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A Pilgrim’s Progress

November 3, 2019

I have decided to walk the pilgrimage Via Francigena, from Canterbury in southeast England to Rome. This walk was pioneered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, in 990 AD.

A few days ago I was talking with my friend Lorrie Hess about her Big Audacious Goal to walk the Pacific Crest Trail next year. She was the 300th woman over 50 to through-hike the Appalachian Trail in its history. She is a tough and resourceful woman and smart. I told Lorrie I was planning a 20 day walk io Rome with my trail friend Tyler, and somewhere in there I mumbled, “I’d walk the whole pilgrimage from Canterbury if I could, but I don’t know how I’d work that out.” Lorrie is a professional speaker and life coach; she told me that one of the reasons she is making videos about backpacking is to encourage other people to pursue their own big audacious goals.

I’ve been a backpacker since I was 19, when i hitch-hiked from Texas Tech in Lubbock to Wyoming and did a week of hiking in both Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. By the time I was 55 I had made at least 25 week long hikes, climbed big mountains, caught wild trout, and had high adventure in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Then life intervened, and I quit. By the time I flew to southern France to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in May 2017, I had no idea what I was in for, but it was a major turning point in my life. Cheap airfares and improved income allowed me to keep going back to walk in Europe. I’ve since walked Camino trails in Portugal, France, Spain, and Italy, and part of the European Peace Walk in Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. But a 12 week, 1200 mile pilgrimage trail? That is a big audacious goal. Lorrie talks about the pushback she has had from others about her plans, and I realized the pushback I felt was all coming from me.

It could be a solo walk, but I have friends from the trail, so it may or may not be solo. I would say that it is much easier to make friends with people who speak English, but my Belgian trail friend Josette speaks about as much English as I do French, yet we have become fast friends. I will meet Tyler in Lucca, Italy, for the final 20 days into Rome, and Michelle will likely be along for at least some of the walk, and perhaps Kenton too. I’m hoping my Swiss friend Anne-Marie will meet me for some time walking when we go through Switzerland. I’ve been asking questions on the Via Francigena Facebook page and have already heard from some walkers I am likely to meet along the way. The trail isn’t heavily traveled. I’ve learned that I’ll need a new ultra-light sleeping bag as France in April and May will be cold and rainy. I will probably wear out at least one pair of shoes. St Bernard Pass into Italy might be closed because of snow (there is a bus alternative).

The pushback I got from myself was “who will take care of my Daisy while I am gone?” and “Do I have enough money?” Daisy is a Border collie (they can be high maintenance,!) so I may have to find her a succession of homes. On the other hand, she is quite friendly and agreeable and beautiful to look at. Somehow these have both worked out in the past, so I assume they will again. Mid April: fly Austin-London, train to Canterbury, walk to Dover, take the ferry to Calais. Continue walking 83 more days to Rome.

If not now, when? What’s the alternative?

Via Podensia, France, September 2019


From → Writing Fiction

  1. If you haven’t checked it out already, I highly recommend Efren Gonzalez’ vlog for his VF. See

    • Indeed his blog is helpful. I’m not planning to camp as I don’t want to carry the equipment. The online guide has 47 stages in France but some are quite short, Efren did France in 30 days. I’m hoping to meet up with Anne-Marie as the trail comes very close to her home in St Croix. I’m going to buy a paper trail guide and the .org has a list of lodging, and especially pilgrim lodging. I’m hoping to avoid $50 hotels. Although I may not be walking alone as I had expected, some friends may show up.

  2. it would be a fantastic adventure !

  3. I would say it is the adventure of a lifetime, but I’ve said that about all my walks in Europe.

  4. My husband and I are also doing the Via Francigena. Walking from our home in East Sussex on 20th April this year, then onwards to Canterbury-Rome. Very excited. You never know, we may cross paths at some point.

  5. No, not on Facebook. Just twitter.

  6. Helen Rundall permalink

    Great to hear your plans. Like Jenny, I was inspired to start from my front door, so will follow the Pilgrims Way from London to Canterbury, then heading onwards on the VF 19th April. Hope to meet you all on the trail. Helen

    • I get the impression there won’t be that many programs while we are on the trail in France. I look forward to meeting you somewhere down the trail

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