Seriously, don't do these things

Ok, I keep saying how the Camino is yours and you should walk your Camino? Yeah, I stand by this. But there are some things I keep seeing pilgrims do, that are just … yeah, don’t do them.

Putting your backpack on beds

This is actually a really big no-no. Backpacks should ideally not only not be on the bed, they should be a bit away from beds. Backpacks carry critters. Critters get in bed. Bed now crittered. Not good. Also take your bed covers out from the backpack and shake them out outside!

Packing at 5am in the sleeping dorms

If you want to leave early, do this: take your backpack towards the entrance. Take everything you have not packed before going to sleep to the entrance. Pack there. Don’t pack inside the dorms.

Using chairs as backpack displays

Your backpack belongs on your back or the ground. Chairs are for sitting. I can’t count the times I had to walk to the next café because half the chairs are occupied by backpacks. One of the smaller things most people learn while on the Camino: you don’t “own” space. You occupy it, and the less you occupy, the more that is in the spirit of the Camino. This isn’t a sun lounger in St. Tropez where your elegantly slung coat signals “don’t you effing dare sit on my table with me.” It’s the Camino where, in its very spirit, people sleep, sit, and walk near each other.

Drag your Hiking Sticks or (just as bad) use them without rubber caps on asphalt or concrete roads.

Some people snore, some people fart, rain falls, sun burns, dust crusts on our eyes. That’s the Camino and no one’s fault. But some nuisances are completely avoidable and are someone’s fault. Hiking stick etiquette is a big one in that area. No one wants to listen to you clack-clack-clack-ing along a road for an hour. Or, worse, chrrrrrchrrrrch-dragging them behind you. Police your sticks, pilgrim.

Impose your Camino on others

Well, that’s basically a consolidation of everything above. And then some. Your Camino is yours. Mine is mine. Theirs is theirs. They take pictures a lot. Someone listens to music or podcasts while walking. Someone goes to church every morning. They are vegan, vegetarian, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, Hindu, or believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s their Camino. Some walk only a few kilometers every day, some race 40-a-day. Some take cabs sometimes. Some skip the Meseta. Some walk to Muxia. Some don’t.

It’s their camino. If you’re interested in them, they’ll probably tell you about themselves. But never, ever, tell someone what their Camino, or (worse) the Camino is all about.

Get “too close.”

There is a lot of intimacy on the Camino. No, I am not talking about Sex on the Camino, but the day to day kind. You sleep in the same room, you often walk together, sit next to each other in cafés, share meals, and sometimes even stories and emotions. All that is OK. But there is a limit, and that’s the comfort zone of each of you. Do not try to test that zone. Not everyone wants to be touched, not everyone wants to hear about your bowel surgery complications.

Consider a stick of gum: it is much less painful to offer one and be told “no, not today” than to ask for one and be told “no, not you.” Keep the pain to zero, by offering (gently) but not by assuming you’re welcome. Rather than waiting for someone to ask if they can walk with you, offer them to walk with you. Rather than asking to join for dinner, offer others to join you.

And always, always, always, remember: it’s not just that No means No, it is that anything but a clear Yes is a No.