For centuries, the network of Medieval pilgrim routes known as the Camino de Santiago has inspired countless voyagers to venture to northern Spain and follow its well-worn footpaths. To be among the travelers bound for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has long been on the bucket list of Ashley Liddle.
Liddle, a Boston-based agent and principal of DL Global Real Estate at Douglas Elliman, spent much of her youth between her native London and Spain.
“Some of my closest friends dwell in Spain, and I’ve heard all about the journeys their families have taken,” Liddle said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind as something I’ve wanted to do.”
When a devastating diagnosis blindsided Liddle and her family, however, the vague prospect of making the pilgrimage became an urgent mission.
A year ago, Liddle’s uncle learned he had Parkinson’s Disease. Now, Liddle is preparing to walk the final 120-mile stretch of the Camino de Santiago in order to raise awareness and funds for research on the incurable neurological disorder. Along with two of her closest friends, she will embark on the journey along the northern route on September 29 and plan to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on October 8.
According to an incidence study conducted by the Parkinson’s Foundation, some 90,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the U.S.
“That’s one person every six minutes,” Liddle said. “When you see the statistics on the number of people affected by this, it’s a real eye-opener—and it seems to be increasing.”
The diagnosis felt especially cruel for the family, she added, because her uncle is a doctor and professor of medicine—the one everyone turned to for guidance and comfort on all health-related issues. Far from taking it lying down, he has maintained his regimen of regular five-mile runs and inspires Liddle all the more to do what she can to help him and others combat the disease.
“This is a really important journey, and I’m looking forward to doing it in his name: James,” she said, noting that Camino de Santiago translates as the “Way of St. James” in English.
The journey also resonates with Liddle’s her work as a health and wellness coach and her background in functional medicine.
“While I live and breathe real estate, my other great passion is health and wellness,” she said. “I try to incorporate that in every aspect of my life. It’s all about living the best and healthiest way you can.”
And as she prepares by being taken for long walks by her golden retriever while wearing a 20-lb. weighted vest, Liddle looks forward to a strenuous but life-affirming journey ahead.
“We will be waking up at the crack of dawn to an average of 18-20 miles a day,” she said. “We’ll just have to keep on walking. Even if we get blisters—keep on walking until we arrive at our final destination, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of St. James.”