Friday, 23 January 2015

An authentic pilgrimage?

"A pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system." (Wikipedia)
Whilst walking the Camino de Santiago I encountered people who undertook the pilgrimage in all sorts of ways. A most engaging mode to complete the walk was with a donkey - everyone admired the donkey (and the person). Most people completed the route in the 'classic' way, i.e. they walked with a backpack and stayed each night in a simple hostel; others included 'days off ' when they would rest up regularly for a day or so in a hotel or upmarket hostel. Others again were part of an organised pilgrimage - these folk didn't carry their own luggage but had it transferred by van to the next (often superior) hostel. Finally there were the cyclists - lots of them. All of these options are of course perfectly valid and were seen as such by the pilgrims.

However, I suspect anyone attempting the camino by motorcycle might be perceived to be lacking in authenticity; perhaps because a pilgrimage should involve some kind of physical effort and - also -one is expected to follow the prescribed route reasonably closely. This is where riding a motorcycle is likely to be challenged as an authentic transport choice; little physical effort is required and one has to use metalled roads for the most part instead of the rough tracks of the original way. And of course one is excluded from using the pilgrim hostels so that unique community experience is denied the rider. So, should I be even considering using a motorcycle to complete a pilgrimage?

Well, I believe a case can be made. For one reason I've got to go to Italy anyway to meet up with my family, so a journey must be made; and secondly, following the VF is a golden opportunity for me to spend some time with my God  - a task that should not be too difficult since the VF is studded with sacred sites along its length. So to make my pilgrimage authentic I ought to follow the route as closely as possible - even if journeying thro' a myriad of villages slows me down. And I must be prepared to get off the bike regularly to undertake pilgrimage-type activities, e.g. visiting shrines, cathedrals and attending mass along the way.

I'm not sure how many pilgrims make the journey to Rome each summer - I believe it's many less than the camino to Compostella (see here) but hopefully I'll be able to spot some of them along the way. I'd like to be able to chat to them about their experiences, so it might help if I wore something that showed we were engaged in a common endeavour. Perhaps if I designed a pilgrim logo this might make it more obvious; and I could wear the logo on my T-shirt or helmet?

A pleasant hour or two spent on Photoshop and I came up with this effort. Those familiar with the camino will recognise the shell icon and colour scheme of the headlight's beam. If I still like the design by summer, I'll make up a couple of iron-on T-shirt transfers and stick them on a couple of tops to take with me on the journey. Hopefully, people will guess what I'm up to.

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