Simon Benson & Alison Edwards
How the Camino has changed
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The Camino has changed since we walked it in 2011; and mostly not for the better. It is still as good thing to do; and it is still very social, and a very different way to spend a month of one's life.
What we noticed, to start with, was many more people walking with day packs only. We have spoken to some of the "hospitaleros" who run the hostels, about this. One said that she is obliged, if someone comes with their "Credencial" (pilgrim passport) to admit them - and she has had some appear at her door carrying suitcases! She is optimistic, though; she thinks the camino has had its ups and downs and hopes that after the next holy year, in 2021, its popularity will decline and the situation will improve again. I hope she is right.
Another hospitalero told us that on his sction of the camino there are five separate companies offering bag forwarding services. There must be a lot of bags not being carried by their owners.
And we have come across other pilgrims waiting for the bus, because their knees hurt or they have blisters; and seen two apparently able-bodied blokes enquiring in a bar about where they could order a taxi. While there is some justification for doing this in some instances, the amount we have seem it used really points to people behaving like this for trivial reasons. And then they miss out on some of the benefits of walking it, I think.
And the internet has meant that the number of people making advance resevations has increased as well. So far, we haven't done this and, so far, have had no trouble finding somewhere to stay; but the number of people spending a lot of time looking at their smartphones while sitting - and even while walking - is much higher.
And we've seen some cycling peregrinos on electric bicycles. Not much of a step from there to doing it by motorcycle, or car!
But having said that, I am happy to be doing it all again. It is a nice way to live. You just have to (as in all walks of life) try to avoid the idiots. And - we plan to use a bus to go into the big city of Leon, rather than walk for hours through the industrial outskirts and suburban streets.