Book: Women of the Way - Embracing the Camino by Jane V. Blanchardcategories: Book, Memoir, Hiking, Inspirational, Motivational, Adventure, Camino De Santiago, Piglrimage, Walking, Sisterhood, Camaraderie, Women, Travel in Spain
Jane V. Blanchardabout this book: Wanting adventure and to hike my first long walk, I chose the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, a 500-mile trek across northern Spain. For Catholics, journeying to Santiago de Compostela is one of the three most esteemed pilgrim destinations; the others are to Rome and to Jerusalem. There are many ways to travel to Santiago, but the most famous route is the Camino Francés. This route is now designated a European Cultural Itinerary, and many "pilgrims," including myself, hike the distance for nonreligious reasons.
As I was walking on the Camino, I spoke with female pilgrims from around the world. They told me why they were walking and what the Camino meant to them. I was riveted with their stories and realized that theirs were tales worth retelling. With their permission, I recorded the fascinating and inspiring stories and weaved them with the account of my own pilgrimage.
My journey started the day I committed to hiking the Camino. For this reason, the book includes my preparations, a four-day stay in Barcelona, the actual trek to Santiago de Compostela, and the final journey to the sea.
Since the Camino symbolizes the journey through life, readers of the book are not limited to hikers or persons contemplating the pilgrimage. The women interviewed for Women of the Way are multigenerational, from various cultural and economic backgrounds. Their stories have a universal appeal. Though I chose to write about the women I met, this is not a chic book; the theme of finding your way and embracing life is a subject that anyone can relate to.
The cover photo was taken near Samos, Spain. To me, it represents the peace and pastoral beauty of the Camino. I chose the color of the book to represent the brown hues so typical of the Camino—the fertile earth of the eastern and western ends and the arid plains of the Meseta, the interior plateau.
Writing Women of the Way: Embracing the Camino was a work of love. As I listened to and transcribed each woman's story, I relived my time with them. Writing the book extended my Camino and helped me internalize many of the lessons learned. I also contacted each woman to find out if she had finished the Camino and how the Camino had affected her. Many of their responses are included within the book.
As I wrote the book, I researched the town names and history. I joined forums and asked questions of other pilgrims about loneliness and the meaning of some of the religious symbols at the cathedral. I read books that inspired other pilgrims such as The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho. I reread Shirley MacLaine's The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit. While I was writing, I did not read other books on the Camino, not wanting to be influenced by them.
Writing in the first person was a real stretch for me; my background is in technical writing. I restarted the book twice before finding my voice. Even then, my beta readers suggested that I open up more and reveal more of my thoughts. It is getting easier, and I strive to be more open in my current writings (blogs, comments, posts).
In the To My Readers section of the book, I invite my readers "to embrace the Camino, whether it be a physical journey or one of the spirit… to come on this pilgrimage with me, to walk at my side, to meet unique women and listen to their compelling stories. Come and share my experiences, sorrows, and joys. Join my journey and you will not be alone on the road."
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