It's now been over two years since my trip: since my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and my stay in Taizé. I had hoped to have returned to Europe by now, but more than that I had hoped to be more... different by now.
Those experiences changed me; changed my way of being in this world. And for quite some time I found it difficult to readjust to 'normal' life. For a while I had hopes of setting a new normal, but now it's almost like some parts of me had never been where I went, seen what I did, or did what I have done. I thought it took resilience to walk 980kms, but it seems that some default settings – in my life, in our culture – are more resilient still.
So now, as I contemplate (if you can call such desperate hope contemplation) returning to Europe, it's both as a pilgrim and not. When I first went, I wanted to be changed and was open, it was my first visit to that continent and I knew (almost) no one; this time round I want to be changed and am very fixed on what I think I need, I long to see my friends both from Australia and the ones I made in Europe.
As I walked the camino, I saw people who seemed to be addicted to it, unable to return 'home' or settle anywhere. Perhaps this is how such pathology starts? Yes, some are called to be holy vagrants with – just as was true for Jesus – no place to lay their head. But the real challenge (for me at least) is not in escaping into the pilgrim life, but rather in subverting our anti-pilgrim culture by colonising it with the pilgrim mindset. I often despair that such a thing is even possible, but even with such great cost, I cannot simply give up trying.