This is a pretty personal post, but I must get it off my chest before the problem leads to the rest of my self-conscious, low self-esteem demons rising up.
Down, personal demons, down!
When I was pre-k (essentially my earliest memories), my parents used to say things about me snoring. They had my tonsils and adenoids taken out when I was five with the promise that I wouldn’t snore anymore. The blood draw experiences at good old West Seattle Hospital (now a mental health hospital) are what created my lifelong fear of needles. The nurse couldn’t find a vein for the blood draw so she started digging. And I mean digging! They then strapped me to the chair so she could continue to poke then swirl the needle around in my flesh. My mother had since confirmed this memory. Barbaric early 70s health care! The peri-c in my 40s has finally helped the healing process getting over the needle phobia, but I digress…
I assumed my snoring was cured. What a thing for a five year old to celebrate! But I was taught to be embarrassed and ashamed… and no tonsils meant I was cured! Hooray!
The mother of my childhood BFF started teasing me relentlessly for snoring when I was at Nova’s for sleepovers starting in the first grade.
All of the girls mocked me for snoring at camp as a Girl Scout.
I hated slumber parties with other kids and would often try to stay awake the whole night or would sleep in the living room to avoid falling asleep in the same room as other kids.
I eventually stopped going to slumber parties and camp.
I thought the snoring was getting better because my bff in junior high told me my snoring wasn’t that bad.
Confidence starting to come back, slowly.
Others I lived with as a young adult never seemed to be bothered. Must be getting better.
When I started sharing a bed with my husband, he told me that yes, I snore but it doesn’t bother him much. I can tell you that he too snores and it sometimes feels like the house will fall down. He has said the same about me in the last 25 years.
I am very conscious of the snoring. I am, I promise!
Besides my husband and son, I’ve done the most traveling as an adult with my beloved bff-sister (hi Brenda!). It was a trip in 2004 — when she came with me to England to hang out with my kid while I was in the libraries on a research grant — that we agreed to never, ever share sleeping quarters again. She is a very light sleeper, and I am… well you get the point. I love her too much to ever sleep in the same room with her again.
Likewise, when I was traveling all over the Pacific NW representing Seafair last year, some of my female Commodores were asking to share my room with me. The answer was always “no” (except Sher-Bear, who doesn’t seem to mind).
Fear of snoring in public is probably why I don’t sleep on airplanes. That just occurred to me.
The snoring does make me very self-conscious. It’s unbecoming of a lady (oh geez, there’s that 70s-80s cultural gender normative crap sneaking in). Do others think I snore because I’m big and tall, and it would go away if I were thinner, prettier? (The answer to that question is NO! Underweight and overweight Jens both snore. Five year-old and forty-five year old Jens both snore!)
So I get it and I’m fully aware. I even saw an ENT last year. He didn’t suspect apnea or obstructed airways at all. He did diagnose me with laryngospasm, which explains why my entire life I would suddenly wake up not breathing because my throat was closed tight (and I saw the ENT because it is now happening while I’m awake, including two particularly scary incidents involving eating a bite of jello in front of Al, and one where I was driving down I-5). He said I was lucky to survive it as a baby… but not related to the snoring. I’m just a snorer.
The Camino as a snorer
When I decided to do the Camino, my snoring and sleeping in albergues was one of my biggest concerns. Well ok, it was number three on the list (pericarditis returning and injuring my left ankle were numbers one and two).
I reasoned with myself that it would be ok the more I read up on the trip. Earplugs are on every suggested packing list you can find. I know that 45% of people in the world snore (so I’m not the only one!). I kept reading about people discussing snoring and how to deal with it. “Be prepared and ok with the noises others make when sleeping in a room with 20 strangers.” I should be fine. I won’t be the only one, and other pilgrims are expecting to hear snoring. No big deal!
On this journey, I have always been one of the last ones asleep because I was trying to update this blog every night. I heard some very loud snorers. I also heard lots of people talking loudly in their sleep and lots of people passing gas (!!).
Here’s another detail for you all regarding my sleeping habits: I sleep on my stomach with my arms under my pillow. That is the ONLY position in which I am truly comfortable and relaxed. I also flip sides a lot. In the albergues, I have to sleep in what’s called a “sleep sack” pretreated for bed bugs. It is made of a silky-satiny material instead of cotton, and I was finding myself twisted up in it like a Jen burrito the first few nights. I’m also a bit conscious of strangers in the room with me and, when in a top bunk, getting twisted and writhing right off the top. Therefore, in the albergues I have been sleeping fitfully on my back, trying not to move. Get it now? On. My. Back. The worst position for me.
The other night at dinner with my first Camino family, the topic of snoring came up. Everyone is promising each other to let them know if they snore. I answered that I don’t need anyone to tell me… I already know. And that’s when one of the people I had been on track with said pointedly “Yes, Jen, you do snore, bad.”
He said it so seriously it was like a hot poker through the chest. Oooooookay. Got it loud and clear.
That stupid little self-conscious demon deep inside me started to stir. Dang it!
I was in a small five bed room at that lovely albergue in Montjardin with four of the same people. The next morning the person who spoke at dinner wouldn’t look me in the eyes or say anything to me. We ended up walking to Los Arcos within 15-20 feet of each other but he wouldn’t acknowledge me at all. We’re the only ones out here!
When I mentioned this cold shoulder to Kitty and Wilma, they told me he couldn’t sleep because of the snoring and so slept on the stone bench in the sitting room. He was tired. Whose snoring? My snoring. Be a grownup and at least tell me! Give me the chance to apologize. Whatever. I tried to shake it off and keep that stupid internal demon suppressed.
Later that night in Sansol, I saw a post on a Camino Facebook group I belonged to that was joking about how to help fellow pilgrims who snore in albergues: smother them with a pillow. Remember that detail, my friends.
I understand the original poster was making a joke, but there were many vicious comments after about how inconsiderate and selfish snorers are. We shouldn’t do the Camino. We’re not worthy of the Camino. I challenged a few of the commenters then left the group. Enough of that.
The final straw was yesterday in a gorgeous town of Viana.
I’m standing in front of a wonderful 13th s church in Viana, taking it all in and watching the parishioners leave from Sunday afternoon service, when a woman who was in the albergue with us the night before approached me. I thought it was going to be a friendly “hello” chat, but she immediately started telling me I snore, wants to make sure I’m aware (yes, I’m aware), why don’t I have a machine like other snorers (because I don’t have sleep apnea), and she is really worried about my health. There must be something wrong with me and I’m going to die an early death (Ha! Do you know about the peri-c, too?). Then she launched into a tirade about how much I annoyed her — you know, but no offense! She wanted to kill me with her pillow, she decided to take a shower at 4 to get away from the snoring, etc. Again, no offense! And here I thought all Canadians were overly nice. Sure, no offense taken.
This is the moment I was enjoying that she ruined:
When I left her, I was so upset I was shaking and seeing red. The self-conscious demon was back in my head — little twerp is now fully awake and I’m horrified at the thought of sharing a room with anyone ever again. Do I sleep on the streets? I can’t afford to stay in real hotels every night — that will quickly bust my budget. But I’m horrified.
I ducked into a little bar, had a glass of wine (“vino blanco por favor”), and pulled out my phone to see if I could find an albergue with a private room in the next town that was my final destination. Nothing popped up directly in my Camino apps, but one of the apps links to Booking.com. And there they were: pensiones with private rooms under 25€. I booked one with a shared bath for 23€ and shot out of Viana.
This was my 23€ room last night:
Now lets do some math:
The albergues have been costing 10-15€ per night, with one costing 18€. Then the “pilgrims dinner” is another 10-15€, and breakfast if you choose it is 4-5€. I started skipping the breakfasts because a banana, orange, and coffee from a village bar has been doing me better and cheaper. In fact, I’ve noticed that a small dish or two, glass of white wine, and small bottle of water has been 7€ or less in almost every bar and cafe on this whole trip. For 10-15€, the pilgrims dinners include red wine (can’t drink), salad with tuna (usually good), a main entree that consists of some sort of meat breaded and deep fried with French fries (not something I usually eat at home), and yogurt.
If I can continue to find private rooms for under 25€ and then eat in the bars for 6-7€, the budget will even out and my tummy will be happier.
What I will miss out on is the communal nature of the albergues, the chance to meet others from around the world and make friends.
However, if they are all going to hate me the next morning because I snore, the connections the night before are lost anyways.
I probably need to finish this journey alone anyways.
Kitty and Wilma swear my snoring is not that bad and no worse than others. They insist that the night we were in the same room as the Canadian woman, the Japanese gentleman next to me was much louder. I believe you, W & K, but I need to lick my wounds for a few days and push my self-loathing demon back down where he belongs. I will see you on the trail again!
(I typed all of this out using voice dictation while I walk through the mud outside Logroño. Not a bad method!)
Hi Jen, I am so enjoying walking ‘with’ you and I am horrified at the comments and behaviour of some of your fellow travellers! Snoring is not something you decide to do to be disruptive or cruel, but saying stuff like that is, and it really is not a very pilgrim attitude. Snoring happens to everybody – especially after a few glasses of vino tinto – and it really is the people who haven’t prepared for that who should be taking private rooms. Some albergues do have separate rooms for snorers but other than that, you are as entitled to sleep there as anyone. I have slept in many albergues over the years and there is always snoring, in fact the most annoying thing are the people trying to stop it by whistling (??) or clapping their hands (??) or being rude enough to touch or poke the snorers. People who can’t sleep through snoring need to get better earplugs, invest in noise-cancelling ear phones or just walk longer stages to get tired enough. Keep your distance from ‘zen removers’ like these, but don’t seclude yourself. Your attitude is fabulous, you (and Bunny the Badass Bull) are needed out there!
Buen camino (and a glass of albariño), L
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Thank you, LMV! I appreciate your kind words. I think I just need to spend a few nights putting this self-loathing demon away before I enter the albergues again. I am shocked that I’ve yet to see a single pilgrim with earplugs. I kept seeing it listed as a necessary item on all of the sites and in all if the books over and over. My husband recommended I buy a bag and pass them out myself, but that’s a lot of earplugs to carry around. I need to lose weight in my pack, not add like that! Thank you again, LMV. Bunny says hello.
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Earplugs *are* a must-have item in my opinion and they are available in every farmacia along the way. No reason not to get some, but it seems some people have a way to go yet on the selfishness front. Again I am so sorry you have met ‘pilgrims’ with that kind of attitude. Please know that they are few and that the majority are better than that! If you speed up or hang back only one stop you might lose these people for good. Lick your wounds and rise above it.
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Sending you a hug! Praying for positive encounters. Encouraging you to keep your head up my friend.
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I love you, T. 💕
I think your fellow travelers have the problem not you! Isn’t this journey about self reflection? Seems to me they aren’t doing much of it. FYI we can room together anytime. I sleep like the dead!
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Jen, I’m a snorer, too. And I KNOW there are lots of us out there. Anyone who is going to live communally should understand that, pull up their big-girl panties, shove in their ear plugs, and bugger off to sleep. Mind your own damn business, folks! You, Jen, are amazing and I admire you!
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Thank you! I’m still working on putting the self-doubt demon back in the closet where he belongs. I’m in Belorado tonight, so I think the pension pickings might get tough for the next few nights. I may be back in the albergues soon — ready or not!
Wow Jen, inconsiderate fellow travelers. A true joy killer. If they wanted the perfect experience these companions should travel alone.
My heart goes out to you. I’m hoping they learn tolerance as well as culture on this once in a lifetime trip. You need to remember who you are and how much you are loved and admired for who you are. Snoring !!! Big deal, I chose kind, generous, and loving over “who the heck do they think they are” being rude to a supposedly sister traveler.
People still surprise me, I always want to think there are not people like that in the world. Very Pollyanna of me