Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pilgrim vs. Tourist

A fellow pilgrim said something to me that has me thinking this night as I am wide awake. He said, "You are the first American I have been willing to spend any time talking to. You are a pilgrim. All the other Americans I've met are just tourists."

Looking at an 11th century church with fellow pilgrims. Even in disrepair and disuse, it seems sturdier than my house.

I guess I have to wonder: what makes a pilgrim? Some might point to where a person stays, or whether they carry their pack, or something else. I'm not sure that is what he was getting at, though. I suspect that he is avoiding Americans because of the ugly American stereotype that has all too much truth to it sometimes.

Hot, dusty trails with no shade bring out the worst in me...had this guy met me on the way to Los Arcos or another day where I was struggling to finish without turning into a lobster, I suspect he wouldn't have wanted to talk to me either.


I think the question merits contemplating though: what makes a pilgrim? Anyone can take a long walk over multiple days, and people do it all the time on the Appalachian trail or other long trails. They usually carry heavier packs, too. And, tourists visit holy places to say they saw it as well--that is what I did when I visited Rome... I was a tourist, not a pilgrim.

From a little church about 10k outside Pamplona. The nuns who run an albergue there have arrow shaped post-its to write a prayer on and leave. 


Honestly, I think it is the why of a trip that makes it a pilgrimage. Is it a spiritual exercise in some way, shape, or form? Are you open to letting the trip change you or your perspective?

One of those God moments for me: I got off the bus in Pamplona too early, and ended up having to walk to the center of the city a couple of km away. In the process, I found this, and got to spend about a half hour in Adoration.


I think that the gentleman I talked to was losing out because of his attitude... I've met several pilgrims who are doing an upscale pilgrimage, but are on a pilgrimage nonetheless. And my time so far has been the richer in sharing their stories, burdens and experiences as we travel. Looking at a person and whether they are staying in hostels or sending their pack ahead will not tell you the whole story. I am always privileged when a fellow pilgrim allows me to look deeper.

Even when they are anonymous, fellow pilgrims help each other!