Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Pilgrimage withdrawal symptoms

It feels like an age since I last went on a good long pilgrimage. I just read about a friend who is setting off to walk the Via Francigena. That's Canterbury to Rome. It takes about 85 days if you do not stop. I am, admit it, very jealous. I would give anything to have the time, money and opportunity to pack my bag and hit the road.

I have made a nod to pilgrimage this year. I walked the Student Cross pilgrimage to Walsingham for Easter. There a several routes, or legs, which each approach Walsingham to meet on Good Friday. I was with Essex leg, and our journey was about 125 miles. For me this pilgrimage was a different type of experience to the Camino de Santiago because I traveled with a group. Also, we were carrying a life sized cross which was very heavy. The journey was marked by the pace of the group, sometimes this was faster than I liked, and sometimes this was slower than would have been ideal, but it was the group which mattered most. That was a learning experience for me, I have never walked like that before. On the camino I would meander along like a snail some days, and take off into the hills with an admirable pace on others, it all depended on my mood. Sometimes I would meander off the route altogether to go and take a look at something that distracted my attention. Learning to walk with others was quite a humbling, but rewarding experience. I loved being out all day, and I enjoyed the camaraderie of chit chat along the route. I loved to watch the different relationships between pilgrims unfold and develop as we went along, old friends catching up, new friendships forming. Sometimes there were tensions between people that needed to be resolved; sometimes people shared so much with another it was truly touching. But, I am not naturally gifted at walking with others. I spend too much time on the outside looking in, get distracted by my own rambling thoughts and retreat into the cavernous recesses of my mind.

I planned but did not go to Santiago de Compostela last year. I planned to go again this year, but again I will not go. This makes me sad. I have the freedom to just pack my bags and head off, but I do not have it. That is the worse thing about being your own boss and doing your own work. The responsibility to just get on with it leaves very few opportunities to take a month off for walking across Spain. And, I definitely do not have the money. Not that that should stop me, pilgrims have always been poor. So, I am left with the memories of pilgrimage to keep me happy. And what great memories they are. The best thing about pilgrimage is that it is a great leap into the unknown, and you do not know what is going to happen. Taking that leap is always completely life changing. To all that are brave enough to do it I give my utmost respect.


Daniel Hutton said...

time for a pilgrimage to Taiwan I'd say. There's a temple every 50meters and lots of faiths to choose from.

The world is my cloister said...

That is not a bad plan. I hear there are some very good family run hotels round there. They even provide a tour guide service??? xx

Daniel Hutton said...

we know a group of drummers in taipei that do walking tours to the south of Taiwan (very far, especially if you have to carry a drum)