HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (AP) — Charleston, West Virginia-based trauma psychologist Ernie Vecchio will be passing through the Eastern Panhandle soon on an over 3,000 mile pilgrimage across the U.S. on the American Discovery Trail.
Vecchio, who rode the first 151 miles of his pilgrimage in honor of and then joined the March For Our Lives gun control rally in Washington, D.C., just finished the Potomac River portion of the trail, and will soon be heading through the trail's portion in West Virginia. His trip, which he calls the Camino Del Alma or Way of the Soul, started at the trail's head in Lewes Beach, Delaware on March 11.
"I want to be inspired. I want this to restore my faith in human nature and in people, that I know that there have to people who have questions," Vecchio said, mentioning his journey will skip the trail's passage through the dessert and Colorado mountains.
"My journey is about trying to share with people what I've learned in working with thousands of folks who have gone through trauma. If you're wise about anything in life, that wisdom has come through pain," Vecchio said, mentioning his 30-year career focused on helping thousands of patients with extreme trauma, like amputation, paralyzation and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vecchio came up with the pilgrimage's idea after learning about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to Saint James the Great's alleged grave in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, a 10-day journey across Spain which has existed for over one hundred years. Vecchio's pilgrimage, however, is focused on raising awareness for the Inner Lives Matter movement, which focuses on healing from trauma and other inner struggles through mindfulness.
"He is doing this trail on foot and bike to share the wisdom he's gleaned from those who have experienced trauma, like as the result of an accident or a death," said Vecchio's publicist, Michael McAteer about the former Marshall University graduate-level counseling and psychological theory professor of 12 years.
"Something beautiful happens to people if they don't give up in the face of fear and loss," Mcateer said. "They develop a wonderful sense of wisdom and appreciation for life, that there's something to be gained from turning inward and really understanding yourself in the process, the self-awareness they've gained."
Walking or biking an average of 10-15 miles every day except for Sunday, Vecchio hopes the nine months away from his writing career and psychology practice, PsyScape PLLC, will connect him with people who want to know the answers he has found to life's big questions.
"I spent a career of putting this together, a career of putting together the dots, and now I can answer many of the big questions. Now I can answer when, where and who we are, as well as why and how you are, because I've worked with despair and trauma," Vecchio said about his psycho-spiritual worldview. "Most teachers in the world are sharing something of their own personal journey, or they're coming from an ancient text, or something other than 'us.'"