And We Are Away – Camino Mark 2.0

Hola Amigos!

AND just like that Camino 2.0 has crept up.

AND I cannot wait. Ok I can because I’m in post holiday nesting mode … but it’s happening regardless so best I get my shell out, pack the day pack and find my flow.

Tomorrow I will fly into Santiago de Compostela to hike a round trip of 240kms with a friend from camino 1.0  – Frank the tank.

Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia – Santiago.

I’ve booked my first night at an old seminary in Santiago. I’m super excited about travelling to the end of the world by foot while raising awareness for One Girl Australia and challenging myself to grow into some of the scary things that make me nervous.

Ahhh the bliss of long days on the trail … the endless horizons, fellow hiker stories, smiles and laughter, the kindness, the purpose, the joy of simply walking – freedom.

If you want to help spread the word about One Girl please feel free by sharing this story with friends and posting it on your socials! It worked a treat last time. Heck, maybe even approach the big boss at work if you think they are looking to #giveashit in the world and support an AWESOME cause.

Or here’s an idea … sign yourself up to #doitinadress. You’ll tick off a challenge as well as changing one girl’s world. Life changing stuff all round right there.

Standing for girl’s education. YEAH. Let’s DO this! My mum just took the hem up on my school dress and Zoë just hand wrote the details on the One Girl cards I’ll be carrying. My girls … where would I be without them.

See you all from the WAY. This last chapter to the end of the world Finisterre. Who will we meet this time? What will unfold as we step into this camino story? Where will it take us?

Adventure bound. We.Are.On. Like an up beat song!

Buen Camino friends,

Fran xxx

Follow on Instagram here.

Support the education of girls in Africa here.

Thanks for my El Camino People Bracelets Jose! I have a few to share on the trail and my kids will be wearing them at school while I’m away.

If you‘re new here or would to catch up on Camino 1.0 here’s the story. It was written from the trail on my iPhone in the early hours during April/May 2018.

Day 0 From St Jean Pied de Port

Day 1 From Orrison

Day 2 From Roncevalles

Day 3 From Larrosoaña

Day 4 From Zariquiegui

Day 5 From Lorca

Day 6 Los Arcos

Day 7 Logroño

Day 8 Nájera

Day 9 Grañón

Day 10 Villafranca

Day 11 Cardeñuela Ríopico

Day 12 Rabé de las Calzadas

Day 13 Castrojeriz

Day 14 Población de Campos

Day 15 Calzadilla de la Cueza

Day 16 Bercianos del Real Camino

Day 17 Mansilla de las Mulas

Day 18 León

Day 19 Hospital del Órbido

Day 20 Santa Catalina

Day 21 El Acebo

Day 22 Camponaraya

Day 23 Ruitelán

Day 24 Trìacastela

Day 25 Portomarín

Day 26 O Coto 

Day 27 Salcedo

Day 28 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

A few days rest in Santiago

Week 5 Finisterre by bus

Other related posts:

Why the camino for one girl

How to help?

Beyond – I’m going back to finish things off

Summer Camper Trip – The White Cliffs of Dover, France.

The home run!

We left the potato farm we camped on last night to begin the last drive home through Belgium. On the way out we were excited to be able to see The White Cliffs of Dover. I realise I haven’t described these towns and the people that live in them in these blog posts but I’ve been profoundly shifted by them – it’s been a reflective writing period. Typical of a long holiday in that it started full of excitement, then weaved it’s way into the deeper life stuff and towards the end into the promise and resolution towards life at home beyond the experience. Travel drives, shapes and guides me. It always has – blame the novaturient in my DNA. But I’m also a nester and this 15 kgs of potatoes we just picked up (out of a vending machine, not kidding) will be potato rosti, roast potatoes, potato soup, mash for days! And the feels of France will live on.

Here are some snaps from the passenger seat this morning. I hope my photos along this journey have given you what my words haven’t – how absolutely beautiful the life, cultures, traditions, languages and landscapes along these French and Spanish coastlines are. The first shot is England from France and those white cliffs.

Along the way we also stopped for an overnight at Lac Marin which become two nights because let’s face it – why not! Campering in a motor home park at €10 pn and 100m from the lake. See Louie with the SUP on his back (packs down small eh) … it’s a family affair this sipping business.

I got chatting to a Spanish family at the Lac and what started as a brief chat turned into a long one. They even gave us the address of where they were staying in case we needed anything. It reminded me of a favourite passage from driving over lemons where the author talked about changing it up in your midlife – moving, learning a language, learning a new skill, trying something new … whatever! Just living you know, being interested and interesting not existing. No matter how hard this year has been (the re-settling) one thing I feel is alive in my life – not bored.

I’m not a shopper (hate it) and the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings and a necklace Greg bought me when I was pregnant with Lucas with three rings … when we though three was it ;). Where would we be without Jimmy – no, four was definitely our number (and I love babies, naturally, I’m midwife). Anyways back to my splurging (on myself) some delicate hand made bracelets a style I’ve been loving for a long, long time and some red symbolic beads. Remember that thought I had back at the Picos. The one about being busy with our hands? That’s what the beads are for. To remind me. Our hands are the key … want to write a book, write. Want to give up wine or coffee, don’t hold a glass, cup. Want to read, hold a book, want to run do your laces up, want to paint push a brush in your hand, want less of the marketing … press unfollow, unsubscribe, worried about your health pick up the phone make the appointment …. yes what we do with our hands matters. There will always be another excuse about ‘why not now’ another tired day, another party, someone, something to blame, another story we tell ourselves about why not, but really there only is right now.

So as the little and big Vegemite’s unplugged the power for the last time this trip I bid you farewell from the Summer Camper Trip. I hope if you’ve followed along you’ve perhaps found something of value in my musings. I sure have in writing them. And in the spirit of sharing one more book and a story about putting stuff vulnerably out there and the answer finding you here’s one.

The Barefoot Investor

It’s Aussie centric but wow did it answer some questions for me. I come from a frugal background and obviously we’ve had to save and plan for this sabbatical (living in a 2br with all kids in one bedroom, selling stuff, adjusting wants etc). We bought ourselves some time out by forgoing other things. Recently the reality of getting older and the question of ‘is our super ok’ hit me. When I wrote about that after the camino I felt nervous sharing it, was it to personal? But it put the question firmly on my radar. And, my super is ok … I found the answers and the guide I needed in this book. Well not mine we’ve only had one real long term income so ours. I know it breaks all the rules and I am that women who without a career and by chosing home as hers and has ended up relatively ‘superless’, but I trust my marriage. And it’s not to late to start adding some and forward planning. I read this book in full yesterday that came recommended to me after wondering about super. It’s not about spreadsheeting – man I can’t live like that but it’s a practical plan and a way to think about your finances. We’ve been harvesting for a while but now it’s time to get back to the growing … Scott has really made it simple to understand. So if you’re like me overwhelmed with the information out there but committed to living within your means and wanting financial security with the good life life along side that, this book is awesome. Wise and wild right.

Buen Camino dear hearts! The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the camino (next week, next month) indulging my wayfarer soul. Maybe?! I haven’t decided if I’ll blog it yet. But can I share that as we drove through Calais this morning where for many years refugees have lived in camps it hit me how important my One Girl volunteer work is. The educations we provide these girls gives them the chance of creating a life for themselves and their families where they are and it gives them dignity and hope. Life giving stuff.

Fran xxx

Camper tips:

Total accommodation spend: €403 – 38 nights (€185 was the four nts in a caravan park I wouldn’t do that again). We don’t own a car (we use bikes and train and a green car on the odd occasion we need it) so we consider the cost of hiring the van covered by what we save in petrol, registration and insurance.

If you want to do it! Do it! If you can’t yet – plan. Practice – go camping. Get outside as often as you can, walk amongst trees, along the sand and in the mountains. Connect with yourself, your life, your family and nature – and watch the magic unfold.

Oh and an egg in bread is an excellent 11pm dinner when you’ve driven into the night.

If you have any camper questions please ask in comments.

Summer Camper Trip – Hossegor, France.

‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ ~ Albert Einstein

This is the choice. It’s what kids do when left to their own devices. And if it’s one thing this trip has reminded me of it’s this. Living with optimism and honest appreciation is a luxury most of us can enjoy if we choose to. When I get home … this is what I’ll be protecting with new boundaries and by setting limits. My right to live in a world of everyday miracles. I’ll be following acts and conversations of kindness not competition. Bird song not pity song. Creativity not greed. Compassion not self interest. Today not last year or next year. Taking action to grow by planting. Out with some old ways to make room for some new … ya da ya da. Life’s just too short to waste on the bullshit things.

A lot of the confusion I felt after walking the camino has found its place. On many levels I know where I’m going, I don’t know where I’ll end up but I’m completely ok with that. I’m comfortable. Walking the walk each day with purpose towards the destination (some goals I’ve set myself). Goals that came from throwing some fears, honesty and vulnerability out to the wind. By shedding some layers, looking in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions. It’s true what they say, the camino starts when you finish … but like any major life event/tradition/change it takes time to process, time to feel. I’ve had a few this past year! Finishing long term travel, my littlest starting school, the culture shock of moving a family abroad, !walking the 800km camino Frances. Phew! What a year. Yes a quiet year in my nest sounds like a plan.

There is a time when it feels like our whole life is a head of us and one day you realise there’s a lot behind too. This trip has left some wonderful behinds, no regrets. Hand holding, food sharing, laughs, adventuring, playing, reading, marveling, singing, closeness, bonding – memories and connection. It’s also been slow and long – a holiday that filled with white space. Space that has given all of us the precious and luxurious gift of time. Time where thoughts have had space to be hung out soaking wet with enough air and wind to dry. Time to be in our relationships and on our own – just us, just them, just me. Presence.

The last of our long stops has been in Hossegor on the SW coast of France. We are returning after spending Z’s birthday here last year. Within walking distance of the surf vibe town we’ve spent three nights and four full days here (€12 per night, no power). I could see us spending an entire summer here one year, perhaps the next one. It reminds me a lot of the summers we spent camping in Barwon Heads before leaving Australia for this European sabbatical.

We could live our camp style life (especially for kids) and enjoy the ease of having a town close by. These days I even need to share the mussels … it appears all the kids are getting gamer. We learnt a good food lesson … where you eat in France matters. We had some shocking meals last year contrary to the romantic notion of French food. It’s not all good – do read google reviews. This year we were not disappointed. So in amongst this trip we found some tradition amongst our traditional ‘off the grid’ kind of summer. A return to a place we all love. This time we played on the river with our SUP. We’re all getting quite hooked on the SUP’ing which is a good thing. At home we’re surrounded by water and it can become a home hobby too. In fact I’m quite looking forward to seeing my village from the water and the idea of my teenager hopping on his bike to go SUP.

And in case you were wondering … YES I DID (we all did). Chop chop! I shed the heaviness of the lochs and it feels quite symbolic. I’ve also managed to drop a fair bit of heaviness and confusion that I’ve been carrying of late – out here in the wilderness, on this camino of ours. Indeed start with the head Paula ;). Next the cheese weight ;)

Buen camino friends, I truly hope you’re well. Are you ok?

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Greg noticed some teenagers emptying the facilities ‘shitter’ for their family’s camper and commented that they were his little heroes. To which our nearly fourteen year old replied … ‘I’m going to empty the shitter, I’m your little hero’. And he did as the nearly nine year old filled the water. He’s been emptying it ever since. Helping, contributing, learning to be self sufficient – all important. And no we don’t give him pocket money to do it helping out is a normal behavior to cultivate in family life, yes? One which gives an intrinsic reward.

Summer Camper Trip – Playa de Rodiles, Spain.

From the bush to the beach. Not quite any beach … a beach amongst the forest. Literally where the trees meet the waves. Magnificent, humbling nature.

We’ve decided to make our way to France. So an overnight wild camp on this glorious beach. We haven’t grown tired of Spain it just feels like time. Time to spend a few days in one spot, get some hair cuts (one less job to do before school starts), enjoy some macaroons and a pain au chocolat. Or my ultimate favourite – the almond croissant. Miam. All with the feeling that we don’t have too far to return home. Home, there’s that word again. :)

It was special to wake on the coast and take the opportunity to go for a swim. I woke a tad grumpy but as soon as my bare feet walked along the weathered wooden path towards the beach I felt home. (I went back later for this shot, a moment in time I want to remember). Home in myself. It’s strange isn’t it what makes us feel home. I imagine a lot of it has to do with our childhood. Familiar feelings, sounds, surroundings, imagination. A beach path in Spain holds the same kind of familiarity and comfort as a beach path in Phillip Island or Anglesea. Two spots with great meaning for me.

Although the home feeling we create is built across our lifespan for me there always it seems to be a connection to childhood, to who I am and where I come from. Maybe that’s how we find our peace, connect back with that little person we once were. Definitely little person for me, teenage years aaargh. I think (know) perhaps my grumpiness this morning has something to do with the chemistry of my body in this time in my life … and it also may explain the feelings of invisibility and lack of confidence I’ve felt in the past year and the slowed metabolism.

Today I remembered something about myself. I know how to make things happen. When I was 12 I went to a jamboree in Indonesia. I made dolls clothes for cabbage patch kids to sell at markets to raise money for that trip. When I was 19 I’d just completed a travel and tourism course. I decided I’d quite like to work in QLD so I literally send a resume by post to every hotel and resort in the phone book! I subsequently spent three years living in the Whitsundays. In my 20s I completed a semester of my degree in another state organising my own teaching rounds which was unheard of at the time. I rowed in the first female surfboard crew for Torquay life saving club. In my 30’s I did a midwifery degree over five years and had two of my four babies. I only ever did 1 week of night duty and I successfully obtained a part time grad year in order not to compromise my desire to keep the kids home as babies (also almost unheard of). In my 40s we said no to following a linear path and found our way towards an adventure that would bring us here. I hiked 800kms along the camino this year and with incredible help and generous support sent 28 girls in Africa to school.

Yes I know how to make things happen, albeit slowly and in the form of change. We all do! Sometimes we forget where we’ve been and how long and fruitful life is. It’s something we can do at any age isn’t it – recognise how incredible the ride has been. I must remind myself sometimes about my own strength because none of those things have come without determination and self reliance and not by compromising my values. It has taken choices, decisions, risk, patience and knowing what I need to let go of (and letting it go). If I take the time to consider the ‘how’ I’ve found my way it’s been without noise or hustle. Yes knowing how those words affect my personality and ‘way of being’ are important in living peacefully, in moving without self imposing stress and barriers. So howdy to you – new challenge of finding something for myself in The Netherlands. I’m on to you.

There’s no one who can make things happen for me, just me. Life has afforded me fortune, support and luck and naturally there are also stories of heartbreak, trauma and tragedy. Life. As I walk my way along this sandy path feeling home in myself, I think what a gift it is to have created myself some space to ‘be’ to ‘try’ and of the camino, always the camino.

The guide she gave me to stay on course, to see my own way through. Step by step. With simplicity and trust because if we remain present by feeling and looking close the reasons are ALWAYS evident. She reminded me that my spirit is optimistic and I really am too old to start indulging pessimism in my life. And that JOY and laughter are awesome!

I read a Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. A beautiful memoir of his family’s life on their Andalusian mountain farm in the South of Spain. Easy to read and a wonderful escape into a life lived with purpose. Colorful characters too.

Question? To cut my hair for the new season and transition … I’m mostly yes! And then as I sit here in my saltwater curls (current moment) I’m not sure.

Buen Camino and if your still here thanks for indulging my rambles. Indulgent and not always articulate but they serve their purpose as I continue this love of writing myself forward.

Fran x

Camper trip:

Nearly forgot. Solo’ing. Yes solo’ing. If you need time out take it and give it to your partner … park up where the kids can play. The beach is awesome but vigilance is always needed so take time in easier locations and read that book, go for that hike, wander down the street, drink a coffee or two on you own. Heck have a wine … that’s what they do here in Spain and France. But not indulgently just for the pleasure, that’s one of the differences between Australia and these Mediterranean counties. It’s a great tragedy that’s affecting our quality of life, indulgence over enough. In my humble opinion.

Summer Camper Trip – Fragas do Euma.

After heading out of Cabo Ortegal we decided to head for A Coruña. With two weeks left we were considering how far to push west … or should we turn and return home slowly? Or should we do something crazy and high tail down to the Cíes Islands, heard of them? We hit the park up in A Coruña and after some lunch and a climb in this incredible stone sculpture we decided it was time to turn around! Another time for the islands … we’d rather save something than try and check it all. Plus it’s August, peak … you know I’m allergic to too many people. And slow travel is more our jam.

The car park was empty which isn’t a problem for us nor was the crazy hair kind of wind. But I did feel a little nervous after looking up what I thought may be a restaurant at the end of the carpark was actually an addiction center. So we had lunch, played on the sculptures and made the decision to turn back towards home! It seemed like time. And the idea of going home slowly rather than HAVING to drive long distances over a shorter amount of days was appealing.

My friend Lisa described it as a symbolic passage way, the photo we took there … up the steps and towards home. Truth. And to think at first I thought it was a book! But she nailed it, my friend. It is a symbolic turning point. Big trips like these give you a lot of freedom and space to allow your mind to wander in different directions. In that wandering it’s easier to get to the heart of things. The heart is where it’s all at … all the sweet (and sour) truth. As gypsy as I am I also feel the pull to nest (extremes remember). There’s a time for everything and the seasons are changin’. This turn is symbolic we’re going home to foundations.

For the first time in a couple of years we’re going home to the same house – without a plan to move. Permanent for now. There are also work changes coming our way and newish (even thought they feel old) expat friends to catch up with. It’s been a while – us living out this wandering part of our European adventure, floating. Its been a gift and now it’s rather exciting to have foundations to built on. As well as the chance to grow within a community and some kitchen herbs!

Torre de Hércules at A Coruña a 1st century AD Roman light house. Blew my mind – the Roman’s always do.

Our accommodation spend is looking rather healthy at the four week mark just €331, remembering that the caravan park (car park) in Loredo accounts for over half of that (4 nights €185)! Our aim was to free camp tonight. But after arriving at yet another coastal car park and again not digging the vibe, we opted for a motor home park in the national park. And at €10 per night with electricity, hot showers and a free washing machine, we are winning.

Obviously we made ourselves at home. Vanlife is all about home is where you park it right! Washing, eating, free ranging, reading, being and enjoying the obstacle course we found hidden in the scrub. Boom – that was an extra bloody bonus.

Buen Camino dear hearts as you begin your new week. May there be excitement in ideas and freedom in the beauty of life for you too.

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Eeek. Gosh I’m so not a tips person as you know, I’m trying to be better at sharing is caring! Here’s one – use your dust pan brush to wipe the sandy feet. It’s genius. I saw another camper do it. Oh and have an old towel behind the passenger seat, it’s been used numerous times (kids). And being barefoot and salty will cure a grumpy mood.

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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