The Pilgrimage Begins: In 2010, during my daughter's study abroad in Spain, she walked 115 kilometers from Sarria to Santiago along the El Camino de Santiago. When she returned home, I got a tee shirt with a map of the Camino and we casually promised each other we would walk it together some day. I thought little more about the Camino until a year later when the gods made it clear I needed to turn my life around and focus more on my spiritual journey. On a whim my sister suggested we go see The Way with Martin Sheen. Afterward I walked out of the movie theater and knew I had a calling. I was going to walk the El Camino. It was not a matter of "if", only "when" and nothing was going to stand in my way. It took me another year to learn how to hike long distances, get in shape and retire from my job - then I was ready.

I initially thought I would walk the Camino Francais from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, but read a note on the Confraternity of St. James website that recommended the Via de la Plata (VdlP) route for new comers, especially if they wanted to get away from the crowds on the Camino Francais. Preferring solitude and wanting to focus on the spiritual aspect of my pilgrimage, I changed my plans to walk the VdlP. In the end I wound up walking both routes. For a comparison of the VdlP and the Camino Francais, click here.

A week before I departed for Sevilla I meticulously laid out my back pack and its contents on a spare bed and pondered if I had forgotten anything. Once on the Camino I would find that the good news was that I had forgotten nothing of importance. The bad news - I had brought way too many items that had little importance. See my packing list for further details.

My intention was to send emails to my friends every week or so updating them on my progress on the Camino. I was amazed and honored by how many people asked to be included on the list. Below is my first email.

clothes

Four Days until the Pilgrimage Begins!

March 30, 2013


In four days I fly to Seville, Spain and set out on the Via de la Plata pilgrimage route that will take me north to Santiago de Compostela. I've allotted a little over two months to walk the 600 mile route. And, with luck, I'll have enough time left over to walk an additional 100 miles to Muxia and Fisterra on the west coast of Spain where I will watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.

I've got most of my kit together, made a detailed checklist in Excel, laid everything out on the bed, made extensive maps and a trail guide, created a detailed itinerary, trained and hiked for a year, sprayed everything with bed bug repellent, tried to learn Spanish and sought help from any resource I could find. And I know full well that when I set out on the first day from Seville all the planning will immediately evaporate and the adventure will really begin. Ha!

I've included you on this "friends and family" email list and it's my intention to send out an email every week or so with updates on where I am, what's happened, etc. I will do my best not to sound like an ancient pilgrim who whines about his sore feet, the constant rain and his abysmal language skills.

One closing remark, I have been honored, touched and overwhelmed by the blessings and prayers from my friends, family, fellow students and co-workers. While I have no idea how each day will unfold on the pilgrimage, there will be one constant - I will have an army of friends walking with me in spirit.

Thank you.

Bill

 

On April 2, 2013 (appropriately the day after April Fools Day), I flew from San Francisco to Sevilla. I arrived at the Hotel Simon jet lagged, awkward and ill equipped to speak much Spanish. Looking out on the street in front of the hotel was a frightening experience. By the late afternoon I was walking around town realizing that I didn't know enough Spanish to competently order dinner. And I was getting hungry.

Looking for a diversion, I walked over to the Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Sevilla office for a map and some advice. It was there that I met Jessie from Australia, the first of many friends on the Camino.

sevilla

She was a godsend in many ways. I offered to buy her dinner, if she would order it. And to my surprise she agreed. It was one of those memorable dinners, 2 1/2 hours of marvelous conversation. When I told her that I had a calling to walk the VdlP, but had arrived without a clear question to guide me, she just said, "Let the heavy things go and let the lighter things fill in."

And that was it - the words that guided me for the rest of the Camino. God knew I had a bag of heavy burdens that I had carried around for decades and it was time to let them go. And so I did.

Thank you, Jessie.

The next day I toured Sevilla, particularly the Alcazar and the Cathedral. It's a marvelous city.

By dinner that night I was cautiously ordering food on my own and learning my first lesson on the Camino - If you don't know much Spanish, be prepared to eat whatever is put in front of you by the waiter. Smile and say "gracias". And I did eat some incredible "mistakes".

Jessie

Jessie in front of the Giralda

On Friday, April 5th I was ready to leave (ready is a relative term). At 6:30 in the morning I had my bag packed and cautiously stepped across the threshold of the Hotel Simon into the street. I walked up to the Cathedral, kneeled before St. James and asked for his blessing and guidance. I stood up and started the walk in the dark through the streets of Sevilla towards Guillena. Within 15 minutes I was hopelessly lost, met Ray another pilgrim from the United States who was equally lost, found our way back on the trail and began the journey in earnest.

threshold

Crossing the Threshold