After William and I finished walking the 482.3 mile Camino de Santiago on June 22, 2017 (a 36-day odyssey that was one of the most physically challenging and spiritually uplifting adventures we have ever undertaken), we realized we still had one more goal to achieve while we were in Spain — it was time to Travel With Balls!

In Santiago de Campostela, we met a wonderful shopkeeper named Oscar who told us where we could purchase a soccer ball, or futbol.  But when we returned to him with the ball afterwards to ask where the more economically disadvantaged parts of the city were so that we could do a ball give-away, Oscar shrugged and grinned and informed us that Santiago had become a prosperous town thanks to all the peregrinos, or pilgrims, that flooded the place now that The Way had become popular again.

His words rang true.  I had visited Santiago de Campostela in 1986 while enjoying a month-long driving trip through Spain, and the sprawling, thriving city I found myself in now bore little resemblance to the town I remember back then, when the population was much smaller and poorer.  My most vivid memory of Santiago de Campostela in 1986 was of taking a walk around the outskirts and encountering a Gypsy settlement of old, broken-down camper-vans, and of two very young Gypsy children playing soccer with the body of a dead chicken.  Thankfully, the fortunes of the place have greatly improved and the grinding poverty of that Santiago no longer exists!

Thus we decided to save the ball we had purchased for Barcelona.  After a 13-hour train ride from Santiago de Campostela we had only one more day to enjoy the city (we had flown into Barcelona when arriving in Spain and had spent a couple of nights there at the beginning of our trip…), so we decided to board one of the “hop on, hop off” sightseeing buses in order to at least get a glimpse of some of the places we hadn’t had time to visit.  We carried the ball with us, thinking that perhaps we’d get the chance to do a ball give-away in front of Camp Nou, the home of the city’s legendary futbol squad, but there were no kids playing in front of it as we assumed there might be.

It was almost eight when we finished our bus tour in front of Placa Catalunya, and dusk was beginning to fall.  We were flying back to Los Angeles the following day.  If we were going to score a ball give-away, to TRAVEL WITH BALLS, we had to do it soon.  William and I walked back to Barceloneta neighborhood our tour bus had passed by earlier in the day — the taped narrative we had listened to had implied it was the grittier part of town — and started threading our way through the dense warren of impossibly narrow streets lined with run-down tenements and laundry hanging overhead.  A young man lounged against the front door of his building and furtively slipped something into the hand of a passerby, but for the most part the streets were pretty much deserted.  It was a vastly different scene from the tourist-packed avenues not that far away.   As we walked on, we suddenly heard the sound of children shouting and followed it: in another couple of minutes we found ourselves at the edge of a small dirt plaza where about a dozen kids were shooting at a metal goal-post with well-worn futbols.

Now, they have a new futbol to play with.  And William and I have the pleasure of knowing that we spread a little random joy.  Because the GOAL is JOY!

Summer is here.  If you’re headed abroad, please TRAVEL WITH BALLS!

Peace & Blessings,