“The talkers are listened to with pleasure, and the tongue of the least communicative is loosened.”
Conversation with Guilherme R, (September 15 ’22): I recommend that group pilgrimage should alternate shared walking with times of solitary walking: ’I’ll go ahead’ or ‘go ahead, I’ll slow down a bit’, ‘ I’ll see you in Terradillos…’. Flexibility to find a suitable walking pace, an excessive pace can be tiring for some. Keeping up a banal conversation for hours on end impoverishes communication. Alternating moments in a large group with smaller groups or as couples, or alone, when one may distance oneself for a few metres from the crowd.
Discern by intuition with whom you are going to share a stage the next day.
Notes from M. C.: Chatting with an occasional unknown classmate enriches if there is time and creates empathy: I learned about the geography of Brazil walking for hours with a Brazilian woman and I got to know the German university system, in 2012, by doing the camino with a student from that country, and then later on by chance meetings with other students.
Long-distance pilgrims do it alone and do not like being in a group. They feel that the group tends to stay within the warmth of its own identity and it is more difficult for them to relate to the rest of the pilgrims. A solitary pilgrim is forced to relate to others.
School groups have developed guidelines: no cell phones, only the person in charge of the group keeps the families up to date every few hours. Recommendations: thank people for any favours they might do you, greet people as you pass, don’t provoke scandals, accommodate the slowest pace; stimulate the ones who falter. They are encouraged to practice a few minimum requirements: Bon Camino! when passing, turn your head and smile. The leader of the group must encourage a real openness to the other pilgrims, even if this means a slight loss of his own identity. The richness of the Camino also springs up in unexpected encounters.
María, an Arab girl from Israel, confessed to me in Bethlehem: “I made a pilgrimage with my club in Jerusalem, with another Spaniard, from Vigo to Santiago this July 2022 and I met wonderful girls; I wouldn’t have done it in any other way.”
The Bookjaens strategy, which sustained me from San Antón to Castrojeriz in May 2015: “we will walk four minutes, we will stop for one”, his backpack on his back, my backpack on his chest.
Some couples are elastic, like bubble gum. I met a father-in-law and son-in-law who went on pilgrimage together: they established a pattern of continually arguing and then making it up afterwards; another couple broke up after only a few days of quarrelling; they took breakfast and dinner together with others in the hostel, but they did all their walking separately.
Mario Clavell is a pilgrim, writer and founding member of the Galician Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (AGACS).