Guides are a valuable resource when setting off on a journey.
The guides we often think to pack are typically travel guides offering sample itineraries, hotel recommendations, and quick reference translations when you need to ask for directions or order a cup of tea. However, while these guides can be undeniably useful when navigating a new place, they will only guide you on your outer pilgrimage. If you want your journey to be meaningful, you’ll need a guide for your inner pilgrimage, too.
For centuries, pilgrims have carried such a guide. Known as a Vade Mecum, or “go with me,” these guides are guides for the soul. In them you’ll find practical information, yes (Rick Steves only started writing guidebooks in the past few decades, after all), but more importantly, you’ll find words of inspiration—prayers, quotes, and Scriptures to accompany the pilgrim along the path.
Before he set off on his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela this past spring, I made a Vade Mecum for my husband, Kyle. I purchased a small journal that was sturdy and small (necessary considerations when you’re walking 500 miles and carrying everything on your back) and filled it with letters of encouragement from family and friends some of my favorite quotes, poems, and prayers on journeys and transformation.
I then presented it to him as a gift before he left. Having stayed at home, it was a blessing to know that I would be able to accompany him on his journey in some way through the creation of this gift. I have a feeling, too, that the wisdom from friends and family as well as seekers who had gone before him scattered throughout the pages of his Vade Mecum brought much-needed inspiration and helped him to remember that he wasn’t alone in his search as he continued to walk.
You can create your own guide for your next journey (or that of a friend), too. Here’s what you need to create a Vade Mecum:
- a small, sturdy journal (I recommend Moleskine journals)
- quotes, poems, and prayers from some of your favorite journey guides
- messages from family and friends to accompany you
- supplies to add to the guide along the way, including nice pens and tape or glue
Once you’ve purchased your journal and gathered your messages and quotes, scatter them throughout the pages, keeping in mind what words you anticipate might be meaningful during your journey’s beginning, middle, and end. Or, you could simply place the quotes and messages throughout the journal at random and trust that they will be just what you need as the journey unfolds. (If you’re giving this as a gift, I’d suggest recommending to the recipient that they do the latter, especially when it comes to the personal messages from family and friends).
As your pilgrimage continues, add to the Vade Mecum whenever new inspiration crosses your path and reflect on your journey on the blank pages.
Of course the inspiration doesn’t have to stop within the journal’s pages. Make a place in the back of your Vade Mecum to collect mementos from the journey, such as ticket stubs or fallen leaves—a mini scrapbook for the years to come. If your journal doesn’t have a pouch, learn how to add one here.
Which influential voices and words of wisdom would you add to your Vade Mecum?