The walking pilgrim

pilgrims walking

The walking pilgrim

Right now, Scott Zielke is taking a break from taking a break. The weary world traveler just finished a three-month hike from London to Rome on the Via Francigena. Averaging about 30 kilometers per day, Zielke walked with friends he met along the way, camping out on the side of the road while receiving the hospitality of European society.

The walk was not Zielke’s first. The 29-year-old Downers Grove resident has backpacked through Patagonia in South America, walked through northern Spain and walked along Lake Superior’s coastline, to name a few.

“It was my junior year at (college) and I was waiting to sign up for one of my senior classes and behind me was one of those world maps and it had all the pins from where the students were from around the world. And this light bulb went off in my head where I had lived my entire life in this little pinprick of Chicago,” Zielke said. “And so I decided I really wanted to see other parts of the world.”

The hike Zielke just finished is called the via Francigena, an ancient Christian pilgrimage route. “It’s really unknown, Zielke said. “When I arrived in the Vatican, I got to sign the book and I got a testimonial saying that I did it. And I was the 2,788 person to complete it (in modern history).”
Zielke says he has been asked many times why he took the pilgrimage. He also says he has countless answers. One answer has to do with spirituality.

“I’m not a Catholic, I am a Christian. But if anything I would actually quantify it for me as a spiritual type of pilgrimage,” he said. “For me it’s kind of more a chance to, I guess to just shut up and listen, as opposed to, you know, going through my days always thinking about the next thing that I need to be doing. … You really kind of fall into a rhythm while you’re walking and your mind gets to wander. You get to relax and you don’t have to worry about anything other than just waking up and walking.”
Here in America, Zielke walks to work.

He is the type of guy who does what he can to avoid the trappings of modern life.
Zielke says he quit a teaching career and took a job waiting tables in Lombard so he could free up his schedule.
“So I could travel whenever I want to,” he said.

He said he has plans to visit the Sahara Desert in February for a week, to reunite with friends. But his next big challenge is America. He has to save money first, he said, replenish the bank account.
“I need to take a break from taking a break,”  he said.

He wants to travel either east to west across the United States, or north to south along the pacific coast. Another possibility is the Appalachian Trail. But then again, there is also a new trail he learned of called the Sultan’s Trail, which goes from Vienna to Istanbul. Of course the famous Camino de Santiago.

“Just some other fun trail to go on, you know. Some long-distance place, new places to explore, type of thing,” he said.

Nick Vogel,

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