What´s wrong with a pilgrimage close to home?

Lessons from the Road: A Pilgrim´s Diary

Part III

“Why we always pick a pilgrimage which is far from home?”

The bus drops us outside the village.  We walk through poorly lit streets to reach the “plaza mayor” (main square) of the village. It is drizzling.   I could feel the freshness of the dawn on and under my skin in the form of excitement of finally having made to the CaminoOnce you start your journey, there is only one way to go – to go forward and we had taken the first steps and that was all that was there for us to do, rest would follow itself.

We had been told that all along the Camino we should expect to see “flechas” or yellow signs in the shape of an arrow  which point pilgrims in the right direction.   We soon spot our first flecha.  They are easily visible even in the twilight hours.

I wonder why is it that in real life (as if this journey was not real) the signs are so subtle and even when you spot one, it is hard to decipher it.  Especially, when you are on a crossroads in life, your guess is no better than that of your fellow traveler  and then, there are no returning pilgrims like the ones on the Camino who could share their experiences with you.  All the guidebooks,  scriptures and holy books seem so dated – and who knows whether even they got it right in the first place?

We can feel the crispy breeze on our face as we walk out of the village and enter the valley ahead of us.  It is still quite dark.  I am relishing the firsthand experience of the Spanish countryside but I keep returning to the thought of my loss (the stolen backpack) and wondering if I had interpreted the sign correctly.

With the first rays of sun, we sight other pilgrims on the other side of the valley.  We knew wewere on the right path as we were following the arrows all along but still it is so comforting to see their backs on the horizon.

We walk for about 15 kms to reach our first albergue (the pilgrim shelter).   There are pilgrims of all ages from all over the world belonging to different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages but there is an underlying sentiment that binds us all.  We are all travellers on the same journey, some might have chosen different paths though but we were all headed in the same direction, towards the same goal.

We shared similar joys and sorrows.   We all had a sense of belonging to the same mission and thus were tied to each other in an invisible bond.   I tell my story to everyone I meet at the shelter.

I had read that it’s a good way of getting rid of our past -repeating our stories over and over again, until we tell it one more time and we find that we have gotten rid of it completely.  I don’t know if that’s true but since I am on the Camino, I want to put all theories to test.

Almost everyone who hears my story sympathizes with me.  All of them had a few words for the thief and were concerned for their own safety along the Camino since most of them were foreigners.

I wonder why there are almost no Spanish pilgrims on the Camino.  Joseph had an interesting explanation to this which intrigued me.   “Of course, Spanish pilgrims must be going to Lourdes or  Jerusalem”.

What’s wrong with a pilgrimage close to home, I ask?  Why we always pick a pilgrimage which is far from home?  Isn’t it because most of the times a pilgrimage is nothing else but just another escape  route that we have taken to leave the reality behind?  Leaving it just as far back as we can hear it as a distant voice and at the same time near enough to reach back to it as soon as the rational mind kicks in?

And as we do that, we take the U turn and get back to our same old, monotonous routines we call reality.  We get back to the comfort and safety of home, inside the circle of friends, family and absolutely no strangers. The circle which we protect by all means – with a social security number, a fire alarm, and a church or temple or a mosque.

When did we grow from those bold explorers and adventurers of the past to these uninterested, play-safe human beings with no courage or curiosity left to go in search of the unknown?  Do we presume all that was there to be explored or discovered has long been done and dusted?

 

Related Posts:
Part II: Lesson One: Right Here Right Now
Part I: Starting off on the wrong foot
Introduction to the Series – Lessons from the Road :A Pilgrim´s Diary
Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James)
 

The bus drops us outside the village.  We walk through poorly lit streets to reach the “plaza mayor” (main square) of the village. It is drizzling.   I could feel the freshness of the dawn on and under my skin in the form of excitement of finally having made to the CaminoOnce you start your journey, there is only one way to go – to go forward and we had taken the first steps and that was all that was there for us to do, rest would follow itself.

We had been told that all along the Camino we should expect to see “flechas” or yellow signs in the shape of an arrow ( à ) which point pilgrims in the right direction.   We soon spot our first flecha.  They are easily visible even in the twilight hours.

I wonder why is it that in real life (as if this journey was not real) the signs are so subtle and even when you spot one, it is hard to decipher it.  Especially, when you are on a crossroads in life, your guess is no better than that of your fellow traveler  and then, there are no returning pilgrims like the ones on the Camino who could share their experiences with you.  All the guidebooks, the scriptures and the holy books seem so dated – and who knows whether even they got it right in the first place?

We can feel the crispy breeze on our face as we walk out of the village and enter the valley ahead of us.  It is still quite dark.  I am relishing the firsthand experience of the Spanish countryside but I keep returning to the thought of my loss and wondering if I had interpreted the sign correctly.

With the first rays of sun, we sight other pilgrims on the other side of the valley.  We knew were on the right as we were following the arrows all along but still it is so comforting to see their backs on the horizon.

We walk for about 15 kms to reach our first albergue (the pilgrim shelter).   There are pilgrims of all ages from all over the world belonging to different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages but there is an underlying sentiment that binds us all.  We are all travellers on the same journey, some might have chosen different paths though but we were all headed in the same direction, towards the same goal.

We shared similar joys and sorrows.   We all had a sense of belonging to the same mission and thus were tied to each other in an invisible bond.   I tell my story to everyone I meet at the shelter.

I had read that it’s a good way of getting rid of our past -repeating our stories over and over again, until we tell it one more time and we find that we have gotten rid of it completely. I don’t know if that’s true but since I am on the Camino, I want to put all theories to test.

Almost everyone who hears my story sympathizes with me.  All of them had a few words for the thief and were concerned for their own safety along the Camino since most of them were foreigners.

I wonder why there are almost no Spanish pilgrims on the Camino.  Joseph had an interesting explanation to this which intrigued me.   “Of course, Spanish pilgrims must be going to Lourdes or Jerusalem”.

What’s wrong with a pilgrimage close to home, I ask?  Why we always pick a pilgrimage which is far from home?  Isn’t it because most of the times a pilgrimage is nothing else but just another escape  route that we have taken to leave the reality behind? Leaving it just as far back as we can hear it as a distant voice and at the same time near enough to reach back to it as soon as the rational mind kicks in?

And as we do that, we take the U turn and get back to our same old, monotonous routines we call reality.  We get back to the comfort and safety of home, inside the circle of friends, family and absolutely no strangers. The circle which we protect by all means – with a social security number, a fire alarm, and a church or temple or a mosque.

When did we grow from those bold explorers and adventurers of the past to these uninterested, play-safe human beings with no courage or curiosity left to go in search of the unknown?  Do we presume all that was there to be explored or discovered has long been unearthed?

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7 Responses to What´s wrong with a pilgrimage close to home?

  1. Mary Jane says:

    The photo gallery is great.

    Lawrence Durrell opened his non-fiction story of a year spent in Cyprus, Bitter Lemons, with a quote something like this: “Journeys are born and not made”, and went on to write of travel as a special form of introspection.

    I have found that the best journeys are serendipitous in their origins, and serve to meet some deeper, often unexpressed need.

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