Each year, 200 million people embark on a pilgrimage of some kind. Ritual journeys have been common for millennia and the impulse to travel somewhere sacred is still just as relevant today.
In her book, ‘We Are Pilgrims’, Victoria Preston discovers that, whether we set forth in search of solace or liberation, as an expression of gratitude or faith, journeys of meaning and purpose are always a powerful reminder that we are each part of something much greater than ourselves. This book is a quest to understand what drives this human behaviour.
I recently spoke to Victoria Preston and she shed some light on her inspiration and motivations for walking the Camino. When it came to actually sitting down to write the book, she heeded the advice of author Anthony Trollope, who said: “The application of the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” and spent countless hours in the London library poring over piles of books.
Victoria, who spent her childhood in Jamaica and Berlin, decided to walk the Camino because “when I turned 60, I could suddenly hear the clock ticking”.
She had “wanted to be a bare-back rider in the circus” at the tender age of eight. Her parents didn’t allow it, but it’s clear the then heartbroken Victoria had an adventurous spirit, something she has not lost.
She tackled the Camino with her oldest friend and fellow creative, Constance Wood. It’s natural to have some reservations before tackling something as ambitious as the Camino and for Victoria, there was a worry that she wouldn’t have the stamina required to complete the Camino to Rome on the Via Francigena.
However, with motivation and good company, there was little that was going to prevent the pair from taking on the Camino to Rome. For Victoria, having the companionship of her oldest friend was the best part of the journey:
“Constance and I have known each other since our teens and during our pilgrimage to Rome, we rediscovered the two young women we used to be. It was such a joy.”
Many pilgrims use their time on the Camino to reflect on their lives, cope with grief and even just focus on that next step. When asked about some of the thoughts and feelings she had while walking the Camino, Victoria said:
“As we walked along this ancient route, travelled by so many throughout the ages, it was truly liberating to realise that we were simply motes of dust in the great space-time continuum.”
Successfully completing the Camino, Victoria, who had always wanted to be an author, swapped the act of writing corporate documents and speeches for one much more creative and fulfilling.
She described why she wanted to write a book about the Camino, saying: “I wanted to understand what lies behind the phenomenon of pilgrimage, which has drawn people from all cultures and faiths since the earliest times. It was a quest to discover how it began and why it still prevails.”
‘We Are Pilgrims’ is Victoria’s first book and having made it through to the other side, she encourages other budding writers to “believe in your endeavour” when it comes to tackling a project like this.
As well as writing advice, Victoria is also buzzing with advice for those hoping to walk the Camino, with her key piece of advice being to travel light:
“Travel light. Whether or not you are carrying your own bag, living without stuff, even for a while, frees the mind for other matters.”
These words can be applied to many aspects of life, especially in our consumer-focused world. I’m sure Victoria, who is constantly inspired by “the boundless curiosity of my five young grandchildren” will be back on the Camino again very soon. In fact, she stated that “answering these questions makes me want to get back on the road”.
We’re sure the road is going to be waiting with open arms! Buen Camino!
If you’d like to read Victoria Preston’s book, you can get your copy here. CaminoWays readers can also currently avail of a 30% discount by using the code: CAMINO30.
If you’ve written a book about the Camino and would like to get in touch, please email [email protected] To read more great Pilgrim Stories, visit our blog. If you need any assistance planning your own Camino journey, please don’t hesitate to contact us.