Lost & Found on the Camino

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Lost & Found on the Camino

by M.J. O’Meara | Milwaukee, WI

M.J. O'Meara Man with dogs helps profoundly lost pilgrim find her way.
The author’s Camino angel, with his canine companions. Photo by M.J. O’Meara.

It is difficult to get profoundly lost on the Camino—unless you’re me. It takes a unique combination of distraction and poor decision-making that seems to be rare amongst my fellow peregrinos. 

On March 8, 2020, I was somewhere between Zafra and Villafranca de los Barros on the Via de la Plata, and I had no idea where the Camino was. 

It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, that I had gotten myself way off course. Thinking back on this situation, I made many wrong turns that day, each time convincing myself that I would find the Camino without having to retrace my steps. 

Eventually, I found myself deep in an olive grove without any landmarks or people in sight, and I started to worry. I realized it had been an hour or two since I had seen a yellow arrow. 

In the distance, I saw a man walking several dogs. My first thought was that he might be dangerous, and I considered hiding. But then I took a few deep breaths, observed him for a few minutes, and decided to ask him for help. 

The man could not believe how far off course I was. Perhaps he considered whether he should help me return to the Camino via a shortcut he knew or just tell me to retrace my steps. In the end, he decided to reschedule his day to become one of my most memorable Camino angels, and we headed off together, further into the olive grove.

I am not sure why I felt I could place my trust in him that day, but some combination of thinking “What else can I do, now that I am so lost?” and realizing he was so gentle with his dogs led to a long, lovely hike. He walked more than an hour out of his way to point me towards the Camino. 

I love recalling my deep gratitude for so many Camino angels. May your paths be filled with such angels, too. 

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