Literary Pilgrimage – Being in the Story by Catharine Bramkamp

Literary Pilgrimage - Being in the Story by Catharine BramkampLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “Literary Pilgrimage – Being in the Story.” Enjoy!

I took in the wadi of the Valley of the Kings. The ground was thick with stone chips from fifty tombs, the high cliffs were bare white, the tombs entrances black and shadowed. It was over 100 degrees in that deep valley made of reflected sunlight and death.

My mother yelled from the air conditioned bus, “Get in, it’s too hot!”

But it wasn’t too hot. It was Egypt. A place I read about, imagined and studied since childhood.  And I was Right. Here.

I reluctantly boarded the bus and vowed to return. And I did. The Valley of the Kings, seen with my husband, seen after “improvements,” seen just before Arab Spring, was different, but no less delightful. Certainly just as hot. But he didn’t demand I quickly board the bus. He understood that this wasn’t just a trip.

It was a pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage isn’t just about the Canterbury Tales. A Pilgrimage can be about Elvis, or Royalty, most certainly about history. It is a category of travel originally bent on redemption, but now more about gaining deeper understanding. Your pilgrimage can confirm the past, enhance current projects or inspire future research and reading.

Many pilgrimage to sites of favorite books or authors. I know, I met a number of those pilgrims crammed into the Livraria Lello (Porto, Portugal), famous as the purported inspiration for the Hogsworth Library. It cost five euro to even visit the store and visitors lined up at the cash register clutching copies of Harry Potter books as if they were pieces of the True Cross. Pilgrimage in every sense of the term.

Before you leave, write about what you hope to find.

What do you know from your books, your research or family stories?

What do you think you know?

As a life long reader of British literature, I felt it was absolutely necessary to understand India.   Watching Monsoon Wedding wasn’t going to cut it. I know the difference between films featuring California and the real deal. Travel allows you to peer behind the camera, even behind the literature and the travel books.

I wanted to feel the heat of India. I wanted to to understand how its relentless weather, so unexpected to people accustom to a mild climate, affected their policies and reactions. The heat was tremendous, the people were beautiful, our interpretation of poverty at odds with how locals really managed and coped. The reality of Varanasi and the Ganges was overwhelming. The color, the lights the wealth of people, the large plastic gallon jugs used to bring home river water. No one films worshipers toting home the Ganges water in plastic gallon jugs. Not even me.

If that lament, I always wanted to visit. . . sounds familiar, act on it.

Book that river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, the balloon ride, the cross country train trip.  Return to the family genealogy, favorite books, travel magazines. Does one place come up time and time again? That’s where you should go.

Bon Voyage.



When she’s not pulling her mother out of traffic, Catharine coaches and teaches fiction, non-fiction, and journal writing.

Catharine BramkampCatharine Bramkamp is an author and writing coach –  visit her at She has written 17 novels and 3 books on writing. Her poetry appears in over a dozen anthologies including And The Beats Go On (she was editor as well) and the chapbook Ammonia Sunrise (Finishing Line Press). Her current book, Don’t Write Like We Talk, is based on her co-producer experience creating 200-plus episodes of the Newbie Writers Podcast. She is the Chief Storytelling Officer for technical companies because everyone has a story.

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