Why do it?

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At least I know what all the shells are for - the symbol of St James of course, but that was not the point.  Why bother to walk with a backpack through the heat of the day for twenty miles or so, every day for a couple of weeks?  (Some do far more and cover the entire 1400 km from Le Puy in France.)  Well why, when there are so many comfortable hotels to stay and easier ways to travel?  Is it some kind of masochistic penance?  Certainly not for me!

Easier to say why I was not doing it.  It was definitely not a superstitious attempt to gain an indulgence for my sins against my fellow man and go straight to heaven, avoiding purgatory along the way.  Indeed, it could be argued that the flight to Spain with Ryanair at the start of my journey was in itself a purgatorial experience!  On the other hand it is difficult to avoid some kind of spiritual impact; the arrival into Santiago alone is awe-inspiring, even to a 21st century cynic and there is a sense of something more than mere camaraderie along the Camino.

Many of those to whom I have recounted my experiences have concluded that my wanderings were little more than an extended pub-crawl and it is true that I did tend to mark each days progress by the proximity of the next watering hole.  It was a great opportunity to "get some space"  away from the pressures of "normality", focussing instead on elemental issues like the number of hills between here and the end of the day's walk.

A pilgrimage is essentially a selfish experience as it confers no benefit on anyone other than the pilgrim.  That said, at least it inflicts little harm on anyone else, unlike the suicide bombers' attempts to shortcut  to paradise!  I determined that my journey, for that is what it started out as, did not constitute a pilgrimage, because as I was informed on reaching Santiago, that would have required me to suffer along the way,

       
       

 

 

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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2013