Category Archives: Hiking

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.

That’s a wrap – I’m officially moving forward!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 28/28

Recipe: Be exhilarated by the challenge

I didn’t quite write every day, oops I lost it at day 16 (my sister arrived to visit and she took precedence) … but never mind the challenge was a success. While writing always gives me time and space to reflect, one also needs time and space for action and living. After my post adventure camino lull I managed to pull up my socks, lace up my shoes and get back on my way. It took 28 days of adventures on my bike with food and connection at the centre but yes I’m moving again – with purpose. My time on the camino certainly still lives on in my days.

Simple Camino’isms:

Move.

Walk each day with purpose.

Keep it simple, we have enough.

Don’t be afraid to walk your own way.

Keep simple routines with flexibility.

Notice with all your senses.

Value people.

Value yourself.

Pull back and push forward as you need.

Allow the big questions time to unfold – they will.

Life is motion – it will move even if we’re not ready. There will always be highs and lows, joys and sorrows, boring and exciting times, beginnings and endings. But what a gift – that we get to live it. And how wonderfully exhilarating to be connected to every part; the people, the food, the environment, our curiosities, feelings and dreams – the stuff of life.

See you from the road friends … we’re currently winding our way along the motorway. Yes, we’re back in the camper for the summer.

Buen camino,

Fran

Choose an action and run with it.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 15/28

Today’s recipe: A salad’ey vegetabl’ey cous cous!

From the outside it may look like my life has changed dramatically over the years but my life has always looked like change. I hiked mountains at thirteen in Indonesia as a girl guide, lived in the Whitsunday Islands, Melbourne and Perth in my 20s, moved to Europe in my 30s, Sydney in my 40s and now Europe again. I’ve been an Island hostess, a high school teacher and a midwife. I’m born from wandering stock you see. A migrant grandad who jumped on a ship in 1956 with his wife and nine kids to find a life in Australia where he could farm. And a mother (one of 13) who boarded a ship, alone, bound for Australia at the age of 23 to learn English.

I move but I don’t move to find greener grass I’m just wired to explore. The green grass can only be found in our everyday and wherever I am that’s what I’m cultivating. I don’t see moving as being particularly brave either. Let’s face it moving countries, going on adventures, starting fresh that is my modus operandi. I also married a fellow seeker of world adventures and along the way we’ve paved careers and lives that have enabled us to do it (and the privilege of dual citizenship, education…middle class). Nope brave to me is to find yourself in the present day. Standing for what matters to you. And most of my friends that I hold so dearly are actually not world movers but people who do just that … stand bravely wherever they are!

One thing that’s guaranteed with every move (and each life transition) is the period of feeling unsettled. The time where I reach in and out of new things to finds what fits, to find the every day spark feeling. The present day. It’s not always easy starting fresh, always my identity comes into question. Over the years I’ve gotten better at it. After the honeymoon period I know I have to do some work and find what I need to create a life with meaning.

While my life has me moving into different settings even if yours doesn’t I’m sure we share those similar feelings of needing to readjust sometimes. One thing I loved on the camino was this feeling of don’t leave for tomorrow what you can get done today. We walked the extra 3kms if we had the energy. As we arrived we showered, washed our clothes, ate and debriefed the day. The basics. I’ve been applying this idea to my days during this 28 days of motion project. Want to know what I am finding? Connection and balance.

The more I stop putting things off … preparing dinner earlier, putting my shoes on and moving, admin tasks, hard conversations, setting stronger boundaries in parenting (even when that makes me different) and accepting what I need to be honest about – the stronger I get, the more I see and the closer I get to the people in my life.

I think balance is one of those basic maths problems. Yes, we can argue that none of us can have it … but at what point does remaining unbalanced and not taking uncomfortable action cause a tipping point? I’d prefer to seek a balanced, honest life even if it isn’t a ‘trendy’ one. It doesn’t mean that on any given day everything is in order – no, that’s perfection and also unbalanced. It means not putting off the basics because if I do it will come back and bite later. It’s about making choices about what matters most and being guided by that.

‘As unique as we all are, an awful lot of us want the same things. We want to shake up our current less-than-fulfilling lives. We want to be happier, more loving, forgiving and connected with the people around us.’ ~Brene Brown

So when things aren’t feeling calm and connected or if they’re just too heavy I run with an action. In the current moment in time what is the most basic need? What do I need to add to balance the scales? Then usually what needs subtracting becomes obvious. In fact a reordering of priorities and actions almost certainly begins to unfold. A load of people on the camino drop weight from their packs along the way … they are carrying too much. Subtracting is my maths skill. Adding has become my challenge. And because I play with action hopefully you won’t see me talking or writing about the same thing next year or the year after. It is only by taking action that we can truly move forward … just like the camino, as we walked forward and into Santiago. I just can’t help myself with the camino references ;).

Recipe: A salad’ey vegetable’ey cous cous

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Cous cous
  • Rocket
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • A Red & Yellow Capsicum (pepper)
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Red Onion
  • Basil

How we cooked it:

Cook cous cous according to packet instructions then set aside in a large bowl to cool.

In a large pan fry some chopped carrot and red onion in a little olive oil on med to high heat, after a few minutes add some crushed garlic and chopped red and yellow capsicum (peppers). Fry for another 4 mins then put on a lid, lower heat to medium and cook for 5 mins.

Meanwhile halve some cherry tomatoes and tear up some basil and add to the cous cous. Make a vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. It’s important that the vinaigrette is more tangy than what you’d usually put on a salad.

Remove the vegetables from the heat and add too the cous cous but don’t stir through. Allow everything to cool to room temperature. Before serving, add a few handfuls of rocket and the vinaigrette and mix it all together. Works best if you use your hands.

You can substitute vegetables such as broccoli, snow peas, sugar snaps, corn kernels, or aubergine, but it works best if you always have some capsicum, and always include the red onion. Cheeses such as Persian feta, haloumi or Parmesan can be added. Avoid mushrooms.

You could also use quinoa in place of cous cous. Just cook it a bit further ahead of time and spread it out on a large platter to cool and most importantly dry out. If it’s holding too much water the salad will taste bland.

We served ours with salmon but you can choose any accompaniment. In winter we often do it with home made meat balls in a tomato passata sauce.

Today I put my trail runners on for the first time in ages … and slowly as I stopped to photograph the feathers I realised that this motion project will lead to the next. That’s the principal of motion in action.

Buen Camino,

Fran X

It’a all in how you move.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 14/28

Today’s recipe: Passeggiata/Shinrin-yoku.

One of my favourite Italian words is passeggiata. It’s the traditional evening stroll taken in the central plaza by a town’s residents generally for the purpose of socializing. And one of my favourite therapeutic ideas is the Japanese Shinrin-yoku. It means to bathe in the forest atmosphere, to take in the forest to through your senses. (More on that here.) Inviting these two traditions together is to invite joy for joy’s sake into our day.

At the midpoint of this 28 day project I’m convinced that the notion of movement with purpose is the holy grail. It made so much sense to me after walking the camino, to simply move each day in a forward direction. By taking each step, decision, thought, conversation and action as though they are part of a bigger plan. Our very own plan of who we want to be and where we want to go to.

The more we practice moving along our path, the one that has the signs and way markers that feel right, where we practice what we say ‘yes’ and what we say ‘no’ to … the easier it is to recognise when we are veering off. If we’re heading down the wrong path it’s because we practice that it becomes easier to straighten ourselves back up to find our way back. Back to where the rewards wait – hugs, giggles, deep conversation, clarity, peace, confidence, quiet, kindness, pride, fulfillment …. the place we are most ourselves.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran xx

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.