After a couple of Camino’s and seeing dozens of pilgrims having a hard time with the Camino Blues, I think it is worth writing an article about. I am certainly no professional, but someone who has experienced the transition back to “The Real World” after the Camino twice.
Make no bones about it, the Camino will change you. It does it slowly, and it is very subtle… most of the time. One of the things we adjust to on the Camino is the life we have there. Days are very long, conversations can get very deep. We begin to bond with people we never dreamed of becoming friends with. There are many, quiet, tranquil, and peaceful moments on the Camino, as well as some hard and difficult challenges. But, for all of us, when we step back into normal life, the longing of the Camino will eventually come our way.
From conversations with many pilgrims post-Camino, I can say for myself and many others that reintroducing yourself into your old life is one of the hardest parts of the Camino.
You Change on the Camino
You change, your daily habits change, your conversations change, your body changes, the food you eat changes, the way you see people changes, the way you see the world changes. So coming back to your old life can actually be quite a shock and a bit depressing for many. Sorry for the bad news, but for many, coming back into “The Real World” is one of the hardest parts of the Camino.
People won’t understand you when you speak of ‘albergues’, ‘ampollos’, and ‘pilgrims’. The feeling of not having the Camino and pilgrims around you is certain to seek in when you are in a luxurious bathroom, with a nice hot bath….and all of a sudden you miss the small, rundown showers that numerous albergues have. Or maybe you are all alone in your home on a Sunday afternoon, and you long for a packed room full of noisy, smelly pilgrims.
Some people run to do a second Camino as soon as they can. Some people call their pilgrim friends for some type of connection. Some people experience slight depression and realize how much they dislike their lives back home. Not saying this is a bad thing, just saying, this is what the Camino is for. It helps us wake up to what we really want in life. It helps us to realize where our life is, and where we want it to go. It gives us time to think about all the things we haven’t done, and all the things we want to do. For some pilgrims, it opens doors and propels an avalanche of change in their lives. For others, it shows them that they do not like what they have created in their own personal lives…..and for some that can be very hard.
Our consciousness changes on the Camino…our energy level changes on the Camino. I am sure most of us have experienced a really great vacation, and then went back to our hometown and saw everything differently. Nothing changed, except you. Or we might have a really great weekend, and you become so excited about your weekend, you go to work and tell everyone about it….and no one is impressed….they just did the same thing they do every weekend…for the past 3 years. You might start to feel like you don’t belong back in your real life. Don’t worry, this is a natural part of being a pilgrim, and a natural part of life.
It happens on the Camino because you spend 4-5-6 weeks away from what you are used to, and all you change. When you come back to the same thing, your energy starts to drop, and it’s uncomfortable.
Do You Need to Change Back?
So what can we do? How can we make our transition back to “The Real World” smooth and comfortable and avoid the Camino blues?
Here is what I recommend, it may be for you, and it may not, but I think if you apply this just a little bit, I think your transition will be a bit easier.
When we are on the Camino, it’s almost certain to occur, that you become aware of things in your life that you want to change…maybe good, maybe bad. While you are on the Camino, I want to urge you to write those things down. Even better to write them down and put a date by them. This will signify when you want to accomplish those things. Then when you get home, and you are rested a bit, start working towards those things that you wrote down. One the Camino, we all have a goal, typically that goal is to get to Santiago. Once we leave, we no longer have a big goal to work towards, and that can leave us with the feeling of being lost and a bit hopeless. If you start working on your new goals, it will keep the progress and your mind focused on where you want to go with your life post Camino.
It has been said that the Camino is the link between who you were and who you will become. The best way we can serve our experience on the Camino is to start working towards what is next for in our lives instead of letting our experience die.
Chris Reynolds is a blogger and world traveler. He runs TheOneEffect.com which features experiments and adventures to change the world.
I love hiking. 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.