There is no such thing as a typical pilgrim….pilgrims (peregrinos) come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, all backgrounds, from every corner of the world. They are students, doctors, teachers, lay; religious, Christian and peoples of other faith. They are retirees, unemployed, able bodied, disabled and they even come on 4 legs, yes mans best friend is also here (perrogrinos! – perro is Spanish for dog)
They come to walk the Camino de Santiago for as many reasons as there are pilgrims. Some need to take time out from stressful jobs, maybe it is a time of discernment, for some it is an athletic feat to be conquered, for others they are here for those around them. Some it is their first time, others have come back several times, some are doing it in stages others have walked almost 2000km from Paris in one go. Some will carry their backpacks along the way, others will forward their bags each day and just carry a day pack. Some will bike it, others ride horses, though I haven’t them first hand, there is evidence they have been here!!
I have met a 78 year old gentleman, who gives himself the name ‘abuealo tortoise’ (grandad tortoise) he walks as far as he is able each day, taking frequent stops on the uphills and is ready with a song for those he meets. There is the father and his two sons, walking in memory of their 21 year old son/brother who died just weeks after completing the Camino with his dad a couple of years ago. There are the sisters, one of whom completed the Camino previously and was so inspired as to gift her sister, who is severely disabled, a week on the Camino. She didn’t know how she would do it when she made the offer but researched and found a pro-type off road motorized wheelchair (almost like a small dune buggy) and there we met them making their way over the Pyrenees.
Each pilgrim has a story, each is unique, some are inspiring or heart breaking others are stories of conquest over adversity, but each pilgrim that I encounter weaves their part into the tapestry of my own Camino de Santiago experience and makes me even more grateful for this unique experience.