How are you doing? I have decided to write about a very strange but common phenomenon among pilgrims, who have walked the Camino de Santiago. The symptoms are wide ranging and it is quite, possible that you have experienced them too. Or, if you have not yet walked the Camino, do read on so you can be prepared. It’s always good to be prepared, don’t you think?
- Have you felt as though your emotions are heightened and remain very near the surface, pretty much all the time?
- Perhaps you find yourself welling up at the drop of a hat (no I don’t mean literally because you or someone else has dropped a head covering on the ground) …you know, getting all teary eyed at the slightest thing, which reminds you of your epic walk?
- Maybe you have become restless and disconnected, now that you are back home and living your every day life?
- Alternatively you feel listless, low or lethargic and possess a strong sense of grief and loss?
- On the other hand, do you give yourself over to sudden outbursts of euphoria?
- Or do feelings of frustration at the superficiality of our day to day life at home overwhelm you and you have a desire for freedom?
- Do you find yourself day dreaming with a longing to be back on the Camino trail?
Well, if you have found yourself saying yes to any of these symptoms, then, most likely you have the post-Camino blues. Now, if you will permit me to quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at this point –
You are not alone! No way, Jose. Many of us, have experienced this weird collection of symptoms, which can come and go and could last a few days, to weeks or months…
…BUT DON’T WORRY!
You can beat the post-Camino blues! Yes, help is at hand. Just read on for some top tips I have collated from my pilgrim friends, namely Barbara Best, Roisin Collins, Shelley Stroh, Brett Clibbery, Kenny Taylor and Chris Collier and I.
These kind folk sent me their advice on beating the post-Camino blues and their creativity certainly helped me when I was going through the rollercoaster ride of emotions on my return from my own Camino. I acknowledge them with sincere gratitude and I have added some of my own points. I now make our collective effort available to you so that it will help you too.
1. Keep on walking.
Sounds easy peasy doesn’t it? And it really is. Don’t overthink this, just go out walking every day if possible, come rain or shine. Take the car or public transport only when absolutely necessary. If you don’t want to go it alone then now would be a good time to arrange a walk or two with your family or mates. Alternatively join a walking group.
The Camino is magic and mystical, but there are wonderful walks within reach of all of us near our homes and places of work. Explore a different trail or route each day if you can. Every day can be a mini-adventure if you choose it to be so! Sing as you walk, perhaps the songs, hymns and chants you may have encountered along the Camino…or some good ole rock n roll. This will raise your vibrational energy and enhance your feelings of wellbeing.
2. Give yourself space to re-live your journey.
When you return home do give yourself time and space to re-adjust. Create space in the day or evening to quietly imagine and re-imagine your personal journey. Call to mind the landscapes, the friends you have made, and how wonderfully international it all is. This becomes even more important, yet counter-cultural when there’s so much talk everywhere about closing borders peddled by the mainstream media. Remember how your walk felt, the good and the painful bits.
Re-living your journey with your family and friends is lots of fun. Sometimes this might be a bit easier if you have walked your Camino together. If not, then make time to go through your photos and or share excerpts from your journal or blog with your loved ones.
3. Contact your pilgrim family.
However, if friends and family find it difficult to relate to your Camino experiences, then don’t worry about that, it is normal, especially considering the intense highs and lows we go through on the journey.
I’m sure many of you have met up with other pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago haven’t you? Some of whom, will probably be your life long buddies from now on. They are like family with all the joys, surprises and dysfunctional realities our rellies bring to the table. Keep in contact with your pilgrim family members and nurture these special friendships. If possible arrange to meet up with them and you can enjoy re-living moments from your Camino together or plot another adventure.
4. Read, read, read!
Reading is totally therapeutic. We can go down the enticing avenues of prose to enter other realms, within and without to discover hidden secrets and simple pleasures. Read Camino blogs or books to experience the Camino through the eyes of another person.
Re-read your guidebooks (and laugh at the inaccuracies…sorry John B) or journal or blog (if you have been journalling) again, or Camino articles. You don’t have to stick to Camino-related material either, perusing other epic walks that travellers have done or travel features on recommended long distance hikes will elevate your mind, body and spirit once again.
5. Structure your days in sync with nature.
When we walk along the Camino de Santiago, we allow ourselves to become absorbed into the simple rhythms of daily life. For example, waking up before dawn, packing up and getting ready for the day ahead, striding out and walking, eating, drinking, walking some more and sleeping. This simplicity strips everything back to basics. On the Camino we do our daily activities in tune with nature’s rhythms, the rising and setting of the sun and we respond to the subtle changes in the seasons.
Perhaps you are feeling the loss of this simplicity or you sense you are out of sync with nature around you? Our emotions remind us to once again get back in touch with nature and our own biorhythms. At this stage it is important to bring into balance your own rhythms of work, physical exercise, spirituality, relationships, rest and play. To do this, follow the rising and the setting of the sun and moon, and the passage of the day. They’re there for us now as they were on the Camino.
6. Make simple changes.
Your Camino is special to you. I am certain that your purpose revealed itself to you while you walked along this amazing pilgrimage route. You might not have been aware of this at first but there was a reason for your walk. When we walk the Camino we see ourselves reflected completely and truthfully (somewhat painfully so) in the mirror of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenge. The way of the sword cuts through any duality, superficiality, mask and issue. The things we have pushed down and kept hidden resurface so that we can deal with them and accelerate our own healing and wholeness. Our life lessons begin to unfold in front of us to take on or discard as we see fit.
When you return home, use this opportunity to make changes in your life that your Camino walk has revealed to you. Integrate your personal lessons learned. There is no need to hurry through this process. Take all the time you need but do commit to doing it. One example to illustrate this point is to de-clutter your life or as others might put it, do a ‘life laundry’ to simplify everything. If so, make dates in the diary with yourself, free from distractions, and work through letting go of any patterns of behaviour or material things that no longer serve you. If you haven’t looked at or used something in your home of office for three years, then it is likely you don’t need it now or will need it in future. Let it go and be free!
7. Practice self-love.
One important lesson I learned on the Camino is to love and take care of myself. I’m sure that many of you have also encountered this lesson on the trail. Self-love is neither selfish nor a luxury.When we push ourselves too hard, the over-exertion can take its toll on our physical body and our emotional or mental wellbeing. When we don’t look after ourselves by taking rest, eating healthful food or re-hydrating for example, it becomes much more difficult to continue the journey and reach our goals. This is a metaphor for the great walk of life.
The Camino de Santiago teaches us to be in tune with our physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. We learn to listen to our bodies once again and be mindful of how we treat them. At home, this awareness must not stop. Continue to be mindful of how you are feeling on a day to day basis. Be kind to yourself. Take rest when you need to rest, catch up on sleep or do nothing for a while. Eat healthy, life-giving foods. Remember to drink plenty of water. Make time to enjoy yourself with your family, friends, pets or equally to schedule ‘me’ time. Why not treat yourself to a pampering therapy or two now and again such as a massage, some reflexology or reiki?
By the way, I practice different methods of intuitive healing including reiki and I offer treatments at my home or when I’m on the move. I would be happy to offer you a gentle, soothing reiki treatment if you are nearby, so to find out more please visit my Intuitive Healing page and contact me if you would like to receive reiki. (Was that a shameless plug? …nah, not really, you are reading this for a reason).
8. Do something creative.
For me, walking the Camino has served to unlock my creativity. I was able to bring my left and right-brained ways of thinking into balance and my intuition became stronger. I continue on my creative path here at home by focussing on my writing and music making.
There are many ways you can use creativity to help you re-live your journey and banish those post-Camino blues. To symbolise the essence of your Camino, why not write a journal, create a coffee table photo book, draw a picture, write a poem or a song? Some of my pilgrim friends have taken their Camino inspiration into their ceramic making, textile designs, blogging or even raw food creations!
9. Just be still.
Just be still and know that everything is going to be alright. Meditation is a wonderful practice to bring us back to ourselves and listen to our own soul’s voice. Spend time in quiet contemplation in your favourite place. Seek out and find the quiet in all the quiet places – and the noisy places too. Just be in the moment. No past or future. Dwell in the ‘now’. (Golly, I’m beginning to sound like Eckhart Tolle).
10. Inspire someone else.
Think back to the moment when you were awestruck by the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago. Who inspired you to do so? Did you read a story in a book or an article? Did you attend a talk at a local group? Did you watch a film? Or did a friend or family member walk the Camino and share their journey with you?
The Camino calls people. Be the inspiration to encourage someone else to make their pilgrimage. Be open minded and follow your intuition on this. You might strike up a random conversation with a stranger and before you know it you are speaking about your journey with a special glint in your eye and passion in your voice that just might be the encouragement the stranger needs to take the plunge and heed the Camino’s call. Perhaps you could consider doing a talk at a local group meeting. Chat with your friends about it. Share your experiences with others on various Camino fora. The opportunities are endless.
11. Keep on giving.
From the simple act of passing on some Compede blister plasters to the footsore to sharing a bottle of water with the thirsty and weary pilgrims along the way, we have all been called by the Camino to serve others in some way. Helping each other is one of the characteristics of being a pilgrim and engaging in pilgrimage. It doesn’t cost anything and feels good to give without expectation of anything in return doesn’t it?
Well how about keeping that feel good thing going and doing simple acts of kindness in your every day life? Be aware and alert to the needs of others around you, slow down a little, smile more and offer a helping hand. It’s the small acts of kindness in the every day that truly change the world.
12. Plan your next Camino.
This is a no brainer. I don’t need to write much about this point. Get the guide books out and plan your next Camino! Just do it…you know you want to! And while you are at it, check out some of the Smart Apps that have been developed to help pilgrims plan their walk, such as Camino Weather by Follow the Camino, which as the name suggests, helps pilgrims plan their trip with regards to the weather. On the page you can see a map of the main Camino routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. Whether you walk or cycle the Camino you can browse each month of the year and see 10 years temperature averages, rainy days and sunny days. It is not a weather forecast but Follow the Camino tries to give pilgrims the best description of likely weather each month. Click on this link Camino Weather to try it out.
13. Remember who you are.
You may have thought you knew exactly, who you are before you donned your boots and rucksack and stepped onto that plane or train or bus that shuttled you towards your starting point on the Camino de Santiago. However, along the way I bet you discovered things about yourself you had either forgotten or had not known were possible.
You see there’s something special about becoming a pilgrim. For some it is a spiritual calling, for others it is the quest of a physical challenge. Whichever way you view pilgrimage and the walk, the Camino de Santiago will take you beyond your own self-imposed limitations towards a ‘new’ you. The you that already existed before you came to this earth to live your earthly, human existence. For the walk is an act of remembering. A remembering of who you really are.
Once a peregrino (a), always a peregrino (a)! Keep on walking on…
Buen Camino everyone!
Peace, love and light,