After the world's longest flight (I kid you not!), 17 hours direct to Dubai, the group rested at an airport hotel overnight before flying Rome-bound on another six-and-a-half hour flight. All agreed that they'd never complain about a 12-hour flight ever again.
I have repeatedly told pilgrims that no pilgrim on earth travels as far or experiences as much fatigue as a New Zealand pilgrim. No one can understand the tiredness experienced by kiwis arriving at a place of pilgrimage from the other side of the globe. It's not just physical, it is also emotional and mental because there has been such a built up tension, excitement (call it what you will), so many emotions before they step foot on a plane to depart, that the arrival at the destination is nothing short of sheer relief and extreme exhaustion.
It always generates a laugh when I tell them as soon as they arrive on holy terra firma, that their pilgrimage is now over and they can fly home. There is a collective sigh of relief not just that we've finally arrived, but that their fatigue is understood for what it is by someone who has been there, done that and knows what they're feeling. Even their accommodation hosts in these places of pilgrimage have no understanding. I have embarked on flights to Europe close to 50 times. I know what pilgrimage is. It is an epic journey of biblical proportions and begins at home - when you make the decision to go on a pilgrimage - not at the destination.
Regardless of stopovers in exotic cities and planes with personal entertainment systems, the pilgrimage must be understood in its entirety. The flight is a pilgrimage.
The mantra I repeat like a broken record, 'pilgrimage begins at home' ironically can only be understood by the pilgrim on arrival at the destination.
View gallery at pilgrimage.nz
Patricia is a pilgrim and encourages others to discover the timeless and biblical way of pilgrimage. As the pilgrim's pilgrim, she reports from the field, knowing The Way, showing The Way and going The Way.