Talking Point 15: To be a pilgrim?
This week’s Talking Point photos were taken on our 2008 cycle pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I dug them out when a pilgrim slept in our spare room earlier this week.
Shortly before the snow fell across Britain, the Warmshowers site delivered us Enzo, a biking Frenchman, on a mission to visit sites associated with the patron saint of his village in Brittany, St Gildas De Rhuys.
According to legend the saint was connected to King Arthur. And he also clearly liked the seaside as he had a hand in founding bays in Wales and Brittany. By the time Enzo reached us, he had followed the trail of his Saint across Wales and was on his way to Dumbarton, the pinnacle of his pilgrimage.
Dumbarton? I thought I’d misheard.
A pilgrimage to Dumbarton?
“Is that the Dumbarton near Glasgow,” I asked. I thought the only people looking for spirit in Dumbarton were on their way to the off licence. But Enzo put me right. So why this pilgrimage? Was Enzo religious himself?
“No. At first I decided to tour England with an umbrella,” he explained, “but when I was looking for resources about a sixth century historian I found out about St Gildas and thought it would be curious to follow him to Wales. It gives me a reason to travel and something to think about. And the umbrella helps to keep me dry.”
So what is a pilgrimage?
Enzo’s story got me thinking about the meaning of pilgrimage. It strikes me that in a way all of our family trips are pilgrimages of a sort; extended journeys to a place we give some personal significance to, journeys with a a clear goal and a theme running through them.
To be a pilgrim is not necessarily about being religious or following a spiritual journey; it’s about any journey where you travel with an attitude of openness to new experiences, encounters and perspectives, where you extract yourself physically and psychologically from the normal routines of life, and give yourself time and space.
I probably wouldn’t choose Dumbarton, but that’s the point; it’s a personal quest.
If you were to make a personal pilgrimage, where would you head to? And how would you get there?
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Talking Point is our series of short posts with a point to discuss or debate. We pick a photo or two, post a talking point or two and invite you to join the conversation. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.