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  • Finnian Kelly


Transitions. They have always been hard for me, yet I’ve never shied away from them.

As I rounded the corner into the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral square there was a lone man playing the bagpipes, a melancholy soundtrack to my 30 day journey. My thoughts were ‘Wait, is this it? Should this feel more symbolic? Should I try to document this in a more meaningful way?’ I even back tracked and tried my entrance again to see if it would feel any different….it didn’t. I watched other pilgrims greeting another, hugging, capturing the moment in photos together with the Cathedral in the background. The only thing greeting me was my vegan cinnamon roll and cambric earl gray tea I had just purchased as my celebration snack. So I plopped down and tried to elicit an epiphany, but instead I got yet another instant downpour, so I took cover and that was that…the end of my Camino.

I've now learned that wasn’t really the end, much like the Camino is working on you long before you start walking, it gives you some gifts (or challenges, choose your outlook) in your Camino afterlife as well. 

I’ve tried many different approaches to easing the discomfort of transitions, and what I've learned is to treat it like a verb, rather than a noun. It isn’t something to be solved or to just ‘get through’, it's an active state, a process that requires acceptance and in this case, a major shift to stillness. It was a strange feeling to wake up and not repack my bag and hit the trail after 30 consecutive days of this routine. And to say that this put me in a state of discomfort is an understatement. I loved the Camino because it gave me a routine, a feeling of productivity in the simplest sense, and a daily blind date with nature, which obviously turned out well because I kept coming back for more. I knew the post Camino transition would be coming, and was hoping I’d bypass my usual low after a big experience, that I could somehow beat the system. 

NEWSFLASH I didn’t. And I don’t believe it's possible, nor do I believe that it's a bad thing. I see this as a practice, a way to see how you can experience an emotion rather than expressing it. I spent two days in Porto, a cute town in Portugal that had been at the top of my bucket list for years. During these two days it rained more than it didn’t, and while I went out and saw the sights, nothing was impressing me. And I had other tests to overcome. I now had a horrific shin splint on my right leg, how ironic that it kicked in now, but also I was grateful it decided to wait until my walk was over. My phone got water damage, so it wouldn’t charge and shut down on me. This was extremely challenging because it was my way of navigating, had my hotel information and my train tickets and it was my lifeline to my support system of Camino friends that understood what I was going through

I then watched this video by Andrew Huberman, and it helped me to get grounded in a place of acceptance knowing that I was in a recalibration stage. Here was actual science telling me that this was normal, and that perhaps I was going through a mental and physical detox after all my sugary rewards on the Camino. Our society is so focused on getting to the end, we forget that the actual seeking is the reward. I was thinking of all the big moments in my life and that there was usually a crash after they were over because there was so much buildup into getting to that destination. My failed marriage was one great example of this.

After our (extremely fun) wedding, I had the same feeling of ‘wait, this is it?’ Even after my most challenging experience to date, a 10 day Vipassana (silent meditation retreat), I experienced a state of loss when it was over, even though I had spent what seemed like every 864,000 second of that retreat counting down until its end.

So here I was practicing diligently my ability to feel sad and not be sad. Sad was a state, but not my identity. I didn’t like it, but I knew I could do it. I was intensely feeling the comedown of my dopamine rewards - the extravagant and sugary treats I allowed myself each day, the kudos on Strava, the refresh on Instagram to see how my latest blog announcement was doing compared to the last, the endorphin release after 7 hours of walking - I had relied on these things to feel proud and to measure my success. I recognized that these weren’t the things I wanted to rely on and that they were not sustainable metrics, and I was able to at least hear out my inner critic for its valid points, especially on the sneaky addiction of social media. I’m still sitting in a state of sadness, honoring that I will never be a first time pilgrim again, that the container of the Camino is no longer my everyday and that my mom’s still dead. Sometimes the awareness of these realities actually makes it worse, because of the fact that there is no way out, the only way is through. I’m now starting to emerge from the fog of my low and finding joy in simple pleasures like cooking my own meals and sleeping in a bed with a comforter and pure silence! I’m extremely grateful for the gift of the Camino and the lifestyle I’ve created that allowed me to be fully in this experience.

I’m a strong believer in tapping into the Universe for signs, and I had many of these connections on my Camino journey (if you’re interested in this I highly recommend Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe). Before I left I had lunch with one of my energy healers and a good friend in Boulder, and she relayed that my mom was going to be with me on the whole journey, but especially week 2, so be on the lookout for her. On the first day of my 2nd week was my first rainbow sighting, but I told myself that it was way too cliche, my mom would be giving me something more discreet and unique.

After that there were no more rainbows, until my last two days of the Camino. The first rainbow appeared when it wasn’t raining - this was curious to me, and it was a double rainbow, I thought hmmmm is my mom trying to reach me again? I got a strong YES - this sign is for you AND your sister. And then, as I walked my final hour into Santiago de Compostela on my mom’s deathday, another double rainbow, and this one stayed for an entire hour during the last steps of my Camino. It felt like my mom was holding my hand for the last leg of my journey and then setting me free again. The greeting for both hello and goodbye on the Camino is ‘Buen Camino’ and I know that this was her, speaking in rainbows and reminding me that clouds are necessary, but when they part, the sun will continue to shine on through. 


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