‘When you are in a car, beautiful places are a moment;
if you stop the car, they are a cluster of moments.
When you walk, beautiful places are an eternity carved into the soul.’
From My Pilgrim’s Heart
In 2007, Australian author and journalist Stephanie Dale walked 1500 kms through ancient and wartorn countries.
She walked with her son Ben, joining him for the middle leg of his epic 7000 km pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem.
My Pilgrim’s Heart is the story of their adventures.
“The longing is the path. These words encapsulate the power, intensity and emotions of Stephanie Dale’s My Pilgrim’s Heart. Step by step on her long journey from Rome, Stephanie realizes that she in fact is the true love of her life. If only all women could understand this. Readers who liked Eat Pray Love will have a whirlwind romance with Dale’s My Pilgrim’s Heart.”
Laine Cunningham, author of Message Stick
“Stephanie, thank you for creating an “atomosphere” of sincerity, truthfulness and “tough love”. This blog page has allowed the TTT Ladies a precious opportunity to be “real”. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to comment and answer each question. Your book My Pilgrim’s Heart has opened up the flood gates to my soul and mind. I have set some new goals for myself, and I have a plan to be proactive with each one. Your Journey is full of wisdom, and your insight is limitless.
TTT Ladies I really hope that other book clubs take this journey with Stephanie Dale and My Pilgrim’s Heart. They will discover the ”journey” in their heart,
Stephanie you are a ‘rare jewel’, and I have the upmost respect for you.”
from Chocolate Amethyst, Talk the Talk Ladies Book Club
“I have to say that I really loved your story. I found it inspirational. The hardships and vulnerability , assessing, letting go and moving on. The writing itself is great. But I think the thing that struck me most was the honesty with which you told your story. We so often feel that the things that put us in less then flattering ight need to stay hidden. I would love to achieve this level of honesty if not with the world at large, then at least with myself.”
US reader (identity withheld)
“A well written diary from the heart of one woman’s struggles to reconcile her thoughts, actions and beliefs. Stephanie’s account of her spiritual journey from Rome to Istanbul is a wonderfully accounted journal of self-identity within her relationships with men in her life. Along her path through lands unknown she struggles on her journey with her son to find not only the man he has become but also the woman she has become.”
“Thank You, “The Lady from Down Under”, who brought us Beauty, Sweetness and Light, with silent thunder.”
Dr Ira E. Harrison, poet laureate, Cascade Library, Atlanta, GA
Pilgrimage from the heart exposed – 5 stars
…. her brutal honesty of her feelings and the intense realities of such a trek with an adult son was not only beautifully written, it was courageous to the core. Nothing in this book has been sweetened to cover up the stark realities of Stephanie’s truths. This rawness is one my reasons I enjoyed it so much. I take my hat off to this woman for her strength in exposing her true account of her experiences. I found it unputdownable. The daily journey was described with an eloquence that had me feeling I was literally there traveling along side her and her son with each new location.
Passionate, authentic and free-spirited – 5 stars
I loved reading this book. I was immediately drawn in by Stephanie’s honest, insightful writing. The book describes the author’s yearning to leave the mundane behind and join her son on an adventurous overland pilgrimage to the Middle East. Before we know it, she decides to leave a non-communicative husband behind on a verandah in Australia, and sets off on an exciting trip that takes her through different European countries, mainly on foot. This book goes deep – deep into the heart of the writer, shining light into every crevice of her being as she journeys through the different landscapes. She examines everything: herself, her life, her marriage, her relationship with her son. She does so intelligently, compassionately and poetically. As a fellow traveller, I could relate to ‘My Pilgrim’s Heart’ extremely well, for every journey has hidden destinations that the traveller is not aware of. Stephanie Dale is a courageous free spirit who isn’t afraid of living life to the full, moment by moment, and taking the reader into every layer of her personality. Her writing is honest, raw in instances, beautiful and inspirational. It’s a brilliant book that will inspire others to live life more authentically and passionately.
Walk in wonder – inner and outer worlds – 5 stars
…an adventure I didn’t want to end. The descriptive writing in My Pilgrim’s Heart is of a calibre that transports and then allows the reader to fully enter the experience. Multi-layered, creating space to wonder, delight, inspire, expand and enrich all who are willing to open themselves up to the treasures in this book. Walking across Europe alongside her son, Stephanie shares with a searing self honesty. Tempered with her humour, warmth and wisdom this produces some absolute gems of insight and encouragement for everyone to be as brave hearted.
Brave Heart – 5 stars
My Pilgrim’s Heart is inspirational in many ways, begging to be read over and over again. Stephanie’s story not only resonates with female hearts and implants strength and courage to us all, but moves the heart closer to finding our own journey of self-discovery. Stephanie writes with honesty and clarity. I feel it an honour to enjoy her writing talent. She would be the bravest woman I know and to share her story the way she has…well, just great!
For questing hearts and minds – 5 stars
… a determination to find joy and to find it honestly.My Pilgrim’s Heart is a jewel in the crown of travel stories. I found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning then slowing right down because I did not want it to end. And, once you’re done with this one you’ll be looking to buy the next because that is marvellous as well.
Like Eat Pray Love? Love this book! – 4 stars
This isn’t a meandering memoir about someone’s trip to in different foreign locations. If you were left wanting by other works that are supposed to offer you something thoughtful or spiritual, you have to read Dale’s book. With quiet prose and a distinct voice, she digs into the hard truths of who she was, what her heart used to hold, and who she can become. You’ll want to pass this along to your best friend the moment you’re done!
I loved it for all the reasons I hated Eat Pray Love – 4 stars
My Pilgrim’s Heart is unlike any book I’ve read before, and yet it’s strangely familiar, as if reading it has awakened in me something long forgotten. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of theological books I read in my university days, studying Religious Studies at McGill University; not the stuffy textbooks about nineteenth century German philosophers, but the modern, personal accounts of applied philosophy, of practical theology (two of my favourites of these were by Father Thomas Ryan).
And Stephanie Dale’s story is certainly one of applied philosophy. This book is a memoir of the author’s “pilgrim’s path” walk from Rome to Istanbul with her grown son (who was actually travelling from Canterbury on foot), a journey that is as much about spiritual and personal meditation as it is about travel. As Dale recounts her trip, she also reflects on her life before, during and after the walk, specifically the fragile state of her recent marriage. Though she may not be able to save her marriage, she is able to come to terms with why it wasn’t working and what wasn’t working in herself.
As I write this, I suppose it sounds trite. Oh, she went for a walk and she found herself. But the book does not sound trite at all. It is sincere, reflective, poetic but not flowery, moving but not twee. I loved it for all the reasons I hated Eat, Pray, Love (it’s the anti-Eat, Pray, Love). Where Elizabeth Gilbert was affected and entitled, Stephanie Dale is open and sincere; where Gilbert was pompous and showy (look at me praying! look at me dating Italians! look at me being amazing!), Dale is vulnerable and thoughtful. Plus, she walked like a billion miles so she’s entitled to be a wee bit philosophical (or delirious or whatever) by the end of it!
This review first appeared on my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal, on Nov. 6, 2012.
The newly released My Pilgrim’s Heart by Stephanie Dale … tests the author’s resourcefulness and is a journey of often painful self-discovery, as all good travel writing should be. It will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love (and demonstrates) the kind of humour and pluck for which Australians like to think we are famous.
Susan Kurosawa, Travel Editor, The Australian
My Pilgrim’s Heart is a contemporary examination of the relationship between a woman and the masculine world. The quality of the prose is excellent, the humour is abundant and the travel component is absolutely galvanising. This is one hell of a brave woman!
Jeni Caffin, director, Byron Bay Writers Festival
This is the book about marriage I’d never read because it hadn’t been written – until now! It is an honest, wrenching and provocative work, a story that resonates, illuminates, teaches and baffles. The sheer beauty of the writing will take you well beyond one woman’s story.
BJ Lenkic, journalist
My Pilgrim’s Heart is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s full of adventure, coupled with a piercingly honest view of relationships between men and women. Its eloquence, beauty and intelligence had me hooked from the first page. Stephanie’s ability to weave such descriptive text to describe events and locale humbles me as an artist.
John Dahlsen, internationally acclaimed environmental artist
I feel moved by the wonder of the paths Stephanie has traveled, expanded, enlivened and enriched by these words; more than this, I feel supported in walking my own life by the depth and openness of Stephanie’s expression. I am inspired by her ability to crystalize a moment, a prism of light to be viewed and felt by others; at the same time releasing it all, no chains. This is a book of unfolding spaces and places, crossing borders and boundaries – countries, generations, cultures, genders, night and day, external and internal journeying.
Ali Symmons, community worker
This book is every woman’s ‘ultimate travel story’: it’s about adventure, hardship, insight, meaning, laughter and love. The book made me think deeply about how I deal with relationships, about pleasing others and at the same time being true to myself. The humour throughout made reading a pleasure.
Anita Henderson, web designer
The great spiritual masters teach that life has two energies: love and fear. This book is one woman’s experience of the human reality of meeting life – it’s an extraordinary story and, best of all, beautifully written.
Peni Connolly, radio presenter
A rare jewel.
Madeline Doherty, editor, Coast & Country Living
You write from, and to, the heart. I see myself in your journey and I keep saying ‘oh! that is so well-expressed, I know that feeling!’ And then you take me to places of my soul where I long to connect and reconnect.
Maria Celaya, family therapist
I have just finished reading My Pilgrim’s Heart and what a timely read that was for me. My marriage ended six years ago after 23 years, amicably, and I have been contemplating my future journeys, which include reading about other happily single women’s travel stories. Your book is a fantastic story. Well done. And yes you are right . . . it is simple – Beauty and Goodness ARE everywhere. Thank you.
Belinda Clarke, reader
Your book moved me, into the dark and into the light. Into the dark as I questioned my own sacrifices over the years to men/marriage and into the light with your beautiful energy. Your writing has an aura of peace and light and I enjoyed going to that place of adventure and harmony.
Julie Mac, writer
This is a brilliant book. I’ve just finished it and loved every bit of it! So honest, so much I relate to with the man, the son, the women – and the Middle East.
Martine Bouillir, shire councillor
My Pilgrim’s Heart is elegant and eloquent with confident maturity, and while it is a deeply personal story, it poses questions that will give pause to many of us. My Pilgrim’s Heart is a journey within a journey. The intense physical experience Stephanie undergoes in walking through Italy, the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East is inextricably linked to the winding and labyrinthine analysis of her inner life. This is one hell of a brave woman!
If a pilgrim is a person who undertakes a long and arduous journey to a sacred place, as an act of devotion, then Stephanie can be seen as a pilgrim on several levels. Ultimately, this is a pilgrimage towards self and towards honesty and it is a searing experience. The book is a contemporary examination of the relationship between a woman and the masculine world. The quality of the prose is excellent, the humour is abundant and the travel component is absolutely galvanising. My Pilgrim’s Heart delivers in spades.’
Jeni Caffin, director, Byron Bay Writers’ Festival