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Have you every wanted to leave all of your troubles behind and take a very long walk away from all of your trials and tribulations? Of late many of my friends have gone on pilgrimages to the legendry Camino de Santiago in Spain. It is one hell of a long walk, 800 kilometers across the Pyrenees to reach your final destination- Santiago.

The New York best selling author, Sonia Choqulette, takes us along on her pilgrimage. She graciously shared her pain, suffering and feelings of empowerment when she faces adversity filled with tears, frustration, anger and in the end she finds fulfillment. The book is an inspiring, empowering and raw account of one women’s journey to freedom of forgiveness to make peace with herself.

Sonia’s life was falling apart, within the space of three years she suffered the unexpected death of her father and younger brother and seen her 30 year marriage implode. Sonia, the counselor and healer to many of her followers, found herself now the patient in need of help. It is not supposed to be that way: the sages speak of " doctor heal thyself."

The perception of care givers by the public is that they can address all emotional/physical adversity and bear non of the effects of post traumatic stress. No matter what you see or hear you are supposed to be immune like unto Super man/women. But, sadly all of our doctors try to give the impression that they can work in the operating room 18 hour days with barely time for a quick Coke and power bar; they are only human and the work load takes it’s toll and they too break down under the pressure.

To Sonia’s surprise her two daughters thought it was a good idea to go on the Camino - thinking it was a good way for her to change her life. She had always enjoyed a challenge and the fact that the pilgrimage was 500 miles long did not deter her from her challenge.

She contacted Camino Ways based out of Ireland to help arrange her itinerary. Not only would they able to arrange her accommodations for her in each town on the Camino; they also guaranteed to take her heavy backpack to her next nights lodging. Given that she had a bum knee and absolutely no training it was an excellent choice. Off she went with her small bag she called "Pilgrim" that held her days supplies ie power bars. Her stevedore like large back pack she called "Cheater" that was filled with extra boots, raincoats, sweaters and every thing else she thought she could possibly need on her trek.

The book is divided into day 1 through 34 with the daily milage of approximately 23 k that was supposed to be covered before she could book into her next bare monastery like room and breakfast. Every day was a new challenge to find her way to stumble through the mud and rocks in the rain, and heat. The mornings could be very cold and with the passing of the day she was soaking wet with the heat of the day. Her feet were her only means of transportation; her toes were swollen which made moving them extremely painful as she made her way to the next village.

Some of the in-keepers were not very kind or helpful; she had to drag Cheater up three flights of stairs to find a cold room, shower followed the next day breakfast of dry toast and instant coffee. It did not matter; after a hard day on the trail all she yearned for was a place out of the cold to sleep. Not every in-keeper was inhospitable. There were a small delightful group of greeters who took the time to provide fresh towels and an amazing breakfast with a egg sweet potato omelet and two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, several fresh-baked croissants to be washed down by a large café con leche.

Every morning after breakfast Sonia prayed: "Holy Mother God -My feet hurt and I need your help. Amen". was a constant refrain. No requests for material possessions but rather very simple requests to help her get through the day. Sort of reminds me of the quote that: "those who have less seem to enjoy it a whole lot more."

I read only one days journey every evening of Sonia’s pilgrimage to find herself. She, being a female, was never allowed to show her anger while she was growing up. She had been taught to be a problem solver for others and never complaign of the wrongs that she had to endure.

The pilgrimage was a test of her resolve where she learned to endure and find the time to forgive herself and others and in the end try and find freedom, peace and happiness.

You do not need to go on a difficult, expensive pilgrimage to find yourself. It is easy to discern who and what you are. All you have to do is shut off the tv, radio and newspapers and have a good look at yourself in the mirror and voila there you are.

When you take a trip you take yourself along on the journey. Coming home to appreciate what you missed is often the best part of your trip. Reminds me of a sad rich women who told her friends that she had recently taken a trip around the world. Next year she is planning a trip someplace else to find the elusive happiness that she was searching for in her life.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com