All posts by Fran

Jump aboard if you dare.

Hola Amigo,

I wrote a deep and long winded post this morning. One with lots of layers and words … and it took me hours, my whole morning. The kind of post that tends to be relatable because many of us share similar feelings. But it didn’t feel great writing it and I’m not going to post it. I realised I was actually writing myself an excuse piece. I was telling a story about how I felt about recent situations that have annoyed me. (I used the phrase ‘wounded by words’ in the piece). I was basically blaming rather than facing.

Basically I was blaming the fact that I don’t feel comfortable around a lot of people and it’s in the facing of truth that we find our way past an obstacle. Often the obstacle is staring back at us, you know the person we see in the mirror. That is where the story is.

The reason I write and share, my purpose, has always been to write myself forward and to connect. It’s a kind of reaching for what I need. Perhaps you do it too or maybe you’re into mood boards it’s basically the same, it’s manifesting. So instead of feeling wounded by situations, what’s really bothering me.

It turns out it’s me. Of course, hello mirror. I’m annoying myself. I am the one who is walking into situations and conversations that aren’t me, not away from them. I’m the one who is struggling with motivation and I’m the one who is walking the tightrope between where I want to be and where I am. Eeer I know the view will be breathtaking … when I stop tripping myself up.

Now I have a choice. I can tell myself the same story and find some comfort in projecting the shit that annoys me OR I can tell myself the truth.

JUMP ABOARD IF YOU DARE

Truth.

Always.

It’s how we grow.

Unpack the story.

Be honest.

Deeper.

It’s closer than you think.

What is hard?

Motivation is hard.

Discipline is hard.

Saying no can be hard.

Conflict is hard.

Body changes are hard.

Feeling lonely amongst people is hard.

You know you have this.

It’s within your grasp, if you dare.

Already, you have a plan.

So begin.

Unravel.

Have a bath, drink a litre of water while you’re in there and put on a mud mask. Hormonal face – I’ll soothe you.

Great.

Feels better already.

Decide to write this story (in said bath).

It’s true your hormones are changing.

Age happens.

Transition.

So you NEED to change.

Time to get on a new ride.

The alcohol has gone perhaps it’s time for the coffee too?

Yes, your adrenals need nurturing.

It’s your soul that needs the fire.

It always has.

Share it with your secret keeper.

Make a commitment to yourself.

Recognise how clever you are.

(Going for a massage your first thought would be have amazing but so is a warm bath and a face mask and it’s basically free.)

Excellent.

Now you’re being kind to yourself.

It’s the best place to start.

It’s always about small steps.

Start where you are.

Make one list.

We’ve arrived at the destination.

Now for the transition.

There are new goals ahead for you.

You have already thrown out the anchors.

It’s your turn now.

You are allowed to take up space.

Choose some non-negotiable’s for a week.

Start there.

– When you’re wounded by small talk write a deep long letter to a soul sister and send it. You’ll realise all the things you really want to talk about and say.

– Exercise each day. Endorphins matter. Nature holds the answers for you.

– The coffee, you know it’s got to go. Trust yourself.

– Water, yes more. Two litres minimum a day. 

– Write when you need to reach, write when you have something to say. Write when you need to find the door. Write to offer a door. It’s always your way home.

– Choose wisely who you confide in … they will either ride with you or be the ones who weigh you down.

That’s enough.

It’s time to move.

Change is happening.

Stay close.

Scramble on the ride.

Don’t miss the call.

Now excuse me dear friends, I must go for a walk amongst autumn.

Buen Camino,

Fran x

This is the Greatest show. My life. My book.

Hola Amigos,

‘It seems to me that January resolutions are about will; September resolutions are about authentic wants. What do you want more or less in your life … it could be as simple as seeing friends more often, setting aside time to have adventures with your children while they still want your companionship … calling a solitary hour a day you own … September resolutions ask only that we be open to positive change …’ Sarah Ban Breathnach.

My friend Louise posted this quote last week and it’s had me pondering. I wonder if it is something many of us have been feeling? I can certainly relate. I been swimming in the wilderness of knowing things are moving, changing … I just had to find which paths I want to walk along. September is the new school year. It’s the refreshing  beginning after the long Summer break. I see it also in my friends in the southern hemisphere, this reaching, yearning to begin. Perhaps it’s the spring bringing the desire to you lot.

Today I literally felt myself break free from the September cocoon. I was out running and all of a sudden I picked up speed, I sang louder, I ran into friends along the trail (we shared some exciting news – friends along your path in the woods … significant of course). And, as I sprinted past the crossroads in the above shot I knew I’d stepped through something magical. I’m ready to come in from the wild. A decision we have been allowing to resolve itself did so this week and I can see the road ahead. Perhaps this is what transformation feels like. Clarity. Comfort in the unknown. Trust. Patience. Strength. Promise.

‘ … Where the runaways are running the night 

Impossible comes true, it’s taking over you

Oh, this is the greatest show

We light it up, we won’t come down

And the walls can’t stop us now

I’m watching it come true, it’s taking over you

Oh, this is the greatest show

‘Cause everything you want is right in front of you
And you see the impossible is coming true

 

And the walls can’t stop us (now) now, yeah

 

This is the greatest show (oh!)’

 

~ Lyrics from The Greatest Show – The Greatest Showman.

Authentic wants? Yes Louise I have a few. I’ve been toggling with the desire to want to plant roots. Deep down we both knew we wanted to stay here and yet we were struggling with the feeling that we’d  given up security. It’s more than simply unpacking when you land in a new country. Especially when you make the move of your own accord for an adventure and the idea that maybe there’s something different for your family. Has it been an adventure? Yes you know it has. Is it a better fit? I honestly have to say yes. I absolutely adore the life my kids have, each of them thriving. That is not to say they wouldn’t thrive back in Aussie, of course they would. But there is a lot about the lifestyle here that is in sync with our parenting styles and values. It is in sync with us … we feel the European life.

These past weeks amongst the reflection there have been more walks with friends (some new arrivals), some deep conversations, some just plain funny ones, coffee there’s been a lot (maybe too much), there have been people popping in and out on their bikes to drop off and pick up kids, a beautiful nine year old’s birthday party, a visit from my hero my mum, kids playing football, there have been job applications, shopping at the market, growing of micro greens, yoga, endorphins, there’s a starter growing on my bench and some dreaming of what might be possible. And there’s been a lot of listening to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman! Some people listen to podcasts, me – ALWAYS and pretty much only music.

My greatest authentic want for September was to surrender into the uncertainty of what we (I) should do or be. Stay and build a life, write a book, disappear from this space or consider if the adventure here is up. Deep down we knew what we wanted to do … we just had to find a way to trust that we’d be ok and take steps towards that path. And perhaps we had to let go of what we ‘perceived’ would provide more security. I’m not going to lie it’s difficult to step in the path of surrendering, you have to look as what scares you, challenge your perspectives and  get a whole lot real with yourself. I mean SHIT who loves looking in the mirror? Who loves making big decisions. Who loves doubting themselves and digging into where that comes from? Gross. Of course some shifts come easier than others but the ones that require us to let go, they are hard … even when we’re barely holding on to them … the final flick is tough. And the sitting out what you can only solve with time and patience – also bloody tough.

Along this run while marching to the beat of my drum I knew today that this is it – The Greatest Show. My life. It’s also my book. I don’t need to be anymore than what I am and what the path offers me – it’s all here, I just need continue to grow with it, notice and wait. Timing, it always arrives. I don’t even need to write a book because look at my life – I am living a book. Maybe that’s me finding an excuse or maybe it’s me realising it’s not time. My dreams haven’t changed. They’ve always been to stay in a chapter as long as it’s where I need to be. To take what matters forward and to know what to shed. We need to be here for our kids and also for us. With budding teenagers the feeling that stability matters more is strong. And I feel more at home with each of the layers I continue to be able add to my life here. I mean look at that I can run amongst farms, next best thing to having a farm!

I’m not that different to the woman, mother, wife and friend who left Sydney. And those of you who know that and share that continue to remain such a meaningful constant in my sphere, I love you for getting my ‘weirdness’ and need to ‘feel’. We have to keep saying that to each other that we feel different in our world (when we do). I have had this conversation with four women this week.  It is OK not to feel that we do or even to want to fit in and share it with each other. I yearn to continue to live a life that is created with simplicity and of course always with a hint of wild adventure.

Naturally to honour a transformation we must shed. Along the way I’ve collected some layers that cause me some angst, those have to go. I know what they are. They became clear when I emerged from the cocoon,  if I’m honest they’ve been circling in the past weeks. I need to peel away a few ideas and habits I hold onto about ‘what I may be, could have been or need’. I’m tired of doubt. Doing that now. Action after reflection. Boom.

Oh and I had this idea (testing the waters here) … you know when I decided to hike the camino for One Girl how I had the idea and without further thought I ran with it. I jumped. Sheesh had it not have been for One Girl I may not have gone ahead with it. Thankfully One Girl was an anchor that was bigger than my fears. My hike did so much for the girls in Africa and so much for me. I want to make sure those 28 girls go to school again next year. Today I ran with vigour (that may not last I’m in my 40’s ;) but I loved it. I need to sweat out some toxins. I realised on my last camino, walking hard in the heat.  And so it became to me as another runner passed by … next year I’ll run a 1/2 marathon a month in different cities around Europe. YES I’ll do that AND I’ll do all of them in a dress. I can manage that around my family and life. My little ones can cycle while I train and run. Win win. I won’t need anything either. I have what I need and I’ll simply build on my foundations from last year (taking what I learnt forward).

This butterfly is ready to fly, and sage the house (watch this space for some magic that landed in my letterbox from Bendigo) hello October.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

‘I saw the sun begin to dim
And felt that winter wind
Blow cold
A (wo)man learns who is there for her
When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble
One remains
Can only be what’s true
If all was lost
Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
To you …
 And we will come back home
And we will come back home
Home, again!’

~ Lyrics from Comeback home – The Greatest Showman

A million dreams (and a million little steps) is all it’s gonna take.

Hola,

Last night I spent some time reading a camino forum. I was interested in reading about other people’s experiences and what they were writing and thinking about beyond the camino. I found a great camino story written from the road.  (Thanks Jeanne for sharing, I love a story with such beautiful reflection.) 

All that reading didn’t have me pining for the camino. No, I’m not lusting for another camino experience. It actually led me back here to this space. I’ve been quiet online recently. I’m not sure what I want to say, I’m still not. If it’s not flowing I hold off from posting or chatting. I’ve never felt the need to keep ‘busy’ attending to rules of regular posting, replying and responding to everything. Man imagine responding to every message that hit our inbox’s (email, socials, chat groups) no it’s far better to let go of the need to spread out everywhere.

Today I read your comments after my last camino post and they opened a new door for me. All of them and especially this one  …

‘Your commitment to live well beyond yourself and deeply within yourself inspires me.’ Annette of I Give You the Verbs.

I’m doing that thing where I find my way home and forward you see. I create space to observe and feel. For whatever reason I felt the need to dive into camino forums, to find some words or writing to give me a hint, to nudge me forward. I found Jeanne’s story and started to realise how much I missed the joy of words. Words have the incredible ability to create connections with each other and ourselves. When we use them wisely they have so much power. Power that can shift, challenge, open, propel and soothe us. Everything I needed was in your comments. Everything. Thank you for your kindness.

These past weeks I have been swimming in the unknown. It’s not a scary place, it’s actually a relaxed place when you surrender into it.  It’s a reflective space. It something my soul needs. In this ‘time’ I consider the things that feel right (connections, actions and commitments). I observe where I am and start to listen to the questions that are niggling. With space comes a willingness to be open and window that allows me to see my responses and reactions in a new light. I learn a great deal about where I am and where I’m going when I commit to this space. This kind of ‘quiet’ hustle free time-out to feel is a gift I regularly give myself. It’s kind of easy to do on account of being a ‘proud’ introvert.

Perhaps it’s the coming of the Equinox? Likely it has something to do with the end of the year long hike for One Girl project I created and definitely it is the fact that this is not yet ‘my’ home, we still need jobs. Often in this ‘reflective’ space I realise I’ve been wrong about something, other times I realise my gut is right and no more excuses, opportunities or chances are needed. It’s where I construct new boundaries and shed old ones. I try new things and often I go back to things I’ve forgotten I need or have somehow have let slip. More music, baking, yoga, paying forward etc.

I don’t often use a lot of quotes in my writing or posting. I did at one time but I made a decision not to in order to try and write my own words. I also tend not to read directional self help style books or preachy posters these days. When I remove everyone else’s take on things I find how I feel and from there I can generally work through things myself. I do enjoy personal stories that haven’t been edited to sell something and don’t come from a ‘how to control’ type approach. Stories that come from caring, trying, failing, reaching,  living, persisting, growing. They’re enough to get me considering and moving.

One of my favourites is Sarah Wilson, when she writes she speaks to me. I think this is because she too is often swimming in the wild ocean of life and what it means. I love that she is always stepping into the elements to find her best ‘contributing’ self and always as she grows, she moves (leaping) forward. She is so far from boring because she is not afraid to be different, honest and her vulnerability is not her asking for validation. She works on herself for the greater good and is validated because she is living her truth. Big difference. She is a beacon of beautiful truth in this era of both on and offline noise pollution.

Man I digress a lot! Back to the quotes …  often the popular ones annoy me with their overuse. That is until that moment they feel real and are not so cliche. It’s like the one if you don’t learn the lesson the first time it will come back again. Yep that one, used to hate it but now I am feeling it. And I’m loving it. It gave me permission to not be so hard on myself when I end up in the same place, repeating a mistake. Sometimes we must keep doing things the same way until we get strong enough to realise ‘this is not working’ or ‘yeah I get it’, ‘I am ready to act’ or perhaps when we get so sick of ourselves pandering to the ‘same old, same old’ behaviour that we simple say ‘enough’. Lesson learnt, time to do something different.

I’ve had a few of these realisations these past few weeks. There are conversations and situations I don’t like to find myself in. Ones I could avoid by unapologetically saying NO and protecting my time. It’s simply not worth being in relationships where you don’t feel yourself.  Our capacity to give of ourselves (online and IRL) is limited. Capacity is one thing I want to protect. Protect in order to be giving to my best self and to the people who are my people not a watered down, unavailable, unaware version of myself. Life is too short to be bored – giving away my time, my thoughts and my heart to people and places without meaning.

Ironically, it’s a lesson I also shared with one of my kids this week. A friend messaged saying they had waited all weekend for a reply. It felt like the beginning of that passive aggressive way where we ‘learn’ that we ‘must’ be available and that feeling were everyone else’s expectations are more important. It could have been the beginning of a cycle of doing things because others expect it. But we don’t all need to be a part of everything and as I explained to my child you are allowed to be unavailable. In fact in this day and age of technology you MUST cultivate the ability to do that. And I’m here to help with that little one ;).

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Markhor in the andes

We need to be careful as women. We are vulnerable. We are givers. And we are protectors. We want to do the best for others. Like the Markhor on the high peaks of the mountains of Pakistan, the Snow Leopard is always watching and waiting to pounce because the Markhor is vulnerable, especially with her young. We need to be brave and discerning. We can’t possibly do all the great things we are capable of (dream about) and love in the great depths we need to if we allow those leopards to pounce and take our time and our thoughts. We can’t let unimportant noise, the type that makes us doubt ourselves by encouraging us to consume, judge, worry, fear, blame, be busy and to conform weaken us. Nah we need to let those leopards bounce off us because we are secure in our values and not willing to risk or compromise the important stuff.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Snow leopard in the andes

Ok so I  make no apologies for deciding to use a quote next. I’m getting lost in music this week and today I’m firing myself up. It’s time commit to my next scary project while I allow all the unknowns to unfold (without worrying) and these latest reflections to find form. You probably need to have The Greatest Showman beats playing to get this one!

‘I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.’

Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Ensemble

Except that I don’t really want to be seen in a BIG way for a while. Nor in a loud way. I have quiet things to do. I loved the Camino and sharing that story in all the spaces but time for some head down, bum up. The quiet Equinox’y things require me to commit to them with time and focus. Creating more space to learn, for the reintroduction of some home-steading practices and a thing I started mid last year after our travels. I wonder if the time is now right for that book.

Maybe. If I can get past the outline I kept adding to while we travelled this summer and write the chapters. Perhaps I need to get my head out of my arse and trust the calling to this book that KEEPS showing up. We lived in The Netherlands once before and you know what I started then? My first attempt. Except I didn’t have a story then … I do now. And again I find myself in the same spot. Yet different because there are million baby steps between then and now that would make it easier for me to actually birth this ‘book’ baby.

I needed the camino to complete the story or perhaps that is the story. I  could have done without the soul destroying darkness of the shit storm we lived though when we first arrived here. Thankfully my (well practiced) ability to change what needs to be changed saw us (me) through that one.  And I am grateful beyond words that it was not about health, aside from the stress it caused. That darkness and the camino that followed reminded me of who I am.

An optimist and a lover of JOY. Someone who is at home noticing what needs to be noticed, changing what needs changing, focused on the people who need to be seen and the importance of protecting not only our own vulnerabilities but all that is vulnerable.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make’

~ Lyrics ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman

To find myself in this space is my true JOY – it’s filled with words, lyrics, excitement, hope, love, hugs, quiet, kindness and dreams. It is what I need right now, it’s what I always need. A life that is lived as though I am part of a musical! True – I could sing and dance trhough my days given the chance. And of course my kids are singing about dreams today because what an album – The Greatest Showman (currently on repeat ;).

‘So I say thank you for the music

 the songs I’m singing

thanks for all the joy they’re bringing 

who can live without it 

I ask in all honesty

what would life be

without a song or a dance what are we’

~ABBA lyrics.

Look another quote ha ha no apologies because music and words are filling my day today.

‘Forget the cage, ’cause we know how to make the key
Oh, damn! Suddenly we’re free to fly
We’re going to the other side’

~ More lyrics from the Greatest Showman.

Buen Camino on this walk we are all walking. How’s your dreaming? Got anything sparking up?

Yes Annette you are so right, that is my commitment to myself. To live within my extremes –  well beyond myself and deeply within. Thank you for noticing and teaching me something without even trying, just by being you and writing lovely words.

Fran xx

Camino Day 6 – Writing from Santiago de Compostela.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Here I am. Santiago de Compostela. Once again but this time different. This time complete. The final day in a trek that has added over 1,000kms to my legs, sent 28 girls to school and taught me about persistence, belief, charity, honesty, fear, bravery, courage, community (shin splints) and kindness. An adventure that asked me to stand bigger than I’ve stood in many years. An experience that has left a legacy, one that will shape every step I take as I move forward into the next chapter of this long life.

Today started early! We rose at 5.30am to walk through the early hours. After a mammoth 12 hour day yesterday we hoped to avoid this afternoon’s heat. Fortunately I lucked in with another dorm night where I could sleep through. This is no mean feat with at least 15 fellow walkers sharing the room. Thankfully there were no loud snorers or late night shufflers. I also had a bottom bunk and a night without a buddy on the top bunk eases the sleep situation. I’ve grown quite fond of the shared accommodation this camino. I’ve seen it as a personal challenge to be more amongst people. Also as a solo traveller the single rooms are not as affordable as they were when I walked with my sister and shared the cost.

As early leavers we do what is courteous for our fellow ‘roomies’ by taking our packs out of the room to organise them and get ourselves ready. There are a few things I’ve done differently this trip that I think are worth sharing if you’re reading and planning a camino! I have a small 40 litre pack. It’s enough, so much better in fact. The weight is about 5kgs. I have a sleeping sheet instead of a sleeping bag – brilliant. Less clothes, a truckload less toiletries and food wise I have an energy breakfast bar for each morning as well as regular salt stick tablets.

Another beautiful walk that started with hours of darkness. We walked under a sky full of stars, the Milky Way … it was magnificent. There was no need to break our stride looking for the ‘way’ today because it is well marked in reverse from Santa Marina. I’m glad yesterday’s hill is behind us. It’s a nice feeling to know that you took a few extra kms yesterday for today, those 46 kms mean only 43 today! Only – ha ha.

Breda and I walked together to our breakfast stop some 12kms from where we started this morning. It was the village and cafe where I first sat with Christian and wrote in his diary a few days before. It’s funny walking back where you’ve been as the villages already hold moments and memories. Breda and I swapped numbers here and arranged to catch up in Santiago for dinner. While we both like walking together the track is now light and on this last day I think walking alone is calling us both.

It’s quite magical to walk alone. To take the time to relish in being on the camino. To hear the sounds, feel the villages, smell the freshness – to simply be at one with yourself and the landscape. I had that also last time with my sister. We were able to intuitively know when and how to skip into aloneness or perhaps ‘oneness’ is a better description.

There was a great sense of accomplishment building as I walked closer and closer towards Santiago. Always mindful that I hadn’t quite made it … but deep down knowing I would. I felt the warmth of every ‘Buen camino’, ‘Buenos dias’, ‘Buenos Tardes’ … where else in the world will every single person you meet smile and wish you a good day or a good walk? It’s unique and I wonder what the world would be like if this courtesy was practiced daily. Smiles and greetings, no doubt they could change the world.

I’ve walked over 1,000 camino kms and 34 camino days and naturally there have been challenges. But I keep walking and step by step I walk through it or I walk into what I need. It’s a little how I feel about life right now. The stronger we walk the better we get at surrendering to the ‘not knowing’ of what’s to come, through those harder steps life sometimes chucks in our path and into what scares us. Finding trust frees us up. And when we free ourselves we open ourselves to experiencing pure joy and isn’t the experience of joy worthy of learning to surrender.

Casa Pancho: I should have stopped here to eat but I pushed on. I was walking a part of the trail that I had walked in the first few hours of my first day. I was fresh and full of beans then. Today my feet were not so fresh! I didn’t recall that there were steep hills from here and no food stops for another seven or so kms. I had run out of food and water. Luckily I had drunk enough litres and had enough fuel on board but I was silly to walk past a lone cafe when I was feeling the need to refuel. Nevertheless, I walked on …

… And found myself here, in this tiny cafe. The first place I stopped on my way out of Santiago six days before. No signs to warn me I just walked into it with its welcoming grape and kiwi vines. The perfect last stop to have a tortilla and a cold drink before walking the last 12 or so kms into Santiago.

Physically this was the hardest part of the walk as my feet ached with each step but personally it was hugely rewarding. I knew I was nearly there. I was making the most of each step. I felt ready to finish and excited to make it to the cathedral without the trauma of last time’s injuries. I was also excited about this new feeling I was uncovering … that something was ending and creating space for a new beginning. With each step this camino, this hike for one girl was nearing its completion. This last week had given me the opportunity to finish of what I had started so bravely and provided the perfect setting in which to be able to let it go.

When I created this project I was disillusioned with travel and the form in which it’s often shared online. I wanted to know I was contributing to the travel ‘noise’ in a way that was true to her essence, that she gives and we shouldn’t use her to take from or to encourage a world that wants ‘more’ at any cost. Travel, when we become immersed in her with new people, cultures and landscapes usually encourages us to want less, to give more. I think I achieved that. I know sharing the beauty of the camino inspired others to also walk, to dream of reflection and simplicity – to take time in nature and to want to be a part of something that was contributing. We sent 28 girls to school, girls who had more chance of becoming child brides before we stepped in (or up) – that action my friends MATTERS. It matters a great deal. It was a call to action (to protect what’s vulnerable).

I hope it also encourages others to come to this beautiful part of the world and participate in walking across a country! Travel that is sustainable for the environment and for the communities it supports. Travel that you come home from feeling content and with new fresh and challenged perspectives. And lastly by standing for something along the way I hope it helped others to feel they too could be brave, that bravery is not only about hustle and being loud or by insincerely telling others how they should live or what they need at the cost of your own soul. It’s simply about being honest and having the courage to take the action you need to be true to yourself by knowing and standing for what matters to you, no matter how small or big. Tip toeing, stepping or striding forwards.

If something doesn’t ‘feel’ right it probably isn’t. It’s far more courageous to explore your own intention and live your own truth. I think that is bravery not the bullshit we are fed, a lot of that is really just packaged up marketing or the projection of someone else’s needs. Which if you also need – unreal. But if not … it’s extraneous noise getting in the way of living your own real connected life. On the trail it all feels so real … I’m looking to surround myself with even more people like that. People who are living and feeling ‘real’ and standing for something. And I’ll be tuning in with those daily camino’ism type habits that keep me moving in the right direction. Along my path, towards my truth.

Of course just as I was about to walk back into civilization, into what would be the final section of this trail I happened upon this little guy. A cotton tail rabbit. Happily munching away, not frightened of me and contented to let me stand and stare in wonder. Of course if you know me you’ll know that his presence will be taken as a sign. A coincidence of great importance. I don’t believe this bunny is my animal totem but I do believe he was there to celebrate my ending. In a read of rabbit symbolism I know why this rabbit was on my path today. How about you? Are you noticing what’s along your path? And are you taking the time to understand why? Tell me a story if you have one to share.

And then in one unexpected second this gloriousness happened. I walked up from the forest track and into a view of the cathedral of Santiago. It was one of the most surreal experiences. When you arrive in Santiago from the other more popular way you don’t see the cathedral. I was nearly there. For the last few kms I started to undo all the plans I had for arriving and decided to just go to the cathedral and sit in the square (plaza). No, I wouldn’t check in, shower and do things in any order, I’d simply arrive.

How did it pan out? Well I ran into Helen within two minutes of hitting the square. Helen is the Dutch lady I met who flew in on the same plane. We took a photo for each other. I lined up on my sore feet in my stinky hiking gear at the pilgrim’s office to get my compostella and guess who walked in? Breda of course :) after getting our pieces of paper we bought a beer and sat on the plaza together to drink it. Naturally we’d do that! She’s Irish and I’m an Aussie and a beer signals a hard day’s or in our case week’s work. It was pretty amazing to sit in the square for a while. Sure I was tired, sore and smelly but I was also contented and in the mood to linger in the moment. We talked to fellow pilgrims and met a couple who had walked twice a year for three years to finally make their way along the camino Frances into Santiago. Every story is different, but everyone has one.

This trip was a bit about me being open to people and while I quietly harbored the desire to hibernate in my hotel room, I decided to go out and share a meal with Breta to celebrate finishing. I’m glad I did as again we met pilgrims with stories. A man (72) who just walked his first camino. He plans to do one a year ‘why not’ he says ‘I can still walk’. Why not indeed?!

There’s more I could write about my camino but then I’d never get this published! Do know I ate Santiago tart for breakfast (yum) … and I did run into Helen again at the airport (camino community and coincidence are always around the next corner). And we all know I’ve been back over a week now and am actually already living in the next chapter of my story (I’m keen to live in that, many unknowns but I’m sure it’s going to be a good one).

My camino Frances is over but don’t for a minute think I’m not on the camino. Don’t for a minute think you’re not on the camino either … every step we take is along our very own personal camino, our walk through life. What a privilege. I’m trying to not waste too many seconds by not remembering that – it goes fast, gosh my kids are growing. And boy do I love being a part of and awake enough to be sharing and present in that.

Again it’s time to say buen camino dear friends. Thank you from the depths of my heart for all the support and donations along the way and a special thanks to Sherilyn for the painting you did for me. I received it at the airport and have been profoundly moved by your sentiment. Of course Sherilyn I also see this as a great coincidence as it came at exactly the right time. And I want you to know that it was the moment that officially finished this last leg of my Camino Frances (hike for One Girl), the moment it all made sense. Thank you for creating an artwork (a gift) that helped me realise the importance of being proud and aware of the legacy I will leave for my children. That my life will stand for something important because I stare at the things that didn’t sit right inside and answer the call. That’s my personal truth and I will continue to build on that … for now by remaining close to home. The equinox has blown in and her timing is quite perfect. Time now to do small things with BIG love. But we know it’s the small, simple things done with love that are really the big, brave things don’t we ;)

Talk soon.

Fran xx

Camino Day 5 – Writing from Santa Marina

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Sometimes I underestimate how hard something may be … it’s my nature and probably why I can take huge leaps of faith and am prone to rather BIG adventures. Lucky for me the luck of the Irish tends to be on my side! And today my luck literally came from meeting three Irish walkers from County Kilkenny.

An early start out of Muxia at 7am and the fiesta was still in full swing. Not kidding. The streets were full of people dancing and partying. They’d been there since the night before and it didn’t look like it was ending anytime soon. Oh the energy of young people. Me? I was happy to get out beyond the gaiety and into the bush under the moonlight.

As I mentioned I wasn’t super prepared given that I thought it would be a case of (simply) following the arrows backwards. Of course that sounds easy in theory except when there is a junction! And there were many. Thankfully, I had my friend Breda who I’d met the night before. She had a guide book that described the return trip and a head torch. We had to look for footprints, banana peels, toilet paper and any signs of the pilgrim path.

It was slow going as we had to take our time, not discounting any path that may be ‘the way’ and stop at each way marker. We knew we were on track when we came across this landmark, one of the longest hórreos in Galicia. A hórreo is the Galician style granary and the symbol of the Galician landscape. Every farm has one and often urban dwellings as well. They are spectacularly traditional and beautiful.

As the day got lighter we found a few more Irish hikers on the return walk to Santiago! Patrick and Catherine. They had taken three hours to find the trail out of Muxia. I think they nearly divorced in the process ;) joking. But getting lost hiking or not finding the trail is probably like navigating a car for your spouse … a recipe for niggling at each other. I really enjoyed walking with this lot and because the craic was so good we all found ourselves stopping to share breakfast together. Mine as always looked the same. Bacon and eggs. Camino routines, we all have our own.

On we walked, through the beautiful varied countryside, passing local camino characters along this ancient trail and past the 17th century church Iglesia de Santa Baia in Dumbria. Along the way we walked on from our new friends the Irish couple. They stopped for their next food break. Breda walks a bit like me, more walking less stopping. We all have different styles … it’s important to know yours, perhaps take the time to find yours but always to be walking yours (however that looks at any particular time on your camino).

We made it to Hospital. The 30km mark today and a bloody AWESOME milestone. Remember last time I was here, a few days ago? It was in the dark … I had to decide if I’d follow the guy with the head torch and go right or go left on my own. I went left. Today I returned via the trail the right (the road less travelled, cliche but true of this route). It’s also the point on the trail that someone started spray painting return arrows to Santiago. Life was about to get a whole lot easer. Well navigation wise! We still had 16kms to do today. First some chocolate and a cold drink to celebrate.

On we walked! Or perhaps plodded is a better word. The day was going to be a long one. We’d started at 7am and it was looking like a 7pm arrival in Santa Marina (SM) the village we were aiming for. It would take us just over the half way into Santiago. At about 5.30pm we stopped for another cold drink. The sun was harsh today (I drank at least five liters of water), the hottest so far and my feet were beginning to feel each step. Choice time. Do we stop here and put our feet up or make our way over the next hill towards SM?

We walked on. One of the great camino’isms for me was not to put off to tomorrow what I can do today. Especially if I’m already in flow and not harried, step by step, keep walking forward. I was hot, sweaty and yes my feet were sore but I knew I had the last 6kms in me to make it to SM. And if I’m honest I love to hike and I wanted the challenge. If I stuck with the flow I’d wake up tomorrow without a big hill to climb first up. Remember this is not a ‘normal’ camino. I’d made it to Finisterre and Muxia thus completing my walk across Spain to the sea. These last two days were purely about physical and personal challenge … could I walk back to Santiago? In a dress for One Girl?

One of the greatest sights on the camino are the plastic chairs! Seriously. When it’s time for a break or that time to hang your backpack for a night … those chairs are home. Oh man I was overjoyed to see ‘Casa Pepa’ in Santa Marina. We arrived after 12 hours of walking and there were two bottom bunks free. WINNING. There was really only time to shower, drink a beer (or two), eat a pilgrim meal and marvel at the day. We made it! We didn’t get lost and we were over half way back to Santiago. The WiFi was non existent so I excused myself from writing this blog post ;) We can’t do it all friends … can’t mess with flow. That would be counter productive. Right sleep because Breda and I have planned a 6am start tomorrow to find our way into Santiago.

Buen Camino dear ones … catching up now and a snap from dinner that I think shows my (big day) tired but happy eyes. Till tomorrow from Santiago (hopefully ;)),

Fran xx