10/1/2013 – Tuesday. A Mormon and a Jew meet in Europe to make a Catholic Pilgrimage across Spain. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. It’s the beginning of wonderful story, a new goal in my life. Danny Flax, my good friend from Israel and I are meeting in Madrid in about two weeks to bike together across Spain. This isn’t our first bike trip together but it is the first pilgrimage we have ever made together!
Today, as a new month begins, I declare that for me a new life begins today as well. I’ve committed myself to travel to Spain and trace the path of “El Camino de Santiago de Compostella” – The Way of St. James. James was an apostle of Jesus who, after his beheading and martyrdom in Jerusalem, had his remains taken to Spain where, according to legend, they were interred near the coast of Galicia in Spain, in a field called ‘the field of stars’ – Compostella. Santiago lies on the northwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula, which at the time of Christ was essentially the end of the known world. Today, in the jet age, I will reach Madrid in about 15 hours. Such travel is a miracle, but do I fully appreciate or even comprehend this miracle? The people in the days of St. James would consider me a god to be able to travel such a long distance in such a short time. I think it’s an unpleasant abuse because I have to endure the indignities of homeland security as they x-ray me at the airport. Ironic indeed. I hope to come home a bit more appreciative of all I’ve been blessed with.
When I fly to Madrid, my plane will fly directly over the old Roman Road called “El Camino de Santiago de Compostella”. What will take my plane about 15 minutes to fly over I will return to and retrace on a bicycle in about 6 days. Folks walking this distance will take about 2 weeks. Why do we do it?
Over the past millennia pilgrims have made long, arduous walks to Santiago from various points across Europe and Spain, carving ancient roads that fan out in various directions pointing West to East. These roads begin to take on the appearance of a seashell, and thus the shell has become a symbol of pilgrimage for those who go there. People go there every year, by the thousands, to walk, or bike the Way of St. James. People go for religious reasons and people go for non-religious reasons. So why am I going?
I believe that everyday is the beginning of a new life, or it can be if we wish it so. I want to have as many wonderful and varied experiences and adventures as I can while I sojourn here on earth. Then I hope to continue having great adventures even after that. As I’ve thought about my goals for making this trip, I’ve made a little list. I will add to it as I go. Here are some of the reasons why I’m going to Santiago.
- Have fun
- Make new friends
- Be inspired by Danny Flax, my long time friend and traveling companion
- To refocus on what is important in my life
- Enjoy Spain and practice my Spanish
- Do acts of service for others
- Learn about something new
- Deepen my appreciation for beliefs of others and find the good in doing so
- Enjoy some alone time, some personal communion, meditation, and prayer
As I embark on this journey, I hope to be inspired and I hope to inspire others too. As I do I know that it will help me Get Where I’m Goaling!