In my opinion, you don’t have to spend the night in a dormitory with 30 strangers to be a pilgrim. It is always “everyone goes his Camino" and that is exactly how it should be done.
I have not met a pilgrim on more than 1000km of the Way of St. James who lived on water&bread and came in rags. Or as a fellow pilgrim once said to me “I don’t let someone who wears outdoor clothing costing hundreds of euros tell me I’m not a real pilgrim when I get a hotel room – while he’s sipping his Chardonney".
How much luxury may a pilgrim allow himself to be a pilgrim?
To my knowledge, there is nowhere an official definition of a pilgrim. But even if it was hypothetically part of sleeping in hostels, where would it stop?
Would it be okay to use private hostels instead of public ones to have real beds – and would it still be okay to choose a shared room with fresh sheets and towels or would it be too luxurious for a “real pilgrim"?
This limit is completely arbitrary and most people set it from their own position: those who lie on the floor in state hostels on thin blankets then think that private hostels with real beds are not a real pilgrim. And the pilgrims in private hostels do not consider pilgrims in single rooms to be real pilgrims. And people like me, who stay in exactly these cheap single rooms, think that pilgrims in expensive hotels are not real pilgrims 🙂
Do you have to carry the backpack yourself to be a pilgrim?
Does a pilgrim always have to carry his rucksack himself and does he lose his status as a pilgrim if he uses luggage transport and walks with a daypack? And does he only do so if he is actually able to do so – and disc patients remain pilgrims despite the luggage transport?
Here too, it quickly becomes clear: the question is absurd.
For me personally, it is part of carrying the rucksack myself, if it is possible. Because somehow I also find it nice to know that I have everything I need with me. But I don’t judge anyone who prefers to walk with light luggage only.
And what about religiosity? Do you have to be religious to call yourself a pilgrim?
Here I would say: strictly speaking: yes. Because pilgrimage is, in its origin, quite religiously motivated.
But here again the question is: if someone walks hundreds of kilometres on foot to find himself, to find answers to important questions, to re-centre and sort himself out: does it really make a difference whether he seeks the answers from God or from the universe?
Whether one calls oneself a pilgrim or a somewhat more unwieldy “long-distance hiker on pilgrim paths" is ultimately only a question of designation. Whether in high tech clothes or in minimal equipment, whether in a dormitory or in a hotel, whether with a backpack or without, everyone has to decide for himself and accept that other pilgrims decide differently for themselves.
Everyone does his own Camino.