Some people travel to Mecca. Others climb Mount Fuji. Some join the sunglassed throng at the gates of Graceland. But even if it’s just down to the local Kwik-E-Mart, sooner or later everybody makes a pilgrimage. Take for instance, self-described couch potato, German television host and comedian Hans Peter “Hape” Kerkeling. In his I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago, which sold more than 3 million copies in its original German, Kerkeling boldly goes where thousands, if not millions, have gone before: along what is called (in German, anyway) the Jakobsweg to Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish region of Galicia, where Catholic legend has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James lie buried.
You want some insights? Kerkeling’s book has them sprinkled throughout, like little Easter eggs scattered along a 475-mile path. Some are simple and obvious: wear comfortable shoes; drink plenty of water. Others, particularly as the journey progresses, are more spiritual, nuanced and plain insightful. Despite occasional (well, actually more or less constant) carping about sore feet and bad food, of which there is much along the way, Kerkeling is a highly amiable traveling companion, interested in both the external and internal phenomena that accompany a voyage of exploration. And even if your pilgrimage extends only to your local bookstore, Kerkeling has provided a rich reward at journey’s end.