It’s hard to overstate Roxey Edwards’ love of reading.
“I’ve just retired, and when I was budgeting my life, my biggest concern was would I be able to afford my reading habit,’” said the Parksville author with a laugh.
So it’s perhaps no wonder that a pair of books (and a movie) inspired Edwards to suddenly decide to take an 800-kilometre walking journey in Spain, taking a 38-day journey on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s way.
It’s perhaps also no wonder that Edwards has since written and published a book about the journey, which she took in 2016.
The book appears to be quite popular. Edwards has an author’s night scheduled for the Parksville library on Oct. 25. She donated one of her books to the Vancouver Island Regional Library, and suspects that book may have put on as many kilometres she did on the walk by the time she makes her presentation.
“Without trying to sound airy-fairy, I felt called to do it,” she said of her decision to walk the trail. “I kept getting little nudges in that direction, and I think the final nudge was very strange.”
The book What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim by Jane Christmas, and the movie The Way both contributed to her interest, but it was the book I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling that really got her moving.
Suffering her first gall bladder attack, Edwards had to have the stone (lodged in the neck) removed with emergency surgery. While resting up, a book she’d ordered arrived, and, despite feeling too tired to read, Edwards’ husband gave her the book, and she opened the first page.
“The first lines in the book were, ‘I’ve just had my gall bladder removed, and I’m deaf in one ear.’” Edwards, too, is deaf in one ear. “That was like, yeah, I keep getting these messages that I am meant to do this trip.”
In preparation, Edwards began walking home from the Petro Can on Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay back to Parksville, in addition to reading everything she could on the Camino de Santiago.
An important Christian pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James the Great in the Middle Ages, now many thousands of people walk the route every year.
There are hostels and places to eat along the way, and towns and villages (many of them quite small) always find a place for a pilgrim (with a pilgrim’s passport) to sleep, said Edwards, but it’s no cushy excursion.
Despite her study and physical preparations, Edwards said that by day five of walking the trail, she nearly gave up.
“It’s 35 degrees out there and I’m tired and I’m sleeping in bunk beds with strangers all around me and it’s so out of our North American norm,” said Edwards. What made matters worse that day was a mistake in footwear. Because it was so hot, and because the trail ahead didn’t look too challenging, Edwards decided to wear her trekking sandals.
“Bad mistake,” she said. “I never wore trekking sandals again.”
Her feet aching, she arrived to a hostel, and all that was left was a top bunk — hot, and perhaps out of reach for Edwards.
“I was just sort of standing there dismally looking at my top bunk, and this younger man looked at me and he said, ‘Are you OK,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK. My feet just hurt and I’m not sure I can climb up into a top bunk,’ and he said, ‘Take mine.’
“He instantly grabbed everything off of his bottom bunk and carried it over and put it on my top bunk.”
“I met him two or three more times, and he was a Brazilian but he lived in Toronto, and it was his second Camino, and I said, ‘You know, I just get so nervous that I’m going to get somewhere and there’s going to be no bed.’ He said, ‘There will always be a bed. No pilgrim ever sleeps outside on the Camino.’”
Walking the trail, Edwards had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, many of whom shared life stories with her, and some of whom she remains in frequent contact with.
Though a pilgrimage, the trail attracts many people with little to no interest in Christianity or religion. Still, the trail can be a spiritual experience, said Edwards.
“One of the women I walked with, she said she had no religious bent, she would not believe in anything she could not see or could not touch, and I saw her on the second to last night before we walk into Santiago break down to tears in the middle of a church service.
“It’s just a great coming together of humanity.”
Edwards’ decision to write the book detailing her journey, called To Each Their Own Camino, came partially as an interest in sharing up-to-date information on the trail itself.
But it’s not a guide, said Edwards. The book, while instructive, is a telling of her own journey.
The book is available for purchase through Edwards’ website, www.roxeyedwards.ca, and can be rented through the Vancouver Island Regional Library.
The book will also be for sale at Edwards author’s evening at Parksville library (100 Jensen Ave. East) on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.