I’ve been back for just over a week. Life on the Camino is a complete removal from the London routine. You wake up at 6am, pack your rucksack together and walk through the darkness until the sun rises behind your back an hour later. You finish before the sun becomes too hot and see all the familiar faces at the next albergue. Dinner is 5 languages ricocheting around a local tavern duly serving the 3 course 10 euro pilgrim menu which is the same across the whole of the 780km route from St Jean with the exception of Galicia where they throw in pulpo/octopus as a bonus.
I find something therapeutic in the walking routine. Sometimes your feet are covered in blisters, sometimes the pain in your knee breaks your stroll into a inglorious hobble, sometimes all your mind can think of is your next bed. Often, however, your mind peacefully escapes the Spanish landscape and lands on the people you’re invested in around the world, on the things you want to do when you get back, on the dreams you need to realise.
During the Camino, I got struck down (literally) after drinking some dodgy water from a small village albergue. Without being too dramatic, I felt like I was going to die - vomiting for 8 hours straight. Only after an injection in my rear by a local doctor did the tide start to turn. Two days spent in a Leon hotel and a hefty cocktail of prescribed medication was enough for me to gingerly start walking again. This period of vulnerability was a helpful reminder of how fragile we can all be.
Yesterday was world mental health day. If it wasn’t something I battled with, I’m painfully aware that it is something that I would struggle to empathise with. A well meaning friend said I should just pull myself together during one of my more darker periods and I’m aware that if I wasn’t in that dark place I might have said something equally crass. Similar to how Jordan Peterson reminds us that we look back at history and imagine ourselves as the noble liberators when most of us would be the prison guards.
I think what I’m trying to say is kindness is key. Even if you don’t quite understand why that person can’t just get out of bed or why they isolate themselves even when they need their friends more than ever, why they can’t manage to eat or sleep or sleep too much. Most of us are going through things we can’t see even if they look confident and in control and their instagram is on point.
Life has been relentless since coming back. I’m commuting in from Hertfordshire, early starts and late evenings. It’s good though. London is home and I’m happy to be here.
A presto. TJP