Volunteer Julie’s blog part 4: What is Pilgrimage? (cont’d)

Volunteer Julie’s blog part 4: What is Pilgrimage? (cont’d)

22 August 2022

Julie’s thoughts and memories inspired by previous walks give rise to further musings on the nature of pilgrimage, before she embarks on the 400k, seven week long walk along the Portuguese Caminho Way later this month.

In my previous blog I described a pilgrimage as a journey usually taken on foot to a place of religious significance. Many faiths have special pilgrimage sites across the world to which pilgrims have walked great distances for centuries. It is deemed necessary to be a challenging journey, both physically and mentally, taken with intent to achieve greater understanding or enlightenment, to give thanks or to give penance or take action to change behaviour in some way. In doing so, the pilgrim steps away from their day-to-day life and may give up many of the material aspects that go with it. In effect, throughout their journey, they live a simpler life often carrying their possessions and taking time to think.

In 2018 when I completed the last 100km of the Portuguese Camino, I attended the traditional service usually held at the cathedral in Santiago. However, due to renovations, it was held in another church close by. The service is a celebration of the pilgrims’ endeavour. During that service the priest spoke of the difference between pilgrims and ‘Camino tourists’, those who come to look but do not take steps to reflect or make changes in themselves. Jean (the friend who accompanied me on the walk) and I treated ourselves to a night in a smart hotel and whilst I was checking out a woman behind me with a set of very beautiful suitcases asked me if I was walking. When I replied yes, she asked if I did the whole walk. I explained although we were only walking the last 100km, we walked the complete distance each day. She told me her group were not doing the whole distance – ‘ it was too much’ she said. It seemed to me these were the tourists the priest spoke about.

The priest’s words stayed with me and I wondered if Jean and I also walked as tourists, as we too stayed a night at Parador de Pontevedra, one of the classy state-owned Spanish hotels which are usually set in beautiful historic buildings. Also, Jean was having a problem with her neck, so after a few days walking we had begun to use one of the courier services to carry our backpacks!  On the other hand, whilst I walked I spent some time thinking and I learned a lot from some of the people I came across. However, Jean and I walked mostly together and we didn’t go out of our way to speak to others. I also recall an event when Jean wanted to take the leftovers from our meal but because of her neck she didn’t want to carry her back pack and had given it to the courier. I was carrying mine with the things I needed for the day, having purchased a laundry bag for most of my gear which I also gave to the courier. However, I did not want to carry the groceries, so Jean carried them all that day in a carrier bag. It was not my finest hour!!!!

Pictured: Julie and Jean on their previous ‘pilgrimage’ covering part of the Caminho Way