In 2018 we visited Asturias, the homeland of my wife Mary’s maternal grandmother, Abuela Maria. The land along the northern coast of Spain was magnificently beautiful with striking cliffs, lush green pastures and the blue of the Atlantic. Life in Ballota, one of many small towns in Asturias, was much slower, quieter, and most of all simpler. We cherished the time spent with familia and new friends.
During our visit we made it a point to walk some of the Camino de Santiago. The northern path goes right through Ballota. The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage route ending in Santiago de Compostella in Galicia. It is believed that St. James the Apostle (Santiago) had traveled to Galicia in order to fulfill Jesus’ calling to go to the “ends of the earth”. The legend is that after James was martyred in Jerusalem, his followers carried his bones to be buried in Galicia where they now rest in the famous cathedral in Santiago.
Over millennia, millions of pilgrims have traveled the multiple routes which all lead to Santiago, the most famous of which is the Camino Frances which begins in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, crosses the Pyrenees mountains and then traverses the inland region of Northern Spain to Santiago. The complete route of the Camino Frances is almost 780km and typically takes around 35 days at just over 20km walking per day.
Many pilgrims continue on to Finisterre on the western coast of Galicia to complete their journey. Finisterre means “the end of the earth”.
Mary and I became acquainted with the Camino after hearing other people’s accounts. We then watched a movie called “The Way” which stars Martin Sheen and was based on the book by Jack Hit. Emilio Estevez, Sheen’s son, wrote the screenplay and directed this excellent film. Since then, it has become a possible bucket list item to walk the Camino. I think I want to do the whole trek but that will be a challenge considering my current physical shape. We shall see.
These days, people walk the camino for different reasons. Some continue to treat it as a deeply spiritual exercise. Others do it for health reasons. Some walk together with friends. It is said that you end up walking the camino that is meant for you. This means much more than the truism “wherever you go, there you are”. After weeks of pushing your body to exhaustion, traveling through natural and historical settings, unplugging from technology and media, and spending times of deep self-examination, the Camino ends up being a deeply significant experience for every traveler.
Intervarsity Faculty Digital Camino
This year, Mary and I are are thrilled to be taking part in a digital camino that is being organized by Intervarsity Study Abroad and Graduate and Faculty Ministries. Although we won’t be in Spain, over the course of about 5 weeks, each participant will be walking, listening to audio guides for meditation and reflection, and sharing our experiences.
I have taken the opportunity to reboot my personal blog as I share my experience participating in the digital camino and will be posting regular updates here.