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Is it possible to turn any walk into a pilgrimage?

Do you associate pilgrimage with official religious routes or destinations? While many people do, the British Pilgrimage Trust uses a much broader definition. To them, a pilgrimage is:

A journey with purpose on foot to holy/wholesome/special places.

At the British Pilgrimage Trust's conference last year, one of the speakers shared how he gives his family day pilgrimages as gifts. This resonated with me – spending quality time with loved ones and building connections seems like a far better gift than anything materialistic.

I decided to test the idea that any walk with purpose to a special place can become a pilgrimage and offered to organise a pilgrimage for any of my friends and family on that basis.

The first friends to take up the offer told me where they wanted to go but did not have a purpose in mind. During the walk, I handed each of them a card containing prompts to ponder.


These included:

  • Things I like about myself

  • Things I like about my life

  • Things I like most about the people I love

  • Attitudes, habits and beliefs that serve me well

As we walked, we talked and admired the views, as usual. I assumed that my prompts had been ineffective. Until later that day.

"I've been thinking about your questions, and it has made me realise how much I love my life."

What more could I possibly have hoped for?

Pentre Ifan, a dolmen created from 3 large upright stones, supporting a fourth. The Preseli Hills can be seen between the upright stones
Pentre Ifan with the Preseli Hills in the background

The second friends requested a visit to Pentre Ifan, a neolithic burial chamber on the edge of the Preseli Hills, to remember their friend who died recently. For this pilgrimage, I created different prompts to consider as we walked.

These included:

  • Happy memories

  • Things I miss

  • Things she taught me

  • Funny moments

We stopped along the way to talk about their friend. We laughed and cried. As we parted, we hugged, and they thanked me for creating such a special day.

From these two experiences, I believe that a day walk can become a pilgrimage and offer some of the benefits of a longer pilgrimage on an official route.

What do you think?

My book 'Walking the Camino' offers a list of questions to consider while walking. 'Planning Your Pilgrimage' is a free resource to support you to ignite your pilgrimage dream, make a plan, implement your plan and reflect on your journey. Both are available from www.juliags.com/camino.

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