Submitted by Karen MacLeod-Wilkie
Phil Cousineau* describes pilgrimage as a powerful metaphor “for any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.”
When I completed the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2016, it revealed something that mattered deeply to me – an old dream to become an author. At that time, however, I was working full-time as an ordained minister.
The dream would not be put aside. It pulled at me, and I began to write. In the summer of 2019, I published my first novel, Fresh Start; then, in 2020, a second novel, The Prophecy. At the end of 2020, I retired from ministry to pursue writing as my full-time work.
Any major change in life brings up many emotions. Thus, as I set my course as an author, I was confronted by a sense of loss, fatigue, and fear, as well as excitement. It was challenging to process all I was feeling.
When I happened upon the Island Walk website, suddenly I longed to experience this walk as another pilgrimage. What might it reveal to me? I knew it would be different from walking the Camino: there wouldn’t be the numerous other pilgrims along the way nor inexpensive hostels at regular intervals. How did I want this experience to unfold?
I decided to do a solo journey, so I could sink deeply into soul listening as I walked the wonderful trails, seaside highways and red dirt heritage roads of PEI. I received my first insight as I left downtown Charlottetown and walked around Victoria Park. It was a beautiful day and I had only walked two kilometers when I came to a bench near a lighthouse. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to sit and soak in the sights.’ I carried on. I had a task to do – walk my kilometers for the day. A few steps later I turned around and went back to the bench to take a seat and savour the moment and the place.
Early on during my walk, I recognized the importance of keeping a sense of humour. The bright orange shirt I wore, to keep me visible to drivers, was not so helpful was I was trying to hide in the bushes for a bathroom break.
As a pilgrimage experience, the Island Walk enabled me to physically enact walking away from one career and walking into a new one. It taught me how to deal with the mental chatter which sends messages of doubt and fear through the mind, as fatigue and blisters set in. I delighted in the connections I made with generous hosts who fed me and shared their homes and their stories. It was a healing experience which offered me the chance to say good-bye to what was and to lean into a new life unfolding for me.
Time and again, the journey taught me lessons about what truly matters. These lessons continue to guide me, as I learn to develop a new business, and balance life and work in a healthy way.
I am very grateful for the creators of the Island Walk and the opportunity to experience the wonder of PEI from a new perspective. I highly recommend this journey to you. Discover yourself, discover PEI in a whole new way.
*Phil Cousineau is an award-winning writer and filmmaker, teacher and editor, lecturer and travel leader, storyteller and TV host.