6/11/17: Day 7~Day 1 of Pilgrimage
Today I traveled from Dijon to Montbard by train. The train platform changed 3 times without me knowing, and it was delayed. Oh and also I figured out in the morning that the buses don't run on Sunday's!
So, I had to walk a mile in the 85-90 degree weather with my big bag to the tram. Needless to say, it was a stressful start to the day! Luckily when I got to Montbard, I found my professor right away and was driven to the starting point of the pilgrimage.
Once I arrived, I walked around the Monastery and met the other pilgrims. At 7:00 we gathered together for dinner. I wasn't told how everything worked in the monastery, so I almost sat down before noticing everyone else was standing, waiting for the priest traveling with us.
Once he arrived, he said a short prayer and then we sat and ate. Typically in Monasteries, you do not talk at all when you eat dinner, but we were able to speak quietly while we ate. After our meal everyone helped clean the dishes together, another routine that happens in monasteries.
After dinner we went to Reflection; all day the monks cannot speak, and during reflection time they come together and talk.
Having met monks for the first time, I was surprised to find that they have a good sense of humor and like to joke around. My professor translated for me when I talked to the monks, as most of them only speak French.
We all sat in a circle and introduced our selves. I was actually the only woman in a room of 30, and so I was a little nervous at first; however, the atmosphere of openness and the easygoing style of the Monks made me feel pretty comfortable.
Even after just the first day, without walking any distance, I am sure that the pilgrimage will be an enlightening experience and that I will become good friends with the rest of the pilgrims. How lucky I am to live a life where I can experience things like these.
6/12/17: Day 8~Day 2 of Pilgrimage (mile 15)
Today we all woke up at 6:00 am, followed by breakfast. Every morning on the pilgrimage, Father Giles (the monk traveling with us) holds mass.
While I am not religious, I still believe in immersing myself in the experience and coming together with people who are different from me. Father Giles even asked me to read the first reading of mass.
After mass we hopped in the vans and were driven to the starting point of the pilgrimage.
The walk was pretty easy for me; it was only 15 miles and not too hilly. I walked two other people my pace the first 10 miles and then walked with the faster two people and Regis (One of the pilgrim's dogs) the last 5 miles.
The whole walk was very scenic, with rolling hills, beautiful French countryside, quaint French villages, and the occasional church and monastery. We all started walking at 9, and the faster group and I finished at 2:30.
We ended in Vessey, a small town where pilgrims gathered in large numbers in medieval times. My group went out for a beer after the walk, which was much deserved.
I am really enjoying myself so far; the walk was beautiful, and the company is superb. All 12 of us get along well and have a lot of laughs (and beer) together. I'm already sad I only get to spend a week with these wonderful new friends, but I intend to make the most of my week.
6/13/17-6/15/17: Days 9-11~Days 3-5 of Pilgrimage (miles 15-70)
The pilgrimage so far has been an amazing experience. It was not nearly as hard as I had thought; walking about 20 miles a day is pretty easy for me. Typically we spend about 6-7 hours walking every day, so not too bad.
Some of the highlights include seeing the countryside and the wildlife. We have seen foxes, hares, deer, and even heard a pack of wild boar. Also, we have walked on some old Roman roads, built and used by Roman soldiers hundreds of years ago.
Usually, we have been staying in pilgrim hostels, run by nuns or monks. My favorite place was Vous, ruins of an old monastery. We got to see a library hundreds of years old that is only open two times a year. There were hundreds of old books, and priceless paintings and porcelain plates; it was a near timeless place.
It's sad to think I only have two full days left here; I wish I could be here longer. When I am walking and hiking (long distance), it feels like my calling, something I want to do for the rest of my life.
After completing this pilgrimage, I am confident that I want to do the PCT and Atlantic coastal trail in America, as well as trekking across different countries. I feel the most alive when I am out in nature and getting by on my own two feet.
6/16/17-6/17/18: Days 12-14~Days 6-8 of Pilgrimage (miles 70-109)
The last few days of the pilgrimage were terrific, with excellent weather and beautiful sights.
I was lucky enough to have 6 days with sunshine and no rain, and to have routes with great views. The 6th day of the pilgrimage we got to walk through hundreds of French vineyards on rolling countryside hills.
On a lot of the walks we go through small villages, and if we are lucky enough, there is a cafe open. We were able to stop a few times on the walk to enjoy coffee or beer, a well-deserved break from walking.
Today was my last day, and I got to spend a few more hours enjoying a lovely swimming spot. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, especially when I didn't want to leave.
I would have loved to spend another week walking with everyone, and I'm sad I cannot. It is so strange to meet people and become close to them in just a short week and at the end not knowing if you will ever see them again. Hopefully, today was not the last I will see of them.
This pilgrimage has really made me appreciate how lucky I am to have the courage to solo travel and push my limits by walking 100 miles.
Before I came here, I was unsure about being alone in Europe, let alone walking 100 miles without knowing anything about the pilgrimage. However, after persevering, I have learned a lot about myself and have a new appreciation for life.
I can do anything I set my mind to, as I am my only obstacle. It is truly amazing to overcome something you were unsure about and discover it's one of the best things to happen to you.
I will always remember this solo trip, the pilgrimage, and all the fantastic people I have met and befriended; it is a part of me now and has helped shape me closer to the person I want to be.