A Long Walk Might Be Like Drinking Ayahuasca

In a comment on a recent post, “Why Go on a Pilgrimage?, “  Elissa from Sometimes She Travels  writes: In fact, one piece of Camino graffiti from last year that I thought about every day this year was, “What are you doing? Why?” 

It has been 24 days since I returned from Spain, and I am still processing how the journey has changed me. Once we begin a pilgrimage, we never truly leave it. It’s a spiral, a labyrinth that continuously leads us closer to the center.

In some ways, going on a very long walk seems to resemble a shamanic healing. Most of us have heard about the Australian aborigines’ ritual of the Walkabout. There are also the stories of Jesus walking in the desert for 40 days, or the Coptic Saint Mary of Egypt, who wandered in the desert a for lifetime with the hopes of purging herself of her “sinful” nature.

A pilgrimage to heal from the emotional wounds of life has a different goal, one that resembles an extended  psychedelic trip. Maybe that’s how I see it, since I spent a long part of the journey in a self-induced poetic trance.

Although I’ve never experienced an ayahuasca ceremony, after reading Kira Salak’s “Perú: Hell and Back,” an account of how her five ayahuasca ceremonies in Perú changed her perspective, I can say my pilgrimage has had a similar outcome.

Speaking about coming out of a great darkness and entering the light, Salak writes:  Little suspecting that I’d emerge from it feeling as if a waterlogged wool coat had been removed from my shoulders—literally feeling the burden of depression lifted—and thinking that there must be something to this crazy shamanism after all.

Salak states that her first ayahuasca rituals helped heal the depression she had suffered since childhood, but that she continued to experience self-doubt and fear, so she went on a second journey for further healing.

Like Salak, I have experienced relief from depression, not after taking ayahuasca (which intrigues me but may or may not be my path), but after completing a 40-day walk to Santiago de Compostela.

Also similar to Salak, who repeated her journey to Perú,  I am considering another pilgrimage to Santiago in the future. When I know the medicine works, it’s tempting to take more of it, and I’d much rather rely on a very long walk than the SSRIs I took for decades that I now no longer need. Maybe I never needed them.

4 thoughts on “A Long Walk Might Be Like Drinking Ayahuasca

  1. JC says:

    Everyone says that exercise releases endorphins, and is great for improving overall health. I can imagine a sustained trip like you took probably really worked that way. It really did heal you and that’s wonderful. I don’t know about SSRIs–I’m sure some people truly need them because their brain chemistry is out of whack. I think it’s great, though, if you can leave those behind–people were probably never meant to take pills for depression permanently. I’m all for natural healing–and I’m so glad that worked for you. And yes, please go on another walking tour. I’m trying to live vicariously. 🙂


  2. Christine says:

    JC, I took anti-depressants for over 20 years. Every time I tried to go off them, I ended up with panic attacks, insomnia, and loss of appetite. I know lots of people do need the medication, and for many it works well. I don’t know if I needed medication, though. I am not bipolar, which they say is a brain chemistry problem. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from taking their meds, that’s for sure. And I obviously don’t judge anyone for taking SSRIs. I took them for two decades! But I also think the society we live in doesn’t support people who don’t live according to the prescribed rules, and then individuals feel compelled to take a pill so that they can cope with expectations. Just think of all the kids on ADHD medications…

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


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