Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Becoming a Pilgrim
Becoming a Pilgrim was the title of the talk I was asked to give at the Practical Pilgrims' Day organised by the Confraternity of St James. I could easily have re-named it, "my rapid ascent into Camino addiction".
During the presentation I wanted not only to share my own story but also to demonstrate that there are many routes to Santiago, long and short, each with their own personality and characteristics. I prepared a few wee films which I'll post here in sequence.
I started by explaining that for many years I've been in love with Spain. I visited every summer and for seven of these years I celebrated New Year in the mild climate of Seville. In all that time I never heard about the Camino to Santiago. That discovery happened one evening with friends Graham and Jenny in Edinburgh. Over dinner Graham told me that for about five years Jenny had been walking sections of a pilgrimage route from the border of France to its destination at Santiago de Compostela. Jenny enthused about it and they took me through to the spare room where on the wall there was a large map of the North of Spain. A red line marked the route of the Camino Frances and Jenny had cut out a little paper figure of a pilgrim which she moved along the line every time she completed a section. "There is a route from Seville too, you know," she said with a glint in her eye.
I thought that pilgrimage was an activity for older women in parishes who went bus trips to Wallsingham or Lourdes. But the seed was sewn and I spent many hours surfing the internet to learn more about the Camino to Santiago.
It had been my ambition to give up my long held career and although for some time the date of that event had been extended and extended time was marching on. I decided set a date for leaving and to mark the change by walking from Seville to Santiago.
I joined the Confraternity of St James and even went so far as to volunteer because of the all the spare time I thought I would have. I joined the team which stuffs envelopes with the Confraternity Bulletin which gets sent out to members. I was also introduced to a member who had walked from Seville. His wise counsel and support were invaluable.
I assembeld my kit, drawing up many packing lists. I laid it out on the bed. Often. I packed and unpacked my rucksack. I largely ignored the advice I had been given about carrying too much weight and the consequences of that will fill another blog post.
The best thing I did was during a visit to Seville when I walked the first couple of stages of the route. This reassured me that everything I had read about the yellow arrows was true. They were there and I could depend on them.
On 2 January 2006 I set out from Sevilla.
Recently a friend considering this route wrote to me for advice. Click above to hear what I wrote to her.