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Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  375 ratings  ·  79 reviews
When Jack Hitt set out to walk the 500 miles from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, he submitted to the rigorous traditions of Europe's oldest form of packaged tour, a pilgrimage that has been walked by millions in the history of Christendom.
Off the Road is an unforgettable exploration of the sites that people believe God once touched: the strange fortress said to
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 1st 1994)
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Off the Road by Jack HittThe Pilgrimage by Paulo CoelhoTravels with My Donkey by Tim MooreThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerTirthraj Pushkar by Vipin Behari Goyal
Narratives of Pilgrimage
1st out of 14 books — 10 voters
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Camino de Santiago
20th out of 62 books — 49 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,091)
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UGH. This is one of those books that I forced myself to finish so I could truly say I hated it. It gets one star for the genuinely interesting historical interludes, but every other aspect was horrible. I hate to say it, because he did accomplish an incredible physical/psychological feat, but the problem with this book is Jack Hitt. He is simultaneously one of the most smurfy and condescending writers I have come across. If it had been a straight-forward history I would have loved it; as it is, ...more
A story by a 35 year old writer from NYC who, he says, is starting to have a mid-life crisis. At 35. For somewhat nebulous reasons, he decides to become a pilgrim and walk 600 miles or so of the medieval route across Spain travelled by many over the ages. As he puts it, he was simply "a guy out for some cosmically serious fresh air."

His story of his trek is pretty darn funny, but also pretty darn serious. He talks about the history of the route and the places he visits along the way, his religio
Sep 08, 2007 treehugger rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spainophiles, history buffs, hiking fans
Shelves: non-fiction
I REALLY want to do this walk, and this book was a great combination of modern day walking challenges and in-depth history about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the people who built it, the people who walked it 1000 years ago, and the leaders who used the presence of such a holy pilgrimage to their political advantage.

The author was smart, funny, and knowledgeable but down to earth and likeable.
This is my third account I've read on the pilgrimage but so far this is one of the best narratives I've read on the personal journey walking the Camino de Santiago. The novel is rich with history and background information, giving me much more insight into the story of Roland, and Basques, that region in Spain, and (new for me, as my other readings hadn't discussed this much) the Knights Templar.

When he's not delving into the history of the region, the author is entertaining his readers with his
I've walked the road to Santiago, so I can say this with absolute authority: the more ridiculous anything you read in this book sounds to you, the more emphatically I must assure you that it is TRUE.

Jesus Jato of Villafranca del Bierzo? As wild as the book reports, and as mystical and wonderful, too. He adjusted my energy, or healed my aura, or did something to make my knee go back to its normal size after it swelled along the road to O Cebrero.

I realize laugh-out-loud funny is quite the clich
Apr 05, 2008 Carolyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all
I learned a tremendous amount of sutff from this book, about the Bible, about religion, about history, about languages, about geography, about humanity and more. I highly recommend this book. Jack Hitt is intelligent, witty, earthbound and a fabulous writer.
Rory Tiernan
Much like the walk itself the book starts slow and lags in places but as a whole a good read whether for the hell of it or as research material etc
What separates a realistic memoir about the Camino from a fictional account: how many metaphors one can use to describe the pain in one's feet:

"My feet are damp blocks of pain all day long and all night long, too. I haven't merely a blister or even a lot of blisters. I have constellations of them. They seem to have a life of their own, like cellular automata. Little blister outposts form and send inquiring tunnels to make contact with the others. Recent reconnaissance has scouted the tender fles
Harry Allagree
Every now & then I finish a book & say to myself, "I needed to read this!" Such is Jack Hitt's wonderful chronicle of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage has fascinated me for many years, and I only regret not being able to experience it firsthand while I was in Spain for a couple of weeks in 1998.

Jack Hitt is one of the most descriptive, as well as entertaining, writers I've encountered. It's almost as if you're right there with him & his companions each step o
In the 1990’s, the author walked the 500 mile pilgrim road through Spain to Santiago de Compestela, one of three major pilgrim walks in Europe. I loved the introduction – it ended up being my favorite part of the book. He talks about not really knowing why he wants to do this walk – he only knows it is not for religious purposes and he ends up deciding he wants to do the pilgrimage to discover why is is doing the pilgrimage.

Hitt has clearly an interest in both the historic and the mythic aspect
Jul 31, 2014 amy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: quit
I really enjoy Jack Hitt's work on This American Life. I am fascinated by his life, his perspective, and his style.

It's rare that I don't finish a book, but I just couldn't engage with this one. This is how I read it: "Hey, I'm kinda bored, and there's this thing I'm mildly interested in doing for reasons I can't exactly articulate. I got a book deal to bankroll here it is. Enjoy."

I realize that this pilgrimage is an extremely old tradition, and perhaps this is an idiosyncratic, post-m
While this is a book about a walk in Europe, it is an inimitably Southern book in style. The book drawls, but has many ups and downs on its way to the end, which isn't entirely an end, but just a pause where the teller stopped talking. Jack Hitt's voice, if you know him from later writings or radio work, isn't as fully developed here as it will be just 5-6 years after the book was published, but you can hear what will be. Some of the "information" portions go on a little long here, making the re ...more
This is the fifth book I've read recently about the Camino. Compared to the others, this is less about the mystical experiences of the author and certainly not a guide book. Rather, it explains the history of the Camino written in an easy flowing style that is part novel and part journal. This is not a "how to" book but more like a "how I did it" and how others have done it over the centuries. I plan on hiking the 500 miles of the Camino, also known as "The Way," next year and found this book a ...more
Laura Smith
I have a rule that I don't watch movies until I've read the book, but I didn't follow my rule on this one. I watched the movie The Way, which I loved. I watched it over and over again, and when I learned there was a book that inspired it I was eager to read. Off the Road did inspire this move, but they are not the same story. I kept flipping through the pages looking for characters from the movie who never appeared. That being said, it is an interesting read about El Camino, the pilgrimage walk ...more
I've read four books about the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela and none of them have satisfied my curiosity about the pilgrimage, so consequently I'm not willing to say, "this is a good book," about any of the four. Jack Hitt may have explained what's going on in the epilogue to this book when he likens trying to tell about the walk to a parent trying to talk about something adorable or wonderful their young child has done.

He writes: "Pilgrimages are all about finding a good chunk of choriz
Kaleb Brown
for my taste, Jack Hitt uses too much background knowledge about each of the places he visits. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, however i did not like ti too much. But i did like the way he described his experiences along the road, even though i do not agree with the purpose with which he went. He wanted to write a book, however i think that a pilgrimage should not be taken to lightly, as a pilgrimage like that is sacred to many religions and has a different meaning to everybody who has ...more
Dianne Oliver
Some interesting info, history. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the cloisters in New York, the origin of Friday the 13th, (having to do with the Knights Templars, and their mass entrapment and torture by the king-the ironically named, Beautiful) as well as the history of relics and ancient legends of the various areas of Spain. I also found quite amusing, at a low point along the trail, where he became a bit disillusioned of finding his purpose of pilgrimage, his theory that the apple of ...more
A splendid true tale of a US journalist's pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in NW Spain to the Cathedral dedicated to St James. Written in 1994. He is remarkably knowledgeable about the Catholic faith, the history of pilgrimage, and the story behind St James. I was pleased but surprised that a "yank" should have that knowledge (I am in the UK). There are racy accounts of meeting up with dozens of other pilgrims, from a Flemish film crew to some Welsh folk with a mule - this is the best part ...more
As an admirer of the movie, The Way, and inspired by the movie to walk the Camino (at least part of it!) myself, I was interested to read the book that inspired many of the stories and characters in the movie. This is a witty, insightful and informative book. Hitt easily flows between observations of the road, personal reflections and history lessons seamlessly - like a conversation with a good friend. Hitt's characterizations of the people and situations he meets along the Camino are hilarious ...more
Jason Pryde
Having read this twice now, I was better able to extract the value for a would be pilgrim and discount (somewhat) the authors maudlin neurosis.
I don't believe that his particular experience is necessarily typical. He tries too hard to generalize the meaning, purpose, personal impact of a pilgrimage to Compostella de Santiago. Its almost like he sought out the most extreme personalities and experiences to make an interesting book.
None the less, I learned alot of the history, the value of being
Great subject. Dry writing.
This book has been so much more than I expected. Hitt is about 35 years old when he decides to up and walk to Santiago de Compostela. He seems to have many and few reasons, none of which he can articulate to inquirers. He starts with a visit to the Cloisters in New York City. After months of planning, he's finally on his way to France to start off this medieval pilgrimage.[return][return]His narration is rich with history about Charlemagne and Roland, the Knights of Templar, the Basques, and so ...more
May 24, 2015 Wanda marked it as to-read
24 MAY 2015 - adding this to TBR because I stumbled upon a film on Showtime titled The Way. The film and this book are somehow connected. Only 45 minutes into the film and I have already cried. This is a film which can be viewed by all family members (only one scene (so far) contains a bare side-view of a man's buttocks - nothing else!).

I have always been fascinated by The Way of Saint James and by those who have undertaken the journey. Deep respect and heart-felt admiration.
This is a book for the combination of those who enjoy European travel and who wish to learn more about the Christian faith. While the author acknowledges that church attendance in Europe has decreased, don't expect politically correct whitewashing: this is a story of a Christian pilgrimage to a historically Christian site. Emilio Estevez acknowledges that his movie The Way is based upon selected parts of this book, some quoted word for word. In a delightful turnabout, the movie character based u ...more
The author gets too easily sidetracked, not only on his pilgrimage, but also in his writing. I enjoy learning things as I read, such as the legend of Roland and Charlemagne, but he went on a little too long in my opinion. I found myself counting the pages until it was over. I don't enjoy his writing as much as many people do. I only got about 100 pages in, and I returned it. Life is too short - and there are too many great books out there - to read this one.
Of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage stories, this is the best one I've read so far. Although his walk was in the 1990's, it is timeless in its tales of other pilgrims and the historical information he imparts about the Knights of Templar, romanesque churches, etc. For anyone thinking of doing this long and difficult walk, this is a book they should read before going.
Mar 16, 2008 h rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008, travel, spain
this was definitely a right-book-at-the-right-moment read for me. i'm having a mini-obsession with the idea of pilgrimage, and i've long been obsessed with spain, which is why i bought this book at random from amazon. hitt's storytelling style is comfortable, like hanging out at a bar with someone. he's at his best describing people, places, events. although the book would seem odd without his admissions and internal monologue, they're the lease interesting parts. his historical anecdotes are wo ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Tim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone looking for a road to travel.
Recommended to Tim by: Friends of the Way
Shelves: nook-books
Pilgrimage isn't a very common word in the US. People talk about making trips to Graceland and such places as "pilgrimage", and they might be right. Jack Hitt isn't exactly a religious man, and says it right off the bat. So, why would an atheist want to walk a trail to one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in all of Christianity? if i remember, he says it was to find something true, something real. Pilgrims along The Way all have various motivations for walking the road, some have none at all ...more
Enjoyed it more than I might have if we hadn't been in the general vicinity on a trip, but still, it was a well-written book with a good mix of memoir and history.
Von Mund
Funny, at times offensive, but overall a good tale. Surprisingly informative about the history of the trail.
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Hitt was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where he attended the Porter-Gaud School. He got his start in journalism as editor of the "Paper Clip," the literary magazine of Porter-Gaud's first through fifth grades. According to his biography, he published "some of the finest haiku penned by well-off pre-teens in all of South Carolina's lowcountry".

Since 1996, Hitt has also been a contr
More about Jack Hitt...

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