Julie’s Blog part 3: What is a pilgrimage?

Julie’s Blog part 3: What is a pilgrimage?

10 August 2022

Many people have asked me why I am walking the Camino de Santiago, if I am walking as a pilgrim and if I am religious. I often stumble over my response. In my last blog I wrote about the benefits of walking as exercise but walking a Camino is so much more than that. I want to understand more of what it means to be a modern pilgrim. Inevitably this is something I will discover as I make the journey but I an acknowledgment of intent and commitment at the outset is necessary to immerse myself fully in the experience of being a pilgrim.

A traditional pilgrimage is a journey usually taken on foot to a place of religious significance. Pilgrims of all faiths have walked for centuries, to places such as Mecca, Canterbury, The Vatican and the Golden Temple. On a visit to India in 2007 Whilst travelling in a mini bus in the middle I found my self caught up in a pilgrimage of thousands of people walking, many barefoot and carrying their possessions in a couple of plastic bags. The minibus crawled for hours through the throng. As night was falling we came to feeding stations where the village people served the pilgrims daal, veg curry and chapatti from giant dishes on gas cylinders onto banana leaf plates which littered the floor but were completely biodegradable. The pilgrims then lay down and slept on the floor. Earlier in the day I needed to use the toilet and was told I would have to go in the fields. Our guide was worried that as a western woman as soon as I stepped out of the bus I would attract a lot of attention so I was wrapped in a dupatta around my head and another around my body before scurrying into a golden wheat field where I was able to squat in peace for a few moments like everyone else did on this road.

The gift of support and sustenance provided by the villages is matched on the Camino de Santiago by the Refugios run by the monasteries or local councils where a modest donation is made. In 2018 a few minutes after we have heaved our rucksacks onto our backs having got off the bus to our starting point and were gazing at our map wondering which way to go. we were offered a lift by a woman in a car. We politely declined as it would have been just too ironic to accept but were glad of the directions she was able to offer.

Whilst walking I met people and shared stores, an Irish woman in her 70s walking with her husband and friends. She was at the back of her group and I fell into step beside he as the others moved ahead. She had two walking poles and was struggling a bit. She told me of her life looking after her son who was now supported by a care team in a small house. She was walking because she now had the freedom to do it and the journey for her was partly about giving thanks for his life and what he had given her. At the end or our trip we met again at the pilgrims service. One of her friends told me of the enormous blister on her friends foot and his astonished she was that she could have walked on it and completed the journey.

From these experiences I learned about the devotion, simplicity, determination kindness and camaraderie of pilgrimage.


To sponsor Julie go to Fundraiser by Julie Lunt : Walking the Caminho Portuguese for Mindspace (gofundme.com)