• Monica Smit

Pascual Florida Pilgrimage 2019

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

I’m so lucky to travel according to how I feel and where my ‘gut’ (God) takes me. Not many people get to do that.

Back in November last year, I had already started driving West and I was already in Houston Texas. I had decided NOT to go to Florida at all, haha funny joke that was. My instincts wouldn’t stop bothering me, telling me to go document the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. I reluctantly listened and now I’m STILL in Florida. I ducked over to South America during winter and then came back to Florida 12thFebruary and I’m still here!!!

My Mum has a famous joke she tells all the time, and now I tell it all the time…yes young ladies out there, we do grow up reminding ourselves of our Mothers JThe joke is;

“How do you make God laugh?...pause…tell him your plans!”

It’s not a ‘belly-aching’ type of joke but it has a true meaning to it. This joke resonates with me because I make plans and then they change completely, and I always think of my Mum telling that joke and it makes me smile.

Back in February, I was told about a pilgrimage that started in Sanford and goes to St Augustine in Florida. They were trying to convince me to go and I said, “no way, I’ll be long gone by then”. However, I assured them that if I was still around in April, I’d take that as a sign to go. Well…I got side-tracked making that documentary about the Opioid Crisis in Jacksonville and guess what…I was still here when the Pilgrimage started, so of course, I went.

I’m so glad I did because I met some ‘life-long’ friends, grew in my faith and accomplished the most physically-difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done the Camino de Santiago which is 500 miles (over 800kms), I’ve done other pilgrimages that were also difficult, but this was the hardest of them all.

Not only was it 5.5 days and 115 Miles (185kms), but it was in the Florida heat and I didn’t have good shoes either…it was torture!!! However, it was so strengthening for me mentally, physically and spiritually. I got sponsored which means that someone who couldn’t do the pilgrimage paid for me ($300). In return for their generosity, I offer up my pain and suffering for their intentions. I wholeheartedly believe that this was as difficult as it was because they had some crazy intentions haha. I felt obligated, in a good way, to fight through the pain and make every step for them.

Of course, I’m allowed my own intentions too. Every pilgrimage I’ve done in the last 3 years (6 of them) are for one person and when I feel pain I tend to mutter their name under my breath and say things like “I’ll never stop doing this for you, so you have no choice but to get better…or…you little brat, this is all your fault…or…if only you knew how much I’d do for you”. The little brat thought comes out when I’m in a lot of pain and slightly angry that this person needs me to do these things for them, I smile and laugh to myself when I say these things in my head.

I was excited to not do any filming of this event, I just wanted to be a pilgrim like everyone else. I’ve filmed Pilgrimages before, and I end up missing out on parts of it. For the first day or 2, I enjoyed leaving my phone in the car and not worrying about interviews or filming. On the second night I was laying in bed enjoying the comfort of being vertical when a thought possessed my mind. “Monica, you CAN make videos. You have the ability to help promote this event. Monica, it’s your duty!”

OH, DARN IT OK FINE I said back to my inner-thoughts. I took a different strategy though and tried to limit the footage I took and only did a few interviews. I’m slowly learning, the more footage you take, the longer it takes you to sift through it all. I also decided to play-the-role of a real journalist who is on the other side of the camera. I got some great scenes and was able to make some videos straight away, I definitely don’t regret listening to my gut that night.

The pilgrimage ended…finally, and my feet were so banged-up and swollen, it took 2-3 days to recover from it. Regardless of all that, one never regrets doing something hard for the benefit of others, or themselves. You never regret doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. Pilgrimages are one of those things…they’re hard in the moment, but completely worth it in the aftermath.

Now, I’m back in Jacksonville for one week before I head out of Florida…for real this time JI will be going back to the Hurricane Michael aftermath to finish off some interviews and then I’ll officially be hitting the road again and heading out West. I have no idea which route I’m taking or what my goal is, but I know it always becomes clear when it needs to. I’ve trusted my instincts this whole time and I know He won’t let me down.

I’ve been staying in a really comfortable house with the bests hosts I’ve had probably. Honestly, I could live here forever, it’s THAT comfortable. Part of me is sad to leave and I’m apprehensive about being fully alone again (I’ve been with families I know for 3 months now). However, I didn’t start this journey to find my comfort-zone, I am doing this to get OUT of it so I can learn as much as possible and experience as much as I can handle.

My comfort-zone is at home waiting for me whenever I’m ready for it…well…I’m ain’t ready yet!!!

Check out the videos of the pilgraimge here - https://www.monicasmit.com/catholic

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