There I went. Carrying a tremendously heavy backpack, I closed the door behind me and faced the freezing cold on my way to Santiago. On the 1st of March it was already one year ago that I commenced my journey! Time to look back, which I’ll do through a series of stories. Today will be all about the beginning and the preparation of my pilgrimage.

how it all began

Pilgrimage. I’ve always found it fascinating. Whilst studying Religious Studies, I gained lots of knowledge regarding this form of travel. Spiritually motivated or not, aware or unaware, journeying to something brings about a certain goal, hope or expectation. This can be the journey itself, the destination or, perhaps, the return.

During my university studies I’ve researched pilgrimage and read a wide array of pilgrim narratives. My admiration for pilgrims was growing. With endless perseverance, strength, patience and belief they fulfilled that which they initially faced with excitement and, sometimes, with fear. No road was too long, no mountain to high, no day too hot.

In interviews I read that, upon return, pilgrims frequently report that they’ve changed; that something happened which allows them to see things from a different perspective, they regard life differently. After I obtained my master’s degree, I found I’d read enough: time to experience the act of pilgrimage myself.

a pilgrimage, but where to?

The decision was made: I’m going on a pilgrimage. But where to? As I graduated on the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) I would’ve loved to go to Mecca. Unfortunately, as I’m not a Muslim, this wasn’t a possibility so I had to come up with something else. Something in Europe perhaps, something I can do by myself, and doesn’t cost a fortune… And then it popped into my mind! I was going to walk the Camino de Santiago.

A month of walking seemed so short (don’t ask) and I thought it would be cool to cross a border whilst walking (not sure why), so I decided directly that I would depart from the Netherlands. The decision was made, Project Pilgrimage was real, so I started with the preparations immediately.

the preparatory work

Looking for routes, finding places to sleep, taking the tent or not, buying the right gear. Looking back, I probably should’ve spent a little more time preparing this trip, but the circumstances didn’t makes things very easy either. Three months before I left, I fell and bruised my ribs. I could walk but training with a backpack was impossible. It will be alright, I thought.

And then it was the end of February. I didn’t have time for expectations, as I was too busy preparing the last things before I left. And that moment came faster than I’d expected.

Door closed. See you later. On my way to Santiago.