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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

And so friends so we move, forward and onward.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

P.S. Fancy getting your own challenge on?

Committing?

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

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

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

Cleaning out the closets – life beyond the camino.

And I’m home. Home from taking a long walk (800km) along the Camino. You know the one, the 1,200 year old path towards Santiago. The one that starts in many places, but for me at the base of the Pyrenees in St Jean Pied de Port in the Beautiful French Basque Country (Frantziaco euscal herri ederra). After swimming in liminality for a bit, that floaty, bewilderingly in-between space where we can feel a bit lost. The space that’s actual a transitional phase where you’re adjusting after a life experience, yes, I’ve been there and hola I’m back.

Back to writing and back home cleaning out my closets. Metaphorically speaking of course. My actual closets have been empty for a few years now. We try to travel through life lightly when it comes to ‘physical stuff’. Naturally, living life comes with the need for some physical stuff (2 adults and 4 kids worth) but we try to be mindful of being wasteful and distracted by consumption. It’s other stuff I’m cleaning up. Like among other things the getting older and thinking about the future … really are we at the second half of our working lives, closer to the retirement end than the start of our working lives? What do these years, months, days need? What don’t they need?

Walking the camino is as close as it gets to living each day as simply as you can with purpose and without the angst or pressure from expectations of the world and daily life. Ok, sometimes you have to walk further to find a bed, unless you book ahead (that depends on your own comfort levels). And yes there are the times the bed bugs bite, the times you want to be alone, when you can’t face another tortilla or bocodilla and the times you hurt! But in the scheme of things hopefully you get what I mean. Life. Not a life without difficulty just simpler and moving with purpose towards the end of each day. Less to manage, less to worry about.

I scared myself a bit last week. Worrying. Thinking too far ahead. Looking too far back. It’s probably normal after living with such simplicity and clear purpose to come home and freak out a bit, ok a lot!

My sister talks about the sense of achievement you get each day from walking kilometers along the camino. It’s true. Each afternoon as we sat and drank a beer we smiled. A smile on our face but more than that. A smile from deep, deep inside after a satisfying day’s work of doing what we love.

It’s not quite summer here (technically) but it’s deliciously warm. The summer doesn’t start in the Northern Hemisphere until 21st June (the solstice) so we are still in spring. The season to clean out closets, always timing right! I walked 800kms and be sure friends the adventure won’t be in vain. While I walked it, I lived it. My mind was there in Spain not here in The Netherlands. Now as I move forward having walked the camino I begin here again, now. A new time (adventure) with more experience to reflect and draw on.

I must begin again because sitting in worry is not helpful! Although I do think it had its purpose. It is necessary in bringing us to our personal crossroads … the big questions. The big challenge is of course to step into the path of those questions, to take our own action.

Sometimes the easy path is timely even if the harder one is more important. There are times you have no choice which path you must take. The hard path takes strength and sometimes we must cultivate some courage first. (Try walking or making something ;) if you need some and practice saying ‘no’ sometimes and ‘yes’ to different things). There is one thing I’m sure of though … after pausing on the easy path the hard one will once again show itself at a crossroad. Many people skip the section of the hike over the Pyrenees because it’s mountainous. The entire camino has hills and mountains and here’s the thing – you may start in the next village or city but that first section is not the hardest! Like life you won’t escape the hard climbs.

Here I stand. Walking my own camino, stepping into my life with all the unknowns it is currently throwing my way. Facing the unknown of what my ‘career’ will look like, what my husband’s will look like as he takes the risk of backing himself and starting a business. Wondering when the ‘right’ time to move home is. Where is home? Am I doing the ‘smart’ thing? Who defines smart? Is security real or perceived? Knowing I need to get more consistent and put a deeper effort in with food and our footprint for my family. All SCARY and HARD stuff (for me).

Scary I suppose if I choose to let it overrun me with fear and the subsequent worry that comes with that.

I can’t predict further down the road. But the camino showed me I do like to book my accommodation ahead … that’s my comfort zone and I can always change it if needed. So I need a plan! The camino also confirmed my love of the every day. I can’t exist is chaos and I especially can’t exist without my soul being nurtured. And how that wonderfully magical ancient path reminded me that life is joyful! Worrying and existing without cultivating what nurtures my soul distracts me from experiencing joy.

So poco a poco (little by little) and steadily each day becomes part of moving towards something bigger as I fill my days (mostly) with things I love. And to move joyfully with purpose through the more tedious bits.

The big issues like tackling superannuation and looking at money begins. Researching a new fund as the one we have is FULL of fees (boring admin stuff that has a big impact on the future). As does considering what that fund needs to look like in the future (within our reality and constraints). It can be one of the things that gets left behind when you live away from your home country, having your pension in another. So yes we are living an adventure but there are costs … it’s best I clean the closet! Budget time.

Finding momentum in life and satisfying my soul creates comfort in my every day and they go hand in hand. I LOVE music. This week and honestly most weeks it’s Bernard Fanning’s ‘Tea and Sympathy’ album (a creature of habit I am). I listen to it when I need to move at home. Folding washing and dancing, mopping and singing, writing lists and dreaming. It’s good for the soul … and then flow happens. The kitchen calls and the play lunch gets baked and a new little desk space is created … a place that’s hidden away for things to be created (exciting stuff).

Career? Well that’s always going to be tricky. Currently my midwifery registration is on hold because I can’t practice here. So I’m working as a substitute teacher at an international school. I have a lot of down time there – the kids are very motivated learners, super interesting too. So I’m swinging that my way by learning something new. I study Spanish while the kids are working – sometimes I even get the Spanish kids to help me with pronunciation, bonus.

‘Life has a way that’s unpredictable but you can’t spend it waiting on a miracle.’ ~ Bernard Fanning.

And slowly I’m working on tidying and playing with this blog. My blogs have always reflected where I am in my life and this one is a special one. I’m not one thing. Nope, I’m not a lifestyle, travel, adventure or fashion blogger ;). To be honest I don’t even consider myself a blogger. I’m a sharer of words with a love of many things. I write about them for me. It’s simpler for me that way – not writing with a need for my words to deliver something.

I’m proud of this blog, for what I’ve achieved for One Girl and for contributing to the landscape of women and adventure. I love that I’ve connected with some wonderful creative women along this writing path. I will always write to continue moving forward, to improve and challenge myself, to live in a positive and optimistic space. Just like sharing on IG I write to satisfy my own need to share, create and think out loud. There are a few of us that need that, hello to those of you that visit because you too need or get that. And to those of you who like colossal posts.

Life. It’s happening today! It’s where we live, the people we share ourselves with, the beauty in the world that we notice, nurture and protect and what we cultivate each day that feeds our soul. Joy will come from there and will always be grander than anything we buy, any trip we take or ‘all’ the extra things we do begrudgingly. Today is a dynamic place, we are constantly moving. Feeling (presence) and reflecting through each phase of transition offers us yet another opportunity to step forward – wiser, wilder, bolder and awake in the life we’re actively creating for ourselves.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

A few days of rest and the first post camino test.

“It’s your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.” ~ Rumi.

I haven’t read back through my camino posts but I imagine there’s a thread of the camino imitating life. In the simplicity of the routine, moving, way markers, eating, space, outdoors and community there is a guide, a way to live with ease.

My initial arrival into Santiago was an emotional one. Aside from the phenomenal outcome of educating 25 (nearly 26 girls) for One Girl I was unsure how my legs would be. Could I continue on to Fisterre, to the end of the world? This was always my intended end point. After receiving my compostella for walking the 799km pilgrimage along The Camino Frances I still feel the pull to walk on.

One Girl update!

Total funds raised so far – $7,790.00. Goal achieved, and then some! Thank you.

If you’d like to contribute it’s not to late you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

There are many reasons I want to continue on. Mainly because I want to walk across the entire country! Also the history of the the walk towards Fisterre appeals to me on a personal level. And lastly because after such a brilliant first 26 days of walking like a mountain goat I wanted to finish like that and to finish with my sister walking strong (my damn ego).

A few days rest and a check with the local Dr and tendonitis has been confirmed. The treatment – rest, ibuprofen gel and tablets.

So we’ve eaten out way around the tapas bars, drunk a few beers and Rioja reds. My favourite tapas bar if you’re in Santiago is A Taberndo Bispo. Friendly service, tasty tapas, local seafood, smooth house wine and locals galore!

On this third day of rest the pain has disappeared and I think I could walk tomorrow. Except I’m not going to, I’m on the bus. I decided not to let my ego win! I think most of us battle with our ego along the camino as it teases and tests our purpose as we walk. I chose another camino lesson and that was to simply move.

What I needed most today was to move. It doesn’t matter how I move just that I do! Arriving in Santiago was a place to land, to rest, to await a few of the friends we met along the way. But it wasn’t where I was going. Sitting idle, dwelling never is … it’s one my biggest camino lessons and the challenge I’m taking home with me. Dreams and living them takes work and challenge (and the ability to adjust).

I’ll finish my walk across this country! It may be one I’ll do with my family later this year or maybe just one of my older two. Maybe with a friend. It’ll be slower, less busy and more historically relevant than the last 100kms of the camino (Sarria to Santiago – the busiest section). Perhaps I’ll leave walking the camino to my kids, they can choose if they want to walk their own camino. Find their own way along this spectacular path.

But today we’ll make our way by bus and to spend some days on the coast. Returning home well and ready next week and able to move with vigour is more important than stepping into an ego driven walk tomorrow. As hard as that is!!!!

So we move … to the beach, the end of the world and towards a gentle 6km hike to enjoy tonight’s sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Writing from Santiago de Compostela – Day 28

We awoke after a deep sleep ready for our final trek into Santiago de Compostela! The end of this grand 799 km hike adventure and my One Girl project. It was the perfect day to end the walk being Mother’s Day. I’ve always thought that educating girls in Africa was my way of supporting another mother’s daughter. What a beautiful thought as I entered Santiago – 25 Mother’s daughters will be safely in school next year.

Days on the Camino – 28

Kms – Today 33 kms. Finished (28 days)!

Starting point today –Salcedo, Spain.

End of the day – Santiago de Compostella, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 25

Total funds raised so far – $7425.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $165 to go!

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.

Dedicated to – All of you who read here and follow on IG. You have supported me every step of the way in you own beautiful ways. This was always more than walking the camino, this was about adventure, kindness and humility. I’m proud I walked the camino but more than that I’m proud of putting myself out there to create change. Thank you for being my safety net.

I’ve written these blogs on my phone and often tired late at night – so despite the errors and diary type writing it’s overwhelming how many of you have been so excited and followed along.

Accommodation – We checked into a hostel/hotel for 3 nights! Can you believe it. No backpack on tomorrow. I don’t fly for a week so lots of time to take in what we’ve just done!

Food highlight – There are no food photos on my camera roll from yesterday! Perhaps I’ll change it up and say eating a bag of chips and drinking a bottle of wine with my sister in our beds was pretty darn special!

Word/s of the day – Time to soak it all in.

Last leg of the trek! On my last legs :). We did our usual morning things. Eat our bananas, pack our packs, fill the water bottles, start the gps and the room check. As we’re getting tireder it feels easier to leave something behind. So far we have left two things. Kris a power adapter, me a hair comb. So we share.

The signs say just over 28kms but my GPS always takes us there in 3-4 more kms. My shins feel ok as I potter around the room. I’ve used some anti inflammatory gel and taken some ibuprofen.

The first 800 metres were tender going so we stopped for breakfast! Ha ha not even 1km into the day – it might be a long one. Bacon and eggs, coffee and fresh OJ – our standard breaky.

After breakfast I feel ok, the right leg feels good. It feels like I’ve walked through that one! Honestly what we can walk through astounds me. I’m currently walking through physical pain but others on this trail have walked through addictions, break ups, transitions, loss. Where else in the world can you walk for 30 odd days and have all your needs met (carrying the basics in your back) and meet kind, honest caring people every step of the way. The camino is a special trail. And I think most people walk into themselves not Santiago de Compostella.

It’s the down hill that seems to trigger the pain and thankfully today was a beautiful track mostly surrounded by woodlands. Walking into a city can sometimes be arduous as you pass through industrial estates. Not today, it’s country life – I can hear the birds singing and see the cows feeding.

Had this day been earlier in the trek I would have taken a break for sure. But now we’re so close. I want to push through.

The last 100kms feels different, our friends from the beginning are either behind or in front. We’ve met a couple of nice Andy’s. UK Andy and German/Irish Andrew, both always just around the corner. We can’t wait to catch up with them in Santiago.

Andrew you didn’t have to carry me in! I made it. But thanks for the offer. I’m a lot heavier than that back pack of yours so I’m not sure you would have pulled it off! Even with your gutsy strength :). Not only a super new camino friend but a super hiker – a 22 day Camino from St Jean.

Many new sprightly trekkers join the camino for the last 100kms. It’s time to reach the end and wind it up. Time to celebrate what an amazing adventure we’ve been on and what we’ve achieved.

So we walk, forward, just as we have every day for the past 27. Laughing at ourselves and each other. It wasn’t quite as slow and excruciating as yesterday but for sure a few of days rest will be welcome.

We didn’t make it to the cathedral for our official ending, nor did we collect our compostella. We opted to go straight to the hotel, in all honesty it was all I could manage on my painful shin. Edit: I’ve had them checked and it’s tendonitis so a few days rest, all good. So that means your inboxes will still bring you news from Santiago for a few days yet, plus you know I love a good reflection.

As we were walking into Santiago I knew in my mind that this wasn’t going to be a moment that made the adventure! It was simply the end of the trail. All the moments, the memories, the meaning … that all happened along the way.

Lovely friends who have come along for this journey! It’s not the end just the beginning.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Salcedo – Day 27

My post is a day later because I was utterly drained last night, both physically and mentally. It was the hardest day of my camino and one where my coping skills were tested like never before. It would also bring delicious homemade treats, another girl educated in Africa, kindness, spectacular countryside and a lesson in perspective.

Days on the Camino – 27

Kms – Today 33 kms.

Starting point today – O Cota, Spain.

End of the day – Salcedo, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 24

Total funds raised so far – $7225.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $465 to go!

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.

Accommodation – The most delightful Albergue. Albergue Turístico Salceda. This is a family run Albergue and they are the best cooks, hosts, publicans … you name it! I had the BEST pilgrim meal here. The rooms are clean, modern and spacious. You’ll probably need to book this one. They have private rooms and dorms. We took a twin room (€23.50 each).

Food highlight – Finding a German bakery on the camino! I’ve never called myself a sweets person but on this camino I’m becoming one.

And then there was that dessert that was part of the three course pilgrim meal … lemon mouse with quince.

Word/s of the day – Exhaustingly challenging.

Last night I went to bed early feeling tired and a little fevery. I’m starting to feel a bit washed out and perhaps I had a little heat stroke from the day before.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to sleep well in our O Coto accommodation on account of another attack of bed bugs! Lucky this time we were in hotel sheets and our packs were far from the beds so no chance of taking them with us. That saved us hours of drying sleeping bags and washing everything in heat like last time. I explained to the owner via google translate in the morning but I’m not sure she took it seriously. I might have to leave a google review, it’s not fair to fellows hikers/pilgrims and hotels need to have responsible practices. So for now I’m back on the anti histamines.

That was the least of my worries though because before we’d even walked a few kms a niggle from the day before in my right shin was starting to annoy me. Within a few hours the left shin started too and quickly became worse than the right! Every step was like stepping into daggers. It was excruciating.

A walking day of 30kms that normally takes us 6-7 hours took us nearly 11. It was slow going, we were forced to take many breaks. I was close to tears a few times – sheer frustration (and pain). The panadol and ibuprofen wasn’t holding it. I didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t know this body I was walking in. I’d been walking so strongly and now all of a sudden my capacity was completely restricted.

At about 5pm I checked my inbox and look what I found from my dear friend Liz!

Today was dedicated to Fran.

An adventurer.

A free spirit with nomadic tendancies.

A great advocate for social justice.

A mother of four fabulous kids.

A fabulous mum (happy mother’s day).

Lover of great food.

A pretty damn good hiker with great legs.

A wondrous spirit.

Great blog writer.

A Camino walker … smashed it

I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to read Liz! It’s hard to remember how far you’ve come in the days past when you’re in the thick of pain or discomfort. You reminded me that this was just one day! I need this sometimes in normal life too.

My sister was ever so supportive. Kind soul that she is. Trying to distract me with million dollar questions and hand feeding me chocolate. White choc. of course!

As we were getting close to our Albergue me at a snail’s pace, wincing with each step (I’d even pulled the sticks out to try) a couple of young Spanish guys passed us. I thought oh gosh I hope they don’t give our room away to these guys, it’s getting late!!

As we neared the street where our Albergue was I said to Kris to go ahead and check in. When I saw her coming back out towards me from the Albergue gates I thought oh shit they’ve given our room away. My plan was to cry and ask them to take me somewhere with a bed. I wouldn’t have been turning it on either. Those tears were at the ready … I was spent!

As it happened those Spanish guys had just arrived and had been given our room … but not in time to unpack so the owner told them they couldn’t have the room. Don’t worry they were fit and moving fast they would have found a new room no problem. Never before have I been so grateful for my sister and her pre-booking of our accommodation!!

I don’t write this for you to feel worried or pity me – I’m fine. Truly. I have walked over 600 kms without a break. Something gave. Many hikers have walked through pain much earlier than me. It was my turn. We all get a turn at pain on the camino and in life. Physical and/or emotional.

That doesn’t mean it was easy, today was hard, bloody hard and that feeling of being in a different body on the trail is weird. I was so frustrated and at times disappointed with myself. But that’s pride right? And now I realise I was looking at it the wrong way. I shouldn’t let my pride make me feel less … but I should let it feel like more. I should feel proud about how far I’ve come not let my pride allow me feel disappointed in myself because I couldn’t walk at full capacity today .

Tomorrow is a new day and the one where we will walk towards Santiago. Towards a break!

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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