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Badass Pilgrim?

You might wonder at first glance what badassery and pilgrimage have in common.

Let me tell you about a conversation I had with my sister during day 2 of my DIY Pilgrimage.

First, a litte background—my sister and I had initially intended to walk the Camino de Santiago from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2020. It’s around a 485 mile/780 kilometer journey. That’s a long way and we felt pretty courageous wanting to attempt it.

When our pilgrimage got cancelled due to COVID, I ultimately decided that I wanted to create my own pilgrimage from my house to her house—a mere 70 miles/44 kilometers. And so I did! On day 2, the estimated distance was 14 miles. Or so I thought. I had failed to add the extra mile from the middle of town to my small hotel further south. Nor did I realize that since we weren’t following the exact route that had been mapped out, we were actually adding another 2.5 miles to the day, rather than shortening it.

So, somewhere almost at mile 10 my sister checked the map and announced we had 7.9 miles to go😳. This was a bit of a surprise, but being on a dirt road in the middle of a state park where no rideshare could find us, and with our commitment to be open to what comes, we did what every pilgrim does when faced with a surprise like this: we kept walking.

This is where the conversation about being a badass began. My sister and I immediately felt like walking badasses! We knew we were going to end up walking 3.5 more miles than we thought we were, which by itself isn’t a big deal, but at the end of a day does start to feel longer than it really is. Plus, we couldn’t dawdle as she had an important family commitment in early evening that we were going to get her to.

In the vernacular, we had to haul ass. This was no weekend jaunt in the park, or casual walk from here to there. We now had to get 3.5 miles further in approximately the same amount of time we had initially planned. As we kept our brisk pace we talked about women in outdoor spaces. We talked about women doing physically difficult things. We talked about women doing things that surprised other people, or that others didn’t think we could do.

And we talked about why being a badass sometimes might just be part of the spiritual journey of a pilgrimage. We had to trust that our bodies could do this. We had to trust that we had enough mental stamina to keep going when we were tired. We had to trust that we would be safe enough on the road to make it. And we just had to do it! In short, we needed to be badasses.

Once we’d named it, we owned it, and that’s when we understood why being a badass is a spiritual thing. It’s something that goes above and beyond who we are in our regular lives. It’s something that sometimes is surprising, perhaps both to ourselves and to others. It’s something that makes us proud. It is something where we live into the dictionary definition of being a person who is “formidably impressive.” At least for that moment on the road.

And that’s how we discovered the connection between badassery and pilgrimage.

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