The current pilgrims to Santiago have no or hardly any ties with the Roman Catholic Church. Actually they are not pilgrims in the traditional sense of the word (although the original Latin word for pilgrim means “stranger”).
Along the James Trail you will meet people from a significant variety of nationalities, ages, educational backgrounds, professions and motivations. Motives, for example, include: sports performances, a temporary escape from a stressful existence (or a dominant partner), doing penance as a good Catholic, expressing thankfulness to God, following in the footsteps of a New Age bestselling author, honoring Saint James, finding oneself, searching for God and so on….
In spite of all these differences it is striking that many travelers, who left home with more ‘superficial’ motives, experience a growing spiritual motive the longer they are on their journey, no matter how vague the spiritual experience is. In conversations with pilgrims the motive often becomes clear after the question: “What brought you to the crazy decision to walk this exhausting trail?”
You will understand that Santiago-hikers are fascinating people, who often have a lot to tell.
The journey to Santiago is only one of many, but is distinguished by the great diversity among the backpackers. The emphasis is on the hiking or biking of the path, the trail. People say that the goal of the trip is the trip itself. This ties in very well with the words of Jesus: “I am the Way…”
Usually the emphasis is on the pilgrimage itself. This is also true for other religions.
The spirituality of Buddhism and Hinduism are not forbidden territory for outsiders such as Mecca is. Many pilgrimages and teachers of these religions have a great attraction for western reli-travelers. It is at these crossroads of spiritual and cultural paths where we eagerly want to recommend that one Way.