Tag Archives: Creative Living

Week 5 – Santiago to Finisterra to Santiago

‘It is an act of courage to walk a camino. And I mean camino in the broad sense – a camino is any long walk you take, any path towards change.’ ~ Camino Reflections.

There is a post missing! The last week in Santiago. To those of you who followed along while I was on the camino and many of you did. Can you believe that in April there were over 2K views on my blog. Now I have no idea what that means in blog numbers, I’m sure it’s mini and I don’t care to look it up but to me it was huge to see a K there. People were reading my story and coming back. Maybe they went for a walk or even thought about going for a hike, perhaps they donated to One Girl or looked up their work – that’s awesome right there! And please don’t worry I am not trying to replicate those numbers my goal here is not that, it’s simply to share in a quiet space. Maybe a bit like an old school ‘community centre’ – a warm, calm place to be, to dream, hopefully with some interesting corners (hmm blog goals). The words of one of my kind reader’s Karen (of @coffeeteabooks) seem fitting with how I am feeling ‘a little stirring and a jiggle to start things up again’. I have more in me, in this One Girl story and it seems my contribution does impact others not just me, there is so much more to write about. There is room in the blogosphere for stories to be shared, they are what inspire me. In fact my calls to action often come from reading the words of others. So without further a-do let’s pick up where we left off in Santiago …. the last week.

Where was I? Oh yes! I was on a bus to Finisterre after a few days rest in Santiago. My emotions were mixed, perhaps raw is a better word. I knew I needed to move, to get out of Santiago for a bit but still I felt cheated. I had walked the first 710kms and 27 days with fire in my belly and spark in my legs – in a state of joyful euphoria. Then one night I began to feel tired, feverish and one of my shins had a dull ache towards the end of the day. And so close we were, just a mere 90kms out of Santiago and now I was injured? As you know I made it into Santiago, the end point of the Camino Frances Pilgrimage … just. It is fair to say that those last 90kms (three days) were torturous. It was pure grit and determination alone that took me into Santiago. And maybe my sister feeding me chocolate and doing her darnedest to distract me ‘Fran if you could live anywhere in the world …’? ‘Everywhere’ of course!

When I arrived in Santiago I couldn’t make it to the Cathedral that first day, there was nothing left. Physically or mentally. I had to get off my legs (remember by this time both shins were raging furnaces of pain). I needed to stop. STAT. That first evening I cried. When I woke the next morning I kept crying. I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop. It was the great tidal release of the pain of the past few days.

Supportive, holding the fort at home for five weeks husband said, ‘enjoy what you’ve achieved, you finished, write a last blog post and go celebrate and eat nice food with your sister’. He is pretty amazing (must not take him for granted). It hadn’t hit me that I had achieved something momentous, it couldn’t. The past days had given me no time for reflection or comprehension, just an incomprehensible feeling of loss. A loss of myself. Of my strong body. Even now I look at photos of wonder and joy on the faces of people who arrive at the cathedral – I never had that. Perhaps if it was my intended end point I would have had those feelings but as you know it wasn’t. I wanted to hike on the Finisterre. To the end of the earth. And I couldn’t. Thankfully, the camino is not the finish … it’s the days along the way.

Frank and Alan, the Texan brothers, Mark and Lucas our German friends were all still a few days behind. We had met up and said our goodbye’s to the wise Fin’s who were now on their way home. We had also met up with sassy Laura from America and quiet and deeply aware Jess from Canada they had continued on their walk.  The German and UK Andy’s as well as Martha the fiercely strong, super sweet Dane were also on their way to Finisterre by foot. Relationships are strong on the camino. I wonder if I would have met these people in any other settings would we have become friends? I’m not sure we would have we are all of different ages, some with different politics and we all have very different lives. I am sure our paths would never have crossed.

But coincidence, timing and connection resulted in these pilgrims becoming my camino family. That is the absolute beauty of the camino you find who you’re meant to find. Like the big world we don’t get along with everyone just those who for what ever reason we gel with. They were #caminodeep and yes I fought the idea of a camino family because I still believed I wasn’t like everyone else but it turns out I am. This motley crew of kind, gutsy, funny, wise, fierce, tough, gentle, caring, intelligent hikey people will forever be my camino family.

Getting on the bus was the right move. A change of scenery and some motion to help shift my perspective. The kind hearted messages and comments that you lot delivered from home (or while on your travels) to my blog, IG account, to my what’s ap etc were beautifully and gladly received. It was like the old days of receiving post from the postman. I honestly have a moment with all of you that I can recall. I will be forever grateful that I walked the camino with each of you – my extended camino family.

Of course as soon we arrived into Finisterre we ran into some old favourites! The fluro gear wearing Italian friends. We never had long conversations with those guys but they were always just around a corner or at a table having their long two hour lunches with wine. We did learn that they were Alpine Mountain Rescuers. I am hoping my husband doesn’t have to meet them next week as he sets of on his Tour du Mont Blanc. He is taking a tent with him, there is no way he could do the night’s filled with snoring in the huts ;). I am not sure which of us is the more hardcore.

The first evening we hiked up to the lighthouse at Finisterre. It is one of the most powerful working lighthouses in Europe and as the night would unfold a spiritual place. As I have written previously Finisterre takes its name from the latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the earth”. At the end of this Roman road is where the Romans thought the earth ended and also where the ancient celts worshiped the sun. I can absolutely understand why. The sun, as it sets over the Atlantic to the east of the continent literally and spectacularly drops from the sky into the ocean. It is without question the MOST moving sunset I have ever witnessed and also without doubt it won’t be the last time I do. I am a creature of habit like that. Like Rome and the pantheon … each visit never feels like the the last.

There is a small cafe and hotel on Cape Finisterre. Small enough to exist yet taking nothing from the spectacular horizon and 360 degree beauty of the cape. It was the perfect place to sit with my sister enjoying a beer and a tapa as we awaited the sunset. Many people were scattered around the rocks with a bottle of wine and cheese. It was a bit windy for us. Something powerful happened that night as the mountain goats appeared on the cliffs just as the sun was beginning to set and drop away into the ocean.

I consider mountain goats to be one of my way markers in life. They are what I see when I dream of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Thinking of mountain goats can take me back to the wonder and freedom of our time spent in the campervan last year as a family. If I imagine the sounds of the bells I am instantly taken to spring, to flowers and snow tops, to adventurous kids playing in mountain springs, to deep smiles and feelings of awe and contented bliss. I can smell the fresh air. It’s important to have lived moments you can escape into don’t you think? I know, I digress, again. It’s a long story this one. The arrival of the goats reminded me I was home for the moment, right where I needed to be. They gave me a sense of peace and the permission I needed to let go of the disappointment of not walking there.

The camino is full of coincidences. Here is another one for you. That morning I had said to the Texan brothers ‘if you see German Lucas say hi’. I knew they must be at similar points on the trail and honestly you never know who you will see around the next corner or who will arrive at the Albergue that night. Wouldn’t you know it … a what’s ap photo and a message arrived. They had found Lucas sitting on a park bench! Here’s another. That night as we were having a beer and watching the sunset over the Atlantic a divine Sth African hiker who I had met at that ‘chicks who rock’ dinner with the Danes back on day 11, in Cardeñuela Ríopico walked into the cafe (there were 6 people in total in this cafe!). She was super interesting and I was so excited to be able finish the conversations we had started at that dinner three weeks before about the master’s degree she was about to start and about her mum’s camino blog. She was following in her mum’s footsteps and walking the camino, that’s an unreal story in itself. We also heard from Martha out of the blue … she was on the way in and hoped to meet up with us!

So we relaxed. Ate more food. Probably the best food we had eaten along the camino. We walked with our feet in the sand and started to wonder what would come next. That first meal in the photos by the way was served at 11.30 pm the night before. Honestly we were finally hitting our ‘Spanish time’ stride. As we were wandering along the beach guess who arrived by foot – Laura and Jess (writer of The Things She Carried – her camino story).These two will light up any room, both with their own stories and reasons for taking a long walk. It was an honour to have met these two. Along the camino I took many photos of pilgrims as they walked. I would then catch them or bump into them along the way and ask for their emails to forward the photos on to them. I was so happy to finally be able to take a photo for these two.

As I pondered my way though the days at Finisterre I did feel antsy and without purpose. After so many days of moving, of putting my backpack on, of sharing the evolving hike for One Girl story and of walking I was struggling with stopping. I enjoyed the moving. I had felt a bit stagnate before I left for the camino (there is an expat warning story there I am nearly ready to share). Now I felt I had found something and everything, anything seemed possible. I needed to keep the momentum alive. But what was everything?

In the quiet of one afternoon I submitted an application to a course I had thought about enrolling in for a long time. I knew I wanted to build on my One Girl contribution, to find a way to possibly contribute professionally. Maybe, just maybe after walking 800kms I could also take the same approach towards studying. I’d started believing I could do it. And by starting at the beginning and walking each day I could get through the research and stats required to produce something that would contribute to the greater good.  Just as the camino had ended so would the two years the course would take me and so I applied to a Masters in Public Health.

My application is still in process and I haven’t made the commitment to study yet. I am thoroughly enjoying studying for my Spanish class and I know I am better at doing things when I am accountable to someone else! Gosh I am lucky to be born Australian where we can apply online and if needed defer our university fees with government assistance. Will I do it? Scary? Yes. But with work and dedication I can do it. I know I can. I am however doing something I don’t always do and that is considering before leaping. I’ll probably leap, of course I will (that’s how I roll) but I want to play a bit with this motion thing I learnt on the camino first. I want to not be looking for something but simply walking forward. I want to walk into the next leap.

Martha and German Andy joined us on the second night for another sunset experience. See I told you last night wouldn’t be the last. Of course this wasn’t the last either because in that cafe the night before I made plans with Frank (older Texan brother) to come back in September to hike Santiago to Finisterre. We are going to make it a round trip and hike back to Santiago you can read why here.  I currently reside in Europe so it is an easy plan for me to make right now – no regrets.

Have you heard of the swinging Botafumerio? It swings in the cathedral in Santiago. It swings to greatlofty heights and fills the room with the sweet smell of the frankincense that burns within the huge incense burner. The burner weights 80kgs and measures up at 1.6 meters, it is rather awe inspiring. We arrived back in Santiago from Finisterre for a holy Sunday so were fortunate enough to witness this incredible tradition. In days past it was to hide the smell of the unwashed pilgrims and as a prophylactic to diseases the pilgrims were thought to carry.

We also were able to catch up with the yin and yang. German Mark and German Lucas. They had arrived in Santiago and if you rememeber Lucas was planning to walk the last 100kms with his mum. An awesome experience to share between a mother and son. We had breakfast and met his mum and those two went on to walk to Finisterre and Muchia. A whopping 950kms for Lucas, a 23yo type one diabetic who had the heaviest pack going around because he carried his medications. People on the camino are inspiring and everyone has their challenges.

We shared a meal and said good bye to our mates Frank and Alan. In the end what started with an unanticipated arrival finished with a perfect ending. We managed over that week to see most of the people we had met along the way. Our camino family. My sister wondered who I was – I was entirely a social beast and if you know me I am far removed from that IRL. (I am also playing with that little nugget I learnt about myself.) Maybe I should be a full time hiker, is that a thing?  ;)

There were two people we didn’t see and we don’t have their details so if anyone reading this knows Mike (newly retired like the Tuesday before he started the camino from St Jean, witty, funny, fast walking pace, washes his ibuprofen down with coke) from the Sth of England. Or Hong (mother of 2, American, married to a German, sometimes drives to Amsterdam for yum cha and Paris for lunch because she feels free on the road, who told her husband she needed to go for a long walk). Please do ask them to get in touch! You never know right? The camino showed me just how small the world can be. Especially when you’re open to coincidences and chance. Putting it out there friends. And sure I know we all have to make things happen, do the work not just put it out there. For me making it happen was saying ‘yes’ to the adventure, the work came from there and the coincidences continue to flow. What an incredible adventure my camino was and still continues to be.

Last, but by no means least of course I must mention that gutsy hiking animal up there to my right. My sister – she made my camino. I will forever treasure the experiences and time we shared walking across Spain together. I can’t wait to see her next month to relive the funnies!

Walk your life, treat it as a camino. Each step, each day all leads somewhere and are part of one great big adventure. ~ Camino reflections.

Ha ha and maybe don’t think this is the last you’ll hear a camino yarn, I have many more to share.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

And so friends so we move, forward and onward.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

P.S. Fancy getting your own challenge on?

Committing?

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

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

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

Writing from Mansilla de las Mulas – Day 17

A good story always ends up about the characters doesn’t it? Today I met a few! It started at breakfast. We wandered in and sat down. Stevie Wonder’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ was playing. An Irish guy started singing (serenading the cafe), a French guy joined him and within seconds the table of Sth Koreans were also a part of the chorus line! Eventually the Irish guy solo’ed with ‘I’m on the camino, I’ll be home in two weeks don’t forget me while I’m gone’! We are all singing and changing words to express how we feel it seems. I don’t do it in the cafe but my sister and those endless horizons are my audience.

Days on the Camino – 17

Kms – Today 27 kms.

Starting point today – Bercianos del Real Camino, Spain.

End of the day -Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 20

Total funds raised so far $6,240.00 ($60 away from 21 girls)! 

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 – One of my little people is on the couch today. He has a fever and is a little flat. Number three, the one with all the energy and smile that comes from deep inside. I thought about you today, about what a spirited boy you are. The one who hikes up the front in our family and leads the way (after me of course. ;)). It’s not long until our summer holidays and I was dreaming about our plans to surf the North Coast of Spain. You my little guy will be in your element little grommet. Not that you aren’t everyday my sweet little all rounder. I’m so glad you have the dad you do, I know he’s taking extra special care of you. xx

Accommodation – Our first Pensión, La Pensión de Blanca. (€20 each for a twin room). The owner is super friendly, the rooms are clean and the showers are hot! Pensión’s will become a new option for us.

Food highlight – Arriving at the breakfast village to find a cafe serving local food is always a green light for us to sit down! Bacon and eggs plus toast. We have learnt to order toast as it’s not always standard with a breakfast dish. Which would be great in normal life but we need full meals.

Also I do love the odd tapa with the odd glass of red (tinto) while we are waiting for the dinner service to start at 7pm ;) lucky we had a 2 hour siesta this afternoon.

In a word(s) – Right where I am.

The conversation with these guys went like this:

‘Americano’s?’

‘No, Australians’

Lots of hand movements and either Spainish or Italian chat that I think gestured Australia is far away.

‘Syd-ney (2000 olympics style), Melbourne, Canberra?’

‘Melbourne’

Loads more Spanish or Italian, definitely kind words and lots of smiles. We don’t think they were laughing at us.

And then a ‘Buen camino’

Beauty we all understand that!

Another round of ‘Buen Camino’s’ and we walked on.

We spent a bit of time walking behind this lot. This dog is having the most fun out of anyone I’ve seen on the camino. Yes Sue you’re right, dog heaven. It was like watching a happy child play!

This local in his sneakers was on his morning walk wishing everyone who walked past him a ‘Buen Camino’. Everyday these locals must say hola, buenos días and buen camino a hundred times as pilgrims and walkers pass through their towns. We have been so warmly treated along this camino.

My best hiking mate, my little sister. My perfectly matched travel friend. We even order the same food … every time! Twinnies. Some days we walk most of the day silently, sometimes we chatter, sometimes I sing to her, she tells me I’m turning into our mum, so I stop and each day we laugh. I need to take that daily laughter back to my life! How do you laugh so hard each day without the pain and the funny ‘Cliff Young’ shuffle thing we have going on after we stop and restart again? Maybe I’m more serious at home than I thought I was.

Calle Real! Royal Street. Currently on it.

‘I can treat any pain’ her backpack sign stated. I wondered how? I’m sure it was interesting but by the time I caught this walker I was 1km away from the destination. My feet only had eyes for the Pensión we had booked and my mind was focussed on the pasta I was going to inhale. Plus I had taken a ibuprofen an hour ago!

There are a lot of matchy matchy couples walking together. They’ve obviously planned this adventure together and geared up at the same shop. Many tell me they attended a presentation about the camino. If this is something you’re interested in I’d check your local outdoor gear shop. Maybe I’ll do one one day. Perhaps my sponsor Wildeness Wear might be keen to let share how awesome a camino is at their store to thank them for their support! I’d have to move home first though.

Ps their socks are the holy grail of hiking socks. I’m not paid to say that. They were excited to be a part of a hike for charity. I’m testing some of their gear and it’s awesome and I will only buy from them in the future – no blisters and ethically made.

My favourite by day – Women’s Cape to Cape Light Hiker

My favourite by night – Women’s Larapinta Hiker

On our very first pilgrim dinner someone said the Norwegians were the ‘super’ hikers. Obvs they hadn’t met any Australian chicks ha ha. No, not really, we can’t keep up with the Germans! They are the super hikers. Geared up in their technical gear and always with the guide book in their pocket (the hiking pants that convert to shorts). It you’re at a crossroad where there is a choice of routes you better hope there’s a German – they will know exactly which way to go.

The further down the trail we go the more bikes we see. They are awesomely considerate and we share the path as comrades, even with local riders. Initially I thought I’d cycle this as it could be done in 2 weeks … I’m so glad I’m hiking it. I think you’d need to be an experienced mountain biker to do this.

Casa Pablo – Pablo’s house.

We’ve been flanked by mountains to the right as we’ve walked another 60kms over past few days. Obviously this excites me being a mountain girl at heart. I do hike those hills like a mountain goat … even my star sign is a crab! Although I did grow up climbing mountains and I love the ocean equally.

Not a day goes by that I’m not in awe of this experience and this countryside, even the times in between when we’re hiking along the roadside. It’s a stunning part of Spain.

As an Australian I believe we grow up with a real connection to our land. Perhaps also because my childhood was spend on my Opa’s farm and living amongst National parks. I’ve chatted to other Aussies who feel this. Like many Aussies my background is European so I also feel connected to Europe.

When we lived in Ireland last year I felt a deep connection to that land which really surprised me. I haven’t had that anywhere else yet and as much as I appreciate this landscape, not here.

As we head further West we will enter mountainous region of NW Spain, the Galicia and Asturias with is history of Celtic Castro’s (village settlements) … I wonder if I will feel a connection there. I will know then if my ancestry comes from the continental celts and if not, perhaps it is from vikings?

Buen Camino lovely friends, those of you who read with your morning coffee enjoy! And thanks for all those kind messages.

Fran xx

Writing from Castrojeriz – Day 13

There are many things in life that no matter what you read nothing can prepare you for the reality. You have to live the experience. Of course being prepared is beneficial. Like if you’re walking a camino that an 8 kg pack is going to be far kinder to your body than a 15 kg pack, or that trail shoes are less weightier and provided your ankles are ok are fine for this type of trail. But … your rhythm, what your body likes, what you personally like, what your capabilities and tolerances are that’s unknown. You need to play around and adjust a little (or a lot) to get your groove.

Days on the Camino – 13

Kms – Today kms. Our total is now around 356’ish kms it’s hard to know the maps are all over the place. But we are already or nearly half way!

Starting point today – Rabé de las Calzadas, Spain.

End of the day – Castrojeriz, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 20

Total funds raised so far $6,205.00. 

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 – Dear Lizzy! Mother to the glorious Maya who fits like an extra daughter/sister when she’s at ours. Who had me pegged early on. Who knows I can’t commit to plans to far ahead (unless it’s a holiday) who reads every morning, who makes me feel safe to share my words and thoughts and who I reckon I could walk a camino with one day! Thanks Liz for being a friend when I’m near and also far. Yes, you could run a brilliant Albergue … perhaps there’s something in that for you in Aussie?! I thought a lot about your kindness and daily comments today.

Accommodation – We have arrived at the Albergue Rosalie and it’s AWESOME (obvs. I’ve been hanging with Americans). It’s a dorm ;) but after last night in a dorm I’ve worked out there are some albergue dorm rooms I can manage and some that are too much.

I need a little space, I need to be able lay out my pack. I can’t have a stranger 1/2 a meter away from me and I certainly can’t stay where the facilities don’t match the number of guests. I personally prefer a place that has a dinner available and these family run albergue’s tend to provide a home cooked meal. Tonight’s was cooked right in front of us in the kitchen. It’s a stocked honesty kitchen, you can help yourself and donate what you wish.

I don’t like to go to far from my Albergue once we arrive. Today we put our clothes and socks through and actual washer and dryer – new women.

Food highlight – It has been an excellent food day! This morning we set out at 6.30am and thought we’d nearly missed the 10km coffee as we entered the sleepy town of Hornillos del Camino (pop. 60). Right at the end of town we found Christmas! We wandered into The Green Tree and received a beautiful warm Irish welcome from Emma the owner. We ordered free range local organic eggs on toast and blissed out on our excitement of finding this little gem open … the luxury of that first coffee is indescribable.

We followed up with a local lunch once we arrived at our Albergue of stuffed peppers and salad. Ok, I also had a bean stew starter … 30kms days are needing more fueling.

To top it off the pilgrim community dinner at the Albergue. The €9 meal. All home made from real ingredients. Salad, bread, hummus, paella … the leftover over paella has been put in a takeaway tub for us to have for lunch tomorrow. Winning.

In a word(s) – privileged.

Maybe I’ll tell you about some of the things I love about this hike! Yes it’s a hike to us. I know it’s called a walk but we’re not walking it. We are well and truly hiking our way across Spain. Exploring, eating, meeting and feeling this beautiful part of the world. I love that!

I adore the early morning starts, the excitement of the new day. They mostly start the same. We wake with our natural body clocks, usually around six. Today the church bells outside our window rang to wake us. We get up and pack our sleeping bags, sort our packs, brush our teeth and step back on the camino with a banana in hand. I usually fill my water badder and bottle at night so the mornings are smoother.

Morning starts are the quietest. Generally we have the world to ourselves. The air is often crisper which lends itself to nice hiking weather. The birds are singing and the hues are quite spectacular. We wake up and soften the stiffness in our legs over those first kms.

The coffee and breakfast break is my next favourite part of the day. When we’re lucky it’s around 8-12kms, 2-3 hours in. Sometimes not so lucky and at 15-20kms, by this stage we’re desperate. We try to plan to carry some extra fruit in case this happens. An orange is such a sweet treat.

The coffee and morning tapa is well earnt as is the utter joy of getting off our feet. Man we need it by then. It’s incredible what that break will do. It’s so reviving and I love that renewed feeling of being able to step onward.

Side note: the coffee’s here are so much smaller and with much less milk than we normally drink. I want to be more mindful about that when I’m home.

Then it’s back to the hours of walking across a country. Enjoying the landscape. Watching the change in regions. Feeling part of an old and new world. The time lost in your head, a very clear head. Some days there are fellow pilgrims, some days not so many. Some days we nod our heads as we pass, others we speak pleasant greetings.

Slowly the path begins to lead us home to where our hiking day will end. Is as exciting as the morning. This is where we take the time to care for our feet and our bodies, to rest, to refuel and sometimes to socialize and sometimes to introvert.

Each afternoon is different and yet the same. We hike no later than 1 to 2 pm because the afternoons are just as valuable to us as the walking. I love this time, the arrival, the shower, the unpacking, the settling in. Time to prepare for tomorrow as we reminisce and laugh about today. My sister, my hiking buddy. There aren’t many you could do this with but she and I – we gel.

It’s routined, yet present and it’s full of surprises … just how I like life. I’d like to take a little lesson in routine home with me from my camino to play around with and adjust in my days.

Buen Camino,

Fran x

On the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

My camino is drawing near. It’s our greatest guarantee isn’t it – that time will tick, our lives will unfold and our dreams arrive.

I always like to have a little something brewing on the side in my life. That is how I keep my soul safe, you never know when you will need that protection. The little projects tend lead on to another little project (and the finest people) … some I finish (minimised our life) some I surrender (remember that book). But they always propel me forward, changing and expanding me for the better.

This camino has been the perfect anchor for me these past months and it comes at the perfect time. It comes at a time that I need to (am ready to) spend some time rebuilding (the beauty of spring). It has been a MASSIVE few years. Downsizing our possessions and needs, long term travel, moving continents, all the kids at school, time to think about resurrecting my career (tough one), my husband has started his own business … yeah massive!

When I started this project it was driven by my need to commit to doing something good in the world, something adventurous,  something bigger than what I had attempted before. Something beyond my front door. I could have attempted to make it bigger but I chose to keep it close, within my grasp. That gave me the freedom to not only adjust, but also to control the pace, the ability to step in and out. This in turn has given me the freedom to be present in this camino (journey) towards the camino. It is about knowing your capacity.

Capacity – I encourage you to read this article here a brilliant read. Annette gently invites us to question our ‘actual’ personal capacity. It has been one of my favourite blog posts I’ve ever read.

Presence has meant that I know exactly what I need going into this trek and it has also shown me where I need to spend time beyond this adventure. These next weeks as I put one foot in front of the other I will be rebuilding some of trust and confidence in myself and my spirit that I’ve lost in this settling in phase of our overseas adventure. I’ll be thinking about some of the habits I need to improve when I return. I already know I need to get my kitchen in order … I killed a sour dough starter this year. That is not kosher!

I’ll be letting it evolve without plans. There are no bookings (except the train to get there and the first night’s accommodation).  Distance and pace will be decided as my day and mood dictates. Walking, travelling light, eating local, taking the time to listen to pilgrim stories … slow travel.

Our recent mini trip to London over Easter had many of those moments that remind me of the sweetness of slow travel. The daffodils signalling the arrival of spring and sunshine, the realisation that while my daughter still wants to hold my hand (and equally give me eye rolls) I need to hold it tight, the conversations with my teenage son over our favourite topic, European history, the friendships my children cultivate with each other because we spend so much time as a family. There was a shift. It reminded me that I am home. Home is here wherever we live, together. It was good to feel that again.

Simple things the day brings when you’re not in a hurry and you’re not being dictated to by a schedule or when you allow yourself to be  present enough to notice and feel it all. Yes, crafting space and letting go of what is not within our control is a far kinder way to live.

I have some ideas about how I might document this trip when I return but first I must take my camino. I need to find my own way on the road to Santiago de Compostella. I will share my journey briefly here and on IG as I hike (of course I’ll be taking you, you’ve all come this far).  It’s exciting to (again) be on the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

‘When you feel it take your breath away

Just keep walking towards it anyway

Because life is a leap of faith’

~Sia lyrics from Leap of Faith

My favourite musical song ever! You need to flip to 1 min 30 sec to get to the start. It’s a beautiful song penned by Sia and one I’ve played a lot these past weeks.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/tvshowbiz/video-1094668/The-cast-Strictly-Ballroom-perform-Today-studio.html

Ahh you were waiting for my poem of the week weren’t you ;) I wrote this on the train early one  morning this week.

Grace

Grasp it with all your might
Witness all that’s in your sight

There’s kindness to be found
When eyes are free to roam around

Notice the flowers in bud and bloom
Immerse in the cozy of a room

Allow your gaze to meet
Feel moved by strangers on the street

Give time for kind words shared
For there is courage in friendliness dared

Be unrestricted in the things
That give you a life that sings

~Frances Antonia

We have educated 12 Girls through One Girl Australia! If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress!