God has decided that it might be a good idea if I take a long walk with Him. So I agreed to take Him up on the offer.
I first heard about the Camino upon moving to a new city after my husband and I had just separated. I had deep seated feelings of disillusionment and anger so I began walking in a local park to work through them. I soon met a lady on the trail and we began walking together. I shared some of my story with her. She quickly related about a difficult time in her life which resulted in her doing a pilgrimage called the Camino De Santiago. I said, “Camino what? What the heck is that??” And so she told me…
Next thing I knew I was buying trekking poles. My first gear purchase! It would demonstrate a commitment and tangible evidence that I was serious about doing this trek. Hearing about this ancient journey taken by thousands of individuals spanning over hundreds of years stirred something inside me. I began to experience a much needed dose of motivation to move forward in my life.
There are many different Camino’s across Europe leading to Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the apostle Saint James lay to rest. The one I will take is the most popular route – Camino Frances, which cuts across the northern part of Spain.
This excursion will consist of backpacking 500 miles starting at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains and staying in hostels (albergues) in the villages and cities along the way. The albergues are designed only for the pilgrims taking this journey and you get your credential stamped thus identifying you as a pilgrim.
One definition of what a pilgrim is…
A pilgrim is a believer who travels to a holy place, the place where God seems especially close, to ask for pardon, to beg a favor, or to give thanks for blessings received. The pilgrimage becomes a way of finding acceptance after a debilitating loss – typically, the loss of a loved one, or to find one’s footing after life has inflicted one too many blows.
Here is a description of traveling a pilgrimage…
“When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favour from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life. At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, you feel happy to be alive. That’s why a religious pilgrimage has always been one of the most objective ways of achieving insight.”
(by Paulo Coehlo, The Pilgrimage)