What’s in a Name? Significance of Una Idea Peregrina

It’s about time I explained what “Una Idea Peregrina” means.

I first heard this expression when I told some collegues my plans for the future – educating myself by the book of the world, drinking deeply from the stream of life and traveling for the foreseeable future.  As I explained in my first blog, I wanted to walk El Camino de Santiago, move to France, learn how to speak Spanish and French, play the Spanish guitar, learn how to write and then sail back home across the Atlantic!

“Esta es una idea peregrina” was their response – That’s ‘a pilgrim’s idea,’ meaning it’s a hopelessly idealistic and unrealistic plan.  This phrase dates back to the middle ages, when pilgrims (peregrinos) would embark on the pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago (St. James) in northwestern Spain.  The trail was full of bandits, unforeseen dangers and shifty foreigners that only a fool would risk so much for an ideal.

But I have accomplished most of what I told my colleagues I would do.  Apart from sailing across the Atlantic, I think I’ve done it all.  My Spanish is not perfect, but I’ve got another year in Spain to work on it.  I started writing for a travel magazine and moved to Paris to take creative writing classes.  I even learned a smattering of French, which I will improve this year.  And above all I walked 500 miles of the pilgrimage to Santiago.  This peregrino’s idea wasn’t so unattainable after all.

The challenge of each passing year is keeping my spark of madness alive.  I watch my friends further progressing into their successful careers and I need to remind myself that I have chosen my own path, one that is perhaps riskier, initally less fruitful but hopefully more fulfilling in the end.  As for my pilgrim’s dreams, they are still alive.  My backpack is waiting under my bed, ready for the next hitchhiking adventure, that eventual trip to the port of Gibraltar to pick up a ride across the Atlantic.  This peregrino keeps on dreaming.

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