A few days ago a camino friend (hello Margaret) asked me for my thoughts on travelling to Spain to walk the camino this year. In a nutshell, I am pretty sure it’s not going to happen. I have actually anticipated that I wouldn’t want to risk walking for some weeks.
I am not too concerned about catching the virus, although I am at the lower end of the at-risk age group, I am healthy with no underlying respiratory problems. My unease is created by the thought of being caught in a ‘lock-down’ situation in a remote village where it might be very difficult and possibly very expensive to cater for myself for a couple of weeks isolation period. And it might be very difficult or impossible to travel back to the UK if severe travel restrictions are in place.
I have been following a thread on the camino forum posting the latest official information and confirmed cases around the world and specifically in Spain. It has made me realise how lucky I am to live so close to the camino – although not quite so close as I was last year. I have already booked a flight to Bilbao to start this year’s camino, but it cost me the grand sum of £15 so it’s not going to break the bank if I can’t use it. My time is my own so it hasn’t been necessary to make complicated arrangements to get away for a few weeks, other than organising for little Lily to be cared for. And also, I am an old hand at this camino lark – 2020 was planned to be my eighth year of walking in Spain, and I have sampled thirteen different camino routes.
I feel the anguish of those who are travelling from the other side of the world, who have spent a small fortune on air fares, who may have made intricate plans to arrange care for family members during their absence, have organised extended time away from work, and have been anticipating the wonder of the camino during many months of researching and planning their route, buying gear and getting fit.
The forum thread has so many contributions that it is currently split into four separate sections (first dating from 25 February, second 4 March, third from 9 March, and the latest one started today 12 March. There are many branches to the conversation and it makes very interesting reading, I imagine even if you are not part of the camino community. Many people have been talking about travel insurance issues – unsurprisingly it seems insurance companies will wriggle out of most claims relating to an epidemic. Possible medical expenses or isolation costs could be significant.
Many hospitaleros have been saying that they will keep the privately run albergues open, but do we really want to be in such close proximity to others in the current climate? Sleeping just feet away from others. Will the albergues actually be allowed to remain open if the number of confirmed covid-19 cases continues to climb exponentially?
It must be heartbreaking to cancel a long anticipated camino, particularly for a first-timer. My heart goes out to all who decide to stay at home after making such a huge financial and emotional investment in their camino. And I can also understand the gung-ho attitude of those who are hoping with every fibre of their being that they will be able to continue with their camino plans.
So, back to the original question – what are my thoughts on travelling to Spain this year? I honestly think that unless you are already there or due to arrive within a week or so, I doubt any of us are likely to have the luxury of deciding for ourselves. I suspect there will be travel bans throughout Europe. This is obviously just a personal opinion, but that is what I was asked for.
Many pilgrims have said that they will postpone until next year. But 2021 is a holy year when numbers on the camino are always greatly increased. So there may well be an overwhelming number of pilgrims walking.
Things may change by the date of my flight at the end of April, and hopefully my doom mongering will be proved to be misplaced.
Indeed, as could be expected, things have already changed since writing the above last evening, with Trump’s total ban on non-US citizens entering the country from Europe (excluding UK and Ireland).
Here is a really interesting video explaining exponential growth (just one of the many very interesting contributions to the camino forum thread)…
Difficult times! Stay safe and well my friends.
Buen camino (whenever it happens)
Little Lily, now five and a half months, makes me smile every day. Hopefully she will have the same effect on you