Camino Portuguese – coming home is hard.

It’s hard coming home from a Camino.

No-one really talks about this.

The Camino takes you up so high, then you come home and you drop down so low.

Steve on this past Camino said it’s an unreal world. And yes, it is. For the period of time you’re walking, nothing else matters. Your priorities become very simple: where will you sleep, how will you do your laundry, what will you eat, how will you deal with your injuries, how far will you walk tomorrow, and how tough will it be?

Most of us ignore the outside world. We don’t keep up with the news, we don’t watch tv, except maybe for a footy game in a bar, or a Formula One race, or the weather forecast.

Some of us don’t check emails, we turn off our phones, some of us sever all communications. The worries of the life we left behind are, well, left behind.

But no matter how far we walk – whether we walk from Le Puy or from Porto, at some point we have to come home.

And it’s tough.

For a start, once we come home we don’t walk 25km-30km a day any more. We no longer get that aerobic high. We no longer have those endorphins coursing through our bodies, and that causes a big energetic and emotional slump.

Also, any worries or issues that we left behind are invariably waiting for us on our return, ready to jump out and ambush us with renewed vigour.

Some of us might have walked the Camino to work out stuff. A faltering relationship perhaps, or a business decision, or simply what to do with our lives. That “stuff” now stands baldly in front of us, waiting to be addressed.

We might hope to address it with a new-found wisdom acquired on the Camino. We might have spoken to someone on the pilgrimage who triggered something that now gives us a fresh outlook. We might have come home with a cocktail of emotions, unsure how to now approach our post Camino life.

If we’ve learned lessons, and most of us who walk the Camino do learn some profound life lessons, then we struggle to take what we’ve learned back into our everyday lives.

That’s hard.

On the Camino it’s easy. Relatively. It’s a finite world, for a start. A pilgrimage begins and ends. You get to Santiago, and it’s over. The trick is to keep it going. To take your learned Camino ethos into your daily life back home. So that it never ends. So that every day is a pilgrimage, irrespective of where you are.

That’s hard.

Some of us go back to the Camino. Some go back time and time again. To learn more lessons? To define ourselves? To breathe that refined and sacred air of a pilgrimage? We each have our different reasons. Already I’m thinking of my next one. And the next.

Jennifer and I got back home yesterday. We went to sleep and woke up 18 hours later. I’ve never slept 18 hours straight before in my life. Never.

Jennifer is nauseous. She was nauseous at the start of the Camino, now she’s nauseous at the end. It’s an esoteric reaction to an emotional state. It has nothing to do with anything else – it’s an energetic cleansing.

The Camino has that kind of impact. It resonates in all kinds of ways, in different ways in different people.

It’s hard coming home from a Camino.

Bridge with scallop shell



24 thoughts on “Camino Portuguese – coming home is hard.

  1. We each come home differently, but all you say is true. No matter what, the world each of us comes home to is different than the world we share on a Camino. Better, worse? No, just different, and it can require a period of readjustment. A time for introspection? Likely. Even for a “non believer” like me. 🙂

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  2. Bill,

    Yes “it is hard coming home from a Camino”. I always wish it hadn’t ended, I wish it had continued.

    No matter how long the Camino is, no matter how many days it takes to walk, no matter how hard the walking is, the arrival in Santiago signifies the end. The end of the special time to walk the paths walked by so many people before.

    As you know, I like you, always have another Camino on the horizon. I am now formulating plans for another long Camino in 2014, maybe the Arles or Le Puy to Santiago. Crazy some might say since I will be returning in August for my fourth Camino. For me it has truly been a case of “Once Bitten”.

    Tiene magia en su vida,

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  3. Bill, remember, I told you it took me 7.5 months to come OFF my Camino…It was unreal. It was difficult. I went into mourning. My family thought I had joined a cult somewhere and had been reprogrammed. I daydreamed, constantly. I was hard to focus. I shut out the world.

    I needed time to come to terms with so much “stuff” and swim through such fog to reach the shore of everyday reality.

    As you said, IT IS HARD…. but I wouldn’t have missed a single breath of it. Having adopted some of my pilgrim serenity to life – has been such a blessing and help.

    I don’t even know how I am going to be like after I go back and home again. There are times when I think I might not want to do another Camino… imagine that!

    Then I think back how wonderful alive I felt each moment, because I was able to live in the moment.

    Everyday life can be distractive – all those realities interfering… 😉

    You and Jennifer are very blessed to have shared this experience, there is an automatic understanding and tolerance when one of you works through some after effects.

    I can only imagine. When one has walked solo, that initially was a challenge for me and my family and friends.

    Keep your Camino spirit alive in each other. Light and Love Ingrid


  4. Very true Ingrid, what you say. And yes, this time with Jennifer having gone through the experience, it is wonderful now to be able to talk about it, and recollect incidents and people from our different perspectives. I think, as you say, coming home and trying to integrate the Camino into living each day, that is as big a challenge, perhaps bigger, than walking The Way itself.


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  5. I agree with you all about coming home. It is hard and life changing. We, too are now planning and saving for another camino.
    Bill, a long tie ago you said something about a contest for a way picture or best arrow. The above picture, in my opinion, is the winner. I love how it just glows. Great shot. Last camino, the one that stands out for me is the white horse in the stand of trees.


    • Hi Lynda, thanks for the compliment re the photo. And yes, I liked the white horse shot too.

      Yes, coming home from a Camino is a whole other challenge in itself. Especially if you have to come home immediately after finishing. That can be very wrenching. At least on both occasions for me, I’ve had wind down time, or reflection/processing time, in Europe before getting on a plane and returning home.


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  6. Hello Bill,

    Yes it is very very hard to come back. On Ivar forum it is adressed as the famous Camino Blues. It can last for ever. My first time on the Camino it lasted two months, I asked for help on the french pilgrim forum, I received 33 answers. +

    For most folks the solution is to think about the next. For others is to change life, living more simple, getting rid of things, furnitures, stuff. or gettting rid of people, wifes , husbands, friends, that had become uncompatible with our real self. etc ,traveling more, ,or simply getting on their own . others are now hospitaleros,

    For me it was working less, and planning others caminos.

    Now I am planning la voie de vezelay, a less traveled road, across france. and  I have a question for jennifer. would you like to walk with me ? this summer.

    Bill I have also received indications for walking from Paris to Vezelay and from Vezelay to Le Puy.

    I will see.

    see you on the road again.

    > Message du 04/05/14 15:51 > De : “PGS – The Way” > A : > Copie à : > Objet : [New post] Camino Portuguese – coming home is hard. > >

    Bill Bennett posted: “It’s hard coming home from a Camino. No-one really talks about this. The Camino takes you up so high, then you come home and you drop down so low. Steve on this past Camino said it’s an unreal world. And yes, it is. For the period of time you’re “

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    • Dear Marie – what you say about the Camino Blues is so so true!

      I will pass this onto Jennifer so she can respond to you herself. I hope you are well and happy – I am sure you are!!

      big hug


  7. Hi Bill. That is so true. I crashed and burned when I got home on the Saturday. I had had a week to wind down from the Camino high but it still hit me very hard.

    I now find myself constantly daydreaming about it. I’m reliving moments. Sometimes an event will pop into my head and it’s something I haven’t thought of since it happened. I’m seeing arrows everywhere too!!

    I’m even putting into practice the very valuable chats I had with everyone. In particular Jen and Julie. This was such a life changing experience for me and I’ll be forever thankful.

    You told me a long time ago I was bitten. You were right.

    Happy Camino memories to everyone.


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    • HI Donna – it leaves you ripped, doesn’t it. I remember on my first Camino, I walked with a lovely couple (Ivan the Terrible and his Beautiful Wife Giovanna) who finished on the Sunday, and had to start work on the Monday in Italy. It really rocked them. There is no easy way to come down from the Camino. It just takes time. Not everyone can hang around Europe and use it like a decompression chamber. So it’s no wonder they get “The Bends.”

      Thank you for those lovely words about the experience. You and Greg were incredible. particularly given it was your first Camino. I miss you guys!!!!



  8. Bill, I am so glad you address this. I had been expecting that something like this happens post Camino.
    In 2007 my daughter and I went to China for a month. We had such a strange and difficult time of “readjustment” coming back just before Christmas especially!
    As always, thank you for your insightful comments. Please continue to post as I, and I’m sure everyone, looks forward to hearing from you every morning!

    PS, if you slept 18 hours, it’s probably because you NEEDED IT! There’s no shame in that!

    Fran H


    • Hi Fran – yes, your body tells you what to do. Where you get sick is when you don’t listen to it. I seem to have now avoided jetlag. That 18 hrs knocked it on the head! Thanks for your kind words re the blog – I won’t post daily, but regularly. When I feel I have something worth saying… Bill


  9. Hi Bill and Jen – it’s two years to the day (6 May 2012) since Britta, Janet and I walked into Santiago with our friends Gordon, Pat, Lesley, Peter and Roger.

    I had a really hard time back in Australia as I had found something very precious and I wanted to hang on to that, but the majority of my family and friends just couldn’t understand why the Camino had affected me so much. So I began searching the net for anything and everything “Camino” and, of course, the world of the Camino was revealed and started to give back. Since that time the Camino has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. It’s enriched my life.

    Bill – you’ve already done so much searching and researching – look at what the Camino has given you in the past year or so – two pilgrimages, a hugely successful blog and book, so many new friends who are very important to you, ideas for the future – and more – it’s a long list. Work on that list to ease the ache – anything is possible.

    Jenny x x

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  10. Dear Jenny, what beautiful sentiments. Thank you! You are absolutely right about others not understanding. A lot of them don’t understand why you did it in the first place, then they don’t understand your emotions and dislocation when you return. That makes the return, and the attempts to integrate back into normal life, even harder.

    Funny thing, my brother Bob (18 months younger than me, and living in Brisbane) was totally disinterested in walking the Camino when I returned. I talked to him about doing it, but he worried about his fitness, health issues, and the time it would take out of his working life.

    And then his 21yr old son watched THE WAY, and asked Bob if they could do the Camino together. And now it looks like that’s what they’ll do! That film has had a powerful impact.

    Jenny, what you said about what the Camino has given me – yes, it still surprises and shocks me really. I never expected any of this to happen. I just had an irrational desire to do this crazy pilgrimage. Then one thing led to another.

    The Camino has already enriched my life. And one of the most wonderful things someone said on this blog recently is that they said I was a hospitalero. That what I was doing, through the blog and the book and now the tour, was encouraging others to bring the Camino, and what it represents, into their lives.

    Again I haven’t set out to do this. I have written to really make sense of it for myself – because it has all been confusing and overwhelming at times. I have never set myself up as an expert or as a do-gooder. But this person’s comment had a profound impact on me.

    Sometimes things happen incidently. Obliquely. All I know is that like you, the Camino has become a part of my life.

    Thank you again for such a generous post.


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  11. The hardest thing for me was adjusting myself to the pace of the “outside” world again. The camino slowed me down, slowed my thinking down, slowed my worrying down, slowed my life in general down. And then I got back home, and the world hadn’t slowed down. I wanted to maintain that slow lifestyle, but the world and people around me forced me to speed everything back up again. People show sympathy for a while, but after a couple of days people just get tired of hearing about your Camino. Maybe because it’s so foreign and strange to them? I can understand their point of view too, I wouldn’t want to look at someone’s holiday pictures or hear their stories for weeks in a row.

    I’m glad I walked with my boyfriend. Our camino is almost two years ago (my stomach turned a little bit while writing that) but almost every week we talk about it. And then we look at each other and say “It was great, wasn’t it.” “It was the best.” We can look forward to another one next year, I don’t know how I would feel if we didn’t have that.

    (ps: love reading your blog Bill, it keeps the Camino spirit alive!)


    • Yes, the “real” world doesn’t change much, it the nice thing is that you (we) can set the pace for our own world within the hustle and bustle of others. I am probably the least bitten by the Camino bug, but I have such fond memories of the Camino France last year and the Camino Portuguese this year. I don’t know if I will do another or not, but would not take anything for the experience. I think walking last year helped me sort out what was important and what was not, and the conclusion was that most things fell under the heading of unimportant. That was huge for me.

      Today, I try to live my life without expectation or judgment, and find that I am fairly successful at it. I find i challenge my own thoughts before i act. I also try to live within my needs rather than my means, or heaven forbid, above my means. I stepped off the treadmill. Requires that I live with less certainty, but interestingly what I used to see as certainties, rarely proved to be. Most of what we project into the future never happens the way we project it, so eliminating that anticipation rewards us with nice surprises.

      We do not know each other, but a friend of Bill’s is a friend of mine. We are all kind of a family, I think. Thanks for stimulating my thoughts. I don’t know if I will ever do another Camino, but yes, the Caminos I have done have profoundly impacted my life, maybe because I let go and allowed them to.

      Steve 🙂

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    • Hi vodkas mad, ( haha, that’s what my predictive text came up with when I tried to type “voskosmos!”

      Don’t know your name, but thank you for the post. Two years later and it’s still impacting on you and your boyfriend – wow, that’s pretty amazing!



      • My real name is Inne, I’m from Belgium 🙂 Voskosmos is the name of my blog. “Vodkas mad” isn’t too bad, but I’ve been “the fox’s boss” in one of my friends’ predictive texts. How cool is that? Like I’m the leader of the pack!

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        • Hi then Inne – welcome to this blog! Fox’s Boss is a cool name. If I were you I’d change it by deed poll really fast, in case someone else grabs it! 🙂


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