The Judgmental Pilgrim

I despise them with a passion. As I wrote many times before, the physical Camino is a bunch of easy day-long meanders interrupted by food and good beds. The real Camino happens in our heads, and no one should judge ours by theirs.

Judgmental pilgrims. “Judge not, lest you be judged” and all that. Pilgrims criticizing our mode of stay, whom we walk with, how fast we walk, if we’d taken a cab to recover an ankle sprain, if we drink (or don’t drink) wine or Coke Zero, the clothes we wear, the shoes and backpacks we use, the city we started from, our religion, gender, sexuality. I can state, sounding a bit like a hypocrite, that I judge them harshly.

That said, there are some things I, too, judge, judgmental pilgrims aside. Things that have nothing to do with how and why someone walks, nothing to do with their “mind Camino” but their behavior on the Way. Behaviors that, usually, make others’ life miserable.

“Seatbaggers”

This specimen LOVES to put their backpacks on empty chairs in already overrun bars and cafés. Not only does this take a much needed and well deserved chair from someone who’d rather put their butt in it, it’s also a big “eff you” to the consensus that backpacks should never, ever, be put anywhere but the floor or one’s back. Not on your bed (massive blunder), not on the chair next to you, not hung on a wall.

“But it rains,” yes, and your damn backpack, which you could wrap, is more deserving of a dry ass than some pilgrim? Screw you!

Table Manners

Bus your own damn table, people. You’re on the Camino, not in a C-level executive meeting with paid cleaning. It’s not that hard to take those cans and trash and discard them, bring back the plates, glasses, and cups, and tell the purveyor goodbye. You do have those 30 seconds it takes to leave a cleaned up table to the next pilgrim already waiting for a seat and to make the Camino barback’s life a little easier.

Albergue Manners

The same is true for your albergue. Is it that hard, to clean up your evening dinner mess in the shared kitchen? Or those bottles of beer you left in the yard? Use a damn toilet brush after you had a session with the porcelain gods and that pulpo dinner that weighed heavily on you? Leave your albergue the way you’d want it to be when you arrive. And for all that is holy and good, please(!) shower before sleeping in a 12-person bedroom. I’m all for keeping critters out, but let’s not try olfactory warfare.

If you get up before everyone else, do it quietly. Seriously, pack before you fall asleep, take your stuff into the hallway, and pack there. Plastic bags aren’t just bad for the ocean, they’re also hell a freaking noisy at 5am. And don’t you dare turn on the lights, some pilgrim’s walking stick might “accidentally” fall on you. And I, for one, would cover for them.

And, whomever you are who took a damn dump in the shower in Santa Mariña last year: the Church might forgive you all sins on arrival, but I won’t.

The guys and gals I am talking about above…

Sure, “Jesus didn’t start in Sarria,” but he didn’t in Leon or St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, either. Unless you’re talking about my Camigo Jesús from Brazil, he started in Pamplona.

You believe that taking photos on the Camino takes away from its authenticity? Good, don’t take any. You find WiFi in albergues bad? Don’t use it. Think a real pilgrim attends morning mass every morning? Be my guest. Think only Brierly’s stages are the right ones? Walk them.

I’ll walk mine, you’ll walk yours. Be as close or as far from others, take as many or no photos. Do your Camino. Don’t ever judge me for mine, or tell me how wrong my Way is. How I do mine should not impact how you do yours. Unless, of course, you feel that you must force everyone into your Camino to validate it. That won’t make you a pilgrim. It’ll make you a giant asshole. There, I’ve judged you. Do you feel judged for being judgmental?

Bears shitting in the woods

There’s rarely more than 5 kilometers between cafés or restaurants on the Frances. Other Caminos have longer distances, but even there, and while emergencies can not be avoided, there’s no way in hell that much shitty/used toilet paper needs to litter the country side. Seriously. You pick up behind your dog, do the same for your own butt. If you can’t avoid letting loose along the Camino, knowing it’ll be 35 degrees in the shade, at least bag your used TP and take it to the next trash can.

Finally

It’s pretty simple, actually: be considerate, be clean, and treat your ideas about “the Camino” like your genitals: don’t whip them out in public and don’t stick them into anyone’s face without that person’s consent. Don’t be a douche. Walk your Camino. And, if you find the person who crapped in the showers in Santa Mariña, please kick their ass for me and the hospitalera who had to clean it up.

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