Alumni Magazine

SPR-SUM 2017

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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SPRING 2017 \ PIERCE 55 Walkers usually begin at dawn and continue until mid-afternoon when students meet up at a designated hostel or other lodging place; there is no longer a cumbersome tent to tote. "Those walks by myself were the most moving," Garrity said. "I had a whole day's walk to think about whatever I wanted. The most defining experience I had was the feeling of happiness and simplicity. I could just take each day, each moment, as it came to me." Stella Walling joined the Franklin Pierce staff in 1994 as Director of International Studies Programs. She saw students come back from the Walk with a deeper appreciation for the world. When she retired in 2013, her husband suggested they take the Walk themselves. "What struck me most was the realization about halfway through that I was very happy, felt very complete and content, and saw the same thing happening to my husband and pretty much most other walkers we met along the way," she recalls. "It was not simply the idea of camaraderie with others you meet, although that certainly played a part, but the discipline of doing the same thing every day: get up early, pack your backpack the same efficient way, step outside when dawn was just breaking, [ being] aware of the weather, rain or shine, smells, sounds, walk up hill or down, not knowing where you will end up that night, wash your clothes every afternoon, eat a terrific yet simple meal, go to bed early, and do it all again the next day." Faller concurs. "For me personally, there was a point well into the first long Walk where I realized that I cared too much about things that don't matter — what people think of me, et cetera — and largely got over that. A psychological cleansing had somehow occurred, and I discovered that the self-imposed restraints I had placed on my life were dropping away." THE WALK FACES THE FUTURE The biggest challenges in 2017, Challenger admits, could be that the world today is far more difficult to disconnect from. Besides the Walk itself, which usually starts in late summer and goes for nearly three months, the semester-long course includes class time, local walks and both verbal and written assignments. "The last trip (2015) was really hard to fill up, and we started earlier recruiting for the next one," Challenger admitted. "The fact is, the pool of people able to go is shrinking. Health Sciences is the biggest major at Franklin Pierce and students don't have the time to take a semester away from those studies. The Walk is an idea that students can't always appreciate. They are worried about getting jobs and finishing their education. Self-exploration usually takes a back seat to that." And then there is life with cell phone and Internet. "I wrote an article called Walking the Camino in the Age of Wifi," says Challenger "It's a challenge. When we first started it, there would be computers in some of the hostels, and everyone would take their turn getting on to check emails. Now, every hostel has Wifi, every walker has a cell phone. I do worry that it threatens what the Walk is supposed to be about by providing an easy distraction from the Camino itself." Walling, while not as dependent on cell phones and social media as most students are, admitted she and her husband carried a cell phone and occasionally posted photos on Facebook. "I think students find the disconnect that Doug tries to create for them initially quite difficult. But I also think that many of them come to appreciate the lack of cell phones after some time." "When I read accounts of soldiers who miss the solidarity and camaraderie of their life in the military, I am reminded of what drew me to the Walks over and over again," Faller added. "It was the intensity of the experience, filled with extremes, and the reliance on our band of brothers and sisters that set the Walks apart from other travel programs." Garrity has two words for anyone considering the Walk. "Do it." Adding that she plans more pilgrimages in her future, she says, "People are sometimes afraid to take risks, but that's when we learn the most about ourselves." " The most defining experience I had was the feeling of happiness and simplicity. I could just take each day, each moment, as it came to me." —JILLIAN GARRITY '13 ANDREW CUNNINGHAM (CHALLENGER) Facing page, top to bottom: direction signs to cities around the world; a fiesta in Viana; at the Pilgrim Monument; spelling out 'Camino' in Fromista, Spain. Above: Doug Challenger

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