In 1987, an Irish Findhorn community member, John Brierley, walked the Camino de Santiago from the small French town of St. Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees all the way to Santiago de Compostela, following the ancient path known as the Camino Francés. He certainly was not the first or the last to do so: many people including celebrities like Shirley Maclaine or Sonia Choquette have walked this pilgrimage, come back and told their friends about this life-changing experience. It turned out that completely changed John’s life. He discovered the hard way that none of the existing guidebooks to the pilgrimage had been put together with the pilgrim in mind. Most of them were of the coffee-table type, with beautiful photographs and no practical information whatsoever! A highly practical person, he decided he would create from scratch the perfect guidebook, starting with the format (can be slipped into one’s pocket), to the weight (as light as possible, as every ounce carried on the way has a cost).
Here is the full list of features he wanted to include:
- Overview route planner
- Daily stage maps with optional routes
- Contour guides with elevations
- List of all pilgrim hostels and alternative accommodation
- Town plans showing location of hostels and hotels
- Sun-compass to aid orientation
- Practical notes on preparation
- Equipment checklist
- Dictionary with basic pilgrim phrases
- Historical notes and places of special interest.
In addition to the physical route there would be pointers to the mystical path with
- Beautiful color photographs
- Inspirational quotations
- Space for personal reflections
- Self-Review questionnaire to help prepare for the inner journey.
All this designed to fit easily into one’s pocket: a slimline guide measuring only 12 cm x 19 cm (4.75″ x 7.5″).
There are three main guidebooks: