Traditionally, any pilgrimage route began from your front door step.
Today the most common starting point for El Camino de Santiago begins across the Spanish border in the French town of St. Jean Pied de Port.
St. Jean is the historic capital of the Basque Country which encompasses land and communities on both sides of the Pyrenees.
It is also a dramatic start with the route quickly elevating to a total height of 1429m and 14.2km of the total 24.7km for the day involving going uphill.
The beginning of El Camino seems to reinforce the observation that life can unquestionably be difficult.
Challenges abound. It is easy to lose motivation. It is easy to give up.
But how much of the challenge of the first day comes about because of a general lack of preparation?
How much comes down to a sense that walking should be easy, or is easy, or not as difficult as running, so some other such notion.
In the movie The Way, Joost sees a cyclist on the trail and expounds ‘You can do this on a bike? Why did no one tell me?’
Sando originally spoke of completing the Camino on bikes. It would seem easier to have completed the Way pedalling, certainly in terms of time taken. He became convinced that the route had to be walked. The ability to accomplish this inevitably delayed us in our efforts.
Sando’s diagnosis of a brain tumour delayed much that he would have wanted to accomplish.
Those first months were very much like the profile of the first day on ‘the Way’. Tough. Uphill. A struggle. No obvious end in sight. No particular alternate route, which was any easier.
You simply had to put one foot in front of the other.
Walk the route which many others have done before you and take solace from the fact that they made it to ‘Roncesvalles’.
Sando certainly became aware that there was a wider community of cancer patients and survivors out there and he wanted to be part of that continuing community offering support to others through his experiences.
There is a saying that there is more which unites us than divides us.
I am sure that this is true, but to discover this we need to take those first steps outside our front doors.
We need to engage in action and then the ensuing connections with others will come.
Denmark is reckoned to be one the happiest nation in the world and one of the concepts at the heart of their daily lives is that of clubs or societies, with most people spending three or more evenings a week engaged in specific activities with others.
The first pilgrim guest house in Roncesvalles was built in 1127 and recorded in a poem:
‘The door opens to all,
To sick and healthy,
Not only to true Catholics
But also to pagans, Jews,
Heretics, the idle and vagabonds.’
El Camino opens the door to us all but do we open our door to all?