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Christy Day’s journey

Visit Christy Day’s website at walkingelcamino.com, where you can buy her book, or her Facebook page, facebook.com/WalkingElCamino.




Modern-day pilgrimage
Amherst resident on hiking the Camino de Santiago

11/24/16
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 At age 66, Amherst resident Christy Day walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile spiritual pilgrimage that starts at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, and ends in Galicia, Spain.

Why, she still doesn’t know.
“I think it’s a little bit like a mountain climber who says, ‘Because it was there.’ This was something that just spoke to me. I knew I had to do it,” Day, now 67, said during a phone interview last week. 
She chronicled her life-changing journey in a book, Walking from Here to There: Finding My Way on El Camino, published in August by Seacoast Press. It’s one she hopes inspires others to find peace and “reach for the stars, and do something they didn’t know they could do,” she said.
Day grew up on a Wyoming sheep ranch but has lived in New Hampshire for the past 40 years. The mom of two daughters is a Harvard-Radcliffe grad and an avid explorer — she lived aboard her sailboat for a year and has traveled extensively, from the Galapagos Islands to Antarctica.
Her first introduction to the Camino de Santiago was the 2010 film The Way, starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. She learned more about it at an Amherst Library presentation by a woman who’d completed the trek. 
“The way she did it, I thought … I could do that. Once I thought I could do it, it would not let go of me. I spent almost a year planning. I bought all the equipment I’d need — which was kind of a shot in the dark, as I had not done anything like this before — and I packed, then unpacked, then repacked,” Day said.
Historically, the Camino de Santiago is a Catholic pilgrimage, originating more than 1,000 years ago, for travelers seeking spiritual growth. Today, it attracts people of all religious and cultural affiliations.
The route features steep pathways with cobblestones and rocky ledges, but it’s also well-marked and much more civilized than, say, the Appalachian Trail. If you forget something, you can buy it along the way. It also offers inexpensive albergues (pilgrim hostels, about $5 to $10 a night) so backpackers can keep bags light, as there’s no need for tents or cooking equipment. Day carried her 22-pound pack the entire trip.
One of the most memorable days was the first, April 22, 2015; her younger daughter dropped her off at 6:30 a.m., and, after waving goodbye, Day walked 13.4 miles by beautiful fields and orchards, then down a steep hill into a medieval town. She was so tired, she had to crawl up the steps of the albergue to get in. 
Here, she received her first act of kindness, when a man switched bunks with her so she might sleep on the bottom. It was a recurring theme throughout the walk, in which she met people ages 8 to 78 from 40 different countries.
“There was an air of hospitality that was ever present. That was so impressive. Sometimes, in the face of a jam or pack of people, there was such graciousness,” Day said. “You shared with and took care of each other. … You feel a sacred bond with every single person. Even if, in some ways, you don’t like that person, you go ahead and respect and honor them. That was an amazing feeling.”
After that, she got into a rhythm. She’d hike an average of 12 miles a day before checking into an albergue, claiming a bunk, massaging her feet, taking notes in her guidebook and journal. Then she’d do laundy, go out and explore. She was very thorough in her writing; she knew early on those words might manifest into something else.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book. As I started the pilgrimage, I thought, this is the book inside of me, waiting to be written,” Day said. “I journaled every day, wrote notes in my guide book and took pictures. … I can pinpoint exactly where I was at any given time.”
On June 1, 2015, she reached the final destination — the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 
“It took everything inside me to do it,” Day said. “The last part of it is elation, joy and euphoria.” 





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