6 Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel
Pilgrimage and Hiking Book Must Reads
Reading for travel inspiration for Canadians
6 Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel - Over the past two years, given the realities of Covid-19 and the resulting travel restrictions many people who had planned to set out travelling around Canada, on a road trip, on a long distance trek or pilgrimage have understandably chosen to put their plans on hold. This however does not stop the day dreaming, the revision of plans, and of course the reading about treks and pilgrimages. Whether interested in trekking the amazing Trans Canada Trail, the Camino de Santiago, one of Europe's Grande Randonnee pathways, a trail along the coastlines of England to discover yourself, a visit to the Holy Land, or venture on an international pilgrimages such as Shikoku Trail in Japan then this list is for you!
If you are a member of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims or are one of the many many people across the country interested in, planning for, or preparing for your own pilgrimage – whether near or far - these are the books which should be on your nightstand this winter season! Best of all two of our favourites this year are written by amazing Canadian authors!
If you have an interest in pilgrimages and Camino like treks here in Canada check out this list of Canadian Caminos !
"Life is a long pilgrimage..."
Top Hiking and Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel
The Salt Path
What the Psychic told the Pilgrim
When I decided to trek across Spain on the increasingly popular Camino de Santiago in 2015 the first account I found was Canadian author Jane Christmas' What the Psychic told the Pilgrim. The author is a former editor of the Globe and Mail and Canadian native who lived in Hamilton Ontario along the Bruce Trail. Written several years before the Camino had re-emerged as a hot spot for global pilgrims, Christmas' account of her plans, intentions, and experiences is funny and enjoyable. The author's candour in admitting how she ended up on the pilgrim route, her re-telling of experiences along the way, and her humour in detailing the challenges that most pilgrims face is wonderful. Christmas' book reminds readers of the fundamental truth that it is not the destination but it is the journey. A wonderful light hearted tale anyone who has considered long distance hiking which is relatable to those who have already trekked the route to Santiago.
I'll Push You
Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck
If you are looking for shear emotion and inspiration then look no further than Patrick Grey and Justin Skeesuck's account, I'll Push You. If you have trekked on the Camino de Santiago or are planning your own pilgrimage it is likely you have already read, seen or heard about this amazing duo. If you haven't then this is definitely your next travel book to read. Even for those who are Triple Crown hikers, sectional hikers, or community walkers this is an inspiring account that will brighten your day! Therefore, it is one of the most inspiring and unique trekking stories I have ever read. This humbling account is about two friends who set out to Santiago together. Beyond the usual challenges which confront any pilgrim however, one of them has recently been diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease and requires a wheelchair and assistance. After admitting that he has always wanted to travel the Camino his best friend decides that he will "push him" the 500 mile distance. The result is a wonderful account of the famous pilgrimage route from an entirely fresh perspective that while inspiring the reader to push beyond their comfort zone, also raises important questions and reaffirms essential life lessons. In the process of getting to Santiago this book raises issues of accessibility on trails, highlights the type of determination necessary to fulfill a lifelong dream, the importance of giving as well as learning humility, and the lesson of realizing that none of us achieve our goals alone. In addition to being able to read this inspiring account there is a terrific documentary which can be watched as well - which (in my mind) is a must watch as the two authors are amazing speakers!
"A Pilgrim is a Wanderer with Purpose"
Like a Tramp Like a Pilgrim
The fourth book on our list of Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel focuses on the 1,700 km long Via Francigena from Canterbury England to Rome which follows an ancient road passing through England, France, Switzerland and Italy. This is a trail which has been steadily rising in popularity over the past decade and is increasingly one which many who have ventures on any of the Camino routes have an interest in. Harry Bucknall's account, Like a Tramp Like a Pilgrim, details his own trek across Europe and is a welcome alternative to the mass of books about the Camino. Over the course of his journey the author shares stories of his adventures (as well as misadventures), and introduces readers to the unique assortment of individuals he meets en route. In addition much of the book is also dedicated to detailing the fascinating history of this 2000 year old route and the regions it traverses. Bucknall's narrative is an engaging and well written story offered up by a great storyteller. An honest and relatable account that will make dream of trekking Europe, bring back memories of past adventures, or begin to plan your own hike on the Via Francigena.
Tales of a Summer Henro
Next book is Craig McLachlan's fascinating Tales of a Summer Henro detailing his time as a Henro, or pilgrim along the 1200 km long Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Japan. The Shikoku is a circular route, ending where one begins, over the course of which pilgrims visit the sacred sites where the Buddhist priest Kobodaishi is believed to have spent time. It is a trail of rising popularity and one of the most popular non-European pilgrimages in the world. Throughout this refreshing book McLachlan deals with the intense summer heat, cultural differences, the shear business of the route, and fears of trekking on busy roadways. In striving to overcome the physical obstacles of the journey the author grapples with his frustration that many other pilgrims, for a range of reasons, now often travel to each temple by taxi or on bus tours. In the end, in looking for enlightenment the author comes full circle to see that in life we all need to learn to hike our own hike, take the time to reflect, and learn to accept the world around you. A wonderful story for those interested in pilgrimage routes, long distance hiking routes, or learning more about Japanese culture.
Having again saved the best for last - the top choice for Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel this year is Daniel Baylis' insightful and relaxingly humorous Wild Birds! We were fortunate to be able to read an advance copy of Wild Birds, an addictive trekking memoir by the talented B.C. native and Montreal Canada based Baylis.
Frustrated at navigating a world increasingly filled with opinions and uncertainty Baylis tosses out his life plan after having recently suffered a family tragedy to set out beyond his comfort zone. His goal is to thru hike the Israel National Trail, a 1015 km venture across the Holy Land along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. In the process he will have to confront his own self doubts in an unfamiliar land, amid different cultures, languages and the unknown. The result is a relatable trek full of self reflection and honesty about the challenges faced along the way. Particularly wonderful about Baylis' narrative is his refreshing perspective on travelling on the Middle East which challenges popular assumptions about the region as well as his observations and descriptions of the area's wilderness and natural beauty. Baylis, a wonderful Canadian author, has once again woven an entrancing narrative inviting anyone who has ever wandered about going from desk to question and setting out on a life changing trek.
"The Way Provides..."
6 Pilgrimage Books to Inspire Travel
Hiking pilgrimage reading for long haul adventures
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Love books, love books about hiking and trekking even more!
Great list. OK Sonya... which is your fav?