Transitioning from Camino Life to Real Life

After a couple Camino’s and seeing dozens of pilgrims having a hard time with the Camino Blues, I think it is worth a 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.

San-Nicolas---Villal-Cazar-de-Sirga-14-shell-stones

Make no bones about it, the Camino will change you.  It does it slowly, and it is very subtle… most 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 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 their 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 of you changes. When you come back to the same thing, your energy starts to drop, and it’s uncomfortable.

Sunflowers on the Camino near Mansillas

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.

And here are a couple of posts on the forum about the Camino Blues, and here.

Wine Fountain Camino Frances Fuente de Irache

2017-04-17T15:59:33+00:00 July 1st, 2016|Camino Thoughts|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. FJ7 July 4, 2016 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Re: Coming Home.
    The Camino offers the mystery of a daily challenge, great or small. The personal acceptance of subtle differences in all walks of life. One’s ego is nurtured by the newness of stories and personalities, and the nonjudgmental play of participation whilst there is the freedom of retreat or moving onwards! We can be carried along by the surrounding energy of a new day to come. There is no measure of success without our consent. All so very different to life normally accessed and, one might say, accepted until the Camino Awakening. I suggest we recognise these delights and constantly assess our daily lives and make recognised changes to accommodate these newfound desires. All will be well as we grow and move forward. The decisions we make are to protect ‘our story’.

  2. rik aka tapirtales.com July 11, 2016 at 8:23 am - Reply

    I know what you’re talking about. I finished my Camino in June. I’ve enjoyed every meter from St. Jean to Fisterra. I’ve lived every ritual. There’s this weird feeling at the end. In a way, you’re happy it’s over. On the other hand, you feel totally lost. For 30 days, life was easy: walk-sleep-eat repeat. Now what? I guess the biggest Camino lesson is to live in the present. We’ve left the weight of the past at the Cruz de Ferro, fought our demons in the Meseta and washed off our sins in Finsterre. I guess we need to look forward. There will be new challenges ahead. The Way of St. James ends in Santiago, the Camino of life continues.
    Buen Camino.
    Rik

  3. Ted July 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    We just finished the Camino June 21, from S.J.P.D.P, and am still feeling those Camino Return Blues. Last year I trekked over 1,400 miles from my home in Southern California to the Canadian border (not on the PCT) and camped 70 out of 79 days and was in awe with the experience of being by myself for so many days and was worried that the Camino would be a let down. Wrong! It was a completely different experience and just as wonderful, just different. I loved the terrain, sights, and of course, the people I met, both pilgrims and locals. The more I am away from the Camino the more I treasure it and miss it. Now I am home trying to adjust to normal life and having a hard time with it. So, I am planning to go back again this September! I may take a different route, or even the same, but I will savoir it even more now that I know what to expect.

  4. Karl September 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Ted,
    I finished my first Camino in June 2014 when I walk from SJPP to Santiago. When I got back I said “I don’t want to walk anymore, been there done it, got the T-Shirt.” I went back in September, walked the Inglish route from Ferrol to Santiago then walked to Finesterra. I thought I was done. I went back the next year and bicycled the Camino de la Plate from Seville to Astorga, Well, I thought I was done, I went back this year and hiked for two weeks on the Via Francigine from Canterbury headed to Rome. I ended up in Arras, France. In about 7 weeks I am returning to Spain to walk the Camino Sanabria to Santiago. I would like to say I will be done but I have discovered the exercise, energy, wonder, accomplishment and spirituality of long distance hiking. I am currently planning on hiking sections of the Arizona Trail this winter and spring. My friend told me after the first Camino that I was “Bitten” by the Camino bug. I told her no way. No I say Yes way!

    Karl

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