With the Camino adventure finished, it was inevitable that there would be a comedown, both emotionally and spiritually.
I returned to the Hauts-de-France ready for some recovery time. Physically, my body needed rest and a chance to work out some different muscles. Emotionally, I was exhausted. The last month and a half was so blissful, but being that high for that long takes its toll.
Having spent a few weeks here last year, I was very much looking forward to being back. The Ducrocq’s adopted me as part of the family and their house feels like home the minute I step inside. I was hoping this would be the perfect location to consolidate my thoughts and prepare for “what’s next.”
The first week back was spent doing next to nothing. Recovery mode was in full effect. I caught up on missed sleep, rising well into the double digits each morning. Mornings were a slow affair, with coffee and reading dominating the agenda. In the evening, family meals were prepared and shared together. I will miss this more than anything else. Conversations were always a delightfully comical mix of broken English and full French, which I barely understood.
As the days slid by, I started to find a nice rhythm and some motivation to be active. Running was making its way back into my life, and I was enjoying that. I also took on some household chores, trying to give back in even the smallest ways.
About 10 days into my stay, I took a trip to the Netherlands to visit Nina, one of my absolute favorite people on the planet. She was one of the intrepid pilgrims that inquired about my trail dancing music on the Camino (hint: it’s Whitney bitch). We had discussed a visit while still on the trail since Lille and Utrecht were so close. Turns out the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
The day of my arrival was also her birthday and she graciously invited me to join her for a celebratory barbecue with her friends. Our reunion felt like it was straight from a movie, as we saw each other from afar and ran across a field to embrace in a most wonderful hug. Hilarious really. It was a wonderful night filled with laughs, deep conversations and plenty of reminiscing. It was also a very long night. As the sun threatened to begin its daily ascent, I borrowed her bike and took an extremely pleasurable ride through the city to return to my hostel.
As I drifted to sleep, I replayed the night and was reminded of an important lesson … It’s the people. I fell asleep thinking of all the wonderful people I’ve met on this adventure. And how my favorite moments all have a common thread of awesome people sharing in the groove.
The next several days were a laid-back affair. We spent much of our time in the cafe, having amazing conversations, relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company.
Nina’s boyfriend, Quincy, lives in Amsterdam, so we took a day trip up to visit him. He happens to work at the Van Gogh Museum, so we were blessed with free entry. Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists, so seeing such a complete representation of his entire career was absolutely amazing.
While in Utrecht, Nina and I also did a little bouldering. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite sports, and it’s fun finding bouldering halls in all the cities I visit. Boulderhal Energiehaven is easily one of the best climbing gyms I’ve visited to date. Tons of routes for a great variety of skill levels, plus good locker rooms and a spot to chill and have a beer after your workout.
Back in Marcq-En-Barœul, I spent my days working on a few small projects and preparing for one big one. I also found time to create a running routine with a wonderful route along the canal. Continuing to build on my newfound love for bouldering, I visited another excellent climbing hall multiple times.
A significant amount of time was also spent trying to sort my mental and emotional spaces out. I could feel the post-trail blues starting to fade with each passing day. But the hole in my heart left after the bubble burst is sizable and will take time to fill again.
Coupled with these feelings was the need to shift into a headspace capable of working on a major project. Stepping into a major project will require my full attention daily for a sustained period of time. Having mostly been free as a bird for the last 18 or so months, the idea of being tied to a desk again is both exciting and terrifying. The anticipation of diving into a project is always filled with excitement. But it will also be interesting to see if and when I find the right headspace to stay focused each day knowing there is an unexplored place outside my doors.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed the slow life in France. Lazy walks with the family dog, Pippa, and evenings with good food and great company. With the city center only a few tram stops away, I also explored Lille extensively. I fell in love with its relaxed vibe and old-world charm. It’s a major city in France, but it feels a bit off the beaten path, which creates a mellow, not fussy energy, which I completely enjoy. Feels like a place I would be happy to settle down in.
As the days slid by in the north of France, pieces of my next move started falling into place. My energy started to shift from relaxing recovery into anticipatory excitement. That energy propelled me to complete tasks I had been putting off for days, some for weeks.
The way of living I’ve experienced with my family here was exactly what I needed post-Camino. I miss it already and am grateful to know it is a place I can and will return to again and again.
I arrived here unsure of what I wanted and where I wanted to go. I departed with a renewed sense of purpose and a deep gratitude for both the Camino experience and the reset I’ve just gone through. I’ve had the time to sort through my emotions and reach equilibrium. It leaves me primed to launch into my next adventure.
When you next hear from me I’ll be in a new country, head down and knee-deep in several exciting projects. I’m excited to see where this next adventure leads me.