I am interested in the El Camino de Santiago as a hike/walk. I do not think I need a guided tour but am curious as to whether or not there is a way to join people on the walk. It is not easy finding a person who has the time and desire to walk 780 km and I would be going as a singe, 52 year old woman.
I can't give a personal perspective. But I ran across this website last month. While it has a strong point of view, some of the observations seem to lean in favor of your plans and interest:
I don't think there's such a thing as a "tour". I know at least a dozen people who have walked the Camino, and they've all done it alone or with one other person. People commonly meet up along the way. While I've never heard of tours, there are companies that will transport your pack to the next night's lodging so you don't have to carry it. Is that what you had in mind?
There are multiple routes, and there's the option of just walking part of any one of the routes. If you want to get your pilgrim's passport stamped, I believe you have to walk at least the last 100 km.
It's not something that appeals to me, so I can't give you any specifics. I just heard lots of walker's stories. I know there are number of websites with practical advice. There are also some guidebooks, but I'd start with the websites.
You hit the nail on the head about finding a person who has the time and desire to walk 780 km. But you're in luck!
I walked the Camino 4 years ago, around this date (June 16) I was entering Galicia. The one thing about the Camino is though many go there alone no one truly alone unless they want to be. Don't be concerned at all about meeting anyone, there are many people that do the Camino the same as you are planning, that is arrive at their starting point alone, the great thing is everyone is there for the same reason so that built in sense of comradeship and like-mindedness is there from the beginning. While walking everybody becomes part of a Camino family, that is walking with others that started out alone but grouped up because they stay at the same alburgue and walk about the same pace, they start to look out for each other, help each other and become close friends. For me my first couple of weeks I walked with a couple of Spaniards then became part of a group from Germany, in both cases no one knew each other prior to starting out. Some days a person may desire to just walk by themselves, but the beautiful thing about this the others in the "Camino family" don't take that personally because they know they'll be together again that evening at the next alburgue. A typical day would be the group starting out together, stopping about an hour later for breakfast, spend the day walking, arrive in a village, check into the alburgue, do laundry, rest, have dinner, then everyone would get out their guidebooks and decide where they wanted to stop and stay the next night, that way if they did walk by themselves or got slowed down for one reason or another they knew where everyone would be. Hope this helps and gives you a little peace of mind about your upcoming Camino. There are some companies that do have tours, I may have something bookmarked that references it but I didn't interact with anyone that did it that way. And from what I know about the tours they tend to stay in hotels not the alburgues where it's Camino community, the hotels wouldn't have that feeling.
If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me. I also have a blog that I kept during my Camino if you're interested in reading it, just let me know. I also have bookmarked a bunch of Camino websites they are very helpful, I can pass those along. I'll tag one to this post to get you started.
Thank you for the advice! I understand that one meets people along the way....it is just a long time frame for a single woman to be "alone" in the company of others she has met along the way, I'll do some additional research!
I walked the Camino from Sarria to Santiago last year and I'll be walking from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Estella this year. both trips are/were alone. Here's my two cents.
1) You can be with other people if you choose to be. I met a fellow American on my trip, and we ended up sharing hotel rooms twice as well as having dinner a couple times. I had dinner with 4 Scandinavian ladies in their 70s. I made good friends with, and still keep in touch with, a British woman in her sixties. A few miles from Santiago, I ran into an Irish pilgrim (aptly named Patrick), then his friends from Milan. Patrick insisted on buying us coffee and a pastry in small bar in Santiago, and then the four of us walked in Praza Obradoiro together on a drizzly morning in late September. The guys from Milan didn't speak English, but they were so excited that they got out their smart phones and used a translator to tell me all about the trip to Yosemite they were planning for the spring. In short, you may get on the plane alone, but you can absolutely walk with other people.
2) Don't worry about your age and gender. I met a woman from Vermont in her early sixties who walked the entire route, as well as a woman from Australia. Both were soloing (as was my British friend). The Camino is safe, the locals are helpful and friendly, and your fellow pilgrims are kind and open to new friends. It is a strenuous walk, but you don't have to be in Olympian shape to do it either. Suffice it to say that you are not in danger from people or from the hike provided you are in good shape and make good decisions.
3) There are companies that offer tours of the Camino. They make your hotel arrangements, they transport your backpack, and you just walk with a daypack. I spoke with this company that does self-guided trips (http://www.macsadventure.com/) about a different trip and found them to be very helpful. This one does guided trips and seems good too: http://caminoways.com/home/guided-tours. That said, one thing I liked about the Camino was not having a schedule or reservations. I walked as long as I wanted to knowing that somewhere up ahead was an inexpensive bed and a three course pilgrim's menu. It's a liberating feeling knowing that you can do exactly what you want to.
4) However you do it, do it. It will be the best thing you've ever done for yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to give me such a long, informative reply. I plan to give it a go solo!