Recap: David and Lisa are having trouble conceiving. But on some level, they’re not entirely sure they even want a child. Frustrated with the crossroad in their lives, they decide to take time off, travel and search within themselves to learn what they truly want. But this is not a story about a trip to the Caribbean — though it does include one. This is a true story of how David and Lisa took a month to walk the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle, St. James the Great, in northern Spain.
They spend months studying Spanish and acquiring the appropriate footwear to prepare themselves intellectually, socially and physically for the very spiritual road ahead. The pilgrimage itself proves to be harder than expected. They must stop to go to the hospital. They drive, if absolutely necessary. Instead of camping or staying in hostels, they book nice hotel rooms. And while at times, they feel as though they’re cheating, it pays off when they make it to shrine. Their spiritual journey gives them the answers they were looking for: they do want children. The path propels them to come home and refocus their energy on the future — a new home and conceiving once again. And while a pregnancy finally happens for them, that, too, is not without difficulty.
Analysis: Similar to Eat, Pray, Love, author David Hlavsa takes us on his own personal international journey to find what he wants to have at home. Even having studied abroad in Spain, I never knew about the Camino de Santiago, which made his short and sweet memoir all the more fascinating. I understand why Hlavsa explains that friends and family thought he and his wife were crazy to take on this challenge; if someone in my family were to do it, I would also look at him like he had a few screws loose.
But Hlavsa explains his rationale in a way that made me understand why he and his wife had to do this. While the topic of the memoir is serious and sad, Hlavsa keeps the book charming, entertaining and humorous with sections about his wife’s inability to speak Spanish and their adventures with exotic food. The first half of the book is exciting as they make their way on the journey.
But when they come home, the book takes a dark turn as their pregnancy doesn’t go as planned. The ending and epilogue is ultimately satisfying, but to say parts of this book were difficult to read would be an understatement. That said, the memoir made me consider what I would if I were in his situation. It encouraged me to have serious talks with my fiancé about our future and where we stood if we were to have trouble conceiving one day. A book that’s hard to read is worth it if it makes you think. And that’s exactly what Walking Distance did for me.