Not your average Grand Tour
Brandon Wilson’s journey “along the Templar Trail” from Dijon, France to Jerusalem is, in many ways, something we can all identify with. I would even go as far as to say that his experiences can actually resonate with us deeply, although initially we might not realize it. That in part, is the nature of this fascinating book, and this unique travel adventure.
Brandon’s journey was a pilgrimage for peace on a trail that historians generally recognize was not about peace, but was in fact about power and religious and cultural hegemony. However Brandon’s pilgrimage was intended to right those wrongs.
A pilgrimage is a long, often difficult, and even perilous journey. Pilgrimages usually suggest a journey to a sacred place. They are also symbolic acts and gestures that confirm a particular belief or belief system. In a very deep sense, a pilgrimage is also a quest — for a greater truth — or to pay homage to that truth.
But for Brandon, it was also a very long and very real journey on foot across Europe to the Middle East.
After reading Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace, I came to a greater understanding of the quest that Brandon pursued, and then I had the opportunity to find out more about the man and the impact that quest had on his life.
Quotations from Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace
“Oddly enough, the simple act of slowing down forced me to quiet my mind and body, as each step had to be carefully placed, so as not to bruise a blister or cause another one. The Zen-like method of ‘deliberate walking’ also unveiled a beautifully complex and tranquil world with every step.”
“It’s not the road that wears you out —it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” — Old Arabaic saying
“When I told her that we were walking for peace, the ruddy matron dismissed us with an ingratiating ‘Oh, poor thing,’ look in her eyes, chortling, ‘Peace is not possible.’ She was the first person we’d met who’d been openly pessimistic. ‘Why?’ I wondered. ‘Because there is not enough land to go around.”
“Every day now, I’m putting my life and limb in danger by walking these busy country roads. And it will probably only get worse. Sure, this walk for peace is well-intentioned, but does anyone really care? Will it make a difference?”
“First, we’re taking this journey as a personal pilgrimage. But more than that, it is a journey of peace. Countries and especially the common people have suffered too much. There have been too many tears shed by mothers for their sons, wives for their husbands and children for their fathers. Yes, it takes courage to face an enemy—but it requires just as much bravery to say ‘No’ and refuse to capitulate to war. The time has come. This is now a global imperative.”
“When you walk across the fields with your mind pure, then from all the stones and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you and become a holy fire in you.” — Ancient Hasidic saying
“But don’t you see,” I explained, “envisioning peace is half the battle. As the world’s consciousness changes, the rest is sure to follow.”
“… it was still the journey that mattered and not the destination. I was an anonymous pilgrim finally stepping foot in the city of Jesus, the prophets, the Templars and pious to come before me—one simple peregrino realizing his dream…. I was hardly alone.”
The universal ritual of the pilgrimage
In the world’s major religions, the practice of making a pilgrimage is a common journey and ritualistic event. Generally speaking it is a long and often arduous journey in search of some moral significance. It is usually a religious event but not always. In the secular world, people have been making pilgrimages for a long time to historic sites where significant events have occurred in the lives of individuals who are deemed for many reasons to be great charismatic leaders. In Buddhism for example, which many practitioners believe is not a religion but instead a “way of life,” there are four pilgrimage sites, each of which is the location where a momentous event occurred in the life of the Buddha. Pilgrimages and pilgrimage routes have also, in very tangible ways, shaped history. Human civilization has frequently followed trade routes which were parallel in real and symbolic terms with the pilgrimage route. The pilgrimage has served many purposes throughout history, but as a universal and collective human act, it is essentially a search for the ideal. Today, the pilgrimage as a form of travel is growing in popularity (as you can see from the ads at the top of this page.)
A journey undertaken by individuals and groups; the pilgrimage is, in terms of the individual — as Brandon points out in our discussion — an intense, private, and internal experience. It is a journey to the heart of the human condition.
Brandon Wilson is an award-winning author of two other travel adventure books Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa and Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith. He is also the author of a number of other essays and stories.
For more information on Brandon and his work visit Pilgrim’s Tales.
Kudo for Along the Templar Trail
Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace has earned the gold for 2009 Best Travel Book in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition at the annual convention of the Society of American Travel Writers, the professional organization of travel journalists and communicators.