Spiritual and Walking Guides: Three volumes customized for your pilgrimage

What about pilgrimage helps you let go of fears and find peace that passes understanding? How can you be still and hear God’s voice as you trek the ancient pilgrimage route? How will you prepare your heart for a closer walk with God on Camino de Santiago? Find answers to these and other questions in this series of Spiritual and Walking Guides.

Click on the links above to buy on Amazon – paperback or Kindle – or scroll down to read more…

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Spiritual Guide on the Camino in 2018

Albergue Santa María de Carbajal-Benedictinas CarbajalasHappy New Year! I’m looking forward to walking and writing about the Camino de Santiago in 2018. I was honored to see my Camino book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: León to Santiago in the book showcase at Albergue Santa María de Carbajal “Benedictinas Carbajalas” during their New Years dinner in León, Spain.

On Facebook, the Sisters posted “Cena de Nochevieja que nuestros Hospitales prepararon para los peregrinos que ayer pasaron el día y la noche en el Albergue del Monasterio.”

In English: “New Year’s Eve dinner that our Hospitaleros prepared for the pilgrims who yesterday spent the day and night in the Monastery Hostel.”

The Christian daily devotional is available for sale at the Benedictine monastery’s albergue in León, Spain. And on Amazon.com  Happy New Year!

Stacey Wittig is an Arizona travel writer based in Flagstaff, AZ. She writes about pilgrimage and Camino de Santiago.

Camino Book Review: The Great Westward Walk

The-Great-Walk-Westward-coverBy Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain

Book review by Stacey Wittig

I was propped up in bed next to my husband. Me with book in hand, he with computer games blinking on his tablet. I took a sharp breath in, a reaction to the sentence that I was reading.

“What? What?” he asked. I always hate it when he interrupts my reading with, “What are you reading?” or in this case, “What? What?” But this time I wanted to share what I read.

“Do you mind if I read a bit of this to you? Can you listen while you play Auralux?” I asked trying to sell him on allowing me to read the words that, to me, described the Camino pilgrimage experience so well. I had just cracked open the recently-released English version of The Great Westward Walk: From the Front Door to the End of the Earth by Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain. I was only in the introduction and already mesmerized.

‘The Great Westward Walk’ is a true story.

My husband listened while I read from the beginning of the introduction and ended at the sentence that had caused me to gasp in recognition:

“The Walk to the End of the World” is a true story. It celebrates the fundamentally irrational nature of pilgrimage, as it plays out against the banal rationality of our times.

Yes, the dichotomy of pilgrimage in these times when rationalism is often valued over spirituality struck a chord with me. I finished reading out loud the introduction, written by Izaskun Gonzalez Gabarain, and then resumed my silent reading. Another gasp. Another “What? What?” and I began reading the Prologue written by another of the author’s friends to my husband. This time without hubby’s permission.

He told me he was dying.

He was finishing the book using a special computerized device that allowed him to type by tracing the movement and blinking of his eyes. A terrible, consuming disease had taken away use of his hands, arms and legs…Antxon was running out of time.

Finishing this book was his final desire, he said, his last wish.

Three days after completing the manuscript, the writer died

The writer completed the manuscript, a captivating memoir of his Camino journey from the doorstep of his home in Zumaia, in the Basque Country, to Santiago, three days before ALS took his life at age 41.

Gabarain lives on in this Camino book

Yet Gabarain lives on in this book that gives me insight into his Basque ponderings and connections with his countrymen that I, as a foreigner, could never have. His words, almost poetic at times, roll back the curtain on slices of Spanish life that I would not otherwise have known. His insight and description are probably reasons that the Spanish version is a best-seller in Spain.

Three cheers to Rebekah Scott, American Pilgrims on Camino (APOC) member and speaker at the 2017 APOC gathering in Atlanta, for her fine work of translating this amazing Camino narrative.

Available on Amazon in print or Kindle at http://amzn.to/2twub8R

This review originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of La Concha, the quarterly publication of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

‘You’ll love this yarn – it’s honest and it’s revealing’ says Australian Talk Show Host

DAn Mullins head shot‘You’ll love this yarn – it’s honest and it’s revealing’ says Dan Mullins, Australian Talk Show Host about the interview he conducted with me last week. “Stacey and I talk about her journey, both spiritually and physically – in our hearts and on our feet.”

Click here to listen in on the conversation: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode/?id=106114

MyCamino-ThePodcastDan Mullins, a Sydney radio broadcaster, producer, and host of ‘My Camino – The Podcast,’ asks probing questions that have me revealing my innermost thoughts on pilgrimage and on my own spiritual experiences. He asks:

  • Why do people walk? What is it about walking?
  • You mentioned earlier the immense history of the Camino. When you walk, how conscious are you of Christ’s involvement and the Christian involvement in that history?
  • You talk in the guide about pilgrims carrying too much in their packs, and you say, ‘Generally we as humans carry too much stuff.’ How can a faith-based life ease that load?
  • So you are inviting pilgrims, Stacey, to explore themselves, to learn more about themselves and to find themselves. Is that a fair assessment?
  • You write about forgiveness and you say the Camino provides an opportunity for forgiveness. Can I ask you to elaborate on that just a little bit?

Click here to listen in on the conversation: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode/?id=106114

Dan-Mullens-Sound-booth-crop

Dan Mullins, “My Camino-The Podcast” Talk Show Host

Camino books, Spiritual Camino, Camino guide, Camino devotional

 

Lourdes guide book ‘inviting and comforting’ declares GoodReads review

goodreads

In a recent GoodReads book review of Spiritual and Walking Guides: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, Adrienne Morrison wrote, “I found the daily guidance and sacred quotations both inviting and comforting.”

“I was moved to go further; set fears aside; reach higher. Whether we plan a Pilgrimage on our own two feet, or take those steps within our hearts, we will find guidance here,” Morrison continued. The Lourdes guide book directs Camino pilgrims along the physical terrain from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, France, helps them reflect on their inner journey, and supplies tools to heighten their spiritual journey.

The spiritual guide that contains daily devotions for the Camino pilgrim is available on Amazon at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino

Read the full book review by Adrienne Morrison below, or link to the GoodReads review by clicking here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1922841478?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

When I started reading Stacey Wittig’s Spiritual and Walking Guide I had no idea what was about to unfold. Soon, I became gracefully swept along a path of Pilgrimage. I have never contemplated, nor ever imagined such a journey. Do people today really do this today? Indeed. I wasn’t even sure where this journey takes place, or why one would consider going there. But, now I understand. And, I learned you can go with grace, knowing, and beautiful guidance from one who has actually walked the pathways from “Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port.”

Stacey Wittig shares herself in these pages. She helped me see that, once we set our modern life aside long enough to seek another path, our lives can change. Once we go outdoors and walk, hike, or even sit quietly to read—once we consider the spiritual meditations offered in this guide—we can find new understanding. And, to those who literally make this journey, I know you will appreciate having a trusted friend like Stacey along to guide your steps and your thoughts.

Yes, this guide is meant for the actual Pilgrim, with specific recommendations for food, shelter, and camaraderie along your way, but it also leads the reader to a greater closeness to God. The passages and scripture create an opening for us to experience God’s wisdom and love more deeply. I found the daily guidance and sacred quotations both inviting and comforting. I was moved to go further; set fears aside; reach higher. Whether we plan a Pilgrimage on our own two feet, or take those steps within our hearts, we will find guidance here—an invitation and pages upon which we can journal our progress along life’s path.

Put the book on your Amazon “Wish List” or purchase it now in paperback or Kindle at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino

Lourdes pilgrim ‘thrilled’ about guidebook

“I walked the Piemont route from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port in September 2015 with only a French guide book, and I don’t speak or understand French!  Needless to say, it made the journey at bit more challenging.  So I am thrilled about your book and hope to walk the route again this year with your guide book in hand.  And what an incredible, beautiful route it is!” said Fred Bovenkamp, on Camino de Santiago.me forum today.

Spiritual and Walking Guide front-cover

Learn more about the Lourdes, France, to St Jean Pied de Port  route by viewing the Camino book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, on Amazon at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino. By Stacey Wittig, Camino pilgrim.

The only English version spiritual devotional and walking guide for this part of the La voie du piémont pyrénéen. Available now in paperback or Kindle.

Road Trip Jordanian-Style

I love a good road trip. If you’ve followed my blogs for awhile you know I enjoy muddin’ in Louisiana bayous, road tripping through New Mexico and off-roading around Arizona backwoods. So when my new friend Mohammad Qamhiya suggested that we take the Namaleh Road – or King’s Highway – on a sort of pilgrimage to Petra in Jordan, I said, “Heck, yeah!”

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“We just called in and learned that the backroad to Petra is open today,” announced Mohammed. “It is our good fortune as the mountain pass is not always accessible.” Who knows who he called to get that information? I was surprised to learn that there was cell service out here in the back of beyond. We’d just spent a candlelit night at off-the-grid Feynan Ecolodge in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature reserve. True Bedouin country with camels, goat herds and sunbaked rock sans electricity except what little was produced by the lodge’s solar panels. The compound was designed around internal courtyards reminiscent of the ancient caravanseri or inns on the silk routes through the desert. Adventurers from around the world come to the inn to spend a day with a goat herder, hike the slot canyons and ancient ruins or learn traditional Bedouin coffee rituals from a shaykh (tribal leader). Explorers like us are willing to give up the luxuries of a five-star hotel for a star-lit experience.

The previous evening, we lay on mats on the lodge’s panoramic rooftop terrace looking up at a field of stars. Suleiman “Starman” Al-Hasaseen guided us through the heavens pointing out stars that could be seen with the human eye which were used by Bedouins to navigate passage in the desert. Then he got out a high-powered telescope, and we stood to peer into the state-of-the-art astronomic device to view Jupiter’s moons. I was tickled by the anachronism: traditional Bedouin starwatching versus modern high tech astronomy.

feynan-kinghwy-cwittig

 

“Seriously, are you up for taking Namaleh Road? We’ll ride in Bedouin Jeeps on a rough, dusty, primitive four-wheel-drive road,” Mohammed warned with a frown. Mohammed seldom frowned. The King’s Highway, so named because it was a trade route of frankincense and spices from the southern Arabian Peninsula through Petra towards consumers in Egypt, Rome and Greece. Huge camel caravans made their way through mountains and deserts on this track.

He must have predicted our answer because when we walked out of the desert compound, four local men each with a well-used vehicle waited to take us over the desolate mountain pass to Petra. I didn’t see a Jeep among the fleet, but rather 1980s-vintage Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishis. I snagged the front seat with Abdullah in an extended cab Mitsubishi pick-up – old but meticulously wiped clean. He drove us over rutted, bumpy roads from the ecolodge to the nearest village. He pulled up into the on-coming lane of the dusty two-lane road next to another Bedouin Jeep, waving at the driver and shouted across open windows something in Arabic before swinging into a roadside vegetable stand. More Arabic or maybe it was the local Bedouin language as he jumped out of our truck, and from behind the tomatoes appeared a green five-gallon plastic can. “Oh, this is the gas station,” I said to my two travel writing companions in the backseat. The shopkeeper hoisted the heavy can and started pouring gasoline into our 4×4.

gas-station-on-kings-highway

“Why is it I always get the driver that needs to put gas in his Jeep after he picks us up?” I said remembering my white-knuckled off-road trip to tea plantations in Kerala, India, with the gas needle pegged to empty. But here in the remote reaches of Jordan, our gas gauge read ‘full’ as we turned towards Petra on the asphalt highway.

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Oncoming traffic included a robed Bedouin on his camel, a horse decked out in Arabian regalia and, of course, the occasional passing car bearing head-on into our lane. No matter that my seat belt wasn’t functional – I simply prayed. Fields of tomatoes and squash were just a blur as we sped up and over what us off-roaders call “whoops.”

“Oh, my God,” I laughed as my head almost hit the ceiling.

“Don’t laugh – you’re just encouraging him,” said Annette from the back gripping the “Oh Shit” handle above her half-opened window, which wouldn’t go up or down, BTW. Abdullah turned to me grinning and motioned to the road ahead. Somehow in a split second he communicated, “Hey if you liked that, this next one is even better.” I glanced at the speedometer as we hit the second asphalt rollercoaster: 80 kilometers per hour and I tried to do the math – how many miles per hour? It seemed like a million, and I thought for sure we were going to take air. I’m sure all three travel writers’ stomachs were in our throats as we came down.

“I think he thinks we like it,” Brigit hooted above the wind noise in the backseat – as if she liked it. Soon we were on gravel road and weaving around a construction barricade in the middle of our lane. This evidently was the part of the road that was typically closed, but we passed the sign too fast to see if it actually said, “Road Closed.”

“Yallah, yallah,” laughed Brigid, “That mean’s let’s go! Let’s go!”

Annette remained solemn.

We drove right by the UNHRC work crews and onto the dirt road that switched backed and forth ahead of us like the ominous Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park. Were those United Nations Human Rights Council workers that we just dusted? Before grabbing my own “Oh Shit” handle, I noticed that its vinyl covering was pretty much worn off. I tugged one last time at the flaccid seatbelt – no, it still didn’t work.

vagabonding-lulu-on-kings-highwaycwittig-30Up and up we drove on the mountainous, squiggly two-lane dirt track. Earthmoving equipment was parked catawampus of the side of sharp-angled ditches. They seemed to be laid aside for the preferred method of road building as groups of three or four workers with shovels bent backs in front of the motionless behemoths. We hit the first mountain pass and started down the other side, seeing more mountains rising before us. “This could be like how Berthoud or Loveland Passes looked before they were paved,” I contemplated as I viewed the harsh angle of downward gradient before us. Abdullah started pumping the brakes to slow our descent. The brakes didn’t really seem to be working too well, but he continued to pump.

“Great! This is payback time for the prank I pulled on my flat-lander Father back in Durango years ago,” I realized to my horror. Dad was visiting me after I first moved out West and was working for the phone company in small mountain towns. I had finally gotten used to driving on steep mountain roads without guardrails and wanted to show off my expertise in my sassy sports car. As we whizzed down One-Million-Dollar-Highway with drop-offs on the outside turns, I pumped the clutch, pretending it was the brakes. “Oh no, the brakes are out,” I taunted my Dad. Did I mention he was afraid of heights? Yes, I still feel totally guilt-ridden about that one.

So back to Abdullah. He seemed to be well-practiced at the brake-pumping thing, so I realized that “this is how they do it here.” No need to worry. As we began to climb again, I watched the mountains outside my open window change from grey to red. We stopped at the summit to stretch our legs and make use of the phenomenal photos ops high above the Jordanian desert below at sea level. We climbed to the top of a rise where we could look down on our Bedouin jeeps.

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“Oh, no what are we going to do?” wailed a travel writer from another truck. “Looks like your truck is broken down. He has the hood up.” I could see Abdullah pouring water from what looked like an skin animal bag onto the radiator.

“No, it’s OK. He knows what he is doing,” I said. I, too have a truck of the same vintage that I must baby like Abdullah was doing with his brakes and radiator. My ‘87 Toyota Four-Runner with windows that fail to rise and an engine too small for the load is like my baby, and Abdullah’s vehicle seemed to be its twin separated at birth. I walked down to where Abdullah stood proudly over the engine compartment nursing his ‘baby.’ I caught his eyes and then patted the fat fender of his truck. When he smiled back, I knew we had a special connection: crazy drivers and their well-worn vehicles.

Enjoy this article? Then go to http://amzn.to/2412teu and read more. #MyJordanJourney #LearnJordan Disclaimer: Jordan Tourism hosted author Stacey Wittig on this trip. All her opinions are her own.

Bootstrapping: Challenges of translating Camino book from English to German

translating-english-to-german

“It’s an idiomatic phrase that we don’t really have in German,” explained Thomas with a frown. I couldn’t really SEE his frown, but I could HEAR it. I was sitting in my car in Flagstaff, Arizona, talking on WhatsApp to the linguistic expert who is translating my first Camino book from English to German. The young Deutscher just moved to Brisbane, Australia, last month so it is somewhat difficult to set an appointment where our time zones don’t collide. It was 5 pm my time and 10 am his time. I’d just completed my last meeting of the day and could give my full attention to the international call.

“You say in your book that you ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.’ We don’t really say that in German,” Thomas continued. Bootstrapping may just be a purely American thing. “We do say that we pull ourselves up by our hair,” he added.

“That would work,” I replied, and thought, “This guy is GOOD! I am so blessed to have met him in Paris.” Thomas and I had accidentally, or perhaps with divine intervention, met in Paris, France, when we walked a pilgrimage from the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Chartres Cathedral 100 km away. The Christian Paris to Chartres pilgrimage that takes place every year during Pentecost has roots in the Middle Ages. The pilgrimage is called Notre-Dame de Chrétienté in French.

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Even though I was older than Thomas’ mother, we had walked together joking and laughing much of the way. (When we weren’t lamenting blisters, sleep deprivation or exhaustion.) In three days filled with challenges and joy, Thomas and I got to know each other well. When I learned that he was a professional translator, I asked the twenty-eight-year-old about interpreting my first book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago. Since publication, many Germans have recommended that I translate the text into their language.

“I could work on it in September, after I move to Australia,” he smiled. “I’ll have time then.” Since Pentecost was in mid-May, I had plenty of time to prepare my manuscript and raise funds to pay for his services.

But last night Thomas wasn’t laughing or joking too much. This translation was serious business for the young scholar and he approached me with the respect due a valued client. “Maybe I am being too German here, but I want to discuss each of these changes with you. You have laid your heart out in this book. And you’ve been very true to the Bible scriptures that you quote. I don’t want to change the words [imagery] without your approval,” he said sternly.

The impossible task of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is analogous to the achievement of getting out of difficult situations through your own efforts. The German version uses “Schopf,” an archaic word for “hair” or “head of hair” and is used in this context because it is from an old proverb. Today’s use of “schopf” means “swamp.”

The excerpt from my Camino devotional that uses the bootstrapping idiomatic phrase:

Seven years ago, during a self-imposed weekend retreat, I heard the Lord whisper, “Walk El Camino de Santiago.” El Camino hadn’t crossed my mind for over a decade; and, in fact, I really didn’t know much about the ancient pilgrimage route. Yet I felt the Lord’s call to take a spiritual journey. The obedient act of walking would teach me to shift my emphasis from trust in a busy calendar to trust in God’s provision. I had to let go of the belief that if only I had enough sales appointments, won enough sales contests, (fill in the blank with your own if only,) then I would be perfectly happy. I thought of myself as self-made, and relished the image of me – a working woman – pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, or in my case, by my own Bandolino Italian leather pumps.

The German translation of that excerpt:

Vor sieben Jahren dann, während eines Einkehrwochenendes, hörte ich den Herrn zu mir sagen: „Begib dich auf den Jakobsweg.“ Der Jakobsweg war mir damals schon über ein Jahrzehnt nicht mehr in den Sinn gekommen und ich wusste auch nicht allzu viel über diese historische Route. Allerdings fühlte ich einen starken Ruf, mich auf eine spirituelle Reise zu begeben. Laufen hat etwas von Demut und ich hoffte, dass mir eine Pilgerreise dabei helfen würde, mein Vertrauen in Gottes Plan anstatt in einen vollen Terminplaner zu setzen. Ich musste loskommen von dem Gedanken, dass ich eigentlich nur genug Verträge brauchte; eigentlich nur genügend Wettbewerbe gewinnen müsste, um endlich glücklich zu sein. Jeder hat irgendwo ein „eigentlich nur“, eine Bedingung für das Glück. Mein Selbstbild war das einer eigenständigen, erfolgreichen Frau, die sich in schwierigen Situation am eigenen Schopf aus dem Sumpf zieht. In meinem Fall an einem aufwändig frisierten Schopf.

Order the English version by clicking here: Amazon.com

German version now available at https://www.amazon.de