Pilgrim Tips

WYD is quickly approaching!

You have been journeying towards WYD for several months!

Your groups have met many times!

You have organized fundraisers together!

Most importantly, you have prayed and journeyed together!


You can see that wonderful memories are part of the WYD experience. Still, there are some not so wonderful moments.

“For part of our pilgrimage, we stayed with a host family. I will never forget the fact that people, who did not know us, accepted us and invited us into their homes. That was the most enriching experience ever. We learned about their culture and shared in their lives. It was overwhelming how gracious they were. They took care of us as if we were members of their own families. We made new friends and we still write to them until this day. The German WYD was years ago, but the friendships made back then are still strong today.” – Jessy El Helou, WYD 2005


1. You’re tired, frustrated or stressed:

First of all, back up. Imagine you’re in a movie and you’re watching yourself. What will your reaction be?

Now, try to identify the problem. Is there anything you can do to help you to feel better? If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re hungry, eat. Of course, on a pilgrimage like WYD — where you’ll sometimes be in large crowds, when you’re feeling tired or agitated — you won’t always be able to stop and nap. Regardless, be positive. Smile. Take a deep breath. Look around and share your problem with a friend and, more than likely, that friend will help you with your burden. Just remember, you’re not alone.

2. You’ve promised Christ you’d be charitable to all your group members but someone in your group is getting on your nerves:

Breathe. Again, step out of the situation, if necessary. Before venting to your whole group, try to resolve the problem directly with the person involved. If that thought seems impossible at first, try to remember that this person, too, is a child of God. If all of this doesn’t work, try looking into your own eye to see if there isn’t a log!

“Twelve hours! We sat on the ground trying to be patient but it was hard. We were hungry, we were tired and just wanted to get moving. I remember someone said, “We are like refugees.” He was right. It got me thinking about how much I take for granted in my life. That day was a rare experience for me and for most of the people in that field but is a daily reality for so many people around the world.”- Don Palmarella, Cologne 2005

3. You’re cold (What? The flame of the Holy Spirit isn’t enough for you?):

We love the warm and inviting atmosphere of WYD but let’s face it: sometimes it just gets cold! Pack warm clothes. If you forgot to pack a warm sweater or two, you can either buy one along the way or try jogging for a few minutes. That usually helps a bit!

4. You’re hungry:

SO EAT! If you’re hungry, it’s likely you’ll also be cranky, which is not fun for you or for your group. Try to carry a few snacks in your backpack. There are also many shops along the way where you can buy a snack. If you really can’t find anything, just remember where you are. It really is a unique moment in history.

“Socialize with everyone. Take the time to meet and talk with the people around you! How many times are you completely surrounded by people, yet are oblivious because of your IPod or whatever else. Keep your Mp3 players in your bags or, better yet, leave them at home. Talk to someone next to you instead. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll learn.”- Maria Santoro, Denver 1993, Toronto 2002

5. The floor you’re sleeping on among a hundred other snoring pilgrims is harder than stone:

It’s normal, don’t worry, it’s one of the numerous signs that you are at WYD. As well as the fact that you have to wait in line to take a shower whose temperature reminds you more of a icicle than of the nice warmth you were dreaming about after a long day.

Unless you go late at night or early in the morning, chances are you’ll be waiting in line for a shower. Go into the shower prepared with all your stuff. Once inside, wash properly but wash quickly, keeping in mind that hot water is a luxury. Oh, and pack warm pajamas – those gyms can be cold at night.” – Raffy Caruso, JMJ de Toronto, 2002

6. It’s raining:

Did you bring a raincoat, an umbrella or a poncho? If so, why are you reading this section? It’s reserved for those poor souls who have forgotten or forsaken these precious objects. To those for whom this section is written, I suggest you huddle so at least you will conserve body heat. Hold on to that smile we were discussing earlier. Remember, there are likely to be cameramen filming you and sending this footage to some faraway location around the world. Think about what an awesome sight you will be for some random man or woman sitting (dry and comfortably) on their sofas watching WYD footage of you absolutely soaking wet but smiling. It is a witness to the joy of Christ in the most unpleasant conditions!

“Of course, sleeping outside during the Vigil was a new experience, which culminated in the now famous downpour on the Sunday morning of the papal mass. A most definite rude awakening but it was all worth it. When I returned from Toronto, I was in many ways physically exhausted but I was spiritually refreshed. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.” – Paolo Bucella, Toronto 2002 

7. You’re lost:

First, don’t panic. People are looking for you! They will find you.

The only question is when and how. Look around and try to figure out where you are. Look for street names, landmarks or businesses around you. Where were you coming from and where were you headed? Is there a telephone around? Are there some people around who look like they may be able to help you?

“Know where your group is going and how to get there. Do not rely only on one navigator. It is way too easy to get lost in a sea of pilgrims. Arrange for meeting points in case the group gets separated in crowds.” – Elisa Pistilli, Cologne 2005

8. You’re fed up:
  • The flight: You have just arrived in Panama and you have already had to deal with more than you can handle. In this case, try to imagine yourself climbing right back onto the airplane and heading home. Imagine going back to your family and friends that have helped you financially, morally and spiritually and telling them that after traveling halfway across the world, you just couldn’t do it. You’ll see with this little exercise how quickly you will regain the morale to stay in the game.
  • Midway through the pilgrimage and you can’t handle the hard gym floors, the rationed food or the line-ups for showers anymore? In this case you should ask yourself why you chose to participate in WYD. WYD is not about staying in hotels, eating at cute little bistros or touring town. The goal of WYD is fellowship with all people from the four corners of the world, gathered in this one place, at this one time, and to receive the graces that Christ wishes to give. Don’t ever forget, you’re here because He has directed you here!
  • It’s over. You’re dead tired. You’ve made it. Congratulations you are now a certified WYD pilgrim! All that’s left to do is to return home to Canada and share your experiences with others. You’re almost home, just another what… 20 hours on an airplane!!!

“Things were not perfect but we pilgrims faced everything together with a joy that is hard to explain. Before you have time to think about how long you’ve been waiting to brush your teeth or to get some lunch you’ll find some way of entertaining yourself with people around you who come from all over the world.” – Victoria Wong, Rome 2000, Toronto 2002

10 Great Ways TO PREPARE for World Youth Day


Pray for your fellow pilgrims (even those you have yet to meet), for Pope Francis and the bishops participating, for the people of the host country, for those who cannot travel to WYD, and for yourself, that you may be open to God’s will for you at World Youth Day.


And don’t pack everything – just what is needed for the journey.  Remember clothes (though not too many), good walking shoes, a hat, your morning basics (toothbrush, toiletries, etc.), any medications you need, your sleeping bag, your passport (and visa), and items that will help you travel spiritually (the Bible, prayer cards, your rosary, etc.).


At World Youth Day, there will be a lot of walking. Begin training for that by taking time to walk a few miles each day.  Consider bringing others with you on your outings.  Plus, it’s a great opportunity to be outside and to get in some much-needed exercise!


Find out more about the host country. Pick up some phrases of other languages.  Read about the Holy Father, Pope Francis.  Dig deeper into your Catholic faith.


Learn about World Youth Day: how and why it began, what the schedule will be this year, and who is expected to be there


When you’re in such big crowds like at World Youth Day, we need to listen attentively to directions and instructions. Get in the habit of listening to what your group leaders and other church leaders have to say.  Listening is also the best way to keep safe.


When you’re at World Youth Day, you will live simply (just as Pope Francis encourages us to do). To prepare for that experience, consider fasting from food, from excess and material goods, and from bad habits.


One of the best ways to prepare for a pilgrimage is to give selflessly of yourself for others. Not only does this help another person in need, but it also trains us to think outside of ourselves (something good to know on a pilgrimage surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people).


Tell others about your trip. Explain to them why you are making the trip to World Youth Day, and what your Catholic faith means to you.


Too often, when the pilgrimage is over, people can close themselves off to those who didn’t experience the journey. Instead, consider sharing your joys and struggles with friends and family who aren’t going to World Youth Day.  And upon coming home, make a concerted effort to share your experiences in a positive and inviting manner, without making others feel left out.