A pilgrimage is a journey, a crusade or a mission. It is something that can be religious, or it can be spiritual. Although the pilgrimage has been around since the dawn of time, it seems to have become a popular quest for many, myself included. But what actually makes your journey a pilgrimage?
Could it be just the challenge of completing something we’ve started? After all… I believe that climbing Mount Everest is a pilgrimage of sorts. Although, we all know how incredibly challenging that is, and it takes someone who is unbelievably fit and healthy. But, it’s a personal challenge for those who attempt the climb, they push themselves until they cannot endure it any longer, then they push some more. Yes, Mount Everest is definitely a pilgrimage, just another kind.
Camino de Santiago
How about the famous Camino de Santiago, also known as ‘The Way of St. James’? This pilgrimage dates back to the 9th century during the discovery of The Tomb of St. James, an Evangelical apostle. There are many different routes, spanning over Europe, and they all lead to the Tomb of the Apostle in the Spanish province of Galicia. You can coordinate with small groups, or you can travel alone. Although it has relatively been a safe trek, it’s always best to stay within at least visual distance with someone else. At night, you can camp, or stay at one of the many lodges available along the various towns.
In Ireland, St. Patrick is believed to have killed a serpent. This pilgrimage takes place at the Holy Mountain in County Mayo of Ireland. Thousands will gather and climb the mountain on the last Sunday of July.
Another pilgrimage in Ireland to honor St. Patrick is the Lough Derg and probably the most popular pilgrimage in Ireland. Pilgrims will walk around the lake with many stops to worship and retreat.
This is a pilgrimage of new age spirituality and a destination for not only those who would like to see the awe-inspiring construction of 4000 years ago, but it is a place for Neo-pagans to gather and worship. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to help one find and understand what they are searching for in their pilgrimage.
Appalachian Scenic Trail
This walking trail is over 2000 miles long and covers 14 states. It has been known to take 5 to 7 months to complete, crossing over Smoky Mountain. This trail is compared to that of many extremely difficult trails throughout the world.
Pacific Crest Trail
This trail ranges from Mexico to Canada and has been made popular by the author ‘Cheryl Strayed’; and then turned to a movie called ‘Wild’. Another exceptionally spiritual journey that can take months to complete.
I’ve been wondering lately why so many of us would like to leave everything behind, pack a backpack, grab our hiking boots and take off on a journey of a lifetime. What is the lure of this?
What are we looking for? Can a pilgrimage or ‘journey’ provide the answers we are looking for? Perhaps it is just a challenge, or..maybe we are trying to find a new meaning to our existence.
I do however believe there is one commonality that exists in everyone who takes this trek, and that is they begin the journey as one person, and they end the journey as someone a little different.
Have you been on a pilgrimage or are you a thru-hiker? I would love to hear your story! Feel free to comment, or send me a message!