In the near future, fellow Gentleman of the Road Simon Harvey will be making a 500-mile pilgrimage from Paris back to Oadby where he lives and works. You can read about the preparation and, eventually, the journey itself at his elegantly-constructed blog.
Meanwhile in the past, John Davies walked the M62, back from Hull to his Liverpool home.
Based on sample of three, everyone’s doing it. (If you get confused, I’m the one without a dog collar.)
As John asks, what is it about walking home? The standard pattern of pilgrimage involves travelling to a significant place, rather heading for home. Why head back to base instead of a distant and exotic site?
Some flippant answers from the aisle of archness:
Ease. Pilgrimages used to involve, for instance, going to Rome on hands and knees. Compared to that kind of thing, sauntering home is considerably easier.
Avoidance of disappointment. ‘That’s Santiago di Compostela? I thought it would be bigger somehow.’* One has a pretty good idea of what home is like and may in fact have had plenty of opportunities to be disappointed already.
Double bluff. Illustrious writers including Homer, Lovecraft, Eliot and Tolkien have indicated that the return is the most significant aspect of the journey – a discovery that comes after vast journeyings and travails. OK then, taking those guys at their word, let’s cut the tricky ‘adventure’ parts and make the return into the journey itself. Straight to the senses-shattering climax: a simple matter of efficiency.
Less flippantly, I think journeys home have some kind of resonance. They’re unique, as we all have different homes. There’s something about rediscovery of the familiar, and something about joining up meaningful places. Perhaps a sense that home is a special kind of place, maybe even a thin place, worthy of a special journey.
* One of the classic pilgrim disappointments, along with ‘Well, I walked x00 miles and have the blisters to prove it – but I don’t feel any different: dude, where’s my enlightenment?’ and ‘I spent £14 on a Moleskin notebook and all it has in it is a note that the sunset outside the airport was ‘pretty’ and a receipt from a tapas bar jammed between two pages – I didn’t even put in in the special wallet bit’. And, more recently, ‘I blogged the whole thing with GPS points, live feeds and video – and I have fewer hits than a website about the history of artex ceilings.’