The first Moment of Zen in any road book comes when the narrator poses the familiar question: Is it about the destination or about the journey? Then comes the second Moment of Zen: Maybe the journey is the destination. You can call this a cliché, or you can simply accept it as part of a traditional structure. Sonnets must have 14 lines. Heroes must have tragic flaws. And road books must have a moment when the weary traveler puts a hand to the chin and says, “Hmm. Wait! Maybe … ” Or, as Timothy Egan gnomically puts it in A Pilgrimage to Eternity, citing an 18th-century saint and fellow wanderer: “There is no way. The way is made by walking.”
Egan is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and columnist. His book is an account of a 1,200-mile pilgrimage on the so-called Via Francigena, from the cathedral at Canterbury (where Archbishop Thomas à Becket was murdered, at royal behest, in A.D. 1170) to the precincts of the Vatican (where the purported bones of Saint Peter lie beneath the high altar)—retracing a route trod by countless medieval pilgrims.