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.
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?
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.
Things I miss
Things she taught me
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.