Hello and welcome to my blog entry on this year’s Go Abroad activity. Sadly, the summer vacations came to an end, and it is time to conclude the experience, therefore; please sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of my Go Abroad experience.
This summer I went to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago and collect research data from people walking the Camino. Camino is a religious pilgrimage which has been going on for over a thousand years. It leads to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the city of Santiago. There are many routes available and each one has something interesting to offer. Some are longer, other shorter, difficult or easy, but one thing is for sure: Camino changes people. I decided to walk the Camino de Frances, a 799km long hike that leads through the north of Spain. This gave me time to collect enough data which was gathered to look for correlations between the religiosity and mental health.
My main worry was about getting to St. Jean de Pied de Pord, where the walk starts, and if I am going to make it, since each day I’ve had to cover around 30km. Firstly, there are functional bus and train connections with St. Jean from all major cities around. I have travelled from Barcelona with no problems whatsoever, but if you wish so you can easily get there from Paris or Madrid. Secondly, providing that your backpack is not too heavy, you wear comfortable footwear which you know and trust, take good care of your feet, and set off for the road early morning, when it is still nice and cold, so the sun won’t roast you, then 30km is easy (well, kind of).
Among all the other things, such as local traditions and customs, bits about the language, culture, history, and cuisine (oh yes!) of the regions of Spain which I have travelled through, one of the most appealing things that I have learned was how the phenomenon and the environment of Camino brings people closer together regardless of race, colour or creed. People seemed to gradually acknowledge the fact that at that very time and place they were pilgrims, so they incorporated that idea into their self and social identities, or habitus if you please. Over the time people seemed to become more of a pilgrim ‘tribe’ and had less of whatever the other social identity colliding with their current pilgrim status. Being able to experience the dynamics of social change throughout the walk was invaluably interesting.
To sum up, this was an amazing summer and the Camino was the walk of my life. It allowed me to put the research skills into practice, and I want go back there and do it again. I will, as soon as I can. Buen camino!