We’ve pulled back the curtain so you can peek at how things work behind the scenes here at Macs HQ. Get to know some of our experts, specialists, fellow walking enthusiasts and small business owners who meticulously plan your trips, do all the logistical legwork and provide 24/7 support, so you can have a memorable, stress-free trip.
Spotlight on Laura, our Pilgrimages and Caminos expert
This month we chatted all things Pilgrimage and Camino with Laura, one of our Senior Product Managers and Pilgrimages and Camino expert.
Why do we offer Pilgrimage walking trips?
We offer them because, at their core, they’re a fantastic self-guided walking experience. And because they can be walked (or cycled) as smaller sections or one longer route, there’s a personal challenge and experience to suit everyone.
Why do you think pilgrimages are worth doing?
Although people do pilgrimages for many different reasons, be that spiritual, personal growth or just as landmark challenges, the one word that sets them apart from other long-distance trails is ‘camaraderie’. Meeting others along the way, sharing stories and experiences, with a sense of community often makes tackling a pilgrimage a life-changing experience.
What do you like about our Pilgrimage trips?
We offer an unrivalled range of routes, and sections of those routes, meaning we cover many different regions, cultures and landscapes. I like that our Pilgrimages give you the opportunity to see the ‘real’ destination. This isn’t just walking through an area and enjoying the view, it’s also staying and talking with local communities, experiencing varying cultural intricacies as you pass from place to place… and the food! Sampling amazing local cuisine at each place and stopping for fresh delicacies on the route itself – no curled-up sandwiches here.
What goes into designing our Pilgrimage trips?
Unlike most other routes, our pilgrimages are often not ‘designed’ as some have existed since the Middle Ages. But the end goal of reaching that all-important finishing point with huge religious or cultural significance, such as Santiago or Rome, is crucial and something that you will always find in our pilgrimage and Camino routes.
Which is your favourite pilgrimage trip and why?
It’s impossible for me to pick just one! So, I've picked three...
Camino Invierno – this pilgrimage route really gets you off the beaten path and offers something a bit different to the other more popular pilgrim routes! Ribeira Sacra is a region well known for vineyards and who doesn’t want to enjoy a lovely glass of wine at the end of a day’s walking? That and the tranquillity of this walk make it extra inviting for me!
Camino Frances will always hold a special place in my heart! I completed the Final Stage of this pilgrimage, walking from Sarria to Santiago, not long after I became a Product Manager at Macs Adventure, and it made such an impact on me. The scenery was even nicer than I expected but what really makes it for me is the friendships you make along the way. I met people from all over the world, doing the walk for many different reasons and hearing their stories and joining them on the final stretch into Santiago was really quite emotional.
Kumano Kodo – I was lucky enough to walk the Kumano Kodo back in 2014 and for me, this was the best way to experience the amazing country and people of Japan. A pilgrimage that people may not often know about, this 11th-century pilgrim trail leads you through rural Japan to the three grand shrines. Special moments for me on this pilgrimage include being greeted by a huge smile from a Japanese farmer at the top of one of the more challenging climbs and presented with the freshest tomato I have ever eaten to feast on, the absolute stillness of the forests as you walk through the Kii mountains, and relaxing my aching bones in onsen hot springs at the end of the day before changing into my yukata (robe) to enjoy the most delicious and authentic Japanese food!
What are you most passionate about when it comes to our Pilgrimage routes?
For me, a huge part of walking a pilgrimage route is the connections you make with people along the way. Yes, the scenery and landscapes you pass through on many of them are amazing – but the experience of meeting fellow pilgrims, and sharing stories and connections are what make them really special. A pilgrimage route is a chance to switch off from hectic modern-day life and really immerse yourself in the experience. You also get to walk through places which you may never have otherwise discovered on other walking routes, which perhaps focus more on the must-see spots and destinations.