Two Travel Lessons from an Armchair Pilgrim

3815667944_e5fae3532e_zTravel can be so romanticized on the big screen, especially when a story unfolds in the hands of a talented filmmaker. The truth is, though, travel comes with some pain.

This week I watched a quiet movie called The Way, about a man walking the Camino del Santiago pilgrimage route in France and Spain. It’s a movie I was surprised to like very much, and for several days I’ve revisited the film in my head–always a sign of a story well told. I keep thinking about the gorgeous Spanish countryside, the four characters’ interactions as they journeyed, the dinners and conversations with strangers, all further romanticized with lots of wine. I even found myself thinking momentarily that perhaps I’d walk the Camino some day.

Then, reality check. I thought about what the journey on the Camino del Santiago must really be like. Long. Arduous. Painful. That’s kind of the point of a pilgrimage, right? Suffering required. The beautiful travel experience of the Camino I was drawn to from the movie (while I sat on a sofa for two hours in a warm home) would feel quite different in real life, when hiking eight hours a day for thirty days, never being sure where the next meal or bathroom would be, and sleeping dormitory-style.

Ah, yes, travel can involve suffering.

A couple of lessons from The Way, though, are ones I want to keep top-of-mind during my own business-trip pilgrimages this year.

First, say yes. When an opportunity presents itself, jump on it. Even if it means rescheduling a flight. Even if it’s unbudgeted. Too often I find myself just wanting to get home or to proceed with the trip. Instead, say yes.

Second, resist the temptation to make it all about ease. Some of the best opportunities, some of the best surprises, some of the best learning, come about not in the comfortable, romanticized travel, but in the grind or in the disruption.

Upon further reflection, I doubt I’ll be walking the Camino del Santiago (or the PCT, in Wild, which I also saw recently) any time soon. But I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed being an armchair pilgrim this week.

Photo: Flickr/Jose Antonio Gil Martinez

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