Hiking 500 miles across northern Spain

Kat Berko

2018 Benenson Award Winner Kat Berko

Over the summer I hiked 500 miles across northern Spain along the 1,300-year-old Catholic pilgrimage route, The Camino de Santiago de Compostella. I am not a devout Catholic, nor am I a hiker, but the Camino’s history intrigued me. I wondered why, after so many years, people continued to make the pilgrimage. In the Medieval Ages, Catholics stepped out from their front doors all over Europe and simply walked towards Santiago, no matter how many months it took them. They wanted to repent their sins and ask St. James for miracles at his shrine in the Catedral de Santiago. As centuries passed the Camino dwindled in popularity but in recent decades it has seen a major resurgence. Each year now over 200,000 people from around the world complete the pilgrimage, many of them not Catholic, Christian, or even religious. I spent my time along The Way speaking with people about their reasons for completing the hike and taking note of what it means to walk the Camino in the modern day. Now I am in the process of writing a memoir about what I learned both in relation to my inquiries and about myself while on the parallel journey of the hike itself, and my inner travels.