Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace completes an amazing trilogy. In Yak Butter Blues, Wilson dealt very deftly with lofty themes exemplified by China usurping the independent existence of Tibet. He redeemed a slender, but significant stripe of that tragedy by allowing people with nothing left to lose to sustain him in his spiritual journey. In Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa, he repeated the themes, this time for a whole continent, and did so in bolder and more practical terms. The etching of the message became clearer: Ordinary people, however poor, are generous and good, and they want nothing more than they want peace and a wholesome future for their families. Along the Templar Trail writes the message in brilliant, even blazing letters: Peace and shared prosperity are undeniably possible, and they can come in our time... for all time. If only a few more ordinary mortals had the will and fortitude of this author, we would live in a very different world.
Truth be told, Wilson doesn't call the three books a trilogy. That's just how I see the series so far, and you can certainly read the books in any order. Still, if you read one of these nonfiction, trek-adventure thrillers, I'm sure you'll go on to read them all.
The earlier books took us from Lhasa to Katmandu, over the Himalayas on foot, then across "the dark continent" from the Mediterranean to the tip of South Africa by every close-to-the-ground transport, including the ol' feet. Along the Templar Trail is more overtly spiritual, an all-walking, 2,600-mile pilgrimage from France to Jerusalem following in the long-ago footsteps of the Knights Templar.
Take a moment to think about this. What would cause you to undertake a 2,600 mile walk--aches, blisters, blazing sun and all, always hoping to find food and water when you need them--even though perfectly good airplanes are willing to carry you to your destination? Wilson's answer is both simple and profound: He walked for peace.
In the beginning, as Wilson and his friend meet in France to set off on their pilgrimage for peace, it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know the funny Frenchman is not attuned to the purpose, not prepared for the hardships, not "into it." Without overdoing any comparison of the author's trek to Jerusalem and Christ's walk to his crucifixion, the companion became "Brandon's cross to bear," for me as I read. The story enthralls, its high ideals are impressive, but I thought a Higher Power must have decided the experienced trekker-author needed a burden greater than weather and distance--and "blessed" him with a partner who could make crossing Europe appropriately difficult. Sooner or later, you know that "Émile" will turn back... or worse.
For the sake of the peace-purpose of the pilgrimage, the walk had to attract attention, and it did. Starting in Sombor, Serbia, television and newspaper reporters take notice.
The message was possibly endangered by the fact that Wilson was from the U.S.
"Peace" and "U.S." don't fit together in the thinking of much of the world, particularly the parts of the world from Serbia to Israel. So, Wilson tried letting his French pal answer the inevitable question, "Where are you from?" When "France" didn't work, he'd say, "I'm from Hawai`i." That didn't always work either. People knew that Hawai`i is in the U.S. However, over and over, those who listened to the message, overlooked the trekker's nationality.
"What do you hope to accomplish by this trip?" a reporter asked.
"First, we're taking this journey as a personal pilgrimage," Wilson answered. "But more than that, it is a journey for peace. Countries and especially the common people have suffered too much. There have been too many tears shed by mothers for their sons, wives for their husbands and children for their fathers. Yes, it takes courage to face an enemy, but it requires just as much bravery to say `No' and refuse to capitulate to war. The time has come. This is now a global imperative."
Later, speaking to someone else, Wilson said, "...envisioning peace is half the battle. As the world's consciousness changes, the rest is sure to follow." He sticks to his message, demonstrating repeatedly that it is truly what keeps him walking, even when he is confronted with the scars and memorials of war, even when he speaks to warriors.
No doubt, Wilson was on the right path. Even when he was lost for a while or took a detour, the result was totally central to both the personal growth expected from the pilgrimage and to the peace purpose. "Maybe," he mused, "there never was a `wrong' path--just one awaiting a new reason for being."
Christian, Jewish or Islamic; male or female, old or young; Kurdish, Serbian, German or Israeli, everyone who crossed Wilson's path was welcomed and, although he doesn't say so, loved. Learning to walk through our own lives with that same grace would be reason enough to read Along the Templar Trail, even if the reading itself were not a joy. It is.