To go on a pilgrimage is to travel to a shrine or sacred site, usually completing the final miles on foot. It is to pass along a path to a place of devotional, spiritual significance. But is that all there is to it? Is the destination the goal? Is the motivation simply to arrive? What about the actual journey? The pilgrimage IS the journey. It speaks to the pilgrim of who he is, shows him his inner most self. The journey gives the pilgrim the chance to intimately consider his path thus far and to consider and reconsider his next steps. It gives him the space and peace to seek the spiritual nature of life and to commune with it, seeking a deeper understanding of the divine. It allows him to see and accept what is of the soul and what is not – what he can leave along the way. Challenges along the way. The pilgrim arrives at the destination via a route which has often challenged him in some way. Physically, emotionally, mentally or personally – the challenges faced strip him of familiar comforts. They ask him to redefine his barriers and aspirations. They demand that he review his definition of himself. The destination is indeed the end of the journey, but the pilgrim who arrives is surely changed from the person who began. He will have had time to think. He may have thought over the issues in his life which sap his energy and spirit. During the hours of walking he may have mulled over past hurts and disagreements maybe now seeing them with a new perspective. Without everyday distractions, he will have had moments of deep, clear introspection. Emotional baggage could be discarded with the adoption of a more balanced view of life and his place within it. His goals may have altered, his attitudes and opinions softened. His determination may be heightened and his aim surer. His arrival as a pilgrim will be as a wiser man. Away from family and hearth, the pilgrim loses much of what he identifies with. No longer cocooned in his home, his commute, work and hobbies, the pilgrim finds himself in what is left. Whilst on this journey, nothing is seen bar the man. His medals and honours are gone. Only the truth remains. The journey, albeit temporarily, strips him of his status and position in society. Unable to hide behind his story, laid bare, he must face himself. The man who stands in front of the sacred site will know himself a little deeper. To fully immense himself into the experience, the pilgrim needs to shut out the world beyond his immediate vicinity. The world wide web screams loudly into the brain. Turning off the phone, cutting off from the constant stream of information and its red-button temptations to log in, like, share, re-post can calm and focus the mind. Perhaps though unfamiliar or rough territory, a pilgrimage can be gruelling. It can be so far removed from the comfort zone that the pilgrim leaves his everyday worries behind to concentrate on the immediate needs of food, drink and shelter. The pain of the walk or fear of becoming lost may be regarded as a trial of endurance. For some, unaccustomed to travelling on foot, the body may demand rest. The pilgrim who pushes on despite this will develop resilience and confidence. Pilgrimage may be with a group; amongst friends or like-minded strangers – providing each other with encouragement, support and the opportunity to view the experience through the eyes of others. The wise pilgrim can gain insight into his own personality – seeing it reflected in the actions and reactions of his fellows. He will learn from the conversations and the silences. He will notice the changes in his own mood as he walks with different companions. It may be a solitary mission, the pilgrim walking with only his own mind for company. He may find his thoughts slowing, becoming less reactive during the journey. He may let go of the need to narrate on life – just allowing it to flow through. Having silenced or learned to ignore the inner chatter, he can watch the world without judgement. The pilgrim will find himself behind the thoughts he allowed to define him. So, as he reaches the end of his journey, the pilgrim prepares to return to the world…his world. But he has his experiences to bring into it. He can assimilate his pilgrimage into his world – he may notice subtle changes to begin with but the experience will grow and colour his reactions and thought patterns.