Like so many people who have been shielding, when I consider 2020 I lose count of the many ‘unproductive’ days and hours, the alternating moods of alarm, sadness; and a fatigue sometimes born of over-consumption of news. In the end there is resignation, a gradual acceptance of peaceful inactivity, and strategies are needed to turn off the endless news about events we can do nothing to change.

So I began a series of blog posts based on my three-month walk from Worcester to Compostela, a life-changing pilgrimage journey that I reflected upon many times in the past decade but I have not shared more widely. In moments of daydreaming and meditation, I re-live that walk, recalling landscapes, refreshing streams, towns, people, and food. It all remains tangible for it was a time when I was free to live the sacrament of the present moment, mirroring my surroundings, as in this “selfie” in the church of Saint-Jacques in Chatellerault near Poitiers. My replica 14th century bourdon is tilted at the same angle as that of Saint James, and it opens a door into a parallel world.

I am calling this blog series Walking out of the World. The three months spent on the Camino de Santiago was – in sense – a walk out of the world. Looking back on it from lockdown in 2020, it was a world in which one could mix freely with others without fear, in pilgrim hostels, bars and restaurants. Three months on the road threw up dozens of chance meetings with strangers every day. I calculated that I met over two thousand people in the 86 days walk from Worcester to Compostela. As I set off on foot to Compostela I was aware of a simple recurring theme but had little idea what the mantra might eventually mean: I was walking out of the world.

Over these winter months, I am recalling the 86-day pilgrimage and sharing teach day’s walk in real time. The blog series began a couple of days ago with Day 1, the send off from Worcester cathedral and the walk to Tewkesbury abbey. The series will continue until I reach Finisterre.