Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 2, 2017

Walking the Camino (2007), by Tony Kevin

I have just finished reading Tony Kevin’s new book, Return to Moscow, and have found myself thinking again about his previous book Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago.  It was a book which made a huge impact on me, and I see the same thoughtful open-mindedness and integrity in Return to Moscow.   So I decided that Walking the Camino deserved a (belated) review of its own, drawn from the (lightly edited) thoughts I too-briefly recorded in my reading journal when I read the book back in 2008.

But having published this review, *smacks forehead* I now find that I had indeed reviewed it before!  Never mind, here it is again!!


I enjoyed this book, and that’s odd because a recount of a pilgrimage through Spain seems at first impression an odd choice for a non-believer like me.  I had discovered the book at Writers at the Convent which was an event organised by Readers Feast booksellers.  The author is a retired diplomat who had been ambassador to Poland and Cambodia who retired from DFAT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in 1998.  He chatted amiably about Walking the Camino, punctuating his presentation with a slide show of terrific photos that he said had unfortunately been of too low a resolution to be included in the book.

In his presentation he said things that resonated with me. He too was feeling that profound sense of alienation from his own country.  He had previously written the story of SIEV-X, (A Certain Maritime Incident: The Sinking of Siev X) whose 300-odd passengers had drowned in waters off the Australian coast, in disquieting circumstances.  He was bothered by Australia’s acquiescence in renditions, the Tampa, Guantanamo Bay, torture, the war in Iraq, and the paranoia about terrorism provoking us to get involved in questionable foreign policy decisions. I’m not an expert like Tony Kevin is, but these things bothered me too.

He felt the need to get away, to take time out for reflective thinking and gain a different perspective. He used the time to think about a quieter life, with fewer possessions and a sustainable future. He came back with an undiminished sense of anxiety about the enormity of the global problems we have, but with renewed optimism.


I don’t think Kevin said much at this presentation about the toxic political culture that lay behind his need for a fresh perspective, but in Conversations with Richard Fidler on the ABC, he expanded on what had happened:  

A formerly well-respected diplomat, he had been in the news because in retirement he had been critical of the politicisation of Australia’s asylum seeker policy and practice, and had been reviled in the parliament because of it.  His whole career had been derided, and he had had to defend himself against some soul-destroying accusations.

He decided to make the pilgrimage across Spain – taking the longest and most difficult route – not for religious reasons but because he needed to reflect on events and to deal with the bitterness he felt.  On one level Walking the Camino is an entertaining travel memoir, recording everything from blisters to boozing and what he learned from that, but on another level it’s a very powerful book, one which offers wise and non-judgemental counsel about having to deal with toxic workplaces.

Thinking about this book now, nearly ten years after I read it, I remember its sense of calm, which was like balm in the histrionic politics of the day.  Return to Moscow offers a similar perspective that is totally different to the current rhetoric of Cold War V#2 about Russia.  My review of that book will be up soon.

I wish I could remember who I foolishly lent Walking the Camino to, never to have it returned.  I’d love to dip into it every now and again to refresh my own perspective about things.

Author: Tony Kevin
Title: Walking the Camino
Publisher: Scribe Publications, 2007
ISBN: 9781921215445
Source: Personal Library

Available from Fishpond: Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago.



  1. […] this disdain.  When I heard on the ABC that Tony Kevin – former diplomat and author of Walking the Camino – had written a new book about just that, I asked my library to get me a copy of Return to […]


  2. My experience of a place of pilgrimage in Portugal called Fatima put me off such topics for life.


    • *chuckle* I bet you’d change your mind by the end of the first chapter of this book.
      Mind you, I remember being flabbergasted by the sight of people praying – I mean, really, sincerely praying – to a relic in an Italian cathedral. In this day and age. I can understand faith, though I don’t have it myself and don’t want it either, but I can’t understand people venerating relics like that. It seems so medieval…


      • The place was full of shops selling plastic relics. Quite gross. What disturbed me most were the people crawling their way to the shrine.


        • There’s a wonderful book called Pilgrimage by Jacinta Halloran – and it’s about a atheist scientist whose mother is deeply religious and wants to make a religious pilgrimage in hope of a cure for her terminal disease. The daughter goes with her, but it’s a struggle for her to deal with it.


  3. My in-laws have walked parts of the Camino three times (completing most of it now, I think). I wonder if they would enjoy this book… Is it primarily about his experience of the Camino, or about his life before the Camino that drove him to it?


    • Hi Naomi, I think your parents would probably love it, though it may not be the same route they’ve taken, there are different caminos and he apparently took the one less travelled, from the south. There’s very little about what prompted him to go, it’s about his preparations – how he thought he’d got fit enough (but wasn’t), and the stuff he thought he’d need (and didn’t). And then the people he meets, and the scenery he sees, and the history of the places he stays in. And his thoughts and all kinds of things. Have a look at the reviews at Goodreads, that will give you a range of opinions:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like something they’d like a lot. Thanks!


  4. […] probably would never have read this book if not for Tony Kevin, author of Walking the Camino and Return to Moscow. A retired diplomat who was based in Moscow during the Soviet era, Kevin […]


  5. […] Walking the Camino, (Scribe Publications, first published 2007),  a literary-historical-political travel memoir of his pilgrimage walk through Spain in 2004, was awarded the ACT Book of the Year Award in 2008. See my review here; […]


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