The Hero(ine)’s Journey

I’ve just returned from a week of writing and reflection on a (not quite) deserted island and am feeling so much grateful clarity about my post-Camino path.

We had to arrive with a story to work on, and I have only this one to tell. My Camino experience was completely deconstructed and then carefully reassembled by using the framework of the Hero’s Journey, specifically the Transformational Arc taught by the inimitable Dara Marks. Although the workshop I attended was primarily geared toward screen writers, the 3-step model she teaches overlays perfectly on top of the literal Camino de Santiago and the non-fiction reality of facing one’s inner demons.

My biggest takeaway from the week was the insight that my walk to and eventual arrival in Santiago really was only half the story. Really. This is remarkable because every Camino book I’ve read, every Camino movie, and practically any long-walk story ends at the end of the walk. But as any pilgrim worth her salt will tell you, that’s not the end at all.

The real challenge is returning to your life. That has been my real challenge, for certain. Now I know that the elation of completing this pilgrimage gave me a glimpse of how amazing life can be, how much I’m capable of, and a seed to plant in my everyday life.

In movies, this second half of the story is where two things happen: eventually, the situation seems so dire that all seems lost and this desperation requires the main character to fundamentally change who she is in order to overcome.

This has been true for me. The year after the Camino was probably among the hardest of my life – and also the most transformational. I won’t say that I feel victorious just yet, but I’m fully committed now to seeing the Camino experience manifest in my daily life, no matter how hard it gets.

That, dear readers, was worth the price of admission.

6 thoughts on “The Hero(ine)’s Journey

  1. I tried to post this comment – wouldn’t take. so here it is:

    How wonderful to hear even *further* growth and reflection on your Camino adventure. Congratulations (and woohoo!) for taking this course, getting into this course, and continuing to follow your path – with each step forward, more of the path is revealed.

    1. Thanks so much, Mary Ellen! I have comments set up for approval based on email address, so I’m sorry you had a hiccup the first time around!

      Thanks for your words of encouragement about this phase of the journey. Part of me is thrilled to have a lens to see it through, and the other part of me is like, “Drat! More work to do!” My illusions of a There or Ultimate Enlightened Destination must dissolve. 🙂 Good thing I have friends like you on the journey.


  2. I am so sorry you didn’t get a card from me. I looked for the email that had the address in it. All of a sudden – just now! – I’m guessing it wasn’t an email it all, but rather contained in a blog post. Believe me, I was thinking of you this week, Jen. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story and watch how this unfolds in your life.

    Sent from my iPhone — please forgive weird spelling mistakes


    1. Your iPhone disclaimer covered the error (but I also edited it for you). 🙂

      I actually posted it on Facebook, but no worries. Your support of me going into the trip – and to the workshop in Sedona – was above and beyond. I could feel you beaming love up that way. 🙂 Let’s catch up soon, shall we? ❤

  3. Can I ever relate to these words! I am really have some adjustment issues around relationships in particular and drawing some boundaries (familial) . . . it is as if the Camino made me cough up this giant piece of wounding I had been holding onto. The question is how to deal with it all? I stand in grace this morning to read your words. Thank you for sharing more of your journey, the internal one.

    1. Hi, Wildflower! It makes me so happy to see your comment here. I feel so connected with you as you write about your own Camino and am feeling happy to know that my words resonate for you about adjusting to life post-pilgrimage. To be honest, I chafe against the word “adjust” for it stinks of compromise and settling for less, which is not only yucky, it’s (for me) a false witness to the aliveness I discovered on my pilgrimage. But re-entry into “real” life is a collision between the old way of being and the newly-discovered one, and there can be a lot of friction there, both internally and externally.

      How to deal with the things the Camino brings up/wakes up in us is perplexing, isn’t it? I hear how you’re struggling with the new awareness and the old realities in relationship. Thank goodness the Camino provided opportunities to dance with boundaries! 🙂 You got a lot of practice, I imagine.

      I too am having an interesting time as I write a book about your very question — as I grapple with it in my own life. How very meta. 🙂 For me, curiosity is a key. When I shut down, I get stuck. If I cultivate openness and curiosity (very much like I did on the Camino), things open up and possibilities appear that I hadn’t seen before. It’s not a blissful skip through the sunflowers, but it’s something.

      I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers – and extend the same invitation I did to Nadine to be in touch by phone if you wish. Just like on the trail, we post-Camino pilgrims do well to stick together. 🙂

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