The theme of the recent 2nd National Conference of the AFotC in February this year in Melbourne was “The Journey and Beyond”. On Saturday afternoon, we had reached a point in the journey when we wanted to consider our arrival in Santiago de Compostela. To do this, a short survey was created to explore what pilgrims felt when they first arrived in Santiago and how these emotions changed over time. A report on the findings was delivered to conference attendees. The following is my presentation.
An invitation to take part in an online survey was sent to people who were attending the conference but only to those that had already walked a Camino. The first thing to note is that this was only a thumbnail sketch, is heavily biased and not particularly scientific. Only people who had paid to come to the conference were asked to take part. So it was limited to people who are invested Camino lovers or as some would call us ‘Camino Tragics’. But despite that heavy bias, I was hoping this little survey would tell us a little more about ourselves and our motivations. A big thank you to everyone who took part in the survey: almost 90% of people responded, a fantastic response for an online survey.
The first question:
Which was your first Camino?
As expected the majority, at 85%, walked the Camino Francés. The only surprise was that it wasn’t higher.
Next was a question about ageofrespondentswhentheywalkedtheirfirstCamino. 85% were aged 50 years or more. And almost half were over 60. That is to be expected. When you are younger, it is hard to find time away from work and family to travel from Australia to the other side of the world to spend a month or more walking across Spain (or even to find a weekend to attend a Camino conference in Melbourne.) And therein lies another source of bias in these results.
How many days on your first Camino?
Now of course there are many factors contributing to how long it is going to take (things like route, starting point, time available) so we can’t draw a lot of conclusions from these figures.
But on the raw data, 75% took 30 days or more. Given the predominantly older age group (50% were 60 and over), it is to be expected that this group are going to take longer because they have more time to devote to such an exercise. Then there is the possibility that they may need to take longer… maybe some aren’t as fast as they used to be.
So now we come to the first question about post-Caminoemotions. I asked participants to close their eyes and think back to that moment when they had just arrived in Santiago and were standing in the Plaza Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral… How did they feel? Participants were asked to select their main emotions from a list of 16 provided. With this list I tried to cover what I thought might be the main emotions – it was never going to be comprehensive but it was the best I could do in such a short survey.
Happiness, Gratitude and Pride are the main stand outs at about 50% each. But other positive emotions like Satisfied, Contented, Excited feature strongly.
The Word Cloud below gives us a more visual representation of the results for this question. Here the size of the word indicates the frequency of selection. It shows that Happy, Grateful and Proud are the main responses.
What were your main emotions that you felt in those moments when you completed your first camino?
What were your main emotions that you felt 8 months later?
Now we come to how participants were feeling 6 months later.
This was an arbitrary time frame that I thought would allow the ‘Camino glow’ to dissipate a little. Looking at these results as a WordCloud, the main emotions of Happiness, Pride and Gratitude are still there, but another emotion has now become more evident.
This becomes more obvious when we put the two images side by side. As expected, emotions like Euphoria, Excitement, Relief and Sadness have shrunk after 6 months. Grateful has grown a bit.
But the big mover is Longing (in red in the second wordcloud).
It is in first cloud but it’s very tiny (if you look carefully, it is above the p’s in Happy & beside Sad). Six months later, Longing has grown to the second largest emotion. It was reported by just over half of respondents. Longing can cover a lot of possibilities but I think it is safe to assume that you don’t long for something unless it was an important and positive life event. And I think that this comes through in the Other Emotions responses. I knew it would be a tough ask to sum up Camino emotions in a few word, so the ‘Other’ option was included in the lists of emotions for those who wanted to say a bit more.
These are the ‘Other’ emotions expressed by some respondents. I couldn’t analyse them statistically but I included them because of the story they tell. I focused on the Otheremotionsfrom6monthslater: Words like Resolute; Feeling strong; Empowered; More settled in myself than I’d ever been stand out and indicate that it was a significant event in people’s lives. There are a couple of responses that resonated with me… feeling a “nagging need to share experience with others” and “Longing for the companionship of pilgrims”. I wondered if these were motivations for attending the Conference.
Returning to that word Longing, if we assume that it means a Longing to be back reliving the life changing experience. What do we have to support that assumption? Well let’s look at the questions about wanting to walk another Camino.
Did you want to immediately walk another Camino?
Immediately after their Camino, 55% of respondents said No or Maybe. But look at the difference that 6 months makes – the No’s & Maybes have gone from 55% to just 18%. While the Yes’s have almost doubled to 82%.
Perhaps Longing is morphing into a desire to go back and walk another Camino. 82% wanted to go back after 6 months. But has that translated into actual Caminos? 70% of respondents have now walked 2 or more Caminos and one third are up to 3 or more.
A sign I spotted on a fence at a caravan park near home. It seemed appropriate to this discussion
Fun Fact: 15 of the 39 people who said NO to another Camino immediately after their first have now walked 3 or more! Maybe a conclusion to be drawn from that is that when Camino people change their mind… they do it with conviction!
And finally, to all new pilgrims reading this and wondering if this will happen to you… the figures don’t lie – it becomes addictive! So be warned!