With my Korean pilgrim friends on the Via Podiensis

Unlike mere travel, a pilgrimage is a journey into the landscape of the soul

On the Camino I met pilgrims from all over the world, walking for as many reasons as there are pilgrims. The adventurers walk to prove to themselves and others that they are physically and mentally strong enough to walk many hundreds of kilometres. The tourists carry fancy cameras around their necks and comprehensive guides. They are interested in the history, geography, or landmarks of the land they are walking through.

Perhaps the majority of pilgrims are seekers, looking for meaning, connection to others and creation, or a way forward in their lives. “Unlike mere travel, a pilgrimage is a journey into the landscape of the soul,” Vivienne Hull writes. I am this kind of pilgrim. There is time and space to journey inward as well as onward to the physical destination. Always on pilgrimage I reset my life compass, remember what I value, and deepen my connection with Spirit, God, and Nature.

Pilgrims seek meaning in the daily rhythm of waking, walking, and engaging with others. Communal meals offer opportunities to learn about others’ journeys and articulate our own. Difficulties in communication with hosts, shop keepers and other pilgrims teach us about ourselves and our expectations. The simplest request requires profound patience and humility when few words exist in common between a pilgrim and the provider of an urgently needed item or service.

My Korean friends in the picture above spoke no French. She only spoke Korean. His English was serviceable. My French was so-so. At the dinner table and in the gites I translated from French to English for him and he enlightened his wife in Korean. Somehow, with patience and a lot of laughs, we got by.

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