One day, New York writer Jack Hitt decided to make a pilgrimage from Saint-Jean Pied Port, France to Santiago del Compostello, Spain. The 500-mile trek has been made by thousands for centuries. Hitt set out to increase that total by one.
Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain chronicles the author’s journey. A detailed history of the destination and its religious significance introduce readers to the method behind Hitt’s madness.
Travels are narrated with humor and colorful detail. The author meets several other pilgrims along the way. Their interactions and experiences are just as interesting as the scenery. The group divides, categorizes and behaves like a sociological experiment. Hitt records the action from within the pack, not hesitating to poke fun at himself occasionally.
The author takes several philosophical breaks in the trip to fill readers in on several centuries of European history. Many of the stops along the trail are tied to past events, legends and traditions. Hitt describes these places well for the travel reader, even taking time to summarize the history of miracles.
It’s a shame most travel narratives, this book included, don’t contain some photographs. Fortunately, Hitt’s writing talents allow armchair pilgrims to get a glimpse, a sound and even a scent of the countryside. Off the Road is one of those published gems that’s a pleasure to read and educational to boot.