The PCB is a serious, dreaded and yet sometimes oddly cherished pilgrim affliction with no known cure. It tends to hit people who have walked one or a combination of caminos in Spain for anything between a week and several months. The severity of the condition does not seem to increase with the time spent walking or planning, but will strike unexpectedly and unpredictably after the person has returned home and is settled in his or her ‘old life’ again. It has also been known to start on the flight home in some extreme cases, though this is rare. It often seems to be triggered by the subject trying to explain his or her experience to friends and family after the fact and finding that words will not sufficiently cover the matter.
The symptoms are many and varied, but will often include vacant staring whilst wallowing in memories of roadside poppies, sunflowers nodding in the breeze, churches perched on hills, cathedrals in late afternoon sunshine and roads snaking across wide open plains. There can also be severe gastronomical hallucinations which force the sufferer to try googled recipes for tortilla española, lentil soup and caldo, attempt to source manchego cheese, pulpo and Rioja wines locally, and rub toast with cloves of garlic before drizzling good olive oil and sprinkling salt on it for breakfast. Also some will feel a strong urge to wear their quick drying clothes and go for walks in the area where they live, something which can alleviate the symptoms for the time they are walking, only to bring them on with renewed force in the evening (magnesium intake not withstanding).
As mentioned there is no known cure for this condition. Most sufferers tend to seek out temporary relief rather than permanent healing as they seem to get oddly attached to their own emotional response to the various symptoms – it’s like they don’t really want to let it go. One thing that appears universally helpful is a repeat of the experience which triggered the PCB in the first place, be it planning or walking, and many do go back. Not, it seems, to find the cause or cure, but to alleviate the symptoms for the time that they spend repeating the behaviour which has brought the suffering on. This is one of the reasons PCB is so hard to treat: the sufferers seem to actively enjoy the symptoms and their own preferred form of symptom relief (walking, watching YouTube videos of caminos, making spreadsheets for their pack lists, reading the pilgrim forum religiously etc). It doesn’t seem to be hugely detrimental to the sufferers’ mental health, though it can take its toll on relationships if not kept in check. Talking to or communicating online with like minded people who know what you go through can be a great help and make life with non-pilgrims a lot easier after re-entry into normal life.