Busted Halo

Rebecca Gallo is walking the 480-mile pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago despite, or maybe because of, the doubts she has about faith. Journey with her along this ancient path.

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June 20th, 2012

The Way: The Movie vs. The Pilgrimage


Rebecca (far right) with fellow pilgrims on the Camino.

When a friend e-mailed me last September to tell me a movie was coming out about the Camino I was a little alarmed — would the Camino become overrun with Americans? I liked that most of the people I told about the Camino back in the United States had never heard of it. It felt like I’d discovered something. As a former teacher, I enjoyed telling people about the history of the pilgrimage trail and the details of my upcoming trip. I was looking forward to meeting pilgrims from all over the world — not a bunch of Americans who had come on a whim after seeing a movie.

When the movie was released in November, my mother and I went to see it. “Was there anything that surprised you?” she asked as we walked out of the theater.

“No, I pretty much knew all that stuff,” I told her. I had, after all, been researching for my upcoming walk on the Camino for the last six months. I had read every book our library had on the topic. I knew about the passport stamps, the difficulties of sleeping in albergues, the variety of people I would meet. I also knew it was highly unlikely my pack would get stolen or fall in a river.

After seeing the movie, I found my fear of the Camino becoming inundated with Americans also disappeared. Harry Potter fans might plan a trip to Scotland to see where the films were made, but taking a month to walk nearly 500 miles took a bit more planning and physical stamina and was probably not the ideal vacation for most Americans.

It wasn’t until after friends started seeing The Way, however, that I realized what a gift it was. They no longer thought I was hiking something akin to the Appalachian Trail — camping out each night and cooking food over a campfire. They called, texted, and e-mailed their excitement after viewing the movie. “I watched The Way last night. Cried and laughed and put the Camino on my list,” Caitlin wrote to me on Facebook.

Walking the real thing

Camino passport stamps.

Those that have seen it may wonder, “How much is the movie like walking the real thing?” Indeed that was a topic much discussed on the Camino. The Way opened in England, Ireland, and Spain before it opened in the United States. A German pilgrim heard from a friend that it will be released there June 21. So it wasn’t only the Americans that had an opinion on how the Camino was depicted in the movie.

By far, the most popular sentiment was that the movie didn’t show enough of the physical difficulties many pilgrims experience. We never saw Martin Sheen treating his blisters — which nearly every pilgrim has at one point. There was no morning ritual of treating his feet with creams and powders — a common scene in most albergues shortly after pilgrims rise from their bunks and hobble around packing their bags.

“It looked like he just picked up that pack and walked off without any problems,” pilgrims told me. Most men over 60 who attempt the Camino without any training are going to do a little more huffing and puffing. Nor did we see any of the characters tossing items from their pack to lighten the load — another common occurrence in the early stages of the Camino.

But the movie wasn’t created to show exactly what it’s like to walk the Camino. It was a movie about relationships — the relationships between families, between strangers, with ourselves. And that part was true to the real life Camino. Most of us start alone. We all have people we’re leaving behind to go on this journey. We have our reasons for walking this ancient path. We meet people along the way. We open up to these strangers. We share our pasts, our thoughts, our fears, our dreams. These strangers become like family to us. We share meals, conversations, and blister remedies. They see us in good moods and bad. They celebrate with us when we reach our common destination. We part as friends, knowing that this experience was better having been shared with them.


Today I invite you to take time to thank the people that share with you on your daily “journey” — those that walk beside you, that listen to you, that advise you, that share life’s joys and sorrows with you.

The Author : Rebecca Gallo
Since 2012, Rebecca Gallo has walked the Camino de Santiago three times -- twice on a strict budget, and a third time traveling a little more luxuriously (private rooms with sheets instead of hostels with a sleeping bag). She enjoyed sharing her first journey and subsequent reflections with Busted Halo readers. Other tales of her adventures can be found at RenaissanceRebecca.com.
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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.
  • EPW
  • Neytan

    How great it would be to have someone walk our path in an atmetpt to understand who we really are. Someone like a father willing to go outside of his own comfort zone to connect on a deeper level to understand his only son and process his own grief. The Pilgrim House Welcome Center is an opportunity to connect with those searching for acceptance, hope and truth. Those on the journey are mainly looking for a place that goes beyond religion, clever slogans, campaigns and following a certain protocol with a bunch of rules. Most on the journey want to find just one person who is willing to show real love. Actually, we don’t need a Pilgrim House Welcome Center to find people on a journey , but rather just open our eyes to those searching who are already in our lives. Being a friend at a critical time can make all the difference in the path someone takes.

  • Rebecca Gallo

    Jane K – Glad to hear it! You will certainly have an amazing experience whenever it is you decide to go.

    Thank Glenda, Jenn for your support:)

  • Jennifer Brooks

    Last paragraph – AWESOME!! Lovely piece, my friend…

  • Glenda Beall

    You are an inspiration.

  • Jane K

    I admit that Walking The Camino was not on my “bucket list” prior to seeing The Way…but I can honestly say that your chronicle of your journey made my desire to walk the Camino far more powerful. Thanks for sharing it with us Rebecca. May you always find yourself inspired to inspire others. Stay happy. Jane K

  • Rebecca

    Thank you Danielle!

  • Danielle

    Dear Rebecca,
    I wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog!!
    I saw the movie, The Way and it is something I would like to do but won’t be able to consider this for a few years due to prior commitments.
    I just returned from a 12 day Pilgrimage in Italy, following the steps of St Francis. It was an awesome experience!!
    I hope your journey is going even better than mine.
    I know your earlier blog you mentioned St Francis but thought I’d include his blessing to you on this page.

    The Lord bless thee and keep thee.
    Show his face to thee and have mercy on thee.
    Turn his countenance to thee and give thee peace.
    The Lord bless the, Brother Leo.

    I will continue to say prayers for a good and safe Camino!!

    Pax e Bonum!!

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