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!

I Pursued a Spiritual Journey and Failed Miserably Along “The Way”

Fresco Tours 161 rob and ken sweetUNEXPECTED LESSON ONE from The Camino:

              By Robin Hurst, Author, Founder, Your Path Matters and All In Retreats

When I anticipated our eight days of trekking on the Camino de Santiago to the tomb of Saint James, disciple of Jesus, I was sure that it would be one of the most incredible spiritual journeys of my life.

The visions in my head and heart were romantic. The dream of taking this trip with my husband, Ken, had been stirring in me for years. When we finally scheduled our adventure for September, Ken and I knew there would be a possibility of rain, so we planned accordingly by packing the appropriate gear if needed.

Unfortunately, our rookie planning was no match for the thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail that met us our first day on the trail. There was no quick exit off the course to catch an Uber and it was unwise to escape into the immense evergreen forest canopy because the tall timbers were basically natural lightning rods.

The first half of our day was filled with warm sunshine and a joyful journey. It was a delight to meet up with others in our group for lunch. We lingered. We laughed. We enjoyed a bountiful feast. And yes, after much deliberation, I decided to shed my raincoat and extra shirt layer since the morning hike was so lovely. The additional gear seemed like unnecessary weight.

Those burdensome layers were left on the bus that we would not see again until the end of the day. After the first mile or two into our afternoon trek, the winds picked up, the temperatures suddenly dropped more than twenty degrees and torrential rain followed swiftly creating unavoidable ankle-deep water on narrow and uneven parts of the trail. The rain was announced by dark purplish-blue skies along with the symphony of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. The circumstances were surreal, but unfortunately undeniable.

As we grappled to mentally adjust to our circumstances, the situation was exacerbated by half-inch balls of hail that began to pelt our bodies relentlessly. Whimpering sounds came from my being as the reality of physical shivering escalated my discomfort while my fear of the true danger of a lightning strike intensified. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to lecture myself to stop the whimpering and to just pick up the pace to the finish line. Whining was not going to get me there sooner or dryer.

I then noticed that my husband pulled a peach umbrella out of his backpack and held it over me. He literally covered me. He held me close to him while holding the small umbrella over my head protecting me from the hail while sacrificing his own cover. Both of us tried not to think about the lightning magnet it was.

We hiked several more miles in the torrential rain to our destination of the iconic Iron Cross. I had looked forward to dwelling at the cross, saying a prayer and leaving a stone as a symbol of leaving something from within me behind while looking ahead in hope as is Camino pilgrim tradition. Dwelling at the cross was not appealing to me in the freezing cold, blowing wind, torrential rain and wicked hail. Not an inch of my clothing or body could get any more soaked than it already was, but lingering in the wide open at the foot of this metal cross in the elements was not part of my fairy tale dream of our precious spiritual adventure.

Until then, it had not occurred to me that the 100 miles we had ahead of us could be in the pouring rain – every day! This pilgrim would not have signed up for that kind of experience and labeled it a vacation. I prefer a more comfy kind of spiritual journey. These thoughts that were stewing in my mind were interrupted by the arrival of our bus. Bus transportation never looked so glorious to me.

Even though our first day was far from what I had envisioned, I made it through. My husband protected me from the hail and God protected us from the lightning. It was good to see the balance of our hiking group, who would soon become our dear friends, arrive and share their stories. They all laughed at Ken’s feminine colored peach umbrella – the only umbrella detected on the trail. Even though the laughter was welcome and warranted, I was grateful that particular umbrella was in my husband’s backpack and that he used it to protect me beyond his own comfort even if the rest of the group called him “Kenny Poppins” for the remainder of our adventure.

The lessons were many that day. However, not only did I not appreciate them at the time, I simply did not see them at all. I was wet, freezing and concerned for the days ahead. I was disappointed that I did not get to dwell at the foot of the iconic Iron Cross. I barely offered a feeble prayer there. That perspective prevented my dwelling with God to thank him for Ken, a peach umbrella, a group of new friends, and the fact that the Iron Cross was a reminder that He sent His one and only son to die for me so that I, in every kind of weather, get to experience His grace and the greatest love the world has ever known.



My circumstances and emotions can get in the way of my gratitude, my faith and my dwelling at the foot of the cross. Thankfully, God is patient and faithful. He will wait for me to find my way.

©2020 Robin Hurst, All In Retreats, LLC