Misifusa’s post a few days ago was about committing to something beyond your comfort zone. Well, my hubby and I have recently committed to something that’s really beyond our comfort zone. Last February, after thinking and discussing this challenge over the holidays and into the start of 2013, we decided, why not?
This commitment is not for a short time. In fact, it can extend for quite a few years if we do intend to carry it out to the fullest extent of the challenge!
We want to walk the “Way of St. James.” It’s more famously known as Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This was a pilgrimage many Christians have undertaken for several centuries. Here’s an abbreviated history:
What it is: A pilgrimage to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain, where the remains of the apostle, St. James, are interred since the 9th century when his bones were transported there by boat (hence the sea shell symbol for the pilgrimage). In the medieval times, pilgrims travelled on foot for hundreds of miles to atone for whatever transgressions they have committed. Wealthy sinners would pay pilgrims to travel the routes on their behalf as a means to gain indulgences. The way during those times was harsh and fraught with adversity. There were no guarantees for shelter, food, increment weather, or even safety. Over the years, the tradition had been interrupted by the Black Plague, Revolutions, and World Wars. In the 1960’s, renewed attention was given to the pilgrimage by a French University scholar. In the recent 10-15 years, there has been much written about it and it has been the subject matter or the backdrop for many notable films and documentaries.
The way is about 750 miles from somewhere in France to the location of the cathedral in Galicia. We scoured many websites and even downloaded books about other people’s accounts of their journey. There are several known pathways to get to the endpoint. We were amazed to learn that some have even done the entire pilgrimage more than once! Travel outfitters and organizations abound, offering travel arrangements, accommodations and even points of interest.
We thought that we would aim to do the journey in several parts. At this point in our lives, we are not able to get away for too long. Many pilgrims have taken anywhere from a few weeks up to three months to complete their journey. Of course, those who chose to do it on bikes or horses took much less time.
The trip nowadays has become a sociocultural event, not exclusively a religious journey for the penitent. People embark on this journey to get to know the various towns they encounter and even stay long enough to explore and appreciate how life is in these parts. They drink in the scenery. They dine at the local establishments where they get the flavors of the local wine and cuisine. For some, it is a time for introspection, away from the slavery of cell phones, the social media, work deadlines, and all that connectivity, for a change. It’s an opportunity to take stock of life and where it seems to be headed. Or, it may just be a venue for a group of family and/or friends to do something together.
For our first attempt, we have decided to go with a few recommendations from past travelers. We would only carry on our backs what is necessary for the day. The bulk of this would be water for drinking. Then, the rest would be snacks like bars, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, compass, something for sudden cold or wet weather, a towel or small blanket, medications, etc. Something like that. We plan to go for about a week to cover the last 100 miles to the cathedral. We are exploring some travel companies that offer assistance with mapping out our trip, accommodations and some transfers.
For now, we have been hiking along many local trails since February. We started using our old backpacks and found them to be burdensome. Our cross-trainers were giving us blisters and bruised toes. We have learned from our readings that the right footwear, including the right socks, is critical. Next is the right backpack for the intended purpose.
And so, we made our way to REI, where the team of experts outfitted us with the right foot wear and packs. After nearly three hours of fitting, walking, treading on different kinds of footwear, and then wearing different backpacks with weights up and down halls and steps, we emerged proud owners of much better gear! It has definitely made a world of difference. Nowadays, carrying 12-15 lb. on my back seems like a peach! And I don’t get blisters wearing my Keen boots and Smartwool socks. Even if we go for miles and miles up and down the California coastline with Beau in tow.
Some Recent Films related to The Way of St. James:
- The Milky Way, 1969
- The Naked Pilgrim (UK), 2003, TV Travel Series
- The Way, Australian documentary from St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago, 2004
- St. Jacques…Le Mecque, 2005
- Pilgrimage to Galicia, episode in PBS series On the Road Again, 2008
- The Way, Popular film written and directed by Emilio Estevez, 2010
- Rick Steves’ Northern Spain and the Camino de Santiago, PBS series, 2011
Many documentaries have been created showing the experiences of various travelers. If you search the web, there are too many to enumerate here.
We know this might be an over-arching, ambitious, daring challenge. But it’s well worth the time and effort to train for it. Like they say, it’s all about the journey to your goal. For our challenge, it’s also about the journey to the journey!
- An Ancient Religious Pilgrimage That Now Draws The Secular : Parallels : NPR (tstsmo.wordpress.com)
- An Ancient Religious Pilgrimage That Now Draws The Secular (npr.org)
- About the Camino (joellehaddad.wordpress.com)
- The Camino (jasonchanson.wordpress.com)
- How do you start a blog? (apokey1.wordpress.com)
- An Ancient Religious Pilgrimage That Now Draws The Secular (wnyc.org)
- Path of Knowledge (news.rice.edu)
- Pilgrims (missingspainandlovinglondon.wordpress.com)
- Final Remarks (gwblogabroad.wordpress.com)