Category Archives: Travel

Mi Camino – Home to Rome. Via Francigena. Stage One.

Hola adventure hearts,

I know you are. You wouldn’t be reading along here if you didn’t feel that twinge of excitement when possibility strikes. That lust for life, the thirst for something a little less ordinary. A deep desire to feel a part of your world – the world. Possibility. Oh what a word … what a feeling.

Now you know I’ve been playing with and committing to the idea of running a 1/2 marathon a month for One Girl. I had the first one planned but I couldn’t quite hit the enter key to register, nor could I hit book for a flight. It was an idea, one I had jumped into and one that felt like it could be possible. There were a few hurdles and slowly this month the hurdles became crossroads, choices – perhaps there was another way. A different adventure for me.

When I signed myself up for the idea the same company whose running shoes I wear were offering an ambassadorship. Of course I took this as a sign and applied. Four pairs of shoes they were offering for the year. I would be needing those. As with my last One Girl challenge I’m not looking for freebies … but a product I actually use and need that contributes to the adventure I’m ok with that. Hey honestly I’d prefer corporate sponsorship as in donations to the charity but that’s a whole other hurdle (note to self – one to explore)!

Although it would be poignant of me to point out that since the last camino my view on sponsorship has shifted a little. At first I thought it was a great way to build my camino – to get some recognition and air play for it. But now I realise that while it gave me some confidence in promoting the camino I didn’t need it for that.

The gear was awesome, it saved me buying it and I am grateful for all the support I received for my One Girl hike. I won’t be asking for more because I’m still wearing it! Shameless plug for Wilderness Wear I love everything about this ethical company. The air play for the camino and the actual financial aid that made it possible to put girls through school that didn’t come because I had sponsorship. Nope. It came because people (women mostly) related to, shared the story and supported me. Grassroots relationships.

So the hurdles … well the main one was the physicality. I’m fit and I’m strong minded but my body isn’t ready for what I was going to ask of it. I have been doing the right things, adding anti inflammatory foods and drinks (namely broth) to my diet. I’ve sought treatment for a few niggles that were surfacing and I trained. After a rather severe neck strain last week I decided to move my challenge start date from January to April. I can make up the rules as I go, why not it’s my challenge.

Now coinciding with this challenge is of course all the other stuff that goes on:  my responsibilities, my capacity, my resources and importantly my current season of life. A few more little signs played out this month. I went for a walk to the post office and I know that sounds ordinary but normally I ride. I love my bike life . LOVE it! But I realised that like a car you end up going from A to B and that little walk to the post office reminded me how I love to walk and immerse my senses in the pleasures of it.

I also started seeing a Thai masseuse and she has the healing hands … those practitioners are GRACE. The ones who with a touch of their hands, or words from their heart know what you need. As she dug into my muscles I realised they were full of tension. FULL. Perhaps from some of the stresses of the year and definitely getting exacerbated from the running training. Those massages have felt a bit like a detox. And like any detox they have cleared some space to create some softness and an urge to be a little more gentle on myself.

A few posts back I talked about needing something, some motivation something to move forward with while at the same time remaining grounded. I’m not looking for an off the chart adventure. I don’t want to travel for months on end or pack up my life. No this gypsy soul wants to remain planted, secure and within the same four walls but she doesn’t want to feel stuck or bored or going through the motions. Of course I need an adventure and some shit giving … that’s my soul food, my love language but it was becoming clear that the running might not be the right one.

And then there was a story about an opportunity. A new door to step through. A friend who I had met through IG (gosh so many good stories have come from there). I have found a tribe through that little ap. Digressing sorry. This friend asked if I’d be interested in coming to her home in the UK and talking about my story, my camino and my work with One Girl with a group of women. She would arrange it and a small donation towards One Girl would be the ‘ticket’ fee. Perhaps we’d aim for $300 – one girl – one education. I actually called this friend and I am NOT a phone person! This idea lit a spark and it seems like something I could /should/want to do. Something of a possibility wouldn’t you say?

I didn’t get the shoe sponsor and I was relieved … it was a free pass to change the path I was on.

And I did.

Today I walked out the front door and started walking to Rome.

I don’t even know how many kms away that is! I’m pretty sure it’s well over 2000. Am I crazy – SURE. Crazy for a life well lived. You see when I walked the Camino Frances I though to myself ‘if I was retired I could definitely see myself (with Greg of course) walking from place to place. Wandering the globe for a while, walking.’ And why would I wait? I have patience for many things but time that waits for no one. I have two feet, a love of the trail and a cause I’m committed too – again I ponder ‘perhaps there’s another way’.

Traditionally a camino starts from home … from your front door. Perfect! Here I am, start where you are (I always say that, it’s the only place to start eh). Walk towards Rome (I always wanted to learn Italian). And so I started. I walked to a small village 28kms from here and on the way to Germany. As I left my village the church bells rang across the town and as I arrived in Maarn a choir version of ‘the little drummer boy’ was playing into the gardens of a castle, both  beautiful harmonies for the beginning and ending of a special day. Day one.

I took the train home and for the next hike I’ll train back to where I left off … every hike getting further away and closer to Rome. Eventually I will need to go for longer periods but for now I think I can make my way into Germany in this way.

It’s perfect because it suits my family and our need to be settled in one place with routine and structure. And it satisfies my need for that ‘something’. Possibilities friends … they are endless. As are the different paths we can take.  And today I took one that passed through villages and farmland, along countryside and roadsides and I felt pretty bloody ecstatic to be back on the camino. My camino. I think I’ve found my way.

Buen Camino and I wish you and your families a beautiful Christmas,

Fran xx

https://www.doitinadress.com/frances-antonia

Create your own magic

Dia dhuit,

As the days become shorter and the air crisper there is a new constant in my days. Di luna. Yes, her majesty – the moon. (ps the clip above provides a good background sound to this post). Now I don’t profess to know much about the moon I rely on others to tell me where she is, what she’s doing and what that means for me. But, I do know this – if you’re looking for something magical to happen in your life you could start there. Start with the moon. Dance in her light. Charge with her energy.

Di Luna, she is there when I wake and long before I go to sleep at night as we move into the darker months here. Her lunar phases unfolding before my eyes week by week as I cycle my children to their evening sport practice. Soon we will also be riding to school under the light of the moon.

The moon – something we can take for granted in our increasingly noisy, blamey, scared entitled plastic world. Glory we can forget to notice … and yet I think we are screaming for the kind of magic the moon gives us. There’s something mystical and soothing about being in the presence of the moon. Wiser, greater and more precious than anything the mall or the memes can sell us. Peace. She can of course be a bit scary in all her glory … asking us to stand honestly in her presence. Honesty isn’t always easy amongst rush, noise and plastic. Unsure? Let the moon guide you – that’s where you’ll find wild adventure and an escape or break from fake. Keep it wild from where we stand 101 friends.

Both the moon and a special moon (knowing) friend have been orbiting in my world the past few years, (there’s a pun for the week for you Annette) and I believe they have been slowly giving me clues to help find magic. A deep magic. As much as I love Harry Potter I know we can’t really shake a wand and make something happen … we need to be a part of making it happen.

Isn’t it wonderful though to be able to drift into fantasy. Fantasy reminds us of the value of magic. Perhaps indulging in fantasy takes us closer to our reality? Perhaps there is more of a fine line between the two than we realise? Magic happens when we bravely step into life seeking to believe there is meaning beyond the rush, noise and the plastic.

I truly believe we can learn about life and ourselves in the company of the moon (all nature really but I’m currently in a moon phase). Along the camino, particularly my last one in September I walked most mornings under the moonlight. It taught me a lot about fear and as scary as it was it was also exhilarating.

This week I took myself out running and misjudged the sunset. Again, I found myself alone in the moonlight. We live in a world where solace is not often sought amongst the seasons nor the elements. We seek only to be comfortable and to control them. And yet every time I loosen my grip, trust what’s uncomfortable and unknown and step into solitude in nature I begin to uncover more of what’s true.

During my run I discovered where the my magic will come from this winter. I’ll be making my own illuminated by the moonlight . Perhaps she’ll help me refine those wild truths my old friend, the courageously daring feeling wind shook up these past few winters.

Ag siúl go maith,

Fran x

PS My first half marathon starts at midnight – yep it’s a night run, ironic that!

Off and running.

It’s not a long one today just a newsy one. Every now and then in the world of blogging we can lose our way with our story. The one we started telling/writing. Sometimes it is because our purpose changes. Other times it’s because we lose our nerve or our mojo and sometimes it’s simply because we grow away from the page. These past weeks I’ve stepped into all of these buckets. Wondering where I am on this page, am I stepping into a sharing space I didn’t intend to and in turn I’ve had to consider what am I actually doing (contributing) here.

It holds a lot of meaning for me – this space. It kept me grounded as we faced the many challenges of settling in a new country after travelling. It has been a space that brought such kindness and joy to my days as my Camino for One Girl happened. I found such pleasure writing from along ‘the way’.  I loved every aspect of the camino and I look forward to bringing next year’s One Girl project to life here. I am sure there will be much to learn and hopefully some incredible stories to share as I run my way through twelve cities and twelve half marathons. I know. I really and truly am nuts.

Sometimes my blogs venture away from their initial purpose and that is ok, that’s good stuff. It means I’ve grown from where I started. Lately I’ve been trying to make sense of how I do this new level of my life. Damn these levels … demanding more of me. Anyways I’ve been sitting out making any decisions by testing a few thoughts, challenging a few practices and adjusting myself towards what seems to feel right. Friends have had massive what’s ap. ponderings dropped on them. Sorry. I went paddling last week in search of a feeling and I’ve spent some time following a curiosity inspired rabbit hole of reading. I even listened to a few podcasts. Conversations with Richard Fidler. Love them. Must listen to more.

I have set myself on a new course and yes I do still want to write here. Indeed I do. I am committed to my charity work for One Girl and there are those twelve half marathons to run next year. Excited? Gosh I am. And nuts for shizzle … it is hurting a lot. I have had to find myself a Chinese Medicine practitioner to get back into cupping and acupuncture, start Pilates and my diet is also requesting a make over.

Sore legs aside I am excited about getting stronger and completing this 2019 #doitinadress challenge. I’ve chosen my first run – it’s a cracker (won’t share yet until I can be sure I can run early in the month). Adventure is an amazing catalyst for changing the world and ourselves. I’ve decided that while I am passionate about many things this is my thing I can do. This is what I want to talk about. So yeah this site will continue to advocate for those daughters of the mothers who need me to stand for them. And women’s travel and adventure well that’s my jam.

My charity work is part of a bigger story and this site was never set up to house that. No website is, it keeps growing. So now seems like a good time to jump up a level and address the edge of my comfort zone, the edge I seem to be so bloody attracted to. What is my comfort zone demanding of me? I’m going to be addressing that over at a new site:

Frances Antonia

Some of you may want to come on that ride if you’re into the musings, the photography and the local stories. It will be another creative journey but the focus will be different.

This page will still be here and if this is more your thing hang here with me as we grow this One Girl story. Either way we are good.

Aaah it’s good to be walking forward friends,

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

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

Hola,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Markhor in the andes

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

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Snow leopard in the andes

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

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

Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Ensemble

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

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

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

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

‘Cause every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

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

~ Lyrics ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman

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

‘So I say thank you for the music

 the songs I’m singing

thanks for all the joy they’re bringing 

who can live without it 

I ask in all honesty

what would life be

without a song or a dance what are we’

~ABBA lyrics.

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

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

~ More lyrics from the Greatest Showman.

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

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

Fran xx

Camino Day 6 – Writing from Santiago de Compostela.

Hola Amigos,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk soon.

Fran xx