Our Camino Love Story
by Michelle & Andreas
Most, if not all, of our friends know how our Camino Love Story came about. With that said, we absolutely love retelling it and reliving each and every mesmerizing step along the Way of St. James as it led us to this very beautiful moment of our becoming one on May 12, 2018.
In mid-2013, a very lively, adventurous Michelle was living in Pomona, California. She was in the prime of her life, enjoying her first travel nursing contract. She and Sammie Rogers were living the lives of their dreams. One day, Michelle found a small nodule under her right arm, and in the following months, her beautiful life was turned into a tumultuous spiral of chaos and cancer. At the young age of thirty, Michelle was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma. This diagnosis and the thought of death shook her very existence to the core. It took the breath out of her being. For several years, she fought to regain her life, strength, and health. During this fight, she fervently prayed daily, “Please Lord, give me a chance to achieve all you have planned for me. Please let your will be done.” God gave Michelle a fighter’s heart, so she fought with every ounce of her being, supported by family, friends, and angels. Michelle vowed if she lived, she would give back in as many ways as she could over the remainder of her lifetime.
On June 3, 2015, after several months of contemplation and a few unexpected delays, Michelle set off from her home in Texas to start the adventure of a lifetime—flying to Spain for the first leg of her first Camino de Santiago. The Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage starting at the foot of the Pyrenees mountain range that extends 500+ miles across the beautiful country of Spain. Michelle was approximately three-months–post-radiation and was not quite 100 percent sold on her ability to accomplish her goal of walking the 500+ miles across France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela, but she was sure she would give it her all. With that said, Michelle vowed to keep her promise and continue with each step she was allowed to take, pushing forward, onward, and upward to achieve her goal of walking each and every step along the Way of St James.
At the same moment, worlds away from Texas, in the beautiful city of Karlstad, a tall, handsome Swedish Andreas was ten days out from starting his own journey along the Camino de Santiago. Andreas had always known about the Camino—studying about it in elementary and junior high school religion classes and reading Paulo Coehlo’s The Pilgrimage. His interest was sparked, and so began his spirit’s quest to one day walk the Camino de Santiago. Andreas knew his heart was searching for something, but he had no idea what that was. Andreas didn’t personally know anyone who had walked The Way, but he was driven by a sense of adventure and excitement to walk to the Atlantic Ocean in a mere twenty-seven days. Possessing a very competitive spirit, Andreas could not just walk 500+ measly miles across Spain. He also decided to complete an eleven-hour, 300-km (200-mile) Swedish bicycle race (Vätternrundan) the day before he left to begin his first Camino journey. Andreas arrived in Santiago on June 14 and began his trek the morning of the following day.
Michelle and Andreas started walking the Camino de Santiago ten days apart. That is, 240 hours, 14,400 minutes. With an average speed of fifteen miles per day (Michelle’s turtle speed), that put Michelle and Andreas 150 miles apart when Andreas departed St. Jean Pied de Port for his first step of walking The Way. As they look back on their Camino Love Story, Michelle and Andreas realize that despite the unlikelihood of even meeting one another with a ten-day difference in start dates, it wasn’t chance that brought them together, but FATE.
One sunshine-filled morning along The Way, Michelle found herself sitting in a small cafe in a quaint little town called Hospital de Orbigo. With birds chirping in the background, she sat with her feet resting in a chair, waiting to be reunited with her fellow peregrina and friend Sengul. Just as Michelle was preparing to gather her things and leave, Sengul entered the cafe, excitedly rejoicing to have found her Camino walking buddy in the sea of pilgrims wandering through the busy roadside cafe. After some coaxing, Michelle joined Sengul’s table and sat down, waiting for her new Camino friends to return. The first pilgrim to pull up a chair was this tall, Caucasian man with the brightest blue eyes Michelle had ever seen. Her first thought—”definitely American.” She could totally tell from the confident manner in which he sauntered up to the table, carrying two gigantic plates of food. In a very non-American accent, Andreas sat down and introduced himself, flashing her the biggest, brightest smile she had seen along The Way.
Their first day ended with Andreas and his friends continuing to walk at a rabbit’s pace, sadly leaving Michelle and Sengul behind. Till this day, Michelle reminds Andreas of how he left her behind in his dust. Luckily for Andreas, his Camino buddy Hugh stayed behind to escort the girls the rest of the way into Astorga, their agreed upon stop for the night.
Faith would continue to have its way by crossing their paths. In a city of more than 12, 000 people, Andreas and Michelle, by nothing more than chance, ended up staying the night in the same albergue in Astorga. The following morning, they again started their walk together, but this time Andreas slowed his pace to keep Michelle at his side. A few moments into the walk, Andreas apologized to Michelle, saying sorry, he wasn’t a big talker. LOL. If you know Michelle, then you realize she probably took this as a challenge. Twelve hours of talking and walking later, Michelle and Andreas arrived at their albergue for the night, and Andreas vowed never to leave her again.
The subsequent days of placing one foot in front of the other along the Camino were filled with more talking, laughing, joking, and discussions on everything ranging from photography to cars to healthcare to family. On the Camino, people let their guard down. They seem to feel an innate sense of comfort sharing their deepest secrets with strangers they have just met. This seems to happen quite often, but no one knows exactly why. Michelle and Andreas are unsure whether this should be attributed to the sheer exhaustion related to walking, the strong sense of companionship from enduring such strenuous activity alongside other people, or the spirits of the Camino finding a way to connect two lost souls searching for one another. Michelle and Andreas may never know the answer to these questions, but what they do know is that while walking these 500+ miles through the Spanish countryside, up mountains and down valleys, their fatigued, blistered, dusty souls found a love for one another that couldn’t be separated by any distance.
“Of all the walks we take together, this one I will cherish the most.”
Thanksgiving 2016 was a life-changing day, as Andreas got down on one knee, looked into Michelle’s eyes, and asked her to be his wife on Santa Catalina Island. YES. She said YES!!!
Congratulations Michelle & Andreas! It is truly amazing that your paths crossed on the Camino. What an incredible way to start a journey of life together. May your lives be filled with love, joy, and happiness. Thank you for sharing your Camino love story. ♥
I am featuring Camino love stories on this blog. Why? Because love is in the air! I certainly respect the premise of what happens on the Camino stays on the Camino. However, love is a splendid thing that should be celebrated. Has the Camino provided you with more than just a long walk? If you have a Camino love story to share, email me or use the form below. Photos and video links welcome.
Share the Camino love! ♥