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When did you first break-free from your guidebook?

MichaelC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2023
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
 
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SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Year of past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
I used this book from Paco Nadal on my first Camino ( Frances ) in 2011.


I was already out of sync from the first day on seeing I started in Roncesvalles and not in St Jean Pied de Port ;)
Till Pamplona I followed " his stops " and then I discovered gorgeous quiet Obanos and stopped there.From then on it was a combination of recommended stops and own choices.
Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro is not an etapa in any guide but I loved that short day!

I sincerely dislike the Brierley guide so when walking the Frances I stuck to the small green booklet ( only maps ) from Michelin.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I stuck to the small green booklet ( only maps ) from Michelin.
That's what I used on my first camino. It was perfect. No-one was telling me where they thought I should stop, or what profound reflections I should ponder. So I guess I was never captive.

I had Brierley, too, but mostly just used the maps and lists of services without paying attention to the stages.
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I used the MiamMiam DoDo guidebook from Le Puy to SJPdP as the infrastructure is different from the Frances (lots of businesses closed Sunday and Monday) and you really do need to book the night before, so it's nice to have phone numbers of accommodations, etc at the ready (the maps are also pretty good). From SJPdP I freewheeled it all the way to Santiago. I had already walked the Frances 3 years prior; trying to adhere to a guidebook was a losing battle for me. This time, I made it a point to purposely stop between recommended stages and found some hidden gems to boot.
 
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David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
The second day I think. I was in France and the Camino was also a GR, a French walking route. I looked at the map and saw that I was expected to leave the road, walk up a high hill and along the ridge and come back down again ... I remember thinking that no historic pilgrim route would have done that, unless there was a shrine or similar up there and it merely went that way to give a '"nice view".
I stayed on the road and after that ignored any pointless diversions as well as stopping for the night where I ended up. Never booked anywhere, just turned up - all was well.

For me the the clue to what a guide book is is in the title - a "guide" book - not a rule book ;)
 

OZAJ

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Mozarabe/VdlP/Sanabres (2008) Norte (2009) Vezelay/Frances/Salvador/Primitivo (2010) etc.
The second day I think. I was in France and the Camino was also a GR, a French walking route. I looked at the map and saw that I was expected to leave the road, walk up a high hill and along the ridge and come back down again ... I remember thinking that no historic pilgrim route would have done that, unless there was a shrine or similar up there and it merely went that way to give a '"nice view".
I stayed on the road and after that ignored any pointless diversions as well as stopping for the night where I ended up. Never booked anywhere, just turned up - all was well.

For me the the clue to what a guide book is is in the title - a "guide" book - not a rule book ;)
As a pilgrim on the via Francigena said to me:"Bugger the view, I want to get there".
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
I never carried a guide book. Years prior to my first camino I had read that one could "begin" the Camino Frances in Saint Jean Pied de Port. Thus I went there in 2004 by trains from Paris to Bayonne to SJPdP.

At the office of the Amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques the welcoming volunteers provided a basic paper map and list of albergues ahead.

...For the following 10 caminos I followed my memories.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
When I started out, I didn't use guidebooks, just maps. Later on, I made use of small guidebooks because they provide a quick overview of where to go, how far it is and what to see and a bit of background on the area or town. I never understood the stages as prescriptive, it never occurred to me to think that they were binding, which is why I never had to break free. Also, there were no yellow arrows where I started, not even red/white GR signs. I guess that helped to set the frame. ☺️
 
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Deleted member 61803

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The elevation sheet given by the Sjpdp office and the Michelin book were my main guides. I walked as I wanted, stopped where I wanted and detoured as I wanted. So I suppose the answer to the OP is that I never used a guide as a stage bible. I did get albergue tips from this forum though.
 
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This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
It's a guide book, not a bible. Trust the Camino.
 

kay lee

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
St Jean to Santiago (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019)
Via Francigena (2018); Via Podiensis (4-6, 2020)
I was living in Santiago, Chile when I planned to walk my first Camino. Rather than carrying a Spanish guidebook, I decided to just wing it. The St. Jean pilgrim office didn't give me any information sheet, so I learned only many days later that a lot of the first-timers were carrying the list of lodging and shopping information.
 

camino.ninja

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 5 6,16,17,18,19,20
Primiti+Salvador 19
Portug. 17,18,20
Catalan 17
Norte 17
Plata 18
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?

Never had a guidebook :)
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
Multiple Caminos and multiple routes and multiple guidebooks and I always carry one with me when I walk. Do not see a reason not to. I have never seen a Camino guidebook as a plan. As something that dictates when and where I should walk. To me it is simply a small book with some maps in it and a basic list of albergues. A reference, not a plan. Why would anyone have it dictate their walking? It is almost comical that anyone would be scared to deviate from the "stages" in the guidebook lol. Scared of what? :D
I have never been one to weigh individual items, and do that whole body weight versus pack weight rubbish, so to me a small guidebook is inconsequential. Most days I do not even look at it besides making a quick check on albergues down the road.
I do not care for using devices while actually physically walking the Camino, and most of the day my iPhone is turned off, so that makes having my face buried in it staring at a Camino app impossible.
I always recommend to a first timer to get a guidebook for if anything a research reference to read before they start. They do not have to bring it with them. I love actual books that can be held, have pages and print. Hope they never go away.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
In 1989 I didn't have a guidebook when I started the Camino. In 2016, I had an e-book guidebook and apps and my son had a physical copy of Brierley. He was a bit leery of going "off stage" but I was okay with it. As it turned out, we went "off stage" on the second day. On the one hand, we were unsure of getting beds in Pamplona during the San Fermines (we had started in Roncesvalles). On the other hand, we wanted a few short days to get our legs under us, as we hadn't done any training. So we had a few short days before getting back "on stage" again for a while. That first "off stage" day was five years ago today.
 

Walkerooni

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C. Frances SJPdP to Santiago (June-ish 2018)
I had the Brierley book, in which Brierley himself states “the guide is a guide” and in no way suggests the “stages” are to be considered mandatory. Which is why he so succinctly shows distances between places and mid-stage accommodation. I used it mainly to see what my options for the next day might look like if I decided to stop in village A, or B, for example. I walked off-stage most of the time. I never felt the need to be in a particular place unless it felt like where I was ready to stop. To be fair, it is not just Brierley’s guides which break the Camino down into rough “stages”. Barerra’s Madrid guide, the Cicerone books all do the same thing. All are guides. Do your own thing.
 

DyanTX

DyanTX
Year of past OR future Camino
CF Sept 22 - Nov 3, 2016
We used the guidebook (Kindle app on phone; not hard copy) only for a bit of context and descriptions of special spots worth visiting. We never kept to any stages. Stopped when/where we wanted to.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I LIKE having a guidebook, since it has a lot of information that I enjoy perusing. I find a paper copy to be best for a certain type of browsing that I'm used to, but I still have more information on my phone. I like having all that available, but it doesn't mean that I follow any of it slavishly! I never expect to adhere to someone else's stages page-by-page. The book author had to go on to another page at some point! That doesn't mean I need to stop at the same place.

I expect that the reason many people stick to the stages in their books is simply that they have allocated a number of days based on the guide. Also, the two examples you gave (in the OP) involved groups of pilgrims, where the group dynamics complicated any decision to change from the agreed/understood plans.
 
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Sharonih

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF (SJPdP to Santiago) March 15, 2018
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
We never really followed it, the first time we went I estimated how far we would walk and where we would stay (I was completely wrong) we read the guide book but didn’t really use it for anything other than information about the area we were in. The most used and helpful thing we used were the papers from the Pilgrim Office listing the Albergues and distances. In the morning we would have a concept of 3 villages we may end up at and made the decision on the day at each place if we wanted to stay or keep walking.
 

Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
I never paid any attention to stages. I had a paper guide with no maps the first time I walked the Norte but I dropped it somewhere on top of a hill. From then on I just kept the sea on my right, and sometimes I would see some waymarking. I did buy a michelin map to give me some idea of places to buy food. Mostly I camped with my donkey.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
I once met a pilgrim on the Via de la Plata who said that he always looked for a German pilgrim when it was time to find a bed for the night. 😁
 

O Peracha

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago (2014)
Annapurna Base, Nepal (2014)
GR 5 - Holland to Pompey, France (2015)
Lisbon to Finesterre (2016)
My first walk was Le Puy to Santiago in 2014. I used Miam Miam Dodo and the Michelin green guide. However, I never followed any specific stages. Didn't know it was a thing until I joined this forum. I continued with paper guides for the next couple of walks (not all caminos) and then I stopped taking those also. Now I put together my own electronic guide (nocode app). Based on the time and effort, it would be cheaper to buy an existing app but I enjoy putting it together. And I get something that is exactly what I want.
 
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John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
This guide is one of the ones that has been around for over 15 years. Updated yearly. Please read the reviews.
Year of past OR future Camino
Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
We used the guide book as a resource that first time, until we walked into Belorado and it was only 1130 and much, much too early to stop. We had a coffee and map session, the two of us, and decided to go on for another 7km to Villambistia. (We didn't go for that famous "camino family" thing, we had each other for walking buddies.) After that we were liberated. I was truly confused why so many people were stopping so early just because it was an end-of-stage in the Brierly. There wasn't much to see in Belorado, it didn't look like.

I think that early on it at least appeared that there were only places in the towns that were stage end points. Later we found more places available. Perhaps there is more in the first few days after SJPdP too that we didn't know about. :)
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I don't break free.
I purchase a guidebook for every camino I have walked. I study them before I go, take notes in the margins while walking, and end of day I study the next day's possibilities. After I return home I look at them occasionally to refresh myself if I'm contributing to a forum question.
They hold a special place in my personal library and I love them!
 
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MichaelC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2023
Maybe "break free from the group" is a better way to think of it? At least when I walked, in the first stages there would be many hundreds of pilgrims in some towns, yet only half a dozen of us in other towns. It doesn't seem like that would be due to chance. It wasn't until we approached Burgos that I felt that people were spreading out a bit more.
I was already out of sync from the first day on seeing I started in Roncesvalles and not in St Jean Pied de Port ;)
Till Pamplona I followed " his stops " and then I discovered gorgeous quiet Obanos and stopped there.

This is where I first noticed that I was seriously out of sync. I stayed one town before Obanos, in Muruzábal, One albergue was full with a guided group, and in the other it was only myself and a German couple. It was surreal, since Pamplona had been absolutely packed with pilgrims the day before.

 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Maybe "break free from the group" is a better way to think of it?
Yes - I think that is the more pertinent question. Most experienced travelers are able to see a guide book for what it is. But it is more difficult to figure out how to manage the culture and attractions of Camino groups, especially at the start.
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
Re the Frances - I love the Brierley .. the warm tone, the maps, the background info, the spirituality, the suggestions. I have a full (ancient and well thumbed) Brierley at home - which I look at the same way I watch The Way - as invigorating positive reinforcement, but take the Brierley 'Maps only' with me - lighter, informative, great maps and info, great for wondering 'what is next' ... but I don't 'do' apps .. crikey! when a child my toys were clockwork, I wound them up to use them, but just haven't found the key slot on my smartphone 😂
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
I don't break free.
I purchase a guidebook for every camino I have walked. I study them before I go, take notes in the margins while walking, and end of day I study the next day's possibilities. After I return home I look at them occasionally to refresh myself if I'm contributing to a forum question.
They hold a special place in my personal library and I love them!
Me too. I have a shoebox (from the first pair of Merrells I wore on the Camino) filled with my compostela's, guidebooks, shells, city maps from the Camino, receipts etc. All that stuff holds fond memories for me. Don't think I could say the same thing about a virtual app of digital images. lol :D
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Re the Frances - I love the Brierley .. the warm tone, the maps, the background info, the spirituality, the suggestions. I have a full (ancient and well thumbed) Brierley at home - which I look at the same way I watch The Way - as invigorating positive reinforcement, but take the Brierley 'Maps only' with me - lighter, informative, great maps and info, great for wondering 'what is next' ... but I don't 'do' apps .. crikey! when a child my toys were clockwork, I wound them up to use them, but just haven't found the key slot on my smartphone 😂
I too, love the Brierley and the easy to follow, simple maps are the best! I have used his guides for the Frances and the Portuguese; on the Norte/Pimitivo I used Cicerone's The Northern Caminos; for the Via Podiensis I used the Lightfoot guide; and for the Fisherman's Tail I used the Rota Vicentina guidebook.
I have used Gronze and Miam Dodo, too, but I still enjoy having real, physical books to pick up in a flash.😃
 

Canada Wanders

Lost, but making great time...
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2015
CP 2018
I loved my guidebook….I would spend hours pouring over it while sitting in the square enjoying a cold beer after arriving at my location to stay the night.
May have been of more value if I was looking at the next days info, but naturally I was reading about the day I had just finished.
Smart like that!
 

Owensr23

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
On day two of my first Camino I lost my guidebook. I bought a Spanish map in Astorga and lived guide free from there. By the way, the Spanish map was better because the language matches the signs and locals could help me easily. The English book was a crutch. I have Spanish maps for the Primitivo this year.
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I expect that the reason many people stick to the stages in their books is simply that they have allocated a number of days based on the guide.
I think another factor is infrastructure. The places the guidebooks put as end stages are more likely to have restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. If, like many, you prefer to do your shopping after you've finished walking and settled in at you albergue, and/or want to go out to eat in the evening, these places might be more attractive than a smaller "in between" village that just has an albergue. Of course, it is a bit of a circle. All the pilgrims stopping there brings enough spending to support the infrastructure and the infrastructure acts as a bit of a magnet for the pilgrims when they are deciding where to stop.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2014)
Camino Via Podiensis (2018)
I 'broke free' at the planning stage😀 Quickly realised we wouldn't be walking some of the daily distances in the suggested stages. Have never had a Brierley guide, I prefer the Village to Village guides. In the front is an over view of the entire route in elevation form which was handy to pencil in our intended itinerary based on our preferred daily distance to work out how many days we would need to book holidays for/flights etc. We did deviate from our own itinerary a couple of times but it did serve to keep us roughly on track time wise.
 

Shells

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Ingles (2019); Camino Frances (2021 or 2022); Camino Portuguese (2021 or 2022)
I’m making my own guidebook, researching the terrain, sites, history, route options, and offerings of most cities/villages en route. I’m using multiple sources, downloading photos and GoogleEarth screenshots and maps—and giving myself the gift of a virtual Camino in the process. I hope that by the time I actually walk next year, I’ll have a good idea of options and possibilities, regardless of how little or how far I choose to go on any given day. I’m usually the queen of “panic and spontaneity,” so this project is surprising even me…I think I’m really doing it because I want to feel like I’m doing something to make my dream a reality as I wait, with growing impatience, for my time to go…
 

witsendwv

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2015)
We bought a guide book for our first camino from Sarria, didn't use it as not necessary. No guide book for Primitivo, Coastal Portugues or Camino Vasco. We are hoping to walk a short Ingles camino in the fall, can't imagine that we will need one for that either!! Despite planning where we are going to stay each evening, we just "wing it" during the day!!
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2021 (Sept, Oct)
Despite many of the naysayer comments, all I can say is hiking the camino frances three times, we see the Brierley guide everywhere, hanging out of backpack pockets or being studied in bars, restaurants and albergues.

We relied on it extensively before and during our first camino. My wife developed blisters, then severe knee pain. We were on a tight plan allowing for few rest days. We had a fixed day to arrive in Santiago, spend two nights there, then fly to Madrid and catch a flight the following day to the US. We took our only rest day in Leon and I spent several hours using the Brierley guide to plan each stage to allow us to hike and arrive in Santiago on our target date. We were successful.

For our second camino, we had Wise Pilgrim and Buen Camino apps. These were sufficient along with the topo map we received in St Jean. For our third camino, we didn't need any guides since we were familiar with the route. For our second and third caminos we mostly had advance reservations for private rooms, so the guidebooks were not needed.

We leave for Spain Sept 13 and don't plan to bring any guidebooks with us, but I may refer occasionally to the two camino aps I still have on my iPhone.

Bob
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
When the albergue in Burgos was nowhere near where my guide book said it was and I had to take a taxi back into town to find it because it had moved many years before!

Even worse, I had also misled another pilgrim!

In that moment I realized that guide books shouldn't be older than a year old and the one I carried was outdated for at least half a decade. For someone who had never hiked or travelled that way, it was truly a new thing to learn 🙈

The yellow arrows were enough from then on and worked much better than that horrible old guide book, which went directly into the bin!
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Year of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I used guidebooks to keep me on the path but not to determine how far I would walk. Before I stepped foot in SJPdP I’d patched together parts of several Caminos to start on the Frances, move to Norte, back to Frances, back to Norte, then primitivo to Frances to SdC to finisterre to muxia, later followed with a bit of Portuges, Ingles, Madrid, Levante (by this point I was a tourist seeing Spanish cities and walking a step of their associated Caminos). Especially on the Norte I usually was “off” the usual stops because I walked further—weren’t many albergues anyway so I stayed in convents, pensions, etc.

on the Norte and the Primitivo there were days I’d walk two steps in one day (not on purpose on the Primitivo, I missed the last chance for a room so walked from fonsagrada to lugo…so there are some hazards in winging it.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
This is a question I've pondered off and on over the years. Some quick background to explain what I mean:

I started walking in Le Puy, so by the time we crossed the Pyrenees I was in decent physical shape, and mentally already in "camino space." My first couple days on the Camino Francés I was fascinated watching new pelegrinos learn and adapt to the Camino, and go through the same process I had gone through a month before.

Now: on the forums we all talk about the freedom to walk as far as you want each day, and to stop when you want each day. And by the time we reached the meseta this was true for most people. However, I found this was not true in the beginning, back when we were all in Navarre and La Rioja ... and I witnessed some drama among folks the first time they stopped for the night outside a "Brierley" stage. For example:

1. It was an unexpectedly hot and humid day in Navarre. A couple of us stopped earlier than I usually do. Another group we knew came up, and were surprised that we were stopping off stage. Two wanted to stop. Two wanted to keep to their guidebook's recommendations. It was an intense discussion, and I think there was genuine fear among the latter two about going off stage. In the end they stopped, and never bothered about "official" stages again.

2. It was a beautiful day in La Rioja. It was still mid-afternoon, and a buddy and I decided to walk a few more hours before dinner. This time the other pelegrinos were afraid for us. Will we find food? Will we find lodging? Will we be ok out there on our own away from the larger groups? We assured them we would be fine, but they were genuinely worried.

So what I wonder is, what was the breakthrough point for other pilgrims? Did you really just start walking without a plan, or was it something you learned on route?
I hadn't even heard of Brierly when I first walked - just took the printout of accommodation from the Pilgrim office in St Jean.
About a week in, I bought one of those small green Michelin ones, and planned from that, they have symbols for services - although a lot of the info was incorrect anyway. Their maps though are really good.
 

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