Lockdown and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. What do they have in common?
Bijgewerkt: 5 mei 2020
Among the pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela, jokes are regularly made about how we suffer from the incurable and highly contagious "Camino Virus" and that the only remedy to ease the pain is walking another Camino. Now we are confronted with a completely different type of virus. But what do they have in common and what can we learn from it? The journey back It has been almost 2 months since our Prime Minister announced far reaching measures
against the spread of the Coronavirus. This was on Sunday, March 15 th when I was at
London Gatwick Airport. I had just been in Brighton with my girlfriend that weekend and
and my flight was delayed, which is more the rule than the exception with that particular
airline. I always treat myself to a real pint of IPA in the most "cozy"pub of the airport :).
The English pubs have an important social function, especially in the suburbs of the big
cities. It doesn't matter which pub you visit, they are all buzzing and alive and the people
are friendly. I have come to appreciate the pubs and miss them when I return to the Netherlands. When I was drinking my pint I didn't know this would be my last visit to an
English pub for a long time.
Contrast After leaving a busy and cozy Gatwick airport behind me, I got off at Schiphol airport
(Amsterdam) after an hour of flying. What a contrast! Cafes and fast-food chains were
closed, red ribbons strung around terraces, nervous people with mouth coverings
feverishly looking at the departure and arrival signs and empty shelves in the food shops. Schiphol appeared to have been transformed into a war zone. It became clear to me that I had to switch gears and that I needed a different mindset for the near future.
Changes This soon became more apparent as in the same week I was asked to work from home
as much as possible. The schools closed and from then on my daughters sat with their laptops on the couch to do their lessons. Shortly after this and before England was locked, my girlfriend came to the Netherlands. She worked in the travel industry and
was told shortly before her departure that the company she worked for could no longer
pay her due to the corona crisis. However, we had never been together 24/7 and for
long periods under one roof with freedom-restricting measures.
Awareness A lot has changed for myself, my daughters and my girlfriend. I gave my daily life a new structure, geared to the lockdown and I tried to organise my thoughts. Everything suddenly went very fast, the lockdown is making me think regularly about the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela that I made in 2018 and 2019. The lockdown and
the Camino have a lot in common. This insight is making the lockdown more bearable for
me because I know that this "journey" will also end eventually. I realised that the Camino had taught me a lot that I could fall back on today; - You need less than you think - Letting go and not wanting to plan everything takes you further and often provides
new insights - Any food is good when you are hungry - Water, food and a roof over your head are basic needs and vital. Be thankful for that
every day - The company of others is important. When we can no longer meet in person, we meet online, we use messenger or Facetime - Nature is important, it literally and figuratively feeds you. - The kindness of people you don't know can make a positive impact on your day, a
friendly hello, a smile. I compare it today with a &qBuen Camino". - Structure and determine your focus every day (no matter how small), it helps you to
keep going. - Claim time and space for yourself. It serves a greater purpose My first steps on the Camino were easy, I left in good spirits. As the days went by I felt pain, I missed contact with the home front and I wondered several times what I was doing there and where it would end. In retrospect, this was necessary to develop some peace with myself. Many pilgrims walk the Camino for a reason, for example because they want to change their life, to deal with the loss of a loved one, because of a relationship breakdown, etc. All drastic events that require a time-out before the next steps. For me and many other pilgrims I spoke to afterwards, the Camino became a real life-changer.
The corona crisis will also be or become a life-changer for many people. People today who have lost their jobs, facing bankruptcy or have to miss a loved one because of the coronavirus. This change will not be the same for everyone and so it reminds me of a Camino wisdom that says, "Everyone walks their own Camino."
Focus and listen to your body In the first two weeks on the Camino I saw many fellow pilgrims who had to cut their trip to Santiago prematurely due to injuries, illness, exhaustion from a lack of nutrition, loneliness or a lack of self-discipline and/or daily focus. The extreme
nature of the Camino requires you to listen carefully to your body and mind. It
forces you to step into a type of routine and determined focus. If you don't do that,
it can get pretty tricky. Then you can suddenly walk for hours without water in the
burning sun because you thought you could let go of your water discipline for once.
Or you walk desperately until late in the evening to look for a place to sleep because
you stayed in your bed too long that morning. But you can also get exhausted or sick
from the same food and drink over and over again because the tortillas are so tasty
and the pilgrim wine is so cheap. Without structure and a little (self) discipline, things
can go wrong with both physical and mental challenges.
This time in lockdown also requires the application of structure and (self)discipline.
You can of course put yourself in holiday mode, sleeping late every day, hanging on
the couch and only doing what you feel like doing. You do not have to take anyone
into account because you can / should not meet anyone and in addition, you are also
expected to stay at home as much as possible. But it will not get nicer at home or for
yourself. You are likely to become introverted, irritated and eventually lose yourself
and the thread completely. Just like on Camino, I follow a fixed structure during the
week that I adhere to and I make a short to-do list for every day. Sometimes with only
1 thing to-do. No matter how small, it gives me focus and it makes sense. During the
weekend I let go of the structure so that I can also long for the weekend and enjoy it.
The weekend still feels like a weekend to me because of this. Claim distance While walking the Camino you have time and space to think about the things that keep you busy. This is often the reason why people walk the Camino but also you sometimes have to claim your own time. Certainly on the Camino Frances it can be very busy at times and before you know it the days pass without you even having time for yourself. Pilgrims walk with you unsolicited to have a chat. There is nothing
wrong with that, but it is good to be aware that you will encounter the same pilgrim
more often because he or she is walking the same route at probably the same pace
as you. It is therefore not surprising to say that you want to walk alone on some days,
that you need time and space for yourself. Everyone who walks the Camino respects
that, it is a golden rule of the Camino. Even today I need to be alone with myself for a
while. The lockdown restricts us in what we do, so that we spend many more hours
together at home. When you try to take each other into account 24/7 and boredom
strikes every now and then, it creates tension. I immediately think of the short funny
videos of friends and colleagues that I have seen on my WhatsApp recently about
the tensions and frustrations due to the lockdown. To avoid such scenes :) I claim my
time and space and go for a walk or run in nature every day. It helps me organise my
thoughts and take a fresh look at them. Comradery Comradery was a common theme on the Camino as all pilgrims were in the same boat. We took care of each other, wished each other a Buen Camino, and walked together, or in the same direction, to Santiago. Comradery is also going on now but this time it is
the corona virus that unites us. We cannot meet in large groups or walk in groups, but
we are and remain connected to each other. I see that people often pass each other and
say a friendly hello or give each other a smile. That is beautiful and something we have
to hold on to. Buen Camino de la Vida!