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Walking to Find the Way

Michael George was just out of college and unsure what to do next when he first walked the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way. The route winding through the countryside of France and Spain has called to many thousands of people over hundreds of years—at first Christians on the way to see the enshrined remains of St. James at the route’s end in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and increasingly, people like George who are looking for a quiet place for reflection and soul-searching.

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Benedicte from Denmark outside Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France Photograph by Michael George

George Instragrammed along the way, sharing stories of his travels with friends and a growing audience of followers. Their enthusiastic response convinced him he had the beginnings of a documentary project.

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Thomas, a young shepherd from the Pyrenées Photograph by Michael George

He returned to walk again a year later, this time to meet and interact with as many people as he could, turning their experiences, and his own, into a window on the unique culture of the Camino. He took his journey further, beyond Santiago de Compostela to the westernmost part of Spain on the Camino de Finisterre, a place once thought of as the end of the Earth. The people and places he encountered became a multimedia narrative of journal entries, pictures, and sound, one chapter for each of the five legs of the journey.

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George’s room in Saint-Georges Seminary in Le-Puy-en-Velay, France Photograph by Michael George

George describes the Camino as a place where traditional barriers like culture, age, and socioeconomic status don’t matter, where you can walk or share a meal with someone of a totally different generation, where people share of themselves. In short, everything that makes us human, says George. That includes, of course, the physical challenge of carrying a 50-pound pack 10, 15, or 20 miles a day, with blistered feet, sunburn, and the occasional bedbug.

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Sean from Tallahassee in Hospital del Órbigo, Spain Photograph by Michael George

George still keeps in touch with some of his fellow pilgrims, and often gets emails from people who see his photos and want advice about walking themselves. As for George, “I am going to do it every decade of my life.”

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“On my last day on the Camino I made a little universe of the foods you most often eat on the Camino,” writes George. Photograph by Michael George

Michael George will be answering questions about walking the Camino on the National Geographic magazine Facebook page on Friday, June 19 at 12 p.m. EDT. Tune in and join the conversation!


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