The Camino hangover..
Based on my own experiences and conversations I have had with other pilgrims
about how difficult it is to pick up the thread again after the Camino, I find it
worthwhile to write something about it. There is plenty on the internet and social
media about walking the Camino, but there is little or no information about what you
can expect after the Camino or how you can prepare for it.
Almost everyone who has walked the Camino will return back to their normal lives
again. From my own experience and the conversations I have had with various
pilgrims, I know that reintroducing yourself to your 'old' life is one of the most
challenging aspects of the Camino.
You change, embrace it!
Anyway, the Camino changes you, often in a subtle way without you noticing. You
will slowly adapt to life on the Camino. The days are long and the conversations can
go very deep. You begin to attach to people you never thought you would become
friends with. There are quiet and peaceful moments, but there is also confrontation
with yourself and there are tough challenges coming your way. Your daily habits
change, your conversations change, your body changes, the food you eat changes,
the way you look at people, the world and life changes. Going back to your 'old'life
can suddenly be a bitter pill to swallow or an anticlimax. People will not understand
you when you come home when you talk about Albergues, Donativos or pilgrim
dinners. It seems like nothing has changed except yourself and you start to get the
feeling that you no longer fit into your 'old' life. You see every form of luxury as
unnecessary and you long for the simplicity of the Camino. This can be very
frightening, but don't you worry, it is a natural process. It happens because you have
been away from what you were used to for 4/5/6 weeks and during that time you
have led a completely different life.
Some pilgrims plan a second Camino as soon as possible after returning, others
regularly call or visit their pilgrim friends because of the incomprehension from their
own environment. Pilgrims regularly experience a slight depression on their return
and may realise that they are not happy with their "old" life. It is possible that
when they look back, they realise they have made too many choices with their heads
instead of their hearts. You should not view these struggles as negative, embrace
them! Think of it as a wake-up call. It helps you realise where you stand in life and
where you want to go and it is up to you to do something with this! The Camino gives
you time to think. If you are open to it, it can open doors and change your life.
Back to the 'old' me?
How can you make the transition to 'The Real World' as smooth and as comfortable
A simple tip that can help you with this is the following…..
When you are on the Camino, you will become aware of patterns or things in your life
that you might want to change or break through. It is then important to write this down
immediately and to link objectives to this. Try to describe these objectives as
concretely as possible. After coming home and when you are rested, you start
working on these goals. At the start of the Camino we all have a goal, usually that goal
is to reach Santiago de Compostela, however, once you are on the square in front of the
cathedral in Santiago this can give you an empty feeling. Logical because your goal that
you had in mind for 4,5,6 weeks has disappeared like snow in the sun. If you go home to
work on the goals that you have written down while walking the Camino then you keep
moving. It gives you guidance on the way to change(s) in your life ..
The link between who you were and who you will become
It is sometimes said that the Camino is the link between who you were and who you
will become. Then take the experiences and insights that the Camino has given you
(no matter how confronting they may be) seriously. They will help you take the right
steps once you are back home.