Part 2: Lessons I Learned From The Camino

Fresco Tours 130 first kite flight freebird

It Helps to Believe in God’s Angels

We were near the half way point of our pilgrimage along The Way (or the Camino de Santiago) in Galacia, Spain. The quarter-sized blister on my right heel constantly reminded me it was there and the ache in my bones was gnawing and deep – a kind of deep I had never experienced before. It felt as if my bones were moaning. The pain was not muscular strain or a symptom of my lack of endurance, but something more I could not identify. This added emotional fatigue to my physical pain. One step in front of the other was my only choice unless I wanted to give up and ride the bus.

No way! Not this pilgrim. I traveled to Spain with my husband to experience this spiritual journey and I was going to do just that!

Ken and I started the first few mornings hiking together, but his pace was much faster than mine especially given his long legs and my physical state. As the days progressed, I urged him to go ahead so he could move at a more gratifying and natural cadence. This provided the opportunity for each of us to walk parts of the Camino with our new friends from our small tour group. Ken usually hiked the morning with Clay since their pace was similar. I often hiked with Cathy, since she bravely traveled solo on this journey and had no built-in hiking partner. Her life story was humbling to my heart. I cherished the time I got to spend with her along The Way. Experiencing different parts of the journey each day with a new friend who willingly shared their own significant story became a special treasure.

Each morning our guides mapped out what we should expect from the miles ahead. They plotted our touch-point-stops so they could account for us throughout the day. The group was good about keeping a mindful pace that allowed us to meet for lunch and finish within thirty minutes to an hour of one another at the end of the day. I am not sure when or why my evaluation of this mapped-out journey shifted, but somehow my vision that I had created in my mind of this spiritual trek was not matching the reality of it. My focus was clearly clouded.

The morning instructions and evening recaps from our guides seemed laborious. The history lesson at lunch BEFORE eating a crumb of food after eight to ten miles of hiking was an impediment for re-balancing my blood sugar. The pain was mounting in my body and the circles and bags under my eyes were becoming more exaggerated. The hard mattresses and dark, dank rooms were tiring and void of the joy and comfort that I anticipated at the outset. The mostly gray skies that threatened of rain daily dampened my outlook.

These things consumed me.

Did I love the people who were gathered around us as new friends? Yes! Was the food excellent and plentiful? Absolutely! Were our guides lovely and helpful? Of course. Was my husband loving me through my struggles? Hmmm. . . ? That peach umbrella protection he offered day one of our quest seemed now to be a great emotional distance away.

I was pretty sure my inner pouting was making its way out to the visible side of me. Much to his credit, Ken and I began the afternoon part of our hike together. I fought desperately to suppress my misery. He was rightfully sick and tired of my whiny presence and for remaining slightly ahead of me on the trail, yet I could not stand staring at his back any longer.

I stopped and stomped and proclaimed that this whole adventure seemed to be about reaching target after target, destination after destination, and hard bed after hard bed. Nothing about it was feeling very spiritual to me! Ken stopped. He turned and looked at me. I continued by barely muttering that I had carried my mother’s kite in my backpack for days and it seemed we never slowed long enough to fly it. It seemed we never paused long enough to notice the wind.

At this point, I was tired of my own damn self.

It was time for Ken to respond. He walked back toward me. He reached for my hand and said, “Let’s step off the trail and fly the kite.” A faint “Really?” came out of me. “Really.” he said. We stepped off the trail. Tears were just under the surface of my suffering fighting for my joy to win. I told Ken that I loved his invitation but I did not think the moment was right because the breeze was too inconsistent to take the kite up; he insisted that we try. . . so we did.

The kite rose and then swiftly fell. At that very moment I heard a voice behind me saying, “Give it more string, it will fly.” Who is that? Those are words my mother would say. Again, “Give it more string.” The next thing I knew, this man who seemed to have a lifetime of belongings on his back exited the Camino to help me and my mother’s kite seek out freedom and the breeze. He picked up the kite. He opened its wind channels and he gently encouraged me again to give it more string as he held it above his head.

We both watched it take flight. My heart took flight with it. Unbeknownst to me, my husband was yards away shooting a video with his phone. He captured the encounter with this stranger from the Camino. The encounter that took place just after I had made the proclamation that there seemed to be no room in this hike for my spiritual journey.

My husband, though tired of my disposition, led me off the beaten path to encourage me to take the time to experience God’s presence. And what did God do? He sent an angel to speak familiar words that I have heard many times from my mother. That angel had earbuds around his neck with music playing from them. The tune was captured on my husband’s video. The song was FREEBIRD by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That moment could not have been more masterfully orchestrated.

God sent me an angel when I finally exclaimed, “I want this to be a spiritual journey!” He reminded me that it was up to me to ask and to seek that adventure. He reminded me, “Robin, let it go. Don’t hold on so tightly. Freedom comes when you stop controlling every outcome.” I was indeed holding onto so many things that I needed to release like believing my expectations were the only right way for this pilgrimage to be significant or godly. I needed to look up and I needed to step off path and snap myself out of the self-centered place I had allowed myself to go. I was reminded to look around me and to see the beautiful gifts He has waiting for me. When I ask, seek, and notice, he answers me.

As I made room for gratitude to grow within me more miraculous encounters followed throughout that day and the days after.

Imagine that.


My suffering can block my view of joy. Waiting for my spiritual journey to happen to me only means I miss the signs along the way. I have to be an active participant by surrendering my frailties and trusting in God’s help. Of course, believing that He sends me an angel now and then doesn’t hurt.

I hope you will stay tuned for Lesson 3 to follow. I look forward to hearing from you in comments below!