My return from the Camino has been fraught with anger. In part, this anger comes from having left the pilgrimage before I was ready to. I still had miles to cover: Finisterre, but didn’t have the time. But there is much more. Latent anger I never knew I had comes out at the strangest times. It’s like the lid’s been blown off. And now, I have to deal with the spillage.
I long for the trail. I want to pack my backpack with essentials, don my hiking boots whose soles are now worn down in places, open the door, feel the cool morning breeze on my face and see the beginning of the sunrise on the horizon.
I didn’t get the nice cut-and-dried answers I expected from the Camino. We heard stories of pilgrims who had met future partners, had answers to career changes, went home cured from a disease, etc, etc, etc. No quick revelations for yours truly. That would be too simple. My learning from the Camino has been more snail-like. For example, I’ve had many insights into myself.
Honestly? A few of these, I could have done without.
Here are some basic changes (and not so basic!) in my life I’ve noticed since my return from the Camino Francés :
- I’ve been away for six weeks or more, many, many times. Not once have I returned with such an ability to deal with conflict and stress and stay calm. People have commented on my looking happier and younger: the internal change peace is manifesting itself on the outside.
- I’ve made some life-changing decisions since returning. These will address my long-term goals of more travel and a less stressful life. For example, I’m leaving Montreal and moving back to British Columbia. My grandchildren are growing up, and it breaks my heart to not be there to see them more. This will also allow me more months on the road.
- I’m not a materialist at heart, but since the Camino, I am even less attached to consuming unnecessary items. Maybe it’s more that what’s necessary has changed? Everything I bought on the trail had to be carried. This meant serious streamlining. Now, when I want to buy something, I ask myself, how heavy would that new pair of shoes or coat be to carry for 800 km?
- On a 17 km strip of bare fields outside Carrion los Condes, it was as if I was cleansed of some of my negative emotions. This stretch of trail is the most dreaded on the Camino; it’s part of the meseta, an unprotected length of trail. There is only one lean-to shelter along the way for protection; no bars/cafés to rest in, no trees to sit under and no help if you get hurt. The wind whipped at us relentlessly, flapping my cape over my head and depositing the drops of rain over every inch of my body. At the end, instead of being exhausted, I walked off it charged, with body (or so it seemed) and soul lighter.
- I feel again. Only recently have I realized that I’d shut my emotions/heart, likely as a way to survive the rigors of divorce, and then kept it closed. Walking the Camino opened me to new experiences and people. This has been both disconcerting and amazing.
- I am able to stay more easily in tune with my intuition/heart and to follow its urgings. Hence, the major changes feel natural and not upsetting.
- I am more fit than I have been in years: physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- With being outside for 34 days, regardless of the weather, I’ve realized that I spent too much time inside before. A long walk (and sometimes two), every day, is now a regular part of my day.
- My perspective to writing has changed. This is still in the development process, but I know a different approach is necessary.
Have you done a Camino? What is your perspective on it, or a long walk you’ve undertaken? What changes has it brought to your life? Please share your musings.