Maybe some of you can relate to coming home after an incredible trip that took you out of your comfort zone, and feeling a sense of loss for a few days. I have been sad putting away my suitcase from my recent time in Spain, looking at the few souvenirs I purchased with a sense of nostalgia, and thinking about getting back into my hiking routine that won’t include 10-11 miles every day. I am calling this feeling I am having a “post cultural shock experience”.
It’s been four days since I returned from eighteen days in Spain with two separate groups of women hiking the last seventy miles of the Camino de Santiago.
In total, I hiked 167.5 miles. I have never felt stronger, but it is hard to believe it is over. Twenty-six women spent a lot of effort over the last year getting prepared for this pilgrimage that has been hiked for over a 1000 years.
The journey I have looked forward to since December 2020 is complete. I am on a high from the experience but also feeling a little sad.
I miss the beautiful countryside of Galicia and walking by the fields of cows and sheep, or through the woods and small towns. How often to you get to start out walking at 9 a.m. in the morning and literally be outside until late afternoon?
How often do you travel with less than 30 pounds for over two weeks and realize we don’t need all the clothes and shoes that fill our closets? How often do we just eat three healthy meals a day without have a refrigerator or pantry to go grab snacks? I especially miss the traditional tortilla española for lunch….eggs and potatoes that look like a quiche. Just driving on the highway and seeing huge homes back here in the U.S. is a cultural shock after being out in nature and walking through the forest each day.
A highlight, of course, was being with the group of dynamic women talking and laughing. First, it is very therapeutic ☺ It was especially fun for me as I knew all the women except two (a mother of a friend and a daughter of a friend, both of whom I had never met). Four fellow colleagues from my airline days were on the first trip, and it was so special to relive past memories we have all shared and now make new ones.
The seventy-mile goal is not a walk in the park, even though that is opposite of what I told some of the gals prior to the trip. Like childbirth, you forget about those hills after time. I did the same hike in 2016, and just remembered thinking back to one challenging hill.
However, this trek is nothing you cannot do without persistence of one step at a time. After that first day, we all knew 10-11 miles a day was mind over matter.
Just follow the famous signs that mark the Camino with an arrow and a shell, and you will be led to the final destination.
Walking in solitude was also a highlight. For me, it was a time of prayer, reflection, and gratitude. My heart was filled with joy for everything from my health, to being able to do this pilgrimage, to being with friends, both new and old – those I have known for decades or those I have gotten to know over this past year as we walked to prepare.
An added value on the trip was doing yoga right after we got to our home away from home at the end of each day. Accommodations ranged from old family manors to farmhouses called Pazos.
There was always a garden or green space for us to do some gentle movements, getting into our hips, hamstrings, and calves after a full day of walking. It was a delight for me to have two fellow yoga colleagues on the second trip, which allowed the women to experience Kundalini and gentle yoga by two fabulous teachers.
We set intentions each morning based on the seven chakras to go along with the seven days we were on the trail. Intentions that included being grounded on the first day, to connecting to the Divine on the last day when we walked to our final destination.
At the end of the 70 miles, we walked directly to the St. James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela before attending mass. This is where the apostle James is buried. There was a zero mile stone in the square in front of the cathedral where the pilgrims who walked the 70 miles, or the entire 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, often congregate….many with tears in their eyes.
Maybe you have experienced a complete immersion into a destination and when you returned home it was surreal.
Friends and family are glad I am home, but no one can really know what a life changing experience it was. God does though. Below is a quote I recently found that sums up what travel can do for the soul:
“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”
Hope you join us on this spiritual journey next May.
Sally Bassett May 28, 2022