In the year AD 44, St. James (an apostle of Jesus Christ), was killed. His body was buried in the town of Santiago de Compostela in the north west of Spain. For hundreds of years Christians would take up a pilgrimage to visit the burial site, pay their respects and hopefully gain some spiritual insight along the way.
A pilgrimage is a journey of moral or spiritual significance. The pilgrimage to reach St. James’ burial site is called El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James.
Today the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is the destination for all pilgrims on The Way of Saint James. There are many routes one can take for their pilgrimage but the most popular and well-traveled route is called Camino Francés, or the French Route. The starting point for this journey begins in a small town in France called St. Jean Pied de Port.
The Camino Francés is a 32 day, 780 kilometer walk from the foot hills of the Pyrenees Mountains in France, through the Spanish countryside, to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Why am I telling you this?
Because this is my journey for the next month… and I leave today!
I’ve decided to go on a long walk for a while. I have always heard of the Camino de Santiago but have never given it much thought. But, a couple of weeks ago the thought popped in my mind to research this journey and, I fell in love with the idea!
Every year more than 100,000 people from across the globe come to northern Spain to walk the Way of St. James. Everyone has different motives for doing so. For some, this journey is deeply religious. Others simply want to “get away from it all.” It was only after I bought my ticket to my starting point in France that I started to wonder, “Why am I going?”
So what’s my motivation?
My initial thought is that I have dreamed of doing a long hike my whole life. Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes and I have always wanted to do more than a day hike – to stay out on the trail for weeks at a time – to test my limits and challenge myself to see what I’m made of. That’s one reason I want to go. Cuz it’d be awesome!
But more than this I feel there is a deeper meaning in it for me. I think I’m going to gain some perspective in my life – the kind of perspective one can only see when you slow things down and leave the worries of everyday life behind you.
Or maybe, I already spend too much time “sorting my life out”, and I need a break form that too. I should just treat this experience for what it is… a long walk.
Whatever my motivation may be, I’m excited to go. This is going to be one crazy adventure.
Of course I have doubts. What if I get sick or injured? What if I have to abandon my journey midway and I feel like a failure? Every great journey in life starts with uncertainty. But where would we all be if we didn’t at least try?
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to walk the Way of St. James, and see how it goes!