Why Your Friends at Home Don’t Care About Your Camino

When I came back from my first long hike on the Camino de Santiago, friends and family would politely ask, “how was your trip?”

If you, too, have walked part of the Camino or come home from some other big adventure, you understand the dilemma.

I could give a short, trite, insufficient answer. It was great! It was hard! It was beautiful!

Or I could try to tell them how it really was. How it changed my sense of the world. How I cried sometimes in frustration and sometimes because of the beauty. How every single day was different. I could tell them about people I met for just a day or two, who are going to be my friends for life. I could describe the architecture. I could launch into just one of the dozens of stories of the unexpected that filled every day.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this latter approach didn’t go well. The eyes of my well-intentioned friends or colleagues would glaze over. They’d tune out. They’d change the subject.

I was describing some of the most dramatic moments of my life, and they were clearly bored.

How we spent our afternoons
Okay, Eric’s not really bored here.

And it wasn’t just me. An article on Forbes last week, not-so-subtly titled Why No One Cares About Your Travels,” described the results of a scientific study that was done to measure this disconnect.

 It turns out it isn’t (primarily) about jealousy; the problem is about context. Your adventures are unrelatable. Most people are simply more interested in talking about familiar things than they are curious about the new things that you want to introduce to the conversation. Yes, there is a social cost associated with leaving the herd and having unique experiences.

That disconnection from friends and family—what Forbes calls the “social cost” of adventure—adds to the emotional and mental challenge of re-entering “normal” life after something like the Camino. Back in March at the American Pilgrims on the Camino’s National Gathering, the breakout hit conference talk was from Alexander John Shaia, author of Returning from the Camino, who says in his introduction that “the Camino is filled with a ‘muchness’ that requires sorting.”

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So when you come home from an experience like walking the Camino, or some other grand adventure, what should you do? Where do you process?

Here are a few things that worked for me.

 

Stay connected to the people who shared your experience.

Stay connected to the people you met on the trail. If you’re on social media, befriend or follow them. But also, send emails. Share photos. Maybe even visit them. No matter how far away they live or how different their “normal” lives seem, they’ll be the ones who will understand this part of you best.

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My Camino del Norte family, 2018

Stay connected to the people who love what you love.

There’s a reason that Facebook groups like American Pilgrims on the Camino and CAMIGAS draw tens of thousands of members. This is our clubhouse, the place where we come to share photos, articles, memories, and tips. (In fact, I found that Forbes article from a link in a Facebook group.) These are the people who will know why you smile at the thought of coffee and milk and why you still say “gracias” automatically sometimes in restaurants.

Not a “share online” kind of person? Find out if there’s a local chapter of your national Camino organization or confraternity, and attend their events. (Here’s a list of current US Camino chapters.)

more guest books (and a nice shot of Spot)

Write it down.

Instead of trying to hold your memories close by talking them out with others, write them down. One of the best things I did after my first Camino was starting this blog as a place to make connections. I wanted to share my stories and experiences, show off some photos, and spend some time processing through what I’d just done, in a space that was available to anyone interested, and not required for anyone who wasn’t.

Or, you know, you could compile it all in one place and write a book. 😊

Look forward, not back.

My first Camino walk—the crazy long thousand-mile one—was four years ago now. Eventually, even Eric and I had to admit that our life-changing Camino stories were starting to feel a little stale. We’d regaled everyone we knew with the tale of the miracle sheep on a mountain, and the resurrecting chickens, and the neverending shoe dilemmas. It was time to stop living in the past.

Which, of course, meant only one thing: it was time for a new adventure. No, we couldn’t take another three-month sabbatical and cross two whole countries. But I’ve made shorter trips to the Camino Frances and the Camino del Norte. And in between those trips, we let the spirit of the Camino and the things we learned lead us elsewhere. Walking became part of our travel plans. Meeting people from around the world became more important. And so there was the week we spent day hiking a long-distance trail on Canada’s Sunshine Coast, and a year later, a week exploring the hot springs and glaciers in the Canadian Rockies. We started day hiking in our own mountains on weekends, and last month we went to Arizona for the first time to see the Grand Canyon.

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In other words, we keep creating new stories.

Four years after I discovered this new side of myself, I’m still traveling and walking, and my friends are probably even less interested in hearing about subsequent adventures. But that’s okay, because I have options.

What about you? If you’ve walked parts of the Camino or had some other incredible travel adventure, how did you bring it home? What do you do to both hold onto it and not overwhelm the people who stayed home?

 


13 thoughts on “Why Your Friends at Home Don’t Care About Your Camino

  1. I can definitely relate to this. I also saw the Forbes article linked by the APOC Facebook group. I have experienced what I refer to as the “Camino Blues” when I return and after reading that article and now your blog, I realize that this reality is a big part of why I have a difficult time integrating back into my “real” life (and I’m even retired!!!?!!??!). I made a local friend (found her on the APOC FB page!!!) and we continue to walk together and my sister-in-law is a great one to chat with as she and her husband have completed several Caminos as well as other walks in Europe. But she lives in Anchorage so not super handy to hang with. My husband is good at humoring me when we travel so when we go to Arizona for Spring Training we hike a lot and also when we take our annual trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico we walk from 4-10 miles daily. I can’t get him to walk around home with me unless a meal is involved and that’s usually at the end of only a mile! A MILE?!?!? That’s my warm up! I now find myself walking to my doctor’s and chiro appointments (6 miles from home in opposite directions). And of course I walk to the grocery store and library – and just around and around and around! I walked from my Kirkland home to a Mariners game last week – 12 miles (I got a ride home)! So if I CAN walk somewhere, I will – completely due, I am sure, to my Camion experiences. I ponder the idea of walking to Portland to visit my aunt… I dream of the Camino EVERY night. It’s pathetic… And yes, I have “had” to go back and back, four times now, a different route each time (though partials – 200 miles on the Via di la Plata, 250 miles on the Norte, 500 miles from SJPP on the Frances and the whole Primitivo). And I will probably end up going on another in August/September (and unfortuanately my hubby doesn’t want me to go this time for some reason he cannot articulate – though he won’t join me). It can be lonely being a pilgrim while not on the walking path – because now it seems I am a pilgrim at all times… Only another pilgrim can understand that. Thanks for this blog post, your others and also for your book! I had hoped to catch you “on tour” yet it just didn’t work out. I can’t wait to read it!

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    1. Walking from Kirkland to the stadium? Dang, that’s quite an urban hike! Thanks for sharing all of this. The urge to walk, it seems like, never goes away once you find it. (Nor does the urge to stop mid-hike for some coffee and pastries 🙂 Staying connected to others who share your passion really seems to be key.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post. You are so right about the value of writing. Mine started with a blog, then became an adventure/memoir that I started out writing for my sons. But, it has exceeded expectations and now I am hearing from readers from several countries…it has connected me to so many people. And, as you pointed out, those connections extend the meaning of the Camino.

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  3. I left a dear friend in hospice when I went on the Camino two years ago, not knowing if he would be alive when I returned two weeks later. He was alive and he wanted to hear how the trip was. I had two funny stories to tell him…so I chose those. My epiphanies and trials were nothing like he was going through. His laughter was also another gift from the Camino. I imagine most people we leave behind are going through the mundane or some dramas related to everyday living. Nick passed a few weeks later but when I go back next April, I will make sure the tales I bring back are the light hearted variety to lift the spirits of those not so fortunate to be walking on the Camino. A post-Camino goal.

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  4. Sounds like a case of PEDS
    Post Event Depression Syndrome
    I get it after every big thing I work towards in my life. It’s always, what do I do with myself now?

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  5. I am a Camino trainee! March 2020 is ‘the walk’ with 2 daughters and a granddaughter! As I walk miles and miles… a new sense of awareness is happening ! My soul is saying look, feel, breathe in this amazing moment! Thank you for this wonder blog/writing! Buen Camino wherever your footsteps take you!

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    1. Thank you, Bonnie! This year will pass so quickly for you, and you’ll be on the trail before you know it. Buen Camino!

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  6. You hit the nail on the head. I did the Camino in 2015-2016. Then I went to travel the world. I can relate that no one cares about your travels. Most often because they cannot relate. I tend to travel more and meet other travelers than meet new people in US.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. One of the things I love about travel is the opportunity to connect with people who are sharing this particular adventure with me, and expanding my view of the world in the process.

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  7. This rings so true! Even about just my regular hiking adventures. Curious to see what the return from my Camino will hold for me later this year. Thank you for sharing this–never thought about it this way before. And I trust I will be holding any connections I make close to my heart.

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  8. I was so excited to discover your book at my local bookstore. Most people are only familiar with the Camino from St-Jean and on into Spain. I, like you, started in Le Puy, although I didn’t do the whole thing in one go. I went from there to Cahors the first year (2013) and went back the next year and walked Cahors to St-Jean. And I thought I was done, but two years later (2016)I was back and carried on from St-Jean to Santiago. Your book spoke to me like nothing else I’ve read, partly because it was the full hike, and I loved the French part so much, partly because you did it the way I did, walking, without reservations, and seeing what the day would bring. But your voice, your honesty, your frustrations, resonated. So glad now to find your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Christine, thank you so much for your note! I’m so glad you found the book, and am always happy to connect with another pilgrim from the Chemin du Puy!

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