There are many reasons why people travel to Santiago. For centuries, the Camino has been seen as a religious or spiritual journey. Along The Way one can see plenty of evidence of these historical links with Christianity. But today the Camino also attracts people from many different religious traditions, as well as those with a secular perspective. Some are seeking temporary release from their busy lives, others want a healthier lifestyle and to extend their level of fitness.
The potential to meet interesting people from near and far is a great attraction. People come from over 100 different countries, the vast majority from Europe, with over half from Spain itself. Numbers have increased considerably in recent years. In 2011, nearly 150,000 people received a Compostela (i.e. an official certificate that show they walked at least 100 Kms or rode 200 Kms to get to Santiago). Ten per cent (10%) were 18 years or less, 5%, 65 years or more. In addition, each year millions of people visit Santiago by train, road and air. All sorts of people come: teachers, students, employed/ unemployed, retired, farmers, artists, homemakers.
As well as pilgrims and other travellers, many local people live beside the Camino trails that wind through farming regions, hamlets and villages. There is often an opportunity to engage with them and to witness aspects of their daily life. Galicia is overall a poor, rural area, with fishing a key industry. Today many men and youth have been forced to leave their homes in search of employment, with women and older men left to tend family homes, farms and vineyards.