After taking his father’s ashes to the Ganges, a 26-year-old American of Indian descent stops in Europe on his way home to New York. There he hears of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim route in Spain. Unable to make sense of his own life or the death of his father — and not knowing whether it is escape or discovery he seeks — he decides to walk the Camino.
The story evolves along the 550 miles of the Camino where he walks for thirty-seven days and meets other pilgrims: Roseangela, a Brazilian housewife; Ignacio, an eccentric Spanish artist; Ron, an English alcoholic mourning the recent death of his grandson; Loic, a retired French sailor; Gary, an American minister and his two young sons; and Martine, a French lawyer recovering from cancer. Woven through the story, at key moments, are memories of his difficult relationship with his father.
Although he is closed and numb in the beginning, he slowly begins to open up, starting with Loic, the French sailor. In the meantime, he discovers that his girlfriend has moved on with another man. Even more confused than before, he decides to continue walking the Camino. He develops a crush on a fellow pilgrim but realizes that her interests lie with another pilgrim. He watches her seduce him in a bar. He is frustrated, sick of this journey, and doesn’t want to deal with the memories of his father.
Then he meets Pat, a fifty-seven year old English nurse who lived in Africa and now works in the film industry. She shares with him the stories, and sometimes the lessons, of her life. He learns from her, and this deeper understanding of the human spirit leads to a moment of cathartic understanding and forgiveness. He fully opens up to her, detailing his last night with his father and the fears he’s running from. Finally, he makes peace with the memories of his father’s death.
As the end of the pilgrimage grows nearer, he starts to apply what he has learned about life, love, death, forgiveness, and facing one's fears. He makes the decisions he needs and moves forward with his life.