Tag Archives: Adventure

Writing from St Jean Pied de Port. Day minus 1

Here I am! In St Jean Piet de Port the beginning of my Camino into Santiago de Compostela. It has taken me two days to find my way here and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve journeyed via Brussels and Bayonne, caught buses, trains and a plane. I’ve eaten from a French cave and dried my socks in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. My backpack has the 8kgs I’ll live with for the next 5 weeks. The simplicity of that is quite honesty one of my favourite layers of this adventure.

Days on the Camino – 0 (Tomorrow!)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Bayonne, France

End of the day – St Jean Pied de Port

Number of girls in Africa educated – 14

Total funds raised so far $4,395.00 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 – From tomorrow I’ll be dedicating each leg to someone who has or becomes a part of this journey.

Accommodation – Bed and breakfast €30 pn – traditional basque house.

Food highlight – Home-made preserved from the family ‘cave’ duck spread on French baguettes. Apéro – The French good life!

In a word(s) – Bursting with good feels

A lot of people ask about how my children feel about my adventure. They’ve sent me off adventure ready adorned with flowers from the garden, lovingly plaited wrist bands, hugs and kisses and a ‘have a good time mum’! They think I’m off to do a One Girl hike.

One Girl is a part of our family and a mum who hikes is their ‘norm’ so I like to think they feel proud. I’m proud of my mum for working hard, standing for what mattered to her and achieving her dreams.

After checking into our B&B we (my sister and I) made our way to the official pilgrim’s office to have our credential’s signed. It’s official!

The pilgrim’s office was more exciting than I anticipated. We were given a map to Roncesvalles and a list of all the towns on the way and what facilities they offered. Handy for planning food stops, cash withdrawals etc. I wanted to hug that gentleman who stamped my passport! Being on the cusp of an epic adventure is bloody euphoric.

It’s happening – it hit me there in that moment. I get to hike everyday through France to Spain and across an entire country meeting fellow hikers and travel types. I will be amongst landscapes and history my two great passions. I am lucky.

This medieval village and ancient capital of the Basque-Nevarre region is one of those delightfully charming European experiences. It serves a melting pot of nationalities and today it seemed mostly the walking types. Over dinner we chatted with an Irish couple and a Canadian lady who are here with their own stories and Camino dream.

Of course my story isn’t only about the hike it’s about One Girl. A few of my dearest have begun sharing my adventure on their SM feeds and my husband (man of few words) wrote the most beautiful call to support on his page too. I thought I could cruise now that I’d exceeded my goal of $3,000 – but where’s the challenge in that?!

In honour of this new wave of support I can’t help but want to stand a little taller for One Girl. So … I’ve come up with a new goal. It’s a 769km walk so how about $10 a km? That’s just 2 coffees right. It’s also scholarships for 25 girls, less than the average class size.

YEP! I’m dreaming larger – I’m already halfway there to $7,690 and I’m only at day one of his Camino. So spread the word – ask around see if anyone’s keen to give up a coffee or two.

Buen Camino friends I’m heading into the Pyrenees tomorrow.

F xx

Day minus 5 until Mi Camino to Santiago De Compostella. Some basics.

A few of you have asked for updates along the way and a map to visualise the route (Jolanda/Lisa/April this is for you with your morning coffee x). I will try to update daily here and a photo on my IG account if  like me hiking/travel photos and stories are your jam. It’s quite something that so many of you want to join this trek in spirit. I hope this inspires many of you to take your own camino one day ;). And if armchair travel is one of your favourite things then this is for you (dad x).

Days on the Camino – 0 (5 or so days away)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Still in The Netherlands

End of the day – As above

Accommodation – Home

Food – Getting ready to detox from winter comfort eating and maybe coffee ???

In a word – Ready

Buen Camino – You will see this in my messages with fellow pilgrims. It’s Spanish translation is ‘Good Path’ and is shared between pilgrims to express kind wishes, good luck and happy travelling.

Ultreya – A Spanish word that comes from the Latin meaning ‘onward’ and is also shared between pilgrims. Its meaning is a bit deeper – to go further, beyond.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 12

Total funds raised so far $3,620.00 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 – I’m giving this one to … each stage I will dedicate to someone who has been or has become a part of this journey.

Above is an image of the route I’ll be taking for those of you who asked and some stats I’ll be updating. My pack is packed (7.3kgs). I won’t post a ‘what I packed’ list until after … then I’ll know what I got right and what I got wrong! On that – it’ll be breathable hikey gear mostly from my mates at Wilderness Wear. Oh, one question: What do you think of a packing light summer dress? One for when we are having a day out in one of those awful Spanish towns … you know the ones awful-ly quaint. Or should I just stick it out and be a merino clad hiker type.

My route – The Camino Frances is also know as The Way of St James and begins in the French town of St Jean Pied de Port and weaves its way across to the northwest of Spain through rugged mountains, vineyards, medieval villages and vast open meadows to its end point, Santiago de Compostela. Stories of this legendary camino pilgrimage route date back to the 8th century. It is the most popular route with the best supported infrastructure into this medieval town where the remains of St James the apostle are reputedly entombed.

There are 8 main pilgrimage routes leading into Santiago de Compostela and the number of pilgrims who receive the Compostela is growing.  There has been a 15,000% increase over the past 30 years!

Here are some 2017 stats*

  • Women 49%
  • Men 51%
  • Walkers 93%
  • Cyclists 7%
  • The 30 – 60 age group makes up 55% of pilgrims, 28% are under 30 and 17% are over 60
  • 44.01% are Spanish
  • 60.04% of pilgrims walk the Camino Francés (the one I am walking)

*Statistics, including monthly breakdowns, can be found at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

Year Number of pilgrims
1987 2,095
1997 25,179
2007 114,026
2017 301,036 (summer is apparently CRAY-CRAY)

Traditionally, pilgrims took the route for religious reasons and now as writer Leslie Gilmour says ‘modern Pilgrimages seem to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in life, a time to think, and for some, a challenge.’

My journey started as that of a modern pilgrim the challenge, the adventure, a way to share travel combined with humility, the chance to be a voice for what matters and to show my kids that standing for something is important. While it is still ALL that I also feel that their is a spiritual aspect of the journey and time to go a little deeper waiting for me on the trail.

The scallop shell is iconically and anciently associated with the camino and there are many myths and legends as to why this is so. You can read more here. The shell is often painted on signs with a yellow arrow and leads the way towards Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims attached their shell to their cloaks or hats and still today modern pilgrims attach shells to their packs. My husband painted a shell on a journal for me which is how I will be honouring this ancient tradition.

My credencial (Pilgrim Record) is packed! It was easily purchased online from the pilgrim office here in The Netherlands. Along my walk this passport will be stamped in the towns I stop in overnight. Once I arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago and my credencial is authenticated I will receive my  Compostela (a certificate written in Latin confirming the completion of the pilgrimage) . Walkers need to have walked at least the last 100kms into Santiago. So I’ll be good if I walk my 769kms ;).

The only book I will be taking is John Brierley’s Pilgrim’s guide book. Whoever wants to do it after me – I’ll send it to you (keastjrI’m thinking you ;)). I don’t plan to carry other books or a kindle. I’m travelling light, in both kgs and distraction. I want to be open to the experience and use this time to practice a bit of discipline and write my own daily words (if the day allows).

As you see I am quite into honouring tradition so I will be packing a small stone to leave at the cross Cruce de Ferro. This large Iron Cross is located between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín  where it is tradition to throw a stone. This stone is brought from the pilgrim’s place of origin and it’s thrown with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey. There are of course myths and legends in regards to this tradition and you can read more here

I expect my walk to take around 30 days and each day the distance will be around 20-30 kms, some longer, some shorter. If a rest day is needed I will take it. My sister will also be on the trail. What a special experience to be able to share with her.

Mostly I expect my accommodation to be ‘refugios’, low-cost / no-cost pilgrim-style accommodations that often serve pilgrim meals. I do plan every now and then to opt for a guest house.  My food will hopefully be as seasonal, from scratch and local as available. The whole adventure is an exercise in minimalist and sustainable travel, while of course fundraising to make a difference.

I am ready!

Please let me know if there is another stat or daily tidbit you would find interesting if you’re following along! While I write mostly for myself I hope to create a meaningful record here for future pilgrims or to look back on from my armchair.

Feel free to subscribe via email (top right of the website) or bookmark if you prefer a weekly catch up.

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!

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

Modest goals and one thing at a time, that’s worthy enough for me. I’m more interested in sustainable growth.

‘I have begun to think of life as a series of ripples widening out from an original center.’ ~ Seamus Heaney

I was unexpectedly yet profoundly influenced by those months we spent living in Ireland earlier last year. Once you have been so profoundly touched and changed by a life experience (or person) you can’t go back to who you were before can you? Ireland blew its way into my soul with its lyrical language and genuine peoples. A cold country warmed by the kindness and smiles of those genuine people. A wild landscape that exhales its stories. Stories that are shrouded by myth and folklore, with a history of pain and hardship but also of growth and hope.

During our time in Ireland I spend many hours trail running in the Irish country side. Meandering my way through the overgrown laneways and along the shorelines of the Irish Sea. I started collecting trash to protect the ocean’s inhabitants. In sharing my trash collecting online I was surprised by the response. I started receiving photos and comments from people around the world who had also decided to get collecting for the sea-life (for our life). I started dreaming of ways to make something bigger of this but then we were off – off to live the dream that had brought us to Ireland from Australia. Slow travelling the Mediterranean in a campervan.

‘Even if the last move did not succeed, the inner command says move again.’ ~ Seamus Heaney.

When we returned from our travels ready to settle for a while I thought I’d write a book. We’d seen and experienced so much during our trip and together with the journey to get there, I wanted to write the story. I started with a lot of energy but in hindsight I wasn’t ready. That can happen after going through something extraordinary. A new struggle ensues; how do we process it? It’s a bit like the whirlpool of sand you stir up when you walk through a river at great force. The particles need time to settle and we need time to LIVE with what we have experienced rather than force all the particles into a sediment state.

Ironically the part I got stuck at in my book was explaining Ireland and doing justice to what it meant to me and now a year later, the meaning of that time is finding its way into words.

Rather than trying to write the whirlpool of post trip reflections into a book and sticking at the blog I’d been writing for the past couple of years, (that poor blog was getting very confused with its direction in the whirlpool) I started a new single focussed chapter. I know I am better when I focus on one big challenge at a time. I’d hike the Camino to Santiago de Compostela and I’d do for One Girl Australia. I would write about that and I would create a project out of it. I’d build on what I’d learnt from sharing my waste collecting and be inspired by people like Toby of Just Grab Bits who care enough to try and change something from where they stand.

A project that I would not over extend with expectations. A modest fundraising target and each step considered and part of a sustainable foundation. A project that would be its own Camino (path, journey) towards actually walking the Camino. As the actual walk comes closer I find myself feeling nerves. Good nerves. Nerves that come from that space where the inward work is happening. The self-exploration and the discovery of what is scaring me, the things I need to face and change.

One day as I stood on the cliff’s edge in the coastal town in West Cork, Ireland where we were living – I was a wild warrior woman standing strong in my own life. As I stood windswept by the force, the solitude and the exhilaration of standing in the face of a new path, it was the time I realised my first deep truth:

‘That not standing there open and exposed on a new path would scare me more.’ 

As this project exposes my fears I am drawing on my time in Ireland to stand up to them. Gratefully and scarily my One Girl story is being shared. I have written articles that have been published. One on Travel with Merakiand one on the Travel Play Live Magazineblog. I am having to put myself out into a bigger world. A world where there will be criticisms, expectations, self- doubt, questioning my worth and ability and a world where I need to be open to what I fear the most – having to stand up to it all rather than quietly hiding or numbing the discomfort of those fears (you know the sorts of things net-flixing, trying to control stuff, chocolate eating, wine drinking, ego bolstering, procrastinating).

But then again aren’t we all scared of something? And I wonder am I scared mostly of myself – of what I think of myself. My own criticisms ‘I’m not a writer’, my own expectations ‘I can’t let people down’ and my own self-doubt ‘what’s so creative about doing a walk and fundraising alongside of it’, am I selfish ‘should I be sharing what is inherently a privileged life’, ‘I do have a lot of ideas I haven’t developed’. This is the space that requires the hardest work – the persistence, strength, trust and the standing in the face of those fears. That’s where the growth sprouts from and our spirit sours with a power we’ve earnt.

‘I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written.’ ~ Seamus Heaney.

As this page is written and I decide that dang it – I want to write and photograph and share the beauty of life as I get lost in finding my own voice. That is truly SELF CARE to prioritise what you need, to be less scared (of yourself) and it is also completely fine to consider creating something a job, even if it is not a paid in dollars. I am prepared to make sacrifices to live this life and yes it’s not lost on me that I am privileged to be able to choose less.

Some stats of how I am rewarded by this work:

  •  I dreamed of educating 10 girls and 6 have secured an education.
  • A ‘Women Who Hike’ team organically evolved along the way and it has a member.
  • Kimmy Day has embraced her inner passion for the outdoors and One Girl and signed up for her own Camino. Buen Camino Kimmi – I’ll see you on the trail!
  • Some pretty RAD sponsors have come on board to help me give some presence to the project.
  • I am moved often daily by the kindness of the people who have supported this endeavour with words, support and one very special crystal that will join me along the way of St James next month.

What Ireland did for me was to tip me off about a well … a well that lives inside me and is deep. It’s filled with many thing: happiness, joy, pain, sadness, embarrassment, shame, gratitude, love and a belief in the magic and mystery of life. It is a well that is filled with life, my life – a life that has always been lived vulnerably and a little nomadically. It is not time to hide behind a few fears but to embrace the voice I have. A voice that needs to feel its way and will always be written as a life story. A voice that can on any given day be wobbly or sturdy – but a voice that comes from my own original centre and is learning to not afraid to speak.

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.