Biking Camino de Santiago Spain

What Does it Take To Be a Pilgrim?

Pilgrim in Pilgrim musuem in St Jean Pied de Port
Written by Stuart Wickes

What Does it Take To Be a Pilgrim

Stuart Profile SmallWhat does it mean to be a pilgrim? What is proper pilgrim dress? What should we eat? Wear? Carry? It’s been all very easy to set out on this journey without really knowing what we are getting ourselves into. But in St Jean Pied de Port we come face to face with pilgrim reality in the Pilgrim Museum. And find out a few disturbing facts.

Pilgrim Refuge Sign in Saint Jean Pied de Port, Camino de Santiago

Pilgrim Refuge Sign in Saint Jean Pied de Port, Camino de Santiago

Pilgrim dress reality check

What does it take to be a pilgrim? We hadn’t given this an awful lot of thought in the early stages of our journey. But this started to change once we reached St Jean Pied de Port, one of the official starting points for the Camino Frances, a route that runs from the France across the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela.

In the Pilgrim’s Office we meet out first pilgrim. He is old, dusty and says very little. The kids examine him closely and determine that we are missing a few essentials.

“We need big sticks,” says Matthew. He would.

“A large cloak and leather satchel,” says Cameron.

“And a scallop shell,” says Hannah.

All of which will help make us look like this.

Pilgrim Dress in Pilgrim musuem St Jean Pied de Port, Camino de Santiago

Is this proper pilgrim dress? Do we have to dress like this?

Pilgrim attitude

Of course being or becoming a pilgrim is not about what you wear. There’s more to it than that.

The man in the Pilgrim’s office seems insistent we should take some goat’s cheese. Most pilgrims do apparently but the kids show little interest.

Kirstie seems to think it’s not goats cheese we need but some kind of miracle to help get us over 1000m of the Pyrenees when we set out properly tomorrow. Such pain doesn’t seem a great way to start a pilgrimage. But I’m starting to think perhaps that is partly the point. It’s easy to dress up and be a pilgrim on the outside. It’s easy to buy and carry some cheese or other pilgrim accessory but none of this will get you up and over the hill. For that you need a magic ingredient that cannot be bought. You need attitude.

We got the scallop shells, decided against the goat’s cheese and live in hope of a miracle or at least a cool day, strong legs and deep wells of patience.

The Pyrenees from St Jean Pied de Port, start of the Camino Frances to Santiago

The Pyrenees from St Jean Pied de Port, start of the Camino Frances to Santiago

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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