January 27, 2017
I'm sad to say that Project Pilgrim has come to an end. Read about it here.
In May, 2016 I walked the 1000km Camino de Santiago and along the way interviewed and photographed people I met and engaged them in a discussion around mental health.
The outcome of my trip is this website and a printed book capturing the comments, insights, and portrait photographs of those that I met. I hope that this collection of ideas can further the conversation that needs to continue around mental health.
The book was pre-sold through a Kickstarter campaign which ran over the course of March, 2016 in order to offset the costs of this project. The Book is available for purchase at this link.
The Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route, hosts ~250,000 pilgrims a year as they walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. There have been multiple movies, multimedia websites, blogs, and several books done about the Camino which have all been very successful. I’ve decided to do something of my own.
This May, I will be walking this pilgrimage alone in order to work towards breaking down the stigma around mental health. On the Camino, people are walking (sometimes alone) for a month or more. They become very self reflective. I plan to tap into this introspection and inquire as to people’s thoughts regarding mental health. I believe that because the people I meet will be especially aware of themselves, they will have some very interesting things to say. My hope is that by collecting many people’s opinions and sharing them with you, we will all come to a better understanding of what mental health is and how to overcome issues we may face.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture with an emotional connection to it is worth many times more. My goal is that by taking people’s photos and asking them about mental health, I can start a conversation that can work towards breaking down the stigma around mental health. Talking about mental health normalizes mental health and my hope is that Project Pilgrim can be one of the many stepping stones needed in order to make mental health an everyday conversation.
Project Pilgrim first and foremost is a collection of people’s responses and opinions towards mental health. Over December, 2015 and January, 2016 I took 120 of my friend’s photos which I have paired with their thoughts towards mental health. I will be posting these daily until the end of April (below are some select examples). In May, I will be heading to France and Spain to walk the famous 1000km Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. As I walk, I will take photos of the people I meet and combine their portraits with their thoughts and responses towards mental health. I will post these photos on the Facebook Page, Instagram, as well as on this website. The end result will be a consolidation of these photos and their captions in a website and printed photo book. This book will be pre-sold at a discount through a Kickstarter over the month of March. Several Canadian organizations are partnering and supporting this project in various ways. More information will be available soon as to who is involved.
Another aspect of this project includes the reason why I ended up dropping out of school last year. I was suffering from social anxiety which led to depression. My social anxiety was highly specific to the particular situation of meeting new people for the first time. After seeking help and going through therapy, I was able to overcome this challenge and I am now ready to use my circumstances as a testament to the benefit of getting help. On the Camino I will be walking alone and will be meeting new people multiple times a day. I will use this opportunity of meeting new people to ask them about their thoughts concerning mental health and take their photo. I hope that by me demonstrating how I am “facing my fears” I will encourage others who were struggling like I was to reach out and get the help that is available.
The Camino de Santiago, specifically the Way of St. James, is a 1000km long ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. For thousands of years, Christian pilgrims from across the world have made their way along this route to the city of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of apostle St. James are reported to be buried. Nowadays, people walk this route for many reasons. In fact, over the last few years only 40% of the people who have completed the Camino did it for religious reasons. 55% did it for "cultural and other" reasons and 5% did it for non-religious reasons.
The Camino is set up in such a way to accommodate for the ~250,000 people who walk it every year. There are auberges (pilgrim hostels) in most towns along the route allowing for pilgrims to walk anywhere from 10 to 40km a day. These auberges offer a dormitory style bed usually with a hot shower for ~€10 a night. Food can either be bought or carried (some auberges offer a shared small kitchen) but most people opt to eat in local restaurants for meals. For meals and accommodation I have budgeted €25/day for my 35 day journey.
My idea for Project Pilgrim came by combining three of my passions: Photography, Mental Health, and The Outdoors.
Photography: Photography is one of my greatest passions. Project Pilgrim will consist of portraits of the people I meet along the Camino de Santiago. These photos will be shared on this site, the Facebook Page, as well as Instagram. Afterwards, these photos and the subject’s mental health response will be turned into a book.
Mental Health: Mental health is something I hold very close to me. In November of 2014, I was forced to withdraw from school in order to address my own mental health issues. Now I want to give back. My hope is that Project Pilgrim will start a conversation around mental health. As I walk the Camino, I will talk to the people I meet about their thoughts and opinions towards mental health. Their responses will be included with their photo as I post along the way. To read more about me and my mental health journey click here.
The Outdoors: The outdoors is where I find my therapy. In my down time, you can almost always find me climbing, hiking, kayaking, or trying something new outside. The Camino consists of walking 1000km across Northern Spain - it’s perfect for me. To read more about the Camino click here.
The name Project Pilgrim comes from the Camino de Santiago. The Camino is a historic pilgrimage route starting in France and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain. Historically, pilgrims have walked this route from all over the world as a spiritual journey to see the reported remains of the apostle St. James. More recently, this pilgrimage has been done mostly for cultural rather than religious reasons. To read more about the Camino click here.
Below is a list of ways of how you can be involved in Project Pilgrim and how you can help.
2. Funding The Kickstarter. The Kickstarter ran over the month of March, 2016. The book, portrait sessions, and prints will be available for pre-sale and all money (after designing, printing, and shipping) will go towards funding this project and my trip. However, if the minimum goal of $4000 is not met, Project Pilgrim may not happen.
3. Buying the book alone. If you were unable to buy a book on the Kickstarter that's okay! The book is still for sale and can be found here.
4. Donating. If you do not want the book, portrait sessions, or prints from this trip there is always an option to make a standard donation. Click the button below to make adonation.
5. Sponsorships. I am partnering with several people and organizations already, but if you feel you/your organization have something to offer or would like to be involved, you can contact me here.