Camino de Santiago

An Introvert on the Camino

June 9, 2015
woman with backpack and hiking poles standing in the plaza of a European city

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation… Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”
                          ―Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Today I was asked by someone how much of my time on the Camino was spent alone vs. with others. It was a question worth pondering, so I spent an hour-or-so going through my photographs and journals to come up with an accurate answer. As I looked back through everything, I remembered that in January, when I began researching the Camino, one of the first things I did was a web search for “Introverts on the Camino” because I wondered “how this journey would be for someone who’s accustomed to having her space; lots of space, and time, alone”. And my first day on the Caminoduring the walk from St. Jean to Orisson, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the differences between introverts and extroverts and how I would manage the evenings with so many other people crowded together in the albergues.

woman-backpack-overlooking-ocean-elissa

While I love spending time with friends and family, I am one of those people who need a great deal of time and space to myself.

As it happens, the Camino provided the best of both worlds; there was plenty of time for introspection and “recharging my batteries” as well as an abundance of opportunity to socialize with new friends and acquaintances from all over the world. In fact, it brought me out of the social cocoon I’d been living in since 2002 when I spent a year living by myself in a rural city of Japan, but that’s another story.

     Day 15 (left to right): Armanda from South Africa by way of England; Sometimes She Travels author, Elissa, from San Francisco, California; Tamara from Germany by way of Italy; and Eduardo, the Spanish hospitalero of the paradise-like albergue, “En El Camino” in Boadilla. (Remind me to write a post about how often Californians and Texans say their state rather than country in introductions, lol.)

Here’s the breakdown of my time alone vs. time with other pilgrims:

On days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 21-22, and 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28, I walked all day with other people. Days 17, 18, 19, and 20, were spent entirely alone aside from brief conversations with pilgrims I had never met before but encountered that day along the route. (Not knowing anyone these four days was the direct result of having taken a layover day in Boadilla on day 16; while I stayed behind to wait for a friend who had been injured, everyone else I knew, with the lovely exception of my friend, Armanda, with whom I’d just been reunited, continued walking, and that night I was caught up in a new wave of pilgrims, which is a story worth telling, and on my long list of things to write about sooner rather than later.)

Just after sunrise looking back at Logroño from the bike path that leads peregrinos outside the city. Most mornings I left the albergues by six to beat the heat, photograph the sunrise, and have some necessary “alone” time.

Approaching Burgos with Ana from Mexico and Cesar from Peru

Approaching Burgos with Ana from Mexico and Cesar from Peru

The other days, I usually walked alone for for many hours, at the very least in the morning, as I developed the habit of leaving by 6AM to beat the heat, photograph the sunrise, and have some necessary “alone” time. I would often run into my friends at different places along the route during the course of the day, particularly around 8 or 9 in the morning, when we all seemed to find ourselves at a cafetería, often in a small town or village, having “second breakfast”, one of my favorite things on the Camino. Sometimes we would walk together for a period of time in pairs or small groups but many of us seemed to value time spent walking alone as well.

One of the things I loved about the Camino was that I could spend the better part of the day walking alone, albeit meeting new people from time-to-time, but then connect with all my friends around two (lunchtime in Spain) at our final destination, and then while away the afternoon and evening together over long lunches, swimming in rivers, trying out local pintxos, and sipping café con leche at outdoor cafeterías in beautiful old plazas…

Pintxo by Iberian Proteus

Pintxo by Iberian Proteus

It was the best of both worlds…

Our new friend, Armanda, who lives in England

Yeni, Ana, Elissa, and our new friend, Armanda not long before walking into Los Arcos.

 

This is my friend, Françoise (whom I met my first night on the Camino at Orisson) walking on her own outside Pamplona. When Olalla and I caught up to her this particular time, she handed us a bag of cherries and told us that she knew we would be coming along shortly and thought we would enjoy a special treat. Another Camino gift…

 

Sometimes She Travels Camino Friends 1 Sometimes She Travels Camino Friends 2

Originally published October 10, 2014.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Anonymous September 24, 2014 at 08:34

    ¡¡¡ Hola, Elissa ¡¡¡
    Bellos e inolvidables recuerdos de El Camino. Un abrazo, amiga.

  • Reply Anonymous September 25, 2014 at 01:14

    Son:
    Martha, Ana, Cristobal (Mx), Al (Venezuela), Olalla, Marcelo, Abril, Pavel, Rodolfo (Venezuela) y tú!

    Yeni

    • Reply SometimesSheTravels September 25, 2014 at 01:27

      Gracias Yeni. No podía recordar el nombre de Marcelo! Y Venezuela no Chile! Oooops!

  • Reply Camino Nev November 16, 2014 at 10:36

    Your photographs are beautiful Elissa.
    I used to love the evenings when I would walk alone until nightfall in some cases.

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels November 17, 2014 at 01:38

      Thank you Nev. I love “image-seeking”. My favorite part of the day was always the minutes before the sunrise, watching the sky change colors and finding myself alone with the universe…

  • Reply Bonnie June 10, 2015 at 04:14

    Hi Elissa,

    Thank you for your lovely posts, I enjoy reading them a lot! This one in particular resonates with me because although I like being social and am basically a “people person” at the same time I know that at the core of my being I too am an introvert. I do a lot of meditating when I have time and can spend time alone doing the things I love most like reading and being with my cat.

    Hope that you have a wonderful Camino this year. I love Spain and miss being there, the last time was in 2005; how I wish that I could return.

    Take care and all my best,

    Bonnie

    P.S. I am also in APOC Facebook, but under another name. I enjoy their Facebook group page a lot with so many peregrinos contributing. It’s nice to know that a lot of Americans are finally discovering Spain; when I was living there not too many Americans were traveling to Spain mostly always to Italy or France.

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels June 10, 2015 at 19:54

      Hi Bonnie,

      I’m very glad that you are enjoying my posts. Thank you for taking the time to write!

      It’s exciting to be on the cusp of leaving for another Camino. The past few days I have caught myself daydreaming about walking all day. Do you have any plans to return?

      Elissa

      P.S. I agree about the APOC page. When and where did you live in Spain?

  • Reply Juan June 11, 2015 at 01:23

    I totally agree with the quote.
    Juan

  • Reply Elle Bieling June 11, 2015 at 03:44

    Hi Elissa. I do enjoy your comments and reflections. While I do not consider myself an introvert, I certainly agree with your feelings about your alone time. I love the social gatherings on the Camino. I also love the rhythmic flow of my body thru walking. When I am quiet and alone I am able to walk into myself and my heart. It is very meditative and healing for me. Even if I am at home on familiar territory. But the Camino brings us all together in our attempts to know ourselves, doesn’t it? No matter who we are. That is the beauty of it, don’t you think?
    I saw you are walking the Primitivo. I also will be but not until August. Can’ t wait to read about it!

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels June 11, 2015 at 18:32

      Hi Elle. Thank you for your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more about the gifts of thru walking. I am really looking forward to putting on my pack next week and walking.

      If all goes to plan I will walk the Primitivo later this summer, after walking the Norte, out to Finisterre/Muxia, and possible the Salvador. So who knows, perhaps we will meet on the road. Buen Camino!

  • Reply Samantha June 11, 2015 at 09:25

    So much of this resonates with me!

    I started walking the Camino with an extroverted friend, and often felt overshadowed and that I couldn’t make friends on my own as I’m not one that competes for attention. We started walking on our own during the early mornings, meeting up around second breakfast (love that you called it that too!), which worked so well – I ended up making a few close Camino friends of my own too. The alone time is definitely an important part of the journey, but everyone recognizes that and I love that there is no hard feelings when someone announces they’re going to go up ahead or lag back for a bit.

    Thanks for bringing me back, and Buen Camino! I can’t wait until my next one.

    • Reply Sometimes She Travels June 11, 2015 at 18:50

      Thanks for sharing! It’s so interesting to read about how other people experienced the social/introspective aspect of the Camino. It sounds like you and your friend developed a really good system.

      Do you have your next Camino scheduled?

    What are your thoughts?

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