CRESTVIEW — If you see Jason Driver hoofing around town with a backpack this weekend, be assured he’s not running away from his Crestview home.
The Crestview man is training for a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a personal journey of introspection that also raises funds for a Florida State University scholarship.
“Picture a pasty, overweight asthmatic who speaks NO Spanish walking a 100-kilometer pilgrimage in northern Spain in the summer,” Driver said.
His brother, Joel, died of cancer in January 2012, but the two often talked of traveling in Europe together.
“After he died, the family came together and started a scholarship in his name at FSU,” Driver said. “I am now trying to raise enough money for a second scholarship in his name.”
Driver has raised a little over $1,200 of the $15,000 goal.
“It won’t all come with this trip, but it’s a start,” he said.
HIKING THE CAMINO
The idea of hiking the Camino de Santiago started with discovering “The Way,” Emilio Estevez’s film about the pilgrimage, Driver stated in his blog, fromcouchtocamino.blogspot.com.
Later he discovered a cross that Joel gave him is the Cross of St. James, a symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
More connections followed.
The 110-kilometer route Driver will hike is the Camino Inglés, “the English route,”which Irish, English and Scandinavian pilgrims traditionally followed after arriving at the port of Ferrol.
While visiting Ireland earlier this year, he learned Irish pilgrims would gather at St. James’ Gate in Dublin before embarking on their pilgrimages to Santiago, the saint’s name in Spanish.
Driver promptly bought the credentials book — pilgrims obtain passport-style stamps at villages they pass through — and got it stamped at St. James’ Gate.
“My Camino had officially started,” Driver said on his blog.
Like the other Caminos de Santiago, Driver’s hike will end at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
There, because he will have walked more than 100 kilometers, Driver will receive his “compostela,” a certificate testifying to his accomplishment.
“I know that I won’t be alone,” Driver blogged. “Joel’s been with me the whole time.”
Driver will hike through the province of Galicia, where villagers speak a regional dialect. He plans to complete the Camino in five days.
“What’s really pretty about the (Camino) Inglés is it’s not as well traveled,” Driver said. “The towns are farther apart. You have to work to walk certain distances to get to villages or else you sleep outdoors.”
Supporters can follow Driver on his blog, where a GPS tracker he’ll carry will constantly update his progress. Upon his return, Driver said he wants to share the experiences with his 8-year-old son, Brendan, “and maybe (he’ll) try to push his own boundaries too."
“For many people, the Camino de Santiago has a mystical element,” Turespaña, a Spanish tourism website, states. “Many pilgrims set out on the Camino inspired by a different kind of spirituality, which manifests itself in the need to find out more about oneself, to find the answers to certain personal questions and to discover inner peace.”
“As Gandalf said to Bilbo (in J.R.R. Tolkein's novel, "The Hobbit"), not only do I think I will be a different person when I return, I’m betting on it,” Driver said.
HOW TO HELP
Jason Driver will document his July 17-26 pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago on his blog, fromcouchtocamino.blogspot.com. Donors can find a link to contribute to the FSU Foundation Joel Driver Memorial Scholarship, or they may send donations to P.O. Box 3062739, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2739.