A dear friend joked in a comment yesterday that she can’t wait for me to get home and tell the real stories I’m not writing about here on the blog. When I called her last night to check in, she pointed out that I seem to be holding back, being very “nice” or “pc” with my observations.
You are absolutely right, Brook, and I thank you for calling me on that.
Here is the deal: I know for a fact that some people on the Camino right now are reading this blog because they are stopping me and saying hi. Every few days another person asks if I’m the “blogger” and “I recognized you because of Bunny!”
So, I’m not going to share the very personal stories of friends I’m making on the Camino, especially those who have suffered terrible losses or tragedies in their lives. Anyone who confides in me can trust me completely. Frankly, even if this was only being read by friends in Seattle, I still would never share those stories.
But I’ve also met some really awful people, annoying people, or people that are just plain rude. I’ve mentioned a few run-ins with folks, but I’ve withheld names and specific details to protect the (not so) innocent. I’m practicing a new skill — the skill of letting go and not taking everything as some personal affront. Rarely have any of these situations really been about me (except the snoring complainers). Negative interactions are not that common, and when they do happen they are fast. If I find myself on the same track as someone I no longer wish to interact with, I speed ahead, hold back, take a different route, or pop in somewhere for a beer. If I see them again, it’s easy to do a little head nod or “hola” and move on.
For example, there is one person I was desperate to get away from for days, which is why I walked much farther than I wanted to or should have in the extreme sun/heat. This person told me he was stopping in the village before and I should too, but I just blurted out “oh that’s too bad, I’m going on to Fromista. Buen Camino!” I have not seen him since. (Knock on wood!!)
Here are two very real but generalized observations to share that are not specifically about any one pilgrim:
1. The people who own and/or work the businesses on the Camino work extremely hard, long hours, and unfortunately I see pilgrims treat them with less respect than they deserve sometimes. Yesterday in Samos is a perfect example:
The woman who checked me into my room in the monastery Monday afternoon was working the cafe. She had to leave her customers to help me and show me to my room. I saw that she worked through the night in the cafe Monday.
Yesterday morning when I went downstairs to have some coffee and a croissant, she was working in the cafe again. It was 9:00 am.
After I finished, I walked across the street for the monastery tour. At 10:30 the tour guide arrived — it was the same woman from the cafe! Her name is Julia and she gave the tour twice — at every stop she spoke Spanish to the others, then turned to me and repeated it in English.
I later learned that she gives the guided tours every hour before the siesta break, then goes back to the cafe/apartments to keep working. She lives in the building as well, and I think I saw someone drop her kids off to her mid-afternoon.
I went to the same cafe for dinner, and Julia was my waitress. At this point I felt bad and so insisted on ordering from the counter and taking my own drinks to the table to save her steps. The place eventually filled up so I couldn’t really help her anymore. I just tried to let her know how grateful I was every time she came to my table. I did bus my own table for her when I was done.
Now, here’s the point of sharing this with you. I was at a corner table and could see/hear everyone else (I was alone as well so not distracted by my own conversations). I witnessed almost every other table of pilgrims be rude with her, demanding things, and never saying please or thank you (in Spanish or English). One table of young people with a mix of British, American, and German accents started talking about the priests and making fun of other pilgrims they saw during the evening mass across the street. They were also complaining about the slow service (the cafe got slammed!). I’m assuming they didn’t know Julia spoke English and worked for the monastery. I was embarrassed for them. Shut the heck up, you idiots! She understands every word you’re saying.
Hard hard hard work.
Pretty much every place I’ve stayed — albergues and pensions — the people working them are there from early in the morning until very late at night, sleeping there, setting their children in corners of their cafes with the televisions on, breaking their backs. And yet, I witness bad behavior from some pilgrims who feel entitled.
I’m a pilgrim; you must serve me because I’m special.
I want to make clear that I’ve never seen this type of behavior from those with whom I befriended. But then I wouldn’t want to be your friend if you behaved like this. Funny how that works itself out.
2. The Camino is the weirdest pick up joint I have ever been in!
And that’s cool if you’re into that.
Message to everyone on the trail: you do you and let me be me.
Some are finding love. Cool!
Some are here to have fun encounters. Cool!
I just saw a young woman I met in the first week who introduced me to the third(?) guy she has met on the trail, holding hands. Good for you. Congratulations.
But man alive… everyone else, if you are walking the Camino for reasons other than to hook up, wear a wedding ring or something at the least.
Yes, I’m married.
My husband is at home.
It’s none of your business why he’s not here with me.
I know I’m not wearing a ring, but I assure you I’m married and not interested.
No. I’m not interested. Go away.
Two real truths about the Camino, for you dear Brook. 😉💜