Why would a near 70 year old person decide to walk 500 miles across northern Spain? The first person that asked me this was my daughter, Tara.
How did I come to this interest or this decision? For me it started in 2010 when I was listening to the radio on my headphones. I was in my back yard planting tomatoes. I remember so clearly listening to an interview with Marin Sheen promoting his latest movie that was written and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. It is called “The Way” highlighting an ancient Christian pilgrimage across Spain. This was the first time I had heard of this pilgrimage. I was immediately intrigued as he explained how so many people were affected by taking this “walk” -“The Way of St. James.” In 2003 Martin Sheen and his grandson Taylor planned to walk the Camino on Martin’s break from filming “The West Wing” but time got away from them and they ended up driving it. That was the seed planted to make the movie. Just driving this route gave them the experience and the feeling that this route was indeed a spiritual experience and they wanted to share it with the world.
There is much to be read about the Spanish legends that lead to this pilgrimage. The Apostle James the Great (by legend) was beheaded in Jersalem in 44 A.D. His followers wanted to bring his remains back to Spain to honor his ministry in this region. They followed an old Roman trading route, entering France crossing the Pyrennes and continuing on to Santiago near the Atlantic coast. There he remains today in the Santiago de Compestela Cathedral.
Martin Sheen’s interview was the seed for my interest in “The Way.” I did not see the movie when it was out in the theaters but about a year later my co-worker and fellow pilgrim, Lee Fullbright, walked into work with a Netflix envelope to be picked up by our mailman. She enthusiastically told me how much she enjoyed the movie, “The Way” that she had watched the night before and wanted to walk this route some day, maybe when she retired. Instead of giving the DVD to the mailman, she gave it to me. I was so inspired by the movie, and remembering the Martin Sheen interview, the next day I was talking about wanting to walk it when I retired too. Since we worked together we knew we would probably be retiring at the same time and could maybe walk it together. The dreams and the plans began – “Let’s walk The Way – The Camino de Santiago when we retire.” In October 2015 Lee and I retired and the talking and dreaming turned into training, planning and booking an international flight to Spain for the spring of 2016.
Early in the dreaming I was sharing this with my daughter, Tara. She asked me, “If this is a pilgrimage – why are you doing it, and what are you expecting from a spiritual experience.” To tell you the truth, I didn’t start out thinking of this as a pilgrimage, but as an adventure, so when Tara asked me this question all I said was: “Well, it will be a way of getting clarity as I transition into retirement.”
Now, years later, my answer is very similar. I am in a different place spiritually than I was when I first wanted to take this journey. After years of being “too busy” and “over working” to attend a local church, I am now very happy to be a part of a local church community, Legacy Church of La Mesa, California. This group and staff of friendly kind people has brought me full circle backto a firm commitment to the Christian faith I found as a teenager in Ramona First Baptist Chruch.
So why am I walking 500 miles on on the Camino de Santiago?
1. I never backpacked through Europe after college as so many Americans do. This is the senior citizen version of living on the road in Europe – a free spirit. I am looking forward to the sheer joy of the adventure.
2. A hike, a long hike. My outdoor hobby is hiking. The challenge – can I even do it?
3. The spiritual journey – to be away from the modern world for awhile, to depend on God for my needs in a deeper way. To have less noise. Less busyness.
4. I am seeking clarity from God – how am I to serve Him best in this stage of my life?
I thank you for joining me on this adventure.
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