10 Ways to Battle Post-Camino Blues/Depression

Two years ago, after weeks of walking over 500 miles across the north of Spain, I wearily stepped foot into Santiago de Compostela, the celebrated finish line of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The Camino provided me with a life-changing journey and I gained unforgettable realizations and confidence from the experience. And for the longest time after I returned home, all I could think about was being back on the Camino; the same Camino I cursed day after day for the physical and emotional struggles it caused. Despite these hardships, the peace and serenity I found throughout the long walk, along with the freedom and liberation from the stresses of my daily life couldn’t be matched in the ‘real world.’ Before I knew it, the elation I felt while on The Way (another term for the Camino), turned into a post-Camino depression.

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I would walk 500 Miles: An Anecdotal Transition back to the 'Real World' after Completing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage in Spain

The Camino seems like a far-away dream at this point. A dream that I wish I hadn't woken up from. To think that just two years ago, I was a pilgrim; walking an average of 10 miles a day from pueblo-to-pueblo or city-to-city.  It’s been a little while since I stepped foot in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the celebrated finish line of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Camino Frances route) Pilgrimage. I vividly remember that moment and everything I had worked for up until then… the blood (literally… the unearthly blisters!), the sweat and tears that went into walking those 500 miles (800 km) from St. Jean-Pied-Du-Port (eastern side of the Pyrenees mountain range), France to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela (northwestern Spain). All worth it, along with a picture in front of the famous cathedral and a Compostela (certificate) to document this feat I completed.

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Day 35+: Santiago de Compostela, Spain- Porto, Portugual- Lisbon, Portugal

We woke up in our room fit for royalty, in the parador, and were so happy we didn't have to walk anywhere other than to the bus station today. We took our time getting to breakfast, and HOLY MOLY, it was a buffet also fit for royalty. AND THEY HAD GLUTEN FREE EVERYTHING. On top of this, we ran into Lane from TX. We all seemed to be walking on cloud nine. We caught up with him and took some photos in front of the Cathedral together before parting ways. Guys, if you can afford it, try to stay int his parador once you make it to Santiago. It's worth every penny. 

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Day 34: O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compestela aka THE FINISH LINE!!!

Walking into Santiago felt like it took forever, but I never walked so lightly, so briskly into a city on the Camino. What a feeling ! Which I believe would be more bitter than sweet, if it weren’t for this cold (slightly better) and my blister-riddled feet. Santiago is an old and beautiful city, full of history. But I seem to always visit cathedrals while they are being renovated. There were quite a few pilgrims rejoicing in front of the construction site (that’s what it was).  They were all either crying, laughing, hugging, or laying on the square’s floor, staring at the clouds and digesting their own feelings. I didn’t recognize most, but I did run into Thomas, Tongdo, Mitchell and Peter.  Peter was my Camino stalker from Hungary, who I felt the need to take a photo with in front of the cathedral (because it was a win-win situation).  As the photo was being taken, and with a heavy accent he told me that he hoped he as a Hungarian was a positive representation of Hungary, causing me to burst out into laughter. Then apologized for perhaps making me feel uncomfortable for placing his arm around me for the photo. Nah dude, you breathing heavily behind me on the trail and in restaurants made me feel uncomfortable.

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Day 33: Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo aka Sick and Tired

My cold is pretty bad, and I’m sad to say I was ‘that’ person in the alrbergue last night who could not stop coughing. No sleep, resulting in being up earlier than usual. Luckily, Europe’s Daylight Saving’s time occurred today, giving us ‘sunshine’ aka gloomy light an hour earlier than usual. Other than what seemed like endless walking, and forcing myself to eat tasteless calories, I can’t remember much from today. And as you can see, didn't take very many photos. 

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Day 32: Palas de Rey to Ribadiso aka Pulpo Fresco

Upon leaving our ´hotel,´we located a bar to have coffee and zummo OJ.  It wasn´t raining until about 10 minutes into our trail.  Having a cold, this really put a damper on things (no pun intended).  Luckily we had stopped at a pharmacy were I was able to get some herbal medicine.  I was also able to get a refill on my prescriptions I had on me.  Why is the US Healthcare system as corrupt as it is?  For example, I got 30 Tramadol tablets for 5 euros without a prescription or insurance.  Must be nice, Europe.  Must be real nice. Unfortunately, no Z-pack without a prescription. 

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Day 31: Portomarin to Palas de Rey aka It was all a Fog

Woke up with achy muscles and a sore throat... I guess the patio wasn´t as warm as I had perceived it to be last night.  I´m surprised I have held out without getting sick for this long, so I can´t really complain.  It´s really only a few more days until we reach Santiago.  We again declined the 8 euro a person buffet at this new hotel, and opted for just coffee.  It was foggy beyond belief outside, and you couldn´t see more than 100 ft in front of you. This made what seemed to be the hundreds of new pilgrims following us look like zombies protruding from out of the fog.  The fog also gave the lost city of the river an even more eerie vibe.  

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Day 30: Sarria to Portomarin aka Well, I'll be dammed

We decided to decline the €10 a person breakfast buffet that the hotel had to offer.  Instead we opted for coffee and gluten-free stale muffins for 2 euros each at nearby bar.  This AM was cold, and as we were leaving Sarria, I kept thinking to myself that I am sure this city has more to offer, and that we weren´t in a good mindset yesterday to enjoy it.

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Day 29: Fonfria to Sarria aka Zummo!

Our albergue may not have had any gluten-free breakfast options, but it did have a Zummo vending machine. Take note: Christmas/Hanukkah/Birthday wish-list only includes this vending machine. In all seriousness, we knew that real food was 12 km away, and that we couldn’t afford to skip out on two meals like we did yesterday since we were completing 23k today. Therefore, we sat for an all-American (ha) breakfast at a bar in Triscaterra, 12k in.

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Day 28: Herreira to Fonfria aka Pallozas

The coffee was super crappy this morning, which meant we would have to wait for 12 km, all uphill until we could get our hands on some descent Joe and hopefully something edible. We were however grateful for the sunshine, bringing us some surreal views. Our app recommended taking the road rather than the trail set out for pilgrims. Perhaps we were sharing the road with cars and bikes, but we didn’t have to climb down and back up and up again for more of an incline, unlike the other pilgrims.

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Day 27: Villafranca de Bierzo to Las Herrerias aka Power's Out

All but two pilgrims had left by the time we had gone to the kitchen for our breakfast. The express coffee maker was not up to our standards of coffee that we had gotten used each morning at the various cafes we sat in. We were saddened by the sight of rain pouring outside, knowing that it would make for a long day. Starting off on the Camino, we got a good idea of how pretty Villafranca de Bierzo would be sans rain and fog. At the point of exiting the city, we had a choice of either passing under the seemingly narrow and treacherous tunnel or taking the long way around. We opted for the former. This was a good risk to take, as it resulted in us saving two miles of walking in the rain. I wouldn’t usually say this, but I was glad to walk parallel to the road today because of how much it was pouring. Luckily it wasn’t just road, but also nature (mountains, rivers, streams) keeping us company… And even better, no rocks.

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Day 26: Ponferrada to Villafranca de Bierzo aka "A farmer doesn't eat what he doesn't know"

I had some coffee, OJ and the rest of the gluten-free bread I was given for free yesterday. It was surprisingly not that cold outside and the weather report said no rain, but the gray colored clouds seemed to think otherwise. I don’t trust meteorologists.

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Day 25: Acebo to Ponferrada aka Two Paths

Our breakfast this morning made up for yesterday’s mediocre dinner, and it was included in our stay. The skater boy setting it up gave me an entire loaf of the gluten-free bread to-go (the one I really like here). We thought by 9:30 AM we would be the last to leave our albergue, but rather the family from Delaware was right ahead of us, finishing up their bfast upon our arrival. With only 13 miles to complete today, we figured there was time to spare. The descent down the mountain was steeper than expected, and we saw absolutely no pilgrims on the trail. There were times when we were questioning whether we were on the right path, then a yellow arrow would show up out of no where. There were also a couple of moments where we could hear gunshots from a distance.. Most likely hunters, we figured.

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Day 24: Rabanal to Acebo aka Mad Cow(s)

Once again, we were awoken by church bells at 7 AM (I’m glad they have not one, but three churches for a town of less than 50). Really though, how have people not made any complaints about this? Breakfast was five euros and I would’ve paid five euros to get back my untainted taste buds. I was initially stoked to hear that that they had gluten-free bread, but it turned out to be as old as the Roman remains in town. I swear it may, or may not have had mold on it. Luckily, I still had day-old toasted bread from Astorga yesterday that I saved in case of emergency. I suppose this was an emergency.

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Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal aka Church Bells

The church bells made it impossible to continue sleeping in our wonderful, warm and comfy beds. How are people in these towns 'ok' with church bells going off until midnight and then waking up you up again at 7 AM? Seven hour of silent sleep isn't enough. We barely made it outside before hitting a wall of 1°C cold fog, forcing us to throw on more layers. The fog gave the city this eerie vibe we weren’t accustomed to. We decided to stop at the café for coffee and OJ, and toast (the gluten-free bread I purchased yesterday). We then went to the cathedral where mass was taking place, and took pictures realizing later that there was a poster with a camera crossed off in the front. Sorry Jesus.

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Day 22: Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga aka Food Coma

Woke up decently early and had coffee and orange juice before heading out from our albergue. We both agreed that this was the second cleanest albergue we had stayed in thus far. The waitress, who’s also the hospedería (most do both) is really sweet but I was saddened to see her go outside to smoke more than once, being 7 months pregnant and all. I’m used to everyone smoking in Europe, but not as much as I have seen in Northern Spain.

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Day 21: Leon to Hospital de Orbigo aka This Charming Man

I was surprised to wake up as late as 8:30 AM this morning, but I got the sense that I was trying to sleep something off. We bumped into a couple of pilgrims we knew yesterday, and all had a cold. This is why I’ve been dousing myself with Doterra’s OnGuard essential oil since I’ve been here, and I feel like it has helped some. We headed down for our last breakfast at the hotel. Their staff is really so affable. We grabbed a map to spot the location of the post office and a few other stores we wanted to hit up before heading out. So, who spends €140 mailing out postcards and souvenirs? Obviously, I do… Luckily the post office system is really organized. I grabbed my ticket (number 82) and had enough time to place everything in proper envelopes. The postman was sweet and patient, most likely because he knew how much I was spending. I justify it thinking it’s better than carrying it all on my back. After that, we headed to a few stores, including Mercadona, a supermarket known to have a gluten-free section. Stocked up on bread and pasta, all for €5. Such a steal! 

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Day 20: Rest day in Leon aka And I'm (un)Happy when it Rains

Woke up at 7 AM this morning, and had an amazing breakfast. Amazing because the staff (who are all awesome) had gluten-free bread waiting for me. While feastin’, this group of cute hip rockers walked in for some Johnny Walker and cerveza. They clearly hadn’t slept yet. Soon after they went outside with their booze and instruments and played some great jams. Although I was watching from afar, and a few of them had waived hello to me, I was much too shy to take a video of them playing their own awesome rendition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ After their short impromptu concert, I was happy to catch up on blogging and even finished filling out all 35 postcards.

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Day 19: Sahugun to Leon aka “Sin dolor, no hay Camino”

At 6:30 AM we were awoken by the sound of loud church bells. I suppose it was time to rise for the The Last Breakfast... Ha! After packing up our belongings, we headed to the comedor, where we found Bridgette. She told us how the head nun yelled at her this morning for apparently leaving her bathroom light on all night, and thus wasting energy. “I don’t know how she knew I had left it on? I need it for when I use the restroom at night and can’t see.” We exchanged our own nun-run ins. I informed the nun I was allergic to gluten yesterday, so I had a banana and yogurt awaiting my arrival, while the others had plastic wrapped pastries. We paid €3 each for this feast, since we’re all told that nothing else would be open at this time (7:15 AM). Have I mentioned that sunrise isn’t until 8:30 AM here? So it's pretty dark when we begin walking.

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Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to Sahugun aka The Camino Ghost

We are currently staying in a monastery (Albergue de las Madres Benactidinas) where the stamp they use looks like it’s a HP dementor... Quite fitting for them. Where do I start with this place? It is €17 per person to stay in a creep double room, and they charged us €10 each to wash and dry our clothes and wouldn’t even wash everything in the bag provided, because they said we packed too much inside? Mind you, the nun busted into our room while I was showering just to tell us this. Later on, when it was time to grab our laundry, she angrily told me I nearly broke the dryer because our clothing had too much lint? I was shocked by the way she spoke to me, and could not formulate a response, and then she said, “wow poor girl, you don’t speak any Spanish at all, do you?”

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