Tag Archives: Camino

A Little Story Of Synchronicity From My Tuscan Desk

I was a little way into my writing streak when I happened on a heron. I was out running. I hadn’t seen a heron for a while so I had to stop. In the past I’ve written about heron’s.  What are you here for? I wondered. Why am I seeing you now? And yet, of course I knew. I didn’t get the message last time. I wasn’t ready. I had more hurdles to jump.

I see a lot of myself in the totem meaning of a heron.

It’s the resourcefulness and self reliance of the heron I’m drawn to. It’s the reason I think it continues to show up for me. Use what you’ve got. Adapt to your setting. Grow something new with this opportunity. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. But in this phase it’s been more of a struggle.

Writing here daily, my #writingstreak happened after I had a fall whilst out running. I wrote To Fall Or Not To Fall. Deep down I knew I hadn’t tried hard enough with writing this camino story of mine. And yet I didn’t feel ready or able to go back to the book.

It felt like too big a challenge to simply go back to writing the book. So I decided to write daily. Running daily had proven to be an excellent way to start something with running. Why not see where writing each day would take me? It could only be good!

The night I’d seen the heron I started to watch some YouTube videos about writing a memoir. Meh interesting but lots about plans, order and software. I like the idea of all of that, but it’s not me. I’d have to change too much. Then I happened on a video interview between Joanna Penn and Rachael Herron on how to draft you memoir.

This interview completely engaged me. Rachael basically says Just.Write.The.Book. Don’ edit, don’t stop, just get on with and write a draft. She talked about NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The annual writing project where during the month of November people use the month to write a  50,000 novel. Yes, an entire novel. Each day 1,667 words.

Hmmm I thought. There’s something in this. I’d heard it before. Just write the darn thing.

Later that night I looked up Rachael’s website. It was then her surname dawned on me. Herron. Sure it had a double ‘r’ but still it’s not a stretch for me to find some synchronicity there. I signed up to her email subscriber lists and let her ideas sit with me.

That week I also received a comment on my blog from a writer whose blog I went on to read. I happened on this post of his. Write A Shitty First Draft. I Dare You. The penny was starting to drop.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I already had the structure, a plan. I blogged my camino. I already had the backstory behind it. I’d lived it. I’d even blogged that too! Those of you who have been around for a while remember Choosing Simplicity and The Gentle Intention? What I didn’t have was a first draft to start rewriting, or to call a book.

I continued to write daily. Through the easy days and the blocks. I kept my eyes open for little stories to tell. I tried different things. I learnt that I can write each day. I learnt there are stories everywhere and I realised how I write is how I write. I write non fiction and non ‘how to’s’. What I write is personal stories. This is my style. This is the style I find meaning in. It’s the style that flows from my dreamy world and into the keyboard through my fingers.

I am a memoirist.

I also learnt to not feel guilt or scared or ashamed of the time I give to writing, or of my writing. It became something normal I did. ‘Are you writing your blog’ the kids ask. They’d watch Bondi Rescue and I’d write. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon. If time was short I’d shorten what I wrote but I still wrote. Everyday.  Every day for 31 days. I’d notice errors after I’d posted. I’d correct them and move on. I’m sure it will happen today too. No confidence has been lost to mistakes. It’s all practice. It’s being unafraid to fall.

‘Let us risk the wildest places, Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.’ – Mary Oliver

To write for me is to take the risk into the wildest place. The risk of failure is far more attractive to me that the risk of comfort and despair.  Except there is no failure. I am writing a book and let’s face it, the chances of it being published are next to slim. I am totally cool with that. I am writing the story because I want to write it. The story wants me to write it. I am prepared now. I have the skills to get the first draft written. Beyond that I’ll develop the skills required. I’m resourceful, I’m a heron. And dear heron I’m in the wildest place. Writing myself into adventures and creating a story from a story. To me there is no wilder place.

 

#writingstreak

#day31/31

#theplacesyouwillgo

#cookthebook

#writethebook

#steertheship

#fromwhereIstand

 

 

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen via Hamburg.

Living in Europe still confuses me. Sometimes I walk to the right hand side of the car only to find myself trying to drive from the passenger seat! I’m already calling the next school year next year, even though it starts in August and it’s still in this year. This morning as I rinsed the cherries and placed them on the table to be nibbled it felt Christmassy. The time when traditionally our feet should be in flip flops and we should be sitting around having bbq’s while we all drop out of life and chill between one calendar year to the next. But Christmas time for us is Europe means snow, scarves, hot glühwein and Christmas markets in fairytale city ‘scapes.

Yes, now we drive on the other side of the road and we season on the other-side of the hemisphere and it’s all topsy turvy. Christmas is a short break with no great end of year fanfare and it’s cold, very cold. Not quite the depths of winter cold, that doesn’t arrive until February, but winter rug up, hot drink, woollen socks weather for sure.

After two years without a car we bought one last year. It was a tough decision. In a way if felt as though we were selling out. I felt as though I’d let the team down. The environmental warrior team. But we want to travel widely while we live here and rather than continue to fly in and out of places, we decided a car would be better in the long run. Cheaper and importantly, more environmental. Also we could find our way into the less populated, nature places we adore.

The mobile is older than our eldest son. We decided if we were buying a car it didn’t require a large investment. If we had one we wanted to own it. And we certainly don’t need to be keeping up with the Jones’s. We can’t afford too if we want to stay free, you know mindful about what you give up to have something and all that. In our downsized life its purpose is simple – transport not aesthetics. We’ve lost more than enough hard earnt dosh on buying and selling new cars before.

When Christmas arrived last year in topsy turvy land we decided to pack our wrong side of the road car and head towards where the days are even shorter! Copenhagen. We loaded the family mobile, packed the puffer jackets, winter woolies, comfy walking shoes, a Christmas day leftovers lunch, poured the coffee, and with pockets overflowing with that adventure excitement, North East we drove.

It may only be a 620km drive to Copenhagen from our home but Europeans aren’t like Aussies. There’s no Sydney to Melbourne in a day! I can’t count the times I’ve done that trip, I was Aussie then. Lol. Europeans take a more leisurely approach to arriving somewhere. So, because we are European now we planned a stopover in the German port city of Hamburg.

We pre-booked a self contained apartment (breakfast pack included) stay at Eric Vökel Hamburg Suites. A perfect road stop. Clean, modern, friendly, funky and a good supply of bathroom samples – much to the delight of the daughter. True Story. My son went on camp last year and brought her home the hostel shampoo and soap as a gift, she was thrilled. Thrilled I tell you.

We made the rookie mistake of thinking we’d grab some supplies and make a quick dinner before heading out to explore the town. Rookie because we’ve been caught out with closed supermarkets in Europe before! So.Many.Times. Dinners made from what we could buy in a service station shop. Toto, we are not in Australia anymore. There is no 24/7 culture in Europe, even in the big cities! After three attempts to find an open convenience store we gave up and decided to try our luck out on the street.

It’s Germany and it’s Christmas market time and that means there’s no shortage of bratwurst and glühwein! It is quite a feast for the senses wandering around a Christmas market. There are stalls of traditional Christmas decorations! The decorations that finally fit Christmas because it is cold. Snowmen, people and animals clad in scarves. It was always odd to me as a kid in Aussie, the images on many Christmas cards and tree decorations, lyrics to carols and fairy tales that don’t fit the season. It was like Christmas was imported from a far away land. The most Aussie Christmas we’ve ever had was on Bondi Beach when Santa arrived on a surf boat. We should be hanging surfboards, flip flops, esky’s, bbq’s and of course cherries from our trees!

If you’re not a meat eater as one of our isn’t we can recommend the cooked corn on the cob! Just ask for it sans salt. The Hamburgians are far too liberal with the salt. Inedible liberal as we learnt the hard way. If you’re not into the glühwein, mulled red wine with spices served warm from big vats you can find alternatives. I opted for the aperol fruit punch. Still warm but more to my palette. And if a big fat bratwurst isn’t to your taste we found an alternative. Hamburg Central Station was pumping with different food options. I found some Japanese seaweed to add to some tinned chick peas, avocado and tuna.

Crossing borders never gets old for me. And yes, every-time the dad joke. Kids, we left you in Germany! We left you in The Netherlands. Ha ha. Although post Corona I imagine none of us will take borders for granted again. This border between Germany and Denmark was one of the first to close in Europe earlier this year, we drove through it just months before. Denmark opted for strict New Zealand like border closing at the beginning of the pandemic.

Did you see the story of Inga (85) and Karsten (89)? The Danish and German couple who had to meet at a border each day to continue their love affair. I wonder how many families and couples have been separated during this crisis. I have friends who are now able to travel home to Spain. As I write this they are on the way to say goodbye to a parent. Parents who were cremated, alone, in cities that weren’t their own. I can’t begin to imagine how they are coping. And still the pandemic rages.

Driving across Germany and into Denmark is a lot like The Netherlands. The landscape doesn’t change too much and it’s still flat. Only the sunsets are earlier, like 3.30pm early. Denmark is home to some of the happiest people in the world. Interested to know why?  Helen Russell spent a year living Danishly to find out.  And she wrote the book. Denmark is around the same size as The Netherlands but home to about 11.5 million less people (5.6 to 17.1 mill) quite a difference hey. While Denmark shares a land border with Germany it is also consists of many Islands. Driving to Copenhagen takes you across the seas via some incredible bridges. This one pictured is 18km long. And it was a spectacularly ‘blue’ hue experience. I love this about road tripping. Fly in and how easily you could miss this.

We arrived into Copenhagen and made ourselves at home directly! We checked in to the Urban House Hotel. It is one of the Meininger hotels. We also stayed in a similar one in Salzburg the year before. It suits us as a big family on a budget. Cosy is a word you could use to describe our shared room for six. The location was awesome as we could walk everywhere, it was busy though and it’s basic. It’s central location and budget price makes it appealing. We were always able to cook in the kitchen and find a place to chill while the kids played. Breakfast was busy, often ran out of food and wasn’t super tasty.

Copenhagen is a beautiful city. Wide streets, stunning architecture, a bike culture, tasty food and plenty to do and see. Apparently it’s also home to a famous little mermaid statue, we didn’t make it there. Can’t do it all! As we do when we travel we walked and wondered and ate and fell a bit more in love with life, determined not to waste or take this opportunity we had created for ourselves for granted.

Did I say walked around the city? Oh I meant parkoured. Seriously, my kids will climb statues as though they’re trees, jump from rock to rock no matter if we’re in the middle of nowhere or the middle of a big city! We wandered without plans and found our way into The National Museum. It wasn’t too big and as a forever culturally curious type I found Viking and Norse history fascinating. The history of Völva women particularly.  I know a few of the wild ones that read here would like her too.

We passed by palaces and canals, cool doors and windows, we even stumbled upon a piece of the Berlin wall. This was cool for the kids as we visited Berlin a few years back and it helps to keep the story alive for them. Of course Danish(s) were inhaled. Inhaled I tell you. So, so good. And I surprised my kids by saying yes to the Tivoli Gardens. Surprised them because they know I’d rather poke my eyeballs out with a fork than go to a theme park! It was fun. It didn’t feel over the top. It did feel Willy Wonka Fantacy’ish.

Having been someone who has travelled and moved a lot in my life it has meant we have friends in many corners of the world! Copenhagen is home to three of them. Three wonderful Viking women I met while walking the Camino Santiago. Food was shared, lives were caught up on and naturally, future catch ups were planned! I’m waiting for them to knock on my door. Friends who will be friends no matter how many years pass.

All trips come to an end! So we finish here, on the way home a stop in the town of Odense. The birthplace and home of Hans Christian Anderson.

‘Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.’ – Hans Christian Anderson.

In this topsy turvy time, where as my friend Annette of I Give You The Verbs recently said ‘time has come off its tracks’. I’m glad for this bowl of cherries that brought this story of our time in Copenhagen to life for you and for me. There was magic for me today in the sweet taste of cherries as they deliciously took me back through time .

 

(If you found your way here via buying a used car in The Netherlands, we used Mijn Autocoach, we didn’t want to risk buying an older motor without help. They were very helpful). Not sponsored just the sort of stuff I google and can’t always find here.

#writingstreak

#day6/31

#documenting

#tryingnewthings

#isthistoolong?

 

 

 

 

 

The Currency Of A Posy.

Hello friends,

Many years ago I read a post where the writer had photographed a little posy of lavender. She had attached it to a farewell card for a friend. It was a sweet, simple story and the little posy imprinted in my mind as possibly the most lovingly, whimsical gift I had ever seen. It was pure heart. I tucked that story away for the future.

A few weeks ago when I found myself back to writing I wasn’t sure what it was I was looking for in these pages. I just knew I needed to be here, to search. Where is it that my voice is most needed? How could this time mean something more than survival? Why was I feeling so conflicted?

Like any journey we take we can’t actually arrive until we do the travel, have the experience, live the story. And just like any of the great journeys or life transitions I’ve personally travelled there are times when you feel sure and times when you’re unsure.

Continue reading The Currency Of A Posy.

Mi Camino. Surrender. Stage five.

 

“Surrender means the surrender of your ego.” Radhanath Swami

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Veirlingsbeek to Meerlo – 20kms.

Total kms: 155 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $135

In response to last week’s post a few songs were sung … my friends Paula and Nicole sang:

“Hey Fran – Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek – 50kms … we all have a song to sing … and so do our sisters … so one day we can all sing as one … “

Thank you for enchanting my life you two wild women.

And Lizzy was singing her favourite tune along the Murray River in Corowa with her favourite song  … ‘road trips, new vistas, campfires’!

Hope we get to camp together one day Lizzy!

It took a while for me to get stated this morning. Yesterday knackered me. Lucky the B & B served up a euro breakfast. I could drag my ‘getting started’ out just a bit longer.

Not that I am complaining I like to push myself to the edge sometimes … it makes me know I’m alive. I am hungry to know I am alive. Perhaps that is why I find comfort in the extremes. This is something I thought a lot about today, my desire to sit in the extremes, the all or the nothing’ness.

Sleep wasn’t easy to come by last night. It seems staying in a B&B is worse for zz’s than lying amongst the snorers in the Albergue’s. There was the bar fight down below at about 10pm that ended with a car screeching off into the night. And there were the 1am party goers who arrived back and acted like they were the only people on the planet!

For the first time in a long time I didn’t wake desperate to get hiking. Along the camino lights out was generally 10pm and it’s only said snoring that will wake you. Don’t get me wrong that is a massive challenge in itself but at least it is not consciously inconsiderate. I am considering taking a tent on my next over nighter, especially now that the weather is warmer.

You never know who you will meet along a camino, a walk. These are the moments I love. The chance meeting, conversation, serendipitous moment. As I set out I missed a turn off and as a result I had to find my way back onto The Pieterpad.

I walked a way with this local. Everyone in this town had a camino story to tell. The publican told me of two locals who had walked from here (Veirlingsbeek) to Santiago de Compostela. I haven’t done the maths here but I think that is possibly a far longer journey than my one towards Rome. This local, he also had a story. The story of his neighbour.

His neighbours (husband and wife) had planned to walk the camino together. Then one day she died. So what do you think his 65 year old neighbour, let’s call him Kees (a good Dutch name) did? After the funeral Kees packed his back pack and left for Santiago. He left from his front door and he walked for three months until he reached Santiago. I’m guessing Kees walked through his grief and towards the next phase of his life. This story reminded me of why I’m here. It reminded me why I am a long way from home and it reminded me that this is home.

I am here because I don’t want to wait for an opportunity that might not come. I live in the extremes because I am hungry to feel life and to explore, seek, create meaning – whatever it is that you like to call it. I chase the is’ness, the feeling of being amongst something that is alive, the feeling that everything has meaning. And the people I meet along the way … they remind me of this. They are my way markers.

And this is why I am forever walking forward, open to what lays ahead.  Every now and then I get a little trapped in my thinking but usually that is because I’m walking backwards or am caught in the immediateness of those who situationally surround my life.

Today as I walked tiredly on I did something I don’t usually do. I stopped half way. I ordered a coffee and I looked up the bus timetable. And then I took the three hour journey home, 25kms short of my planned destination. I decided I would go a little more gently on myself. I would listen to my body. I have a long way to walk with this body of mine and perhaps in challenging my extremeness I could reframe said extremeness.

I would begin to go extremely gentle on myself moving forwards. I would be ok with all the things I don’t get done when I’m in stop mode. I would, perhaps, try to capture the ‘is’ness’ of escaping onto the trail without the physicality. I think this has been alluding me.

I would seek to only live in the currency of what feels right to ensure the path I take is the one for me.

What would that look like? And what would that create space for? Ok, I can tell you that would look like physically … a women with crappy toenails because man I walked hard yesterday. It would also, I imagine, be about finding firmer ground and questioning the ego I stop with and the ego I walk with.

Buen Camino friends,

Fran xx

 

 

 

 

 

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?