A pilgrim walks during a stage of "Camino de Santiago"...

A pilgrim walks during a stage of "Camino de Santiago" or St. James Way near to Santo Domingo de La Calzada, northern Spain, May 31, 2022. In 2023, nearly half a million people walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. About 40% did so for purely religious reasons. While it’s traditionally a Catholic pilgrimage, people today embark on the Camino for many motivations beyond religion: health, grief, transition, adventure. Credit: AP/Alvaro Barrientos

(RNS) — In her early 30s, Rachael Sanborn found herself in a bad relationship and dreaming of an escape to the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a pilgrimage her father had undertaken that had profoundly changed his life.

Sanborn, a rebel and adventurer by nature (she dropped out of college to meditate in India for a year), quit her job, gave up health insurance and pooled her savings to take two months to walk the Camino. By the third day of her walk, she promised herself she’d return every year. Nine months later, she was back, guiding her first group of eight pilgrims.

A decade later, now 45 and residing in the Bay Area, she leads grief walks and walking meditations on the Camino with the travel company she founded, Red Monkey Walking Travel. The red monkey is a nod to Hanuman, the Hindu god of joyful service. Raised Tibetan Buddhist, Christian and Jewish, Sanborn considers herself all three. She believes everyone can find a way for the Camino to work for their religion.

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This content is written and produced by Religion News Service and distributed by The Associated Press. RNS and AP partner on some religion news content. RNS is solely responsible for this story.

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