My Life as a Traveler

Fifty Shades of Melancholy – The Post-Camino Blues

July 10, 2012

Re-entry is always hard for me. I know this. It always has been, ever since I've been old enough to travel without my parents. Wherever I travel, life is always more exciting, intense, and more meaningful than when I am sitting in my living room or driving to the grocery store. I never want to come home and am always several shades of melancholy for, oh, about the length of time I've been gone. I've heard the phrase from one of the FAA engineers who we constantly see on our travels: “30 days off = 30 off days.” Yep, that's me.

And it's not like I live in a shack or have to slave away doing, well, anything. I have a beautiful home on the water, friends and family here who love me, the constant, fun challenge of trying to keep up with my teenage son, and a fledgling business that's ready to take off, once I put some work into it.

Yet, when I'm traveling, I'm somehow different. Especially on this trip. I'm more alive: younger, stronger, more beautiful. The physical intensity of walking six hours a day was invigorating. The desire to connect to people and the joy of making the connection was life affirming. The time walking alone, just listening to the birds, tractors, and my own footsteps, was refreshing. I should be happy to have had such a remarkable experience, right? So what's the problem?

The problem is that I miss it all. I miss the solitary 6am departures, the easy camraderie of fellow pilgrims, the deep friendships I made, the daily walking meditation, and the exquisite exhaustion at the end of each day. Each and every day there was a goal and its accomplishment that could be measured in different ways: in kilometers, in hugs, in the number of times I laughed out loud. I miss the coffee and the great food that I didn't have to cook (and I like to cook at home). But not just that, I miss not knowing where I'm going to sleep each night and who I'm going to meet next. I even miss the bottom bunk, heck, even the top bunk. I miss the sweat and the snorers and the stick-clickers coming up behind me on the trail.

So, what's a melancholy girl to do? Here are some of my coping strategies:

  • In anticipation of the post-trip blues, before I left I cleared my schedule for the month of July, so my five off weeks of re-entry would be gentle. No trips or huge projects. This has been a really good thing. During this time, I'm giving myself permission to take the time to be melancholy in place and be ok with it.
  • The best remedy, unintentionally, has been the continuation of the blog writing. In Spain, I was hard on myself for not keeping up, especially at the end, but in reality, the writing since I've been home has been a blessing. By writing every day (and I crave to write every day), I have the opportunity to revisit and reassess the experience and the feelings that came with it. I can live it again in this reality for the couple of hours it takes for me to write a post, reaching into memory aided by the pictures downloaded from my camera. When the post is finished, it's a goal accomplished and I can turn off my computer and do the things I need to do at home. Because I've had the opportunity to share it all with you, the Camino is staying more real for me and I don't feel like it's slipping through my fingers.
  • While I didn't listen to much music on Camino, I am immersed in it now, leaning toward the light metal bands that Morgan likes, loud, with headphones. I'm sure my family loves the sound of my voice (I'm singing harmony, Susie!) when I belt out the lyrics from songs by Staind, Sick Puppies, and Disturbed at the top of my lungs. It's comforting, somehow.
  • I am in touch and swapping pics with a few of my Camino friends. It's fun to see the Camino from their point of view and I'm amassing quite a photo collection that I will edit and make into an amazing album. I anticipate creating a Camino photo show will be a nice way of remembering the experience and keeping it with me. Heck, I might even write a book from these blog posts, although I'm sure the world does not need another book of someone's experiences on Camino (or does it?).
  • My best tried-and-true method for diminishing re-entry blues is to plan my next trip. In fact, I always feel a little adrift if I don't have a departure date scheduled to somewhere exciting (or just somewhere, really). Problem is, with Morgan starting to drive by himself on Saturday (!!!!!) and with the end of our full-time homeschool – he's starting some community college classes this fall – I'll be staying home rather than traveling with George. However, I do have a trip in the hopper – to Italy! It's not until next May – Susie has a friend in Naples and we have been planning to visit her since she moved there last year – but it's something to look forward to. Susie likes the mountains, too, so hopefully we'll have the opportunity to travel to the northern part as well. The delicious anticip/ation of the next adventure really does lighten the shades of melancholy.
  • I have also been thinking of how to incorporate my youth, strength, and beauty better into my current activities. What were my lessons of the Camino and how can I use them to make my life more meaningful off the trail? Stay tuned for the next blog entry for the answer to that one.

So, there you have it. As I write this, I have been home exactly two weeks and feel like I am dealing with re-entry pretty well. Just writing this post has been helpful. Yes, I still miss walking out of the sunrise in the morning, but you know, the same sun rises in front of my house. The sunrise has always inspired me, but now it reminds me that, even though my Spain Camino has ended, a new Camino has begun. And thanks to that Spain Camino, I am armed with the lessons and experiences that I believe will make me a better person for this Camino, refining my shades of melancholy into gratitude for the past and excitement for the future.


8 responses

  1. Brad

    You fed your soul long and well. Of course it will take time to digest!

    July 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm

  2. Kathryn Schlesinger

    I totally relate, even with our short experience on the Camino, I had a really difficult time returning to life. I wanted to be there, your blog was my help. It is also the reason I want you to continue sharing your thoughts, memories and re-entry. (Also if you can pry some info from Morgan I would love to have you share an overview of his Camino. I know that may not be easy to do.) ANyway, please don’t be in any rush to wrap this up! ALSO I totally believe that you could write a book. We shared your blog with friends and they really enjoyed your writing.
    Mike and I amuse our imaginations by dreaming of retiring and opening a private Albuergue along the camino or organic juice bar or front yard Pizza bar or cafe–haha. Maybe you want in on this future retirement opportunity. 🙂
    We are proud, excited, touched and envious of your journey. Thanks for sharing and continue to share as you digest the experience.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence! I have been toying with the idea of keeping this up – I am looking at life differently since Camino. Still thinking about it, although I’m pretty positive my life here at home is not even half as interesting as life on Camino!

      Thanks for the offer to get in on the ground floor for this great retirement opportunity! My commitment would be more juice bar than albergue, but if you want to be inspired by the best private albergue that I came across, talk to the owners at La Casa Magica at Quiet rooms, gorgeous bathrooms, big laundry sinks and a sunny yard for drying, nice big kitchen, hammocks (my favorite place), and a honor-bar cooler full of water and regional wine. Plus, 300 year old tile and architecture. That would be my model!

      July 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm

  3. Kathryn Schlesinger

    OKAY one more thing. This is very shallow, but I am curious. Please tell me you feel more fit and maybe did not gain weight. I was shocked by the scale when I returned I am hoping that as one continues the Camino that the walking starts to compensate the consumption. I had not felt I was overeating–but apparently I was. Walking all day does make you hungry.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    • I didn’t feel as if I lost weight until I got home and stepped on the scale! I am ten pounds lighter and stronger (in mind, for sure – body; probably) post-Camino and am working hard to stay this way. I guess it was after a couple of weeks that I didn’t feel like eating everything in sight. Even now I’m eating less at home – I guess I have to since I’m not walking 6 hours every day anymore.

      You guys seriously need to work a month of vacay to walk from Pamplona to Santiago!

      July 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    • Kathryn Leong

      Both Lyn and I lost weight – my clothes at home confirm it. I found walking regulated my appetite more and I lost the taste for sweet things, but not wine! I did try not to overeat while I was walking so that probably helped.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:15 am

      • Yes! This is one of the best things I came home with – being satisfied with smaller portions. Oh, and a craving for chips and white wine!

        July 17, 2012 at 8:10 am

    • Susie Engle

      Kathryn, most definitely YES. In the beginning, we were so enamored of the gorgeous variety of foods, we ate everything…beautiful pastries, enticing ham, fresh bread…everything! With a few cervasas and vinos in there too. But after about 2 weeks, the novelty wore off and the calories began to burn more consistently. The end result was a stronger, leaner body with less joint pain;-)

      July 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

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