JJ Chalmers is an ex-marine who suffered life-changing injuries after being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. After months of rehabilitation, JJ went on to compete in the Invictus Games. Forging ahead with a broadcast career, JJ currently presents for the BBC and also hosted the Paralympics on Channel 4.
What were you hoping to experience travelling the famous medieval pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago?
A new adventure. I have always found, and particularly since being wounded, that life is best when you say yes. So when the opportunity came up to experience the Camino I had to say yes - I always want to see new places, meet new people, learn more about the world and experience different cultures.
When the opportunity came up to experience the Camino I had to say yes!
What was your favourite moment of the journey?
My favourite part of the Camino was the people I met, particularly my fellow travellers. While so much of the journey was beautiful (the best was the Pyrenees) and a lot of it steeped in history and culture, the people I was lucky enough to spend time with was my favourite thing and it actually enhanced all the other experiences.
What was the most challenging aspect?
Honestly, I wasn’t really particularly challenged. Although the days were long, hot and we covered a lot of miles compared to what I had to do in my past life. I enjoyed every step. Putting one foot in front of the other is one of the most fundamental abilities my time in the Royal Marines gave me, so it was nice to know that with all the physical changes I have endured I can still do it when I have to.
Did the pilgrimage impact on your own beliefs about faith?
It didn’t change my beliefs, but if anything it confirmed to me that I will never be sure of what I truly believe - and that’s alright.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to somebody considering the Camino de Santiago? The Camino is very accessible and it can be for everyone. You can be of just about any ability and have any level of expectation of comfort and there will be a way of taking on the Camino. And perhaps most crucially you don’t have to be religious. I met so many folk along the route who came from many different backgrounds and were doing it for all sorts of reasons.