Embarking on a pilgrimage requires preparation–both physical and spiritual. Consider these tips to get ready for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Physical Preparation and Training

  1. Break in your shoes (but don’t wear them out!). Brand new shoes will only cause problems, so do a good amount of your practice walks in the shoes you plan on bringing to France.
  2. Depending on your current fitness level, begin training walks several months before departure.
  3. Gradually increase your distances until you can do ¾ of the longest distance you will do in France, take a rest day, then do it again the following day.
  4. Don’t forget to take rest days and drink enough water as you train.
  5. If you’re training on a treadmill, make sure to adjust the incline or set it to random. Be sure to train outside as well so you can get used to downhills and obstacles.
  6. One month prior to departure, build in back-to-back long distance days, so you can assess any problems that might come up and give yourself time to heal if something goes wrong.
  7. Do practice walks with the same clothing, socks, shoes, and carrying the items you plan to have with you in France. If the shorts you’re planning on using give you problems, you want to know now.

Spiritual Preparation

  1. Think about why you are doing this. Clarify what goal you might have for the walk, but also consider (and pray about) what God may have in store for you through this trip.
  2. Use your training walks to prayerfully prepare. Be open to graces that may come from these walks, regular introspection, and certainly the pilgrimage itself.
  3. Be prepared to make sacrifices on the pilgrimage, from foregoing your daily shower, to what you eat. A pilgrimage is not a luxurious trip, so be prepared for opportunities to humble yourself.
  4. Is there an intention you’re going to be walking for? Is there a person in your life it will be dedicated to, or are you offering the walk in thanksgiving? Whether you have one overarching intention or a long list, many people offer up the arduous walk for specific intentions.
  5. Ask friends and family is there are intentions they’d like to send with you on the journey.
  6. Consider adding devotions or meditations as you walk, such as focusing on the components of the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed, reflecting on the Via Dolorosa or the trials suffered by a particular saint, saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet or Prayers to St. Bridget, conducting an examination of conscience, or any other prayer or devotion that you feel drawn to.