One Pilgrim's Progress is the account of my experience on the Camino in northern Spain in the fall of 2011. El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the way of St. James) is an ancient pilgrimage route that traces its rich history and mythology to the 9th century. It is actually multiple routes that originate throughout Europe but they all end at the same place: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest Spanish province of Galicia. The route I traveled, the Camino Francés, is almost 500 miles in length from its origin in St. Jean Pied de Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostela across the expanse of northern Spain. And while I did not walk the entire route, I still walked along the same path that the tens of thousands of modern pilgrims follow across Spain each year, and along with all of them, my feet followed footsteps that go back to the first millennium.
There is a spectrum of motivating factors that draw people to the Camino. On the one end are those who take the spirituality and the historical depth of the religious experience associated with the Camino very seriously. On the other are those for whom the sheer physicality of walking or biking across such a challenging expanse is irresistible. In between are people with a range of motivations, many combining some of the elements from both ends.
I was somewhat of an outlier, motivated by neither end of the spectrum. After three years characterized by one loss after another, I was simply running away. I suspect I was not the first pilgrim to seek an escape into the anonymity and the in-the-moment demands of life on the Camino nor will I be the last to discover that at the literal end of the road, as most runaways eventually learn, I found myself.