Walking to the End of the World - a story of courage and conviction along the Camino de Santiago

After having crossed over the Pyrenees, Jusino arrives in Roncesvalles, Spain. All photography is the property of Beth Jusino. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
After having crossed over the Pyrenees, Jusino arrives in Roncesvalles, Spain. All photography is the property of Beth Jusino. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

"Be for them shade in the heat of the day, light in the darkenss of night, relief in tiredness, so that they may come safely, under your protection, to the end of their journey." Pilgrim Mass in Le Puy, France.

In my ongoing quest to keep the spirit of the Camino de Santiago alive at home after my own pilgrimage last September, I just finished a wonderful new Camino book, "Walking to the Ending of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago" by Beth Jusino, released in October. To date, I have read more than 10 Camino narratives but this book is one of the most enjoyable and engaging accounts of the pilgrimage; a story about a courageous woman and her husband who dared to push their physical and psychological endurance to the limits along the sacred Way of Saint James aka Camino de Santiago—a pilgrimage route that stretches from various points throughout Europe to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The most popular route undertaken by pilgrims begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPDP), France, and continues 500 miles west to Santiago in the northwest corner of Spain. However, there are four prominent branches of this famed route that begin different regions of France, chief among them, the Via Podiensis that stretches from Le Puy to SJPDP, and it is along this route that Jusino embarks with husband Eric on a pilgrimage that will take them 1,000 miles to the “end of the world” in Finisterre, Spain.

Another Camino book?

Jusino with husband Eric pause with the lone pilgrim who stands atop Alto de San Roque in his final stretch to Santiago.
Jusino with husband Eric pause with the lone pilgrim who stands atop Alto de San Roque in his final stretch to Santiago.

What attracted me to yet another written account of, yet another pilgrim’s journey was the journey itself! Unlike other titles in my Camino library most of which is filled with narratives of the more popular route that begins in SJPDP and ends in Santiago, “Walking to the End of the World” promised a brand-new Camino adventure from Le Puy to Santiago. As I read along, I couldn’t help myself looking up many of the places she visited because of her beautiful descriptions of towering spires, ancient cities, gîtes and albergues, (hostels), etc. Looking back to when I first met Jusino on Twitter sharing her progress on her what was then her upcoming book, I was following another friend’s pilgrimage along the same route with exciting daily updates filled with images and insights of his peregrinations along the way. I was captivated then and would be once again upon this book’s release.

I couldn’t wait to start reading!

"Walking to the End of the World" is an inspiring story about tests of courage filled with crushing moments of defeat and discouragement when Jusino’s stamina was stretched to the extremes—utter exhaustion and anguish from the physical and mental demands of walking an average of 25 km. every day with a heavy backpack for an 11-week pilgrimage. Her aching feet lovingly or disdainfully dubbed the “princesses” is how Jusino described the good days and the bad. While my heart ached with every blow, it rejoiced with every triumph and every moment of jubilee; crying and laughing every step of the way in this beautifully written and warm-hearted account peppered with Jusino’s wry sense of self-deprecating humor that evoked many a laugh-out-loud moment, including the great bovine chase. [LOL]

The Showdown.

Along the way, we traveled through warrens of cobble-stoned streets in quaint medieval villages resplendent in historic architecture; hiked over the stunning mountain landscapes and plod though the sprawling plains of the maseta—all the while accompanied by a colorful cast a characters that Jusino dubs with nicknames of her own making such as the “Brothers Grim,” the “Black-Eyed B’s,” the “Dane,”—among others, many of whom added so much spice and vibrancy to her story. Honestly, Jusino does a brilliant job at inviting the reader to become part of her story, her pilgrimage. I felt like I was there with her as she described the surrounding beauty, conversed with fellow pilgrims and reflected on her thoughts and feelings.

Lessons learned along the way?

My own pilgrimage was but a fraction of Jusino’s, a little more than one-tenth actually, but I share many of her sentiments about the teachings of the Camino, the blessings received and the lessons learned about ourselves after we’ve reached the finish line; specifically how this ancient pilgrimage of the heart and soul along a sacred path transforms us from the person we were to the person we have become. But also, we must ask ourselves, have we really reached the finish line? Does Santiago mark the end of the Camino or is it the beginning? Most pilgrims would agree that it is the latter, oftentimes expressed as "ultreia" or "beyond."
The Chapelle Saint-Jacques-de-Rochegude
The Chapelle Saint-Jacques-de-Rochegude.

While I received a complimentary copy of "Walking to the End of World,” I am under no obligation to publish a review of any kind but after reading this and like every other book I have read, I am compelled to share my thoughts and recommendations and with that I urge all of you who have embarked on pilgrimage, dreaming and planning for your journey, or an arm-chair traveler who want to experience pilgrimage from the comfort of their home, to read “Walking to the End of the World”! Each time I picked up the book, I couldn’t wait to experience what lay ahead on this sacred path and I am sure that you will enjoy this book just as much as I have. Buen Camino!

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