Book Title: The Way, My Way – a Camino memoir
Author: Bill Bennett
Promotional Blurb: “I’d never done anything crazy like this before – a pilgrimage walk. I was not a hiker, and I wasn’t a Catholic. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian. On the last government census when I had to state my religion, I’d said I was a Buddhist, mainly because they’ve had such a hard time in Tibet and I felt they needed my statistical support.
I was also not an adventure traveller. For me, adventure travel was flying coach. All this backpacking and wearing of heavy boots and flying off to France to walk ancient pilgrimage routes was a new experience, and not one that made me feel entirely comfortable.”
And so Bill Bennett, an Australian based film director, sets off on an 800-kilometre walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, not sure why he was doing it, and not feeling entirely comfortable. His discomfort increased markedly a few days later when his knee gave out – so the rest of the walk was a “pain management pilgrimage.” But he kept his sense of humour, and his memoir is at times hilarious but also deeply moving, and insightful. In the vein of Bill Bryson and Eric Newby, The Way, My Way takes you on a unique spiritual journey, and gives you a hearty laugh along the way. Source.
Why, oh why do I read these camino stories?
Yes, they make me laugh and often they give me pause for thought, but they also trigger the most terrible case of wanderlust!
Bennett’s story is not vastly different from all the other’s I have read, as they followed the well-trodden Camino Frances path from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. However, everyone’s motivations, story and experience is always so different.
“I’d become obsessed with the weight of my backpack. Before leaving Australia, I’d weighed everything on my digital kitchen scales. I did this secretly, up in my office, in case my wife discovered I was weighing my underpants”.
He is called to the Camino and yet, like many of us, has no idea why he is there. Maybe that is the key – to walk with no agenda and that makes you truly open to the World.
“I wasn’t doing the pilgrimage because I wanted to see some musty old relics. And I wasn’t doing it to prove anything either, to physically challenge myself before my body clock ticked over to the big six-oh. I certainly wasn’t doing it to be fashionable. There were easier ways for me to be fashionable that didn’t involve walking 800-km across a country whose language I couldn’t speak or understand. I could buy a pair of Prada sunglasses, or I could pretend to know who Pink was”.
I am not sure why it has taken me so long to pick up this book. Many people, knowing my camino addiction, have recommended it to me AND Bennett is from my hometown. Surely that should mean it is/was compulsory reading? I admit I have been a bit nervous to turn the first page as just because you have the most inspiring, life-changing, hilarious, or challenging camino experience, doesn’t mean you can actually write about it in an entertaining and engaging way.
“Spain’s Farmacias are a pilgrim’s best friend. They are part medical clinic, part hospital, part pharmacy, and part Breaking Bad backstreet drug dealer. You can buy drugs over the counter in Spanish Farmacias that you can’t buy anywhere else in the world, except maybe Columbia”.
Bennett can write. I found myself laughing along with him as his best laid plans and expectations went astray, and his most useful and reliable assumptions are proven worthless.
What you think your body can do and what it really can do are often vastly different. Bennett perseveres through the pain, accepts advice even when he didn’t ask for it and ultimately trusts in the Way. He is a little better prepared than many of us when he arrives in the Pyrenees, ready to start walking, with this very own Personal Guidance System (PGS) tuned up and tuned in to everything that was around him.
“There’s nothing special about me, it’s just that I wasn’t fearful. The Universe retracts when you’re scared. You push it away. It can’t help you. If you’re not scared, if you trust, then it can step in and help you”.
I realise that, for the uninitiated, this can sound a bit wafty or airy fairy, but from personal experience it is a fact. Maybe it is the very act of realising that you can’t control everything in life, that makes you relax and simply accept everything the Way provides – both good and bad.
“And as I walked, everyone passed me. Even grandmothers. Even grandmothers carrying their shopping. Even grandmothers carrying their shopping for their extended family. Even grandmothers carrying their shopping for their extended family, and toting their grandchildren on their shoulders. Whilst on crutches.”
Part of the enjoyment of Bill’s story is that he is not afraid to poke fun at himself. He reluctantly acknowledges some of his weaknesses, not quite understanding why some people don’t believe he is damn near perfect, and sets to work using the camino to do some deep thinking about why he is the way he is and how he can change.
“I began to learn that none of us should pass judgement, because every experience is different for every pilgrim. No one experience is definitive”.
Of course along the road he meets a whole range of Life’s wonderful characters, big-hearted individuals and a few others that he wouldn’t worry if he never met again. A bit like in real life.
There is warmth in Bennett’s book. It is a good read and a nice read. And doesn’t that make a pleasant change? I gave it 8/10.
Author bio: Bill Bennett is an award winning filmmaker and author. In his home country of Australia he’s won the equivalent of the Oscar (Australian Film Institute Award) for Best Film and Best Director, and been nominated a further 12 times. His documentary work has been awarded two Logies, Australian television’s highest award. He’s had two feature films in Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) and four feature films in Official Selection at Toronto.
He’s won Best Picture at Karlovy Vary, Palm Springs and Hawaii film festivals. His work has screened at the New York Museum of Modern Art, and he’s had three major film retrospectives, in Germany, the US and India. As well, Penguin Random House recently completed publishing his trilogy of Young Adult novels Palace of Fires, one of its largest selling Australian YA titles in years. Source.
Author blog or website: https://www.billbennett.com.au/
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Available from: Book Depository for AUD$32.48 or Amazon.
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