One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about my pilgrimages is why I generally walk on my own. The questioner often expresses concern for my safety but on these occasions I stress the advantages of being a solitary walker, one of which is that I frequently get into conversation with other people along the way. If I were walking with others, I’d just be another middle-aged woman out hiking but on my own the dynamic seems to be quite different.
Arriving for a couple of nights at a camp-site in mid-Wales during this year’s pilgrimage, I noticed a group of relatively young men who appeared to be staying at the same place long-term, living in caravans. I noticed them returning at the end of the working day, all in high-vis jackets, sturdy boots and carrying their hard hats. The next morning, one of them came up to me with the words, ‘We’re intrigued. What are you doing?’
As I so often have the opportunity to do, I told him that I was walking on a pilgrimage and that I’d been on the road for over a month and so on. But then it was my turn to be intrigued when he told me that he and his colleagues were digging tunnels through mountains. He then showed me lots of photos on his phone of the huge project they were working on, to replace the original 150 year old pipes that take water from a mid-Wales reservoir to the English city of Birmingham.
It was great to meet Lee and his friends and to share just a little of their lives and, indeed, to share a little of my life with them. They all gave me a cheery wave as they left early the next day.
My conversations on my pilgrimages may generally be brief and I know that I’m very unlikely to meet that person again but chatting with others as I walk is one of the things that makes my pilgrimages so special to me-in some small way enjoying that shared humanity as God’s children, made in His image.