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what is going on? why are so many people paying a fortune to follow one of the many routes to Santiago?

kirkie

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#1
Reading through some of the threads, and those with statistics, I am asking the question that makes the title of this thread. I will be pedantic for a moment, and repeat what is often quoted: each person has her/his own motivation for walking to Santiago, from whichever starting point. I am just wondering aloud, really. The number of people has increased over the last umpteen years. While I am happy for people that there is such a useful infrastructure, making the experience economically feasible, what is it that draws people with right reason or none to set on such a journey? Some reject/deny any religious motivations. Their privilege. Some state it is for the physical challenge. Also, their privilege. Some are following an urge because of having talked with someone who has 'done' it, or perhaps having watched a film/ read a book about "The Camino". Some are walking in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have gone before. Some are hoping, for what? There are other Pilgrim journeys in other parts of the world. So, why, the Camino to Santiago?
 

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MinaKamina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
#2
The Caminos have been heavily marketed world wide for years and the efforts are starting to pay off. And this forum is making it easier too ... take a taxi... use the app... start in Pamplona if you are worried about the Pyrenees ... you can find enough food if you are a vegetarian ... IMHO the era of the early adapters, the pioneers, is long past.
 

SYates

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

Now: http://egeria.house/
#3
First of all I would argue with "paying a fortune", especially if you are from a nearby country and travel to the Camino isn't too expensive. As for the rest, I think you answered your own question already ;-) Buen Camino, SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#4
@kirkie, "paying a fortune" can mean different things to different people and it's often also seen in a (perceived) value for money context. But the title surprises me a little. Are you mainly thinking of people who travel from the States, Korea, Australia, Canada, Brazil (see list of top non-EU countries in 2017)? Because for the majority of the people on the Camino to Santiago, it's dirt cheap to travel there and stay there for a few weeks. And the weather is often better - at least warmer - than at home, with the exception of those from Italy perhaps. :)

PS: @SYates, we wrote at the same time. :)

Edited to add link.
 
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kirkie

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#5
First of all I would argue with "paying a fortune", especially if you are from a nearby country and travel to the Camino isn't too expensive. As for the rest, I think you answered your own question already ;-) Buen Camino, SY
I really do not want to argue.
 

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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#6
Some are walking in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have gone before. Some are hoping, for what? There are other Pilgrim journeys in other parts of the world. So, why, the Camino to Santiago?
I think part of the answer to that last question is that it was the first pilgrim route to be very deliberately revived and actively promoted. And the Caminos are easily accessible and comparatively cheap for many Europeans. And the knock-on effect of the Camino revival is that more and more people every year are actively seeking out other pilgrim routes in Europe and further afield: the Via Francigena and the Shikoku and Kumano Kodo routes in Japan spring to mind. No longer confined to Spain.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#7
IMHO the era of the early adapters, the pioneers, is long past.
Also, walking to Santiago (under whichever banner one choses) follows a general trend of "slow travel", more meaningful travel etc., and walking on foot during leisure time/holiday time is currently becoming ever more popular in a number of neighbouring countries at least.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#8
IMHO the era of the early adapters, the pioneers, is long past.
Too true - and a pity, that.

I sometimes also wonder - why some people spend literally many thousands of dollars to sort-of-walk the Camino in a posh guided tour like this one. I suppose for the cocktail party bragging rights, I don't know.
That part of the world is not my 'habitat,' fortunately.
 

Dorpie

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
#9
Sorry Kirkie, must agree with @SYates and @Kathar1na . As a way of taking a one month holiday in Western Europe I can't think of anything much cheaper than the Camino especially for those living in all but the romotest areas of Europe.

It seems, looking at the Pilgrim Office statistics, that the proportion of people walking for religious/spiritual reasons has only dropped by about 5% over the last 13 years they have numbers for (I am not counting 2004 as it was a holy year), though it is now a shade under 50%.

Beyond that when considering why so many people are doing the Camino, the mere fact that they are aware it exists must be a major factor, I must confess I didn't until a cousin told me about it in 2012. I gather the Inca Trail has evolved similarly, I walked it sometime around the millenium and by all accounts, despite a limit on numbers, the trail is unrecognisable today.

More anecdotally I suspect the number of repeat pilgrims is considerable influence on the numbers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#10
The official figures and individual reports don't tell us much about whether people are on their first or subsequent walk/pilgrimage or whether they are on a short or longer term walk/pilgrimage. I know this is just anecdotal but at a recent dinner table of 8 people somewhere in Castilla/Leon, there were the following:
  • 2 on a SJPP-Santiago trip
  • 1 on his 7th camino (lasting only 2 weeks; takes time out from busy life every year for a camino)
  • 2 on a 10 days to 2 weeks first experience and the fact that it was cheap played a big role
  • 2 on a 1 week stage (intention to continue at a later date)
  • 1 on a long trip (Switzerland-Santiago)
Second and subsequent caminos and short-distance caminos not ending in Santiago may play a considerable role for the more recent increases in numbers.
 
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H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
October 2017 Le Puy / Francés
#13
Too true - and a pity, that.

I sometimes also wonder - why some people spend literally many thousands of dollars to sort-of-walk the Camino in a posh guided tour like this one. I suppose for the cocktail party bragging rights, I don't know.
That part of the world is not my 'habitat,' fortunately.
That guided tour... hahaha!! Dear Lord, a full Camino Frances from St Jean in ten days with luxury accommodation for only $6,695!! You couldn't make this stuff up.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#14
Only $6,695.
A bargain.:cool:
But that doesn't include airfare. Or maybe these people will be using their own private jets.

(@kirkie, is this the kind of thing you meant in your OP?)
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
October 2017 Le Puy / Francés
#15
Only $6,695.
A bargain.:cool:
But that doesn't include airfare. Or maybe these people will be using their own private jets.
Haha, yeah, I expect so. I was especially amused to see that they don't ever do two full stages back-to-back. They're always skipping ahead in a bus. Can you imagine paying all that money and then having such a clipped, uninvolved experience of the Camino? If that was me, on day two I'd have left the bus behind and gone on under my own steam. You can't even say it's that way for less capable walkers because they do the full Napolean pass on day one. Just bizarre.
 

Waka

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Some but not all, and other routes too.
#17
My initial thoughts regarding the title was going to be about tour companies. I agree that there are a lot of nice walks in our own countries, but unlike Spain a 2 week pilgrimage in the UK will cost as much as a 5 week pilgrimage in Spain. I also think to really get the pilgrimage experience, there is nowhere like the camino in Spain.
So I don't see any clear cut answer as to why people travel so far to experience the journey of a lifetime. For me its all about the religious experience.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#18
Can you imagine paying all that money and then having such a clipped, uninvolved experience of the Camino?
One of the reasons I would never consider such a tour. I walk the Caminos and other pilgrim routes for lots of reasons: history, culture, food, drink, religious tradition and so on. But probably mostly because I simply like to walk. I like to walk a lot. I can't imagine paying vast sums in order to be deprived of the chance to do so or to have someone else decide for me where, when and how far I should walk.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#19
Are the $6,695 tour participants - as fascinating a topic as they are - the ones that are the major reason for the increase of the numbers of people on the caminos in Spain? :cool:
Welllll...given that other companies offer such 'exclusive journeys,' too, we may be surprised how many there are, especially after Sarria.
But you're right, @Kathar1na . Likely not.;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 04-16
Norte/Primitivo 09-16
VdlP/ Sanabres 02/3-17
Levante 09/17
#20
For what it is worth.
Since finishing a career where I saw enough of life to feel the need for some space both in spiritual and more down to earth terms. Walking a Camino was suggested to me, 2015 aged 54 I had never even heard of the Camino de Santiago. Like many others I chose the Frances as I felt it was the most accessible for me and just to see how I got on. I am not religious although I was christened. I do have views on organised religion but can take quiet moments sitting in an empty church and that is where, for me, the essence of Camino can be found. To paraphrase Supertramp "it's in the quietest moment's". That is why it does not really matter why anyone starts a Camino, if you go with an open mind how can you not be altered in some positive way along the path. Act's of kindness remembered and passed on, stories told and heard, people met and views exchanged. It is all positive and reinforces our humanity irrespective of what our beliefs are or where are starting point is.
Since retiring I have walked several long distance footpaths in the UK, travelling in much the same way as I walk my Camino's. There is a difference. It may be subtle but it is significant. There is a real sense of "belonging" to a Camino, you become part of the path and the path gives back in what ever form. I see a painted yellow arrow and feel like I am amongst friends, reassured. Long distance walking on other non-Camino routes are great but lack an "X" factor. That is not to say that they are not worth walking it is just that they are an "A" to "B" route with no overtones or common bond. Maybe I am wrong but that is just my take on it.
Completing the Primitivo some months after the Frances I noticed that the final concrete post's had been well and truly covered with graffiti. Nothing meaningful or deep just an aggressive variation of "Kilroy was here". Asked I may have said that the Camino Frances has now become to many what InterRail was to my generation.
But that is the Frances. The Via de la Plata and Camino Sanabres took me nearly 7 weeks and I hardly saw anyone. On the Levante I reckon I saw 8 pilgrims up to the point I reached Zamora. In late August I will walk the Ruta de la Lana and expect I will see even less people on the path. Original experiences are therefore still available but not if you expect crowds and albergues at every stop.
Money. A cheap holiday ? The commitment and effort needed is a long way away from sitting back on a beach for a month. Surely anyone expecting that is going to be going home quite soon after starting. Some may see it as a cheap holiday but as long as they complete the Camino they will have gained something positive from the experience and hopefully pass the light on in whatever way. Does it really matter if that light is a flicker or the full beam of a lighthouse ?
I am grateful to the Camino's I have walked. For the people I have met, the places I have seen, the quiet moment's and the experiences I have had. Maybe it is a generational thing, people do change and times move on, that will be as true for the spirit and direction of Camino as for everyone else reading this.
Buen Camino,
Don.
 

Anniesantiago

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 will be Camino #14.
#22
My rambling thoughts:

The Camino was originally a religious journey.
Then it became a religious/spiritual journey.
Then movies and books, and more movies and books, came out and now it is a fad.
If you ask 10 walkers why they are doing the Camino, I believe a minority will say "for spiritual reasons."

I lead small groups of 7-8 people on the Camino.
I do this to pay for my OWN long distance walking, the ONLY prescription that helps my MCS.

Many who book with me are people who either
1) cannot get 6 weeks off of work, or
2) are disabled and can't carry a backpack, or
3) do not want to sleep in crowded albergues or race for a bed.
4) haven't traveled to another country and are afraid to go walk alone

All have different reasons for walking, but a minority are Catholic and walk to have their sins forgiven.
However, I HAVE had very wonderful spiritual or religious people in my groups, and at least a few who made every Mass in every village every day.

I ask questions these days before I take people into my small group, and I do my best to educate my walkers and encourage them to be good guests while on the Camino.

I have also had a few rotten tomatoes in my groups; people who were rude to taxi drivers and elderly hotel owners; people who didn't respect the property of others; people who drank themselves into oblivion; people who were "ugly Americans" but from other countries too. It's been a mixed bag.

I've heard different opinions from hospitaleros.
Some LOVE the pilgrims and the money they bring in.
Others feel they're like destroying locusts and wish they'd all go away, especially toward the tail end of the season.

I've learned a lot.
For one thing, I've learned (shockingly) that is it WOMEN who leave most of the nasty toilet paper and feminine product trash along the route. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around that one. I often wonder what these women would do if I squatted to take a break in THEIR front yard, leaving behind my dirty paper and menstrual pads? They'd probably be out there screaming and calling the police. But they seem to have no problems doing it in someone else's yard. It's crazy.

Myself, I'm so very grateful that I had the opportunity to walk the Camino BEFORE it became a zoo. To walk when there were days we saw no other pilgrims. Just a few short years ago, 2004, that was the case for Joe and I, and I'm SO very grateful. There was a comradery that often no longer exists. We were grateful to have a bed and a piece of bread at the end of the day. We were grateful to meet other pilgrims. We were grateful for peace and quiet and any small consideration. Nobody demanded anything.

It's different now.
And to me, it's sad. :confused:

Every year I say, "This will be my last Camino" and my children and friends laugh.
Because then after a month or two, I'm longing for the trail again...

But I, for one, will be happy when nobody else writes a book or makes a movie or a youtube video, and people find something else to challenge them, far, far away from the Camino. And it returns to its original purpose - a pilgrimage, not a cheap vacation.

I shut down my Facebook Group yesterday - the one meant to help new pilgrims plan their Camino. I put a "donativo" button on my website for a month just to see if anyone was willing to give back.

Nada.

So I decided I was willing to help PILGRIMS by sharing information freely, but if tourists wanted it, they could pay for it.

I guess I'll write a book! :::cackling:::eek:
 

kirkie

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#24
Only $6,695.
A bargain.:cool:
But that doesn't include airfare. Or maybe these people will be using their own private jets.

(@kirkie, is this the kind of thing you meant in your OP?)
Actually, no. I think aloud, and then I just might know what I want to say! The wonderful contributions on the thread tell the story I was trying to ask about. There is surely something deep beyond us all, and when I referred to the fortune spent, I meant by those who travel from the ends of the earth to walk and be pilgrims. I did not intend to be looking for argument or agreement. I just was wondering why, just why, the Camino is such a magnet...and so thanks to those who have shared their thoughts.
 
Camino(s) past & future
May 2018
#25
First of all I would argue with "paying a fortune", especially if you are from a nearby country and travel to the Camino isn't too expensive. As for the rest, I think you answered your own question already ;-) Buen Camino, SY
I heard about the Camino by Paulo Coelho long time ago and now it is my turn. Leaving from St.George,Utah USA and starting in SJPP on May 24. Wish me luck.
 
Camino(s) past & future
June (2015) & June/July (2018)
#28
Pilgrim A: What's your daily allowance?
Pilgrim B: I'm trying to keep it below $669.
:p
Pilgrim C: Only $669? How will you manage.

I'm taking a little 16oz ziploc twist and lock container to cold soak some food along the way this year along with instant coffee for the mornings. I plan on saving the cafe con leche for around lunch time. Trying to do this on a cheep budget.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2014, 2015)
St Olav/Francés (2016)
Baztanés/Francés (2017)
Ingles (July 2018)
#29
What is the draw?
Honestly, I was only going to walk once. It was a lark because I was invited and love to walk, and of course I enjoy a meditative walk. Not being Catholic, I thought..."Hmmm...well, whatever."
And the 'whatever' was a huge surprise.
So I keep coming back, to feel into what good this brings out in me and in all of us.

I had a much longer answer, but this is the essence of it.
 

onwayhome

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Ponferrada-Santiago,(c1986)
Frances SJPP-Santiago (2011)
Portuguese Porto- Finisterre (2016)
St Michaels Way (2016)
#30
Compared to some other medieval pilgrimage routes, the main Spanish Caminos have had recognition, support and infrastructure for a very long time. Plus there's the sun, wine and often good company too.
Try a pilgrimage to a comparative medieval centre like Canterbury and the difference is immediately recognisable. I'm hoping the contemporary pilgrimage revival will result in the reawakening of more of these old ways for both inner and outer journeying.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
#32
The arrival statistics indicate a quite large increase in the number of Americans. So let me address a few reasons for that. The Caminos are more accessible, and less strenuous, than the American long-distance scenic trails, such as the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. One can sleep in buildings, eat real food, and drink real drinks, all while carrying half (or less) the weight of AT or PCT backpackers. The Camino Frances takes about 5 weeks, while the AT is around 5 months. I think the spiritual/meditative quality becomes apparent on the first Camino experience, and is then responsible for the successive revisits.

I should point out that the Appalachian Trail is experiencing a similar increase in traffic; in fact they've had to initiate a registration (ie, rationing) system.
 
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Sailor

Donante Vitalicio
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Sinfin
#33
I heard about the Camino by Paulo Coelho long time ago and now it is my turn. Leaving from St.George,Utah USA and starting in SJPP on May 24. Wish me luck.
Mister Nelson, welcome aboard, your first post. We are currently in the same gorgeous city in the best looking state. You will do fine. No pares de caminar.
 

Glamgrrl

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Travel318
#34
For what it is worth.
Since finishing a career where I saw enough of life to feel the need for some space both in spiritual and more down to earth terms. Walking a Camino was suggested to me, 2015 aged 54 I had never even heard of the Camino de Santiago. Like many others I chose the Frances as I felt it was the most accessible for me and just to see how I got on. I am not religious although I was christened. I do have views on organised religion but can take quiet moments sitting in an empty church and that is where, for me, the essence of Camino can be found. To paraphrase Supertramp "it's in the quietest moment's". That is why it does not really matter why anyone starts a Camino, if you go with an open mind how can you not be altered in some positive way along the path. Act's of kindness remembered and passed on, stories told and heard, people met and views exchanged. It is all positive and reinforces our humanity irrespective of what our beliefs are or where are starting point is.
Since retiring I have walked several long distance footpaths in the UK, travelling in much the same way as I walk my Camino's. There is a difference. It may be subtle but it is significant. There is a real sense of "belonging" to a Camino, you become part of the path and the path gives back in what ever form. I see a painted yellow arrow and feel like I am amongst friends, reassured. Long distance walking on other non-Camino routes are great but lack an "X" factor. That is not to say that they are not worth walking it is just that they are an "A" to "B" route with no overtones or common bond. Maybe I am wrong but that is just my take on it.
Completing the Primitivo some months after the Frances I noticed that the final concrete post's had been well and truly covered with graffiti. Nothing meaningful or deep just an aggressive variation of "Kilroy was here". Asked I may have said that the Camino Frances has now become to many what InterRail was to my generation.
But that is the Frances. The Via de la Plata and Camino Sanabres took me nearly 7 weeks and I hardly saw anyone. On the Levante I reckon I saw 8 pilgrims up to the point I reached Zamora. In late August I will walk the Ruta de la Lana and expect I will see even less people on the path. Original experiences are therefore still available but not if you expect crowds and albergues at every stop.
Money. A cheap holiday ? The commitment and effort needed is a long way away from sitting back on a beach for a month. Surely anyone expecting that is going to be going home quite soon after starting. Some may see it as a cheap holiday but as long as they complete the Camino they will have gained something positive from the experience and hopefully pass the light on in whatever way. Does it really matter if that light is a flicker or the full beam of a lighthouse ?
I am grateful to the Camino's I have walked. For the people I have met, the places I have seen, the quiet moment's and the experiences I have had. Maybe it is a generational thing, people do change and times move on, that will be as true for the spirit and direction of Camino as for everyone else reading this.
Buen Camino,
Don.
Beautifully written. However one starts a Camino, I expect the end is much different.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#38
I was asked a similar question yesterday -- how much does it "cost" to go to Santiago ? It's a bizarre question, almost to the point of puzzlement.

Crikey, I abandoned thinking about such things in the 1990s, and all I can see is : how much does it cost to live day-to-day ? This does not change from where you are or what you might be doing.

As for travel expenses, well, putting one foot in front of the other is not expensive.
How much is a pair of socks ?

OK so sue me, I live right on top of the Rome <<--->> Santiago Camino by the Italian border ; but even so, for people who need to fly in, what's the cost of an air fare ?

I certainly do NOT "pay a fortune" -- just for starters cos I ain't got one.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#39
IMHO the era of the early adapters, the pioneers, is long past.
Sorry dear -- we're going nowhere, except perhaps to Compostela.

The touristification of it all does create some strangeness, but that's no big deal when you've got your inflatable mattress and sleeping bag against all those commercial tourist albergues demanding cash but not genuinity.
 

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