On A Pilgrimage with a Canadian Comedian
An incomplete guidebook to the Camino de Santiago
There are many guidebooks on the Camino de Santiago, and even more travel books in which the author shares his or her personal experience from this pilgrimage. Some of them are serious, some spiritual, some funny... and then there is one which is laugh-out-loud-wipe-tears-and-hope-nobody-heard-you-funny.
Comedian Paul Huschilt from Canada had always wanted to write an "incomplete guide book" to something. When caught in a weak moment he agreed to come with two friends to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, he decided to make the best of it and finally write one. The result is "The Reluctant Pilgrim: An Incomplete guide to Walking the Camino de Santiago".
All photos are my own.
The Camino -- what?
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage network of roads across the Western Europe, that all end up in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The road Huschilt and his friends chose to walk is the Camino FrancÃ©s, so named because it traditionally starts on the French side of the Pyrenees. From there it snakes across the North of Spain for 780 kilometers to the West of the country.
Author and friends decided to walk from Burgos to Santiago, which makes 505 kilometers. Oh, excuse me, that should of course be 505,2 kilometers (as is regularly pointed out in the book)! He comes to regret this decision many times on the journey - but that's what makes it so much fun for us readers.
Photo: Statue of a resting pilgrim in the city of Burgos.
The Reluctant Pilgrim
Paul Huschilt is definitely giving his all in this book. It is absolutely packed with humor. Who cares if it is - according to the book cover - only 97,7 % true, when even his check-lists are as funny as his anecdotes!
It is filled with his own illustrations, as well as more or less interesting recipes and ditto impromptu poetry. With his funny and light-hearted way of writing, he offers a nice break from the huge number of more spiritual and soul searching Camino literature that is already available.
He still manages to capture the pilgrim's experience in a believable way, and I recognize myself a lot in the way he describes his Camino.
If asked to describe this book in one word, it would be this: quirky!
What kind of travel literature do you prefer?
A chance meeting with the author
Two years ago, my husband and I met while walking the Camino, and on the same day we also met Paul Huschilt and his three walking companions. They were now walking the first half of the pilgrimage, from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Burgos, to complete their journey.
We kept bumping into them for a while until Pamplona. There we had a lovely farewell dinner at a tapas bar (tapas is really called pinchos in Pamplona) before they moved on and we stayed behind. He told us about his plans to publish this book, and since then I have been trying to be patient, waiting for it to become available on Amazon.
And it turned out to be well worth the wait!
This is me. I'm on the treadmill for my daily(-ish) workout. I found this book so un-put-down-able that I had to keep reading it while warming up. I don't usually bring books with me on the treadmill unless they are audio books, and this is so far the only exception.
What's in a name?
The title of this book would be enough to make you think twice about doing this pilgrimage. The tagline, "Everything you need to know to stay home", takes it even one step further. Why would you want to go yourself, when you can sit comfortably in your own warm, lovely, clean home and read about it?
It is a bit of a paradox, then, that reading this book will make you want to get up and out there, buy a backpack, and do exactly what he seems to advise us against. It fills you with a desire to be part of this age-old tradition, not for the tradition's sake, but in the hopes that you will encounter the same strange variety of people and have the same bizarre and - at the same time - magical experiences that Huschilt describes.
Photo: Somewhere between LinzoÃ¡in and Zubiri this graffitied road sign encourages pilgrims to keep walking.
You will laugh out loud, and I take no responsibility for embarrassing incidents caused by the reading of this book in public. Sometimes, trying not to laugh will cause a grimace that makes it look like you have gas. I wish I wasn't speaking from experience...