- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (March 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743261119
- ISBN-13: 978-0743261111
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 86 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain Paperback – March 1, 2005
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"Hitt's humble pilgrimage stands out as a welcome change. Engaging and offbeat...this modern-day version of Chaucer's tale is lively enough to wake St. Thomas from the dead."
-- The San Francisco Chronicle
"Hitt...recounts his hajj in luminous prose. At times Chaucerian in tone and scope, at times reflective, even magical, Hitt's chronicle resounds with wit, wonder, and curiosity satisfied."
-- Los Angeles Times
From the Back Cover
In this irreverent, ruminative adventure, Jack Hitt sets out to walk the 500 miles along the pilgrimage route from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Off the Road charts the serendipitous encounters of another American innocent abroad, only this one submits to the rigorous traditions of Europe's oldest form of packaged tour. The result is a comic yet sympathetic attempt to understand the vanishing role of religion in modern life. Off the Road is an unforgettable tour of the sites that people believe God once touched: the strange fortress said to contain the real secret Adam learned when he bit the apple; the miraculous chickens of the fourteenth century whose descendants still dance in the church of Santo Domingo; the sites associated with the murderous monks known as the Knights Templar; and the places housing relics ranging from a vial of the Virgin Mary's milk to a sheet of Saint Bartholomew's skin. Along the way, in small-town shelters or lost among Spanish mountains, Jack Hitt finds himself persevering by day and bunking down by night with an unlikely cast of fellows - a Flemish film crew, a drunken gypsy, a draconian Belgian air force officer, a man who speaks no languages, a one-legged pilgrim, and a Welsh family with a mule. Off the Road rediscovers the warm hilarity that underlies the solemn rituals of the past. In the day-to-day grind of walking under a hot Spanish sun, Jack Hitt and his smelly cohorts not only find occasional good meals and dry shelter, but they also stumble upon some fresh ideas about old-time zealotry and modern belief. Anyone disturbed by America's sense of a disposable past will relish the way this offbeat journey through history turns into aprovocative rethinking of the present.
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And lo, I was not disappointed 'Off the Road' is a delight. No doubt, the Camino has changed a lot in the intervening years, but the act of pilgrimage has not. This book manages what most pilgrim stories do not: it presents a story that is of interest not just to the author but to all. Too many pilgrim diaries read like laundry lists of events and places. 'Off the Road' avoids this pitfalls of the genre and leaves the reader with a better sense of this odd pilgrimage of life.
If you need your gods to be capitalized or need spiritual experiences to be expressed in the terms of your favorite religious team, you may want to give this one a miss. If you'd like to share the author's journey because it may give you some perspective on your own then this may be the timeless classic you’ve been waiting for.
Written in 1994, "Off the Road..." recounts author Jack Hitt's pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago--a 500-mile or 800 kilometer journey from Saint-Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France, to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest corner of Spain; a pilgrimage that millions of peregrinos have traveled for more than 1,000 years. Not only does Hitt immerse you in the sights along the way, the struggles, the triumphs and the antics of his fellow pilgrims; he complements places of interest with historical yet surprising and sometimes irreverent facts, that at times left me either laughing or in awe of histories of Templars, relics and legends and lore.
Along the way of Saint James, Hitt meets a colorful company of pilgrims from all over Europe who not only share in his quotidian peregrinations but add a lot of humor to the story, some of those moments building on those before until hilarity breaks down even the most deadpan of readers.
But the most profound discovery that he and reader realize at the end of the Camino de Santiago is not about the revelations or epiphanies that one might expect from such a pilgrimage, but an inspiring sense of comradery in the community of new-found friends, each going about their day-to-day grind while contributing to the greater whole of their traveling procession.
Triumph prevails when Hitt and his comrades arrive at Santiago de Compostela cathedral but not without a tear-jerking moment of gratitude and humility. I say no more but of course, I cried. As all good things must come to an end, so too must the travels along the camino and alas, the community of fellow pilgrims that we have all grown to love parts ways, each returning to the life they led or to new roads ahead.