The Walking Cure
On the road with a terminally self-aware spiritual seeker
A Sense of Direction:
Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful
by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
$26.95 List Price
“Nice just to walk and breathe and not worry about every goddamn thing. Nice, too, to know that when I return life will quickly become very different than it has been.”
I wrote those words a decade ago, jotted them down in a marble-covered Mead composition book I’d brought with me to record my observations as I hiked a portion of Europe’s most popular pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Reading the words now puts me back in Spanish hill towns and surprises me with nostalgia for a time in my life apparently so full of worry and so in need of change that walking through a country where I didn’t understand anyone speaking the native language seemed not only a good idea, but necessary.
Much less necessary, of course, is publishing my deep thoughts about the experience. Why should anyone care whether or not I had a “nice” time trudging toward the city of Santiago in the summer of 2001? Pilgrimage is an individual endeavor, undertaken for personal reasons perhaps best left unspoken. Accounts of spiritual odysseys and their outcomes are often much like those of other people’s dreams: interesting in theory, but a bore to endure.
Yet pilgrimage narratives are almost as old and universal as pilgrimage itself. Ambulatory religious odysseys exist in every culture on earth; from Mecca to Lourdes to the Ganges to Taos, New Mexico, the globe is pockmarked with sacred places that believers are forever approaching, slouching toward eternal reward while leaving the burdens of their everyday lives behind. And because the point of a pilgrimage is never merely getting