Yosmar’s Story: Tastes of the Camino

Yosmar is a pilgrim of life. Like me, she was in the middle of seeking something better when she decided to walk the Camino de Santiago. Afterward, she sought a way to bring this meaningful experience to the world.

How do we live a more inspired, more Camino-like life every day? As a fellow writer and seeker, I’m delighted to share her story. Yosmar’s story shows how she ultimately chose to bring delight and deliciousness to the world.

Tastes of the Camino… The Camino’s gift to me

Yosmar Martinez

Like many who embark on the Camino, I was in a very dark phase of my life prior to experiencing the Camino. For almost ten years, I had been very unhappy in my career, which led me to being unhappy in my life. At times, I thought my unhappiness was job-specific…. If I could get a job where I was paid more, I would be happier… If I didn’t have a neurotic or spineless boss, I would enjoy what I was doing…  If I didn’t have to commute an hour each way, I wouldn’t be so exhausted at the end of the week and my quality of life would be so much better… You name it…

If there was an “if,” it was something I had pondered on and believed would make me happier.  So as many do, I switched jobs a few times to try to address some of those “if’s.” Each time, the initial ecstasy of the new opportunity would fade within months and I would be back to the same place.  

I also took sometime to go to culinary school and deep down I knew I had to do something with food. But I wasn’t sure what.  I started a specialty food business but I was not meeting my financials goals within the timeframe I had allotted. I taught cooking classes on a part time basis. I loved teaching as it really allowed me to share my passion about food with others. But I had a hard time making ends meet just teaching.  So I always kept my corporate career. It was my safety net and yet, it was also a huge factor in my unhappiness.

The two years right before that first Camino in 2011 were particular tough. During the great recession, my position was eliminated and the job market shrunk.  \So I decided to get into real estate. I was truly excited about this new career path but it was tough being that the market was in the dumpster.

The constant struggling in a down market and the ongoing unhappiness really wore me down. And that is when I decided to walk the Camino, despite having all sorts of reservations… Could I physically walk 500 miles? Was the Camino for me, being the non-religious, non-spiritual person that I was? Would I even enjoy myself?

After returning from my first Camino, like many, I was able to see the positive impact that the Camino had on me. It wasn’t a sudden or dramatic change. But for one, I reacted to problems a bit more calmly… I also didn’t need material things as much. It also seemed to give me the courage to at least start writing a cookbook, something I had always wanted to do but was afraid of.

You see… during those 10 years of ongoing dissatisfaction and unhappiness, I had lost my self-confidence and the ability to belief in my ideas. But somehow, after arriving in Santiago, I was compelled to write a book about the foods of the Camino. So I started working on my Camino cookbook… developing recipes and writing. I knew I would enjoy the recipe development because after all I love everything about food! But I didn’t consider myself a writer so I was somewhat fearful of that part of the book.  

To my surprise, I found the writing portion extremely therapeutic.  It was almost as the world around me didn’t exist while I was writing and therefore, nothing could bring me down. While I was enjoying myself, deep down, I still was unsure if this book would ever see the light of day. Because of my work and travel commitments, it took about three years to complete the manuscript.  

It was only when the manuscript was done that I started to believe that there would actually be a real book. I decided to self-publish and had to learn a “boatload of new”… food photography, food styling, book design, indexing, printing, website development, how to open an LLC, sales tax, etc. But somehow overcoming this “boatload of new” gave me back my self-confidence… In essence, the Camino and this cookbook, Tastes of the Camino, put me on a positive path that I had been searching for a very long time.  And when I became more positive, things just started falling into place.

What this positive path will bring me is yet to be known. It might be more books … It might be something else food related… It might be something totally unrelated that I can’t even fathom! Right now, I am not too concerned because I am enjoying this gift the Camino has given me. I put emphasis on the word “enjoying” because I feel that society puts too much emphasis on being happy rather than enjoying happiness. And sometimes we are so desperately in search of this ultimate state of mind/state of mind called happiness that we don’t see it in our day to day and thus, we forget to enjoy it. Without having walked the Camino and written Tastes of the Camino, I am unsure I would have ever come to this realization.

For more information on Tastes of the Camino, please visit www.whiskandspatula.com/books.

Serendipity, songs, and pre-Camino angels

I knew my blue mood wasn’t permanent

Ever since my Camino, I’ve come to believe that invisible spirits look out for me, guide me, support my path. Yours too. Although my logical side wants to deny this, sometimes the coincidences are too numerous to ignore.

The key is being open. It’s about remaining unattached to How Things Will Turn Out. A few days ago, I surrendered the need to know.

Not surprisingly, signs started showing up. My blue mood lifted. Hope and excitement began bubbling up in its place. By doing my part and letting go, I started hearing the messages that were there all along.

Song angels

When I was on the Camino, song angels would come and whisper lyrics of a long-forgotten melody into my ears. Receiving these songs was a profound spiritual experience. When Desperado came to me, for example, I remembered to come down from my fences and open the gate of my heart. Each song that arrived carried with it a message my soul needed to hear.

Styx and Sparks

Now they’re showing up before I leave. One song came in the grocery store last week. Two days ago, it was Show Me the Way by Styx—a tune I haven’t heard in years. Its message of surrender and trust reminded me not to worry and to trust that the Way is there for me to find.

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Please, show me the way

The next day, a more contemporary song—One Step at a Time by Jordin Sparks—came to me like a silver thread. The drum beats are actual footsteps, and its message is about taking your time, making one choice, taking one breath, and focusing on what you can do.

When you can’t wait any longer
But there’s no end in sight
It’s your faith that makes you stronger
The only way we get there
Is one step at a time

I needed to hear these words. We all do.

People angels

The Divine uses people as messengers too.

Three songs and then a day later, dear Meg, the original Camino archangel, called me out of the blue.

As we caught up, it became clear that both Meg and I are walking at life’s edges, challenged by conflicting choices. We talked about the difference between thinking and knowing. How to make everything more complicated with cruel self-judgment. How hard it is to really change your life.

We also reminisced about our Camino when the topic of gear came up. Meg told me about a sweet woman she met who was carrying a third of her own weight on her back. When Meg eventually helped lighten this woman’s load, she revealed she was carrying no fewer than a half-dozen knives from well-meaning friends.

Meg contagious laughter got me going. “Why would anyone need six knives?” she asked.

“It’s not like the Camino is in the wilderness!” I said. “No hacksaw necessary!”

Meg cracked up. “Right! Do you even really need one? I mean, if you have cheese, you can just bite some off with your teeth! And the lightweight sporks, Jen! What the fuck?”

Our laughter was cathartic.

You can pack your bag full for every contingency, and it will physically hurt you—even end your Camino early. In the same way, you can fill your mind with every worry, doubt, and fear—and ruin a perfectly lovely walk. That mental mess makes you miss the blessings, the serendipity, and life-changing messages.

Wake up

As we discussed Meg’s current big decision, I suggested the best way to get the outcome she’s looking for is to get really clear about what she wants.

“I have to disagree,” she said, surprising me. “I fuck up everything I try to influence. I really think the point is to let go of control.”

As a lifelong control freak, this got my attention.

She continued, “Someone asked me once why I should set the bar myself, when I have no idea how happy I’m capable of being. If you try to control everything, you limit the outcomes of what’s possible. Your ideas of what you can create are too small, too limited. Let go instead and see what shows up. It could be even better than you can imagine.”

Wow. Just whack that nail on its shiny little head.

Stay open and let go

These words, from exactly the right person, were just what I needed to hear. Her humor lightened my worries, and our conversation reminded me to open my heart to the wonder and miracles everywhere.

When we were just about to hang up, she said, “If I don’t talk to you before you go, have an amazing time, Jen. Don’t pack too much.”

“In more ways than one, right?” We both laughed.

“Yeah,” she said. “Try to keep it to just one knife.”

Divine nods

I believe in signs.

Since I avoid walking under ladders and throw spilled salt over my left shoulder, I probably should. But deciding to take a seven-week journey halfway around the world makes me look for affirmations—Divine nods—that I’m making the right choices.

Maybe I shouldn’t put this in print, but things are going really well.


I bought my airfare! I have a flight to Dublin and will soon purchase connections to Santiago and Biarritz. Oh, my Lord, was that scary! At my request, Mary held my hand in support as I clicked “purchase,” and now it’s done. I’m going! Good sign? The price jumped up the day after I purchased and hasn’t gone down since. Granted, I know there’s a corporate algorithm that makes this happen, but signs are in the eye of the beholder. (And, in case you’re wondering, the fare was $1077 from PDX to DUB.)


Second, after a few emails and a Skype call to talk about details, Muriel emailed me last week to confirm that she will be arriving in Pamplona for us to cross the Pyrenees together. “Just in time for pintxos,” she wrote. I am beside myself with glee that this sage soul and I will walk together over those mountains while having deep talks and laughs about life.

I feel the need to knock wood right now!

Camino connections!

Third, I’ve met three separate people in two weeks who have Camino dreams. Totally random places. Totally joyful conversations. I encouraged them to trust the call they hear. “Our meeting was not a coincidence,” one said gratefully. Exactly my point.

More Camino connections!

Fourth, a local peregrina friend invited me to attend a huge Camino-themed holiday potluck put on by the Portlandia Chapter of APOC. Our hour-long car ride was fun and meaningful (why have we not done this before?). As an introvert, groups overwhelm me, and I feared sitting alone awkwardly with no one to talk to.  I should not have worried! We pilgrims know how to connect with almost anyone. More than one hundred people were in attendance and at least half had walked the Camino. One peregrina I met had completed her pilgrimage a mere month before. Her sparkling eyes and relaxed jaw reminded me: you too will feel this way soon.


Fifth, two of my favorite Camino bloggers, Nadine and Elissa, both did Caminos this past summer. Both have been in post-pilgrimage processing mode and understandably quiet since they returned. In the last few weeks, they’ve both come out of the woods, reaching out and writing. This delights me as I’ve missed them (while understanding the need to take time to process the journey) and look forward to more reading and connecting with them both.

A draft!

Sixth, I spent time at my favorite mountain retreat center for five days of writing and—lo and behold—I finished a very rough draft of my Camino book. Good omen? You bet!

Happy knees!

Seventh (it just keeps going!!), I saw my awesome doc last week to talk about my knee progress. She didn’t say a word about hobbies or hiking. Instead, she was really encouraging and thrilled to hear that the supplements and exercises are working. I’m thrilled too. I’m not pain-free, but the pain is less and bearable. Now if I could just stop eating holiday goodies (I just learned how to make my own egg nog chai), I might make progress on the weight-loss side of things I’d be even happier. All in all, I’m thrilled my body is healing!

A serious one!

Finally, there is one sign I’m still sorting out. Since my post about risks on the Camino, the world’s axis seems to have shifted a few degrees in the wake of inexplicable violence. More than one caring person in my life has questioned whether it’s safe to travel in Europe right now. The US government advises caution. Here’s what I know in my gut: If I change my life or plans one iota because of fear, the evil side wins.

I mention this issue because signs don’t always confirm what we want to hear. Sometimes they challenge us to question how devoted we are to our call. Are you ready, they ask. Are you sure you’re up for the risks? Are you willing to lose others’ respect, your comfort, even your life to follow your heart? 

Yes. I am. Like life, the Camino may not be bed of rose petals, but nothing worth loving ever is. I’m trusting my conviction as a Divine nod—and proceeding with willingness, caution, and joy. May you do the same in order to follow what you love.