Category Archives: Camino Frances 2018

Summer Camper Trip – St-Jean Pied de Port, France.

In the foot hills of The Pyrenees, the last town in France where pilgrims traditionally stopped before heading towards Santiago de Compostela is where we’ve been. A heart filling stop in St-Jean Pied de Port. It is also the town where the 800km Camino Frances begins. It was good to be back.

There are some places I visit that I just know I will come back to. SJPdP was one of them. Back in April when I was here to begin my epic 800km hike for One Girl it was all new and unfamiliar and at the same time so charming and welcoming. There was a warmth here I wanted to feel again when I didn’t have walking a camino to consider.

This time around I saw a new side to it as I shared the experience with my family. We lucked upon Basque dancing and the tradition of a Palote match. I adore this about village life – traditions that are upheld. No matter what age there is a place for people.

We ate at the same restaurant I dined with my sister the night before and we wandered through ancient archway onto the Napoleon route across the Pyrenees. These arch ways which hundreds of thousands of people have walked through as set off or continue walking along ‘the way’ towards Santiago.

The motor home park while rundown was perfect for us! Lots of green space for kids to run and play ‘stick’ cricket. We’ve adjusted our travel over the years as our family has grown and accordingly with the children’s ages. I know what my kids can and can’t handle and we adapt. To be honest if travel with kids had no pleasure why do it? Space to run and time to play to be wild and free – so important. It also give us adults time to take in the wonder of finding ourselves in new experiences and be where we are. And after an excited day on le tour a down day was definitely in order.

Although not necessarily a sit down day for Z and I. We decided to hike up to Orisson. Orisson was the first stop on my camino. I wrote from there. It wasn’t a planned hike, nor was STJPdP a planned stop, our loose itinerary gives us room to steer itself. The hike was an 8km up the mountain in the hot sun kind of challenge. It was particularly special to do it with my daughter. A real moment in time we will both have forever. This wasn’t just any hike, this was the first stage of the camino … and we did it together.

Along the way we chatted about many things and at one time a wise eagle circled above us. Does this have some kind of symbolism? I’m not sure but it felt like it did. We shared a meal at Orisson, sitting at the same table I spent the afternoon with my sister at and Zoë signed the guest book.

The way down had less strain and I became her secret keeper as she opened up even more than usual. What a great privilege. We finished the hike closer than when we started. I know her a little better. And I know I’ve passed on something special to her. If the day comes that she needs to take a long walk – she knows where and how to begin.

As we leave today after Z’s egg on baguette cook up I say goodbye to a village that has given me so much. I don’t need to come back to SJPdP again. If I ever walk another camino I think it will be along another route. As my camino, this long walk of life continues, always, there are times of letting go, of leaving the past behind.

And so we move on towards an afternoon with friends … friends with a ‘french’ cave – I can hardly wait.

Buen camino dear ones,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Perhaps you want to know what we travel with for the kids? They don’t always have to use sticks to entertain themselves :).

We have card games: uno, a plain old deck and top trump – anytime we go for a drink I pack these! They are never allowed on phones or tablets in cafes or over food and drinks. They have already begun epic tournaments. It warms my soul.

Tennis racquets and balls, a soccer ball, a dart board with balls that stick, twister, dominoes, pencils and paper and a game of Halli Galli. For the beach we have surfboards and a SUP. When we arrive they tend to take out what they want to play with and get themselves set up. We also have a pop up tent that they use to play in if it’s hot or raining.

Our oldest has a phone he can play games on, sans WIFI. We haven’t really camped anywhere with free access. His data is very limited so he has learnt to be careful with it (it must last the month). I like the idea that they go away without the need to communicate with home – they can catch up with friends when they return. It’s my greatest challenge teaching my kids to develop that freedom.

We also have a tablet with movies downloaded, mostly for long drives.

The Art of Feeling

Adventures On My Bike – Day 8/28

Today’s recipe: It’s one for a hot afternoon after school.

My bike has three gears. For many months I haven’t been able to shift it into first gear. I just slogged away riding it as it was. I’m not sure why it took so long to get the gears fixed but last week I finally did. It was quite painless really, it didn’t even cost that much. I just had to make the effort to make the first move. One purposeful move, a move that gave my gears (and me) the freedom from being stuck.

‘The Art of Feeling’ is what I am calling my daughter’s latest artwork (the opening photo of this post). Right now I am crying, tears are streaming as I write this. Good tears. Tears because this art work pushed me to watch the you tube video I’ve linked at the top of this post. The video landed in my inbox earlier this week and I knew it would probably make me cry. I haven’t been able to watch it before now because I find it awkward to be thanked and I’m still nervous about being being seen. Of all the things I find hard … it is my most vulnerable work. I really stepped up and out of my comfort zone by putting myself, my heart, my writing and my photography out there to ask for support and donations for my #hikeforonegirl project. And even though the creating the project, the camino and all of you hiked and stepped me through that fear, I still feel the nerves. And if I am honest I am not entirely sure if I’ve really acknowledged the enormity of what we achieved, but I want to. I truly do because the project is gently growing.

Of course I knew deep down I had to watch it because what we did mattered and I can’t hide from that. And I am not letting sight of that sail as it takes me into the wind. It is why this website was created. Hiking towards my One Girl challenge was a beautiful anchor this past year. When I returned from the camino I wanted to drop a few more anchors in my life. I feel the need to anchor in our home and community in our new country. I need to tend to the nest. I think you can sail without expectations and at the same time drop a few anchors. Do you? It sounds like a contradiction but we need both in our every day lives. At least I do. While I’ve been dropping a few intentional anchors, One Girl is never far from my mind. I am dreaming about how I can continue working as a ambassador to raise awareness and fundraise for the some of the world’s most vulnerable and equally delightful girls. How are the smiles in that video. We can’t loose sight of them.

A dear friend used this quote last week and it resonated.

‘There is more that one kind of freedom … Freedom to and freedom from.’ ~ Margaret Atwood.

Most of us have freedom to and together, all 69 of us from Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Canada and The USA spectacularly raised $8135. Enough money to give 27 girls the freedom to go school in Africa. Special mention to Kimmy, my fellow hiker and ‘Women who Hike’ accomplice in adventuring for change. You are AMAZING (educating two extra girls came from you also choosing to stand up!).

As you know I have plans to return to the camino in September and I am hoping a few others may just take on their own hiking challenge with me, hint hint nudge nudge. Big or small no worries, just hike it baby. Don’t worry you will hear more or ask me.

Speaking of delightful girls! Meet Mischa one of my daughter’s friends from Melbourne. Mischa is using her position as a school leader to stand for girls. She brought One Girl as a potential charity to her school’s attention and guess where some of their term 3 fundraising is going? One Girl! Mischa you are amazing and I know the One Girl family is going to be super excited to here your story.

Here’s another amazing story. Paula fellow hiker and woman’s adventure enthusiast messaged me here to tell me that she has decided to contribute monthly to One Girl. She is effectively keeping girls in school. I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again. You inspired me beyond words with your camino wisdom Paula and I truly hope to hike a trail with you one day in the future.

And while we’re talking feelings I may as well share one that we don’t often talk positively about. Anger. Yes, anger that’s the one. I want to talk about anger because it was a great catalyst for helping me to put the camino and One Girl on the same page.

Last year I began to feel I angry and disillusioned about how one of my greatest loves was being treated. No one should be treated as a pretty face with no value only to make others look good. And I simply I couldn’t stand by to watch my dear friend be sold without any concern for her essence.

She was being used to sell anything, detergent with micro plastics, plastic toys, personal travel loans. She was being shared as a *must do* bucket  check list that we must – at all costs – check off. Without even getting to know her. I think it was probably the sponsored travel loans that really tipped me over the edge. And, as someone who regularly shares travel pics I wanted to stand up for my love, my friend – travel.

Google ‘travel quotes’ and what to you get? Over 748 million hits! We all love travel. And what do we love about travel? Here are the first three random quotes that came up.

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

It is not hard to uncover the essence of travel, of why people travel.  She enriches us with her qualities of perspective, space, freedom, wonder and awe. She gently encourages us to improve ourselves, gives us strength and puts our existence in the world into context. She reminds us that there is more to life than wanting to own more, she gives and we receive.

So why do we treat her so unethically. Why do we use her to sell ‘shit’ when we know we want to protect the world because she, travel taught us that? Late last year I already knew I wanted to hike the camino as well as work with One Girl. So let’s blame anger, anger made me do it! It made me stand with these two together.

I’m bloody glad I did – get angry that is. I am so grateful that all 69 of you supporters also decided that Adventure Tavel and Charity are a good match. On behalf of my friend travel and her essence I thank you alongside my One Girl family!

Am I as angry now about how travel is shared? Not so much because now I’m using my own voice to say something different. And I guess you could look at me and say well you’ve done a sponsored post so you’re also dipping into travel as a commodity.  And yes that is true. I was sponsored gear to #hikeforonegirl and I have thought a lot about that. I hope I have done the honourable thing by my friend and only ever sold her in a way that protects her essence but encourages others to do so as well.

Hot day recipe. Chopped watermelon.

It’s not so much a recipe today as it is a food story. It’s hot here and when you haven’t prepared an after school snack – CHOP watermelon. He was quite chuffed that his Greek mate was eating the other half. Made the connection? ;) Yesterday at the market Lexie and I bought the two halves of the same watermelon. I really, really love that the two little mates are both eating an afternoon snack in their respective homes from the same watermelon.

Week 5 – Santiago to Finisterra to Santiago

‘It is an act of courage to walk a camino. And I mean camino in the broad sense – a camino is any long walk you take, any path towards change.’ ~ Camino Reflections.

There is a post missing! The last week in Santiago. To those of you who followed along while I was on the camino and many of you did. Can you believe that in April there were over 2K views on my blog. Now I have no idea what that means in blog numbers, I’m sure it’s mini and I don’t care to look it up but to me it was huge to see a K there. People were reading my story and coming back. Maybe they went for a walk or even thought about going for a hike, perhaps they donated to One Girl or looked up their work – that’s awesome right there! And please don’t worry I am not trying to replicate those numbers my goal here is not that, it’s simply to share in a quiet space. Maybe a bit like an old school ‘community centre’ – a warm, calm place to be, to dream, hopefully with some interesting corners (hmm blog goals). The words of one of my kind reader’s Karen (of @coffeeteabooks) seem fitting with how I am feeling ‘a little stirring and a jiggle to start things up again’. I have more in me, in this One Girl story and it seems my contribution does impact others not just me, there is so much more to write about. There is room in the blogosphere for stories to be shared, they are what inspire me. In fact my calls to action often come from reading the words of others. So without further a-do let’s pick up where we left off in Santiago …. the last week.

Where was I? Oh yes! I was on a bus to Finisterre after a few days rest in Santiago. My emotions were mixed, perhaps raw is a better word. I knew I needed to move, to get out of Santiago for a bit but still I felt cheated. I had walked the first 710kms and 27 days with fire in my belly and spark in my legs – in a state of joyful euphoria. Then one night I began to feel tired, feverish and one of my shins had a dull ache towards the end of the day. And so close we were, just a mere 90kms out of Santiago and now I was injured? As you know I made it into Santiago, the end point of the Camino Frances Pilgrimage … just. It is fair to say that those last 90kms (three days) were torturous. It was pure grit and determination alone that took me into Santiago. And maybe my sister feeding me chocolate and doing her darnedest to distract me ‘Fran if you could live anywhere in the world …’? ‘Everywhere’ of course!

When I arrived in Santiago I couldn’t make it to the Cathedral that first day, there was nothing left. Physically or mentally. I had to get off my legs (remember by this time both shins were raging furnaces of pain). I needed to stop. STAT. That first evening I cried. When I woke the next morning I kept crying. I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop. It was the great tidal release of the pain of the past few days.

Supportive, holding the fort at home for five weeks husband said, ‘enjoy what you’ve achieved, you finished, write a last blog post and go celebrate and eat nice food with your sister’. He is pretty amazing (must not take him for granted). It hadn’t hit me that I had achieved something momentous, it couldn’t. The past days had given me no time for reflection or comprehension, just an incomprehensible feeling of loss. A loss of myself. Of my strong body. Even now I look at photos of wonder and joy on the faces of people who arrive at the cathedral – I never had that. Perhaps if it was my intended end point I would have had those feelings but as you know it wasn’t. I wanted to hike on the Finisterre. To the end of the earth. And I couldn’t. Thankfully, the camino is not about the finish … it’s all those incredible days along the way.

Frank and Alan, the Texan brothers, Mark and Lucas our German friends were all still a few days behind. We had met up and said our goodbye’s to the wise Fin’s who were now on their way home. We had also met up with sassy Laura from America and quiet and deeply aware Jess from Canada they had continued on their walk.  The German and UK Andy’s as well as Martha the fiercely strong, super sweet Dane were also on their way to Finisterre by foot. Relationships are strong on the camino. I wonder if I would have met these people in any other settings would we have become friends? I’m not sure we would have we are all of different ages, some with different politics and we all have very different lives. I am sure our paths would never have crossed.

But coincidence, timing and connection resulted in these pilgrims becoming my camino family. That is the absolute beauty of the camino you find who you’re meant to find. Like the big world we don’t get along with everyone just those who for what ever reason we gel with. They were #caminodeep and yes I fought the idea of a camino family because I still believed I wasn’t like everyone else but it turns out I am. This motley crew of kind, gutsy, funny, wise, fierce, tough, gentle, caring, intelligent hikey people will forever be my camino family.

Getting on the bus was the right move. A change of scenery and some motion to help shift my perspective. The kind hearted messages and comments that you lot delivered from home (or while on your travels) to my blog, IG account, to my what’s ap etc were beautifully and gladly received during this week and along the entire camino. More than you will know. It was like the old days of receiving post from the postman. I honestly have a moment with all of you that I can recall. I will be forever grateful that I walked the camino with each of you – my extended camino family.

Of course as soon we arrived into Finisterre we ran into some old favourites! The fluro gear wearing Italian friends. We never had long conversations with those guys but they were always just around a corner or at a table having their long two hour lunches with wine. We did learn that they were Alpine Mountain Rescuers. I am hoping my husband doesn’t have to meet them next week as he sets of on his Tour du Mont Blanc. He is taking a tent with him, there is no way he could do the night’s filled with snoring in the huts ;). I am not sure which of us is the more hardcore.

The first evening we hiked up to the lighthouse at Finisterre. It is one of the most powerful working lighthouses in Europe and as the night would unfold a spiritual place. As I have written previously Finisterre takes its name from the latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the earth”. At the end of this Roman road is where the Romans thought the earth ended and also where the ancient celts worshiped the sun. I can absolutely understand why. The sun, as it sets over the Atlantic to the east of the continent literally and spectacularly drops from the sky into the ocean. It is without question the MOST moving sunset I have ever witnessed and also without doubt it won’t be the last time I do. I am a creature of habit like that. Like Rome and the pantheon … each visit never feels like the the last.

There is a small cafe and hotel on Cape Finisterre. Small enough to exist yet taking nothing from the spectacular horizon and 360 degree beauty of the cape. It was the perfect place to sit with my sister enjoying a beer and a tapa as we awaited the sunset. Many people were scattered around the rocks with a bottle of wine and cheese. It was a bit windy for us. Something powerful happened that night as the mountain goats appeared on the cliffs just as the sun was beginning to set and drop away into the ocean.

I consider mountain goats to be one of my way markers in life. They are what I see when I dream of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Thinking of mountain goats can take me back to the wonder and freedom of our time spent in the campervan last year as a family. If I imagine the sounds of the bells I am instantly taken to spring, to flowers and snow tops, to adventurous kids playing in mountain springs, to deep smiles and feelings of awe and contented bliss. I can smell the fresh air. It’s important to have lived moments you can escape into don’t you think? I know, I digress, again. It’s a long story this one. The arrival of the goats reminded me I was home for the moment, right where I needed to be. They gave me a sense of peace and the permission I needed to let go of the disappointment of not walking there.

The camino is full of coincidences. Here is another one for you. That morning I had said to the Texan brothers ‘if you see German Lucas say hi’. I knew they must be at similar points on the trail and honestly you never know who you will see around the next corner or who will arrive at the Albergue that night. Wouldn’t you know it … a what’s ap photo and a message arrived. They had found Lucas sitting on a park bench! Here’s another. That night as we were having a beer and watching the sunset over the Atlantic a divine Sth African hiker who I had met at that ‘chicks who rock’ dinner with the Danes back on day 11, in Cardeñuela Ríopico walked into the cafe (there were 6 people in total in this cafe!). She was super interesting and I was so excited to be able finish the conversations we had started at that dinner three weeks before about the master’s degree she was about to start and about her mum’s camino blog. She was following in her mum’s footsteps and walking the camino, that’s an unreal story in itself. We also heard from Martha out of the blue … she was on the way in and hoped to meet up with us!

So we relaxed. Ate more food. Probably the best food we had eaten along the camino. We walked with our feet in the sand and started to wonder what would come next. That first meal in the photos by the way was served at 11.30 pm the night before. Honestly we were finally hitting our ‘Spanish time’ stride. As we were wandering along the beach guess who arrived by foot – Laura and Jess (writer of The Things She Carried – her camino story).These two will light up any room, both with their own stories and reasons for taking a long walk. It was an honour to have met these two. Along the camino I took many photos of pilgrims as they walked. I would then catch them or bump into them along the way and ask for their emails to forward the photos on to them. I was so happy to finally be able to take a photo for these two.

As I pondered my way though the days at Finisterre I did feel antsy and without purpose. After so many days of moving, of putting my backpack on, of sharing the evolving hike for One Girl story and of walking I was struggling with stopping. I enjoyed the moving. I had felt a bit stagnate before I left for the camino (there is an expat warning story there I am nearly ready to share). Now I felt I had found something and everything, anything seemed possible. I needed to keep the momentum alive. But what was everything?

In the quiet of one afternoon I submitted an application to a course I had thought about enrolling in for a long time. I knew I wanted to build on my One Girl contribution, to find a way to possibly contribute professionally. Maybe, just maybe after walking 800kms I could also take the same approach towards studying. I’d started believing I could do it. And by starting at the beginning and walking each day I could get through the research and stats required to produce something that would contribute to the greater good.  Just as the camino had ended so would the two years the course would take me and so I applied to a Masters in Public Health.

My application is still in process and I haven’t made the commitment to study yet. It’s an option, a path. I am thoroughly enjoying studying for my Spanish class and I know I am better at doing things when I am accountable to someone else! Gosh I am lucky to be born Australian where we can apply online and if needed defer our university fees with government assistance. Will I do it? Scary? Yes. But with work and dedication I can do it. I know I can. I am however doing something I don’t always do and that is considering before leaping. I’ll probably leap, of course I will (that’s how I roll) but I want to play a bit with this motion thing I learnt on the camino first. I want to not be looking for something but simply walking forward. I want to walk into the next leap … just as I did with #hikeforonegirl.

Martha and German Andy joined us on the second night for another sunset experience. See I told you last night wouldn’t be the last. Of course this wasn’t the last either because in that cafe the night before I made plans with Frank (older Texan brother) to come back in September to hike Santiago to Finisterre. We are going to make it a round trip and hike back to Santiago you can read why here.  I currently reside in Europe so it is an easy plan for me to make right now – no regrets.

Have you heard of the swinging Botafumerio? It swings in the cathedral in Santiago. It swings to greatlofty heights and fills the room with the sweet smell of the frankincense that burns within the huge incense burner. The burner weights 80kgs and measures up at 1.6 meters, it is rather awe inspiring. We arrived back in Santiago from Finisterre for a holy Sunday so were fortunate enough to witness this incredible tradition. In days past it was to hide the smell of the unwashed pilgrims and as a prophylactic to diseases the pilgrims were thought to carry.

We also were able to catch up with the yin and yang. German Mark and German Lucas. They had arrived in Santiago and if you rememeber Lucas was planning to walk the last 100kms with his mum. An awesome experience to share between a mother and son. We had breakfast and met his mum and those two went on to walk to Finisterre and Muchia. A whopping 950kms for Lucas, a 23yo type one diabetic who had the heaviest pack going around because he carried his medications. People on the camino are inspiring and everyone has their challenges.

We shared a meal and said good bye to our mates Frank and Alan. In the end what started with an unanticipated arrival finished with a perfect ending. We managed over that week to see most of the people we had met along the way. Our camino family. My sister wondered who I was – I was entirely a social beast and if you know me I am far removed from that IRL. (I am also playing with that little nugget I learnt about myself.) Maybe I should be a full time hiker, is that a thing?  ;)

There were two people we didn’t see and we don’t have their details so if anyone reading this knows Mike (newly retired like the Tuesday before he started the camino from St Jean, witty, funny, fast walking pace, washes his ibuprofen down with coke) from the Sth of England. Or Hong (mother of 2, American, married to a German, sometimes drives to Amsterdam for yum cha and Paris for lunch because she feels free on the road, who told her husband she needed to go for a long walk). Please do ask them to get in touch! You never know right? The camino showed me just how small the world can be. Especially when you’re open to coincidences and chance. Putting it out there friends. And sure I know we all have to make things happen, do the work not just put it out there. For me making it happen was saying ‘yes’ to the adventure, the work came from there and the coincidences continue to flow. What an incredible adventure my camino was and still continues to be.

Last, but by no means least of course I must mention that gutsy hiking animal up there to my right. My sister – she made my camino. I will forever treasure the experiences and time we shared walking across Spain together. I can’t wait to see her next month to relive the funnies!

Walk your life, treat it as a camino. Each step, each day all leads somewhere and are part of one great big adventure. ~ Camino reflections.

Ha ha and maybe don’t think this is the last you’ll hear a camino yarn, I have many more to share.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

As we roll towards an ending we must accept the bump and the climb that is the beginning.

‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom’ ~ Socrates

One night along the camino I lay uncomfortably zipped up tightly in my bed bug sheet writing and editing a blog post on my iPhone (day 6 of what would become 28 daily adventure posts). It was midnight and I knew those bugs were going to bite, we had made a dodgy accommodation choice (although frankly bugs are a part of the camino). I’d also been gifted a full blown grunting snorer less than a metre to my right! More importantly I had committed myself to prioritising my commitment to writing and to sharing my #hikeforOneGirl with daily discipline and routine, as uncomfortable as I was, I was rising to that challenge. That night, I believe will prove to be a turning point for me. One where hardship (I appreciate the mildness of how this hardship sounds) proved to me that it’s in difficulty and in sitting beyond the edge of my comfort zone that I will find the well of deeper wonder. A blessing and a curse.

Spotting wonder comes easier since making the decision to be present in my life, in today. Honestly, once I began noticing and feeling the seasons, the smiles, smelling the fresh air, hearing the birds, the music, the peace, touching this idea that I had something to create and tasting the deliciousness of connection and kindness I began to crave and share it like a drug. I also started realising how small I am in this big world and how all the things I thought I knew actually don’t really amount to much. That is a bit confronting really! To be mid 40’s and realise that often you’re wrong and have a lot to learn about life, people and basically every discipline that exists. The blessing is that my sense of curiosity WOKE up. It is a curse because now I know that I want to know more and the only way towards that is to create the space to experience it by consuming less. Which means asking myself questions. Hearing less of the noise the world spits out and less of the bullshit that I feed myself to hide away. It is an act of courage to walk a camino. And I mean camino in the broad sense – a camino is any long walk you take, any path towards change.

Something amazing happened when I wrote each day. Aside from the incredible awesomeness of 27 girls in Africa getting an education there was a swell of momentum in my life. A deeper kind of wonder – one that existed because I was part of something bigger. A whirlwind of kindness from people old and new, landscapes of mountains and valleys, vineyards and olive groves, fields and flowers,  horizons and big skies, cities filled with stories and whispers from wandering folk and of courageous exploration. That swell translated into quite an adventure. The kind of free spirited wonder and courageous purpose that is hard to maintain in every day life. But of course I must because every day life is where I live and love.

Continually sitting beyond my comfort zone and comfortable in discomfort with purpose is harder to commit to when life is back to ‘normal’. And ‘normal’ I say loosely because I’m not sure what that really looks like for us yet. But back to creating the wonder and courageous purpose, surely it’s doable, maybe just with different goal posts. Obviously there is the less horizons thing (one does give less shits about things when feeling the freedom of the wild) and there is so much more of the bullshit (the privileged complaining, the competitive bossy how to be and how it is kind of stuff). Unlike the camino you can’t just walk to the next city every day to give yourself the space! Do you know what I mean about the bullshit though? The seemingly endless diatribe of small stuff and small talk. Sure, we can escape some of it selectively but it’s impossible to block it all. There are those accounts that are tricky to unfollow and there are the realities that we need to face like our work places and schools etc. I am shifting my eyes and ears towards noticing and hearing with even more filters than normal in an attempt to be more focussed and less in need of de-fragging from the dreaded you know what. That bullshit! Ps I am more than capable of talking my own bullshit to myself and trust me that is under the microscope too, even more so. And of course what I call bullshit may be different to what you call BS. If I’ve become BS to you please unfollow, I respect BS calling. We all need to call what we don’t need.

I’m comfortable out of the spotlight, hiding behind the pole at school pick up. Please don’t invite me to everything and I’m fine not knowing the ins and outs of things, happier that way, it’s easier. What? You liked, read my words? I might just seize up and run. I need a new blog please, people I know are following along. Yes I want to live a full life and trust me I feel I do, but I want to do it in a small way. Well at least I thought I did. And then you see I walked the camino with the knowledge that I had to challenge myself. I had to challenge the lack of commitment, trust and discipline that I give to myself and my capabilities. Sure, I am confident in a lot of things, opinionated about many other things and great at making new things happen BUT eventually I always run. Maybe out of fear. I’m not sure why yet but I do know I need to shift my goalposts to adjust what quiet, small, confidence and fear are and how they fit in my life.

Gosh how I hated the cliché on the camino that your ‘camino begins when it ends’. Typical of my rebel heart. I will not do or be like everyone else. Kill me first. I’m on the camino now … I was on it before I left. Heaven forbid I might actually need to stop being scared of myself, or, worse still be wrong, or oh man – exactly like everyone else and it just may start when it ends. On day two along the camino in a conversation with Mike from the UK we were talking about what we’d thought about that day while we were walking – they were the same things (our profound thoughts and our wonderings were essentially the very same). Most of us think and worry about the same things. Of course we act on and express those thoughts differently but we are all feeling our way through life and we are not alone in that.

What brought this on? Lots of things and nothing, it just is. At the heart of it – I have changed since walking the camino. So basically I have no choice. I’m at the bloody beginning again, facing new questions. This time I don’t want to run, I’m stronger. We always get stronger after a climb into our weaknesses don’t we. I want to build on this, to continue creating without the fear or expectation. Time to dip my toes in deeper and step into the vulnerability I am feeling, however that looks.

I may have eaten too many mm’s and stayed up far too last night (and the night before) but I’m not going to give up on forward motion today because I did that (stepped a few steps back). No, I am writing this because discipline with writing helps me to step forward and it only happens if I lift my feet and move towards writing. My friend Lix tells me my writing is my poetry. After hitting publish I will go for a walk in the woods because walking soothes my mind when it’s in dreaming, examining or planning mode (I’m in all three right now – jackpot). Experience has taught me that’s where most of my answers are … out there wandering in solitude where the birds sing and the trees rustle.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. ~ Plato.

Should I give you another camino’ism? When you’re busy walking, creating or out there contributing with the intention of giving and sharing you’re too busy to care what people think of what you’ve published or the life you are choosing. There is only time to focus on the connection that comes as a response to being in your own flow. The joy comes from the writing and publishing … in doing the work (creating).

There are many things I wanted to write about today: the missing update from my time in Finisterra where I hit my greatest challenge … that first moment where I sat still again and had to consider my next move. Would I give in to idleness or step up? Idleness, where we sit or stand consuming bullshit from others, pushing into what doesn’t feel right, or, in the stories we create in our own minds or sometimes simply by allowing ourselves to be consumed by unfulfilling tasks is the great enemy to living a creative and meaningful life. Not that I know that for sure but today that is what’s in my mind, maybe sometimes it’s in yours?

It was this thought, this lesson, the wisdom that I’ve gleaned from Mike and a host of you who read my words and write to me that have propelled me towards facing one of my personal challenges. This new beginning where I need to practice a commitment towards self discipline and accountability to myself as I continue to step beyond my comfort zone – this time not to run. So I guess I owe you a thank you, thank you ;).

Finishing things off. I didn’t come this far, only to come this far.

‘I didn’t come this far, only to come this far.’ ~ Unknown.

Finishing things off … (YES!) I’m anal like that! Just as lids need to be screwed on properly, leftovers must be eaten the next day, every-last-skerrick squeezed from the bottle or scooped from the jar, shoes and clothes worn to the very end. Naturally, you’d understand I simply can’t not walk to the end of the trail – to Fisterra.

So here I am, dreaming up the icing for the cake.

As most of you know I walked 800kms supported by Wilderness Wear and Salomon from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago in Spain to raise awareness and funds for One Girl Australia and to earn my compostela. Along the way I laughed, cried, made new friends, pushed my boundaries and learnt there are new comfort zones I need to push into. Mostly, I was overwhelmed with what could be achieved by simply moving forward.

In the spirit of that motion I simply must continue to the end – to Fisterra!

Why?

  • Before I had even left Santiago to fly home I knew I’d be back to walk to the end, to cross the entire country. My shin splints stopped me in my tracks at Santiago but I am a finisher.
  • Heart warming moments have come from this adventure, the community support, goodwill and kindness was UNBELIEVABLE.
  • My friend’s daughter who is a year 6 school leader just nominated One Girl as a charity their school would fundraise for next term. I’ll share her story soon.  Misch ;) xx.
  • Perhaps someone else will ‘Do it in a dress’!
  • This time around I will do the entire walk in a dress (weather and shyness played a part in me not completing the entire walk in a dress). I’m ok with being noticed now, I think! I need to push into that.
  • Women’s adventure – I’m contributing to the landscape. You can be in your 40’s and keep it wild! Or 30’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Bugger boring passive, consumption (of anything).
  • I want to test myself further. I only realised towards the end that I am perhaps not as open to people as I thought. I began to soften into that as the trail hit the Galicia.
  • My spirit soared through this experience – isn’t that enough reason?!
  • I wonder if I can move $8,135 to $10,000, people are still donating and asking if the fundraiser is open (it is btw, here) … why not try?
  • I didn’t come this far only to come this far.
  • I am a hiker and there will always (need to) be a hike on the horizon.

I’m taking my own advice … the words I dished up when I wrote my blog post after walking the 32kms Ruitelán to Trìacastela.

‘Sometimes it’s better to ask the question why wouldn’t I do it? Not why would I?’ ~ Camino reflections, 9th May, 2018.

Why wouldn’t I hike the last of the 100kms in September when I live this close to Spain, the trail will have cleared from the summer swarms, the Autumn will be arriving and my good friend from the first 800kms is already packing? Good friend you ask? If you’ve been reading along, you know him! It’s the big brother of the Texan A Team, the master of the ‘true camino experience’! One of the great characters of my camino story who will keep me honest to the spirit of the pilgrimage. He taught me one of my greatest lessons on the trail, one about humility. I am supremely grateful for having crossed paths with Frank and his brother Alan, our camino ambassadors of laughter.

And so friends so we move, forward and onward.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

P.S. Fancy getting your own challenge on?

Committing?

You can create a fundraiser page here by joining the Women (& Men) Who Hike’s team and get your trail shoes ON! You can even order a dress here! You can hike anyway you want – set your own challenge:

  • Walk to work once a week
  • Get off the bus, train, tram a stop early
  • Do the stairs or the park at lunch-time
  • Meet a friend, do it with your kids, family, colleagues, on your own
  • Man I wish I could make a commitment to walk with my mum, that would be a lovely use of time (she lives in Aussie though, soz mum)
  • Give up coffee/wine for a week/month – for One Girl
  • Rope your workmates in
  • Or like me – plan an epic adventure that works for you

What-evs friends – get creative! Why not? Creativity can look like all of those things and so much more.