So many people have walked the Camino before. And they found it a transformational experience like I did. But after living in Spain, and being in the Meseta on the Camino Frances, as we speak, I think a few things are worth mentioning before Pilgrims arrive from all over the globe this double Xacabeo year.
One Thing After Another
Spain is not alone in being devastated by Covid. That’s not news. But the businesses along the Camino were decimated. I can’t tell you the number of business owners on this trek who have told me directly that they are on the brink. Most hostelerías or Albergues beg for pilgrims to leave Google reviews or TripAdvisor recommendations. ‘Please. We need the help.’
Spain is not a tipping country. Sometimes you will insult people by tipping. That is no longer the case on this Camino. A generous tip is gratefully accepted. And it is not just because of Covid.
Electricity prices have gone up 500% in the past year. Our electricity bill at home is through the roof. All of the cafes I enter in the evenings have just a few lights burning. You are nearly eating in the dark. Some close when it gets dark to save on electricity. Many Albergues turn off the heat during the night. Its a tough time to survive through the winter, when making ends meet is nearly impossible.
There has been a truckers strike in Spain. Grocery store shelves were empty. The price of everything doubled or tripled. And that’s on top of the post- Covid global inflation. This effected Albergues trying to complete remodels before April 1st so they could open and make a living. But building supplies are hard to come by. And more expensive when they arrive. And if they open on time, fuel and food are sometimes difficult to get.
And then there is the war in Europe. If you think war in Ukraine doesn’t impact Spain, think again. Flour prices are skyrocketing. Pan used to cost nothing. Now it’s quadrupled. And bakeries are closing. They can no longer make a living.
Just know that Spain is under tremendous stress.
I say all this because I have listened to some Pilgrims complain on this journey. ‘These prices? They’re gouging us now. Taking advantage of the Pilgrims who come from the US. The Camino is going downhill. Its not like it was when I walked before in blah blah blah.’ And I want to scream at my fellow countrymen. ‘Do you understand what it is like for the people you meet in every town or village? The business owners? The shopkeepers? They are not gouging your arrogant self. They are trying to survive and put food on their tables. Stop bitching and start tipping. BIG! ‘.
In my experience this trip, good Albergue prices are about €5 more per night. Private rooms are €10-20 more per night. Coffee will cost you. Sometimes an additional €1. The menu del dia or Pilgrim meal will run you €10-15. But the wine will still be unlimited. And breakfast can be as much as €10 – for a good one.
It’s Not All Doom and Gloom
But the good news is that the kindness and sincerity you experienced from the people of Spain is still here waiting, and is unaffected by inflation or supply chains. The war has brought people together. Compassion costs nothing. And the Spanish have it in abundance.
So if you are planning a 2022 Camino. Traveling from far afield. Please bring your patience with you, and your compassion. Lets view each other as something other than customers and service providers. The lanuage may be different but we are all part of a global family. Sometimes we forget that.
Oh yeah, and bring a sleeping bag. Its cold in the Albergues with no heat. Snow is in the forecast for walking in the Meseta tomorrow. And as we all know, Galicia can surprise you with a cold front in the middle of summer. 😉