I think I can safely say I will never walk the Camino de Santiago. Too, too crowded, for one thing; like a bandwagon by now. Too, too long and physically complicated at my stage, for another.
So why did I just read two books* about Camino pilgrimage? Well, some women I know are considering the trek and one had a book that I later spotted in the thrift store, with the other book beside it, each like new and only a dollar, and you know how it is, you read a few pages and it’s interesting and you keep going and before you know it you’re caught up in the author’s quest, and two books later you feel you’ve twice walked the whole long thing yourself, minus blisters. It’s almost as good as been there, done that.
So, no, I won’t cross Spain in real time on real feet, but I am compelled by the notion of pilgrimage. One of the earliest books I recall as read to me by my mother was a child’s version of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The stages of little Pilgrim’s journey through the Slough of Despond to the Wicket Gate to the Cross and places along the way such as the Palace Beautiful, Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair, the Delectable Mountains and so on, to reach the Celestial City at last, are still burned in my mind. Whether allegory like that or a physical practice, pilgrimage describes a truth about any pursuit — it’s a journey with a start and a finish and a road between. Since I’ve been doing memoir-type writing lately, I find pilgrimage a useful way to think about life.
* Jane Christmas’ What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim and Hape Kerkeling’s I’m Off Then.