November 17, 2011 | Myrna Anderson

Calvin faculty and staff are invited to walk the Camino de Compostela this spring via an Adventure Trip from Healthy Habits.

In the spring of 2012, a group of Calvin faculty, staff and their spouses will set out from Madrid and walk for 12 days across the gently undulating terrain of northern Spain. They will follow the Camino Frances, the “French Way” to Santiago de Compostela, the cathedral on Spain’s western edge, where the body of James, the apostle is legendarily buried. The route is one of several from various places in Europe to the cathedral that pilgrims follow on the Camino de Compostela or “The Camino.”

“We’ll stay in these small villages and towns. You’ll get to experience Spain in a way many tourists don’t,” said Roy Zuidema, Calvin’s director of campus wellness. Zuidema will be leading the trip from May 22 through June 2, along with Spanish professor Cynthia Slagter as the latest Adventure Trip from Healthy Habits, the comprehensive wellness program for faculty, staff and spouses.

Among the pilgrims

The Calvin walkers will be among the half million pilgrims who do the Camino every year. “There will be all of these travelers from other countries because the Camino is one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world,” Zuidema said.

Eager as he is to meet foreign travelers, Zuidema is keener to build  strong bonds among Calvin’s walkers. “We’re going to work on the community piece, the spiritual piece, the emotional piece—the other aspects of fitness that people forget about,” he said.  

Walkers do have to be somewhat physically fit, he admitted, but the trip won’t be as arduous as last year’s Adventure Trip to the Grand Canyon, the first of what Zuidema hopes will be a series of treks. “We did some serious trail work there.”

Calvin faculty, staff and spouses who undertake the Madrid and Camino de Santiago trip will stay in modestly priced hotels along the route (or in hostels, which would allow them to have their pilgrimage booklet stamped and validated in the official way). They will walk about 11 to 15 miles a day for seven days. (The adventure also allows for a little sightseeing.) They will earn Healthy Habits credit. And they’ll get to know each other.

“It’s interesting because there’s some employees at Calvin, when they want to go on vacation, they get away and do it on their own,” Zuidema said, “and others who want to get to know their colleagues in a new way.”

Hiking and bonding

Lois Konyndyk, Calvin’s director of foundation relations, is one  employee who went on Calvin’s Grand Canyon adventure last year. “The Grand Canyon trip was superb, but the Havasupei trail was extraordinary,” she said. “It was a great trip, and it encouraged us to do things we might not have tried on our own.” Konyndyk enjoyed seeing nature that was off the beaten track. “And we had such a great group,” she said. “The camaraderie of other Christians was a delight. The acceptance and appreciation of people on the trip for the gifts others brought and the perspectives they had was wonderful.”

Some of the climbing was tough, Konyndyk admitted. “We all came to this trip from different life paths and skill levels.”

Zuidema is heartened that some of the Calvin folk who hiked through the Grand Canyon with him will be hiking the Camino as well. He welcomes all skill levels. “We had a 78-year old come with us to the Grand Canyon,” he remembered, “and she outdid half the group.”

The Madrid and Camino de Santigo trip is open to all Calvin faculty staff and their spouses. Contact Roy Zuidema to learn about lodging options and the cost of the trip.



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