What is a Pilgrim?

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Being a pilgrim is commonly known as someone who travels to a foreign land to visit somewhere of religious or historic importance.

The purpose of the journey is also important to Pilgrims.  It is also believed that a pilgrim is someone who travels a considerable distance in carrying out this goal, while leaving behind the comforts of home.

I always had problems seeing myself as a pilgrim. I am not and was not when walking the Camino religious. I was not brought up attending any church, and when I first walked the Camino I was a student at Ireland’s catholic university – which had me fighting against the church at that time.

However after walking the Camino the last time I felt a bit more like a pilgrim. I had walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. During that walk I carried all my own things for just over four weeks. I became ill, and once I had to be treated in hospital, and for my own private reason it was very important for me to finish – I continued, doctors gave me painkillers in order for me to finish.

So I guess for me being a pilgrim is a state of mind. If I felt like I was on holiday on the Camino I don’t think I would have felt like a pilgrim. I had a task to do, walk to Santiago, and I was quite focused on that task – while at the same time I believed a result of this pilgrimage is that something about me would change – most likely in my mind.

Many people I spoke to on the Camino where looking for answers to their current problems in life, or a way how to make a decision at their current cross road. I don’t know if it does help in that way, however it does give a time out and show that life can go on while those problems still exist.

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3 comments on “What is a Pilgrim?
  1. Lielie Kotze says:

    I walked from Leon (Spain) to Santiago and absolutely loved it. I would like to know how the French bit compares to the part in Spain. Do you get the “camino feeling” , camaraderie between Peregrino’s or is it just a beautiful hike?

    • Leslie says:

      I walked two weeks on the Le Puy Camino route two years ago. It does have a different tone to the Camino Frances. The Camino Frances reminds me of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – it can be a bit wild and noisy.

      I still had the camaraderie feeling – but with much fewer people. Some days we walked all day and only saw one or two other pilgrims, but we also developed a little group that met up most nights and chatted. Also it was different for me as I walked with my other half. Whereas on each of my travels down the Camino Frances I started on my own and I met my other half there 9 years ago.

  2. Lielie Kotze says:

    Thanks Leslie, exactly what I wanted to know.

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