When I fist came to Andalucia, the southern region of Spain, I took its name to be `Anda! Lucia` which means `walk! Lucy.` I`ve been doing my best to follow that instruction these past years.
Back in 2001 I heard an interview with a pilgrim who´d just walked the Camino de Santiago and my ears pricked up. I´d never heard a modern-day person described as a pilgrim. Without thinking, something in me said: I`m a pilgrim! And then: if I`m a pilgrim I had better walk a pilgrimage. And so several months later I set off on the Via Frances, or French way, of the Camino de Santiago, starting in St Jean Pied-de-Port just inside the French border. It was a 40-day journey of about 800km once we had made some detours and walked past Santiago to Finisterre, the `end of the world` on the Atlantic coast.
On that walk I came across the saying `El turista exige, el peregrino agradece´ or ´the tourist demands, the pilgrim appreciates´ and it became a strong undercurrent for my life, not just while traveling, but for the whole thing. ¿How can one live as a pilgrim who appreciates it all (it ALL!) rather than as a tourist who demands and lives from a sense of entitlement? ¿How does a shift towards gratitude alter our attitude towards the Earth, the Divine, and one another?
A couple of years ago I translated this inquiry into a piece of formal research for my Honours dissertation in Sustainable Development: Pilgrimage and the Alchemy of Transformation: finding a way from entitlement to gratitude (http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/5031/). In it I explored the ways in which pilgrimage itself is a practice that can transform one´s way of being in the world from ´demanding´ to ´grateful.´ For the research I walked a thousand kilometre trail in Western Australia called the Bibbulmun track (and blogged about it: http://wildgoosewalking.wordpress.com/ if you´re interested).
And now I´m back in Spain again, and about to walk a different tributary of the Camino de Santiago, this one called the Via de la Plata, beginning in Sevilla. It apparently predates the more common Via Frances, or French Way, and was also an important trade route following even much older Roman roads. From what I hear, it has fewer pilgrims on it and is more rugged, sparse, and upsy-downy than the northern route from the Pyrenees. I`m hoping to walk it in around six weeks.
One of my motivations for writing this blog is to contribute to the lay knowledge about this route. There is some information about it online, but quite a bit of it is from a few years ago. So if you´re reading this to get an idea about this branch of the Camino and to get some practical information, I hope it´s of some use. Please feel free to contact me.