Returning from the Camino.
Meeting people from around the globe, facing the unexpected, experiencing physical and mental cleansing, laughter, natural beauty, and immersing into unavoidable periods of self-reflection, were all intoxiating. Returning home was like coming down from a lengthy 'high,' and asked myself, how could I transfer just a small bit of that beautiful experience into my everyday life? A basic diet, accepting simple shelter, self-discipline, the motivation to walk in all weathers, overcoming obstacles, all helped to become more aware of the wasteful 'normal' lifestyle, at home, with all its superfluous material. I found beauty in simplicity and found a different me.
We were all the same. No one talked politics, religion, or profession. Status was meaningless on that journey. I walked alone from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago Compostela giving myself plenty of time to soak up the experience. In all that time only one person broke the golden rule by asking why? I politely answered, 'it's personal.' Overall the precious slower pace of the Camino enabled a deep inward self-examination of both good and bad, about my reactions towards others, myself, and to the unexpected. The whole journey was a culmination of adventure, excitement, the spiritual, the different, and cleansing.
I'm fortunate. At home I'm able to leave my easel at anytime, put on my boots, walk out of my studio door, and lose myself in the Welsh hills. Walking alone on rugged paths bring memories, reasserts purpose, and reminds me of the three Camino vows I set myself when I left Santiago. Two I keep. The third I'm still working on. National Trust yellow arrows aren't the same as the trusted Camino way marks but are a nice substitute, and I've a Camino waymark on a wooden post in my garden. I carry cafe con leche with fresh orange juice in my backpack, as remote isolated areas are without cafe stops but the peace, bird song, sound of my footsteps, and the wind in my ears, all help to send my mind back to those Camino heady meditative states.
I keep my house and garden spotlesss. Trying to reflect what I saw while walking through those clean and tidy ancient villages, mostly in disrepair, but showing evidence of people taking pride in what they have got, offering kindhearted genuine hospitality, with no one taking advantage. It helped me realize how rich I am, to have good health, and purpose. My diet now leans towards simpler Spanish dishes and Riioja wine and plenty of exercise. Unfortunately, I can't get hold of their local gorgeous wines.
The Camino didn't finish at Santiago de Compostela. I managed to bring it back with me and has certainly changed my life. I'll always remember three great lessens from the many learnt on that journey; to listen, be patient, and see beauty in simpicity. Now I walk through villages at home and see tidy gardens, clean cars, no litter, and more wildlife all a result of 'lock down.' I think the message is spreading. I hope it lasts.
I'm not sure if the Camino rotes will be open in the near future. I walked part of the Via de la Plata from Seville last year which was more isolated and a definitely solitary trek. Lisbon looks good but do I really need a Camino again? After all, I found a new me on the first one, and know I can't repeat that same experience. So for now, the Welsh hills and painting are my continuing Camino.