Just over a year ago I walked the Camino de Santiago on my own. I went with no real idea why but felt pulled towards it. It really did feel like everything conspired to make it happen. As I’ve been working on the finishing touches to the book I wonder if people will have a different idea of what the book was going to be about. Are people expecting some kind of deep philosophy? This was a difficult question to tackle: how will I write my story?
The result is more ‘travelogue with touches of philosophy’. In fact, the philosophy is very subtle. Here’s the opening to the book that is going to be released October 8.
When I was thirty-five, one of my yoga buddies was turning fifty. Instead of a big party, she planned to meet her daughter, who lived in London, in the south of France to walk the Camino de Santiago. I’d never heard of it but loved the idea and filed it away thinking that I would do the same. It seemed a long way off: turning fifty.
The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrim walk across the north of Spain. Traditionally it starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP) in France and travels along The Way of Saint James, under the stars (the Milky Way), over the Pyrenees into Spain for eight hundred kilometres to the Cathedral in Santiago where the body of the Apostle Saint James is said to be interred. Legend says that in 813 a shepherd named Pelayo was drawn to a field in Libredon (now Santiago) by a bright light or star (compostela). The pilgrim walk is often referred to as Santiago de Compostela because of this. The Bishop of Pedron declared that the body of Saint James was entombed in this field and the Cathedral of Santiago now houses this tomb.
The Camino de Santiago is one of many spiritual pilgrimages in the world and between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries it was prestigious. This popularity declined over the centuries but over the last twenty years it has had a resurgence and more and more people are making this pilgrimage every year.
Yellow arrows and scallop shells show the pilgrim The Way, and pilgrim hostels called Albergues give refuge after a long day of walking. At each albergue, when you check in, your pilgrim passport is stamped and you are given a bed and sometimes a pilgrim meal.
Over the years the Camino kept popping up to remind me of that pledge I’d made to myself. Then I met a woman, Marg, who wanted to publish her book about her own pilgrim walk. It seemed that the universe was not going to let me forget the promise I’d made.
Before I knew it, my fiftieth birthday loomed. How did that happen so fast? I started saying half-heartedly that I was going to walk that ancient pilgrim path – The Way – but I didn’t actually believe it because I’m a small business owner and there was no way I could take off six or seven weeks to do something like that. Or could I? The pull was very strong and once I voiced that I DID want to do this, it seemed that everything conspired to help me make it happen. Enter a supportive partner, fabulous family and friends.
Everything moved very fast in the lead up to the trip and suddenly I was on board the plane bound for Madrid, Spain. I was filled with a mix of excitement and anxiety. For the first time in my life I was heading overseas on my own for seven weeks.