Kirby, USA

"Little things like this on so many days made me think that the Big Man upstairs was looking out for me during my Camino. It doesn’t have to be miracles. Sometimes, those little things remind you to count your blessings."

“I’m a religious person, so I guess that side of the Camino appealed to me. As the days went by on the Way I definitely felt closer to God, but I didn’t set out with that in mind. I wanted to change my entire life.

After I finished high school, I moved onto a college campus. With no parents around, I realized “well, I can do whatever I want.” I was drinking, I was smoking cigarettes, I didn’t have any meaningful relationships, and I didn’t work very hard. With that kind of regular self-destructive behavior, I was critically unhappy. I realized this and tried to make a change by moving back to my hometown to draw myself back in and get back on track at college. Back home, I was doing great at school, without much effort and without much challenge. I passed the time sitting at home drinking and smoking. And I was still deeply unhappy. I didn’t know what to do. Moving off campus didn’t work. Excelling at school didn’t work. I needed to get away. I had heard of the Camino, I had money saved up, and I’m a big outdoors guy. Summer was close, so I just bought a plane ticket and a backpack and I just went.

I started in St. Jean Pied de Port, and ended in Finisterre, via Santiago of course. At albergues, I did speak to others, but mostly I woke up early, walked long, and generally tried to focus on the change I wanted to make in my life. Still, it felt like someone or something was with me the entire way, and there are so many amazing little examples of that. For example, one day, I realized I had run out of cigarettes and since I usually started walking so early, there was nowhere to buy any. I was definitely trying to reduce my smoking, but I still had a cigarette each morning. As I was walking along a small stone wall, I spotted a little white box sitting on it off in the distance. I eventually reached the box and I said “NO WAY” when I realized it was a full, sealed pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes – just when cravings were about to ruin my morning.

Another time, I had almost run out of safety pins to hang up my laundry, and it was high time to wash my clothes. I asked a lady in a small town where I could buy some more, she pointed me to a store, and I bought some – until I looked at them much later and realized they were paper clips. I definitely wasn’t hanging any clothes with those! I remember that day being so foggy I could barely see ten feet in front of me. I eventually reached a hill where I was able to look down to the town where I was staying for that night, just hoping that someone would have safety pins so I could hang my clothes at night. As I started to go downhill I looked at my feet and saw a string of safety pins, all linked together sitting right there. This just made my day.

There are some days on the Camino when you’d be standing on a big hill and see the town you were planning to sleep that night, but it was still hours away. Well, on one of these days, the sun above me was really hot. I knew the heat would be unbearable the rest of the way, and I wanted to walk shirtless to stay cool. The last time I did this, my shoulders got pretty badly sunburnt. I did it anyway and just as I started to worry about burning again, I came around a corner and noticed right at my feet a small bottle of sunscreen. Right there. Little things like this on so many days made me think that the Big Man upstairs was looking out for me during my Camino. It doesn’t have to be miracles. Sometimes, those little things remind you to count your blessings.

Overall, the Camino wasn’t easy. There were entire days I was in pain, and by the time I got to León, my ankle was in really rough shape. I was feeling really low because I was managing only a few miles a day, and I took a break to recover. But I survived the trip. Today, I don’t get stressed out anymore. I don’t let things bother me anymore. The background on my phone is the cathedral in León, because while that was one of the low points of my trip, it was also the turning point. For the rest of the trip – and even today – at every setback I would keep telling myself, ‘you’re not in Leon right now.’ I pulled through. I thought back to those little blessings and so many others. They made me more resilient. And in the end, I feel like I re-centered myself, and I was ready to go home and live a better life.”

-Kirby, USA

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