Tourism and pilgrimage are different social phenomena (Cohen, 1992; Collins-Kreiner, 2010a); tourism is more secular than pilgrimage, which is mainly a sacred journey (Barber, 2001). In spite of this, both indicate a ‘movement’; so that tourists and pilgrims are ‘foreigners, travellers and strangers’ (Smith, 1992) who look for authentic experiences (Collins-Kreiner, 2010a). The question: ‘What kind of Experience Pilgrimage is?’ has many answers. From a social point of view, pilgrims are free from social obligations; they share the same destination and the same social status. Because of this, the anthropologists Turner and Turner (1978) defined pilgrimage as an anti-structural experience that subverts the established order of things. Furthermore, pilgrimages are both liminal and inclusive experiences, as the sense of communitas (Turner and Turner, 1978) facilitates social relations and produces social safety (Bauman, 2001). Finally, the emotional dimension of pilgrimage experiences changes according to behavioural patterns. Based on these assumptions, pilgrimages are unique experiences.

Because of contemporary transformations and the increasing use of the term ‘pilgrimage’ in secular contexts (Collins-Kreiner, 2010a), the geography of pilgrimages must investigate how pilgrimage experiences change. This contribution analyses pilgrimage experiences according to a key aspect: human cognition; for this reason, the essay presents a phenomenological methodological approach (Lopez, 2013). The chief sources are records of pilgrims who went to one of the most representative sites for Christian religion: Santiago de Compostela. The examination regards the above-mentioned dimensions and the way in which pilgrims ‘live the space’. It aims to reveal that the ‘essence’ of pilgrimage tourism experiences does not disappear when the pilgrim returns to his or her everyday life. As a matter of fact, his or her everyday life is marked by the pilgrimage experience and, thus, by a different worldview (Frey, 1997, 1998; Coleman, 2004).



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