When you walk any leg of the Camino de Santiago, you must carry a pilgrim’s credential. The credential serves two purposes. First, it shows accommodation providers that you’re a legitimate pilgrim. This is especially significant in municipal and private hostels built (and priced) for walkers and bikers alone. Second, the credential proves that you have completed at least 100 kilometers when you reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Officials check your dated stamps before offering a certificate of completion.
In my opinion, the credential is also a fabulous ritual that leads to a perfect souvenir. Getting your stamp at the end of a hard day feels good. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your progress, and to share stories with the people you encounter. Natalie and I experienced this ritual in its fullest today.
The owner of our albergue in Alvaiázere takes immense pride in stamping credentials. After touring us around town and telling us the story of how he opened a hostel, he got to work. First, he applied a foil seal to our passports. Then, he glued in a small patch next to it. Finally, he made a wax seal with ribbon representing the town’s colors attached to it. Another traveler commented in Spanish that he was an artist and we wholeheartedly agreed. Check out photos of his handiwork, as well as simpler stamps for comparison.
We keep opening our credentials to look at his three, thoughtful stamps. Yes, part of his motivation is developing a competitive advantage other other hostels in the area. But the time he took to sit with us, sip port, and melt wax onto our passports had a lot more to do with building community than competition. What a sweet experience for all.