Sunday, December 19, 2010

New boots

I still have the pack and boots that I took with me (or should that be "that took me") along the camino. Unsurprisingly, I grew more than a little attached to them after the thousand-odd kilometres we were together. Up hill and down dale, in all kinds of weather and across the entire length of Spain these were constant and faithful companions, and unlike me the suffered their depredations silently.

But the value of boots is in the walking, and mine are all worn out. (Thankfully the same isn't true of my large pack.) Boots that can't be walked in aren't really boots, and therefore are more of a hindrance than a help. To keep walking I need to ditch the old boots – however well the served me – and get new ones.

It's terribly unsubtle, I realise. But let me be even more obvious. If life – or some aspect of it, say spirituality – is a journey, then moving forward requires leaving behind some of the things that brought us to where we are.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pilgrimage and Peace

Contrasting with Tom Waits' dystopic song, a recent TEDTalk shares an amazing and unlikely journey on the road to peace.

William Ury explores the inherent hospitality of sharing a road with fellow travellers, and the importance of 'walking out' a story, retracing the journey of Abraham from Urfa to Hebron.
Abraham's Path is about shifting from hostility to hospitality, terrorism to tourism. Yes, it sound clichéd, but the idea is (unfortunately) not well-worn.

Walking in the Middle East is something I'd really love to do – perhaps it will have to wait, though.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson

A central question in Robinson's new book is the utility, or even ethics of objectivity.
She is unsatisfied with the "closed ontologies" of "scientific monisms"; that is, claiming that everything can be understood in terms of (for example), perversion (Freud), class (Marx) or genes (Darwin). A flaw in these reductionisms is "the absence of an acknowledgement of ... subjectivity."

A similar question about the difference between understanding and experiencing love came up in a conversation on the camino. For instance: does knowing about the neurology or chemistry of attraction and attachment make one a better friend or lover or father? [I remember, but cannot find the source of a characteristically bold Salavador Dalí quote, "love is deoxyrybonucleic acid."]  Robinson states the case more acutely:
Does knowing 'how the machinery of the brain works' – and, in fact, we still do not know how it works – have any implication for the effective use of the mind? (p52)

Time to settle down

Now that I've been back, I've almost given up hope of settling back into 'life as normal': it's just not possible. Travel has changed me – hopefully more for better than worse. and while I can't keep traveling, I can keep reflecting; understanding the change that I've experienced and assimilating the transformation.

To that end, I've got a few post-travel tasks:

  • the 6000 word independent study project that was the pretext for my travel, including
  • the 1000 pages of reading on the theology of spirituality, theology of mission and mission in the context of the Australian Defence Force,
  • emails, postcards and gifts for the friends I made along the way
  • 10 and 30 minute presentations on spirituality for soldiers, and 
  • 30 and 60 minute presentations on missional spirituality for chaplains, pastors and Christian leaders.
But, even before I started to look seriously at these tasks, I'd already started on something else: pre-travel tasks for the next (anticipated) trip!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leaving Spain

This is my last night in Spain. Now that I've found a café with jazz & wifi, it's too soon, but then again, after speaking with Anita on the phone earlier today, perhaps it's not soon enough!

Tomorrow, the train: what took me 30 days to walk will take me 13 hours to sit through. Then, the overnight train to Paris.

Spain is gorgeous, and Santiago has its treats, but the last two nights were the first time in over four weeks that I've stayed in one place for so long, so yes I'm getting restless. Oh, and I can't wait to emerge from the traib in Paris wearing my zip-offs, hiking boots and bandana and make the French choke on their morning coffees as they murmur 'trés vulgar!'

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Loving your enemies

I used to think that I didn't have any enemies, but now on the camino I see that's not true. Not only have I met some great people on the camino and made a few friends, I've also had to deal with some quite antisocial behaviour from others and myself - snoring.

There is a basic injustice about snoring: this sign that someone else is sleeping soundly is the same thing that robs everyone else of a good night's sleep.

In the daytime snorer's are normal people, but at night they are transformed into something altogether else as they insist on demanding one's full attention as they perform their best imitation of a jet engine or Harley Davidson. After a long day of walking, a shower and a sleep are the two things that not only allow one to relax but get ready for the next long day of walking. So, imagine how hard it is to love those who seem so intent on depriving me of the sleep I need. I don't enjoy being grumpy, but as one snorer replied when told of his behaviour, "what can I do?"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Someone commented that there aren't all that many 'spiritual' posts on my blog. In fact the blogging isn't going as I'd liked: I already mentioned the difficulty connecting, and add to that short amount of time I have when I do connect. Walking at about 5km an hour for (on average) 30km a day means - among other things - moving slowly, but also moving often. So time for extended reflecting and writing usually comes at the expense of sleep. But still, I have been writing, and when I can intend to transform journal entries to blog posts.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting closer

Well, it seems that all of the extra walking has paid off: I'm making good time and should be in Santiago before too long, just over a week now. It's exciting to look at a map of Spain and to trace the route. Initially it felt daunting. Each day brought new blisters, but now each day is 20-30km closer to my destination.

It's so nice to have afternoons off and be walking only 4-6 hours a day, rather than 8 or more, as now the longest days are behind me. There's surprisingly a lot to be done in the evenings: mostly it's just washing (I only brought two sets of clothes) and also some shopping so I don't have to eat out every meal. Life on the road has it's own rhythms, but still each day on the road creates work for that night.

More photos

Yes, I know that a lot of people have been enjoying the photos and wanting more... but it's time consuming.
Finally, I got around to it though. I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Normal life intrudes

I've really enjoyed having time outside of everyday time. Pilgrimage has its own rhythms and routines, and as a friend I've made along the way explained: the walk doesn't add anything new to who you are, it just istills it so you can see and deal with that reality.

Well, that time apart has been put on hold: yesterday I had to do some shopping, including replacing a phone charger. Until now blogging and keeping touch has been relatively easy, but I think I will be getting a bit more remote. Sorry, but that means less blog posts. The other thing is that finding an internet cafe or wifi hotspot also involves a big trade off when I have to eat and get ready for the next day, and even sleep. I find that walking is not the only part of pilgrimage, there are 'chores' also. I do hope to keep things up to date, but it's like shopping in a way - another 'normal' thing to add to the list that doesn't really get me closer to Santiago.

Also, though I've got some great photos, this internet cafe doesn't have an SD card reader or wifi, so sorry but none of them now.

Here's a quick recap of some highlights though:
  • sleeping one night on the beach - buying an icecream then unrolling the sleeping bag and still waiting at 10pm for the sun to set.
  • another night in a monastery - it was a long, hard walk, with an afternoon thundershower but Valdedios was lovely, and the hospitality was grand.
A few more nights on the coast, then I head inland. Hopefully some more nice pilgrim hostels to stay at.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Busy walking

Okay, a quick update from a public computer in a department store...
I'm in Oviedo, which is about 60% of the kilometres. In days, I'm about half way through, so things are going fairly well.
I've been without a phone or email for ages - hence the blog silence - but hopefully that won't be for a lot longer... but who knows.
I have plenty of cool photos and stories, but no time (yet) to post, I'm afraid.
As a consolation, head over to Anita's Facebook page and check out our holiday pics.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Well, I was wrong about being a quarter of the way to Santiago: it's actually more like one third!
I'm now in Santander and enjoying the relatively flat, but usually paved and sometimes dangerous roads. Life had settled into a nice little routine, walking in the morining, stopping in a large town or city for lunch and a siesta before walking again in the afternoon or evening to a small city to sleep in. Well, you know how I am with routine, today I mixed things up. I walked pretty much straight through to this regional city, and was glad I did. This afternoon I got my first rain while walking, only a few drops but I'm hoping that the weather forecast is wrong for th next few days and that it stays dry. I'm also planning shorther walks now that I'm a few days ahead, to get back into the smaller towns.

Flickr photoset

It seems like the easiest way to keep updating photos is through Flickr. So here is my photo set of the camino del norte. I hope you like them, I'm having to be selective, but hope to add at least one for each day when I am able to upload.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Almost a quarter of the way

Due to the lift I got to Bilbao and two big days if walking, I'm bow almost a quarter of the distance to Santiago. That puts me about 2-3 days ahead of schedule. So, it may mean that I get a break (who knows when I might be forced by illness or injury to slow down or rest up) or simply get to Santiago early. I like this second option.

Today I walked 30km and yesterday 35. If- as I plan - I walk an 30 again tomorrow, I will have done in three days what the guide has in four. The added benefit of this is that I end up having lunch and a siesta where most others stay the night, and then go on to a smaller town or village for dinner and to sleep. Often its easier to find good food in these smaller towns, and the smaller refuges are quieter.

Yesterday I caught up with an earlier travel companion and at about 8.30pm we finally arrived in the small town we were to stay at. The key had to be collected from the local bar (the only one) which was a great excuse to take our packs off and have a cold one. Then when we got to the newly renovated refuge, we found we were the only ones. The quiet night was welcome.

Of course the larger hostels like we're staying at tonight have their benefits: fridge, lounge, and wifi for example.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good and...

I haven't been blogging the last few days because I've been staying more interesting places than the hostels and pilgrim refuges. First, after the big walk to Markina, I went on about 6km further to stay at a monstery. It was fantastic - only six other pilgrims. Even though it was a longer day I also managed to have more time for reflection and journalling and managed to attend vespers (sung night time prayers) with the monks and a couple of other pilgrims.

I've met a couple of good travelling companions, both speak English and one speaks Spanish, which has come in handy. The three of us joined up the afternoon after the monstery in Gernika (Basque spelling), the town in Picasso's famous Guernica (Castillian spelling) and had every intention of going on to another town or staying wherver we could get shelter and maybe even clean water. Instead we encountered the most incredible hospitality I've ever heard about. We were offered the garage floor of a local man who gave us a lift to the family farm in the back of his van. When we got there, we met the rest opf the family, went for a swim in their pool, were given beer and put on a load of laundry. Though we brought dinner with s, they cooked for us anyway and we had a couple of nightcaps. As if this wasn't amazing enough we were offered a lift to Bilbao this morning and were greeted with this sunrise vista:

Then, this morning, things went a little differently. When we got to Bilbao we found that the small refuge was closed. Permanently, but the new business had failed to take down the old sign. Then, when we went in to town, there was a general strike with accompanying protests. So, though I could go to the pharmacy to get more blister gear, I couldn't post more stuff ahead to lighten my load nor get the other new supplies I needed. Frustrated with both occurences, our group split up and the other two headed to our next stop while I tried to find what I could on my list. Another permanent closure, an incompetent and incomprehensible store clerk and now, here I am. More or less give up on rejoining the other two, and having wasted a day I worked so hard to get ahead on. Oh well, that's life, and that's the camino.

Blister pics

Warning, they're gory.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spelling mistakes

Yes, I know my writing is horrific on the blog. Posts are typed in a hurry, often tapped out on an iPhone. I apologise and hope you understand. Anyone still offended is invited to contribute to better tapping by buying me an iPad.

Zarautz - Deba

Another 22km down, and I'm grateful for the advice about blisters - probably pharmacy supplies are my greatest expense so far as Compeeds aren't cheap. I think it's just a matter of wearing my feet in and hardening them up. Thankfully, I've a good opporuntity for that tomorrow: the trek to Markina is fairly remote, with no food or house for the last 15km and no water for the last 9km. And it's steep.

As I'll cotinue to do for the rest of the camino, I kept silent today until lunch. Then, with good timing I joined up with a couple of other pilgrims just after I started walking again after lunch. I really enjoy having the quiet time to myself in the morning, and get a lot of thinking done, but it was surprising how encouraging it was in the afternoon as we climbed another 300m, to have people to talk to. The time, the distance and the incline all diminish.

Now, off to the beach.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Donostia - Zarautz

An easier day today, which was good. Someone in out dorm last night, sleeping in the bunk next to mee created a massive racket at midnight and 5am. Ah, this trip is making me long for the simple things- like uninterrupted sleep! Lucky I don't know where he was from: I would be forever prejudiced against that country. Unless it was Australia.

I had amazing hospitality again today- a hotel offers a special meals for pilgrims, so k hot a bottle of wine and a three course meal for €10!

Another swim in the ocean, and also more blisters; I see a pattern emerging here...

[Zarautz, old town, where I sat at a closed pub writing this post]

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Friday, June 25, 2010


Donostia is probably the nicest city or town I've seen in Spain so far, not that I've seen much of it. It has three main beaches, and, for all that locals don't wear to the beach, they should start wearing tevas (like me) or aquashoes of some kind: there are more rocks than sand. Yes, I went for a swim.

Still, they've kept a lot of nice old buildings and lots of green space. Their new blocks don't look slummish, but well set out with good pedestrian scale and common areas. Also, the bike paths are excellent. The shops and bars are a bit pricey, though. All in all, this town wouldn't be out of place on the French riviera.

I got to see more of it than I'm expecting to see of other towns as I had some chores to do: going to the pharmacy and post office, both to do something about the blisters.

Now, if only I wasn't aching all over, but especially on my knees, feet and shoulders, I thinknid enjoy it even more.

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Irun - Donostia

Well, the first day of walking is over. I waqs expecting a nice easy introduction, but certainly was disappointed. I walked over 30km today, and the worst parts were always whenever I couldn´t find something.

I´ve just got back from a 'shopping' trip to refill my blister supplies (lucky I can't upload photos here!) and lighten my load by 3kg by sending things to myself at my destination, Santiago. Important things, like books and my thermos mug. Desperate times...

My walk today was eventful in other ways - as I had been praying, God has brought me into contact with other Christians. I recieved some lovely hospitality from some Christians who live in intentional community (shared money, work) and also a French couple I met at the albergue (pilgrim's hostel) yesterday are also going to Taize when I am.

Well, that's it for now, these are shared computers and I also have to send an email to my wife, who must be home by now!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Now in Irún

I'm at the starting point for my walk, Irún, less than 2km from the border with France (maybe I'll walk there too). As well as drafting blog posts and reading while on the train here from Barcelona, I also paid attention to my changing surrounds: greener, but warmer.

In other words, I'll be getting wet before too long.

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"People don't take trips, trips take people." - John Steinbeck.

It's obvious almost to the point of being cliched, but true. Some of the best parts of our trip were the ones not in the itinerary: jogging through the early morning mists and crowds of geese in the Englischer Garten in Munich; the BBQ at the guest house in Ostereinen (the village on the lake outside Füssen, the town on the border with Austria); driving part of the Tour de France - possibly the steepest, windiest part; having to follow some locals to a guest house on the Rhone because the roads were to small to be in our map; and last night, walking through the medieval streets of Barcelona's gothic quarter to have a busker playing Bach mournfully on a bandeneon.

Yes, where trips take us is often better than where we take trips.

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Barca v. Bayern

So, though I've said a lit about how good Bayern (Bavaria) is, I really must be careful not to ssy too little about Barcelona too.

Apart from the proliferation of British turistas (and the occasional Aussie, too), Barca is really quite livable as a city. I love 'bicing', their residents' bike scheme; their metro; the fact that Miro, Gaudi, Picasso and Dalí all get their own museums; the winding streets of the gothic quarter and the closeness of so many natural highlights.

Barca is a beauty, but still, I'm happy to be on my way, back to towns and villages as I walk across Spain. I've enjoyed the luxury and culture, but now it's time for relaxation and nature.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Don't get too excited just yet... The problem I have with getting photos onto the blog is this: if I take them on the camera, I have to go to an Internet café to upload them then do a blog post, and not all Internet cafés read SD cards either. However, if I take them with my iPhone they're not such great resolution. (A future solution might be an iPad with camera adapter; I can't believe how many times I've thought an iPad would be the perfect travelling device...) Anyhow, here's a picture I managed to get on the Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Munich:

Another reason to love Germany: Furbies are banned in flights.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Saying goodbye

This morning I saw Anita off. She's now on her way to London for a night then home.

I went back to the room to finish packing, and though I had been in it myself before, now it was so empty.
So, already the holiday is over. It was fantastic ful of ups and downs, relaxation and fun amid the occasional stress. Now I start making my way to Irun to start walking. Who knows when or how, or where I´ll stay tonight -- this doesn´t matter as much as that I'll be staying on my own for some time now.

I'm looking forward to meeting new friends, and kepping in touch with old ones, but moreover, to seeing Anita again... not soon enough.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ghana v Australia

Go Aussie, go!

There's (almost) nothing quite like being in Europe at World Cup time (except maybe being in the host city). Last night supporters of both Algeria and England went up and down our Rambla honking horns, cheering and carrying on, keeping us awake. So, now when we're heading out for lunch (at 2:30 pm) I'm also looking for a horn to honk when we win.

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I'm thinking of retiring to Bavaria

SERIOUSLY. At fifty. Or forty if possible.

Here's why:
• you can ride almost anywhere by bicycle, and everywhere else by motorbike.
• or, if you're in a hurry, catch a train, or if you're in Munich, a subway.
• the alps are an hour away from the city by train or motorbike (a little more by bicycle).
• in the alps there is not only great hiking, but great swimming, great mountain and road biking. Great rock climbing and snow-shoeing and skiing and other winter sports too (of course!) - if you have the gear...
• there are bieregartens everywhere (from Munich to the alps);
• that serve cheap beer;
• that tastes great;
• any time of day.
• Audis, BMWs and VWs are cheap.

Possible downsides include:
• the amount of men wearing leather pants.
• watching world cup.
• too much sausage and bread and beer, not enough fresh fruit and veg.
• it's right next door to France (and Switzerland).
• winter is too cold.
• it's so far from Australia.

Don't worry, I love my job and my family and friends far too much to stay in Europe. But don't be surprised if I can't stop thinking about when I'm heading back next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

City and country

Last night and the night before we spent in France. Rural France. In fact, apart from Munich, all of our holiday has been in the country. And even then, most of that time we spent on day trips out of the city. Also, Munich is unbelievably bike-friendly, which is so unlike any Australian city and the other European ones we've seen.

This time in the country is not what I'd imagined or planned; Europe being so full of culture and history, and me wanting to see it... So it wasn't just a surprise that we spent so much time in parks, gardens, on winding roads and in hamlets and only a little in churches, and none (yet) in museums, it was also a surprise that I liked it.

Without the ugly suburban sprawl that Australia does as well as America, the villages though only 10 or 15 minutes ride or walk apart (and most people don't drive) each have their own character, maintained by the open spaces or forest between them.

The cities we went through might not have the sprawl but they still have the suburbs in some ways. On the one hand, aspiration drives conspicuous consumption and on the other, marginalisation is marked by a lack not only of consumption but colour. In the cities it seems, there is only luxury or poverty, glamour or dullness. Particularly striking were the bland (always only ever grey) apartment blocks that looked like they were made by communists.

Add to this the difference between city and country hospitality, and I think I'm a convert to rural life.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Basel and beyond

Well, after a lively and lovely, but longer than expected stop in upper Bavaria on the mountain border, we're now in Basel about to leave for Lyon. The trains are great, giving me a chance to read, but if we run out of time might switch to cars. Switzerland is far too expensive, so bring on Spain!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010


After Auschwitz (in today's Poland), perhaps Dachau is the best known remnant of the Third Reich. Today Anita and I planned to spend a couple of hours there, but instead spent a lot more than that.

Later I plan to post more on Dachau and Germany's conflicted past. But for now, it suffices to point out that I saw the cell of Pastor Martin Niemoller; he who greeted the Nazi rise to power because of it's compatibility with conservative values, yet had the courage to oppose it after seeing it at work. He even went on to become an early advocate of rapprpoachment with the communist east of Europe.

I made a point of seeing all of the religious memorials at Dachau -- Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. I was glad to see the the this latter memorial was very ecumenical -- very human, in many senses, without intending disrespect to the others -- and was also the one with people present. (To be fair, there is a convent behind the camp in this overwhelmingly Catholic state of Bavaria.)

It is true, so true; nothing could be truer -- "never again". Some things -- sadly, including the relative silence of Christians in the Third Reich -- must never be forgotten. Ever.

Too busy

Yes, travelling is hard work that takes up most of the day -- at least if done properly.

I've spent a lot of the time on the DB (deutschebahn = railway) but also some time on boats and buses in order to hike, swim, chat, eat and drink, and see otherwise inaccesible sights. I hope you're impressed with all of that (especially the swimming in lakes filled with ice-melt) because I am too. But (at least) just as impressive is the cheap beer served by the half-litre or litre. Sure, being at the top of Germany's highest mountain, purest lake, and most popular tourist destinations are great experiences, but evenryone needs a chance to relax every now and then. And biergartens are just that for me.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Austrian accident

No, don´t worry, nothng bad has happened to either me or Anita. Rather, we ended up in Austria by accident.

We set out early this morning from München (Munich) hoping to go see Dachau concentration camp, but all museums across Germany are closed on Mondays, so we tried to change our trip to Berchtesgarten and Kehlsteinhaus (-eagle´s Nest - Hitler´s retreat seen at the end of Band of Brothers), but there were problems with the Salzburg railway line getting there. So, instead we ended up taking a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, then a cogwheel train and cable car to Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

But because of the Schengen treaty, we crossed the border into Austria on the other side of the peak without even knowing it, looking for a restaurant for lunch. We found our restaurant and I thought it fitting to have Wiener Schnitzel for lunch. Now, hopefuly we go back down the correct side of the mountain into Germany, and not into Austria or Italy or Switzerland which can also be seen from here.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Leavin' on a jet plane

In just over twelve hours time Anita and I will fly out of Brisbane International Airport.
I'm extremely excited to finally be packed and that I could be disciplined enough to only take one book in my cabin luggage – though it is a collection of essays.
A number of things didn't get done, but I'm confident life in Brisbane will go on just fine without me.

Please use the tools from either Facebook or Google to follow my blog - seeing your display picture will encourage me to keep up to date. Also, I had tried to send a group email with my new contact details while I'm away, but that wasn't so successful. So have a look at my new email address in the top right-hand corner and consider dropping me a line or making a comment on one of my posts if you want to keep in touch during June, July or August.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Saying good-bye

Last Sunday I said my farewells at Arana. I'm sure I'll be back, I even know when, and that I need to have certain things ready to share when I do return. But nonetheless, for this journey it was an important step for the congregations to say good-bye to me and for me to say good-bye to them; to say explicitly and honestly "I won't see you for twelve weeks, and I'll miss you."

Contrast this with the typically postmodern sense of rootlessness that avoids having to commit to anything: no RSVPs, no good-byes, no intentional absence and almost no intentional presence.

Community means – among other things – having to say good-bye when you go. It also means that when you return, there will be people waiting to hear your stories and see your pictures.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pilgrimage as formation for chaplaincy

Both my pilgrimage along el camino and my week with the brothers at Taizé are part of an independent guided study subject undertaken towards a coursework masters, with the topic 'Missional Spirituality'.

My particular mission context is the Australian Defence Force and that is why there are two aspects to my study tour. Far more than most westerners, soldiers are communal people; they eat and sleep, party and fight, live and die together; something that so many churches can learn from. Oh, and soldiers no more choose their comrades than Christians choose their brothers and sisters. This is why I'll be spending a week at Taizé with Catholic and Protestant brothers: eating, sleeping, playing and praying with those who share the rhythms that I need to develop for a spirituality of mission.

But soldiers are also nomads. It is because of their love for their country that they do not stay within its borders. They are a people who belong to each other more than they belong to a particular place. Soldiers also know solitude, silence and walking – this is why I'll be hiking 900km of the camino and keeping silence between breakfast and lunch.

So during the study tour I'll be wearing my boots: having something with me – on me – at all times to remind me why I'm walking or staying, why I'm on my own or in the monastic community, and why I'm silent or speaking to strangers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pay attention

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

– TS Eliot from 'Little Gidding,' Four Quartets  
The idea of a journey of self-discovery is quite laughable in some senses, and quite pitiable in others; if I can't find myself in Brisbane, then why should I have more success in Santiago?

Of course, the issue really isn't about finding in one place what would otherwise be lost elsewhere. The issue, rather, is about being more aware of what one has and who one is – wherever one is located. And as much as the familiarity of commuting dulls the senses, the novelty of travelling sharpens them; more than that, pilgrimage confronts the senses. The pedestrian scale and pace of movement for the pilgrim means there is no escaping the unfamiliarity.

The sun and its passage through the sky, feeling its warmth on my back and the chill of the wind as I walk into it – these are things I noticed on my recent trip to Sydney. And for some time I noticed similar things on my return.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Consider how irregular my blogging is, and you will have some idea of how unsuccesful most of my attempts at daily journalling have been.

My life is highly resistant to attempts to impose routine upon it, but it has been known to happen – in restricted ways, and for limited times – in the past, but it's not something that comes easily. But almost nothing of any value is achieved without difficulty. Walking 900km in a foreign country will not be achieved without difficulty. So, if I can hike, on average 30km a day for 30 days, perhaps then I can also journal about those travels for 30 minutes at the end of each day.

Though a generalisation, my theory is that a person's life is either easy for them to write about, or worth writing about. I'd much rather have the former problem than the latter!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Church Newsletter

This small article was written for my church's newsletter, because – as is clear below – my colleague Simon (the senior pastor) who more often than not writes the 'Pastor's Post,' well and truly has his hands full at the moment.
As if moving across the world wasn't enough, this weekend the Wards move into their third Australian house.
In less than a month, Anita and I head overseas for a holiday. Then after Anita heads home, I stay on to walk 900km across Spain.
Last weekend the church went camping. As well as the necessities – like good coffee – we had some luxuries, but by and large the people who went to Triple C left most of their everyday lives behind.

For God's people in the Old Testament, going to a particular place – usually the temple – gave people a special experience of God's presence, which is why the psalmist says "blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." As a faithful Jew, Jesus himself also participated in the feasts and festivals: at the camp service, John Armstrong shared with us from John 7 about a time when Jesus addressed those who had also left their everyday lives behind to journey to Jerusalem. Not only that, but Jesus also started his public ministry with an extended time of solitude in the desert, and continued during his ministry to regularly withdraw to a quiet time and place.

Despite the scriptural precedent and Jesus' example it's easy for us to mistakenly think that now there are no special places anymore, there is no need to go anywhere or to get away. In fact, the opposite is true. Certainly it's true that God's dwelling place is no longer (just) in Jerusalem, but – through Jesus – in the lives of his people. And it's also the case that we celebrate Jesus as our passover lamb every time we meet, and not just once a year. It's not that there are no special places or times anymore, but that every place and time is special: "God with us" can be the experience of every person, regardless of history or geography.

So, even though Christians don't need to go to Jerusalem (or any other place) for passover (or any other festival), it's still fitting for us to think of ourselves as a pilgrim people, wherever and whenever we go: that, after all is the point of the great commission in Matthew 28. As for camping, moving house, and trekking – these activities help remind us that God's people are always on the move. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Welcome Anita!

This evening, my gorgeous wife Anita set up her own blog! I know I've been spending a lot of time setting up photo uploading, mobile blogging, tweaking my template, and even some time writing posts, but I didn't realise that she had been driven to blog for attention. I'm not sure whether the issue lies with demand that is too great or supply that is too little, but regardless of the problem I think I can guess the solution.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Vitality lies in movement

[God] is a God of the Way. His sanctuary is the Mobile Ark, His house is a tent, His Altar a cairn of rough stones... He leads [the Israelites] out of Egypt... There He gives them their Solemn Feast, the Passover: a feast of roasted lamb and bitter herbs , of bread baked not in an oven but on a hot stone. And he commands them to eat "in haste," with shodden feet and sticks in hand, to remind them, forever that their vitality lies in movement.
– Bruce Chatwin The Songlines (New York, N.Y.: Penguin, 1987) pp 194-195 in Arthur Paul Boers The Way is Made by Walking: a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2007) 39.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pilgrimage as antidote to gnosticism

Pilgrimage, done properly is one of the best-known antidotes to gnosticism. Gnositicism runs screaming at the sign of a muddy boot. When wise men prescribe pilgrimage, there's a fair chance that the diagnosis on the notes is "gnostic."
 — Charles Foster 2010 The sacred journey, The ancient practices (Nashville, Tn.: Thomas Nelson), p 19.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Road trippin

With the RHCP song at the front of my mind, I'm wondering what the relationship between pilgrimage and road-trip is.

Though Anita and will likely make our way from Munich to Barcelona by road, and from there I'll bus it to Irun, I don't think of this travel as part of my camino. I can think if too many reasons why road trippin really isn't pilgrimage (pace, convenience and amount of preparation required), for any road trip, that is, except for one to Chicago.

Now, predictably, Sufjan Stevens is at the front of my mind.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aussie Camino

An episode of the ABC's Compass has made me aware of an enterprising group that has taken the initiative in establishing the camino Salvado from St Joseph's Subiaco to Australia's only monastic town, New Norcia: some 145 kms over six days. The route is named after Dom Salvado who walked it many times. I'm particularly pleased that following in the footsteps of this Abbot-Bishop would bring Australian pilgrims into contact with the histories of both the camino de Santiago and Australia's mixed relations (to say the least!) between the church and indigenous Australians.

Needless to say, I hope to walk this way one day soon.

Practice Travel (MREs)

I'm walking the camino and visiting Taizé mostly to develop a particular type of spirituality: missional spirituality, or simply, spirituality for mission.
And my missional vocation will be lived out in a particular type of context: military chaplaincy.

It's therefore fitting that in the same way that soldiers will conduct mission rehearsal exercises before deploying overseas, I'm currently conducting my own mission rehearsal exercise. I'm in Sydney for the week to attend a facilitation by Steve Taylor on mission, discipleship and leadership in cultures of change. In a number of ways I've tried to make this trip a practice for my travel in Europe:
  • I travelled only with hand luggage (I don't think I can ever travel with checked baggage again, it's so much quicker and easier),
  • I relied heavily on the hospitality of others - my hosts are generous and flexible and even though I do my own thing a lot of the time, I still feel like we share a significant amount of time, 
  • most of my non-study activities were unplanned before arriving (except for one), even a proposed trip to the a neighbouring city. 
In some ways I'm already starting to live the life of a pilgrim – travelling lightly, looking for God's grace at work in others and spontaneity – but there is certainly much to learn as I refine both the way I travel and discipline the way I live. 
(Numerous clichéd ways of making this last point tempted me in this late-night moment of weakness – much ground to cover, a long way to journey, etc – but I have successfully avoided placing them in the body of the post. I include them here for illustrative purposes only.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hiking training

Though not easy, recently I stopped triathlon training to undertake more hiking-specific training. A significant assistance has been the book Conditioning for outdoor fitness: functional exercise and nutrition for every body (2nd ed) by David Musnick and Mark Pierce.

My training program now involves a better range of activities but isn't yet complete, however blogging doesn't count as physical training, so straight out the door I go...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Technology and pilgrimage

Today I started reading the journal of another caminante, edited and compiled into book form; it's inspiring and I know that I'd really like to be able to do the same. I'm not sure that I'm capable of adding another expectation: so far my commitments are to the pilgrimage journey and certain practices along the way – what that all adds up to at the end seems a little beyond me, especially now. And even if I could undertake this extra task, I'm not sure that I should. 

Mostly I want to avoid taking too much technology with me: I remember Richard Foster's insight that simplicity is not about having nothing more to add, but having nothing more to take away. I am primarily a traveller, and not a photographer or writer and I really want to walk as I normally would and not be weighed down by a camera, books and a computer, even if it means that I have less to show for it afterwards. And that, for me, is really saying something. So I'm still working out what to take with me, but most importantly what to leave behind. If only I could this way when I'm not on pilgrimage.

[The Spanish word for 'pilgrim' is peregrino, from which is derived touregrino, for a spiritual tourist (perhaps another post on this one day?). In the twenty-first century, can the technogrino ever be a true pilgrim?]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


La Oración dl Señor – Lucas 11
2     «Padre,

              santificado sea tu nombre.
              Venga tu reino.
3     Danos cada día nuestro pan cotidiano.
4     Perdónanos nuestros pecados,
              porque también nosotros perdonamos a todos los que nos ofenden.
              Y no nos metas en *tentación. »


El cántico de Zacarías – Lucas 1
68 «Bendito sea el Señor, Dios de Israel,
porque ha venido a redimir a su pueblo. 

69 Nos envió un poderoso salvador en la casa de David su siervo 

70 (como lo prometió en el pasado por medio de sus *santos profetas), 

71 para librarnos de nuestros enemigos
y del poder de todos los que nos aborrecen; 

72 para mostrar misericordia a nuestros padres
al acordarse de su santo pacto. 

73 Así lo juró a Abraham nuestro padre: 

74 nos concedió que fuéramos libres del temor,
al rescatarnos del poder de nuestros enemigos,
para que le sirviéramos 75 con santidad y justicia,
viviendo en su presencia todos nuestros días.
76 Y tú, hijito mío, serás llamado profeta del Altísimo,
porque irás delante del Señor para prepararle el camino. 

77 Darás a conocer a su pueblo la salvación
mediante el perdón de sus pecados, 

78 gracias a la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios.
Así nos visitará desde el cielo el sol naciente, 

79 para dar luz a los que viven en tinieblas,
en la más terrible oscuridad, para guiar nuestros pasos por la senda de la paz.»

Obviously, an English version can be found in any Bible at Luke 1:68-79

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nunc dimittis

El cántico de Simeón – Lucas 2
29      «Según tu palabra, Soberano Señor,
        ya puedes despedir a tu *siervo en paz. 

30      Porque han visto mis ojos tu salvación, 

31      que has preparado a la vista de todos los pueblos: 

32      luz que ilumina a las *naciones
        y gloria de tu pueblo Israel.»


El cántico de Mária – Lucas 1
46     —Mi alma glorifica al Señor,
47     y mi espíritu se regocija en Dios mi Salvador,
48     porque se ha dignado fijarse en su humilde sierva.
       Desde ahora me llamarán dichosa todas las generaciones,
49     porque el Poderoso ha hecho grandes cosas por mí.
              ¡Santo es su nombre!
50     De generación en generación
              se extiende su misericordia a los que le temen.
51     Hizo proezas con su brazo;
              desbarató las intrigas de los soberbios.
52     De sus tronos derrocó a los poderosos,
              mientras que ha exaltado a los humildes.
53     A los hambrientos los colmó de bienes,
              y a los ricos los despidió con las manos vacías.
54-55 Acudió en ayuda de su siervo Israel
              y, cumpliendo su promesa a nuestros padres,
              mostró su misericordia a Abraham
              y a su descendencia para siempre.

Monday, April 12, 2010


As I walk the camino – and as I prepare to – I'll be keeping my own, simple times of prayer. Set-hour prayer is something relatively unfamiliar to me; my own tradition values extempore prayer. While this can easily, and often does, become little more than 'making it up as you go along,' ignoring the vast riches of the church's history of prayer, it can also be an occasion for virtuosic – even inspired – improvisation.

But, the choice between heartfelt, impromptu prayer and thoughtful, learned prayer represents a false dichotomy. Alongside improv, many musicians train on scales and also know the classics by heart. Tomorrow I'll be posting four 'standards' from the scriptures that I hope to learn by heart in English and in Spanish as I journey. Perhaps, whether in either language, or both, this is a part of my journey that you will be able to share with me?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I got my University Jacobean Credential today!

The document functions like a pilgrim's passport, granting me entry torefugios and albergues along the path. It's just a large piece of paper with many places for stamps from universities and other places along my camino, with a map of the universities and a small amount of information. Unfortunately it seems that this credencial can only be used to gain either the student's certificate or the religious compostela, not both.

Amusingly, I was almost about to email the University of Navarre because they had indicated it had been sent some time ago, but I hadn't received it. Then, when sorting through some mail this morning I found a final reminder notice from Australia Post to come pick up a registered international package. Funny, how something I'm so eagerly awaiting can still get lost, but not bills or other less desirable correspondence.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Setting up

Well, it's not really a perfect solution, but it looks like I should be able to blog my camino - in words and pictures - from my iPhone. Hooray!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone