I have had conversations and read many posts of people who felt lost, confused or depressed when they return home after walking Camino de Santiago, especially after walking the entire way.
I have walked Camino many times and shared discussions with others and sense I have some insight as to why this happens.
Walking Camino offers you a space to be real and raw, to share conversations about life. A place where the usual societal labels are skipped … if you have a pack on your back you are a part of the Camino Family. The usual “who” you are or what you “do” is dropped .. you are simply another pilgrim.
The question asked … what bought you to Camino? opens a whole new conversation.
This is a big part of the magic of the Camino when you are stripped back of your worldly masks with a daily task of moving from one location to another you glimpse the simplicity of life and realise how refreshing that is. Most importantly you have the time to engage, listen and connect with people from every corner of the world …. Conversations are not based from the same mindset of your usual world, you are in the moment, allowing space to be more compassionate and understanding of others and yourself.
On reflection having just returned from the French Camino, I am blown away by the fullness in my heart. I met so many people and had conversations that altered my perception and left me in awe of the human spirit. Being outdoors rain hail or shine also has one feeling connected spiritually to the earth and all on it.
To give you an idea of what this looks like … my first conversation was with a 15-year-old boy who was on a college cultural trip, he walked up to me and initiated conversation, challenging himself to have the courage to talk to as many people as possible to see what he could learn about their country and how their thoughts differed to his. We walked, talked and laughed together sharing stories about our families and family ideals, it was wonderful.
I met a 26-year-old Italian girl struggling with the cultural expectations she carried as a woman. She loved her family and didn’t want to disappoint them, however, they wanted her to get married and stop “wasting her life”, she, on the other hand, wanted to feel free and find deep, true and respectful love, not what she had witnessed from the village she lived in. I loved her insight, thought processes, and desire to put self-love first and the fact that she took the topic serious enough to walk a Camino to gain clarity. For days after we kept crossing paths, she asked if we could have a photo because she never wanted to forget our conversations.
Then there was the 24-year-old German girl who was trying to make meaning of her life, she felt disconnected from her peers and hated seeing all of the young women in her life objectifying themselves online, she wondered where it was all going. Tired of messages and posts she wanted to connect and have deep and meaningful conversations, she felt such great gratitude for the Camino because it was giving her just what she needed. How mature and interesting our conversation was, young people like this give me hope … we had a great big hug when we parted.
A gorgeous 60-year-old woman from the UK, who lost her husband to cancer 5 years prior gave herself a birthday gift of walking Camino, something they had planned to do together someday. She wanted to rise above the fear that had gripped her, having been a home mum she had no idea how to move forward, yet she knew in her heart that she had to learn to live independently to look at what was in front of her and cherish what had been. I cried a river of tears, her story touched me so deeply, it bought all of my old fears to the surface and allowed me to reflect and see how far I had come in my own quest for Independence. A few days later she told me that hearing my story had helped her to know that she would certainly be ok! Through a common desire as women, we inspired one another and shared a beautiful connection.
An inspiring man from Barcelona who had spent the last 5 years in and out of the hospital with the last 2 years in a wheelchair. A simple operation had left his body with a germ that was destroying him physically. Being told that limited movement and never walking again was his fate he decided to fight for his life! Between rehabilitation and determination here he was walking the entire French Way!, with a drag and limp he was flying up the inclines and leaving me behind breathless every time. WOW is all I could think the strength of the human spirit, I tried not to complain about my tired feet after that!!
So, my insight into the … WHY?
As human beings, we need to be heard and validated, to feel connected and cared for. Our lives have become so busy and complex that we are missing the connection. The time to really create space for reflection … most people get up every day and do the same thing day in day out, never taking time to ask themselves if this is really what they want, and even if they do ask they don’t stop long enough and listen to their heart for the answer.
When returning from Camino your energy has shifted, your perception is altered yet the world around you is the same. The perceived limitations that hold us in patterns are well and alive, you struggle to fit and know that you have to make changes this is not an easy task and brings about confusion and leaves those that have not consciously walked the Camino in a quandary … yet being stuck in old patterns is harder.
My response to all of this is to bring Camino home!
Go for walks, talk to strangers, catch a bus or train or plane and engage with the people you are near, talk to people in your workplace, ask a stranger in a queue at the supermarket how their day has been. Make time in your everyday world to support yourself and others to re-engage in the lost art of conversation and connecting with your fellow human beings … you never know it may be the most profound conversation you ever have!
Connect with the earth … Get out into the sunshine …. stand in the rain …. watch a sunrise or sunset …. lay under a tree in the grass …. give yourself time to smell a rose growing in the sun or watch a butterfly dancing in the air … Allow yourself to be real, authentic and open …. then see what surprises life has in store for you!