Many hikers, including myself, return from a long-distance hike with the “Trail Blues”. If you have walked the Camino, then it is often referred to as the “Camino Blues” and it is not a good place to be for both yourself and for your friends and family around you. The trail blues is a feeling of deep sadness, loss and even a feeling of grief which is hard to process. It’s not something that you can just “get over”, which is why many people tend to start planning their next long distance hike or even another Camino quite quickly after their return.
In my opinion, here are five potential reasons why some people might experience such emotions:
- Post-Adventure Letdown: Completing a challenging and exciting outdoor adventure can lead to a sense of accomplishment and euphoria. However, once the adventure is over, there might be a sense of emptiness or a lack of purpose, especially if the adventure was a long-term goal. This contrast between the high of the adventure and the return to everyday life can lead to feelings of sadness and even depression.
- Disconnect from Nature: Spending time in nature can be rejuvenating and grounding. Returning to urban or indoor environments after being in the natural world can create a sense of disconnection and longing for the simplicity and beauty of the outdoors. This can contribute to a feeling of sadness or nostalgia. I know that I personally craved a simple life after returning from the PCT.
- Loss of Routine and Structure: During a long-distance hike we often establish a specific routine and structure that revolves around activities like hiking, camping, and exploring. After the adventure ends, the sudden loss of this routine can lead to a feeling of aimlessness and uncertainty, which might contribute to the blues. Again, it comes down to simplicity. Life on the trail is sleep, eat, walk, pitch, sleep, eat, walk, pitch…
- Social Connection: Many outdoor adventures involve spending time with friends or fellow adventurers. The strong bonds formed during these experiences can lead to a sense of camaraderie and connection. After the adventure, the absence of these close connections and shared experiences can result in feelings of loneliness and sadness. When you return home, even though your family and friends at home are happy to see you, they really have no idea what you have been going through and they don’t want to hear your stories. It’s a bit like Uncle Albert in “Only Fools and Horses”…. when I was in the war… After the initial welcome home, then people have moved on, whilst you are still following your adventuring friends who are continuing their journey. WhatsApp groups are pinging and you feel this constant pull back to trail life, but you are at home doing normal, everyday stuff.
- Anticlimax and Reflection: The end of an adventure can prompt reflection on the journey, its challenges, and personal growth. If someone feels that their adventure did not meet their expectations or if they’re grappling with unresolved emotions or thoughts, they might experience a sense of disappointment or sadness.
It’s important to note that these feelings are normal and can be part of the emotional cycle that accompanies significant experiences. If these feelings persist or intensify, seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional is recommended. Additionally, finding ways to integrate the positive aspects of the outdoor adventure into daily life, such as staying active, connecting with nature, and setting new goals, can help mitigate the trail blues.
Some people have the trail blues for a long time and it never resolves itself until they go on another hike. I think that I am one of the lucky ones as I am constantly feeding that adventure niggle with the business that I operate. Bear in mind that if you know someone who is suffering from the trail blues then give them the space that they need, listen to their stories and show interest in their journey (even if it is a few months down the line).