“The Pug & Cat Pilgrims,” UK/Norway

“So when we decided to go on a Camino to jump-start this change in our lives, we also insisted that we become the first pilgrims ever on the Camino de Santiago to bring a pug and cat along for the journey!”

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“Hi, we’re the Pug and Cat Pilgrims! We had been living in Barcelona for some time and realized we really needed a change – of activity, of scenery, of everything. Everything… except our little family, which includes a dog – a pug – named Bandito, and a Scottish Fold cat named Luigi. We were not letting go of those little guys! So when we decided to go on a Camino to jump-start this change in our lives, we also insisted that we become the first pilgrims ever on the Camino de Santiago to bring a pug and cat along for the journey! We got a DoggyRide trolley and pushed ourselves and them from Pamplona to Santiago over 6 weeks. And wow, it was a cool idea but we had a lot of challenges to deal with.

We didn’t have the same experience as most pilgrims. Different people come for all kinds of reasons, but in the end they meet each other while walking together and staying in albergues. And during these times, they talk about their reasons and their experiences, they learn about each other, and in a way they learn about themselves. Our trip wasn’t like that. It was more of an adventure and a logistical challenge. We couldn’t stay in the albergues like everyone else because most of them don’t accept pets, so we camped every single night. Having to camp meant that in addition to the trolley, we were carrying a lot more equipment, so that slowed us down. And also, it’s a little heard to ‘learn about yourself’ when you’re busy finding the next 8kg package of cat litter. Our cat is very particular. No litter, no bathroom. And you can’t buy a small package, because what if you run out? So obviously the shops we had to go to were way different from anything that other pilgrims went to! Luigi turned 6 months old right around the time we got to Burgos, so we had to find a veterinarian to have him neutered too. The weather was also an issue. We started in September, when we thought it would be nice and cool outside, but there were days when it was boiling hot. It was sunny and hot most of the time, but we definitely had our share of days with absolutely pouring rain. And when we reached some of the higher points on the trail, we encountered snow! We had to stay under the church near the Cruz de Ferro in case we got snowed in. It’s like we hit every season of the year on our 6-week journey.

It was a lot to deal with, but, Bandito and Luigi totally loved the experience. Every minute of it! You could see how excited and interested they were with all the beautiful places we visited. Once we set up our campsites, Luigi always wanted to look around and have a look at things, and he never once ran off. Almost every evening, he would go out for a look or a prowl or a hunt. Sometimes he’d just want to have a seat outside for the fresh air. Of course there were some places where we learned that there were wild dogs that may attack cats, so on those evenings Luigi was always kept in sight. Bandito had a blast as well, often meeting some of the other pilgrims and enjoying all the attention he got along the way.

The only thing we didn’t like about all the attention Bandito and Luigi got was that some pilgrims – really more tourist than pilgrim – just tried to take so many photos of them. There was one American woman who asked if she could put her camera in the trolley to take a photo, and we told her no, as we didn’t want her startling our boys. But, as if she thought we were joking, she rudely put her camera right in their faces and took the photo anyway. This is the one thing we don’t love about the Camino today. One of us, Sebastian, did the Camino eight years ago and since then, it has definitely become more popular. People have always gone on the Camino with some mission. Maybe a religious purpose, to get away from things like we wanted to, or to learn about themselves. Now there are a lot of people who are focusing more on where to position their selfie sticks, and getting their daily best photo for their social media. It’s like they forgot the reason the Camino existed. That’s one reason we stayed more antisocial. We did speak to others, but we didn’t walk together with anyone for more than 20 minutes. We hope that with all the changes and improvements, the Camino doesn’t change for the worse. Back then Sebastian got lost a few times, but now it’s so popular that there are signs and arrows everywhere. You can’t get physically lost. If you’re on the Camino, it’s okay to take pictures, it’s okay to enjoy yourself, it’s okay to write blogs or books about your experience, and it’s okay to socialize – but there’s more to this than just your daily photo on Facebook. We just hope that the people on the Camino don’t get spiritually lost.”

-Sebastian and Finn, the Pug and Cat Pilgrims, UK/Norway

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