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Returning & Friendships

Gwaihir

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: Nijmegen (Holland) to Fisterra, July-November 2019.

Future: Te Araroa, NZ
Hi,

So first question - would it be possible at all to create a "returning home" section in the forum? I think it would be helpful to have have a space where these threads are gathered. Specially for "going home" newbies like me.

Anyhow. I have a question for you forum dwellers. It's a rather personal question. It's about the frienships you have on the Camino, and the way these develop, versus old friendships at home.

For the ones who "read" me, I wrote an update about this - basically, I said that on the Camino, it is much easier to just see where a friendship goes. I've met some really cool people, but I was also able to set them free and not mind if I ever saw them again. If I see them again, then fantastic and if not no problem.

At home I have a much harder time with this type of thing. I often invest too much in people - and then when they do not care in the same manner, I can't "walk on" but instead hang on to them. They are often genuinely nice people but choose to distribute their attention differently, not including me. Ideally I would just let go.

Can anybody help me handle this in the Camino way? Advice would be appreciated.

Thank you!
 

tutinegra_pt

Carpe diem
Camino(s) past & future
C.Português:2012,2015,2018,2019
C.P._Finisterra_Muxia:
2013,2016
I know and understand your question :)

I don't have an answer for her, but just a few loose thoughts:

The “Camino” is always a personal experience (and difficult to put into words as one learns and evolves), even if you know many people along the way.

No two “Caminos” are alike, I have done several and in all of them I learned about myself and other new things.

The experience of making various “Caminos” is always different and cumulative.

In my head there is always room for the "Camino" when I face difficulties in my life.


I am Portuguese and I don't write in English the above text is a google translation
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
It's about the frienships you have on the Camino, and the way these develop, versus old friendships at home.
To my mind, there are three distinguishing features about friendships formed on the Camino. First, we tend to bring our authentic, vulnerable selves to the Camino. We don't judge each other by such superficial factors as the status of our professions, or the priciness of our neighborhoods, or the cost or stylishness of our clothes. Second, pilgrims are all on the scene for roughly the same reason, so we have huge areas of commonality just for starters. Third, we spend much more time in actual conversational contact with our pilgrim friends. The result is that our relationships form on an entirely different basis. Maybe your local pilgrim association or hiking club is the place to look for lasting friendships.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I was involved in a private communication with another forum member to try to help you during your Camino trials and tribulations several weeks ago. So, I totally understand where you are coming from. Having some similar personal and medical issues, I can offer these constructive suggestions, that I also hope will benefit others who read them:

1. The Camino is my "Happy Place." It is where my mind retreats when I am having a particularly bad day, bad experience, or even bad or dark thoughts. Even having a polite disagreement with a family member or friend, or a bad experience while driving my car, can send my mind back to happier times on Camino, or in Santiago.

Many of us have heard this term "Happy Place" at times in our lives. When we are in psychic distress, we are encouraged to envision and then mentally put ourselves in this "Happy Place." I found over several years that the Camino is great for this. Really, it is.

Identify several situations that occurred while YOU were on Camino that just made your heart soar. Think about those moments in time. Picture them in living color. Smell it. Hear it. Feel it. Relive those situations, over and over, as needed, and repeat. NOTE: If you are doing something that requires constant attention, like driving, riding a bicycle, or flying an airplane, moderate your bliss accordingly...

The mind is much like a DVR. Use it to your advantage.

2. Go to: https://www.santiago.nl/. This is the website for "het Nederlands Genootschap van Sint Jacobus" (The Dutch Society of Saint Jacob / James). Join it if you have not already. They certainly will have a local group in Nijmegen. Join the local group.

NOTE: I am writing this to Gwaihir as I know he is from Nijmegen in the Netherlands... but the same thing holds true for any pilgrim with similar concerns, most anywhere in the world. Find your nearest group of "Camino junkies." Join it. Become active.

There, you can meet and interact with others who have done the Camino. They will meet regularly,. Go to meetings. Listen, before jumping in so you can gauge the pace, flow and general direction of any group... Start participating slowly, then increase appropriately.

Your experience and interests are unique and will add greatly to this group. They will have activities scheduled at home during the 'off season' that you WILL look forward to." Become an active member, join committees. Help plan off-season activities. Be involved...

It not the same as a Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but it helps in much the same way. When you are around people "totally who get it" and can relate to things you say, life is far easier.

Also, the Dutch Society staffs a 'Huiskamer' (lounge) on the first floor of the Pilgrim Office in Santiago from May to October every year. Once you are active in the society's activities and affairs, you can volunteer to help at this wonderful place. Volunteers are provided a free place to live, completely furnished, for their two-week tours.

These are great people, doing wonderful work, and I try to befriend every one of them while I am at Santiago, either after my Camino, or while I am working for a month each summer at the Pilgrim Office. They know me well...

3. Find a way, or ways, to give back for what you have received...pay it forward.... Being retired, living in South Florida, but not playing golf, I have found that the single best way for me to stay sane most of the time is to give back. I spend perhaps two-hours daily on this forum trying to help others. The American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) has a local chapter (Miami area) and I participate in monthly activities with them as much as I can. Also, I practice my Spanish for at least one-hour daily online using www.duolingo.com. It is FREE.

Taken together, these activities give my daily life a routine that is healthy and supports my passion...the Camino de Santiago. A regular routine is a good thing.

4. Nurture your Camino friends... I can truthfully state that I have far more friends because of the Camino than those accumulated throughout my entire 60-plus year life... so far... Some of these friends are here in the US. Some live in Spain, at Santiago, or elsewhere, in Spain or in Europe. Some are close enough to visit occasionally. Others I communicate with regularly using email. But, I do try to maintain and work to cultivate these friendships.

I have learned that most long-term friendships are best when you share something profound in common. Former classmates from my childhood are long gone and forgotten for the most part. Similarly, university friends are long gone.

Likewise, most of my former colleagues from my professional life faded away after I retired. I went from a contacts directory of over a thousand professional contacts to perhaps less than ten now. I have hundreds of contracts, but essentially none remaining from my professional life.

It is just a fact of life that the passage of time and distance, like when one moves around, creates an emotional distance, Unless one goes out of their way to work diligently to manage former relationships, they wither and fall away. Again, this is a normal paradigm. None of this is personally-directed.

5. Camino 'bonds" and friendships are different... The Camino creates a bond that is different, at least IMHO. The single best comparison I can come up with is with former soldiers who have faced combat, or perhaps former police officers or other first-responders, who have seen the worst of what people can do to each other. Unless you were THERE and experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, you cannot truly or fully understand it.

Unfortunately, for some of us, these intense and sometimes life-threatening activities left a scar or stain on our psyches. The current medical term of art is Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)." Therapies and medications can help, but sometimes a vision, experience, smell, sound or sight will set off memories of BAD times. The Camino, in my view, works in exactly the opposite manner...

This is EXACTLY what I mean when I compare the Camino to this paradigm. EXCEPT, for us, Camino veterans, the sensory triggers usually set off a dopamine rush of GOOD FEELINGS and MEMORIES. In doing a Camino, you are experiencing the flip-side of the coin from a PTS(D) type reaction. In my view, this is the best medicine to having to deal with any emotional illness or anxiety disorder. I have to contend with both conditions, so I know from first-hand experience.

The Camino is one of those life experiences that you cannot truly understand until you have done it. Over six or seven years, have spoken to many, many people about this.

On the Camino, bonds are created and reaffirmed. Many are deep and last for life. They are typically based on the shared experiences, good and sometimes, not so good. Some relationships last only for the Camino itself. But, you seldom forget those who made an indelible impression on you, or who helped create a memory that will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Summary:

I have many Camino memories. They will remain with me until my dying day. Most are very, very good. Others are merely pleasant. I have NO BAD CAMINO MEMORIES.

That is the great thing about using the Camino as my "Happy Place." It never fails to support me when I need it. It is always there, like my shadow. The happy memories are predictable, reliable and forever, unlike many personal relationships we make in life.

Hope this helps...someone...
 

Peadarmac

Irlandes Pedro
Camino(s) past & future
Astorga-S de C '11,'18,19
St Jean-Belorado '13 & '17
Belorado-Astorga '15
Fisterra-Muxia '11,'18,'19
I have long pondered the nature of friendships forged on the Camino and am leaning toward describing them as akin to short lived ‘ephemeral plants’.

In gardening parlance,true to their name, spring flowering ephemerals are plants that the growth/flourish and bloom cycle lasts only a brief time. However Spring ephemerals don't die, but they do go dormant and disappear from view shortly after they stop flowering.
Using this analogy then here are my musings on Camino friendships :

Spring ephemerals (friendships formed on the Camino) are triggered to grow with the first hint of warm weather (when we first set out on the magical Camino).Once warmer weather really takes hold (or when we reach journeys end Santiago/Fisterra/Muxia) ephemerals (our Camino friendships)usually die back on top, but their roots continue growing under the soil possibly ready to bloom again sometime given similar opportune favorable conditions.

It’s just a notion cobbled together on my frequent Camino rambles 🙂
P
 

Peter Voncken

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
april 4 - 14-6 2014 From perigeux to santiago
18-5- 3-6 2015 from Villa Franca del Biedrzo to santiago
Beautiful metaphor! The flower I met on the camino 5 years ago, turned out to be a beautiful rose🙂
The camino has crawled under my skin and makes me long for the meseta, the duro,the cafe americano, the menu perigrino,the last kilometre before reaching the refugio after a 30 km tour, all that creates a incurable longing for that mystical trail between SJPdP and Finesterre every spring again and again.
 

Gwaihir

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: Nijmegen (Holland) to Fisterra, July-November 2019.

Future: Te Araroa, NZ
I like the flower metaphor Peadarmac! Though I think it can apply to friendships at home just as well.

Note that I do have plenty friendships at home that are fine. I'm already a member of the St. James association, and I might go to meetings, but it's not that I need a ton of new friends. It's not the relationships but how I approach my relationships with people.

On the Camino you quickly decide who you will walk with and who brings you down (so you don't walk with them). And being as you're always on the move, it's not hard to quickly let go of the latter, either. But at home somehow I'm more prone to hang on to people. I tend to feel terrible if I have to let them go.

It's this aspect where I wish I would be more flexible and less "stuck" on people. But how to bring that philosophy into my life, I don't know!

I like the option of volunteering for the association in Santiago. That certainly helps with staying true to Camino principles. I will do that :)
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
To be a good and true friend to others, you must first learn to be good, true, patient, and generous with yourself. Once you have done this... spread it around...
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
For the ones who "read" me, I wrote an update about this - basically, I said that on the Camino, it is much easier to just see where a friendship goes. I've met some really cool people, but I was also able to set them free and not mind if I ever saw them again. If I see them again, then fantastic and if not no problem.

At home I have a much harder time with this type of thing. I often invest too much in people - and then when they do not care in the same manner, I can't "walk on" but instead hang on to them. They are often genuinely nice people but choose to distribute their attention differently, not including me. Ideally I would just let go.

Can anybody help me handle this in the Camino way? Advice would be appreciated.

Thank you!
This makes me think of the Buddhist concept of attachment, as something to be avoided.

I think one the Camino, one of the things we learn to let go of is expectations. That helps us avoid putting expectations on the people we meet and the relationships we form. As well, we know it is sort of like a bubble, separate from the ongoing reality of our regular lives. We know that once we return, as much as we might like it to and as much as we might try and keep the Camino feeling going and apply the lessons we learned, life at home won't be the same as life on the Camino. It makes us appreciate what we enjoy on the Camino all the more without expecting it to last. Even within the Camino, we know that the person we are having such a great conversation with at a bar or albergue may be walking at a different pace from us.

As well, we are often meeting people from around the world whom we can't expect to keep this kind of intense relationship going with after we return. (Which isn't to say that some people don't form lifelong friendships - or more - with people from other continents that they meet on the Camino, just that it isn't expected even as the friendship grows.) All of this, I think, helps us to find appreciation without attachment in our Camino friendships.

Well and good, but how does this help you?

I think part of the answer is in how you see relationships with people. You talk about "investing in people". Invest for the present, not the future. One of the things about the Camino is that it is an experience that really pushes us to live in the present. When you have a great conversation with someone on the Camino, the reward isn't some future relationship. The reward is the conversation itself. If everything stops there, you have gained the reward of your investment. That's why it doesn't bother you so much if that is all you get. If you help a fellow pilgrim, it isn't with thoughts that someday they might repay the favour. The reward is having helped a fellow pilgrim. Perhaps if you try and carry some of this "present-focused" attitude, where the reward is in the present moment and not the future, into your relationships at home it will help you handle them in the Camino way.

Another part of the answer might be in recognizing that when they choose to distribute their attention differently than you'd like, it may not be about you or how they perceive you. It may be that they just "walk at a different pace" as it were. One of the things we hear that can be very challenging to people's Caminos is when they try and change their pace to match someone else's. This can lead to all sorts of physical challenges. When you are "hanging on to them", try and see it as if you are forcing yourself to walk at a pace that is not natural to you to keep up with someone who walks at a different natural pace. It may be okay for short distances but isn't healthy in the long run. When you let go you are returning to the pace that is right for you.

I don't know if this is really what you were asking for, or if it will be of any help, but it is my best attempt to try and carry some of the lessons from Camino relationships back to the "real world" of ongoing relationships outside the Camino bubble.

Ultreia!
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
You talk about "investing in people".
Friendship, like romance, is not a commercial exchange. It is, much more I think, a matter of incremental and progressive vulnerability. I show you a little, you show me a little. I show you a little more, etc etc. Trust is built up over time, incrementally. Sometimes on the Camino, with its atmosphere of safety, we share too much, too soon. And this has the effect of scaring off those we would like to befriend.
Or not. As always, your mileage may vary.
 

Gwaihir

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: Nijmegen (Holland) to Fisterra, July-November 2019.

Future: Te Araroa, NZ
David, your post has helped me enormously :)

I can relate to everything you wrote, but I was missing the link to connect these two strange worlds, Trail-World and Sedentary-World...

"Walk at a different pace" is a perfect analogy for a happier and more relaxed friendship (and just with relationships in general).

Thank you peregrino, and all who replied and helped!
 

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