There is a common misconception that pilgrimages are only for the religious; however this is not the case. Whether you have just gone through something traumatic, looking for an adventure or just need to take a break from life, walking a pilgrimage is a great solution. Even if you don’t “discover a new version of yourself” you will still have plenty of stories to tell and have experienced a trip of a lifetime. You have to be fairly motivated to go on a pilgrimage; it isn’t for everyone, so why do people go? Below are the top six reasons to walk a pilgrimage.
- Exercise- what better way is there to get into shape than to commit to a multi-day or multi-month walk? Depending on the pilgrimage you choose, there may be an intense training schedule to stick to, but even if you choose a less physically challenging pilgrimage, you will be up and at it every day, thus getting into shape!
- Adventure of a lifetime- If life seems to be stagnant, and you are doing the same thing day in and day out, walking a pilgrimage can be life changing. Every day there will be something different from the day before, whether it is the people you meet, the food you eat, or even how long it is until you get your first ache!
- Religious reasons- According to caminoways.com, only 9.6% decided to do the walk for religious motivations. In addition to having “Holy Years”, those who choose to walk to the Camino de Santiago for religious reasons can request a Compostela, which is a certificate that states you have walked over one hundred kilometers for religious reasons.
- A challenge- Sure, walking twenty five to thirty kilometers sounds like a small challenge, but doing it day after day is where the real trials come into place. Not only will you learn how to endure tired feet and endless blisters, but you will also be rethinking everything you packed. Most people pack around five to six kilograms, so you are learning how to live with the bare minimal. In addition to this, if you are trying to save money, you will have to plan out each meal, each night’s stay to be sure to be as frugal as possible.
- Time for yourself- 14.3% of walkers reported that their main motivation for walking was to rest, relax and spend some time to themselves. When was the last time you spent a week away from the internet, advertising and transportation? Pilgrimages give people a chance to spend some time away from everything and reevaluate what is important in life. Many people come away from the walk prepared to make many changes to their everyday lives, whether it is no more checking daily emails after work hours or choosing to walk instead of take public transportation whenever it is possible.
- Cultural Reasons- Lastly, a lot of people choose to go on a pilgrimage to experience another culture. 11.7% of Camino de Santiago pilgrims decided to do the walk for cultural reasons. Because the Camino de Santiago is an old trail, you will come across many different types of villages each day, with each village having their own regional foods and customs. Not only this- when you are walking the pilgrimage, you will meet people from all over the word, and be able to share stories and find connections like you never thought possible.
So there you have it; the top six reasons to make the life-changing decision to walk a pilgrimage! If you are able to take it day by day and not think too far ahead, it can be the perfect opportunity to take some time to reflect on decisions, experience a new culture, get fit or go on an adventure! (Or all of the above!)