Personal treks allow reflection
Take a walk. Take a hike. Take your pick. To what am I referring? The personal treks that people make walking the Camino de Santiago and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Both the geography and stories from what is often called a pilgrimage in these areas have been captured in two feature films, The Way released in 2010 and the more recent A Walk in the Woods.
The Camino de Santiago has twelve routes with starting points scattered in France, Portugal and Spain. The entire Camino is a series of villages and towns where pilgrims eat, socialize, and spend the night in refugios, albergues or hostels. Considered a spiritual pilgrimage, over 200,000 people arrive in Santiago, Spain each year to receive their Compostela certificate provided they have walked the minimum 100 kilometer requirement.
The Appalachian Trail stretches more than 2,180 miles through 14 states from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Almost 3 million people a year walk some portion of it as a warrior, wilderness lover, or “just because it’s there.” The mystique and sheer beauty also make it a popular bucket list item.
Regardless of the reason, people who do these treks leave a life of comfort and ease for one of simplicity typically carrying everything they will need on their backs. They become vulnerable to weather, possible physical limitations, and the daily demands of getting food and shelter. What is the payoff? Life-changing results are what most people claim. Without the daily distractions of jobs, family and friends, they find the time and space to solve problems and emerge completely different people by the end of their pilgrimage.
Taking a little liberty with the word pilgrimage, whether we ever find ourselves physically setting foot on either of these paths, we can take a tip or two from their guidebooks. We can take some kind of pilgrimage each day, once a week, month or year. The common denominator is that we intentionally simplify our outer world such as keeping meals simple, maybe even fasting, and restricting distractions like digital devices and social interaction to support an inner journey toward something new. In today’s terminology, it’s called unplugging.
In a quieter, more centered state of being, we are more receptive to changing a habit, making a difficult decision, or possibly pursuing a new life choice. Like those who trek the Camino or hike the Appalachian Trail, the journey itself becomes the destination. It is the same for those times we set aside in quiet reflection. We never know what will bubble up.