Memoir of a PILGRIMAGE FOR EIGHT
Let me give you an idea of a typical day.
Rise early. The earlier the better because you want to put some miles behind you before the sun gets too high. Wash up. Eat breakfast. Sort your lunch for that day, usually sandwiches and fruit. On a lucky day, the cooks will have purchased tins of sardines with various sauces. Water. Do not forget to take water, though if you do, cemeteries often have spigots with potable water. Keep an eye out.
Pack your day bag. Don’t forget your map, which you should have prepared the night before. Don’t be one of those pilgrims who waits until that morning to prepare the day’s map. Be sure to bring your rain gear, hat, and walking stick. Bring your journal if you’re journaling and remember your fully-charged cell phone, which you will need when you have to call the support team to tell them you’re lost.
“Never say you are lost,” the support team will tell you. “You are geographically embarrassed.” This is meant to make you feel better.
Attend Mass, which will be over by the departure time of 7am. Look around and see that there are only two or three of you besides the priest. Oh, well.
Pack your sleeping bag and other kit and leave these next to the entry of the lodging. On this particular morning, you are being driven to the starting point at the edge of a forest. Do not be late or your lateness will cause everyone else to get a late start.
Start out as a group. Look at your maps. You did remember to bring your map, didn’t you? Review any peculiarities of the route. Review the meeting point, sometimes called the RV or rendezvous point. Note the pick-up time. Have you packed enough water?
The group departs. Within minutes, the fast walkers have disappeared from view. You are a slow walker and you’ve learned not to be bothered by this. Set your own pace. Appreciate the sights and sounds of wherever you are. Be present. You are not in the middle of whatever soul-crushing job you perform to pay the rent. You are on a pilgrimage: a beautiful, difficult, sweaty, but ultimately spiritually regenerating pilgrimage. Relish it!
Enjoy the company of the other walkers who have agreed to walk with you, at least for a while. Have lunch whenever you get hungry, preferably on the banks of a river, or on the seashore, or in the shade of a parish churchyard.
Continue your walk and try to take in everything. Or take in nothing. Sometimes zoning out is just the ticket. Arrive on time at the RV point. Even though you’re the slowest walker, you are not the last one to arrive because someone didn’t bring their map and got lost. Board the van and enjoy a brief bit of air conditioning as you’re driven to the new lodging for that night.