The Blurb: On Spain’s ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail, volunteer innkeepers — hospitaleros — take care of pilgrims and manage the inns along the route.
This is a quick book that explores the spirit of innkeeping and the countless tiny choices that every innkeeper must make. It’s not just for innkeepers — hopefully anyone involved in hospitality will find it useful.
You may have seen the old version on this site — I wrote it after working as a hospitalero in 2007 in Viana, Nájera, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain. Now it’s revised, updated, and available on Amazon here.
2010. Being a practical nation, Americans turn to pilgrimage to seek salvation of their bodies. Freedom not from sin, but from antibiotics, pesticides, and the absurdity of the Industrial Diet. Instead of walking church to church, pilgrims walk from sustainable farm to farm.
In return for a donation, pilgrims receive a place to sleep or to stake their tent, a shower and toilet, a dinner and breakfast (either prepared or something they can cook themselves). For now, a small tent and camping stove are recommended.
It’s unclear whether the pilgrimage has an endpoint or not. Most often it’s self-defined by time constraints, often circular. The waypoints are non-linear, just a smattering of farms across the country. The route is formed by making 20 or 50 phone calls before heading out, asking and explaining. Bring your own map, leave markers if you’re so inclined. Where you choose to walk is up to you.
For now, pilgrims have to accept large stretches of road walking. The upside is raised awareness of the fact that you don’t need much.
At times, the pilgrimage has a work-trade element built in. Farmers budget tasks and funds for anticipated pilgrims — painting, cleaning, stacking, and so forth. It’s a good idea to ask in advance. The issues of work legality, taxes, and insurance coverage are beyond me — ideas?
Americans are always looking for the next best weight loss and/or fitness program. This is it, but it’s also so much more.
Having lived on the Camino for only about 12 weeks total, I’ve seen at least four film crews and have been suspicious of all of them. I’ve thought that their efforts were in vain, that the kaleidoscopic experience couldn’t be captured by a team that rides in a van and sleeps in hotels.
But after watching the above trailer, I don’t care where the crew slept. It looks like the dangerous combination of professional production and spiritual journey may have been successful.
Inspired by her experience on the Camino de Santiago, retired reporter Suh Myung-sook has led the creation of over 250 km of wildly popular walking trails on the South Korean island of Jeju. More trails are in the works, and I’m guessing the official route will soon encircle the island.
As for walkers already looping Jeju–there must be a percentage who reach the end of the official trail and keep right on going.
And while we’re talking about loops and route planning, any developer’s next step would likely make Jeju Olle an @-shaped route, with a trail to the 1,950m peak of Mt. Halla as the final stage.
As this project goes forward, hopefully its leaders are careful about J.O.’s impact on the island. It’s an island, after all. The options for crowd-scattering alternative routes are pretty slim.
In the first nine months of 2009, Jeju Olle attracted–ready?–200,000 walkers. By comparison, 100,000 pilgrims completed the 800ish km French Route of the Camino de Santiago in 2008. My rough math shows that J.O. is faced with the challenge of supporting a pilgrim density that’s eight times greater (OK, 8.1) than the primary route of the Camino de Santiago. And that’s before Ms. Suh’s worldwide marketing plans kick in.
Just posted my Camino journal here. If you’re thinking of making the pilgrimage, I hope it gives you an idea of the thoughts and concernsthe walk is liable to catalyze in your consciousness.
If you’ve walked the Camino before, I hope it takes you back.
Most importantly, if you have any questions about the Camino–any–I’d love to take a shot at them. Especially if you’re struggling with that classic biggie, “I want to do this, but I have no idea how I can make it happen.” (And if I can’t answer your question, maybe I can pass it on to someone who can.)
Get in touch by emailing me at stateofplace -at- gmail. Cheers.
PS — The permanent link is right up there on the header bar next to the Innkeeper’s Guide.