From Pilgrimage to Odyssey

As we continue to reflect on the impact our Camino experience has in our lives beyond it, we see so many unexpected parallels and implications. Most recently we have become aware of how the process of choosing to have a tiny house on wheels built for the next stage of our lives is reminiscent of exploring and then starting out on the path to Santiago.

In both instances we did A LOT of research before heading out. There was the Camino forum (, plus a wealth of blogs and narratives and pictures and books and even films – The Way, and a more recent documentary (, to inform and entice. We carefully sorted and sifted through what to bring, paring down to the bare minimum, aware that we needed to carry it on our backs. And, of course, we did long walks as often as we could in the months leading up to the trek. Everyone walks their own Camino, as they say, so even though quite prepared we discovered that we really had no idea what it meant to focus solely on walking day after day after day!

Likewise, there is a growing supply of resources for the incipient tiny home enthusiast – including a television program ( and personal blogs and newsletters (! We’ve given away 2/3 of our belongings and still have more to let go of in order to fit our material lives into Tiny. We even took the opportunity to stay in a Tumbleweed tiny home in California to try one out and be assured we could actually live in such a small space, before embarking on our tiny home journey. (This also helped with some of our initial design ideas!) Yet again, nothing we saw or read prepared us for our own particular tiny house path.

So, in both cases we thought we knew where we were going setting out, but the experiences were (and still are, in the case of Tiny) totally different from anything that could have been predicted. In truth, we saw our walking of the Camino as an ending – to lives focussed primarily around work – and a beginning – preparation for living with less. So too with our progress towards living in Tiny. From our current vantage point, we would say that what started out as a pilgrimage has turned into a kind of odyssey!

There are so many words that describe a journey: adventure, expedition, quest, to name just a few. A pilgrimage is said to lead to a specific destination: the Camino to Santiago, for example. However, Santiago was only ostensibly our goal. We were searching for the experience of the pilgrimage – for stepping outside of our normal patterns into something completely new. In so doing, we hoped to prepare for doing this in our lives beyond walking the Camino.

In starting on the journey towards living in a tiny house, we thought that the destination was clear: living in our tiny house. We have come to feel that our actual experiences have been a lot more odyssey-like. An odyssey is variously defined (by, Merriam-Webster, and others) as a “long series of wanderings or adventures especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.”; a voyage marked by “changes of fortune”; or “an intellectual or spiritual wandering” that offers knowledge or understanding. It is clear to us now that the one definition can get tangled in the other – so much so that they are hard to differentiate in practice. We are still heading towards “living in Tiny”, but the journey has turned out to be much longer and more convoluted than anticipated, with many “changes of fortune”, as the dictionary so whimsically states.

Over and over again we have had to abandon ourselves to the tiny house journey, no longer really being sure of where we were going or how exactly to get there. In a very concrete example, we have just returned to Cape Breton after a three week exploration of places to land with Tiny in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Options appeared in the mist of our travels and then faded away as we got closer. There are still potentials in each place (though they’d involve challenging current minimum size bylaws), but the return here has felt a bit like coming into harbour, where we may be guarded and guided by buoys. We can’t quite see the destination which we know is ahead, so we must move from buoy to buoy (similar to searching for and finding the yellow arrows and shells along the Camino). The Camino has grounded us in trusting that the way will be found, now we just need to keep the feet moving along the path. Here is one example of what was envisioned is now manifest (thanks Matt Willox!)

I, Judy, was reminded of a poem I once loved and memorized about the value of the journeying, and the benefits of such experiences. Better to live lives full of adventures, so as to arrive “rich with all you have gained along the way”. So, the Camino continues to support and instruct us with divine guidance and blessings beyond our ability to envision! As everyone “walks their own Camino”, so too does everyone walk their own tiny house path.

Ithaka                                                                                                                                                     by C.P. Cavafy (tr. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

When you set out for Ithaka                                                                                                             ask that your way be long,                                                                                                               full of adventure, full of instruction.                                                                                            The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,                                                                                          angry Poseidon – do not fear them:                                                                                              such as these you will never find                                                                                                       as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare                                                               emotion touch your spirit and your body.                                                                                  The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,                                                                                          angry Poseidon – you will not meet them                                                                                unless you carry them in your soul, unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.                                                                                                                  At many a summer dawn to enter                                                                                                       -with what gratitude, what joy-                                                                                                  ports seen for the first time;                                                                                                               to stop at Phoenician trading centers,                                                                                         and to buy good merchandise,                                                                                                mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,                                                                             and sensuous perfumes of every kind,                                                                                sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;                                                                                     to visit many Egyptian cities,                                                                                                            to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.                                                                     Have Ithaka always in your mind.                                                                                              Your arrival there is what you are destined for.                                                                          But do not in the least hurry the journey.                                                                                Better that it last for years,                                                                                                                So that when you reach the island you are old,                                                                          rich with all you have gained along the way,                                                                                not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.                                                                                  Ithaka gave you the splendid journey.                                                                                        Without her you would not have set out.                                                                                      She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka has not deceived you.                                                                So wise have you become, of such experience,                                                                           that already you will have understood what these Ithakas mean.


This entry was posted in Adventures in "rightsizing", Camino reflections, Spiritual Reflection and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s