Paul-Walsh-Walking-With-Strangers

PILGRIM

Conventionally the act of pilgrimage has been attached to religion, and for thousands of years pilgrims have walked across Europe to demonstrate a devotion to God. The last 20 years have seen a revival of interest in long distance walking, so I set out with my tent across the network of pilgrimage routes through France and Spain, to experience this increasingly popular phenomenon. I walked continuously for three months, beginning at Le Puy en Velay in Eastern France, and ending 1700km later at the village of Muxia on the West coast of Spain. Along the way I built up transient relationships with other pilgrims. Almost all of those I encountered were not walking for religious purposes, but were walking to overcome a major event in their life, or to find something that was missing from their lives. I discovered that through separating from all that is familiar, walking helped people to find liberty from their complex identities and social obligations. The path gave them a common goal and the landscape was a geographical space for self reflection.