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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Sac City Podcast Series — Making a pilgrimage through Spain

Courtesy of Michelle Zamora

Nita Gardipee
Staff Reporter
[email protected]

Lost, confused and walking alone along an unknown freeway somewhere in Spain, with no sign of the two fellow pilgrims she was supposed to meet, Michelle Zamora nearly broke down crying. This was supposed to be her last day walking on the Camino before arriving in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, her “final” destination. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

Eventually she says she found her way meandering into the city to a nearby pub for some rest. As she sat down to order a drink and some tapas, she spotted a familiar flash of color from the corner of her eye. It was Laura! She recognized her backpack immediately and sad tears turned to happy ones. She had found her friends and she had finished walking the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage across western Europe, which modern pilgrims call the Way of St. James in English.

Zamora is a 2017 City College alumna and creative director of the new Makerspace on campus, a lab with equipment and software for prototyping, design and entrepreneurship. Prior to her pilgrimage, she enrolled in City College’s graphic design program and found herself doing something she described as “pursuing passion over pursuing a degree.” Toward the end of her schooling at City College, Zamora took an interest in helping one of her teachers, Tom Cappelletti, conceptualize Makerspace.

After graduating, she decided to spend her summer walking nearly 1,000 miles through Spain and then on to Morocco for a spontaneous adventure. With the strength of her faith and company from friends made along the way, she endured—and brought back inspiration to share.

Upon returning from her pilgrimage, she accepted a full-time position at Makerspace. Zamora continues to channel her drive and passion to share inspiration with those around her.

Zamora’s colleague, Humberto Jimenez, first met her in a graphic communications class. Jimenez says she operates on a go-getter attitude, going far and beyond to make sure everyone’s questions are answered, offering help and constructive criticism to those in need.

“Working with Michelle is an empowering experience,” Jimenez says. “She has a lot to teach you, and she’ll walk you through the process.”

Zamora got the idea for her journey after seeing the 2010 movie “The Way” with her father. She says he mentioned he would like to take a backpacking trip just like in the movie and that caught her attention because it was out of character for him.

“That really was the thing that sparked my attention because he doesn’t do anything like that,” Zamora says. “So, I was in a place where I could take time off, and I was in between jobs and in between school. He just got laid off from his job, and so he was in a similar space.”

Zamora says she was ready to buy new boots and book her flight that day, but she sensed her father’s apprehension to follow through with the trip.

“He was like 75 percent in, but I could kind of tell that something was holding him back,” she says. “It just kinda fell by the wayside and then he got a job. So I decided that it was something I was going to do by myself, whether it was alone or with someone.”

So she booked her flight, bought her guidebook and started studying up on her Spanish.

“I was a little envious of her when she told me (about her plans),” says Zamora’s close friend, Chelsea Weightman. “I thought it was inspiring and courageous. I was excited for her.”
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According to, the body of Saint James the Apostle was discovered in a field in Galicia, Spain, some 800 years after his death, giving way to its namesake. The Camino de Santiago, which translates to the Way of Saint James, was named an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

Zamora says that the pilgrimage was close to 1,000 miles both ways, adding that almost every major city she’s visited in Europe has arrows marking the trail starting from that city and leading to Santiago, Spain.

“It’s a pilgrimage for Catholics, and a pilgrimage is kind of just a way to give thanks to your faith,” she explains. “Everyone does it for their own reason whether it’s spiritual or not. They were walking because it’s beautiful, walking because it’s a break from their normal life, because they like hiking, because they want to meet people, all different sorts of reasons.”

Zamora says that each day presented its own challenge, beginning with her four-day journey across the pond to the city of Barcelona, Spain. Because of sheer exhaustion and anxiety, she says she nearly bawled to the hostel manager once she finally arrived at 3:00 a.m. local time, but she remained hopeful.

“I was really stoked that I was just there,” she says. “I took myself out of one place and moved myself across the world. I was feeling pretty liberated.”

This liberation she felt, in combination with her faith, continued to help her through her toughest days on the Camino. Zamora says there were days she felt so lonely that there was an immense “ugly” sadness around her. She allowed herself to embrace these emotions. Once doing so she discovered there was purpose and meaning behind the sadness she was feeling. She realized that being human wasn’t always going to be easy, and it was that train of thought that inspired her to continue her journey.

“This ugliness surfaced to serve some purpose,” Zamora says. “It was fueling creativity and turning pain into something beautiful. That’s what artists do.”

Zamora says with a smile that she knew then, she wasn’t on this journey alone.

“I wasn’t doing it for myself. I was doing it for God. I was thanking him. That was the only reason I was able to push through those hard days,” Zamora says.

She says the most inspiring part of the experience was that regardless of the reason for their pilgrimage, everyone walked in the same direction.

“For me it was a complete metaphor for life,” Zamora says. “No matter what you’re doing or the struggles that you have everyday, we were all walking the same direction, and that was literally true.”

Whether walking to show her faith or walking her colleagues through a creative process, Zamora credits her drive and inspiration to her faith in God.

“I couldn’t have done anything that I did without faith,” she says. “It was truly a tribute and a pilgrimage for me.”

Though her journey was trying, Zamora says she would do it again without hesitation, for she learned more about herself and the human spirit than she had in her 26 years.

“I’m brave and strong,” she says. “And people are good.”

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