Great-Grandma Leads Multi-Generational Pilgrimage In Spain

By Jennifer Karmarkar
The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Love this story of several generations of women making a pilgrimage together across the Camino Santiago de Compostela in Spain. What a spectacular way to celebrate the strength of the women in one special family.

The Orange County Register

Barbara Benun can tell you how many steps there are to the top of the Eiffel Tower. She’s climbed all 710, and she’s taken thousands of steps across the Great Wall of China.

“After that, the hill up to Stater Bros. is nothing!” the 85-year-old joked.

Benun is a familiar figure on the sidewalks of Laguna Woods, where she’s lived for 13 years. She walks to the mall, to the grocery store, and even to neighboring Lake Forest to do errands.

On Friday, Benun will embark on another adventure on foot when she, her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter begin a six-day trek over the last 115 kilometers (about 71 miles) of the Camino Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The foursome will walk in the footsteps of religious pilgrims who’ve traversed the network of ancient routes to the tomb of St. James since the 9th century.

Benun may be among the few to carry her provisions in a Mickey Mouse backpack.

“She’s definitely a free spirit. She has a very open mind,” said Donna English, 59, Benun’s look-alike daughter and frequent travel companion.

Benun came across the walk — known as St. James Way — on an internet search. After watching the movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen, she and English were hooked.

English’s daughter, Michelle Schleich, and her granddaughter, Reagan, jumped at the chance to go along.

“I was surprised Shelley jumped right at it,” said English, also of Laguna Woods. “She didn’t hem or haw.”

Schleich, 35, said she feels blessed to be able to experience the walk with the most important women in her life.

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