Sometimes, this can be the hardest part of the journey. It has been said that what really matters is the journey, and travelling well, not arrival at your destination. I think that however true this may be with respect to the journey, arriving at our destination is an important event.
Often the destination influenced our choice of this particular pilgrimage. It has been our goal, the thing that spurred us on through the events of each day. It may represent some long-held ambition or some deeply treasured memory.
However, the place we remember may have changed beyond all recognition; our ambition may have proved to be sentimentalised and idealised beyond all reality. It short, our arrival may be as much an anti-climax as much as the climax of the pilgrimage. For one thing, arrival signifies that, without a doubt, this particular pilgrimage is over and the return to ‘normality’ looms large. We may already harbour fears about the speed with which we will lose the lessons learned, forget the surprises and experiences that have been so vital, and slip back into our old ways as if the miles had never been travelled.
All this may be true, but for now we have to work at arriving with the same determination that we have put one foot in front of the other each day, every day of our journey, regardless of our circumstances and how we feel.
We need to spend time absorbing the place. It is not, if possible, to be hurried. Perhaps we could arrange to stay for a day or two, rather than hurrying on to leave and return home.
Spending time allows us to tune in to the place, to discover it afresh, to find the secret and hidden places that make this place important too. It may help us to find a special place where we can focus on our journey, giving thanks for new friends, new experiences and lessons learned…God may still have things to say. An appropriate ritual may be useful as we engage in a time of stillness at journey’s end. We may have collected objects as ‘memory stones’ along the way; here is an opportunity to complete the collection with something from our destination.
“It is important to take the place for what it is. The practice of taking things as they are, which the pilgrim might have developed on the journey, needs to be extended into arriving. God who was on the journey is also in the destination.”
“Pilgrimage” by David Osborne