Many people travel, volunteer, and/or move away from home to grow and change as a person. In modern language, this journey is named ‘finding yourself,’ and normally includes people that do not know how they wish to proceed in their life. Technically, though, this is called a pilgrimage, and often consists of “venturing into an unknown or foreign place in search of new knowledge and meaning for themselves, others, or a higher good”, leading to a transformation before returning to daily life (“Pilgrimage”). 

In the past, pilgrimages typically were spiritual experiences in which people went to pay veneration to a specific religious leader, like a saint. That may appear to be outdated, but pilgrimages can still have relevance in one’s life. Usually, pilgrimages are well established and follow specific lines of travel to holy places, like the “tracing of the life of St. Patrick” or a journey to the holy ground of Mecca (“Heritage Series”). Nowadays, though, even a “fan traveling to see their favorite band” could loosely be considered a pilgrimage (“Heritage Series”). If one travels to a place, gains new knowledge, or changes as a person, whether it be visiting a saint or following one’s favorite soccer team around the world, the journey can be considered a pilgrimage.

Pilgrimages require one to enter freshly into a new world and return home with new knowledge which changes them forever; these pilgrimages are very similar to a theme or pattern represented in literature, the Hero’s Journey, as the hero, or in this case, the pilgrim, goes out into an unknown world, experiences a challenge that changes him or her, and returns home with the knowledge to alter his or her way of life. The Hero’s Journey is a classic story structure, probably as old as some pilgrimages, and is written within stories worldwide.

It consists of three stages, “the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return”, and twelve steps, “the Ordinary World, the Call of Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor, Crossing the First Threshold, Tests, Allies, and Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, the Ordeal, Reward, the Road Back, Resurrection, and Return with the Elixir” (“Hero’s Journey 101”). The hero undergoes each of these steps, varying in each piece of literature, and essentially is called to go on this journey, brought to a new atmosphere, is tested, rewarded, returns home, and with their new knowledge acquired on this adventure, solves a problem in their homeland. Though a pilgrimage can be more about education and realization rather than fighting a battle against one’s enemies, a pilgrim loosely follows the Hero’s Journey.

First, he or she begins their adventure to the new destination, being called to through his or her desires; the pilgrim is tested on various challenges throughout the journey, such as rough traveling, becoming lost in the new city, etc; finally, he or she eventually reaches the destination, is rewarded with the experience and understating gained from the adventure, and then returns home to inform others about what he or she learned, changing not only other’s lives but his or her own as well. The model of the Hero’s Journey offers an easy way for one to understand what a person undergoes on these life-changing trips, and while the Hero’s Journey outlines a very specific genre, pilgrimages take on many forms and can be experienced by anyone willing to change. 

A pilgrimage consists of an adventure that changes one’s life as the pilgrim must venture outside his or her comfort to gain new knowledge and understanding about the world and who he or she is. The pilgrim undergoes a series of tasks and experiences, similar to that of the Hero’s journey, which ultimately leads him or her to change and grow.

Pilgrimages can be a myriad of adventures, allowing any individual the opportunity to attend one and making it almost impossible for one to avoid transforming. While pilgrimages are not always what they used to be, the journey is still valuable in finding out who one is, in educating one on the world around him or her, and in changing one’s perspective. It is essential one attend a pilgrimage to discover who they truly are, no matter what the pilgrimage may be. 

Works Cited

“Hero’s Journey 101: Definition and Step-by-Step Guide (With Checklist!).” Reedsy, 27 Oct. 2020, blog.reedsy.com/heros-journey/. 

“Heritage Series, Article 1: Pilgrimage Is as Relevant Today as It Ever Was.” Irish Examiner, 16 Sept. 2013, www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-20243092.html

“Pilgrimage.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com www.dictionary.com/browse/pilgrimage.

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  1. Katie 4 weeks ago

    Dear Anna,
    I am intrigued by your post because you really dive deep into the concepts of traveling on an adventure outside of one’s comfort zone. It’s very interesting how you relate a pilgrimage to that of a hero’s journey because they both allow for growth and the opportunity to gain new knowledge about the world and their identity.

    One thing you said that stands out for me is that the hero’s journey “consists of three stages, ‘the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return’.“ This stood out to me because it relates the pilgrimage to the structure of a hero’s journey really well. You do a great job in describing how the experiences of the heroes and pilgrims are so similar because they each face challenges that ultimately change him or her to possibly become a stronger and better person for it.

    Your post reminds me of the topics I discussed in my post about how pilgrimage is important since it allows for a journey that gives one a sense of purpose and helps discover more about who you are.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!! I enjoyed reading it 🙂

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