying a plane ticket to Madrid would give you the most flexibility to decide on your starting point at the last minute. Since timing isn't critical, you can bus/train to your walking starting point, and you can bus/train from Santiago back to Madrid. Those decisions don't need to be made until a day or two before that travel.

Now for the date decision. It is really nice to have 6 or even 7 weeks in Spain if you can and if you would be happy with that much time away from home. A couple of things to consider are day of week to start walking (although early April shouldn't be a problem with waves of pilgrims), and more importantly, where you will be at Easter.

Easter should not be avoided! It is wonderful in Spain. But you do need to plan your accommodation if you are going to be in one of the popular destinations during Semana Santa April 10-17, 2022. That might be a topic for a new thread in itself.

Even if you expect to have your backpack transported, it is great to have its weight minimized. That way you have more flexibility.
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
@maryloufrommadison & @TMcA *waves to fellow Mad City-ites!* I spent four wonderful years there.

I’m a hard core independent traveler, so my bias prevents me from giving very good advice, but I have a really hard time seeing how the booking services are worth the money.

The expression ‘the camino provides’ means two things to me. One, beforehand, to set aside worries and take the plunge and simply have some faith that everything will work out in the end; and second, after the fact, to express amazement at how things worked out. If one takes it to mean that no planning or responsibility is required for a successful Camino, then, no, that is not a good thing.
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
Another resource is finding a local group of prior pilgrims, either via neighborhood apps like Nextdoor or here:


Sometimes local groups have get togethers or local walks and everyone who’s ever walked wants to talk about
I did just learn about a Madison group, and have asked to join their Facebook group. Thanks for the suggestion!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Wow. Questions. Are you ready for all these answers?

The Camino has been a dream of mine for many years, but more seriously since 2016, when my husband and I started training for a spring, 2017 start. Even though we never made it together (he died last January), I haven't been able to give up the dream. I read about it, talk with others who have gone, watch video blogs, etc., and am determined to finally get there myself.

I have lots of time, as I am retired. I have always thought I would start in SJPDP, but may decide that in April it would be better to start in Zubiri or Pamplona, and would like to finish in Finesterre, with several 2-night stops in interesting towns. I'd like to keep the walks at 12-15 miles per day, but could do more if necessary. I walk a lot, usually 5-7 miles at a time, but did 13 the other day with no bad effects. I travel a lot, here and in Europe. I am learning Spanish, but don't believe I'll be anywhere near fluent by then. I don't mind being alone, but would like a mixture of time with people and time with myself. Ideally, I will splurge to have my pack driven from place to place, so I only have to carry a day pack. (advice on that would also be appreciated!) The preference for a private room is mainly because I think it would mean Covid is less of a risk (though I've already had it and recovered quite well--not the Delta variant), and I don't know how much rest I would get in a room with a lot of beds. But I'm open to a mixture of albergue and hotel accommodations.

I am so grateful to have found this forum, and look forward to all the answers. Thank you!
First, I’m sorry for your loss and hope your journey on the Camino next year is all you could want.

Shipping a pack ahead will probably require you to know where you are staying, and the desire for a private room also—and other than Holy Week would require booking a day ahead. Other than Holy Week you probably wouldn’t need more than a day or two ahead the entire way. As said, weather is variable in April, it was predicted to be a heat wave until I reached SJPdP at which time snow was predicted; I crossed Napoleon in a storm and saw only white everywhere but there’s always the Valcarlos route as an alternative, or a taxi back to Roncesvalles and start from there. Or taxi to Pamplona and start from there.
It sounds like you are more than capable of dealing with anything the Camino sends your way.
 
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I did just learn about a Madison group, and have asked to join their Facebook group. Thanks for the suggestion!
I am also very sorry to hear of the rather recent loss of your husband, having just read of it. I look forward to our meet-up in the next week. You are fortunate to find a FB group in your area. Possibly they host outings/walks in Madison on occasion. I love that city!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi, @maryloufrommadison,

I think that the Camino is about the best place I can imagine for honoring the memory of and reliving the memories with loved ones who have died. My mom died several months before a camino, and I found the clear open sky and the solitude just perfect for singing, crying, talking to myself… And stopping in lots of little churches (at least those that are open) is always a wonderful time for reflection, even for those who are not very religious like me.

I go to the Camino from the US as well, and I always find that I get better prices buying a round trip ticket. That means biting the bullet on how many days you are going to be gone. What I have done many times in the past is a rough ballpark figure of how many days to get to Santiago, add two days to be in Santiago, and then add four or five days to walk to Muxia or Finisterre. I know that I don’t typically take rest days (there’s another good recent thread on that issue here) but if I did I would add a couple of more days. Having the days for Muxia or Finisterre gives me the ”wiggle room” I need in case I need to take a break, get a small injury, get ill, etc). If I get to Santiago with time, then I head out to Muxia, but if not, I would be able to complete my walk into Santiago at least.

But since you say you want to walk to Finisterre (oh, do consider going on to Muxia as well, or going to Muxia before Finisterre) and you want to add rest days, AND you have no time pressure…. I would just go big, and if you wind up with extra days, most airlines now allow itinerary changes without a change fee, or you could hop on a bus and go have some R&R in one of many beautiful places in Spain.

There are, I think, at least three groups of people on the forum who walk without a travel company. First are those who reserve every stage and know exactly where they will stay. Second are those who don’t really have much of an idea what lies ahead, they just start walking. Third are those in the middle, those who love to gather all the relevant information about stages, historical sites, cultural attractions, etc, and tentatively map out stages but then discard them once they start to walk. What sounds best to you will determine how you approach your pre-Camino time.

There are many websites, guidebooks etc that can help you figure out where to stay. As others have said, having the first few days with reservations, and then seeing what the crowds are like and what your walking rhythm is like will help you decide whether you need to reserve ahead or can wing it by walking in to a town and stopping where you want.

I particularly like Gronze’s Camino Francés website.

https://www.gronze.com/camino-frances

It has great accommodation information, both private rooms and lodging, and it also has a feature that seems hidden but that adds all sorts of little “camino tidbits” about the stage it is describing —At the bottom of its page on each individual stage, there are three tabs that seem kind of hidden — Recorrido (a description of the walk itself), Al Loro (highlights of all random sorts, historical, natural, just anything that strikes the author’s fancy), and then Fotos.

I see that you are going to meet up with @Camino Chrissy — she has driven south to see me and now north to see you. Too bad there is not a higher density of us here in the midwest!

Buen camino, Laurie
 
Past OR future Camino
2019
When I walked the CF in 2019, I used Walk the Camino to plan the trip, book hotels and transfer bag. At no time did I feel constricted by the schedule I agreed to. I set up parameters of 15-18 miles a day, a rest day every 7th day (Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Villa Franco de Bierzo) and carrying only a day pack. As a 60 yr old, solo female, it was nice to know at the end of the day I had a clean private room and shower waiting for me. Working with WTC did not hinder me from meeting new people or did I miss out on the Pilgrim experience. To each their own.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A few times
Do you have a copy of a latest guidebook to the Frances? If not you can get one here. I personally recommend the Brierley. I know a lot of people swear by apps on their phones, but there really is nothing like having a good guidebook to research the Camino beforehand.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
When I walked the CF in 2019, I used Walk the Camino to plan the trip, book hotels and transfer bag. At no time did I feel constricted by the schedule I agreed to. I set up parameters of 15-18 miles a day, a rest day every 7th day (Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Villa Franco de Bierzo) and carrying only a day pack. As a 60 yr old, solo female, it was nice to know at the end of the day I had a clean private room and shower waiting for me. Working with WTC did not hinder me from meeting new people or did I miss out on the Pilgrim experience. To each their own.
I agree...to each their own. If I had not had my adult son with me who had done long distance backpacking trips, I would have been "shaking in my trailrunners" had I gone alone the first time. If a person prefers the comfort of a travel company and the means to afford it, so be it...why not.
Those promoting to "go it alone" have had successful outcomes. Any angst or fear usually dissipates after just a few days and gives much more flexibility on where and how long you stay, and who you choose to walk with.
 
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
When I walked the CF in 2019, I used Walk the Camino to plan the trip, book hotels and transfer bag. At no time did I feel constricted by the schedule I agreed to. I set up parameters of 15-18 miles a day, a rest day every 7th day (Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Villa Franco de Bierzo) and carrying only a day pack. As a 60 yr old, solo female, it was nice to know at the end of the day I had a clean private room and shower waiting for me. Working with WTC did not hinder me from meeting new people or did I miss out on the Pilgrim experience. To each their own.
I too love a physical guidebook. I treasure all of mine...they are a Camino bible to me.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
In 2016, I walked my first Camino. I dont have sufficient words for the experience - it was truly amazing and life changing and I was hooked. I didnt speak any Spanish, and didnt even take a guide book - I managed just fine.
I booked St Jean before I left, and then just walked. (These days you need to book Roncesvalles). I dont consider myself intrepid, and Spain is a modern country.

Since then I have learnt some Spanish, and bought a guide book. I book flights in and out beforehand. I know roughly how many daily kms I am comfortable with, and add in a few extra days. I book my bus from Madrid airport to the starting point beforehand. If you need to take taxis they are roughly 1 Euro per km.

In 2019, I took my husband (who is coeliac) and our 13 year old grandson. For that one I booked ahead for the first few days, and then a day or 2 ahead as I gauged their fitness and comfort. I either phoned ahead, the hospitalera phoned ahead, or I used Booking.com. It really is very simple, and by not booking too far ahead, you can adapt your schedule to suit your condition, the weather etc.

Something to point out - you will not find hotels in every town or village, certainly the larger towns will have a hotel, smaller villages will be more limited . But there are hostals and Casa Rural facilities which are also comfortable.
,
 

Sheesh

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF (2009, 2013);
? (2020)
... I will splurge to have my pack driven from place to place, so I only have to carry a day pack. (advice on that would also be appreciated!)...

Even with having a support bag transported, your carry load could be 5, 6, 7, 8 lbs on any given day, depending on your personal preference to have things close at hand: wet weather gear, perhaps walking sandals, extra socks, a jacket, a fleece, sunscreen, sun umbrella, a few meds, your phone, water and snacks - it can add up, so a day pack that fits well and allows you to carry your load without undue strain is very important. I suggest that you go and try some out at a REI or similar store, where they will take your measurements for torso and hip. Some smaller day packs have torso adjustment and trekking pole attachment capability, such as the Gregory Maya 16. It's a fabulous pack, but there are others as well. Best to go and try them on, check out their features and their fit, and walk around the store with some load. Packs under 20 litres should be amply sufficient.

Gregory Maya 16 Backpack - Real Review

 

Ksalud

Member
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
My preference has always (5x) to do it alone b/c really you are never alone.
Medical Servicrs in Spain, Portugal, and France are excellent but buy evacuation Insurance just in case.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Even with having a support bag transported, your carry load could be 5, 6, 7, 8 lbs on any given day, depending on your personal preference to have things close at hand: wet weather gear, perhaps walking sandals, extra socks, a jacket, a fleece, sunscreen, sun umbrella, a few meds, your phone, water and snacks - it can add up, so a day pack that fits well and allows you to carry your load without undue strain is very important. I suggest that you go and try some out at a REI or similar store, where they will take your measurements for torso and hip. Some smaller day packs have torso adjustment and trekking pole attachment capability, such as the Gregory Maya 16. It's a fabulous pack, but there are others as well. Best to go and try them on, check out their features and their fit, and walk around the store with some load. Packs under 20 litres should be amply sufficient.

Gregory Maya 16 Backpack - Real Review

Or a backpack that's big enough to carry everything, if necessary - 30 to 40 liters. The bag that is shipped ahead can be a lightweight duffel bag with the heavier items. I have this one that weighs about 4 ounces.

 
Last edited:
Original artwork based on your pilgrimage or other travel photos.
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
Past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
If I were to use a company, I would choose one which provides added value, perhaps in terms of having staff well-versed in the history and culture of the Camino. The advantage of a tour group– and I would choose very carefully– is that they take care of the details, and all you have to do is walk. The real disadvantage in my opinion is that they tie you to a schedule and if, say, you wanted to stay in Estella and check out a gallery and play billiards in a local bar, this takes away from those opportunities. As well, much of the delight of the Camino is in the coincidences and happenstances which bring you wonderful friendships.

On the other hand, bother is bother, and I find myself as I mature (!!) more and more disinclined to deal with hassles. A good tour company could save one these negative distractions.

Some have suggested that you meet with returned pilgrims who will happily give you their advice— having begun without chapters, APOC now has a comprehensive network throughout the US and pilgrims are always happy to talk with you– indeed, stopping them will be a challenge. If you go for a private company, ask them for references with whom you can confer. Remember that you are paying a very substantial premium for their services, so do not be shy with your questions.

Pack transfer is easily arranged on the Francese, other through your inkeeper or hospitalero, or by using the very pilgrim-friendly service of Correos Peregrino, so you need carry no more than a day pack with water and a snack. And whether or not you stay in albergues (some of which have private rooms) or commercial accommodation (which are very reasonable-- I love the casas rurales/BnBs and the family-run inns), you will easily be able to meet up with the pilgrims you met along the way. This is one of the few places on the planet where people of all ages mix and enjoy each other’s company.

But as you can see, there’s no shortage of useful advice in these posts. You might not be aware that the Cathedral’s Pilgrimage Office in Santiago will, upon request, put your late husband’s name on your compostela. There is a mediæval custom of performing the pilgrimage for a deceased person or one who is too ill to do the Camino. Just have the name written out for the clerk, and tell them that it was a “peregrinacion memorial.”
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
a day pack that fits well and allows you to carry your load without undue strain is very important.
Yes, very true that the "day pack" should be comfortable and supportive, with sternum strap and hip belt. However, I agree with @trecile
Or a backpack that's big enough to carry everything, if necessary - 30 to 40 liters. The bag that is shipped ahead can be a lightweight duffel bag with the heavier items.
That gives you the most flexibility of all. There is no need to have the extra bulk and weight of two backpacks with sternum strap and hip and hip belt. You can wear the one good backpack every day, and transport items in a dry bag or lightweight duffel. (People have done it with plastic garbage bags, but I don't recommend that.) I take a 31 L backpack for all of my needs, including sleeping bag, for 3 seasons.
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
If I were to use a company, I would choose one which provides added value, perhaps in terms of having staff well-versed in the history and culture of the Camino. The advantage of a tour group– and I would choose very carefully– is that they take care of the details, and all you have to do is walk. The real disadvantage in my opinion is that they tie you to a schedule and if, say, you wanted to stay in Estella and check out a gallery and play billiards in a local bar, this takes away from those opportunities. As well, much of the delight of the Camino is in the coincidences and happenstances which bring you wonderful friendships.

On the other hand, bother is bother, and I find myself as I mature (!!) more and more disinclined to deal with hassles. A good tour company could save one these negative distractions.

Some have suggested that you meet with returned pilgrims who will happily give you their advice— having begun without chapters, APOC now has a comprehensive network throughout the US and pilgrims are always happy to talk with you– indeed, stopping them will be a challenge. If you go for a private company, ask them for references with whom you can confer. Remember that you are paying a very substantial premium for their services, so do not be shy with your questions.

Pack transfer is easily arranged on the Francese, other through your inkeeper or hospitalero, or by using the very pilgrim-friendly service of Correos Peregrino, so you need carry no more than a day pack with water and a snack. And whether or not you stay in albergues (some of which have private rooms) or commercial accommodation (which are very reasonable-- I love the casas rurales/BnBs and the family-run inns), you will easily be able to meet up with the pilgrims you met along the way. This is one of the few places on the planet where people of all ages mix and enjoy each other’s company.

But as you can see, there’s no shortage of useful advice in these posts. You might not be aware that the Cathedral’s Pilgrimage Office in Santiago will, upon request, put your late husband’s name on your compostela. There is a mediæval custom of performing the pilgrimage for a deceased person or one who is too ill to do the Camino. Just have the name written out for the clerk, and tell them that it was a “peregrinacion memorial.”
Thanks for your suggestions! I didn't know about the "peregrination memorial"--what a lovely idea.
 
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.
Past OR future Camino
2022
I’ve always done the travel company route, just so I don’t have to worry every day about finding a bed. It’s also nice to hike with a daypack. A fellow traveler once referred it to me as the “Glamino.” And don’t let purists shame you. You’re walking as much as they are.
Did you find the restriction of having to be at a certain place on a certain day bothersome?
 

MyDestinationGalicia

Mark Auchincloss
Past OR future Camino
2021
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
I am self employed but have collaborated alot with the specialist Camino travel agencies. They normally can get you a room for a really competitive price (better rates than you can get).They can transfer your luggage every day for each stage which elderly people love. They provide you with maps and information so you can appreciate the heritage and local gastronomy. They take away some of the stress of worrying about accommodation. While I agree for many of us me included we arrange everything ourselves there are actually benefits of using an agency.Normally you will be really prepared for your Camino if you use one as they vast resources about all the different caminos.
 

Patricia43

New Member
Past OR future Camino
October 2017
I reccomend that reservations be set up until you have left Ronchavelles, assuming that you are going on the Camino Francis. After that askmyout hosts to make reservations for another day or two. On my trips that worked out well. If as you travel you find an interesting place then you can spend a day or two exploring it. I liked Pamploma and spent a couple of days there. Even if you are a dedicated single minded pilgrim, zero days are nice. There is a special problem with Pamploma and that is near the "Days of the Running the Bulls" when it gets a bit crowed.

I like to be assured of some place to stay when I get off an airplane so reservations are nice to have. Because airplanes, and other public, transportation services sometimes "miss" connections, I recommend planning a " spare" day in Saint Jean. I needed it when my hiking poles didn't make it and I found that wandering around the town was nice and that helped me find new poles in an unstressed atmosphere.

There is a Facebook group CAMIGAS that is for female travelers only. I have no idea if it would be useful for you as a single female on a trip.

Have a great trip!
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
I am female and hiked the Frances alone at 76 in 2019. I didn't find any of these to be a special consideration . I knew I was going to be a slow hiker (short legs, hip replacements) but ran into many people at my pace and had as much company as I wished. I got in the habit of booking a day ahead as I decided how ambitious a distance I wanted to do. I planned special booking for Burgos, Leon and Santiago as I wanted to spend 2-3 days for sight seeing and rest and these cities tend need a little more planning. Of course Covid brings more considerations as to dorm or separate room - that will have to be your choice
risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
 
Past OR future Camino
Sarria to Santiago 2010
Roncesvalles to Logrono 2015
Hospitalera 2016
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Hi Marylou I am also a "senior" woman who often travels and walks alone. For me, part of the enjoyment, challenge, and ultimate accomplishment of a trip is my own planning and execution of it. A tour company would likely give you a more secure, predictable, and easier trip, but, for me, at least, it would not be an adventure or an achievement. It really depends on what you want. Perhaps use a company for the first week or two, then try it on your own, once you see how it goes? The Frances has great infrastructure, and because it is so popular you will probably not be alone for long. Many pilgrims start off alone and then fall in with others, and there are taxis and buses and medical help all along the way. Get a phone or chip for your phone, take a list of accommodations and their phone numbers, and call ahead whenever possible, that would help you be both secure and flexible
 
Did you find the restriction of having to be at a certain place on a certain day bothersome?
No, I’m familiar with the distances that make me comfortable, so I can’t remember being frustrated with the notion, “Oh, I wish I walked further.” It’s all quite customizable, especially on the CF where you have more options, and those options are offered to you before you book.
 
Camino Jewellery
A selection of Camino Jewellery
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I am 73 years old and have walked four caminos, starting at the age of 68. I am beginning my fifth in a couple of weeks, always walking alone and carrying my gear. But I have lived near the Rocky Mountains for most of my life and began solo backpacking there when I was 25, gradually gaining experience and confidence. I think that you should choose whatever you are comfortable with: walking the Frances with your pack carried for you might work. Or perhaps you want the full support of going with a group. My biggest concern would be that you find the right company for you. I have never done that, so I cannot help. Look for information about camino tour groups on this forum, where you can get some information from customers about how it worked out for them. Pay attention to what they are praising or criticizing. It may be that they were satisfied with something that sounds just like what you want, or it may not feel right to you. Good luck in finding what you think you would like. But keep in mind that part of the learning experience of the pilgrimage is being in situations which are stretching your comfort zone: perhaps spending nights in albergue dormitories, sharing with pilgrims from all over the world, would be both a challenge and a blessing. Buen camino to you, whatever youu choose.
 
Past OR future Camino
2021
I used to backpack and do all of my own arrangement but gave up on that a long time ago. I find that the ability to know that you have a good place to sleep allows you just enjoy the experience.

If what you want to do is be challenged - then by all means do it yourself. You'll get a lot of pleasure out of it.

But, if on the other hand, you want to concentrate on having the most available time to just meet people and see the culture and wonders of each small town that you go through I'll take a set itinerary any time. In most cases, the set itinerary matches the spots that you would stop in anyway. The stages are fairly well defined (particularly on Caminos other than the CF).

Make sure you find a company, however, that has a great reputation and extensive experience. I've used walkthecamino.com for over 1000 miles of walking with no real problems. I have encountered none of the problems mentioned in posts above and always found the accommodations used to be top notch. Yes, you do pay some money for the service, but I find it worthwhile.

Again, if you are motivated by the spirit of DIY than go for it. But there are plenty of challenges in just walking a Camino without having to worry about the accommodations and bag transfer.
 

JamesVT

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
The Camino is not a forced march in the wilderness. There are hotels, taxi service, bag transfers, bars, restaurants, shops, pharmacies, etc. it is easy to book ahead as much as you like and help is always available from other peregrinos and the locals. There is no need at all for a travel company for any of your arrangements. Buen Camino. (I was 75 when I did my first Camino— wonderfully rewarding!
 

sfdithomas

Member
Past OR future Camino
2015
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Do it yourself
 

Harland2019

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances April/May "2019"
I am an experienced long-distance walker in the United Kingdom, normally 300/600 miles. When I decided to walk the CF in 2019 I was 72, male, fit, and not financially stretched. My concern about walking in Spain was not that I couldn't do the mileage or carry my "stuff" but a lack of the Spanish language, concern that what would I do if I couldn't find accommodation - in the UK it wouldn't have worried me as I would hop in a bus or chat with a local to find a bed. So I went for a Camino travel company, got them to book where I wanted to stay, ensured that I wouldn't need to taxi to accommodation (needed me to point out where they had not done that having checked the places online). So I walked alone, it wasn't a package tour with others, they provided a map of each location identifying how to find the accommodation. It worked brilliantly and I didn't need to have any concern about finding a bed for the night or having to set off at the crack of dawn to make sure that I got to places before the beds "disappeared". Whilst it wasn't a problem for me it did stop me from walking longer/less as everything was prebooked but if you book ahead daily or a couple of days in advance then it would be the same. Would I use them again - perhaps? Do I regret it certainly not? Although to be honest I am confident enough now to book accommodation via booking.com all in advance that obviously would be cheaper. But I would need all the accommodation booked up before I left home, I saw many people in Roncesvalles and Zubiri standing in the street trying to find a bed for the night, phoning for a taxi, some in tears where the Camino wasn't providing. There had been a bit of a holdup for a few days following the Napolean route being blocked due to snow so that would have exacerbated the problem. Please message me further if I can help further.
 
Camino walkers love this gripping, intriguing, mystery with history novel.
Camino Maps
A collection of Camino Maps from the Camino Forum Store

MikeC

Member
Past OR future Camino
Cycled SJPP to SDC September 2016
Starting Camino Ingles June 2018
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
When I did my fist Camino I came across several walkers in your position.
The tour company had booked accommodation at very modest intervals so they were finished by late morning and any walking companions had carried on, so the experience was more lonesome than they had hoped for.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
No, I’m familiar with the distances that make me comfortable, so I can’t remember being frustrated with the notion, “Oh, I wish I walked further.” It’s all quite customizable, especially on the CF where you have more options, and those options are offered to you before you book.

I think that this is an important prerequisite for feeling comfortable with a tour company or booking agency — know your comfortable range of walking. For a first timer that is harder to gauge but most people in decent shape can probably walk the ”standard Brierley stages.” But that still leaves all sorts of reasons why you might want to stop earlier than planned or walk longer than planned. A tinge of tendonitis, an hour spent gazing off into the beauty around you, coming across a place that just calls out to you and has availability, realizing that you unexpectedly got a surge of energy and just WANT to keep on walking, realizing that the big snorer is in the place where you had planned to stay and deciding it is worth it to carry on a bit. Those things are just hard to predict. So for me it’s a toss-up between predictability/assurance and day by day with allowance for change.

No right or wrong, just a choice for those contemplating getting things pre-booked by a company.
 
Past OR future Camino
2021
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
I'm going to be the minority opinion here, but we use a travel company and have had a good experience. This all started for us on our honeymoon in 2013. We decided to do three days of the Camino, then continue with our travels in Spain. It was not a Camino-focused vacation, and we had a lot of luggage we didn't want to carry with us. So we booked the Camino portion through Camino Ways in Ireland (camino ways.com). After that trip, we decided to return to Spain every fall and walk another segment of the Camino. (We were both working at the time -- we just retired last year -- and could never find a time when we could take the same 4-5 weeks off to do a full Camino.) We use Camino Ways every year, and the Camino is always just a part of a two-week Spanish vacation.

We have never done the DIY route, so I can't offer comparisons. But I can offer a few pros and cons of the travel company. First, though, I want to point out the distinction between a tour and a travel company. With a tour, yes, you travel as part of a group and are subject to the group itinerary. With a travel company, you are still traveling on your own, but all of your accommodations and luggage transfers are taken care of in advance.

Pro: We prefer to set our itinerary in advance, along with accommodations. Breakfast (and often dinner) is provided at your inn. Camino Ways helps you assess how long a walking day you want, then arranges the accommodations. You just need to have your transfer luggage ready by 8:30 am, and get from Point A to Point B at some point during the day. We always found Camino Ways to be easy to work with, the accommodations range from Spartan (but clean, and always with private room and bath) to luxurious. You do have the flexibility to change your itinerary mid-route, though there may be fees involved.

Con: I understand that we miss the daily adventure of finding an albergue and the flexibility of ending a day early if we choose, or staying an extra day to explore. In seven years of Caminos, this was only a problem one time, when my husband didn't feel well. So we sacrificed a day's walk and took a taxi to the next town.

The travel company may cost more than DIY. I can't speak to that. But we like the freedom of having accommodations taken care of, so that all we have to do each day is get out and walk and see what awaits us on the road.

We hope to finish this extended, multi-year Camino in the fall. And now that we are retired, we are planning to do the Camino in full next time around.

Whatever you decide, best of luck, and buen Camino.
 
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Camino walkers love this gripping, intriguing, mystery with history novel.

Ken pulskamp

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
It is such a deeper, richer experience to do it alone. Alone does not mean you will be by yourself all or even most of the time but it does mean you can independently call your shots. I used the think that “the camino will provide” was a trite mantra. By the time I made it to Santiago I understood the wisdom and accuracy of this saying. I’d advise going it alone. It was certainly best for me.
 
Past OR future Camino
2018
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Hello. I have walked part of the Camino and am leaving tomorrow for my second Camino. I am 61. Travelling alone. Truthfully, I think you can do this without a company. I am booking a couple days out and staying in places where I can stay alone. Taxis are easy to come by and the distances between cities are not that far most of the time, should you need one. It wouldn’t be a huge expense. Another option is Spanish buses which are amazing. I would save the $ by not paying for someone to do a very easy thing. Download a booking.com app and you can book directly from there. You will be fine.
 
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2016), Norte (2017), Portuges (2018), Mozarabe (2019), Primitivo (2019), Via de La Plata (2
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
You are completely correct that the albergue option is so much more Camino so I would agree with the responses which you have already received, i.e. pre-book your first week's accommodation and then take it day to day. The Camino Frances is the economic lifeblood of the areas which it passes through and so everything is set up to support peregrinos in sickness and in health. If you have a bad day on the Camino there are a lot of back-up services, baggage transport service, bus services and reasonably priced taxis. In addition when you get inj your peregrino bubble you will be walking with friends who will rally around in an instant to help you overcome whichever hurdle you encounter. Buen Camino.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Yes, a travel company can customize your journey according to how far you think you want to walk. But those decisions are made before you step foot on the Camino. Before you know that you would like to speed up or slow down to stay on pace with new friends. Before you find that your Achilles tendon is bothering you a bit, and you need a rest day before the pre-planned rest day. Before you decide that you'd really rather not take a rest day at all, but continue walking...
So many things can happen while you are on the Camino that can cause you to change your mind about the planned stages. By booking yourself you can retain flexibility to make changes on the fly.
 
Last edited:

Akbunny59

Member
Past OR future Camino
2017 / 2018
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Welcome to the world of the Camino....!
As with most others, I would say go with the flow. I used booking.com for the last camino Frances, almost exclusively. You can book hostels, b&bs and hotels that way. I used all these types of accomodation. At least that way you have certainty of a bed. That said, I have done 3 caminos and never failed to get a bed. I would add, please try the hostels as they are great fun. You may get a private room and shower in some of them.
Age is no barrier. I met a couple on the Portugues in 2018 who were in their mid 80's. They walked from Valenca to Santiago and they made it just fine. OK, it took them a little longer than most, but at the end of the day it's not a race, and anyway there are far to many bars to miss the tapas and vino.
Good luck and I know you will love it.. !
Stay safe.
Buen Camino

P.S. I have met loads of females walking on their own and I haven't heard one horror story. It's all about sensibility... 😉
 
how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Camino Jewellery
A selection of Camino Jewellery

RRat

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Planning 2017
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Since you are a bit apprehensive why not book the first three days then decide. I don't understand losing money by taking available transportation when needed. A group of us arrived late to one alburge with no vacancies. They called a cab, and the driver counted heads and made a phone call. We ended up in a excellent alburge with great food. It was a hotel that reserved a floor for groups of pilgrims. Cab ride was 2€ each. On another occasion I needed to add minutes to my phone plan. I was 20k from Leon but wanted to get to Leon early incase I had problems. 3€ bus ride and skipped an industrial area, no brainer.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility).
It just occurred to me, re-reading the original post because there have been so many interesting comments, that that this sentence unintentionally sets up kind of a false choice.

It’s not really a choice between having a travel company making hotel reservations vs. staying in albergues on the fly. I would say it’s a choice between (1) having a travel company making all your reservations in hotels/pensiones before you leave and (2) having you in charge of where you stay. You make a few reservations before you leave (in either a hotel or an albergue) and then adapt as you walk depending on crowds, weather, interest, etc. Many of the “go it on their own” people actually do reserve a day or two in advance, and there are even some, like @BROWNCOUNTYBOB, who reserve the whole thing in advance. So doing it without a travel company does not in any way mean that you have to walk into a village at 4 in the afternoon and start searching for a bed, though some love to do it that way! It just makes you the master of your own destiny, which of course requires some effort on your part. But I can remember lots of fun chats around tables in albergues at night when people were deciding where to go the next day or two, where to stay, etc, etc.

Good luck however you decide to do it.
 
Past OR future Camino
2019
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Hi Marylou
Yes, the Camino will provide. I did my first Camino age 60 in 2013 and have been three more times, always alone. I hope to be starting my fifth time next month. I have never booked ahead and have always managed to find accommodation. The one time I did get very sick and needed to return home I was helped along the way by other pilgrims and assisted by a wonderful hospitalero when I need to arrange train travel and a flight home. Ultreia.
Buen Camino
Vince
 

KRA2018

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances- 2017
Santiago- Finisterre (2018)
I think the comments so far have been very helpful -especially @peregrina2000 I did my first portion of the Camino via a company that booked only my accommodation and bag transfer ( along with maps and recommendations) I found it excellent it built up my confidence and my subsequent 5 variations of different Caminos have been me going it alone. I can’t advise you either way- but don’t feel any less if you book the first week via a company
 

ScorpioGirl22

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???

plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Marylou: I am Canadian & am planning on doing my first Camino mext May/June when I will be 70. If you would like a Camino buddy, perhaps we could walk the CF together. I know many people do the Camino alone and enjoy it......... I prefer to share the wonder of my experiences. Let me know if that is something you'd consider.
 
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos
Camino walkers love this gripping, intriguing, mystery with history novel.

Walton

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
Some great advice here and I have nothing to add except this;

If you do decide to book as you go, before booking make sure that you are absolutely certain of the location and name of the town that you are intending to book.

Sometimes the app you use for booking will recommend a place and on further investigation you might discover that particular place is far from where you indended to stay or it might even be a different place altogether.

It is easy to book the wrong accommodation in the wrong town, and do your money if what you booked isn't refundable. Even the very famous Camino Youtube adventurer, Efren Gondalez has mistakenly booked accomodation in the wrong location, if my memory serves me correctly.

So, before booking, check your maps carefully, check the spelling of the location and don't book until you are absolutely certain the place you are going to book is exactly where you think it is.

The other thing is that often a booking app will advise that an accomodation establishment is full. Don't believe that for a moment. It may be true but it may also be that the hotel or whatever it is has advised the app that it is full when there are in fact a couple of rooms etc still remaining to be sold.

You can always phone if you have a sim card or send an email. Phoning is better because you should know in a minute or two whether these is a room / bed available. If you can't speak Spanish, perhaps you can ask your host or another Pilgrim to assist you make a phone booking.

Personally, I always try to book one or two nights ahead, and I generally choose location over price except when the price is ridiculously expensive.

The Camino does provide that is true, to a large extent but I prefer certainty.

Cheers

Graham
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
If you do decide to book as you go, before booking make sure that you are absolutely certain of the location and name of the town that you are intending to book.

Sometimes the app you use for booking will recommend a place and on further investigation you might discover that particular place is far from where you indended to stay or it might even be a different place altogether.
Yes. Very good advice. It's a good idea to cross reference any accommodation that you are thinking of booking on Gronze, which will tell you if it's on or near the Camino. Gronze even has links to booking.com for those accommodations that accept bookings that way.
Although Gronze is only in Spanish, if you use the Chrome browser you can set it to automatically translate to English or the language of your choice.

 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Yes. Very good advice. It's a good idea to cross reference any accommodation that you are thinking of booking on Gronze, which will tell you if it's on or near the Camino. Gronze even has links to booking.com for those accommodations that accept bookings that way.
Although Gronze is only in Spanish, if you use the Chrome browser you can set it to automatically translate to English or the language of your choice.

I need to look into this for the future, @trecile. They possibly have added some additional features since 2018, when I last used it.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I need to look into this for the future, @trecile. They possibly have added some additional features since 2018, when I last used it.
Here are a few examples of what I mean.
The Albergue Peregrinos in Estella - it says "At the entrance, on the way"
Screenshot_20210824-151531_Chrome.jpg

Another hostel which says "At the entrance, on the way" and has a link to Booking.com.


Screenshot_20210824-151940_Chrome.jpg


And this one says "At the exit, at the foot of the path, 400 m from the old town“

Screenshot_20210824-151626_Chrome.jpg
 

Sharonih

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF (SJPdP to Santiago) March 15, 2018
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
As much as I normally would advocate doing it by yourself this year and probably next year you may be better off booking your stays in advance. You will lose the spontaneity but you will not have any stress as far as finding a room.
 
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrim Pouch carry bags with different designs
A lightweight carry bag handy for walking, biking, traveling, & Caminos

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I have been on a planned "tour" of much of Italy and two Mediterranean cruises, each with pre-designated itineraries and have loved them all. I have also toured Ireland, France and England by rental car and loved those as well. There is a place for both types of travel...one not necessarily better than the other.
 

tassiesue

New Member
Past OR future Camino
1
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Hi marylou I'm sue from Australia and I travelled 1st camino at age 69 in 2019 starting from sarria and I only booked my 3 nights in Santiago ,, I met lovely pilgrims the first day and after met others who popped up along the way, was very enjoyable and we're still in touch. I used the Brierly book for finding accommodation and looking on the forum alot before. i left loved it and was all booked to go last year for the Portuguese Camino have fun and look forward to hearing of your travels we can't get out of Australia due to Mr covid
 

Jeff Robinson

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
People write such nice explanations that are sincere, heartfelt, and kind. As a person, I feel a hold those characteristics also. But, I’m also a more of a “get to the point“ kind of person. It’s not always the best answer.
If you want to be a tourist, then hire someone.
If you want to be a pilgrim then make sensible preparation and go.
If you want to be a micromanager then plan everything down to the finest detail.
If you want to worry about every little thing, all I can say is “where is your faith?”
I am currently on the Camino as I write this. I can assure you everything is working out. You just have to be flexible, friendly and be opened every possibility to possible answers to your questions.
in my opinion, the “Camino“ or some mysterious spirit of the Camino doesn’t provide ANYTHING. The God of the universe in whom I believe provides me everything and he most often does it through other loving people. But then, of course if you don’t believe in God then this part of the answer is meaningless.

I hope I was some help. I don’t expect this answer to be helpful to everyone.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
If you want to be a tourist, then hire someone.
If you want to be a pilgrim then make sensible preparation and go.
Whether or not one is a pilgrim has nothing to do with where you sleep or who made the arrangements. It's the intention that one has that makes them a pilgrim.
 
Past OR future Camino
2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
Various routes...
Wow. Lots of feedback for you @maryloufrommadison !
(Welcome to the Forum, by the way!)

Like many others, I'm firmly on the side of being spontaneous and doing my own arrangements - for all the reasons people have mentioned. Just to be clear, though, there is a middle ground between a guided tour and doing it yourself.

I've done both, and they're both pilgrimages.
For my first Camino, I had been invited by a friend who had arranged everything through Rayo Travel. It wasn't a tour--we walked on our own. But they arranged all the transport to and from the Camino, hotels, and luggage transfers--and we got a USB stick with maps and all sorts of information. We tailored our own trip based on our preferences about distance per day, total distance, and standard of accommodation (not albergues but CRs , Pensiones and hotels).
Rayo did a super job and they were wonderful folks. (I just tried to look them up and discovered the business was dissolved last year. ☹️ )

Even though I now vastly prefer carrying my things, staying in albergues, and spontaneously arranging my own logistics, this was a great introduction to the Camino. Now I know how easy it is to take care of all the logistics myself--but that first trip it gave me the courage to strike out on my own on subsequent walks. It was an easy way into the camino water, and I have no regrets.
 
Camino walkers love this gripping, intriguing, mystery with history novel.
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets

Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Past OR future Camino
2022
Hi @maryloufrommadison
There is a lot of advice from other members before this, most of it really good advice. I would like to offer something slightly different. I want to let you know about an opportunity that, really, you only ever get once because you only ever do a First Camino once. After you have done your First Camino you will be an expert on doing Caminos and you will probably be tempted to post advice on this forum like the rest of us.

I think that the best way to let you know about this opportunity is to briefly tell you what happened on and before my First Camino. I am male and I turned 66 while on my First Camino. Like many (most) of the people who hang out on this forum I like to be in control, I have had a reasonably successful life and I am comfortable in my dotage. I still like to have fun but, generally, I don't do the high risk activities that I did in my youth such as racing a motorcycle. Nothing special about me, just an average old guy much like many others out there.

After I retired from work (involuntarily) I spent some time coming to grips with what my role in the world might be now that I wasn't telling other people what to do (as a manager) and without an identity that came from my job and job title. As part of that I joined the local hiking club because hiking was something that I very much enjoyed in my late teens and twenties. I wasn't very fit and I was a bit overweight but after a couple of months and through walking during the week around my local streets I got fit enough that I could keep up with the other slow hikers but not the really fit and keen ones. I was comfortable walking 5-10 kilometres (around 3-6 miles) daily.

One Sunday in late March 2019 I was in the hiking club's bus on my way to a hike when two younger women (sisters) sitting in front of me started talking between themselves about this walk that they were planning in Spain. They called it the Camino and at that time I would have had trouble spelling it as I knew nothing about it. I did have some vague memories of reading a newspaper or magazine article some years prior about walking through fabulous old villages in Spain but that was it. However, something in their conversation caught my attention. As they talked, something called to me and in that moment I knew that I had to do this walk.

After the hike I caught up with the two women and asked them about their planned trip. For some (unknown) reason they didn't want to share much about their trip (which was part of the Frances combined with the Primitivo) but they did tell me that if I was interested then I should look into walking the Camino Frances. When I got home that night that is what I did and discovered that it was an 800klm walk from St. Jean Pied de Port (I know, I know it doesn't start there) to Santiago de Compostela.

The magnitude of this walk both excited me and terrified me. The doubts started immediately, "How could 'I' imagine that I would be able to walk 800klms. What's more in a foreign country that I had never been to before and where they spoke a language that I didn't understand".

I immediately dropped into "planning mode" and started thinking about all the things that I would need to get organised before I could even contemplate doing this walk. I would need to get much fitter, I would need a backpack and special hiking/walking clothes and boots, a sleeping bag, what about vaccinations/water purification tablets, I would need a map ......... on and on.

After a couple of days of this I realised that these things were all Buts. You know, I am going to do X but after I have done Z, because I need to have done Z in order to do X. Then I made the mistake/brilliant step of telling my family that I wanted to head off to Spain to walk 800klms. While no one actually said it, I could see that they were thinking "he will never be able to walk 800klms". This helped to spur me on. I started preparing, I bought a backpack, filled it with cans of food to weight it down and started doing increased distances around my neighbourhood. I started to prepare a training schedule that had me being "fit enough" in about six months time.

I was now into April. About a week later I got an advertising email from Emirates offering really cheap flights to Europe (including Madrid) during May with returns before August. I sat thinking about that email overnight, without much sleep. By the morning I had realised that I could stay on my current track of making sure that I was completely prepared before I committed to going by buying a plane ticket or, instead, I could buy a plane ticket now and use that as a stake in the ground to make sure that I was prepared enough by the time that I left. Before I could talk myself out of it, I went onto the Internet and bought a return ticket to Madrid, leaving on the 12th May and returning on the 28th July. This gave me five weeks to prepare.

Five weeks might have been enough but then at about 2:00 am one night I woke up with severe pain in my side that had me rolling around on the floor and then recognising that I had a Kidney Stone and I needed urgent medical treatment. The surgery and recovery took ten precious days out of my schedule and I was only given medical clearance to fly three days before I flew out.

The time between deciding and going was a blur. I was not then the Camino expert that I am now ;) and so I didn't find this forum until the week before I left and I had problems finding any real information about the Camino before I left. This meant that, on the 14th May I arrived in St. Jean to start my walk with a reservation for one night in St. Jean. I had been unable to get a booking in Orisson or Roncesvalles. I had a pilgrim passport, my backpack, my smartphone, about 150 Euros in cash and a credit card. I knew that I needed to walk across the Pyrenees to Pamplona via some place called Roncesvalles and then generally westward until I got to Santiago de Compostela. That was it! I had no map, no real detailed idea about how I would get to Santiago, no accommodation booked, no idea of where I would stay the next night, no emergency food, nothing else. However, I had read that the year before over 300,000 other people had walked to Santiago (I didn't realise that not all of them started in St. Jean) and so I figured that if all these other people could do it then so could I.

After checking into my gite in St. Jean and leaving my backpack I headed up to the Pilgrim centre in St. Jean, stood in the queue for 30 minutes outside and then "chatted" to one of the volunteer helpers who's stilted English was a thousand percent better than my ill-remembered high school French. Based on that chat I booked a pickup from the Snow Virgen the next day by Express Bourricot and went looking for somewhere to spend a second night in St. Jean. I couldn't find anything through booking.com, my gite or any other internet searches and so I tried AirBnB and scored a bed for the morrow. With that settled I headed off to bed.

Apart from those two nights at the start, I never again made a reservation for accommodation even into Santiago de Compostela (not recommended). I never missed out on getting a bed although I got the second to last bed in Zubiri and the last bed somewhere else (I forget where). Nor did I know ahead of time in which village/town or city I would spend the next night. Usually I didn't even know the name of the next town or village that I would walk through. I had no map of the Camino or even a guide of any sort. I threw away the list of albergues given to me in the Pilgrim Centre in St. Jean on about the third day because the font was too small for me to read.

The next day I slept in and so by the time I headed out of St. Jean most of the other hordes of people had left before me and I almost made a wrong turning leaving St. Jean but I figured it out and headed up the mountain. Across the entire 800klms I only ever needed to use Google Maps on my smartphone a couple of times to find a particular albergue in the larger towns and cities and I was only ever lost once (it was great and I found my own way back onto the Camino) and at only two other points was I a little bit unsure about which way to go and in both cases the people around me, locals and other pilgrims, soon put me right.

Spain is a modern, highly civilised country and there are lots of resources such as places to stay, places to eat and drink, public and private transport, medical facilities, shops and the Camino Frances is incredibly well marked. Spaniards and other pilgrims are extremely hospitable and friendly. Even if someone that you meet can't speak the same language as you they will almost always be willing to communicate as best that they can.

Okay, so what you might be saying, what is that great opportunity that you talked about at the beginning? Well, after a few days (the day I left Pamplona from memory) I started to feel this incredible sense of freedom. My days were simple and uncomplicated. I had nothing to worry about planning or anything else. I got up, washed and dressed and started walking, usually well after everyone else had left and so for the start of the morning I had glorious solitude. I have a habit of walking without stopping and so by about 10 am I would start catching up with other pilgrims who had stopped for breakfast and/or a coffee and by about 1 pm I would be ahead of most of the others. At that point, when I passed through a village or town I would look for and find somewhere to stay, check in, shower, wash my clothes and then sleep until dinner time. Have dinner, explore a little and then head to bed for the night. The next day would be a repeat. Never did I have to be some place that someone else expected me to be. Life was simple and the simplicity and walking enabled me to clear my head and make decisions about the rest of my life.

Oh, and one more thing, that opportunity. The opportunity that you only get on your first Camino is to walk (metaphorically) into an almost complete unknown relying only on yourself to bring you to the other side. The self confidence that you gain when you do that has incomparable value along with the freedom that you will get from not being tied to anyone else's timetable or expectations.

Is it "better" to walk the Camino this way? Not necessarily, we each walk our own path in life and on the Camino and so what ever you choose will be right for you. You will not be a "truer" pilgrim if you walk it the way that I did. All pilgrimages done with a Pilgrim's intent are perfectly valid however they are done.

The only catch is, you only get one chance to do a First Camino because after doing one you will be an expert. After the first you will never again get quite that same opportunity to walk into the unknown with a huge goal and to show yourself that you can do that and come out the other side.

Buen Camino!
 

KRA2018

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances- 2017
Santiago- Finisterre (2018)
@VNwalking you put it all so brilliantly! I remember my first pilgrimage ( and it was that) with a hotel booking company - and was from Sarria! I was so excited! But then I read lots of negative comments about walkers from sarria - and walkers who use a company I felt embarrassed. On the trail however I interacted with everyone from those staying at the same hotels from similar companies and those who walked from SJPP with their backpack. It was amazing! The confidence I gained has informed all my subsequent Camino segments which I walked without a company. Do whatever feels right for you at the time - I leave on Monday for a quick Camino Finisterre - all booked via booking.com 😄😄😄 much easier for a short Camino in Covid times
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
Hi @maryloufrommadison
There is a lot of advice from other members before this, most of it really good advice. I would like to offer something slightly different. I want to let you know about an opportunity that, really, you only ever get once because you only ever do a First Camino once. After you have done your First Camino you will be an expert on doing Caminos and you will probably be tempted to post advice on this forum like the rest of us.

I think that the best way to let you know about this opportunity is to briefly tell you what happened on and before my First Camino. I am male and I turned 66 while on my First Camino. Like many (most) of the people who hang out on this forum I like to be in control, I have had a reasonably successful life and I am comfortable in my dotage. I still like to have fun but, generally, I don't do the high risk activities that I did in my youth such as racing a motorcycle. Nothing special about me, just an average old guy much like many others out there.

After I retired from work (involuntarily) I spent some time coming to grips with what my role in the world might be now that I wasn't telling other people what to do (as a manager) and without an identity that came from my job and job title. As part of that I joined the local hiking club because hiking was something that I very much enjoyed in my late teens and twenties. I wasn't very fit and I was a bit overweight but after a couple of months and through walking during the week around my local streets I got fit enough that I could keep up with the other slow hikers but not the really fit and keen ones. I was comfortable walking 5-10 kilometres (around 3-6 miles) daily.

One Sunday in late March 2019 I was in the hiking club's bus on my way to a hike when two younger women (sisters) sitting in front of me started talking between themselves about this walk that they were planning in Spain. They called it the Camino and at that time I would have had trouble spelling it as I knew nothing about it. I did have some vague memories of reading a newspaper or magazine article some years prior about walking through fabulous old villages in Spain but that was it. However, something in their conversation caught my attention. As they talked, something called to me and in that moment I knew that I had to do this walk.

After the hike I caught up with the two women and asked them about their planned trip. For some (unknown) reason they didn't want to share much about their trip (which was part of the Frances combined with the Primitivo) but they did tell me that if I was interested then I should look into walking the Camino Frances. When I got home that night that is what I did and discovered that it was an 800klm walk from St. Jean Pied de Port (I know, I know it doesn't start there) to Santiago de Compostela.

The magnitude of this walk both excited me and terrified me. The doubts started immediately, "How could 'I' imagine that I would be able to walk 800klms. What's more in a foreign country that I had never been to before and where they spoke a language that I didn't understand".

I immediately dropped into "planning mode" and started thinking about all the things that I would need to get organised before I could even contemplate doing this walk. I would need to get much fitter, I would need a backpack and special hiking/walking clothes and boots, a sleeping bag, what about vaccinations/water purification tablets, I would need a map ......... on and on.

After a couple of days of this I realised that these things were all Buts. You know, I am going to do X but after I have done Z, because I need to have done Z in order to do X. Then I made the mistake/brilliant step of telling my family that I wanted to head off to Spain to walk 800klms. While no one actually said it, I could see that they were thinking "he will never be able to walk 800klms". This helped to spur me on. I started preparing, I bought a backpack, filled it with cans of food to weight it down and started doing increased distances around my neighbourhood. I started to prepare a training schedule that had me being "fit enough" in about six months time.

I was now into April. About a week later I got an advertising email from Emirates offering really cheap flights to Europe (including Madrid) during May with returns before August. I sat thinking about that email overnight, without much sleep. By the morning I had realised that I could stay on my current track of making sure that I was completely prepared before I committed to going by buying a plane ticket or, instead, I could buy a plane ticket now and use that as a stake in the ground to make sure that I was prepared enough by the time that I left. Before I could talk myself out of it, I went onto the Internet and bought a return ticket to Madrid, leaving on the 12th May and returning on the 28th July. This gave me five weeks to prepare.

Five weeks might have been enough but then at about 2:00 am one night I woke up with severe pain in my side that had me rolling around on the floor and then recognising that I had a Kidney Stone and I needed urgent medical treatment. The surgery and recovery took ten precious days out of my schedule and I was only given medical clearance to fly three days before I flew out.

The time between deciding and going was a blur. I was not then the Camino expert that I am now ;) and so I didn't find this forum until the week before I left and I had problems finding any real information about the Camino before I left. This meant that, on the 14th May I arrived in St. Jean to start my walk with a reservation for one night in St. Jean. I had been unable to get a booking in Orisson or Roncesvalles. I had a pilgrim passport, my backpack, my smartphone, about 150 Euros in cash and a credit card. I knew that I needed to walk across the Pyrenees to Pamplona via some place called Roncesvalles and then generally westward until I got to Santiago de Compostela. That was it! I had no map, no real detailed idea about how I would get to Santiago, no accommodation booked, no idea of where I would stay the next night, no emergency food, nothing else. However, I had read that the year before over 300,000 other people had walked to Santiago (I didn't realise that not all of them started in St. Jean) and so I figured that if all these other people could do it then so could I.

After checking into my gite in St. Jean and leaving my backpack I headed up to the Pilgrim centre in St. Jean, stood in the queue for 30 minutes outside and then "chatted" to one of the volunteer helpers who's stilted English was a thousand percent better than my ill-remembered high school French. Based on that chat I booked a pickup from the Snow Virgen the next day by Express Bourricot and went looking for somewhere to spend a second night in St. Jean. I couldn't find anything through booking.com, my gite or any other internet searches and so I tried AirBnB and scored a bed for the morrow. With that settled I headed off to bed.

Apart from those two nights at the start, I never again made a reservation for accommodation even into Santiago de Compostela (not recommended). I never missed out on getting a bed although I got the second to last bed in Zubiri and the last bed somewhere else (I forget where). Nor did I know ahead of time in which village/town or city I would spend the next night. Usually I didn't even know the name of the next town or village that I would walk through. I had no map of the Camino or even a guide of any sort. I threw away the list of albergues given to me in the Pilgrim Centre in St. Jean on about the third day because the font was too small for me to read.

The next day I slept in and so by the time I headed out of St. Jean most of the other hordes of people had left before me and I almost made a wrong turning leaving St. Jean but I figured it out and headed up the mountain. Across the entire 800klms I only ever needed to use Google Maps on my smartphone a couple of times to find a particular albergue in the larger towns and cities and I was only ever lost once (it was great and I found my own way back onto the Camino) and at only two other points was I a little bit unsure about which way to go and in both cases the people around me, locals and other pilgrims, soon put me right.

Spain is a modern, highly civilised country and there are lots of resources such as places to stay, places to eat and drink, public and private transport, medical facilities, shops and the Camino Frances is incredibly well marked. Spaniards and other pilgrims are extremely hospitable and friendly. Even if someone that you meet can't speak the same language as you they will almost always be willing to communicate as best that they can.

Okay, so what you might be saying, what is that great opportunity that you talked about at the beginning? Well, after a few days (the day I left Pamplona from memory) I started to feel this incredible sense of freedom. My days were simple and uncomplicated. I had nothing to worry about planning or anything else. I got up, washed and dressed and started walking, usually well after everyone else had left and so for the start of the morning I had glorious solitude. I have a habit of walking without stopping and so by about 10 am I would start catching up with other pilgrims who had stopped for breakfast and/or a coffee and by about 1 pm I would be ahead of most of the others. At that point, when I passed through a village or town I would look for and find somewhere to stay, check in, shower, wash my clothes and then sleep until dinner time. Have dinner, explore a little and then head to bed for the night. The next day would be a repeat. Never did I have to be some place that someone else expected me to be. Life was simple and the simplicity and walking enabled me to clear my head and make decisions about the rest of my life.

Oh, and one more thing, that opportunity. The opportunity that you only get on your first Camino is to walk (metaphorically) into an almost complete unknown relying only on yourself to bring you to the other side. The self confidence that you gain when you do that has incomparable value along with the freedom that you will get from not being tied to anyone else's timetable or expectations.

Is it "better" to walk the Camino this way? Not necessarily, we each walk our own path in life and on the Camino and so what ever you choose will be right for you. You will not be a "truer" pilgrim if you walk it the way that I did. All pilgrimages done with a Pilgrim's intent are perfectly valid however they are done.

The only catch is, you only get one chance to do a First Camino because after doing one you will be an expert. After the first you will never again get quite that same opportunity to walk into the unknown with a huge goal and to show yourself that you can do that and come out the other side.

Buen Camino!
What a lovely description of your experience! I long to be on the Camino--it has been in my heart for many years, and is on my mind daily. I feel as if this time is part of the journey--I have been walking the Camino for years, and hopefully, soon, I will be able to continue the journey on the actual trail.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
After the first you will never again get quite that same opportunity to walk into the unknown with a huge goal and to show yourself that you can do that and come out the other side.

@Doughnut NZ, Wow and thank you. Though the details, the names, and the faces are different, you have summarized what so many of us have experienced and what it is that has turned us into the hard-core camino nuts that we are. More than anything, I think it is the sentence I’ve quoted above that explains why I (and many others) have this unexplained pull towards untraveled and more remote caminos. You are absolutely right that there is no way to replicate the “first camino” experience, but the obcure untraveled routes offer the same opportunity to set “a huge goal and to show yourself that you can do it.”

I had never thought of my own camino wanderings through that lens, but that is undoubtedly a big part.

So your post has a lot to say to the veterans too, and not just the “first timers.” Thank you so much, buen camino, Laurie
 
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.

mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Doughnut NZ,
So glad that you were able to discover the thrill of going into the "almost complete unknown relying only on yourself to bring you to the other side".

Now that you have that never let it go.
Thanks for sharing your discovery here on the Forum.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
@Doughnut NZ your post has chimed with me too. I was lucky to walk my first camino in the days when there was no choice but to walk in an unsupported way. Refugios (the forerunners of the albergue system) did not take bookings. They did not take people with vehicle support. There were no mobile phones. There were no luggage transfer companies. So I never had a decision to make. Planning meant buying a ticket and deciding where to start walking. Pretty much what I still do today.

I do not make any judgments about people who use all the conveniences that are now available. I've walked with friends who were grieving and I did everything to make the trip fun - and to avoid hardship. I've walked with friends who would not dream of staying in dormitory style accomodation. Or carry their own pack. We had a blast.

Some of the most religious and motivated pilgrims arrive in Santiago by bus. I think also of the group of disabled walkers for whom making a camino is only possible with extensive backup and meticulous planning. I know that as I age I will become more and more reliant on vehicle support and having my accommodation pre-arranged. I acknowledge that I now love the occasional splurge in a Parador or luxury hotel, and I don't think it diminishes my journey at all.

But I do think that I was lucky to make that first journey in the simple way that I did. I am so grateful.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
But I do think that I was lucky to make that first journey in the simple way that I did. I am so grateful.
So was I grateful, @Kanga.
I had no special knowledge about lodging options on the Camino in 2015 except what I took away from the movie "The Way", so I winged it and only arranged my first night. In fact I saw a man who I noticed stayed in "special rooms" in some of the albergues and wondered what that was all about as he closed the door behind him, but I never asked about it.
Also, I have always walked with family member/s or friends. I now book a variety of lodgings ahead of time and it has worked very well, too.
I am not a "trailblazer" even after having walked several different Caminos, so would only choose to do a very obscure route with a more knowledgeable companion...that's just me.
 

Ghislaine

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francès(2006)
Le Puy/Conques(2009)
Del Norte(2012)
Portuguese(2018)
Hi @maryloufrommadison
There is a lot of advice from other members before this, most of it really good advice. I would like to offer something slightly different. I want to let you know about an opportunity that, really, you only ever get once because you only ever do a First Camino once. After you have done your First Camino you will be an expert on doing Caminos and you will probably be tempted to post advice on this forum like the rest of us.

I think that the best way to let you know about this opportunity is to briefly tell you what happened on and before my First Camino. I am male and I turned 66 while on my First Camino. Like many (most) of the people who hang out on this forum I like to be in control, I have had a reasonably successful life and I am comfortable in my dotage. I still like to have fun but, generally, I don't do the high risk activities that I did in my youth such as racing a motorcycle. Nothing special about me, just an average old guy much like many others out there.

After I retired from work (involuntarily) I spent some time coming to grips with what my role in the world might be now that I wasn't telling other people what to do (as a manager) and without an identity that came from my job and job title. As part of that I joined the local hiking club because hiking was something that I very much enjoyed in my late teens and twenties. I wasn't very fit and I was a bit overweight but after a couple of months and through walking during the week around my local streets I got fit enough that I could keep up with the other slow hikers but not the really fit and keen ones. I was comfortable walking 5-10 kilometres (around 3-6 miles) daily.

One Sunday in late March 2019 I was in the hiking club's bus on my way to a hike when two younger women (sisters) sitting in front of me started talking between themselves about this walk that they were planning in Spain. They called it the Camino and at that time I would have had trouble spelling it as I knew nothing about it. I did have some vague memories of reading a newspaper or magazine article some years prior about walking through fabulous old villages in Spain but that was it. However, something in their conversation caught my attention. As they talked, something called to me and in that moment I knew that I had to do this walk.

After the hike I caught up with the two women and asked them about their planned trip. For some (unknown) reason they didn't want to share much about their trip (which was part of the Frances combined with the Primitivo) but they did tell me that if I was interested then I should look into walking the Camino Frances. When I got home that night that is what I did and discovered that it was an 800klm walk from St. Jean Pied de Port (I know, I know it doesn't start there) to Santiago de Compostela.

The magnitude of this walk both excited me and terrified me. The doubts started immediately, "How could 'I' imagine that I would be able to walk 800klms. What's more in a foreign country that I had never been to before and where they spoke a language that I didn't understand".

I immediately dropped into "planning mode" and started thinking about all the things that I would need to get organised before I could even contemplate doing this walk. I would need to get much fitter, I would need a backpack and special hiking/walking clothes and boots, a sleeping bag, what about vaccinations/water purification tablets, I would need a map ......... on and on.

After a couple of days of this I realised that these things were all Buts. You know, I am going to do X but after I have done Z, because I need to have done Z in order to do X. Then I made the mistake/brilliant step of telling my family that I wanted to head off to Spain to walk 800klms. While no one actually said it, I could see that they were thinking "he will never be able to walk 800klms". This helped to spur me on. I started preparing, I bought a backpack, filled it with cans of food to weight it down and started doing increased distances around my neighbourhood. I started to prepare a training schedule that had me being "fit enough" in about six months time.

I was now into April. About a week later I got an advertising email from Emirates offering really cheap flights to Europe (including Madrid) during May with returns before August. I sat thinking about that email overnight, without much sleep. By the morning I had realised that I could stay on my current track of making sure that I was completely prepared before I committed to going by buying a plane ticket or, instead, I could buy a plane ticket now and use that as a stake in the ground to make sure that I was prepared enough by the time that I left. Before I could talk myself out of it, I went onto the Internet and bought a return ticket to Madrid, leaving on the 12th May and returning on the 28th July. This gave me five weeks to prepare.

Five weeks might have been enough but then at about 2:00 am one night I woke up with severe pain in my side that had me rolling around on the floor and then recognising that I had a Kidney Stone and I needed urgent medical treatment. The surgery and recovery took ten precious days out of my schedule and I was only given medical clearance to fly three days before I flew out.

The time between deciding and going was a blur. I was not then the Camino expert that I am now ;) and so I didn't find this forum until the week before I left and I had problems finding any real information about the Camino before I left. This meant that, on the 14th May I arrived in St. Jean to start my walk with a reservation for one night in St. Jean. I had been unable to get a booking in Orisson or Roncesvalles. I had a pilgrim passport, my backpack, my smartphone, about 150 Euros in cash and a credit card. I knew that I needed to walk across the Pyrenees to Pamplona via some place called Roncesvalles and then generally westward until I got to Santiago de Compostela. That was it! I had no map, no real detailed idea about how I would get to Santiago, no accommodation booked, no idea of where I would stay the next night, no emergency food, nothing else. However, I had read that the year before over 300,000 other people had walked to Santiago (I didn't realise that not all of them started in St. Jean) and so I figured that if all these other people could do it then so could I.

After checking into my gite in St. Jean and leaving my backpack I headed up to the Pilgrim centre in St. Jean, stood in the queue for 30 minutes outside and then "chatted" to one of the volunteer helpers who's stilted English was a thousand percent better than my ill-remembered high school French. Based on that chat I booked a pickup from the Snow Virgen the next day by Express Bourricot and went looking for somewhere to spend a second night in St. Jean. I couldn't find anything through booking.com, my gite or any other internet searches and so I tried AirBnB and scored a bed for the morrow. With that settled I headed off to bed.

Apart from those two nights at the start, I never again made a reservation for accommodation even into Santiago de Compostela (not recommended). I never missed out on getting a bed although I got the second to last bed in Zubiri and the last bed somewhere else (I forget where). Nor did I know ahead of time in which village/town or city I would spend the next night. Usually I didn't even know the name of the next town or village that I would walk through. I had no map of the Camino or even a guide of any sort. I threw away the list of albergues given to me in the Pilgrim Centre in St. Jean on about the third day because the font was too small for me to read.

The next day I slept in and so by the time I headed out of St. Jean most of the other hordes of people had left before me and I almost made a wrong turning leaving St. Jean but I figured it out and headed up the mountain. Across the entire 800klms I only ever needed to use Google Maps on my smartphone a couple of times to find a particular albergue in the larger towns and cities and I was only ever lost once (it was great and I found my own way back onto the Camino) and at only two other points was I a little bit unsure about which way to go and in both cases the people around me, locals and other pilgrims, soon put me right.

Spain is a modern, highly civilised country and there are lots of resources such as places to stay, places to eat and drink, public and private transport, medical facilities, shops and the Camino Frances is incredibly well marked. Spaniards and other pilgrims are extremely hospitable and friendly. Even if someone that you meet can't speak the same language as you they will almost always be willing to communicate as best that they can.

Okay, so what you might be saying, what is that great opportunity that you talked about at the beginning? Well, after a few days (the day I left Pamplona from memory) I started to feel this incredible sense of freedom. My days were simple and uncomplicated. I had nothing to worry about planning or anything else. I got up, washed and dressed and started walking, usually well after everyone else had left and so for the start of the morning I had glorious solitude. I have a habit of walking without stopping and so by about 10 am I would start catching up with other pilgrims who had stopped for breakfast and/or a coffee and by about 1 pm I would be ahead of most of the others. At that point, when I passed through a village or town I would look for and find somewhere to stay, check in, shower, wash my clothes and then sleep until dinner time. Have dinner, explore a little and then head to bed for the night. The next day would be a repeat. Never did I have to be some place that someone else expected me to be. Life was simple and the simplicity and walking enabled me to clear my head and make decisions about the rest of my life.

Oh, and one more thing, that opportunity. The opportunity that you only get on your first Camino is to walk (metaphorically) into an almost complete unknown relying only on yourself to bring you to the other side. The self confidence that you gain when you do that has incomparable value along with the freedom that you will get from not being tied to anyone else's timetable or expectations.

Is it "better" to walk the Camino this way? Not necessarily, we each walk our own path in life and on the Camino and so what ever you choose will be right for you. You will not be a "truer" pilgrim if you walk it the way that I did. All pilgrimages done with a Pilgrim's intent are perfectly valid however they are done.

The only catch is, you only get one chance to do a First Camino because after doing one you will be an expert. After the first you will never again get quite that same opportunity to walk into the unknown with a huge goal and to show yourself that you can do that and come out the other side.

Buen Camino!
I love your story! @Doughnut NZ The story of ’’your first Camino’’ is for me, always so interesting to hear. I will never forget my first Camino. It will live in my heart forever! Whichever way you choose @maryloufrommadison, I wish you the same and more. Live it to the fullest and take the time to smell the flowers!🙏💖
 

Jeff Robinson

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
It's the intention that one has that makes them a pilgrim.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Thank you for sharing yours. Just to help me out, could you give me some examples of intentions that qualify and don’t qualify for making one a Pilgrim?

PS - I hope you don’t mind my taking some of your text out of its context. I felt I had license to do so because it’s what you did.

PSS - I hope you also realize that this is an age old debate that cannot be won because it’s based on opinion. So if you want to continue this ping pong game, you will win because I won’t return your next volley.

So thank you, I have enjoyed the game as I sit on the patio among a dozen or so tourists at a café in O'Cebreiro and enjoy the grand view across the valley of tomorrow’s journey. Oops! I mean pilgrimage. (I am of the opinion that I qualify.)
 
Camino Socks
Browse the Camino Socks collection on the forum shop
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Thank you for sharing yours. Just to help me out, could you give me some examples of intentions that qualify and don’t qualify for making one a Pilgrim?
Simple. If one's intention is to be a pilgrim, then they are a pilgrim. Mode of transportation or sleeping accommodation makes no difference. If someone tells me that they are a pilgrim I take them at their word.
 

Harland2019

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances April/May "2019"
When I wrote up my journal I described my walk as a ‘journey’ (it was more than a walk) as I do not believe in the existence of a God or gods. I didn't think that the term pilgrimage would be factually correct.
Edit: My underlying reason was that I didn't want to cause concern to "religious pilgrims", if that is a correct phrase, by me hijacking the word as I do see that those individuals with faith would rightly describe their walk as a pilgrimage but I didn't think that it fitted my journey. Only trying to clarify not to cause any upset.
 
Last edited:

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
When I wrote up my journal I described my walk as a ‘journey’ (it was more than a walk) as I do not believe in the existence of a God or gods. I didn't think that the term pilgrimage would be factually correct.
Depends on your definition.
20210825_100047.jpg
 
Past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Soooo.... I take groups on the Camino. Most of the people I take are folks who haven't traveled much or who are a bit afraid to go on their own. Most don't speak Spanish. By the time they walk 2 or 3 stages, they have "learned the ropes" and many go back alone to finish the sections we didn't walk.

I'd say this. If you are adventurous, if you are not afraid to travel alone, to try new things, to make new friends, and if you can follow simple instructions, then you can certainly do this alone.

If you want a private room, then you can plan ahead and book on booking dot com or go to Gronze dot com and find lodging. If you're willing to sleep in an albergue, then you'll find lodging along the way. HOWEVER, remember, this is a COVID year and places are only allowed by law to have 30-50% occupancy, which means fewer beds. Also, it is a HOLY YEAR, which means a lot of Catholics that wouldn't be normally walking, will be walking and taking up beds, especially from Sarria to Santiago.

My group is full for this year, but there are several reputable people leading groups, including some who will simply make reservations for you and give you a map. That could be a good way to go. But it really is something you can do for yourself if you're willing to put in the work. You can pick people's brains on this forum and others to find lodging email addresses for places that aren't on booking.com.

I'm sad to say that I believe gone are the days when you could just arrive in SJPP and start walking, expecting to find a place to sleep. Maybe those days will return, but they are not this year. That said, if you have the finances and are not concerned about taking a bus or taxi if you do find a lodging complete, I would say just go. Make reservations for SJPP, Orisson, Zubiri, and from Pamplona on you should be fine. Then as you approach Sarria, I'd make reservations for that entire stretch from Sarria to Santiago. By that time, you'll have an idea of how many kilometers per day you want to walk.

If you learn just a bit of tourist Spanish you'll be ok. There will be pilgrims all along the way to help you. This year I think it would be safe to say you will NEVER walk alone! You'll make friends on your first day!

Anyway, that's my opinion. It's just a matter of what type of person you are. If you've traveled before, you can do this alone. If you have NOT traveled before but are adventurous, you can do this alone. But if you have the money and the desire, you can certainly hire someone to plan it for you or a group to go with. And there's nothing wrong with that.

To the people who say you are not a real pilgrim if you don't do blah-blah-blah, I say "Pfffffffftttt!"
That's just BS.
People have hired transport and gone in groups from the beginning.
It's nobody's business but your own.
Just go and don't be guilted into someone else's version of reality.

Buen Camino!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I hope this thread doesn’t continue to move on down the path to the big black hole of “who is a real pilgrim.” I think the OP has gotten a lot of good information, respectful sharing of opinions, and personal assessments of the pros and cons of both travel co. vs. independent camino. I don‘t want to close the thread but sense that it is getting close to the line.

I think anyone reading this thread can see how it’s going, so please if you want to debate the finer points of who is a pilgrim, please take it to PM.
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I look forward to meeting Mary Lou for lunch on Friday. We will not be debating anything. I am good with both trains of thought, and will not try to sway her thinking one way or another.
I remember how much I enjoyed meeting a seasoned walker (pilgrim or not) in person before my first camino. I think she and I will have a great time together...period! 🙂
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
I look forward to meeting Mary Lou for lunch on Friday. We will not be debating anything. I am good with both trains of thought, and will not try to sway her thinking one way or another.
I remember how much I enjoyed meeting a seasoned walker (pilgrim or not) in person before my first camino. I think she and I will have a great time together...period! 🙂
I'm looking forward to it too, Chrissy! Can't wait to meet you.

I am grateful to all who answered, and am even more excited about the journey to Santiago. I would go tomorrow if I could! Thank you, all.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I remember how much I enjoyed meeting a seasoned walker (pilgrim or not) in person before my first camino. I think she and I will have a great time together...period!
Absolutely! Before my first Camino I didn't know anyone who had done the Camino, so I searched the name of my hometown here on the forum and found a woman who lives here. We got together for coffee a couple of times before I left, and I now count her as one of my friends.
 
Last edited:

ScorpioGirl22

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
Marylou: I am Canadian & am planning on doing my first Camino mext May/June when I will be 70. If you would like a Camino buddy, perhaps we could walk the CF together. I know many people do the Camino alone and enjoy it......... I prefer to share the wonder of my experiences. Let me know if that is something you'd consider.
Marylou: I tried to send you an email twice now to the address you provided but it isn't going thru.
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

Mycroft

Active Member
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Once you have walked, you will become a believer.
I cannot stress enough how the Camino does provide. Before my last Camino (2019) I read how in the olden days the fire stations would put up pilgrims who found themselves without a place to sleep, but this was no longer a practice. I tucked away that tidbit. A couple of months later I found myself in a small town in Portugal that just happened to be holding its saint's fiesta that weekend and there was no room at any of the inns. Wanderng around I spied a fire station and boldly asked (without knowing Portuguese) abut staying there. There was one firefighter who spoke English and she checked with her chief. No was the answer. So several of these good people called and walked all over trying to find me a bed. Along the way they picked up 10 Germans who also were out of luck. Another call to the fire chief led to an answer in the affirmative, and a boatload of pilgrims camped out on the upper floor of the building--complete with toilets, showers, and kind people.
 

Wis3Pilgrim

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Portuguese (Ponte de Lima-SdC, May 2018), Coastal Portuguese (2019)
There is a Facebook group CAMIGAS that is for female travelers only. I have no idea if it would be useful for you as a single female on a trip.
Just to add to what MisterH said, the full name of the Facebook group is 'CAMIGAS ~ A Buddy System for Women on the Camino' (you can do a search for it on FB). It's a great resource for any woman doing a camino. I'm a member of it and highly recommend it.
 

Herbst

New Member
Past OR future Camino
9/9/2019 Camino de Santiago
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
My sister and I started our Camino September of 2019. We took the advice of well meaning people and waited to book till we arrived.
After 8 days of trying all combination of efforts, we gave up! We returned home. Everything was booked… everything!
We deemed it unsafe to have to end up sleeping out in a plaza.
When we started at SJSP, , we were told it was so bad that 40 people slept on cots in the local gym. That should have served as a sign to us!
Everyone meant well advising us to just go with the flow… just, that year, that time was too crowded.
I still am thinking about doing it again, but this time I will have reservations…
Burn Camino!!!
 

Herbst

New Member
Past OR future Camino
9/9/2019 Camino de Santiago
My sister and I started our Camino September of 2019. We took the advice of well meaning people and waited to book till we arrived.
After 8 days of trying all combination of efforts, we gave up! We returned home. Everything was booked… everything!
We deemed it unsafe to have to end up sleeping out in a plaza.
When we started at SJSP, , we were told it was so bad that 40 people slept on cots in the local gym. That should have served as a sign to us!
Everyone meant well advising us to just go with the flow… just, that year, that time was too crowded.
I still am thinking about doing it again, but this time I will have reservations…
Burn Camino!!!
I meant Buen Camino!!! (Auto correct)
 

Scott Fraser

Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2017, 2018
Le Puy - SJPdP 2019
I plan to start my first Camino (Frances) next April, at age 72. I am female, and will be traveling alone at this point. I am trying to decide if I should use a travel company to make hotel reservations (better sleep, assured of a bed, lessen the risk of Covid) vs. staying in albergues (camaraderie, less expensive, much more flexibility). My fear, of course, is that if I get sick or am injured, I will have to take a taxi/bus/whatever to the next hotel or essentially lose my money. But my other fear is that it will be very crowded next year with all of us who have put off our Caminos, and getting a bed will be even more difficult. I would appreciate your thoughts. Will the Camino really provide if I just go???
Marylou,
My wife and I have walked three Camino’s in both Spain and France. I’ve always planned our routes and booked our accommodation and it’s always worked well for us. I have refined a process for how it’s done which I’d be happy to share but it takes awhile to get it all on paper. The decision to do it all DIY or use a travel firm depends a lot on your situation and preferences e.g., time to plan and do the bookings (it is time consuming), your organizational skills, risk tolerance, travel budget, etc.) A couple years ago I helped a friend plan her first Camino. A few days into the process she gave up and contacted a travel company.

Send me a PM — I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Camino Cups
Browse our selection of Camino Cups on the forum store

Did not find what you were looking for? Search here

Popular Resources

“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf ivar
  • Featured
“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf
4.95 star(s) 101 ratings
Downloads
15,223
Updated
A selection of favorite albergues on the Camino Francés Ton van Tilburg
Favorite Albergues along the Camino Frances
4.83 star(s) 35 ratings
Downloads
7,894
Updated
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances ivar
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances
4.88 star(s) 24 ratings
Downloads
7,698
Updated

Similar threads

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources

Top