There are many types of pilgrim. Some pilgrims adhere to the original meaning of the word. Like the thousands of dusty and devout before them, they journey to a sacred landmark, trusting they will encounter God along the way. Others set out believing the path will help their minds process the goings on in their life. Some grieve a spouse’s passing, or feel stuck at a desk job. Some are writing a dissertation, while others are reconnecting with a loved one. Some long to explore Spain by foot, or simply want the exercise and change of scenery.
All of these wanderers, regardless of the reason, find themselves united by a common bond: the inexplicable desire for their mental, emotional, and spiritual journey to be translated into the physical. Some start out alone, but, as in life’s journey, they cross paths with other travelers…at a hostel table, a humbling footwashing ceremony, or on the dusty path itself. They swap gear as they swap stories. They stop and ponder the vista. They press on, through the pain and the elements. They walk with only what they need. And, as they walk, they pray, meditate, sing, and cry.
The documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago beautifully illustrates this interesting, quintessentially human desire to explore the world while exploring the soul. The film follows six individuals the 780 kilometers (nearly 500 miles) from St Jean Pied de Port, located on the French side of the Pyrenees, across the Spanish frontier to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. (One pair continues to the Camino’s actual end at the coastal town of Finisterre, or literally, what pilgrims once thought was the “end of the world”.) The trek is arduous, the stories varying, and scenery breathtaking.
The six people’s stories are so diverse yet somehow, universal, you can’t help but relate to one, two, or all of them. All of these travelers are brave, from the young French mother pushing her toddler in a stroller, accompanied by her annoying kid brother, to the middle-aged, successful American woman who tearfully makes the trek with tendonitis. One person finds love while another walks in memory of his wife. Riveted, you watch and find yourself aching to join them on the trail (as well as aching in empathy at the sight of their blistered feet).
What would be your reason or way? For me, this film made me renew my vow to walk the Camino and see the parts of Spain I failed to see the two years I lived there. I encourage you to watch, too, and discover your pilgrim heart.