Surely, We Are Better Than This

A big shout out to the Xunta de Galicia. They are great stewards of the many routes of the Camino that start in, or pass through, Galicia on the way to Santiago de Compostela. They know it’s their biggest cultural and tourist asset, and they protect it vigorously. But we, as Peregrinos, need to do our part, too.

I was just out checking the mail at our gate on the Camino Frances. Someone walking stuffed our mail box with dirty Kleenex today. Ick. Not only gross, but in Covid times, dangerous. Just then, the Xunta trash collection van pulled up. The crew drives and walks the roads of the Camino picking up trash dropped carelessly by walkers. The guy waved me away and gathered all the soiled tissue while in his hazmat suit, rubber boots and rubber gloves. Sure, I was grateful. But he shouldn’t have to do this. Come on, Pilgrims. We are better than this.

It’s not the first dumping of refuse outside our gate. I’ve had to pick up a lot of garbage. When big groups walk past they leave trails of trash in their wakes. Banana peels stuck in the gate. Plastic Coke bottles thrown over the hedge. Much like the Kleenex in the mail box, this takes effort.

Even before we set up the tents for Pilgrims during Covid, we would look out the windows and see Pilgrims coming inside the closed gate to pee behind our hedge. So other Pilgrims wouldn’t see them. But we could. They were in our yard! Either they understand ingles or were just freaked out when I shouted out the front door ‘Who raised you? Wolves?!’ Note to self: I must learn that phrase in a few different languages.

Jeff says we sound like old people. Get off my lawn! But that’s not it, at all. It’s about respect. Would you just go pee in your next door neighbor’s yard at home? I imagine the answer is No. They know you and could ID you to the police. Your Mother would be mortified. It’s bad manners, and just plain unsanitary.

After being locked up and locked down for the past 18 months, perhaps we all need a refresher course in manners, social graces, and seeing each other as human beings. And a bit more kindness.

I know everyone is excited to be out and about. Especially on an adventure on the Camino. But when the Way takes you from the trail to an actual paved road where people live and drive cars, you should probably not walk five abreast, then flip off or shout at the residents when they are being cautious, and trying to get you to safely move to the side of the road so you don’t get hit, while in their car on their way home from the grocery store. Think of it this way: If you wouldn’t walk down the middle of the street with your best mates blocking traffic in London, Madrid, Paris, Hamburg, Miami, or Seoul, you probably should think twice about this strategy on a barely two way, unlined country lane on the Camino. Especially considering our rush hour tractor traffic. Those giant wheels will win every time.

Don’t get me wrong, we love living on the Camino. Meeting wonderful people. Sharing their experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But watching the Xunta de Galicia worker pick up trash makes me sad. The Camino is such an amazing, sacred experience. Very real personal and spiritual transformation happens on these routes. I know it. I’ve done it. Yes, I realize a few bad apples don’t have to spoil the the barrel. But, stuffing my mail box with dirty Kleenex? Not cool. Come on, Pilgrims. A little more kindness. I’m praying we really are better than this.

18 thoughts on “Surely, We Are Better Than This

  • Actually, I don’t think we’re necessarily ,better than this. At least, not some of us. I have witnessed some appalling behavior on the Way, some acts that might simply not be done back home in polite company. And not to justify it, but sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that at any given moment at the height of the season, there are thousands of people on the Camino. It’s a walking, moving city. In a population that large, you are going to have a certain percentage of a-s h—s that feel free to disregard polite norms. That being said, it might well be time for the municipalities to rethink offering as few places as possible for people to ‘go’ while they’re on the Way.

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    • Agreed. Public – secure – toilets would be a great idea. We love having Pilgrims walk past. And love supporting them. We have even talked about getting a honey bucket to help out. That might be our short term solution.

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  • Sorry you are encountering this– it was an issue I saw when we did the Frances in 3001. Haven’t noticed it on other Camino routes, but also fewer people on them. Litter is a horrible problem where I live– very disheartening. Anyone ( not just MEN) can be a pig– glad most aren’t. Gratitude to Rebekah Scott and others who do regular cleanups along the trail.

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  • I am sorry that this happened to you and that it is a larger problem. I was shocked at the trash, but particularly the TP, the first time I walked the Camino in 2008. I have given many talks, both private and public, about the Camino. I always stress taking a “portable bathroom”, which is simply a Ziploc bag with some TP. If you are desperate and have to go in the bushes, take EVERYTHING with you when you leave. We have to clean up after our dogs, right? Anything less is rude, unsanitary, and just plain disrespectful. Of course it would help if there were public toilets available at regular intervals, but since that is not the case, just be responsible. Respect the Way and the beautiful people and country who make it possible.

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  • Being a Hospitalero comes with an unexpected education. We see the world and all levels of education. I was hoping to learn tolerance or how to let it “roll off”. My eyes are open and I hope Camino experiences will help some pilgrims see a different world and get a much needed education.

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    • It’s just part of the gig. I think ppl are capable of great change. And Pilgrims can’t help but change after their walk. It’s inevitable. I just wish they were a bit more conscious of the impact of their choices along the way. Buen Camino 🙏

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  • Men in this country, probably all over Europe, just pee when and wherever they happen to be. It really was shocking when walking the dog around a corner in the road there was a guy right there taking a leak. Not a country dirt road, but the main road with houses around, the bus stop., cars going by. And without thinking I say WTF!! He just kept peeing. Geesh…
    Men can be pigs.

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  • There are just people who don’t care. Leave their trash everywhere, no respect for other people’s property. It’s never going to change, unfortunately. Even pilgrims!

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