We are often asked "Why Spain?" when people learn that we have chosen Spain as our expat home. So, fellow blog readers, here is the story: My wife, Elyn Aviva, first came to Spain in 1981 as a graduate student in anthropology looking for a thesis topic. Why Spain? Well, her thesis advisor at Princeton University had grant money to work in northern Spain. She spent the summer in a monastery/hostel run by Benedictine nuns in Sahagún, in the province of Léon, Spain. She had heard of the Camino de Santiago—the 500-mile-long mediaeval pilgrimage route across Spain—but assumed it was only a historical route that no one was walking in the twentieth century. Imagine her surprise when pilgrims showed up at the monastery door and presented their pilgrim credentials for free room and board. She was instantly hooked and knew that this was her thesis topic. Her advisor had other ideas, but in the end he relented. Elyn walked the Camino in 1982, interviewed pilgrims for a year while living with her young son in Sahagún, and went home to write her dissertation, completing her PhD in 1985.
When Elyn came into my life in 1992, she had already written a travel narrative about her pilgrimage, a book called “Following the Milky Way.” It had been published by Iowa State University Press in 1989. We visited Spain and the Camino by car in 1996, and we returned in 1997 to walk the Camino and live in Sahagún. I wanted to experience for myself what the Camino was like. In 1998 we abruptly returned to the US to take care of family emergencies.
In 2001 Elyn came home from a pilgrimage conference and said that people wanted her book but couldn’t get it except on the expensive rare-book market. I said immediately that we could publish it. The publisher had returned the copyright to her and I had worked with the publishers on the production of my music theory textbooks. Elyn wrote a new introduction for the second edition and I published it. That was the beginning of Pilgrims Process Publishers. Our slogan is, "Books for readers who think."
We have published and written many books in the intervening years, but “Milky Way” is unique. It is considered a classic in the field—the first modern account by an American of walking the Camino. It presents a picture of what it was like to walk the Camino before it was developed as a historic “Cultural Itinerary in Europe” and heavily funded by the European Union. Since “Milky Way” was published, there have been hundreds of travel narratives about the Camino but Elyn’s was the first. The Camino is also more famous now due to books by Shirley MacLaine, Paulo Coelho, and others, and Martin Sheen recently dramatized the Camino in his movie, “The Way.”
If you are intrigued by pilgrimage and the Camino, you can begin learning about it by reading Elyn’s book. Go here: (CLICK) and order a copy.
So, back to the original question: why Spain? When we were thinking about moving out of the USA again in 2008, Spain was our logical choice. Our shared history here dates back decades! We have never regretted our decision.