The above is a question I need to work on as it will be the subject of my second class for The Psychology of a Pilgrimage study abroad program for the summer of 2020.
But first, a little background.
Thinking back to when I might have first heard of Pilgrimage and I’m guessing it would have been in some movie or maybe school. I certainly did not send me off on a quest to experience such a phenomenon. I am sure that tales of King Arthur, the Green Knight or the Crusades may have caught my attention at some point but again nothing to send me trekking off down unfamiliar roads just because. I’ve often thought that putting 40 or 50 pounds on my back and traipsing up and down mountains to be rather ridiculous. Nor have I ever been big on hiking great distances. Mucking about in the wood or down a trail for a couple of hours was my limit.
So, a pilgrimage of any kind was on my list of something I saw myself doing for any reason until my friend Gary told me he was heading off to Spain to hike the Camino. I first heard of the Camion de Santiago by reading the Shirley MacLaine book The Camion: A Spiritual Journey in 2001. I remember thinking this was an interesting book until the flying saucers arrived along with extraterrestrial beings. I chalked the book and Camion up to New Age airy-fairy stuff. Fast forward to 2005, and my friend Gary tells me he is going to Spain to hike the Camion. I kidded him about looking for flying saucers, and I shook my head in disbelief. He is to be gone for almost three months, and I’m worried I’ll not see him again. However, he finally returns, and I find him to be a changed person.
We met for coffee to talk about his travels. It was hard for me to put my finger on it, but he was calmer, more self-assured, with a spiritual presence about him I’d not experienced before. He had turned in to a wiser person someone I could turn to for help with difficult life problems. I waited as months past to see if the old scattered Gary would return. At times he did, but for the most part, he was a renewed person. I pondered this and from time to time thought about taking this walk. After dealing with Cancer in 2005, I began traveling to England in 2006 to fulfill a dream I’d had since seeing a picture of my Dad riding a bike down country lanes with his buddies while stationed in England during WW II. That photo was the impetus for my travels.
I’d return from my travels and meet up with Gary for dinner or coffee, which inevitably led to his encouraging me to walk the Camino. By 2010 I’d followed the trail of King Arthur, been to France looking for Lancelot, rode through Wells searching for Merlyn, found a family in Liverpool and Austria, and spent a good deal of time riding about Europe with my friend Mark. I remember sitting on my bike thinking about where to go next, and of course, this Camion thing came to mind for my 2011 travels. However, 2011 rolled around, finding Mark and I riding around southeast England. Destiny came knocking upon my return from an unexpected source.
A friend of mine came into my office and says, “I’m going to be fifty next year, and I want to walk the Camino. My boyfriend does not want to do it. Will you go with me?” Without giving it much thought, I say “Yes”, and we begin to plan our adventure. May 2012 found us in Paris where we would begin our pilgrimages.
In the summer of 2012, I find myself on a pilgrimage from Paris to Santiago de Compostela with my friend Lisa. We were on a Pilgrimage which consisted of riding a bike through parts France and Spain, hiking, getting separated and reunited by chance, many wonderful conversations, drinking lots of wine, laughing our butts off, great food, crying, more laughing, meeting new people, and a reunion only found in movies. It turned out to be a trip of a lifetime which created an inseparable bond between us.