If you’ve been following up to this point, you probably noticed the change in the name of this blog. It was a difficult decision to change the title because the previous one served me well. SoR.Shelter was, and always will be, the title under which I started blogging. However, I don’t think it encapsulated the scope of this blog well enough.
Thus, I bring you to ‘Pilgrim Shelter.’
Like many Americans, I first heard the word ‘pilgrim’ in school while learning about those who came to the New World on the Mayflower. They left the homes they knew to find something better. For many years, ‘pilgrim’ stayed in my mind as this, merely a word used to describe some group of people who did something that the history books forced me to learn. Sure, the pilgrims were brave, but apart from a passing thought around Thanksgiving, I didn’t think much about them.
The meaning of this word changed drastically for me in 2014. On July 15 of that year, I boarded a plane to start a journey that would eventually take me to the Camino de Santiago. It was there that I learned to be a pilgrim myself. I plan to discuss this experience in detail in a future post. However, for those who are unfamiliar, the Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage in which peregrinos (pilgrims) walk to Santiago de Compostela, a city in northwest Spain. Each morning, I would wake up and begin to walk, stopping for meals and breaks, before reaching the next stopping point. The only responsibility I had while I was on the Camino was to walk. Naturally, this gives a lot of time for self-reflection, as well as conversations with others. I was on the Camino for 34 days, so I did a lot of both.
Upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, peregrinos are given a certificate written in Latin, called a Compostela, signifying that they have completed the journey. In order to receive the certificate, in the pilgrim office I was required to write my name, nationality, and occupation as a record. The first two were easy. One would think the same would be true of the third category, but this wasn’t the case for me. I looked at that third blank for a minute or so. At the time, I was working as a restaurant server, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like thinking that I can be so easily categorized by a job title. Suddenly, I thought of an obvious and apt job title. I quickly wrote it and accepted my Compostela.
What did I write as my occupation?
Shortly before I moved from Las Vegas in August of 2016, I received a going away present from my aunt in the form of a greeting card. In the middle of a longer message within the card, she wrote, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” At the time, I admit that I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret this. I knew she meant well, but I wondered how necessary such a statement was. I mean, did I really need well-wishing to find what I was looking for? I wasn’t even aware that I was looking for something. I just knew I needed a change. A week or so after receiving this card, I packed my car and drove across the country (I’ll get to the story of that fateful drive in another future post).
The truth is that my aunt knew better than I did that I was looking for something. To her outside perspective, my seeking was clear. She loved me enough to tell me a truth that I hadn’t yet realized. She saw my motivations more objectively than I did. From my own limited perspective, the desire to look beyond my current reality wasn’t quite so obvious.
One might think that since I had walked the Camino de Santiago, I would realize immediately what my aunt was talking about when she told me that she hoped I would find what I was looking for. Sometimes, though, I can be somewhat oblivious. In these cases, it takes further consideration and self-reflection for me to realize truths about myself.
This is what I’ve realized. My default setting is ‘Seek’. I wander without consciously doing so. Asking questions and refusing to accept the status quo come almost as naturally to me as breathing. If I stopped seeking, I would give up an essential part of who I am. This is why it was difficult to see what my aunt was trying to say. For her, I was upending my life and going to Europe in search of something. For me, taking such a drastic step made perfect sense. To stay where I was would be to kill my pilgrim spirit. That was not a viable option. I had to go.
On the Camino, it’s not that I saw what a pilgrim is and decided I wanted that. Rather, I saw what a pilgrim is and realized that I am a pilgrim. It truly is my occupation. For a long time, I’ve searched. I’ve looked for truth where it can be found. I don’t wander for the sake of wandering, but I won’t stay in a place if doing so would force me to compromise my nature.
In this journey, I need a refuge where I can meet with others to share what I’ve learned. The ‘Shelter’ aspect of this blog’s title is as relevant as it ever has been. Now, however, I come here to write as what I truly am: a pilgrim.
Come along on this pilgrimage with me.