I still live in the small New England town that I grew up in, not far from my childhood home, so my roots are deep. But, I must have a gypsy soul, because I am always traveling or dreaming about my next far flung adventure.
This time that adventure is a 500 mile spiritual Pilgrimage, trekking from the French border across northern Spain, along the Camino de Santiago, through three mountain chains, some of the most beautifully preserved medieval villages so rich in heritage and some of the most scenic countryside of Europe, to the tomb of the Apostle Saint James.
The ancient art of Pilgrimage is as popular today as it was in ancient times. And the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is one of the top 3 Pilgrimages in the world today only topped by Rome and Jerusalem. The mystery and the spiritual power of the Camino draws both the faithful and the curious.
Pilgrims walk on average between 5 to 8 hours a day for more than a month, carrying the bare necessities on their back and staying in a network of places along the Camino offering a bed and shower and sometimes a communal meal. They are called albergues and are often in monasteries, convents or hostels.
The journey is an amazing experience of simplicity. Pilgrims leave behind all the conveniences, comforts and luxuries of home, as well as the burdens, stress and politics.They say the road offers lessons for those who walk it, the most profound being the journey of self discovery.
When I am asked why at 62 years old, I would trek alone for 500 miles across a foreign country, I cannot give a clear cut answer. I know I am taking on such an arduous journey, both physically and mentally challenging, even for those much younger in years. It’s not something I have been planning or looking forward to for years. I have heard the same thing from many who have done the Pilgrimage. It seems you get a “calling” and once that seed is planted, it is something you must do.
I had first heard about the Pilgrimage 10 years ago, when I was in Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls (now that is a true adventure!!). I had read an article in the local newspaper about the Pilgrimage and had seem Pilgrims walking with their wide brimmed hats, their staff and clam shell(the symbol of Saint James), but I never gave it a thought that one day I would consider it. Then I read Shirley McLaine’s book ..The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit , and Paulo Coelho’s ..Pilgrimage. Neither inspired me to consider the Pilgrimage.
Somehow the seed must have been planted. But, I never gave it a thought until years later, when I turned 60, I got a glimpse of this “old lady” in the mirror that I didn’t quite recognize and something told me that I had to make this Pilgrimage to “get acquainted” .
I am looking forward to my Pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, a journey of self discovery;
and maybe, just maybe, I might get to know this lovely person who is trying to emerge.
So my journey begins soon. I leave for Spain on September 6 to start my Pilgrimage . If you would like, you can keep track of my progress, you can do so on my blog at:
Happy Trails, Rita