Meeting people from around the world, facing the unexpected, experiencing physical and mental cleansing, laughter, meditation, natural beauty, and immersing in unavoidable periods of self-reflection were all intoxicating.
Returning from the Camino home was like coming down from a lengthy ‘high,’ and I asked how could I transfer just a small bit of that beautiful experience into my everyday life.
A basic diet, accepting simple shelter, self-discipline, the motivation to walk in all weathers, and overcoming obstacles all helped to become more aware of the wasteful ‘normal’ lifestyle, at home, with all its superfluous material.
I found beauty in simplicity and found a different me.
We were all the same on the Camino. No one talked about politics, religion, or profession. Status was meaningless on that journey. I walked alone from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, giving myself plenty of time to soak up the experience. In all that time, only one person broke the golden rule by asking why. I politely answered, ‘it’s personal.’
Overall the precious slower pace of the Camino enabled a deep inward self-examination of both good and bad about my reactions towards others, myself, and to the unexpected. The journey was a culmination of adventure, excitement, the spiritual, the different, and cleansing.
I’m fortunate. At home, I can leave my easel at any time, put on my boots, walk out my studio door, and lose myself in the Welsh hills. Walking alone on rugged paths bring memories, reasserts purpose, and reminds me of the three Camino vows I set myself when I left Santiago. Two I keep. The third I’m still working on. National Trust yellow arrows aren’t the same as the trusted Camino waymarks but are a nice substitute, and I have a Camino waymark on a wooden post in my garden. I carry Café con Leche with fresh orange juice in my backpack, as remote, isolated areas are without café stops, but the peace, bird song, sound of my footsteps, and wind in my ears, all help to send my mind back to those Camino heady meditative states.
I keep my house and garden spotless. Trying to reflect on what I saw while walking through those clean and tidy ancient villages, mostly in disrepair, but showing evidence of people taking pride in what they have, offering kindhearted, genuine hospitality, with no one taking advantage. It helped me realize how rich I am, to have good health and purpose. My diet now leans towards simpler Spanish dishes, Rioja wine, and plenty of exercise. Unfortunately, I can’t get hold of their local gorgeous wines.
The Camino didn’t finish at Santiago de Compostela. I managed to bring it back with me and has undoubtedly changed my life. I’ll always remember three great lessons from the many I learned on that journey; to listen, be patient, and see beauty in simplicity. Now I walk through villages at home and see tidy gardens, clean cars, no litter, and more wildlife, all a result of the lockdown. I think the message may be spreading.
I’m not sure if the Camino routes will open in the near future. I walked part of the Via de la Plata from Seville last year, which was more isolated and a solitary trek. Lisbon looks good but do I need a Camino again? After all, I found a new me on the first one, and know I can’t repeat that same experience. So, for now, the Welsh hills are my continuing ‘Camino.’
Buen Camino Bernie Moore
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.
12 thoughts on “Camino Blues After Returning from the Camino”
Not to be a critic, but how old are you? I am 68 and would like to walk the camino. I have many demons in my life that perhaps this could help wash them away or at least make them more tolerable. No drugs or alcohol demons. I thoroughly enjoyed your journey experience. Maybe I can have one too!
Keeping physically fit is more important than age
I swim and walk averaging 2 hours a day (walk four hours a day two weeks before long treks) Swimming gives stamina and walking consistently keeps muscles ready for the long walk. I’m in my mid seventies I’m the tortoise on the path but I have long range stamina and only stop for breaks every three hours
Just prepare physically and know your body well
and take care of it. Don’t make it a race or
I agree completely. I usually walk fast for an hour each morning, fairly early, doc’s orders to improve my energy levels and it has worked great. Though on the Camino I trundle along at a nice even pace without any hurry.
Hi there, yes, yes yes you can walk the Camino a perfect opportunity to explore the inner person while walking with the outside 9ne. I too am 68 and walked the Camino in April 2022, every kilometre! It took me 6weeks and 3veryone walks their own Camino. I highly recommend the Way. I would urge older folk (!) to go when it’s cooler. I found the hot days really difficult so starting early April really worked for me. Buen Camino!
Well said pilgrim. Since 2016,I have travelled to Spain from Australia and walked three caminos . I should be there now walking camino del norte, but I have to wait. Having been self employed most of my working life meant I didn’t have time for much else. I’m not complaining, I have had and still enjoy a wonderful life. However, the first camino was a life changing experience. I started experiencing anxiety in the last 100 kms as I didn’t want it to end. At 68 I aim to do at least one camino every year until I can’t do it any more. Buen camino Hank
Age doesn’t seem to matter. Young and old! I thought I was pushing it at 70 until I met a German lady of eighty hopping down the steep stony track towards Roncesvalles.
Thankyou for your thoughts about your Camino
experience. Well said!
I have never been on the Camino and hope to in next couple years after I finish the 88 Buddhist temples of Shikoku, Japan, a 1200 km walk. Have been doing it in segments twice a year for last two years.
Many of your thoughts I share while scaling the mountains to temples with my Buddhist blessing book in hand (which is beautifully calligraphied by hand at each temple). Two major differences from your thoughts— First, am after different sakes and wonderful sushi/Buddhist vegetarian cuisine—not wine. Secondly I find this a time to discuss with the monks and read about Kobu daishi’s Buddhist aestheticism from the 8th Century. I would hope the Camino might also be a learning experience about Christian beliefs.
Been hiking all over South America and Asia for almost forty years but had never heard of Camino until an Italian trekkers told me on the Buddhist trail. Staying fit to hike as long as possible in this life!
Thanks Bernie, lovely words and made me think back to my Camino 2105. Life does not have to be complicated and I try to simplify things. Stop, breathe and think about it helps.
I walked the Camino Portuguese in 2018 from Porto to Santiago in 2018 and can recommend it. Whereas nothing can replicate one’s first Camino there is lots to gain from subsequent walks. It sort of refills the tank a bit.
I am 72 and was 70 when I walked my first Camino. I did gradually work up to fitness throughout the previous year barely walking two miles on day one but within a year, of regular walking and hill treking, I could manage a good sixteen miles three times a week. Really, my Camino started when I began training, lost a stone in weight, and another stone on route to Santiago. I was glad to be prepared and didn’t suffer blisters and could easily manage the hills unlike some who thought it was a casual breeze and had to drop out after day three. The hills are good places to get lost! Why not just do it! Think of your Camino starting now, as preparation, increasing distance gradually, always looking forward to the actual event. I hope you do. It is life changing.
No problem. I walked the Camiño on my own from Pamplona to Santiago last year – 2019. I am/was an unfit, 70 year old female. I did no training but made sure my feet were in good shape, was very careful fitting my boots, walked slowly at the start – no more than 8/10 miles each day, had a back pack of less than 10 pounds and used walking poles. I was walking nearer 20 miles a day near the end. Wonderful experience. Go for it.
So lovely to read your reflections and putting to words that which I cannot express , but feel so deeply these days. I am very grateful to be at totally different place this year. I did the camino from August to October 2019, my way from Pamplona to Leon, with a variety of interesting people, couples, families and individuals I encountered along the way, It’s like a reset button has been set; you spoke vividly about how the coronavirus has given you a new perspective.
Beautiful thoughts of how the Camino transforms IF we take it home with us!