Like so many stories, I was young and in love. But like many before me, I was scared to settle down. I wanted to explore the world— alone. I’ll never forget the day I told Lincoln I was going to take two months to hike from France to Spain along the El Camino de Santiago. We both cried a lot. It was clear that he was ready for more and I was not. It wouldn’t be fair for me to ask him to wait for me. Afterall, I had no idea if I would even return after the hike or if I would continue on with my journey. 

On the day I was set to leave, Lincoln met me at the airport and gave me a small box. I opened the box and found a curious looking charm. It was a bronze fist. Lincoln kissed my forehead and turned and left. There was a small card inside the box. It was a Brazilian Figa charm. Legend says that the clenched fist wards off the evil eye, but only if received as a gift. Lincoln’s host mom had given it to him when he studied abroad in Brazil in college and now he was giving it to me to protect me on my journey.

I wore my precious figa for the next two months as I made my way 500 miles from the French border in the Pyrenees to the coast of Spain. Every time I stumbled into town weary from the miles and terrain only to find I had secured the last available bed, I thanked my figa charm. When I forgot my wallet and passport at a hostel and a fellow pilgrim found me on the trail to return it to me, I thanked my figa charm. When I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, I thanked my figa charm for clearing my path. On the days when I craved the company of others, I thanked the figa charm for the engaging conversations I had with other pilgrims. 

After almost eight weeks of intense soul searching, I arrived at the Spanish coast with an immense weight lifted from my shoulders. I knew I was ready to return home. I hoped with all my heart that Lincoln would be there, but I did not know if my figa charm could protect me from a broken heart. I sent him a quick text as I was boarding my flight. I took out my figa charm and held it to my heart as I fell into a deep sleep. I woke up as we were making our final descent. 

I made my way through immigration, baggage claim and customs in a daze. I was considering my options for how to get home from the airport, when I spotted him leaning against a wall near the exit. I dug around in my pocket and found the figa charm. I slipped it into his hand and smiled. 

We got married the next summer and are living the happily ever after life we always hoped for.