Last year, my ex-husband told us he and his lover are planning to walk part of the Camino de Santiago, a five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that starts in southern France and winds through northern Spain. To walk the entire route takes thirty to thirty-five days, depending on pace and days off for rest. I was impressed that he wanted to try such an arduous journey, but had no interest in joining him.
But last week we had visitors here in Palm Springs, and one of them had walked this pilgrimage back in May, and could talk of nothing else. Herman and I became intrigued. You see, Herman and I were already planning to visit northern Spain next spring. Our idea was to rent a car and drive along the coast for a week or two, then drop down into Lisbon. But then we started talking about how much more we would enjoy seeing Spain by foot. Of course there are hotels, hostels, restaurants, cafes, and facilities set up all along the way.
Following our friend’s visit, we watched the movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen, which gives a great overview of this pilgrimage. At that point, we were hooked.
Our friend completed the walk in thirty-one days by walking fifteen to twenty miles every day. Herman and I will, at our age, will take rest days in the larger cities along the path, giving ourselves a chance to see the cities and give our bodies a chance to recuperate. So we’ve begun planning on a thirty-five day trek.
Last year 237,000 pilgrims completed the journey. Today, hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims and many others set out each year from their front doorsteps or from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey. In addition to those undertaking a religious pilgrimage, many are hikers who walk the route for other reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for many modern "pilgrims".
For Herman and I, it would combine out love for walking with the chance to see northern Spain in a unique way, and also hopefully be a path to self-discovery.
I can’t wait.