Spanning more than 2,000 km, the Via Francigena is Europe’s ancient pilgrimage route connecting Canterbury Cathedral to the tombs of seven apostles in Rome. Crossing through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy, this historic route culminates at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Meet the Author
Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.
In 2019, Kevin Donahue set off from his home in the United States to begin a pilgrimage journey spanning both years and miles, walking across continents to the ancient end of the world, to kneel at the tombs of eight Apostles. His story is a first-hand account of the people and places found along the way to inspire questions and enlighten answers about faith, hope, and love.
Kevin’s passion for hiking began years before in Scouting. Years and life intervened but inspiring journeys – from exploring the Samburuland in Northern Kenya to hiking China’s legendary Dragon’s Spine – rekindled his passion to explore and to share his experiences on the backpacking blog: One Step Then Another.
While hiking the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail, Kevin found serenity along the trail prompting greater reflection on his spiritual journey. With the support of his family, he began a series of pilgrimage walks that would lead him across Portugal and Spain on the Camino de Santiago, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean connecting California’s Missions Trail, across England’s ancient Pilgrims’ Way, and onward towards Rome via Europe’s forgotten footpaths on a journey of soulful discovery along the Via Francigena. Reflections from these pilgrimages form the basis for his first book, Sacred Steps: A Pilgrimage Journal.
With a goal of connecting the global pilgrim community, Kevin hosts interviews with authors and pilgrims on the Sacred Steps Podcast. From the Camino de Santiago through Spain to the Via Francigena across Europe to Italy, the podcast features updates and first-hand accounts from the footpaths of pilgrimage.
Kevin lives in Florida with his wife, son, and their two beagles: Otis and Larry.
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Q & A with Kevin
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?
In 2019, I completed my first Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain and finished my first pilgrimage walk along the California Missions Trail in 2021. Looking ahead, I’ll be walking England’s ancient Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury and then beginning the Via Francigena, the historic way in Europe connecting Canterbury to Rome. When I’m not in Europe, I’d like to continue walking sections of the California Mission Trail as well as the Florida Trail. You can learn more about my routes, including detailed stage descriptions and maps, on my blog: One Step Then Another.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FOLLOW YOUR JOURNEY?
I really enjoy being connected to pilgrims and followers, especially if you are considering starting your own pilgrimage. I share my steps on social media (Facebook | Instagram) and cover details of my pilgrimage with the complimentary Book Preview List.
HOW DO YOU STAY CONNECTED TO OTHER PILGRIMS AND LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT WALKS?
During the global pandemic, I launched the Sacred Steps Podcast to stay connected with pilgrims from across the globe. If you’re not familiar with podcasts, they are short audio and video streams that you can subscribe to (for free) and download new broadcasts to your device automatically. On each episode, I interview a pilgrim or author to discuss their pilgrimages and insights, as well as their next steps.
WHEN DO YOU EXPECT SACRED STEPS: A PILGRIMAGE JOURNAL TO BE AVAILABLE?
The book is currently in draft and editing. There are (literally) miles to go before it is finished but I hope it will be finished and available as a digital book, paperback, and audiobook on Amazon for Easter 2023. In the meantime, please sign up to join the complimentary Book Preview List for updates and previews!
WHAT ARE OTHER PILGRIMAGE WALKS THAT YOU SUGGEST PILGRIMS CONSIDER?
Firstly, I would encourage pilgrims to connect their rucksacks to their hearts; if a specific place or Saint is speaking to you then make that journey. I think St. Cuthbert’s Way to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is an incredible ancient British pilgrimage that is very accessible with good infrastructure. The Kumano Kodo in Japan is the sister pilgrimage to Spain’s Camino de Santiago. The ancient walks to the shrines of Celtic Saints in Ireland and Nordic Saints are fascinating. And – of course – the historic Italian Caminos: the Way of St Francis to Assisi, the Via Lauretana to Loreto, and the Via Francigena to Rome, which I hope to be walking soon.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT WALKING A PILGRIMAGE?
I’ve really learned so much from the community of pilgrims and from my own experiences. I began my own backpacking blog (One Step Then Another) several years ago to share those learnings and to connect with fellow pilgrims. I would suggest starting there to understand the many different routes and how to prepare for the journey.
My other advice would be to share what my wife told me before I left on the Camino de Santiago: write it down. This one suggestion was the foundation for my first book. Journaling during the pilgrimage is really the best way to stay in touch with your thoughts across the entirety of the experience. It also makes for a really great way to reflect on your pilgrimage, allowing you to return time and time again through the pages.
Planning To Walk A Pilgrimage?
If you’re considering a walking pilgrimage like the Camino de Santiago, these overviews are a tremendous starting point for beginners and experienced backpackers alike. Looking for even more information on what to pack or how to prepare for the journey? Visit Kevin’s pilgrimage and backpacking blog: One Step Then Another.
Born from historic footpaths between twenty-one Spanish missions, the California Missions Trail – El Camino Real (“The Royal Road”) as it was first known – connects missions, pueblos, and presidios over 800 miles of America’s Pacific Coastline.
Followed by kings and fabled in literature, the Pilgrims’ Way (also Pilgrim’s Way or Pilgrims Way) is England’s ancient pilgrimage route linking both Winchester and London to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral.
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across much of western Europe to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.