Category Archives: Life

Writing from Logroño – Day 7

22-04-2018

We are always looking for way markers on the camino. Scallop shells, yellow painted arrows, sometimes concreted paths have bronze scallops or tiles and there’s the odd cairn. Some days arrows are lovingly created with rocks and adorned with flowers. We need these markers to help us find our way along the this path. The sweet path that’s winding it’s way through this romantic countryside. Way makers, hmm a nice take home from the camino to everyday life I think.

Days on the Camino – 7 (1 week)!

Kms – Today 27.8 kms. Our total is now around 173kms. I’m still blister free thankfully but I hobbled into town pretty darn smashed today. But after the standard shower, clothes wash and an afternoon to refuel and not move we’re planning an early start tomorrow. The heat rash thing on my feet is better today but I am managing some bites from last night 🙈. I’m allergic so I’m taking antihistamines straight away. Pharmacy’s are excellent here.

Starting point today – Los Arcos, Spain (the only city I’d say I’d never stop in again).

End of the day – Longroño, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. 

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – A few years ago I was privileged to sit in the front row of a presentation from Morgan Koegal. As the time she was the dynamo leading the One Girl family. How she directed her passion and energy towards leading a meaningful life and standing for something profoundly changed me that day. I think it was she who woke a part of me that had been sleeping. The little girl who always wanted to stand up for those who needed a little more help. We adore you Morgan and send you all our love. Fran and Zoë. x x

Accommodation – After a tough night in Los Arcos, if you read yesterday’s post my suspicions were confirmed. We are now happily 30kms away and checked into an Albergue in Longoño. We’re sprawled on our beds not wearing pants because we don’t have to! We’re taking a recovery night in a twin room with our own private bathroom (oh the luxury) and there’s no one else walking in or snoring. €25 each.

Food highlight – Lunch 20kms into today, in the sun with my feet up on a bench. €1.70 – A chocolate milk, a fruity and a chocolate pastry! I’m eating way less on the camino, even with the exercise. We leave in the morning with a banana, an orange and an apple. At the 7km mark we need a coffee and a small snack and then by 15 – 20kms we need a lunch stop. We’re not really needing or looking for snacks during the day. I’d read about that happening to people. Loads of water 4-5 litre’s a day.

In a word(s) – Superbly smashed.

It’s been a big day today, one that started tiredly after a night with very little sleep. We all have those days don’t we when it takes a few hours to wake up!

We’ve been lucky with hostels. Each one we’ve literally walked up to and dropped our packs just as pilgrims have for hundreds of years. Each of them have had chairs and tables welcoming us to sit outside and we’ve been greeted by a friendly host ready to stamp our credentials and offer us a bed.

Yesterday after a long last 10 kms without towns or breaks we were ready to find our inn. Except we couldn’t. We walked into town looking for that familiar welcome and it didn’t arrive. Eventually we looked in the guide book to find an Albergue and with only two mentioned we passed up on the 70 bed dorm and opted for the smaller one.

No welcome table outside. After paying our money and removing our boots we walked through the reception area (a converted garage) to find an unloved outdoor terrace outside showers, toilets and then led to a dorm. It didn’t feel homely or cared for. I felt for true first time like a commodity. The pilgrim who pays, stays and leaves, no concern of the owner just €10 please.

I wonder why I didn’t just say no we can’t stay here … deep down I knew it wasn’t great. We just thought oh well we’ll make do this is going to happen every now and we accepted our situation.

It was a challenging night. I’m up for challenge as you well know! Basic yes, sleeping in dorms and sharing bathrooms but that doesn’t have to include hovels. Best I consider the way markers I need.

The scallop shells took us along the path from the Navarre region into La Rioja today. It feels like we walked out of the blooms in the Sth of France and into the vineyards and Olive groves of Tuscany.

It’s easy here on the Camino to find my path. I’m looking for the scallop shells and yellow arrows and now I’m also looking for welcoming chairs and tables, inn keepers who smile and I’ll also be looking at rooms if it doesn’t feel right. Maybe the lesson here is that life can be simpler with the right way markers.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

On the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

My camino is drawing near. It’s our greatest guarantee isn’t it – that time will tick, our lives will unfold and our dreams arrive.

I always like to have a little something brewing on the side in my life. That is how I keep my soul safe, you never know when you will need that protection. The little projects tend lead on to another little project (and the finest people) … some I finish (minimised our life) some I surrender (remember that book). But they always propel me forward, changing and expanding me for the better.

This camino has been the perfect anchor for me these past months and it comes at the perfect time. It comes at a time that I need to (am ready to) spend some time rebuilding (the beauty of spring). It has been a MASSIVE few years. Downsizing our possessions and needs, long term travel, moving continents, all the kids at school, time to think about resurrecting my career (tough one), my husband has started his own business … yeah massive!

When I started this project it was driven by my need to commit to doing something good in the world, something adventurous,  something bigger than what I had attempted before. Something beyond my front door. I could have attempted to make it bigger but I chose to keep it close, within my grasp. That gave me the freedom to not only adjust, but also to control the pace, the ability to step in and out. This in turn has given me the freedom to be present in this camino (journey) towards the camino. It is about knowing your capacity.

Capacity – I encourage you to read this article here a brilliant read. Annette gently invites us to question our ‘actual’ personal capacity. It has been one of my favourite blog posts I’ve ever read.

Presence has meant that I know exactly what I need going into this trek and it has also shown me where I need to spend time beyond this adventure. These next weeks as I put one foot in front of the other I will be rebuilding some of trust and confidence in myself and my spirit that I’ve lost in this settling in phase of our overseas adventure. I’ll be thinking about some of the habits I need to improve when I return. I already know I need to get my kitchen in order … I killed a sour dough starter this year. That is not kosher!

I’ll be letting it evolve without plans. There are no bookings (except the train to get there and the first night’s accommodation).  Distance and pace will be decided as my day and mood dictates. Walking, travelling light, eating local, taking the time to listen to pilgrim stories … slow travel.

Our recent mini trip to London over Easter had many of those moments that remind me of the sweetness of slow travel. The daffodils signalling the arrival of spring and sunshine, the realisation that while my daughter still wants to hold my hand (and equally give me eye rolls) I need to hold it tight, the conversations with my teenage son over our favourite topic, European history, the friendships my children cultivate with each other because we spend so much time as a family. There was a shift. It reminded me that I am home. Home is here wherever we live, together. It was good to feel that again.

Simple things the day brings when you’re not in a hurry and you’re not being dictated to by a schedule or when you allow yourself to be  present enough to notice and feel it all. Yes, crafting space and letting go of what is not within our control is a far kinder way to live.

I have some ideas about how I might document this trip when I return but first I must take my camino. I need to find my own way on the road to Santiago de Compostella. I will share my journey briefly here and on IG as I hike (of course I’ll be taking you, you’ve all come this far).  It’s exciting to (again) be on the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

‘When you feel it take your breath away

Just keep walking towards it anyway

Because life is a leap of faith’

~Sia lyrics from Leap of Faith

My favourite musical song ever! You need to flip to 1 min 30 sec to get to the start. It’s a beautiful song penned by Sia and one I’ve played a lot these past weeks.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/tvshowbiz/video-1094668/The-cast-Strictly-Ballroom-perform-Today-studio.html

Ahh you were waiting for my poem of the week weren’t you ;) I wrote this on the train early one  morning this week.

Grace

Grasp it with all your might
Witness all that’s in your sight

There’s kindness to be found
When eyes are free to roam around

Notice the flowers in bud and bloom
Immerse in the cozy of a room

Allow your gaze to meet
Feel moved by strangers on the street

Give time for kind words shared
For there is courage in friendliness dared

Be unrestricted in the things
That give you a life that sings

~Frances Antonia

We have educated 12 Girls through One Girl Australia! If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress!

How to be accountable? What to write? Either be living your best life or get bored.

It’s something we all struggle with from time to time us bloggie types.

It’s not all this blogger struggles with. There’s discipline, routine and self doubt! Gosh it’s a wonder I ever get a blog post written.

Today my friend Annette of I give you the words wrote piece that I loved reading. On her way to 50 she’s writing a post a day. That’s a post a day till I hit the Camino. My friend Rory also wrote about the difference a year makes when you find some motivation.

I’m no stranger to how different one year to the next can look. I used to have a house full of stuff, I lived on a different continent, I’d never taken a serious photo, I owned a car, I’d never been on a public forum or had a social media account, never written anything other than essays at uni and all that was just a few years ago!

This year I’ve struggled a bit with motivating myself. I don’t have anything to declutter, my garden isn’t growing, my kitchen isn’t productive, there isn’t a scoby or a kaffir grain, heck there isn’t even a sour dough starter on my bench. Settling after long term travel, planting roots in a new country has had its challenges. I’m not good at writing about negatives so where is my fodder for inspiration? I’m not doing a great deal of little interesting things with my time (there was a difficult situation that sucked a bit, no a lot of my energy but that’s for another story).

Perhaps I’ve taken slow living too far, it certainly feels a little slow around these parts, can that be a thing? Yes, I’ve walked a load and I have this super exciting Camino for One Girl coming up but how many training hikes do you want to read about? We are all more than one dimension. You know I can’t do instructional posts. Shoes on, open door, walk. See really not my thing!

I’m not yet feeling settled in my days, in this new life and I haven’t found my groove. I am very happy and appreciate to be here of course but I need to work on that feeling home feeling. There is an upside to feeling unsettled! Boredom has served it’s purpose and here I am lining up my ducks, finding somewhere to land. Calling myself to action.

What Annette reminded me was that it matters that I write. It matters to me. I don’t need to produce anything … I don’t have to write a book and blogging will never pay me but I do have to show up. Here. Yes, I need to continue showing up here. Playing around, following what makes me curious, changing up what doesn’t work, allowing my writing about life to evolve in whatever direction the wind is blowing me at the time.

Rory reminded me to give myself permission that it’s ok to want something more. All my kids are at school now and I admit I do want something more. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I need more … the days are long on my own. I have the space to create something. I don’t think this bloggie place will provide that opportunity. But it will provide the place to write myself into an opportunity and a more grounded daily life.

A blog or a journal is a place to lay it out. To slowly grow something through words. Something you ask. What something? In my experience a direction, a flow, a community, an investment in one’s self. Taking the time to examine and share takes guts … guts makes you stronger and from there things happen. Then the right people start turning up.

For me blogging can be a place where thinking out loud and documenting creates the foundations for something grand. A grand adventure in everyday life. A journey of sorts. An exploration from what’s in here to what’s out there. The impetus to get stuff off the ground or out of my head and into my life.

Ok Annette I’m with you. Let me combine my love of travel, nature, adventure, history, the simple life and photography with some non-exhaustive writing. Something good for me and if reflective words are your thing, also for you lot. And Rory, you’re damn right. One year is a long time. I have a year till 1-4-2019 and I want to make something and to be somewhere else professionally.

Poetry. I’m going to write us some poetry. Not to become a poet but to find my way forward.

In my life I’ve written 3 poems (the third one today, it’s published below). It’s been on my mind to dabble in it. My dad has an unexplored talent and there’s an Aunt also – they are both wanderers too. I have a suspicion that wandering, observing and reflecting lend themselves to poetry writing.

Where do I start? Who should I read? Can a rebel take on something with rules? Any blogs I should follow? Let’s see shall we.

Today’s poem, titled Daffodil was inspired by my morning walk as we mini break this Easter in London. London in Spring is spectacularly refreshing. The photos in this post all come from this morning’s wander. I even shared it on my IG because I’m not going to be afraid of putting myself in the ring. If we don’t try, nothing will ever change right? Going live keeps me accountable – now to find the discipline and routine …. something for me to play with during the long days of substitute teaching perhaps?

Did you know the Daffodil comes from the genus Narcissus. A word from Greek mythology. Narcissus quite taken with his own image leant into a pool to take a closer look at his reflection. He fell in, drowned and turned into a flower. Poor Narcissus. I also coincidentally read The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) this week speaking of tragic stories of narcissistic young men.

Eeek, I don’t want too stare to hard at my reflection … or think too long about my reflecting – I don’t want to drown. Yes, something positive must be the fruit of reflection.

It was the Romans who brought the daffodil to England. And now this delightful flower, humble in its needs is the joyous sign of the impending spring.

So here is my poem for the week. The first installment of my non-exhaustive writing challenge:

Daffodil.

Gently arriving to restore the poetry of spring to our days.

A prelude to the promise of long days and warmth from the sun’s rays.

Inviting the end to the harshness of winter’s final haze.

Magnificent daffodil inspiring more than a lingering gaze.

~ Frances Antonia.

It was a whimsy idea. It’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting … like an ALIVE version of me.

After some time looking inwards with some heavy feels … it’s time for outwards, where promise (whimsy) lives. There’s only one way to get to whimsy-land and that is to step into action – the motion that that moves life forward.

I took this picture in a small village Benagéber on our way into Valencia, Spain whilst travelling last year. It was the backdrop to where our camper was parked for the night. (All the photos in this post are from that overnight stopover.)

The image struck me as the perfect analogy of where I was sitting in life. The Yin and Yang. Looking up and looking down. The beauty of the poppy blossoming because it is loved from both extremes, the earth below and the sun above. A symbol of being grounded yet free to dream.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the contrast that draws me back to this photo and this pivotal moment of my travels. I keep coming back to it as I try to figure out why a few things in my life that seem and are more complicated than they should be.

At the moment I took this shot my thoughts were about finding a way to tame (moderate) the nature I was born with. This nature that sees me leap into adventure, change and of starting new things. The nature that makes it hard for me to sit in the middle. The nature that makes it hard for me to write and live in stories that have passed because I’m generally already moving forward. The same nature where emotion and heart drives me and as a result can see me focus my attention in an all or nothing way.

I’ve spent a bit of time inwards lately, reflecting. Which is a space I spend a bit of time in. The problem is I’ve been getting stuck on a few things. Do you know that feeling? When whatever it is you’re thinking about seems to go in a circle and you find yourself repeating the same story. The broken record. Slowly you start to bore yourself and probably others with it? And you don’t get much done.

This morning a friend wrote to me and in her message she talked about her grandparents. How the highlight of their day seems to be their stories of nostalgia.

It struck me that my stories of nostalgia are the ones where I’m looking outward, looking for what I can do from where I am and where whimsy is the order of the day. The times when I move and step into action with nothing but a dream or a spark of curiosity. Where the people I’m surrounded with are also in a forward motion (or looking for it).

I’m a crab so I’ll pull up my shell when the pressure builds or there is drama or conflict encroaching into my environment. I can’t compartmentalise emotions that easily, so I retreat. (Don’t try calling me in this phase, I probably won’t answer the phone – please don’t take it personally.) I think getting lost inwards is an important part of figuring out where I need to take a step in and when to take a step back or if it’s time to step out. It’s also an important place to peel back the layers we don’t need and to remind ourselves of what’s important but it’s not productive to hide for too long. There is an inward phase use by date and my current one is up – the broken record story was my BIG hint and I haven’t packed my pack!

A few little stories this week have reminded me to step out of the boring story I was playing over and over and step into a more whimsy one. The kind of story that is responding to kindness, trust, honesty and those good vibrations that come from the place and people that are lined up with my values.

Sharing your vulnerability and self with others. This week two other mums who are also navigating settling into a new country told me they cried because they also feel the lack of confidence that comes with starting from scratch (again). How much easier is it to make a new plan when someone understands you, when you’ve shared your deep secret? When you don’t feel so alone. Sometimes we are flying and sometimes we’re floating and sometimes we are sinking. It really is important to listen and share – you never know who needs a life vest.

Paying close attention: I had a few farming related conversations this week. It appeared I was yearning to wear gumboots and get some dirt under my fingernails. I think a few people were in my orbit last week for the simple reason that I needed reminding of that! Thank you FARMHERS. A little research and I’ve uncovered an organic farm a close cycle from home. Tomorrow I have an appointment to meet the farmer who welcomes volunteers on his farm.

New perspectives: This is one of the joys for me about moving into a new community (it is also equally one of the hard things). Eventually the time comes and you meet new people who feel like long lost friends. Last week we had dinner with some new friends and how refreshing are new perspectives and new ideas about life? It’s easy not to step out, it’s much easier keeping your world relatively homogenous to your own but gosh it’s reinvigorating to get some new thoughts on the table. To enter into a new friendship and get to know someone is quite uplifting.

Acknowledging something special: This morning a spontaneous unplanned conversation happened. A conversation with someone who had read my blog and sat with me to share a moment and talk about it. Genuinely and kindly … and for the first time I didn’t cringe that my words are out there in my immediate face to face world. For those of you who have been around a while you’ll know that this is growth! In fact, I put them out there gently (courageously) last week via a link in my email signature. Writing words connects us with good people and in my case it is the often one of the ways that brings kindness and unexpected connection to my day.Truth.

The One Girl Camino is my new story in motion. It was a whimsy idea. It came about after the crab shell went up because I was disillusioned with how travel is sometimes shared online and some deep consideration and questioning about what I wanted to contribute. Calling BS on what isn’t right, finding a voice and giving a shit about stuff that matters is also a thick thread I want to continue weaving into this one life of mine. This project is a new direction for me; it’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting and basically all the things that make me feel like an ALIVE version of me.

Today the poppy photo has a new meaning for me. Perhaps I was wrong the first time. Maybe my challenge is not to moderate myself … but to trust a little more in the wildness of my extremes and where they land me. It is that wildness that creates the nostalgic moments in my life. To live in an evolving story – that’s important to me. Did you know my nickname as a kid was ‘poppy’? Dolly in dutch, there’s some nostalgia.

Everyday stories no matter how tiny the moment are part of the biggest adventure story of all. The one where we weave in all those  moments of meaning into our life. The sweet interactions between feeling and noticing and action and moving forward. The moments that provide the people, paths, choices and chapters for our novel. The fodder for what in the future will be our very own library of nostalgia. No doubt this will be one of the things I’ll be musing over as I walk the camino looking outward at the wonder of Green Spain.

Thank you Brydie for being the muse for my words today ;).

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

Do you want to hike for one girl too? Join us here on the women who hike team.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship

A month till show time … or is it? Every day is show time.

Actually it is less than a month! Eeeek.

I think I may have been in a little denial that my Camino is on the horizon.  Denial that has led to a little procrastination. Perhaps it’s the thought of leaving my family for a month or that I’ve given up living by lists since travelling or maybe it’s the unusual cold frost that’s been blowing over Europe this month.

Leaving my family is definitely something I try not to think too hard about. My husband is capable of getting the kids off to school and ensuring they are fed, read to, loved and washed (at least on Sundays). I’ve left them before … never a full month though, that’s quite a chunk of time hey! Best I let those thoughts go to the keeper!

‘Let it go to the keeper’- seriously that was one of the greatest lessons I learnt from a mentor when I first started work. I was a diligent, motivated and eager to please young teacher. She was a hippie, somewhat disorganised, super creative, senior teacher. Oh but she was doing amazing things. Developing innovative programs that were catching kids at risk, linking in to anything that was on offer in the community, showing kids they mattered,  she was shaking a system that was desperate to be shook.  And she was right; half the crap we worry about or try to have perfect rarely matters. Does it?

I’ve felt myself closing in, going inward, exploring how I’m feeling and behaving in our current life situation. It’s not all roses moving across the world, there are challenges. It’s life. I am finding in this inward space that I’m spending less time on other things and more time sitting with the kids, tucking their hair behind their ears, touching their cheeks and looking into their eyes. I’m even revelling in the smell of their freshly washed hair. I have done less exercise than I should have this month but my base is strong. I am not trying to break records. My hiking legs and my mind – full of grit. If you’ve met my mum you’ll know where I got that from.

Perhaps it’s not denial or procrastination –  just my way of coping and preparing. It is reminding me of just how unimportant most things are in comparison to the people we love. A pilgrimage is about walking with just what you need, a time to pare it all back, to peel away your defences and ultimately I imagine to question your existence.

What will the me that comes home from Santiago de Compostela be like?

The list thing. It wasn’t something I actively gave up doing it just happened. I’m not a disorganised person but I have given up needing to be on top of it all. I do write the odd list. If I am baking something new I need a list. I just wrote a list of the latest people I needed to thank who had donated to my fundraiser. If I need to do practical things like getting a visa organised I’ll do a list but these days I’d be lucky to consult a list a week. Not long lists of things TO-DO – spontaneity and dreams need space to land.

Maybe it’s living without too many commitments or without excess stuff. Over the past years we’ve actively scaled life back. We’ve taken our time easing into living here and creating our new life. We’ve started slow, not too many expectations and there are no swimming lessons, music lessons, excessive play dates or full weekends yet. Every day our play lunch still consists of the same home made muffin recipe with a different fruit flavour. These days I don’t listen to podcasts, TED talks or read books on ‘how’ to do things. My head isn’t aghast with how everyone else is doing things (or telling me how to do things) – I’m  finding my own rhythm. I can find my own way.

That’s not to say I won’t ever again (I’ll need to learn to keep bees one day), it’s just not a high voltage excess noise time. I’ve read a load of Camino memoirs which has lent itself to a more reflective time. I also have four kids remember so my quiet time is preciously mine and sometimes whichever musician’s lyrics are speaking to me, that’s enough for now. Oh gosh I’ve turned into that hippie teacher haven’t I? I will admit I’ve missed a few school meetings and my cards are being delivered very late in my listless life – to.the.keeper that goes!

The weather has been so chilly this winter and it’s been a natural time to hibernate. Knowing I was going to hike the camino has meant I’ve moved my way through the winter, hiking in the freezing sunshine, stomping through the snow and gore-texing it up in the rain. I think setting an April challenge has been a good way to stay warm in winter and keep any SAD at bay.

The spring will be here when I return from my Camino and I’m dreaming of daffodils. I’m dreaming of getting my hands dirty and of growing some food. Tomatoes, basil perhaps? I’d also like to get my kitchen bench looking a little like a fermenting laboratory.  A scoby, some milk kaffir grains and a sough dough starter – I miss them and I’ll be ready. Yes, I have finally started to understand the types of dreams that keep me present yet still allow me to have some plans (I do need plans). The dreams that add to the present but don’t take me away from it.

The camino will come in it’s own time. Living this time towards my trek as it’s own camino, as a time listen to the wind, to reduce any burdens I’m carrying, to learn from living, that’s how I want to live my life. One great journey, one step, one consideration, one lesson, one day at a time.

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

Do you want to hike for one girl too? Join us here on the women who hike team.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship