June 18, 2024 4:57 AM
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Tails from Camino: An Experiential Journey on Foot

by Chris Kappes, Exhibit City News

We all have bucket lists. One of mine was to walk the final 100 miles of the Camino de Santiago, a network of ancient pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

Tradition holds that the remains of the apostle James are buried there, and each year, half a million pilgrims walk these trails from Spain, France, and Portugal. This transformative journey combines physical challenge, spiritual exploration, and cultural immersion. For me, it was all these and more.

The scallop shell, often found on the shores of Galicia, Spain, has long symbolized the Camino de Santiago, marking the route for pilgrims. Over the centuries, the scallop shell has taken on various meanings—metaphorical, practical, and mythical. Initially, pilgrims might have taken home a shell as a souvenir, but the true treasures of the Camino are the experiences and connections made along the way.

Let me introduce you to some of the remarkable people I met:

Alice* from the UK had already walked 100 miles when we met. She was walking in remembrance of her father, who had completed the entire 500-mile trail two years prior. He had since passed away, and she was retracing his steps in homage, tears in her eyes.

Sarah* from Russia spoke no English, so we communicated using a translation app, passing her phone back and forth. She was walking the Camino due to the economic recession in Russia and her struggle to find work.

Jim and Larry* from Canada were recently retired. Jim had been the CEO of the largest healthcare company in Canada, and Larry a Canadian government official. Friends since childhood, they were walking together to celebrate their lifelong friendship.

Meet Gloria.*  A 72 year old pilgrim from Italy walking her 21sr Camino. Why you ask? To celebrate the joy of nature and sharing present moment with a global community of walkers.

When people I met on the Camino asked where I was from and I replied, “America,” the response was often enthusiastic: “We want to go to America…Chicago…Michael Jordan!”

This journey was a powerful reminder that face-to-face experiences are invaluable. They create memories and spark change, reinforcing that human connection is at the heart of being experience creators. Buen Camino!

*Real names not used to protect privacy.

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