Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed
by Sonia Choquette
Hay House, 2015
“Gumby looked at me from the nightstand, as if to ask if he could ride up front on Pilgrim today. I looked at him and said, “No problem. You’re in.” He made me smile. He made others smile, too, when they saw him. He was definitely earning his passage. He was a good little totem, and I was glad I’d brought him along for company.” – Sonia Choquette
I’d heard about the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route across northern Spain, before I started to read Walking Home. Several people I know have expressed an interest in walking it. I have to admit the Camino has never had a pull on me, and it still doesn’t, but I found Sonia Choquette’s account of her pilgrimage fascinating and compelling.
It is the story of multiple journeys. On the surface, this is genuinely interesting travel writing: one woman traveling the Camino alone and writing about her encounters with everything from the daily weather and other travelers to ill-fitting hiking boots and rationed PowerBars. Choquette is a good story teller who expanded her cast of characters to include Pilgrim (the lighter daypack she carried with her along the way), Cheater (the too-heavy-to-carry overflow “cheater” pack that was transported for her), and Gumby (her Camino totem who accompanied and befriended her).
The first twelve chapters in Part I are pre-journey. They set the stage for how Choquette comes to embark on this 500+ mile trek across Spain. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say she is overwhelmed by loss in her life and desperately in need of something. The 34 chapters in Part II detail each day of the journey. In a way they are journal entries, taking on the daily rhythms of the trek. But this is a spiritual pilgrimage and the walking is more than an interesting hike.
“I sat for a long while and listened to the birds singing in full force, thinking about my intentions for this pilgrimage. My prayer said it all. I wanted to return to my spirit and no longer be lost in the pain of my past mistakes. I wanted to be present and let the past go. I took a breath and looked at the beauty around me as I ate my PowerBar. Maybe because I had been unplugged from any technological distraction for over ten days, I found listening to nature deeply soothing to my heart.”
Choquette openly documents her descent into deeply rooted pain, fear, anger, disappointment, and resentment. Day by day, the Camino unravels and reveals the past in the present and the present in the past. Choquette’s encounters, some remarkable and others quite ordinary, parallel the inner and outer journeys that are leading her toward forgiveness and healing.
If it seems to you that the book requires more interest in spiritual matters than you possess, you might be surprised. Walking Home didn’t make me want to walk across Spain, but it did inspire me to pay deeper attention to my life. I respect the openness, honesty, and tenacity of Choquette to seek what she needed. As I reached the end of the book, it was clear that her journey wasn’t really over — it was beginning again.
Note: If you’re interested, think about joining the conversation about this book in November. Details are on the Events Calendar page.