Camino Reflections – Lesson #8: Home is Where the Heart Is

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Today we passed the 100 km mark to Santiago. It is hard to believe that there are only 4 days and less than 60 miles to go. Peregrinos are beginning to think about reaching Santiago, and what they will do after the Camino. Some will continue walking to Finisterre, others will go on to places besides Santiago – Simone from NYC plans to visit Avila. She wants to be where St. Theresa of Avila was.

We will return to our homes a week from today – I’m looking forward to being home again, but also will be sad to see this journey come to an end, even though it’s not really ending.

Journal entry, June 12, 2015, Portomarín, Spain

Camino de Santiago
From exhibit on the Camino de Santiago in the Museo de León.

It is inevitable, I suppose, that after being away from home for an extended period of time, we find ourselves a little homesick. It is no different on the Camino. That feeling of longing to be in the comfort of my own home, to be with my wife and son, to sleep in my own bed, to wake up to the familiar sights and sounds that can only be found at home. But I would be lying if I told you that a part of me didn’t want to just keep on walking on the Camino, or to go explore other Caminos. The Way of Saint James is indeed transformational, and it literally becomes your life for a while.Camino de Santiago

The last week or two on the Camino, when your destination is starting to come into sight, is bittersweet. On one hand, you’re happy to be reaching your goal of walking into Santiago and obtaining your compostela (Certificate of Achievement); that sense of accomplishment is real. There is also a sense of relief that you’ve completed a long journey on foot, and you look forward to having a break from the long days of walking. On the other hand, there’s also a very real feeling that you’re not quite ready for this journey to end. The Camino is indeed a life-changing experience for many, and there’s a sense of trepidation on how to maintain the good changes that the Camino brought about when you return home and settle back into the normal routine.

But what of those you left behind? For your loved ones and close friends that haven’t experienced the daily routines of the Camino? When I came across the quote above in the Museo de León, it really made me think about my family I had left back home for those six weeks I was away, and how blessed I was to have a family loving enough to allow me to embark on this pilgrimage. It also made me think about pilgrims from long ago, the hardships they endured, and the hardships that their families endured while they were away, which would usually last for many months or even years. The Camino pilgrimages of the past were arduous affairs for the pilgrims, but also for the loved ones left behind.

Camino de Santiago
Map showing peregrinos’ home country that stayed in Convento de la Merced, Sarría, Spain

In today’s times, with our advanced technology of instant communications, it’s not necessary to be out of contact with those you leave behind, unless there is mutual agreement that that’s the right thing to do. For myself, I wanted and needed to stay in contact with my wife and children, so made it a point to call them about twice a week to check in and make sure that all was OK back home. I avoided as best I could the general news events back home, but it was important to maintain regular contact with my family and friends, and I know that they were equally interested in following our progress as we made our way across northern Spain. Facebook (even with all of its flaws that have come to light in recent years) was a great platform for sharing that information, and I was grateful for the wide availability of wi-fi in the albergues so that I could contact home on a regular basis.

Camino de Santiago
The view from Finisterre, looking west across the Atlantic Ocean towards home.

It’s been 3 years since I walked the Camino de Santiago. That pilgrimage remains a highlight for me, a time for self-reflection and discovery that I’ll cherish for the remainder of my days. But home is where my heart truly is, and where it will always be. My family made sacrifices for me to be able to embark on my Camino pilgrimage, making sure that things on the home front were taken care of while I was away. These sacrifices were a gift of love, as important as anything I could have asked from them. I am truly blessed.

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