Busted Halo

Follow Joe as he hikes the Camino, experiences World Youth Day in Madrid, and travels to spiritual points in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and beyond.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

August 12th, 2011

The Pilgrims


Something I wasn’t exactly sure about when traveling to Spain and hitting the Camino, was who the rest of my pilgrimage group would be. Turns out it’s about 40-50 high school seniors and college freshman. What? What? What!?

Now I like kids, especially this age group, since they’re typically smart, able to converse quite well, and usually a lot more interesting than most adults I know, but I always find a group this size intimidating.

And, as someone used to setting my own schedule, waking up when I want, having a lot of quiet solitary time, and pretty much running my own life, it wouldn’t have been my first choice to share group wake up calls, meals and prayer time.  It’s especially on hikes that I love walking solo, stopping when I decide and eating whenever I want to, so I am only being honest when I admit I had a few misgivings about traveling the Camino for six days with such a young and large group.

However, I can also honestly say that after having spent two full days on the road with these guys and girls, I am blown away by them. The group, Carmelite United, is made up predominantly of youth group members from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Tenafly, NJ, and the Church of St. Anastasia in Teaneck, NJ.  Under the guidance of Elliot and Mike, and a few other “adult” chaperones (I’m talkin’  ’bout you Vinny, TJ, Rich, Bill, Justin, Alicia, Kristian, Cilia, and the rest) — the group has been rolling along the Camino at a pace of 17km a day, and will continue to do so for the next four days, eventually headed to World Youth Day in Madrid (by bus this time,) and then Fatima, Portugal after that.

It’s a great group and I already feel welcomed and part of a family, because it is a family.

And even though I’ve only known them a total of three days, it’s actually quite easy to get to know 50 people up close and personal when you’re sharing whole albergues (Spain’s version of hostels,) with them.

There’s Walter, one of three or four Spanish speaking young adults in the group, that now knows the burden of traveling to Spain with 40 people who don’t speak a lick of it, and who is always the go to guy when the group becomes involved in incomprehensible arguments with Spanish waitstaff.

There’s Michelin, she just celebrated her birthday yesterday, and she’s been hiking like a champ with a torn ACL — a brace on one knee, and ace bandage on the other, a walking stick, and endurance to rival any of the adult males here, (I’m still talkin’ ’bout you Vinny, TJ, Rich, Bill, Justin, Mike and Elliot.)

Let’s not forget Jasmine.  In the middle of a long and very steep incline, she began swaying like a gentle flower, overcome with dehydration (we are all learning the dangers of not drinking enough water, and have warned everyone in the group to chug a bottle at night and in the morning before departing.) But by the end of the day, she was back on her feet and looked like a million bucks.

So, Carmel United, thanks so much for allowing me to be part of the fun, part of the adventure, and part of your spirituality — it’s a rare blend of energy, faith, and finding the sacred in the everyday with you guys.  Even though I’m not used to this sort of thing, it wouldn’t be a Camino experience without you.  Because, after all, it’s about community and the journey together, and less about any one person or the destination.

A brief view of life on The Way for those of you back home…                                                            (click any picture to enlarge to take you to a slideshow view)

the pilgrims

that's a lot of red shirts

on the path

following the signs

Amber and Dana

Tim, Claudia, Sylvia

walking along...

...still walking...

...yes, still walking...




caring for the sick

she's okay!

the wild ones

the family (even me! can you spot me?)

The Author : Joe Williams
Joe is the Production Editor for Busted Halo, working as producer and editor for all things video. After graduating from T.C.U. with a degree in production and religion, Joe spent time teaching on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, exploring the film and music scene of Chicago, volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and surviving the world of corporate event production around the globe.
See more articles by (24).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Heather

    Great blog, Joe! I found you! You are not wearing a red shirt. We miss you this side, but are so happy you are having such an incredible experience.

  • joe

    Please go to the main blog page for daily updates: click here New pictures today!

  • Suzanne

    I agree with Maria, I would love to see more pictures! Seeing all of you is comforting for all of us back home in Jersey. Muchas Gracias!!!

  • Maria

    When your child is away and something happens, you want to get all the details about what happened. Your pictures of the incident with Jasmine helped me feel better. Even though the kids are so far away, I could see the exact spot where it happened and that she was being taken care of. Thanks a million for your pictures. I wish you could post new ones every single day.

  • joe

    Tommy – I am having a blast!

    Tom Gibbons – thanks to the likes of you and Kevin Kirby, I was well prepared to handle New Jersians.

    Lisa – no worries. Zachary is in good hands and says, “hello.”

    Suzanne – Justin and Nolan are both great.

    Everyone, keep praying for us AND keep reading and sharing this blog with others. Gracias!!

  • Tommy Solari

    Love the pictures Joe! Hope you are having fun with us through our Camino!!

  • Tom Gibbons

    You are truly blessed by God to share this journey with people from New Jersey!

    Hope you are having a great trip – I will continue to pray for you.

  • Stephen Green

    Hi good luck to you all. Did the Camino this summer and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Miss it very much and hope your caminos are as enjoyable :-)

  • Lisa

    I am thankful you have ths post. I am praying for all of you. My son is on this journey with you and when he began this, he didn’t know any of you. And I really don’t have a way to communicate with him. I will continue to pray for all of you and will check this often.
    Blessings to all of you!

  • Suzanne

    Hi Joe,
    Great post! Two of those “wild ones” are mine and it makes me thrilled to see them (and all of you)together on this journey. For some it is a spiritual journey and for others it’s creating a new outlook on their lives. My husband, Kenny and I send our blessings and love to you, the carmelite pilgrims and our guys…Justin(the adult) and Nolan(just fun)!

  • joe

    Hey KathyZ – I can’t explain to you how actually wonderful it is. And it’s not just the walk, however many kilometers you decide on, that is the treasure. It truly is the experience. All sorts of crazy things happen to pilgrims as they travel and that is the real lesson of this whole thing. We are on a journey in life, and no matter the pitfalls, the strange times, or the unexpected, we all have a destination that is calling out to us in love, asking nothing more than that with our every step we just attempt to come a little closer. And in the end if we find we didn’t make it after all, it doesn’t matter. Because that which has called to us has already found us.

  • The welcomecenter at St. Paul the Apostle

    Hey Joe
    I am so loving the articles, we read the Pilgrimage by Coelho this summer in the bookclub, it must be wonderful to actually follow the road

    Blessings and Happy Journey

powered by the Paulists