Heathen Pilgern… SAY WHAT ?

My pack weighs a tad bit over 40 poundsMikal 1

Tilly’s is close to 30 pounds …



already they feel too heavy. But, that is partially why we are here; to find out… what do we need and what can we do without.

We are beginning a walk of 100km and have to average 20km/day to finish ‘The Schwabenweg’  (Way of Svabia) in the holiday time we have. The Schwabenweg is one of the eastern paths on the Swiss Jackobsweg – the Way of Saint James. The best known section of the Way of St James is the Spanish Camino de Santiago; a pilgrimage route  trodden by thousands of the pious & repentant during and since the Middle Ages.

Tilly is not, nor am I a religious person. I used to claim to be “spiritual” but, have long since dropped even that vague description. In fact by the standards of most religious/spiritually inclined people, I’m sure to be judged an Atheist. My “spiritual” (for lack of a better term) musings would be at odds with 99.9% of what “religious” folks believe.

SO what are two non believing heathens doing walking this path, sitting in chapels along the way, lighting candles  & attending Vespers at the Einsiedeln monastery?


After watching the movie “The Way” about a father’s journey to collect his deceased son’s ashes and then finishing the son’s pilgrimage,  the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago was born (more so for Tilly than I). The problem for me was, the movie increased the pilgrim traffic exponentially. I was not enamored with walking 100’s of km in throngs of people either seeking truth, a cure,  wisdom or merely ticking a box off their bucket list… however,  I had some interest in walking historical pathways through Europe.

Also, at 48 I had begun planing to walk the Continental Divide Trail… Mexico to Canada over a 3 month period during my 50’s. I had done my research, purchased guide books (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) and  even sought advice from my boss about the feasibility of a three month leave of absence. When asked why I would want to take on such a task… alI I could answer was “I want to go for a very long walk…” But an email holding out the possibility for a career change – teaching overseas- shelved those plans… still have the guide books though… on the shelf.

While lying in my hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery I pondered my future … mostly ‘how long I might have left’. But the, after having received the most positive prognosis possible (“we think we got all of it & there’s no evidence of it spreading”), came  the thoughts “I’ve been given an incredible reprieve!… what do I want to do now? ” What was I going to do with the life & time (that suddenly became much more precious) I felt had just been returned to me. The very long walk idea in the “pilgrimage” format resurfaced and Tilly would go along.

As I did research I became aware that there were hundreds if not thousands of “Ways” to Santiago. A pilgrimage in the Middle Ages began at the pilgrim’s front door and there were existing routes from every possible place in Europe, including through Switzerland.

Euro map

I had always wanted to visit Switzerland,  so what better way to do so than to tromp through the foothills of the Alps?

And since France lay between Santiago and Switzerland, it would also have to be crossed. It would be 2340 km from Konstanz, Germany through Switzerland to the French border east of Geneva, then  through France to the Spanish border and thence to the  Compostela de Santiago… a long, long journey…. taking over 3 months.

The answer to my  “WHAT NOW?”  might just  be discovered along the way, but then again, maybe a long walk would be just a good way to celebrate.

Still, we are both in our 60’s and although I have done extensive backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, committing to and starting  to a 2340km walk would have been fool hardy. So, this is the first installment of our 100km  “shakedown” trip… the one that allows us to experience some of what we will be sure to experience over the next 2240km… the one that informs us whether we can or more importantly WANT to do this long walk…

AT the end of this trip we will decide to Camino or No Camino…

St James

Author: MikalT

Seeker of knowledge. Lover of nature. Wanderer - striving to live an impeccable life. EX- Expatriate...

2 thoughts

  1. Have fun! I’m not religious either. I lived in Santiago for a month after college and ever since I have always wanted to do the Camino. I have a good bit of friends who have done and they all loved it. Salud!

  2. Thanks Joey – From my reading most people loved the Camino… but mostly when they completed it! I can say from my own experience trekking and backpacking, some days are a lot more fun than others BUT some of the worst days hold the best memories.

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