Tag Archives: Camino

Mi Camino. Into the GRIT. Stage four.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Do you have a song to sing?

Where does your soul find its song?

I have a song. I’m not sure I’ve sung it yet but I am singing towards it.

On a very recent Saturday morning  with a smile from ear to ear I left home (on my bike) for the first of what will become many overnight hikes of my camino from home to Rome. Is it my song? I’m not sure. But definitely, it’s where my song is nurtured and inspired. I think it is where I sing, where my lyrics are formed. Walking amongst the trees in the silence of life. The invisible shield of being one with the birdsong and lullaby of rustling leaves.

(Speaking of lyrics I am listening to the most exquisite song in my headphones and a bit of this as I begin to write this stage of my camino to Rome up, ear phone up if you care to join me.)

 

 

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek  – 50kms.

Total kms: 135 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $85

As always I hiked in my dress! As you know I set this page up as an Ambassador for One Girl. A place to share my hiking and raise awareness for girl’s education. And on that – a few wonderful things to share:

Paula and Nicole two of my hiking sisters from Sydney decided they were going to walk with me and sponsor my walk $1 per km. My mind was blown and gratitude on OVERFLOW. Ladies, I have no expectations here and am happy for my walk and writing to provide good in any form that takes. From the depths of my heart I thank you.

Also, randomly I received a message from Wilderness Wear saying they were sending me some new gear! I decided not to chase any sponsorship this hike.  I was deeply touched because I absolutely believe in the ethics of Wilderness Wear gear and am honoured that they want to support me to support One Girl. In the adventure world it is honestly can be a little tough as a mature age women to feel confident to contribute. Imposter syndrome I think they call it. Know it? Anyway … what a boost!

Sometimes I go quietly inwards for a while because I know if I wait grace will always arrive to remind me of where my song is. And it did. So with that, this little story of mine, of walking long walks continues to grow.

‘This world has only one
Sweet moment set aside for us’
~ Who wants to live forever. Queen.

If we choose we could spend much of our lives frolicking in the frivolousness of many things. Small talk, social scenes we can’t be bothered with, situations or relationships that bore us, tedious negativity, believing that curated feeds are actually genuine. Eek and yet there is an amount of all of that in which we must take part in. But me I choose to ESCAPE it – often. How about you?

It’s an act of rebellion.

To actively CHOOSE to escape bullshit.

Think about that a little … are you with me?

Sometimes I spend whole days listening to whatever music is touching me at that time, reading books that speak to me and sometimes I walk hundreds of steps. I don’t have it all worked out but I can say the closer I am to the trees, the more I wander on my own two feet, the more I sing.  Dream. Imagine. Get stuff. Get me.  Maybe there’s a reason our final act is our ‘swan song’.

Sorry, if you’re here to hear about my walk, I digress with big thoughts … but thoughts transpire from walks.  Walks are freedom from bullshit. And this blog, well, it’s a blog about a very long walk. And I’d love it if it encouraged you to go for a walk or to step into a deep talk.

A long walk, yes that is what happened this last stage, somewhat accidentally.

“Can you look up the halfway point between Nijmegen and Venlo?” I asked the guy I choose to walk this life path with.

He was working at home and I was teaching. I needed to book a b&b because I was escaping for a weekend of walking.

“Vierlingsbeek” he texts back. From here on let’s call him Vierlingsbeek Guy! You’ll understand why later.

 

So I booked the last room in the village.


It started like any hike starts, excitement for the unknown, anticipation for the joy of it and the delirious happiness that comes with choosing an act of rebellion, heading off on a solo hike weekend. On the train I realised I had forgotten my guide-book, so Vierlingsbeek guy took photos of all the my maps to text me. He’s a keeper like that. He is my actual mission control.
 


The first 10kms I spent walking toward the Pieterpad. Now if you’ve never heard of the Pieterpad and if you’re not from The Netherlands there’s no reason you would have, it’s a walking path that goes from the North to the South of NL.  It is a 498km long walk. If you live in Holland I think everyone should to aim to do this or at least a few stages in their life time. Seeing a country by foot is in my mind the only way to really know it. Yes even in cities! It’s the kms you do walking around a city that invites you into its soul.


The Pieterpad I discovered was like a camino. Look at this picture I took … how camino’esque.  Most people were walking North so I walked alone towards Vierlingsbeek. Bloody Vierlingsbeek … it wasn’t halfway. Now by halfway I mean 40kms I was planning a couple of big days. My sweet spot is 28-30kms so I was aiming high.


I’m not sure when I realised I’d be up for an extra long walk. I was busy staying on track. Me and my shitful navigation skills. The guide-book (photos) were in Dutch so I couldn’t follow the written commentary and the maps weren’t to scale, nor did they have streets marked. I was fine in the woods as the paths were marked but once I’d arrive in a city I was lost. Every.Single.Time.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was beautiful though. The landscape is always varied when you walk distances here. Heathlands, forests, farmland, big rivers, cute villages. Arriving at a village on the camino in Spain it’s always the spire of a church you see, soon followed by the welcoming sight of plastic chairs! A cafe. Don’t laugh those plastic chairs are like seeing Christmas at the end of a camino day … am I right fellow pilgrims? But in The Netherlands it’s the windmill you’ll see alongside the spire.


I think it was when I arrived at a boat crossing with no cash that I started to wonder how long I had to go. No cash. Nope, not a cent. I hadn’t thought about getting any, I had my food and water with me. I was going to get on and play dumb … what could I do (insert shrugging emoji here). There was NO way I was walking back to a bank teller. LOL the teller, it was maybe 500 mtrs back but by now I was up to 30kms and I kid you not … GOING back is NEVER ever an option on feet that are beginning to feel every step. Is going back ever an option? I think I’m more of the move forward variety. Digressing … no cash. Turned out it was no problem, I could do a bank transfer for the 90c charge ;)


On that two-minute boat ride across another very big river I realised I still had 20kms to go according to the guide-book! What the actual FECK! And there was nothing I could change because my accommodation was booked and paid for. So Vierlingsbeek guy wasn’t feeling like such a keeper at this point. “You’ll be right, you’re tough” he texted me. He is never in charge of the halfway point again, ever again. I don’t hike to music but something from the Gladiator movie may have come in useful about now. I was going into battle!

 

So into the grit stores I dug. I had to of course what was the option. We all have to dig into grit sometimes. And PLOD on. As I sit writing this now, a few weeks later I can tell you the sky was a beautiful colour as I arrived in Vierlingsbeek, the beer was deliciously cold and the fact that I had booked a b&b with a restaurant, was, in my best Aussie slang ‘The Duck’s Nuts’.

The b&b to my absolute delight was right on the path. Unlike Spain there are no pilgrims meals here but being close to Germany meant there was Schnitzel and with an Oma in the kitchen there was seasonal soup. All I needed right there.  That and a good soak! Initially my heart sank a little when I saw that the shower was in the bath. One of those euro hand shower ones at waist height. It turned out a bath was the better option.

As I sat alone in the bistro I felt the joy of having walked a long day’s walk alongside the joy of being in a place where I could do this with my life. Get on a train from home to walk to this small Dutch village and experience the is’ness of this moment, of living in Europe. Through all the hard stuff, we had done it, we had actually created a way in which we could have these choices and options. I could have cried with pride right here at this table.

Finding our own song, singing towards it … I think it matters more than the conformer’s and dream crushers would like us believe. Life is but a sweet moment and I want to be singing. Beautiful sweet songs. So I rebel. And I walk to remind me how. You?

Mi Camino. Creating a margin to walk my way to Rome. Stage three.

‘Don’t spend a lot of time trying to find yourself. Spend time creating yourself into a  person you’ll be proud of.’ ~ Anon

The morning of a hike is no different to most days, it has it’s own rituals. The packing of my pack, the consideration of what food and gear I’ll need. The anticipation (good energy) builds as the time to leave gets closer. These hikes are taking me towards Rome and there is something quite remarkable about that. Every stage is precious. A day’s worth of hours. The gentle rhythm of placing one foot in front of the other as my thoughts dance around my mind. My senses dictating the waltz.

Stage Two: Rhenen to Nijmegen – 33kms.

Total kms: 85kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

I’ve never thought of The Netherlands as a country with big rivers. Canals and dykes yes … we’ve all seen the canals of Amsterdam but the Rhine no I always imagined that a German big river, you? Or perhaps I’ve seen too many Rhine cruise for retirees tours advertised ;) But back to The Netherlands, it is in fact a country of BIG rivers! Today I walked along the Waal, the Dutch distributary of the Rhine. An important river that links Germany with the port of Rotterdam. And yes very much in use … it is not something we think of as Australians is it? Rivers as thoroughfares to transport goods. I had to cross it at one stage … the only way you can – by barge!

It was a day of rain and water. So. Much. Rain. So. Much. Water.

I was able to take myself off grid (off the main road … remember from the last stage The Netherlands doesn’t have wild) and find myself alongside the water right from the beginning. It’s a little bit of a feat actually that I found myself here. Along the last walk Gerald used an app called MAPS.ME after the walk I downloaded it. I’m going to share something with you … I never thought I’d be able to use it. I am not the best at navigation and I am a creature of habit (surely google maps would do). But faced with the busy main road that google was sending me on and a national park entrance to my right I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go!

What do you know! I was straight into a beautiful wooded reserve with hills (tiny hills … this is still The Netherlands peeps) and water as far as the eyes could see. So much bliss as the sounds of the wind rustled through the branches. I’d been sharing my morning on my stories and at this point I logged of with a see you friends … gone hiking! There would be time on the train home and here to update and share the experience, I needed to live it. I’d just achieved something getting off road and I wanted to be amongst those trees and also open to see what else would show itself to me.

I say it was a feat because a. I actually tried something I had thought I’d never master (an off road map ap) and b. that felt pretty darn strong to have the courage to trust myself, that I’d find my way. I only had to find my way through one barbed wire fence, LOL. No rips. Navigation is a skill I’ll need for later in the trek and here I am getting to know it before I’ll need it. And let’s be honest it’s a safe place to practice … you can’t get lost here! I love that about my walks, they are safe places to practice trusting myself. Walks are where I do my best thinking … without really trying. Circles that have previously gone around and around suddenly open up. Checking in with yourself happens when you go for a long walk.

For me this hike is an anchor into living a creative life. And so I create a margin for it to exist. I not only block out days on weekends for me to go and hike … I also try to walk daily. If I walk today then tomorrow I am not under pressure to walk the next day and so on and so on. A margin is something we can give or set for ourselves. It’s extra space … it’s not just enough space to fit everything in. It’s blowing it wide open – it’s saying that our creative pursuits are too important to put off. And on days like today where the mercury retrograde has me in ‘uneasy’ street I make sense of it by writing about my project. Nope, I didn’t walk today … just on this page. Same kind of peace, strength.

In the wide open space, the margin, we create the holy grail – we’re no longer forcing, fighting and fitting it in. We are living creatively and it’s free to do as the big rivers do – to flow.

Of course some days we have to trudge through … like the last 10kms of this 33km walk. The city of Nijmegen was in the distance as I wound my way along a 10km stretch of road. I was so pleased to make it into this town, and the idea of getting home and dry, that I even sprinted the last 500 metres to make the train. Aaah but that trudge is far more pleasant when the margin is there for that bit of … ‘whatever it is’ … that takes you along on the ride of the flowing river!

Mi Camino. A long, slow walk to Rome. Stage two.

Hola friends,

Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.

Did you have a secret world as a kid? Do you visit there now as an adult? The more I walk the more I find myself retreating into that realm. And once again the old latin phrase of ‘solvitur ambulando’ seems to perfectly describe the magic of walking.

Stage Two: Maarn to Rhenen – 25kms.

Total kms: 52kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Once moving was a sport to me but now hiking has become my ‘way’. A way to walk through life, to find my path. My life’s path will not be found in a noisy life, stuck in traffic or amongst a crowd. Of course that stuff occupies a space in my life (albeit as minimal as I can allow) but it’s in my secret world amongst the trees and the crisp fresh air where my mind is free to hear my heart. Mostly, I walk alone and it is here that I build confidence, grit, strength, find purpose and join dots.

Synchronicity – a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.

I have long been a believer of synchronicity. Sometimes it is in the subtly of a feather or crossroad on my path, the stranger you converse with, the message from a friend or the song that plays just at that perfect moment. Synchronous moments are my markers. My life’s guide book. They are not a guarantee to an easy life, nor one without the myriad of feelings, worries and hurdles that are part of the human experience. But they bring little nuggets of hope, excitement, inspiration and possibility. They are reminders of trust, they’re change inducers. And they belong to the group of big feels, the ‘deep breath moments’. The ones that settle in our cells in the form contentment and purpose.

Serendipity– when someone accidentally finds something good.

Working with One Girl from the first fundraiser I did with my daughter to walking the camino has been built from synchronous moments. Inspiration from a dynamic young CEO who said ‘if you care about something – do something, we all have a choice’.blog post from a mentor reminding me to have guts and take action right when I needed courage to take the next step. And truckloads of support and messages of belief. Yeah, I found something good in committing myself to advocate for the education of girls. Real good! So this story continues.

There are times when I have thought why am I doing this again? Walking and putting the call to action out. Putting my vulnerability into the world. Wouldn’t it be easier to just wander the path to Rome quietly. This past year I have floated a bit and worried I may be annoying people with my noise. Also I’ve wondered how this walk could create the change in the same way the camino seemed too. A little self doubt or maybe some space to align with what the walk means to me right now … to understand a new lesson from the trail.

And this week as I walked with my head amongst the trees I realised that I needed to worry less about that. A long, slow walk is never about expectations or arriving somewhere. It will bring what it brings and it will unravel as it unravels. Walking through life in this manner is where the treasure lies. If I’m honest I knew and believed this already about the walk but I needed this little truth to filter into other parts of my life. To be home where you are, in the moment awake to season you’re in and to not be worried about standing alone  … because it is in this state that the forces of synchronicity will reveal themselves.

This long walk will be and do something different than the last. It has it’s own creative energy.

And with that it’s time to write up stage two so I can walk stage three tomorrow! Ps I think there will be a lot of weekend to Rome walking in the next few months, I’ve discovered the Pieterpad and it is the route for me to follow for a while … at least until I reach the border to Belgium or Germany … let’s see what the path says ;).

The photos scattered through this post are of the second stage of my walk to Rome (from home).

I began where I left off last time, Maarn. I woke early and cycled into the station to take the train into my starting point. An extra level of excitement as I was meeting up with Gerard a friend from I met along the Camino de Santiago. Here is the story of when I met Gerard. A little synchronicity that turns itself into a little serendipity.

There’s a bond between hikers, an open trust that seems to exist without the need for hoops. The freedom to talk or not talk. I learnt a lot walking this stage with Gerard. He is a keen conservationist and he has a great knowledge of the Dutch landscape. He pointed out rocks that travelled here during the ice age, old royal carriage ways and he made sure we walked through a polder! A polder is an area of low lying land is reclaimed from the sea. The one we walked in was all clay. In days past this clay was used to make bricks.

He also taught me a Dutch saying that has helped me to understand this country in a way I hadn’t before. ‘There is not a piece of land in The Netherland that hasn’t been turned over’ thus all the land is cultured. Now there is a lot of countryside in NL and that is one thing I love … we all live on top of each other so that countryside exists but none the less green is never far away. Also I reached the Dutch arm of the Rhine river … that felt pretty darn AMAZING. Yep a deep breath moment for SHIZ.

‘Cultured’ and not ‘wild’ …  now that made a lot of sense to me and helped me to end a struggle I was having. The Irish wildness that I love so much will never exist here in the same way … and understanding that has created a pleasant shift for me. I’ll love these flatlands for what they are not what they’re not. And I can always visit Ireland ;)

Living our own creative lives looks different …  making something … playing … it’s a great challenge as we get older to continue the dance with our creativity …  but to not would be to miss one of life’s great romances.

Buen Camino friends! I’ve missed you.

Fran xx

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!

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