How does one start with writing about something like the Camino de Santiago, ‘The Walk of St James’. No matter what I could say here would do it justice for how great, how different, how strange this walk really was, but I’m going to have a go at condensing down and giving you just a few stories of my pilgrimage. Throughout I’ll be quoting extracts from the journal of my travels that I was writing at the time.
Flying via Rome and Paris, my pilgrimage really started a week sooner in Malta, where I was working with an evangelism trust and the international Christian union fellowship to share the gospel with students all around the university. For me, I found that God was moving amongst each of us so much over that week and I was being guided by the holy spirit right to the airport towards St Jean Pied du Port.
“After a week of Evangelism and mission, I am ready to lay aside these next two weeks for the first of my travels midst the ‘Journey of Life’.”
During my flights, I read Exodus and I was reminded again of the Israelites journey through the wilderness, with their questions and uncertain feelings about the future.
“Today was the first day of walking, after having met some great people yesterday, we set out for the day ahead. The walk was tough…”
The first day was one of the hardest and longest inclines we would face, and it was hard.
“10km in, as we walked up a steep rocky hill with no end, Dad walked on the smoothpart of the path and I staggered alongside him on the rocky part. As I saw this, I had a vision of how, we are so quick to complain when we come across small rocks and hurdles in our life, and we ask God why did he allow this suffering, though we forget that Jesus has been walking next to us the whole time, but on the rockier path, bare foot and bleeding as he guides the way, carrying our burdens as he did with the cross.”
God was ready and willing to speak to me all the time, I just had to stop thinking for a minute and listen.
Day after day, Dad and I talked about all sorts. We met many people along the journey, some we saw briefly and others followed us for days. We shared our faith with most of them, and to those we didn’t get to speak with, we lived it out in our travels.
People all along the journey were astounded to see a father and son walking together, bearing with each other’s struggles and stumbling blocks.
Dad and I said that one day we would write a book about our travels and the people we met along the way. What left us both amazed and in awe was how, God had placed both of us here on this pilgrimage, and we had both been named accordingly.
My name, Ben, shortened from Benjamin, comes from Hebrew and means ‘Son’.
Dad’s name, Perry, shortened from Peregrīnus, comes from Latin and means ‘Pilgrim’.
(This was later also written on Dad’s compostela certificate of completion)
For the rest of our travels, and to this day, we were referred to as ‘Pilgrim and Son’.
“From the early morning start, I gave up the day to God, and I believe he has spoken to us both.”
Having come from Estella to Astorga by train, we walked through Rabanal and after a long day arrived at La Cruz de Ferro which was breath-taking. The stories from this stop alone would be enough to fill a book, but just the sheer number of stones, burdens, and thoughts that people had left at the foot of this cross was incredible.
Nine days in, we had a few more struggles, not necessarily physical now as mental, unearthing our past and thinking about the future. God was working in us throughout, pruning us and changing our hearts for his better.
In the last week, with under 200km to go, we met many more people, some who had similar backgrounds to our own, and others who were just along for a weekend trip, but each with a unique story to tell.
This final third of the pilgrimage seemed, as I expected, to no longer unearth physical or mental challenges, but our very faith itself and how God was testing and using us both within it.
On arriving in Santiago de Compostela, it did really feel like an accomplishment, we were so excited, and so challenged, and so at peace that we were ready to reach the end now.
Entering into the square outside the main cathedral, we were bombarded with so many friends and other pilgrims that we had met along the way and it was very emotional to say the least.
This has been short and very brief, but I encourage you to ask me more about it when you get the chance, or better yet, see where God may be calling you to on your journey in the future.
Some suggested links if you would like to consider travelling along this Camino:
Route planner: https://godesalco.com/plan/frances
For inclusive guided routes: https://santiagoways.com/en/