If you ask me who I am, I will tell you that I am a pilgrim. I cannot tell you when that happened- whether it was before my second trip to Spain or during my walk on the Camino de Santiago. It just happened. The moment the words “pilgrim” and “me” shared the same sentence, I knew it instantly. Everything felt comfortable, complete. It was as if I found a missing part of myself I had been looking for. 40 years later, it appeared in a word.
The Camino de Santiago is a spiritual pilgrim in Spain where peregrinos (pilgrims in Spanish) walk across the country following one of several routes to get to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino or The Way, as it is known, has been walked by Catholics since the Early Middle Ages with the final destination holding the remains of Saint James the Great at The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Today, people of many faiths and from many countries make the trek for religious, health, or emotional reasons. On this daily trek up and down fields, circling farms and highways, uphill and downhill, for 8 or more hours a day, you are left to think, process, and deal with your issues.
If you google “pilgrim” you will see descriptions of pilgrims as those who trek to sacred sites. Merriam-Weber takes it a step further saying a pilgrim is also one who travels to foreign lands.
It also goes on to say that a pilgrim travels “to a shrine or holy place.” Many of us can relate to that as we head to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, ashrams.
When the word pilgrim fit me like a glove, it was because I had done a lot of stripping down of who I was. Perhaps you can relate to finding out in your thirties that you are not who “they” say you are. We are labeled since birth by our caretakers, friends, acquaintances and social media. It was through trial and error that I discovered who I was. I am moved by religious fervor. I am drawn to new lands, to discover how others live and think. When I bow in a church or ashram, I am emptied and filled with peace. When I chant, I find myself in a state of joyful ecstasy. When I stood on the Great Wall of China, I felt more fulfilled than at almost any other time in my life. When I listen to the currents of the world, the silent whispers of fate, intuitions, whatever you call it, I find myself following my path and living authentically. If you ask me who I am, whether that’s climbing a hill in Spain, bowing at my guru’s ashram in Vrindavan or catching a ride on a subway in Germany, I will tell you this- I am a pilgrim.