Tag Archives: Community

Writing from Roncesvalles – Day 2

My first pilgrim meal. My first night in a dorm since … actually I don’t even remember. A sunrise reminiscent of those East Cork mornings and a day of mountain magic!

Days on the Camino – 2

Kms – 17.1 kms = total 25.1 (blister free).

Starting point today – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

End of the day – Roncesvalles, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,255.00 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 – Today I stepped for my husband in The Netherlands! This kind of hike with 4 school age kids is not possible without some selfless support. I am where I am because that incredible man is a dream nurturer.

Accommodation – The refuge in Roncesvalles is an old monastery. It’s €8 per night, we added breakfast €5 the one with fruit added and €10 for the 3 course pilgrim dinner. Two bunks per cubicle – I’m on the top bunk tonight ;).

Food highlight – Oh this is a hard one! The 3 course pilgrim meal last night was pretty fine – but the breaky . A bowl of coffee and two pieces of leftover baguettes from dinner toasted with jam.

In a word(s) – Bursting with amazement.

My first pilgrim meal was a three course family feeling affair in this French auberge at Orrison. At around 6 pm the tables were pulled together to form long shared dining tables … hogwarts or Henry the VIII style. I’d have to come out of the shadows and my corner table for this one. Time to join the pilgrim community ;).

After a deliciously simple 3 course dinner of soup, roast pork, beans, veggies and rice pudding we had to follow a ‘pilgrim tradition’. We had to introduce ourselves, our nationality and our purpose for walking. I actually ended up finding this more enjoyable than fearing it. Standing up in front of 30 strangers talking about myself is pretty nerve racking for me.

There are sisters walking, solo walkers, repeat walkers, mother and daughters walking, many ‘transitioners’! That’s a thing – people moving from work life to part time or retirement life.

There was also 23 year old Lucas who has just finished studying and is doing a Camino before he starts his work life. I think he’s going to be well equipped. Do you want to know something really cool? He’s doing it with his dad who having just finished his work life is seeing walking to see what’s next!

Sleeping was fine for those of you who cringed at yesterday’s post … happy to report there were no snorers in our dorm :) we got lucky. Not everyone was, the lovely British mother and daughters team shared stories of snoring woe over breakfast. They’ve checked into the hotel here tonight. If they’re lucky they’ll meet the Brilliantly inspiring Canadian lady I met the first night (the sprightly one, remember her?). She is staying there tonight I recall.

There are plenty of different ways to do a Camino friends! Plenty of ways to mix it up. I must admit I didn’t sleep the whole night, I think that will take time to ease into. Or maybe some longer hiking days.

We awoke to that sunrise I stopped overnight for! What a treat. You know it’s going to be a cracker of a day when you wake to a sunset like this … and it was. Choosing the Napoleon route to walk into Roncesvalles was the right choice for us. We hiked in sun, alongside snow, under the trees on all kinds of trails, surrounded by magnificent wonder as far as the eyes could see.

There was a point up on the mountain where we stopped for a break when Sally from the UK and Melinda from Canada approached me. At last night’s pilgrim dinner where they heard about my One Girl walk and they wanted to be a part of the change! They donated to my fundraiser and we talked girls education. I walk with spring (the season) but can I tell you this absolutely overwhelmed me. I had not expected this.

In a day many things can happen. On this day on the Camino in the vast beauty of this Pyrenean mountain leg, the hiking built strength, the community build hope, the space built the courage to be and the time with my sister built joy. Not to removed from the good things in normal life hey?!

Speaking of good things I thought I’d detox from coffee but it’s quite a simple pleasure on a Camino and in life … so I’m keeping it! Although when and how I’m drinking them is different – less habit more pleasure like.

Buen Camino from Roncesvalles.

Fran x

Writing from Orrison – Day 1

Today is the REAL beginning! It’s drizzling in this charmingly historic town of St Jean Pied de Port but our spirits are not dampened. We’re in the foothills of the French Pyrenees and there’s a spring in our step.

Days on the Camino – 1

Kms – easing in, 7.7 blister free kms.

Starting point today – St Jean Pied de Port, France.

End of the day – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 15

Total funds raised so far $4,755.00 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 – Today I stepped for my friend in Wales. Sometimes we need to take a bit of weight for each other. I admire her willingness to share her struggles and her ability to know exactly where joy lives. A beautiful and courageous woman sharing her story.

Accommodation – The refuge in Orisson €36 per night dinner, bed and breakfast. Three bunk beds per room :)

Food highlight – Lunch. Soup of the day €5 (bean I think!) with cheese on baguette made from breaky leftovers.

In a word(s) – Happily soggy

There’s a spirit in this town that has endeared itself to me. I already know I’ll be back to share it with my husband and children. Staying at our B&B there was also a French couple who had returned to St Jean Pied de Port for a visit. They did the Camino last December over winter … that’s the kind of town it is, people fondly return. Little pieces of hearts are left here. There’s a good energy vibing from that don’t you think?

The next main stop on the Camino is generally Roncesvalles in Spain. It’s 25 kms away and one of the most strenuous legs. There are two routes. This house is the crossroad where you choose. The Napoleon route to the left or along the road around to the right. Choosing the left is weather dependent and that’s the one we chose today.

We opted to stop at Orrison, the last French refuge on the ascent up through the Pyrenees (you need to pre-book this one). I had read of this refuge in Ger’s Camino blog and decided early on that if we took this route we’d stop here. One, to ease into the Camino and two because if I’m in the Pyrenees I want to see the Pyrenean sky at night, the morning sunrise and spend a few days enjoying one of my favourite mountain ranges.

My husband who is an experienced outdoorsy type joked that navigation (especially in fog) would be my only risk. Ok maybe not joked, I tend to get lost in the walking and missing an arrow is something I could definitely do. No fear I took the advise of the pilgrim’s office – this week the Napoleon route is safe (last week it wasn’t). It’s drizzly and foggy today and it felt a lot like being on the movie set of ‘The Way’. Tomorrow, for the harder part of the trek into Roncesvalles the forecast is beautiful!

We arrived at the refuge after 2 hours of hiking up the hill – nice and soggy. It was a welcome sight and the restaurant was packed with walkers. We checked in and received our little piece of gold … that token up there, the 5 minute warm shower! We were shown to our 3 bunk dorm room. The Aussie bloke who also arrived told us he has a machine to stop him snoring :), he’s not really blokey, more gentlemanly seems like a good kind of roomie. I’m the older sister so I got the bottom bunk – not sure how long I can pull the big sister thing off ;).

A warm shower, socks and sandals and a long afternoon to write my journal. I’ve also shared some laughs with my sister. There are many pilgrims around but we’re enjoying a quiet corner. It goes in waves, it’s quieter now but I’m surrounded by people meeting and chatting and it’s quite lovely to notice but I’m happy in the shadows today. If you like company or are worried about doing this on your own – don’t. You won’t be alone on a Camino! If you like quiet corners you can find them too.

Walking one foot in front of the other today was a familiar and homely feeling for me. Wandering amongst the rustic French countryside with the beginnings of the Spring blossoms and the lush green’scape of this region, even when it’s drizzly is worth celebrating.

Everyone likes to tell me it will be hard, that there will be hard days. If there are, I’ll write about them, I promise. Today I thought about hard. It’s relative don’t you think? Last night I met an inspiring woman who is back for her second Camino. She called herself elderly, I called her young. I think she’s living more than most. Her sprightly exuberance and willingness to live without excuse and regret is something that moved me a little. The friend she was due to travel with couldn’t come – she received a serious health diagnosis. That’s hard.

A steep mountain, feeling soggy and a shared dorm … that is all part of my experience. It makes the 5 min hot shower, the toasty dry woolly socks, the fresh air, the magic and peace of the mountains and the genuine comeradery amongst this crew I’m watching even sweeter!

Day 1 and I smiled inside and out. Just as another ‘one’ girl in Africa will when she hears about her scholarship! Without an education her life is hard. I also walked for her today as the tally in my fundraiser gave her that gift – thanks to some more MASSIVE generosity.

See you tomorrow from Spain.

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

It was a whimsy idea. It’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting … like an ALIVE version of me.

After some time looking inwards with some heavy feels … it’s time for outwards, where promise (whimsy) lives. There’s only one way to get to whimsy-land and that is to step into action – the motion that that moves life forward.

I took this picture in a small village Benagéber on our way into Valencia, Spain whilst travelling last year. It was the backdrop to where our camper was parked for the night. (All the photos in this post are from that overnight stopover.)

The image struck me as the perfect analogy of where I was sitting in life. The Yin and Yang. Looking up and looking down. The beauty of the poppy blossoming because it is loved from both extremes, the earth below and the sun above. A symbol of being grounded yet free to dream.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the contrast that draws me back to this photo and this pivotal moment of my travels. I keep coming back to it as I try to figure out why a few things in my life that seem and are more complicated than they should be.

At the moment I took this shot my thoughts were about finding a way to tame (moderate) the nature I was born with. This nature that sees me leap into adventure, change and of starting new things. The nature that makes it hard for me to sit in the middle. The nature that makes it hard for me to write and live in stories that have passed because I’m generally already moving forward. The same nature where emotion and heart drives me and as a result can see me focus my attention in an all or nothing way.

I’ve spent a bit of time inwards lately, reflecting. Which is a space I spend a bit of time in. The problem is I’ve been getting stuck on a few things. Do you know that feeling? When whatever it is you’re thinking about seems to go in a circle and you find yourself repeating the same story. The broken record. Slowly you start to bore yourself and probably others with it? And you don’t get much done.

This morning a friend wrote to me and in her message she talked about her grandparents. How the highlight of their day seems to be their stories of nostalgia.

It struck me that my stories of nostalgia are the ones where I’m looking outward, looking for what I can do from where I am and where whimsy is the order of the day. The times when I move and step into action with nothing but a dream or a spark of curiosity. Where the people I’m surrounded with are also in a forward motion (or looking for it).

I’m a crab so I’ll pull up my shell when the pressure builds or there is drama or conflict encroaching into my environment. I can’t compartmentalise emotions that easily, so I retreat. (Don’t try calling me in this phase, I probably won’t answer the phone – please don’t take it personally.) I think getting lost inwards is an important part of figuring out where I need to take a step in and when to take a step back or if it’s time to step out. It’s also an important place to peel back the layers we don’t need and to remind ourselves of what’s important but it’s not productive to hide for too long. There is an inward phase use by date and my current one is up – the broken record story was my BIG hint and I haven’t packed my pack!

A few little stories this week have reminded me to step out of the boring story I was playing over and over and step into a more whimsy one. The kind of story that is responding to kindness, trust, honesty and those good vibrations that come from the place and people that are lined up with my values.

Sharing your vulnerability and self with others. This week two other mums who are also navigating settling into a new country told me they cried because they also feel the lack of confidence that comes with starting from scratch (again). How much easier is it to make a new plan when someone understands you, when you’ve shared your deep secret? When you don’t feel so alone. Sometimes we are flying and sometimes we’re floating and sometimes we are sinking. It really is important to listen and share – you never know who needs a life vest.

Paying close attention: I had a few farming related conversations this week. It appeared I was yearning to wear gumboots and get some dirt under my fingernails. I think a few people were in my orbit last week for the simple reason that I needed reminding of that! Thank you FARMHERS. A little research and I’ve uncovered an organic farm a close cycle from home. Tomorrow I have an appointment to meet the farmer who welcomes volunteers on his farm.

New perspectives: This is one of the joys for me about moving into a new community (it is also equally one of the hard things). Eventually the time comes and you meet new people who feel like long lost friends. Last week we had dinner with some new friends and how refreshing are new perspectives and new ideas about life? It’s easy not to step out, it’s much easier keeping your world relatively homogenous to your own but gosh it’s reinvigorating to get some new thoughts on the table. To enter into a new friendship and get to know someone is quite uplifting.

Acknowledging something special: This morning a spontaneous unplanned conversation happened. A conversation with someone who had read my blog and sat with me to share a moment and talk about it. Genuinely and kindly … and for the first time I didn’t cringe that my words are out there in my immediate face to face world. For those of you who have been around a while you’ll know that this is growth! In fact, I put them out there gently (courageously) last week via a link in my email signature. Writing words connects us with good people and in my case it is the often one of the ways that brings kindness and unexpected connection to my day.Truth.

The One Girl Camino is my new story in motion. It was a whimsy idea. It came about after the crab shell went up because I was disillusioned with how travel is sometimes shared online and some deep consideration and questioning about what I wanted to contribute. Calling BS on what isn’t right, finding a voice and giving a shit about stuff that matters is also a thick thread I want to continue weaving into this one life of mine. This project is a new direction for me; it’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting and basically all the things that make me feel like an ALIVE version of me.

Today the poppy photo has a new meaning for me. Perhaps I was wrong the first time. Maybe my challenge is not to moderate myself … but to trust a little more in the wildness of my extremes and where they land me. It is that wildness that creates the nostalgic moments in my life. To live in an evolving story – that’s important to me. Did you know my nickname as a kid was ‘poppy’? Dolly in dutch, there’s some nostalgia.

Everyday stories no matter how tiny the moment are part of the biggest adventure story of all. The one where we weave in all those  moments of meaning into our life. The sweet interactions between feeling and noticing and action and moving forward. The moments that provide the people, paths, choices and chapters for our novel. The fodder for what in the future will be our very own library of nostalgia. No doubt this will be one of the things I’ll be musing over as I walk the camino looking outward at the wonder of Green Spain.

Thank you Brydie for being the muse for my words today ;).

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.