Can a Pilgrimage change your life

Had you of asked me this question 2 years ago, I would have said laughed and said “I don’t need my life changed”. Had you of asked me one year ago I would have been in a negative frame of mind and replied with “what a bunch of crap”. I would have said “going on a long walk sounds like my idea of pain and not enrichment and enlightenment”. So what changed?

About a year ago when life shifted for a bad turn I read a book that changed my views on a lot of things. The book is called “Return to glow” It was fantastically written and the kind of book I just couldn’t put down. Return to glow is a non-fiction accounting of one woman's experience in life. Chandi (the writer) was going through a hard time in life. She was facing a divorce and traumatic illness. This alone is enough to shake one up a bit! Chandi realizes that her life is not what it once was and fate leads her to the path of doing the historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome. I won’t talk much more about the book as it’s one to read for yourself.

I just happened to be spending two weeks in Spain catching up on reading when I finished this book. I also was in a crossroads in my life. I had just quit my job, I had the time on my hands. Much like what happened to Chandi in the book, I felt a drift of fate. I had not once heard of the Camino De Santiago but suddenly after I finished this book, it seemed to be a constant theme in all conversations.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was happy in life but I also felt like some things were missing. I wasn’t 100% there and where I wanted to be. I felt this nagging feeling like something was bound to change. One of the men I met in a bar had said to me that doing a Pilgrimage can change your life. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t scoff… I just wondered why and how? The thoughts in my head escaped and I felt myself saying it out load… but how? and Why?

“Well, why not do it for yourself” he said. So, I did! I left the pub, just like that, I felt something call me. I went home, did some small research and packed my bag.

Can a Pilgrimage change your life

I won’t say that doing the Camino De Santiago changed my life from 0 to 100, but in so many ways, it did change my life. So how? Why?

The main reason the pilgrimage changed my life was because of the challenge. I was not fit or well trained before doing the Camino, and the idea of walking for miles everyday was not my idea of fun. I pushed through it and made my self realise how strong I was. I kept saying to myself, If I can do this, then I can do anything!

Doing it alone! At the time, I had quit my job to pursue my dream of building a social networking website and travel forum for women who travel solo. I truly believe that so many of the great ideas I had for the website came from having time to myself. Time offline, away from the screen and away from the influence of the internet and people. When I finished the Camino, I completed that website and my dream.

The people I met. From the lone stranger who helped me carry my bags when the going got tough to the person I met weeks back and got to run into for a glass of red Spanish wine or 3. The short conversations on the road and the amazing encounters and brilliant people you get to meet. People come from all walks of life, for all different reasons and from all different countries, so there is no shortage of meeting new and interesting people.

I think the spiritual encounters on a pilgrimage is a personal thing, some feel it and some don’t. It depends on what you are ready to let in. I found it from the kindness of strangers, the mental energy needed and the strength I didn’t know I had.

The Camino in Spain, the Francigena in Italy… whatever the route you choose, whatever the challenge you set and for whatever the reasons, I truly believe that a Pilgrimage can change your life.

I even had the pleasure of interviewing Chandi about her experiences later. I even had the pleasure of hosting a guest post on my blog by a brave community member who walked the Portugal Camino de Santiago on her own.