Wednesday, 13 January 2010

We Can´t Go On Like This

Nice new look here, eh? I owe it all to Kim, whose graphic designs and photographs make even drippy gray January look bright and burnished.

Recent days have been packed full of rapid-fire Spanish, and a resulting three-day slog translating and sending on new material that must be added to English-speaking hospitalero-training courses. Sadly, not all changes make people feel all bright and burnished. Bruised and beaten, some might say. The bosses in Spain say we need to take a tougher approach with the pilgs, let them take more responsibility for their own well-being, sanity, and possessions... the Mother Hen has flown the coop.

At least that is what we are to teach. Doesn´t mean everyone´s going to listen, though. Pilgrims will still get their fair share of coddling, especially when they fetch up with Canadian caretakers. Lucky old pilgs.

They are a big topic around here lately, and not always a pleasant one. The Peaceable is faced with many of the issues the Federation wants hospitaleros to contemplate: a real Other Side of the Camino de Santiago. It´s all got to do with helping out. Money.

Two French pilgrims and two Korean pilgrims stayed here on Sunday. All four wore high-tech winter sportswear and good haircuts.We stamped their pilgrim credentials, fed them a nice dinner, poured plenty of wine, advised them on the trail ahead and the weather report, and sent them off to their own individual beds  by 11 p.m. They slept very well, they said. In the morning they had coffee and eggs and bread and honey and lots of butter. The Korean guys left first. The French stayed behind so one of them could write down a recipe for Risotto de Frutti de Mar. Paddy and the dogs walked with them to San Nicolas.

This is the usual treatment offered here. We do it because we want to, and because we (so far) can afford to. We follow a pilgrim-hosting tradition hundreds of years old known as "Donativo." We are not a business, so we don´t charge any set price for our services. Pilgrims who are poor and can´t afford to pay don´t have to. Those with more resources put a "donativo," a donation, in the box by the front door. Those who can pay supposedly cover the costs of those who cannot.

Unless they don´t.

The Koreans left 14 Euros in the box, along with an interesting Korean coin.
The French guys left not a sou. Nothing but a recipe.

These people are killing the Camino as we know it. They´re busting the Peaceable, too. We can´t go on like this.

The Camino de Santiago is drowning in its own success, in dozens of ways. And it looks like the donativo idea will soon be another victim of the great avalanche of greed on one hand, and cheapness on the other. Word´s gone out all over the world that this is THE place to go for an adventure-cultural holiday that also offers all kinds of freebies to anybody. And so, mixed in with the ascetics and hermits and true believers and church youth groups on the trail, are a number of people who are on a cheap holiday, taking advantage.

The folks who stayed here Sunday found us because all the privately-owned hostels for the past 20 kilometers were closed for the holidays. The nearest donativo pilgrim albergue is another 9 kilometers on, a two-hour walk in the wet dark. They were eight pilgrims walking together.

They phoned us from the closed-up pilgrim hostel in Terradillos de los Templarios, where a pilgrim pays 10 Euro for his bed, 8 Euro for his dinner, and 3 Euro for breakfast. They´d have all stayed there if the place was open. They toiled on for another half hour to our house, where we greeted them with turron and coffee, and later drove half of them on to the donativo albergue in Sahagún. (we only have room for four just now.) One of them gave me 2 Euros for gas. A cab would have cost them 20.

The four who stayed behind at our house got an even better deal: Bed, dinner, and breakfast (at homemade quality) for whatever they wanted to pay. None of them left anything like the 21 Euro they´d have paid in Terradillos. In this case, even the most generous of them left less than half that.

And so you see our conundrum. If we don´t tell them at the outset how much we expect, they can´t know for sure, can they? Maybe they figure we´d be offended if they offered us money. But we tell them we are donativo. There is a clearly visible donativo box right by the front door. We signed up for this, so maybe we can´t complain about it.

We haven´t the wherewithal nor the patience to open up as a business. We want to be kind to travelers, we want to offer a nice place to people who don´t often see a nice place.

But we´re being punked here, suckered, taken for a ride, robbed, screwed, blewed, tattooed by people who obviously can afford to pay their way, but simply choose not to.

We are not the only ones. The Federation, the group of albergue and hostel-keepers whom I do trainings for, is dedicated to the donativo practice. And the number of donativo albergues -- pilgrim shelters run by municipalities and religious groups as charitable institutions -- is shrinking fast. Too many people who should donate are staying for free... sometimes zipping into town on the bus and grabbing up the donativo beds well before the lame and poor pilgrims ever roll in. They have ready excuses for their actions: This place gets public funds. This place has an endowment. This place is where my friends are staying, and if I get a room at a commercial hostel I might miss out on "the Camino spirit." If this place can afford to subsidize poor people, it can subsidize me, too, seeing as I am spending "real" money in the local bars and restaurants that charge premium prices.

You invited me in. I am a guest. A guest doesn´t have to pay. Thank you so much for your kind hospitality. You are so generous. You are a saint, an angel, they tell us as they walk past the Donativo box.

If I was a saint or an angel, I wouldn´t be writing this. I wouldn´t notice if anyone paid or not. The saint inside me says I ought to just trust that enough money will come in somehow, that we´ve been well provided-for up til now, and we still have plenty to share without complaining, without noticing. I am willing enough to be a saint. It´s the martyrdom part that stops me cold.

We are retirees. We´ve got no endowment, no public funding. We live on a pension, a fixed income. We love the donativo idea, but too many people think "donativo" means "take advantage." We can´t afford it any more, not with a new roof in the offing, and a kid still in university.

So we are taking steps. Kim is making us an elegant new, bigger Donativo box. Paddy´s figuring out a way to tell pilgrims who stay here they ought to put something in there to help us, maybe something like the price they´d have gladly paid for a lot less a few miles back. This is very difficult.

We thought about installing a PayPal donation button on this blog, but we decided against it. The pilgrims don´t read the blog, and the pilgrims are the ones who ought to be helping out.

This is, hopefully, a temporary issue. The Italians will be here soon, and their new albergue will take on the big flow of humanity, at 5 Euro per person per night. Everyone can afford that, right? 

The truly poor, and the hardcore skinflint sinners, will seek us out.
The pilgrims, in other words.

37 comments:

Eileen said...

Sad but true that good folks have to be tough as well. I've seen French academics push old nuns in habits out of the way to get on the bus first--and that's why I don't visit that country. If I came to your door, especially after finding other places closed, I'd never be upset at being expected to help offset the costs of my stay, and more if I could afford it. Think of it this way: letting pilgrims know what's expected relieves them of having to fret about whether they are doing the right thing. I don't remember anything that says the good have to be suckers as well!

claire bangasser said...

You may want to appear in books like the Miam Miam Do Do and indicate the cover price you expect. Whatever cost feels appropriate to you.
If I think of the places where we have stopped, the Peaceable is a casa rural...
In Conques, there is a pricelist (dormitory vs. private room + dinner + breakfast). Now as an hospitalera, if I saw someone who truly could not pay, I had been told in advance to let that person know that he or she did not have to worry about it, if s/he could not afford it.

peter said...

At the moment I am enjoying the hospitality of the Russian Orthodox seminary in Paris while I wait for Air France to deliver my bag. It's been a week so far, and there has been no question of my paying for the meals I have shared with the community. However, there is a note posted on the bulletin board in the refectory asking people to see the secretary of the seminary to arrange payment for meals, along with pricing for non-resident students and non-student residents. Once I leave here, I intend to leave a donativo that is appropriate.

Let's assume that people on the Camino are generally not malevolent. If you add a note to the new donativo box explaining that you are on a fixed income and indicating a suggested donation, you may find that people will pay their own way more often. And if one result of the new sign is that word goes round you're a bunch of money-grubbers, then the problem will resolve itself. :-)

claire bangasser said...

PS: Your new design rocks! I love it!

Timecheck said...

Maybe a sign over the donativo box. Something to the effect of:
"It costs us x euros per night to care for one of you. Any donation over that goes to help those who cannot pay. We have no other source of funds."

As for taxi service, a sign some other obvious spot saying:
"Taxi - telephone number
rate to Sahagún about 20 euros. We can call them for you or if we have time, we will drive you for the same amount"

We have been driven places several times now, and have offered 10 to 20 euros, but so far, that offer has always been refused.

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Reb, I am wondering if you had a donativo box when I stayed? Because I never noticed one (which is why I left a donation on the kitchen bench...) Your house was visually full of things to notice, but I didn't want to be too nosey, so I never blatantly looked too hard..... maybe I just missed seeing the box...
In any case, I imagine you will dream up a suitable notice for a new bigger box, that could well become a Camino classic once it is translated into multiple languages including Korean...
Some donativo places I stayed in where a meal was provided had a little note basically saying the the meals for the next night's pilgrims depended on the generosity of tonight's ones- though I know that doesn't quite apply in a private home....
Whatever the politics behind the 'toughening up' on pilgrims is, I have to say that the places where I was welcomed really stand out in my memory- the Belgian hospitaleros in Los Arcos, the lovely man from Leon in Granon, the exquisite pair in Mansilla de las Mulas where the man had nurtured so many geraniums, the beautiful nuns who sang in Carrion de los Condes... And those memories of kindness are the love that makes the world go round- nicely- in the end...

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

lol I knew I should be careful with a list in case I left someone out..... at Rabanal I met Brendan from the forum and his lovely wife, along with a very welcoming Irish couple.
And of course, I didn't even start mentioning France.....

Ryan said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with a 5 euro required donativo! I thought that's what donativo implied when I was out there. That it was EXPECTED. Not to say you can ever assume someone's financial abilities, but I think it would become clear who was absolutely unable to spare that much, and on a case by case basis you could forgo a donation or two.

I would also say that perhaps doing a little less a) isn't going to be noticed by anyone, b) will still be appreciated by the true pilgs (you guys are amazing, and are doing a wonderful thing), and c) will help with the cost of putting people up who can't afford to pay. You're right that what you do is 20+ euros at some other places, but there are plenty of wonderful experiences along the way. Pilgs will be just as happy with a little less I'd be sure. A warm bed, simple dinner, coffee and toast in the morning were delights for me.

Or perhaps when you have pilgs don't get the wine out? I can't think of a single place along the way that offered alcohol. Sure it's not expensive there, but it's not free either.

It doesn't help with finances, but I'll say it regardless - you and Paddy are saints... human saints, with actual human feelings, emotions, and needs. Don't feel bad about complaining.

Absolutely love the new design as well. Hope to talk to you soon. You're muchly missed.

xoxo

Ryan

Kimlin said...

This was a conundrum when I served as temporary hospitalera at the convent in Leon, after I saw you. I would tell the pilgrims "es donativo, y esperamos que le da a lo menos 5 euros" but that was overruled as contrary to the spirit of donativo. And I don't think pilgrims gave anywhere near 5euros average after that.

I think it would help to have a sign/little talk about what it takes to provide hospitality, and then not monitor the box more often than weekly so that the miserly don't make you crazy. Or if there is a need, which it sounds like there is, have a fee which you can always waive.

I love reading your blog Rebecca- it makes me feel like I am back there, and gives me lots of new insights as well.

Pilgrim Nell said...

The Peaceable Kingdom is first and foremost a family house, albeit one that is generously open to pilgrims. It's obvious that some form of, well lets use the word tithe here, should be given by any pilgrims who choose to shelter there.
The tithe could be a minimum amount of money or alternatively, if/when the peaceable needs it, then wo/man power to be applied to various tasks or projects. They choose to come to your home and can choose to move on if the arrangements don't suit.
Pilgrims eating together at the albergues 'chip in' to do a collective shop or share what supplies they have with them for the meal and its preparation so its not too much of a stretch to extend this notion to the PK.
Only freeloaders, who choose to be so selectively and selfishly blind to your reality, might take offense at a clearly stated quid (or should that be euro) pro quo arrangement....and who gives a monkeys about those eijits?

Camino Junkie said...

Even at San Bol - bed is donativo but meals are 10 euro.

amancio said...

Rebekah, it is very common to forget about giving your donativo, particularly if you get up in the morning and are only thinking about taking off... ideally, they should be suggested to leave their donation just on arrival, after you welcome them and tell them you will give them dinner and breakfast, and that the place survives thanks to donations. I would say a good welcoming sequence might be: welcome, coffee/cold water depending on weather, send them to shower, and after that you tell them about your place. I went past Moratinos in june 2006, and I remember I saw a table with a notice, something like, "take anything you want", but all that was there was a cold coffee pot and an empty tray/box of biscuits, on the left hand side of Moratinos as you cross it.

M.A. said...

Estupenda nueva plantilla, Reb. I love the blue background!
En Grañón tuvimos el viejo panel q decía "Deja lo que quieras y coge lo que necesites"... pero eso es demasiado idealismo en estos tiempos de ""crisis""; incluso entonces ya lo era. No pasa nada por pedirle a la gente un mínimo (5/10€ sugiero)si comen o cenan y duermen en Moratinos. Cualquiera que tenga un poco de sensibilidad verá que con esa cantidad tú no te vas a hacer rica, pero... ¡estás en tu casa, qué puñeta!
Me pregunto si es que la gente de fuera se contagia del espíritu rapaz "ejpañol" en cuanto cruza los Pirineos... interesting subject for sociologists ;)

Anonymous said...

Don't be shy !

Get a credit card reader !

Have Tim wear a "Give a donativo or we'll shoot this dog" banner !

List precios next to the donativo box where the perigrinos see it when they ENTER. If they are the least uncomfortable, they have a ready excuse to leave politely. The poorly lit box you have is easy to ignore. Think BIGGER IS BETTER !

Before they clean you out.

You can spot the ones that really need the help.

Me? I'm cleaning the coins out of my couch for the next visit.

Freddy

laurie said...

This post really tore up my heart. You know you are getting ripped off by freeloaders who wouldn't blink twice at paying 20 - 30E just to sleep. For months now, I have been amazed at your stories -- and there are a lot more stories of people ripping you off than of people being overly generous. I don't think there's any shame in setting an expected donation and collecting it. It may not be the way you thought you would do it when you started out, but, hey, you've been burned enough now to change those ways. It makes me very indignant to see how people take advantage of you and Paddy.
You provide a much welcomed service, and people should pay for that service if they can. If you collect money at the outset, the people who don't have it will tell you that when they "check in." And then you can decide what you think and how you want to accommodate that. But please don't let yourselves continue to be exploited by people who don't pay just because they think they can get away with it. I think it will make you bitter and resentful, and that was certainly not why you decided to embark on this mission in the first place. Sorry, it's really none of my business, but it makes me mad how so many people take advantage. Laurie

Laura said...

What about having an envelope on a beside table in each room with a card that explains a bit about why you do what you do and that your are able to continue to offer a warm place to stay due to the kind contributions of those who stay there. Maybe suggest that those who can, please leave a larger contribution so that those who cannot will also continue to find a place to stay.

laurie said...

I just wanted to add some reaction to the many suggestions you have received. In my experience over 8 or 9 different Caminos and having talked to hospitaleros of many different types of places, I think it is very unlikely that you will change the ways of the freeloaders wiht a sign indicating a suggested donation. It is true that many of us prefer to be told what to give, but if that is our preference, all we have to do is ask. No hospitalero I have ever spoken with in a donativo place has failed to indicate the amount that the albergue finds reasonable.

My own maybe cynical opinion is that you will not change the behavior of the freeloaders unless you charge them an amount and take it when they check in -- with options for bed with or without meals.

If you're not at the breaking point yet, maybe you could experiment for a few weeks with a suggested donativo card. The downside I see to that experiment is that when it doesn't change behavior, you will be left with a very bad impression of humanity indeed. Switching to the published card directly lets you preserve the belief that the reason people didn't give before was just because they didn't know how much to give, or because they were in too much of a hurry in the morning and forgot or any of the other excuses that in my book don't pass the straight face test, but at least leaves you with a gentler view of peregrinos.

In any event, Reb, there are some very pilgrim friendly albergues run by former peregrinos who get on quite nicely with published charges. The Esprit du Chemin in St. Jean is one that comes immediately to mind -- maybe you should contact them to see how they reached the decision they did.

It sounds like this will be a wrenching decision for you, but I think that in the long run it will make your lives a whole lot better. Abrazos, Laurie

Rebrites@yahoo.com said...

You guys are amazing, full of wisdom, wit and compassion. Thanks you for a great response, both here and in emails...great ideas, pretty obvious, really, but very welcome. We are, I think, on a cusp here on the Camino. We have to work to ensure the changes are positive ones: as Jesus said, we need to "be gentle as doves, and wily as serpents." Keep it coming. I need the encouragement more than you know.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the concept of the Donativo because it enlivens the experience of the Camino. However, as a pilgrim I would appreciate being told what is preferred. It would go something like this:

"This is a donativo and your generous donations are much appreciated. Our expenses run approximately 20 Euros for bed, dinner, and breakfast. If you can pay more, you assist those who can't. If you cannot afford 20 Euros, please contribute what you can afford. Thank you for assisting us in serving you. God bless you on your journey."

This allows those who cannot afford to pay to feel okay and it definitely puts a value in the minds of those who can afford more to do so. Also, I know it is a pain and it is impractical, but having a way to run a Visa would assist those of us who are caught low on cash, but would like to pay more.

Mary Virtue said...

I agree with Anonymous, that a suggested donation is actually quite a help to everyone. If I ask someone "What donation is expected?" and I am told "Whatever you want", then I am no further ahead really. Just because a suggested donation is 20 euro does mean to say one has to pay that amount, but it is a reality check for those REM, MEC and otherwise outfitted pilgrims who forget that a bottle of Rioja is $20 back home, shelter at a street hostel might be $20 and meals are all on top of that. 20 euros is a deal. And the welcoming smile that the Peaceable Kingdom offers? Priceless.

Pilgrims Patch said...

I do feel for you. On return from my first pilgrimage I started a
lunch for those who wanted to come on a wednesday to share and have fellowship in my parish. This is on a donotivo basis. I have been
funding it ever since. For me the
difficulty is how do I extend the generosity and hospitality of Jesus
to a group of folk who do not really notice it and are happy to exploit it. To fix a charge goes again my greater aim of building christian community. In the case of the camino I think the issues are just the same. Except that there is a much greater rejection of the core, primal, value of the Camino as a Christian experience.
In the light of the blessing of pilgrims that comes in many forms, but has within it the idea that we set out to seek blessing and to bring blessing to those who we encounter in the communities through which we pass. A rebalancing is needed. All this being true, it does raise the need for a further development of the Camino through education of the pilgrims along the way. This development must be
in the direction of a greater effort being made by the Spanish churches and others, to teach the walkers how to be pilgrims. At the moment there is not a great deal if you do not speak spanish at a high level. from the church,there is rather a distain that leaves the feeling that we are not really bothered about you,
you're only here for a day. On the other hand from those who are not professional christians there is a warmth that is remarkable. ( This is not completely true, there are many exceptions, in both directions)
I do have one practical idea. Would it be possible to get all who issue a credential to include a few words on this matter as the walker recieves his passport. Telling him to respect the value of
sharing and hospitality.
Another idea might be to ask for partners in this work. You are at the sharp end delivering the hospitality, may I share a little
with a few shekels donotivo without staying with you?

JIM said...

I guess its hard to balance running a business and balancing your budget and offering a friendly place where you welcome guests.
I don't get the impression you are running a charitable organisation so you need to be more assertive and directive with guests.

I was never sure on the camino what to offer when it was a donation. I preferred to pay in advance whatever was asked.

I think that would be a reasonable approach by you to set a price and then every guest/pilgrim/lodger/ freebie traveller knows what is expected.

There are more good pilgrims out there than free loaders but it is not very good when travellers abuse your hospitality and leave you feeling frustrated.

You shouldnt need to put up with this so dont go on like this......
like your blog

get the peace abled again
cheers

always rambling jim

www.traveloglife.blogspot.com

Chris S said...

Rebekah, I haven't had the chance to be coddled by you and to sponge off you and Paddy, but I did enjoy meeting you at Williamsburg in March '07 and have since greatly enjoyed your blog - wondering all the while how your spicy style correlated with your apparent march to Sainthood - so it's almost a relief to read your latest blog. The responses certainly show you struck a chord. I hospitalero'd in Logroño last year under Fr José Antonio where we gave dinner, bed and breakfast to up to 55 pilgrims during my time there, with an average donation of 5 to 6 euros, from mainly well heeled pilgrims. José Ignacio (the initiator of the donation box at Grañón) apparently had no problem with this. Key question to me is, is the donation system part of the path to encourage walkers to become pilgrims? Despite great respect for J-I who opened my mind to many things, I have to plump for a minimum charge with encouragement for additional donations. Experience of youth hostels in England (before they became posh) and gîtes d'etape in France convince me that this would not be detrimental to the spirit of the camino which is nourished by comradeship and love. If this issue continues to fester, in a few years' time the credencial may be accompanied by a credit card swipe - and a GPS to make sure pilgrims progress at no greater than walking/cycling pace. Now that might be a threat to the spirit of the camino!

Jill said...

Reb, a voluntary paypal on this site is a good idea. Your writing is also your profession and the labourer is worthy of his (her) hire. It would be an opportunity for some of us with no time/ability to support the camino in other ways. I also think you should set a specific price at least for meals, with a sign at the entrance making it clear the charge is just to cover your costs. You still provide hospitality, generosity of spirit, and myriad other blessings to your guests.

AlexWalker said...

Rebekah,

Many good ideas here; I will throw in mine.

Last autumn, I heard many "pilgrims" saying they only went for donativo places because it was "free". Thyey were perfectly able to buy beer along the way, wine for their food, etc.

I think you should restrain your donativo approach as you are only being taken advantage of, and it is NOT good for your long-term temper and well-beeing.

INHO: I would expect to pay your suggested/mandatory fee for food and shelter upon arrival, then study each pilgrim in order to be able to offer a discount for real needy pilgrims.

I would expect to pay for that bottle of wine that I like so much in the evening before hitting the bed.

I would not be offended, depending on your fee, when I leave, if you had a sign by the donativo box saying something like "This is a house of non-profit: Please contribute as a fee addon if you are able to"

And yes; DO place a Paypal button on your blog: I suspect some pilgrims who stayed but did not pay, will use it. And some who visited you will also use it.

BTW: Your T-shirt last all the way back to Norway, thank you, and I hope you can do an eBook someday ;-)

Anonymous said...

Rebekah,

A lot of comments! Here goes mine. It's not clear how much of the old spirit of El camino remains. Apparently even in the old days it was not 100% a way for pligrims, but also a place for "pícaros" (a very Spanish concept) of any kind.

Maybe the true pilgrims expect help along their journey - "dar posada al peregrino". But I don´t think the rest expect that. They are there, on vacation, for whatever reasons and they should expect to pay for a lovely vacation. And it's not easy to tell one kind from the other. I have no problems with either type: one way or another we are all pilgrims in life.

The problem with the donation is the ambiguity and humans dislike ambiguity. It's better to state clearly the cost and leave the door open for true pilgrims who are in real need as somedoby has already suggested. The big "albergues" can probably afford to provide accomodation at low prices but smaller places cannot. You are doing this out of your good heart, but it doesn´t make sense to expend your own money.

But, you are already doing a marvelous job by providing information, rediscovering old streches of El Camino, training people and writing about it, and you seem to be enjoying that. And if you run out of things to do there is a whole set of activities somebody has to do. From my experience there is one thing El Camino is mosly lacking: the organization of cultural and musical activities and that is where people like you could make the difference. In this respect, El Camino is an unique Forum because... where can you find people from all over the world in an atmosphere so favorable to the interchange of ideas?

Saludos
Tino

Anonymous said...

Hi Reb,
On my Camino last year, the first place I stayed was at Buckfast Abbey here in the U.K. They have a card in the dorm. which simply says
'It costs us about £20 per person per day to provide hospitality. If you can leave more than this, it will help those who cannot afford so much'.
At Alejandro's private albegue at Bodenaya, there was a very small box labeled 'Donativos'. I enjoyed my stay there so much but I wonder how he is doing?
May the good Lord bless you in all you do this year.

Terry (aka Tio Tel)

claire bangasser said...

I like the credit card reader idea :-)

oursonpolaire said...

I noticed the donativo box on the way out, but Rebekah had it well hidden, so that only an eagle-eyed Canadian could spot it. Perhaps a heart-rending appeal for veterinary assistance, with a large sign saying that the dog's other leg will be repossessed???

The Buckfast Abbey-type notice which anonymous Terry describes would not be out of place at the Peaceable Kingdom. As you have already learned, some pilgrims will be distracted, others (often well-heeled) will smirk and congratulate themselves for a free night, and some will simply not understand how much things cost.

When pilgrims asked me how much they should leave for a donativo, I said that salaried professionals should leave €10 as a standard for a bunk and a further €10 or so for dinner. I heard squawks of protest to the effect that it was €3 or €5, to which I answered that those of us who could (and were shelling out thousands on flight and equipment) should help cover those who could not leave anything as easily. As a bureaucrat, I can dole out a bland but firm glare if required.

A paypal button on the blog would be useful for those who are fans of Moratinos, but cannot quite make it over the ocean to pop something into the donativo box.

Melissa West said...

My first thought --and apparently that of many other readers-- is to add a clearly worded sign suggesting a minimum donation and/or pointing out what it costs to house and feed a pilgrim. And point it out on arrival; I remember feeling really bad one day on the Camino when I left a donativo albergue in the morning and realized a few miles down the road that I had forgotten to leave a donation. Some are freeloaders, but some are just preoccupied with getting out the door.
And I think you should add the Paypal button. Many of us who read your blog don't walk every year, or take the Camino Frances, but we still admire what you do and would be glad to help out from time to time.
Keep up the good work! You are doing a wonderful thing.

Susan said...

From my experience on the Camino, I agree with Claire. I think it would be easier on everyone if you posted a price, then negotiated with those who cannot afford to pay that price. The language and exchange rate barrier add to the confusion and the concept of donative is often misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it was just the way I walked my Camino, but most of the alberques I stayed at were cold, soul-less places. Pilgrims came and went on their own schedule, those in groups ate together and left others out, and there was lots of waiting to use the kitchen facilities. The fondest memories I have are of staying at Santibanez, Boadilla, San Xulian and a Casa Rural in Galicia - accommodations that had a set price for a bed for the night, a delicious dinner with new-found friends, and a warm friendly atmosphere. I was happy to pay the rate they were asking, and next time I walk the Frances I will beeline to their places to stay again to enjoy their hospitality.

If you advertised a set rate, those who didn't wish to pay could continue on (especially as there will soon be an albergue in Morantinos). Those who could pay, will. And perhaps for those who are unable to pay you could post something to the effect that room+board could be exchanged for doing some chores.

I agree with all the others who say that they felt more at ease knowing the rate (and paying when they arrive! no forgetting in morning as they rush out the door!!) And you are welcoming strangers into your 'home', not a business. Contrarily I think a set rate reflects respect for this.

Anonymous said...

The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.

Portia, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

Anonymous said...

what about a visitors book (or even a visitors book with your requested donation somewhere prominant?). I think anonymity could be part of the problem?

Anonymous said...

The Kingdom
wrote the Welsh priest and poet, R S Thomas

It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

Anonymous said...

I think a PayPal button would be a good idea. I still feel guilty over only leaving very little in an albergue in Castojeriz in 2008 because I had run out of cash (had enough in my account, just had forgotten that I needed to go to the ATM), and the person working there was so nice. I will surely be paying double when I pass through next time.

Anonymous said...

I think a PayPal button would be a good idea. I still feel guilty over only leaving very little in an albergue in Castojeriz in 2008 because I had run out of cash (had enough in my account, just had forgotten that I needed to go to the ATM), and the person working there was so nice. I will surely be paying double when I pass through next time.