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New Book: Pilgrimage - A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills

Dave

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
Hi everyone,

I have a new book out today on paperback and kindle (including kindle unlimited), titled Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills. It's the first non-guidebook that I've written. Here's the story:

On May 1, 2002, I staggered into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France under the cover of darkness, around 10:30pm, following a small pack of newbie pilgrims into the old town and up to the pilgrims office. A few minutes later, one of the hosts escorted me to the municipal hostel, where the lights were already out and the snore-chestra was in full effect. My pilgrimage had begun.

It hasn’t finished yet. For nearly half my life now, pilgrimage has been a constant companion. Sometimes, I walk for the sheer satisfaction of discovery and adventure. Others, I walk with my students, leading groups in Spain, France, and Italy, an experience that has proven to be the richest and most satisfying of my teaching career. On still other occasions, I walk as a guidebook author, tracking fine details and often repeating stages to explore multiple variants.

Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills by [Dave Whitson]

In some ways, the underlying motivations behind all this walking are straight-forward enough. I like walking, and I’m really good at it. I love the aesthetics of medieval Europe and the lifestyle of contemporary Europe, and I’ve often had good reason to enjoy a multi-week vacation from the USA. I’m always excited to see what’s around the next corner, and I’m rarely discouraged when it’s just more of the same. There are other corners to come, after all. I crave uphill. I could (and have) eat tortilla and drink café con leche three times a day for weeks and not tire of either.

And yet, for all that, I have a hell of a time explaining why I keep doing this, to both myself and others. The absence of faith is a significant piece of that. To the extent that I’ve changed over the years–from abrasive atheist to open-minded agnostic–that hasn’t brought about any devotional element. The desire to better understand belief and believers felt like a sufficiently rational justification in my early years of pilgrimage, but as the decades accrue, it seems lacking.

Over this past summer, I was walking the Via Podiensis in France. We had dinner with our hosts, and–as is often the case with dinners in France–it was absolutely delicious. Every course was better than the last. Of course, food always tastes better when you’ve walked yourself into exhaustion. But this was excellent! Even in English I would have struggled to convey how much I appreciated it; behold my meager descriptive efforts here. In French, though? “This is good!” and “I like this very much!” don’t move the needle much, I’m afraid. I lacked the vocabulary. I couldn’t articulate it to myself or to others.

The same has been true with pilgrimage for years. So, when COVID shut down my trans-USA walk on the American Discovery Trail (and literally everything else), and I moved past the sulking stage, I decided it was an opportunity to pursue answers. Over three intense months, I dived deeply into this grand human tradition, studying pilgrim memoirs from all around the world, and also academic studies of pilgrimage. I revisited conversations I had with pilgrims over the years on the Camino Podcast. While walking pilgrimages in Western Europe remained central to this, I gradually expanded my frame of reference, which included learning quite a bit about pilgrimages in India, reading about the hajj, and encountering routes and shrines I’d never previously heard of or considered.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that this medieval (ancient, really) tradition was enjoying a dramatic resurgence specifically because it met some of the most significant needs that we face today as individuals and societies. This, in turn, led me into related research from the social and health sciences, exploring contemporary concerns: we are more sedentary than ever, we spend our days sitting, we are depressed and lonely, we are disengaged from and disenchanted with work, we distrust… practically everyone, our traditional communities and gathering places have fragmented and broken, and we have a collective crisis of faith. It’s bleak stuff. And yet, it was also clarifying, as it helped reinforce just what makes pilgrimage so edifying and rewarding.

My short book, Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills, synthesizes all of those pieces, weaving together contemporary challenges, personal memoirs (, and research findings on pilgrimage’s impact from all around the world. This is not my story; it’s our story, and the story of pilgrimage’s power in the 21st century. (You can find a selected annotated bibliography on these three posts--Camino/VF Memoirs, non-Camino/VF memoirs, pilgrimage studies.)

This is my explanation for why I keep walking. I hope it lends insight to your journeys as well.

(And with that done, I'll be back to producing some new podcast episodes soon.)
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
Looking forward to reading it. Gracias.
 
Hi everyone,

I have a new book out today on paperback and kindle (including kindle unlimited), titled Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills. It's the first non-guidebook that I've written. Here's the story:

On May 1, 2002, I staggered into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France under the cover of darkness, around 10:30pm, following a small pack of newbie pilgrims into the old town and up to the pilgrims office. A few minutes later, one of the hosts escorted me to the municipal hostel, where the lights were already out and the snore-chestra was in full effect. My pilgrimage had begun.

It hasn’t finished yet. For nearly half my life now, pilgrimage has been a constant companion. Sometimes, I walk for the sheer satisfaction of discovery and adventure. Others, I walk with my students, leading groups in Spain, France, and Italy, an experience that has proven to be the richest and most satisfying of my teaching career. On still other occasions, I walk as a guidebook author, tracking fine details and often repeating stages to explore multiple variants.

Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills by [Dave Whitson]

In some ways, the underlying motivations behind all this walking are straight-forward enough. I like walking, and I’m really good at it. I love the aesthetics of medieval Europe and the lifestyle of contemporary Europe, and I’ve often had good reason to enjoy a multi-week vacation from the USA. I’m always excited to see what’s around the next corner, and I’m rarely discouraged when it’s just more of the same. There are other corners to come, after all. I crave uphill. I could (and have) eat tortilla and drink café con leche three times a day for weeks and not tire of either.

And yet, for all that, I have a hell of a time explaining why I keep doing this, to both myself and others. The absence of faith is a significant piece of that. To the extent that I’ve changed over the years–from abrasive atheist to open-minded agnostic–that hasn’t brought about any devotional element. The desire to better understand belief and believers felt like a sufficiently rational justification in my early years of pilgrimage, but as the decades accrue, it seems lacking.

Over this past summer, I was walking the Via Podiensis in France. We had dinner with our hosts, and–as is often the case with dinners in France–it was absolutely delicious. Every course was better than the last. Of course, food always tastes better when you’ve walked yourself into exhaustion. But this was excellent! Even in English I would have struggled to convey how much I appreciated it; behold my meager descriptive efforts here. In French, though? “This is good!” and “I like this very much!” don’t move the needle much, I’m afraid. I lacked the vocabulary. I couldn’t articulate it to myself or to others.

The same has been true with pilgrimage for years. So, when COVID shut down my trans-USA walk on the American Discovery Trail (and literally everything else), and I moved past the sulking stage, I decided it was an opportunity to pursue answers. Over three intense months, I dived deeply into this grand human tradition, studying pilgrim memoirs from all around the world, and also academic studies of pilgrimage. I revisited conversations I had with pilgrims over the years on the Camino Podcast. While walking pilgrimages in Western Europe remained central to this, I gradually expanded my frame of reference, which included learning quite a bit about pilgrimages in India, reading about the hajj, and encountering routes and shrines I’d never previously heard of or considered.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that this medieval (ancient, really) tradition was enjoying a dramatic resurgence specifically because it met some of the most significant needs that we face today as individuals and societies. This, in turn, led me into related research from the social and health sciences, exploring contemporary concerns: we are more sedentary than ever, we spend our days sitting, we are depressed and lonely, we are disengaged from and disenchanted with work, we distrust… practically everyone, our traditional communities and gathering places have fragmented and broken, and we have a collective crisis of faith. It’s bleak stuff. And yet, it was also clarifying, as it helped reinforce just what makes pilgrimage so edifying and rewarding.

My short book, Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills, synthesizes all of those pieces, weaving together contemporary challenges, personal memoirs (, and research findings on pilgrimage’s impact from all around the world. This is not my story; it’s our story, and the story of pilgrimage’s power in the 21st century. (You can find a selected annotated bibliography on these three posts--Camino/VF Memoirs, non-Camino/VF memoirs, pilgrimage studies.)

This is my explanation for why I keep walking. I hope it lends insight to your journeys as well.

(And with that done, I'll be back to producing some new podcast episodes soon.)
I just checked and it looks as if your book is on Amazon - I don't do Amazon! Is there another way to get it? Order it from you? Thank you.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I just checked and it looks as if your book is on Amazon - I don't do Amazon! Is there another way to get it? Order it from you? Thank you.
For the moment, it's Amazon only. It will remain Amazon only for ebooks for the foreseeable future, but the paperbacks will disseminate more widely in the weeks ahead.

The reason for the restrictive ebook approach is to make it available on Kindle Unlimited, at least for a while. To do Kindle Unlimited, that exclusivity is required. And at least initially, I wanted more people to have easy access to it, through that prepaid, subscription approach.

I'm queasy about Amazon, so I appreciate your commitment to ethical purchasing.
 
Keep me in the loop for your paperback! Gracias
 
Dave just ordered a copy. Thanks for the heads up.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
I love the title, and am very interested in the "healing" power of pilgrimages and related experiences. I am going on my first Camino this spring. I was introduced to the idea almost 15 years ago and am eager for my first encounter. I will read the book before I leave. I also have discovered others who have used the Camino as a "platform" for experiential learning in the academic world and the real world.
 
Hi everyone,

I have a new book out today on paperback and kindle (including kindle unlimited), titled Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills. It's the first non-guidebook that I've written. Here's the story:

On May 1, 2002, I staggered into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France under the cover of darkness, around 10:30pm, following a small pack of newbie pilgrims into the old town and up to the pilgrims office. A few minutes later, one of the hosts escorted me to the municipal hostel, where the lights were already out and the snore-chestra was in full effect. My pilgrimage had begun.

It hasn’t finished yet. For nearly half my life now, pilgrimage has been a constant companion. Sometimes, I walk for the sheer satisfaction of discovery and adventure. Others, I walk with my students, leading groups in Spain, France, and Italy, an experience that has proven to be the richest and most satisfying of my teaching career. On still other occasions, I walk as a guidebook author, tracking fine details and often repeating stages to explore multiple variants.

Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills by [Dave Whitson]

In some ways, the underlying motivations behind all this walking are straight-forward enough. I like walking, and I’m really good at it. I love the aesthetics of medieval Europe and the lifestyle of contemporary Europe, and I’ve often had good reason to enjoy a multi-week vacation from the USA. I’m always excited to see what’s around the next corner, and I’m rarely discouraged when it’s just more of the same. There are other corners to come, after all. I crave uphill. I could (and have) eat tortilla and drink café con leche three times a day for weeks and not tire of either.

And yet, for all that, I have a hell of a time explaining why I keep doing this, to both myself and others. The absence of faith is a significant piece of that. To the extent that I’ve changed over the years–from abrasive atheist to open-minded agnostic–that hasn’t brought about any devotional element. The desire to better understand belief and believers felt like a sufficiently rational justification in my early years of pilgrimage, but as the decades accrue, it seems lacking.

Over this past summer, I was walking the Via Podiensis in France. We had dinner with our hosts, and–as is often the case with dinners in France–it was absolutely delicious. Every course was better than the last. Of course, food always tastes better when you’ve walked yourself into exhaustion. But this was excellent! Even in English I would have struggled to convey how much I appreciated it; behold my meager descriptive efforts here. In French, though? “This is good!” and “I like this very much!” don’t move the needle much, I’m afraid. I lacked the vocabulary. I couldn’t articulate it to myself or to others.

The same has been true with pilgrimage for years. So, when COVID shut down my trans-USA walk on the American Discovery Trail (and literally everything else), and I moved past the sulking stage, I decided it was an opportunity to pursue answers. Over three intense months, I dived deeply into this grand human tradition, studying pilgrim memoirs from all around the world, and also academic studies of pilgrimage. I revisited conversations I had with pilgrims over the years on the Camino Podcast. While walking pilgrimages in Western Europe remained central to this, I gradually expanded my frame of reference, which included learning quite a bit about pilgrimages in India, reading about the hajj, and encountering routes and shrines I’d never previously heard of or considered.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that this medieval (ancient, really) tradition was enjoying a dramatic resurgence specifically because it met some of the most significant needs that we face today as individuals and societies. This, in turn, led me into related research from the social and health sciences, exploring contemporary concerns: we are more sedentary than ever, we spend our days sitting, we are depressed and lonely, we are disengaged from and disenchanted with work, we distrust… practically everyone, our traditional communities and gathering places have fragmented and broken, and we have a collective crisis of faith. It’s bleak stuff. And yet, it was also clarifying, as it helped reinforce just what makes pilgrimage so edifying and rewarding.

My short book, Pilgrimage: A Medieval Cure for Modern Ills, synthesizes all of those pieces, weaving together contemporary challenges, personal memoirs (, and research findings on pilgrimage’s impact from all around the world. This is not my story; it’s our story, and the story of pilgrimage’s power in the 21st century. (You can find a selected annotated bibliography on these three posts--Camino/VF Memoirs, non-Camino/VF memoirs, pilgrimage studies.)

This is my explanation for why I keep walking. I hope it lends insight to your journeys as well.

(And with that done, I'll be back to producing some new podcast episodes soon.)
I’m ordering book today! Can’t wait to read!! I’m hoping every year at least once a year I can walk on A Camino. For whatever period of time I can get away. I am very spiritual and devoted to a higher power whom I call God. That said my first ever Camino “cured” me -at least for today…. Of some real nasty thoughts that used to suck my energy away. And I will always believe that a large part of my cure was the physical interaction with the earth along a Camino and the people who inhabited that space. Abundant positive energy sources that entered my physical and mental space! That was MY personal experience and it’s a big “high” and wanting to stay on this (or should I say IN this) space - I can’t wait to go walk again!
 
I just finished the book. Loved it. It gave me additional insights into the potential healing power of pilgrimages (and to broader potential "powers" of these experiences). The bibliography was wonderful. Arthur Brooks (one of the authors cited) walked the Camino a year or two ago and wrote a few articles on his experience (and included some additional research on the topic). Also, appreciated the inclusion of "FLOW" in the book (I am a big fan of this concept).
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
I just finished the book. Loved it. It gave me additional insights into the potential healing power of pilgrimages (and to broader potential "powers" of these experiences). The bibliography was wonderful. Arthur Brooks (one of the authors cited) walked the Camino a year or two ago and wrote a few articles on his experience (and included some additional research on the topic). Also, appreciated the inclusion of "FLOW" in the book (I am a big fan of this concept).

You've made my morning. Thanks, Bobby!
 

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