Tag Archives: dreams

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

As we roll towards an ending we must accept the bump and the climb that is the beginning.

‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom’ ~ Socrates

One night along the camino I lay uncomfortably zipped up tightly in my bed bug sheet writing and editing a blog post on my iPhone (day 6 of what would become 28 daily adventure posts). It was midnight and I knew those bugs were going to bite, we had made a dodgy accommodation choice (although frankly bugs are a part of the camino). I’d also been gifted a full blown grunting snorer less than a metre to my right! More importantly I had committed myself to prioritising my commitment to writing and to sharing my #hikeforOneGirl with daily discipline and routine, as uncomfortable as I was, I was rising to that challenge. That night, I believe will prove to be a turning point for me. One where hardship (I appreciate the mildness of how this hardship sounds) proved to me that it’s in difficulty and in sitting beyond the edge of my comfort zone that I will find the well of deeper wonder. A blessing and a curse.

Spotting wonder comes easier since making the decision to be present in my life, in today. Honestly, once I began noticing and feeling the seasons, the smiles, smelling the fresh air, hearing the birds, the music, the peace, touching this idea that I had something to create and tasting the deliciousness of connection and kindness I began to crave and share it like a drug. I also started realising how small I am in this big world and how all the things I thought I knew actually don’t really amount to much. That is a bit confronting really! To be mid 40’s and realise that often you’re wrong and have a lot to learn about life, people and basically every discipline that exists. The blessing is that my sense of curiosity WOKE up. It is a curse because now I know that I want to know more and the only way towards that is to create the space to experience it by consuming less. Which means asking myself questions. Hearing less of the noise the world spits out and less of the bullshit that I feed myself to hide away. 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.

Something amazing happened when I wrote each day. Aside from the incredible awesomeness of 27 girls in Africa getting an education there was a swell of momentum in my life. A deeper kind of wonder – one that existed because I was part of something bigger. A whirlwind of kindness from people old and new, landscapes of mountains and valleys, vineyards and olive groves, fields and flowers,  horizons and big skies, cities filled with stories and whispers from wandering folk and of courageous exploration. That swell translated into quite an adventure. The kind of free spirited wonder and courageous purpose that is hard to maintain in every day life. But of course I must because every day life is where I live and love.

Continually sitting beyond my comfort zone and comfortable in discomfort with purpose is harder to commit to when life is back to ‘normal’. And ‘normal’ I say loosely because I’m not sure what that really looks like for us yet. But back to creating the wonder and courageous purpose, surely it’s doable, maybe just with different goal posts. Obviously there is the less horizons thing (one does give less shits about things when feeling the freedom of the wild) and there is so much more of the bullshit (the privileged complaining, the competitive bossy how to be and how it is kind of stuff). Unlike the camino you can’t just walk to the next city every day to give yourself the space! Do you know what I mean about the bullshit though? The seemingly endless diatribe of small stuff and small talk. Sure, we can escape some of it selectively but it’s impossible to block it all. There are those accounts that are tricky to unfollow and there are the realities that we need to face like our work places and schools etc. I am shifting my eyes and ears towards noticing and hearing with even more filters than normal in an attempt to be more focussed and less in need of de-fragging from the dreaded you know what. That bullshit! Ps I am more than capable of talking my own bullshit to myself and trust me that is under the microscope too, even more so. And of course what I call bullshit may be different to what you call BS. If I’ve become BS to you please unfollow, I respect BS calling. We all need to call what we don’t need.

I’m comfortable out of the spotlight, hiding behind the pole at school pick up. Please don’t invite me to everything and I’m fine not knowing the ins and outs of things, happier that way, it’s easier. What? You liked, read my words? I might just seize up and run. I need a new blog please, people I know are following along. Yes I want to live a full life and trust me I feel I do, but I want to do it in a small way. Well at least I thought I did. And then you see I walked the camino with the knowledge that I had to challenge myself. I had to challenge the lack of commitment, trust and discipline that I give to myself and my capabilities. Sure, I am confident in a lot of things, opinionated about many other things and great at making new things happen BUT eventually I always run. Maybe out of fear. I’m not sure why yet but I do know I need to shift my goalposts to adjust what quiet, small, confidence and fear are and how they fit in my life.

Gosh how I hated the cliché on the camino that your ‘camino begins when it ends’. Typical of my rebel heart. I will not do or be like everyone else. Kill me first. I’m on the camino now … I was on it before I left. Heaven forbid I might actually need to stop being scared of myself, or, worse still be wrong, or oh man – exactly like everyone else and it just may start when it ends. On day two along the camino in a conversation with Mike from the UK we were talking about what we’d thought about that day while we were walking – they were the same things (our profound thoughts and our wonderings were essentially the very same). Most of us think and worry about the same things. Of course we act on and express those thoughts differently but we are all feeling our way through life and we are not alone in that.

What brought this on? Lots of things and nothing, it just is. At the heart of it – I have changed since walking the camino. So basically I have no choice. I’m at the bloody beginning again, facing new questions. This time I don’t want to run, I’m stronger. We always get stronger after a climb into our weaknesses don’t we. I want to build on this, to continue creating without the fear or expectation. Time to dip my toes in deeper and step into the vulnerability I am feeling, however that looks.

I may have eaten too many mm’s and stayed up far too last night (and the night before) but I’m not going to give up on forward motion today because I did that (stepped a few steps back). No, I am writing this because discipline with writing helps me to step forward and it only happens if I lift my feet and move towards writing. My friend Lix tells me my writing is my poetry. After hitting publish I will go for a walk in the woods because walking soothes my mind when it’s in dreaming, examining or planning mode (I’m in all three right now – jackpot). Experience has taught me that’s where most of my answers are … out there wandering in solitude where the birds sing and the trees rustle.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. ~ Plato.

Should I give you another camino’ism? When you’re busy walking, creating or out there contributing with the intention of giving and sharing you’re too busy to care what people think of what you’ve published or the life you are choosing. There is only time to focus on the connection that comes as a response to being in your own flow. The joy comes from the writing and publishing … in doing the work (creating).

There are many things I wanted to write about today: the missing update from my time in Finisterra where I hit my greatest challenge … that first moment where I sat still again and had to consider my next move. Would I give in to idleness or step up? Idleness, where we sit or stand consuming bullshit from others, pushing into what doesn’t feel right, or, in the stories we create in our own minds or sometimes simply by allowing ourselves to be consumed by unfulfilling tasks is the great enemy to living a creative and meaningful life. Not that I know that for sure but today that is what’s in my mind, maybe sometimes it’s in yours?

It was this thought, this lesson, the wisdom that I’ve gleaned from Mike and a host of you who read my words and write to me that have propelled me towards facing one of my personal challenges. This new beginning where I need to practice a commitment towards self discipline and accountability to myself as I continue to step beyond my comfort zone – this time not to run. So I guess I owe you a thank you, thank you ;).

Cleaning out the closets – life beyond the camino.

And I’m home. Home from taking a long walk (800km) along the Camino. You know the one, the 1,200 year old path towards Santiago. The one that starts in many places, but for me at the base of the Pyrenees in St Jean Pied de Port in the Beautiful French Basque Country (Frantziaco euscal herri ederra). After swimming in liminality for a bit, that floaty, bewilderingly in-between space where we can feel a bit lost. The space that’s actual a transitional phase where you’re adjusting after a life experience, yes, I’ve been there and hola I’m back.

Back to writing and back home cleaning out my closets. Metaphorically speaking of course. My actual closets have been empty for a few years now. We try to travel through life lightly when it comes to ‘physical stuff’. Naturally, living life comes with the need for some physical stuff (2 adults and 4 kids worth) but we try to be mindful of being wasteful and distracted by consumption. It’s other stuff I’m cleaning up. Like among other things the getting older and thinking about the future … really are we at the second half of our working lives, closer to the retirement end than the start of our working lives? What do these years, months, days need? What don’t they need?

Walking the camino is as close as it gets to living each day as simply as you can with purpose and without the angst or pressure from expectations of the world and daily life. Ok, sometimes you have to walk further to find a bed, unless you book ahead (that depends on your own comfort levels). And yes there are the times the bed bugs bite, the times you want to be alone, when you can’t face another tortilla or bocodilla and the times you hurt! But in the scheme of things hopefully you get what I mean. Life. Not a life without difficulty just simpler and moving with purpose towards the end of each day. Less to manage, less to worry about.

I scared myself a bit last week. Worrying. Thinking too far ahead. Looking too far back. It’s probably normal after living with such simplicity and clear purpose to come home and freak out a bit, ok a lot!

My sister talks about the sense of achievement you get each day from walking kilometers along the camino. It’s true. Each afternoon as we sat and drank a beer we smiled. A smile on our face but more than that. A smile from deep, deep inside after a satisfying day’s work of doing what we love.

It’s not quite summer here (technically) but it’s deliciously warm. The summer doesn’t start in the Northern Hemisphere until 21st June (the solstice) so we are still in spring. The season to clean out closets, always timing right! I walked 800kms and be sure friends the adventure won’t be in vain. While I walked it, I lived it. My mind was there in Spain not here in The Netherlands. Now as I move forward having walked the camino I begin here again, now. A new time (adventure) with more experience to reflect and draw on.

I must begin again because sitting in worry is not helpful! Although I do think it had its purpose. It is necessary in bringing us to our personal crossroads … the big questions. The big challenge is of course to step into the path of those questions, to take our own action.

Sometimes the easy path is timely even if the harder one is more important. There are times you have no choice which path you must take. The hard path takes strength and sometimes we must cultivate some courage first. (Try walking or making something ;) if you need some and practice saying ‘no’ sometimes and ‘yes’ to different things). There is one thing I’m sure of though … after pausing on the easy path the hard one will once again show itself at a crossroad. Many people skip the section of the hike over the Pyrenees because it’s mountainous. The entire camino has hills and mountains and here’s the thing – you may start in the next village or city but that first section is not the hardest! Like life you won’t escape the hard climbs.

Here I stand. Walking my own camino, stepping into my life with all the unknowns it is currently throwing my way. Facing the unknown of what my ‘career’ will look like, what my husband’s will look like as he takes the risk of backing himself and starting a business. Wondering when the ‘right’ time to move home is. Where is home? Am I doing the ‘smart’ thing? Who defines smart? Is security real or perceived? Knowing I need to get more consistent and put a deeper effort in with food and our footprint for my family. All SCARY and HARD stuff (for me).

Scary I suppose if I choose to let it overrun me with fear and the subsequent worry that comes with that.

I can’t predict further down the road. But the camino showed me I do like to book my accommodation ahead … that’s my comfort zone and I can always change it if needed. So I need a plan! The camino also confirmed my love of the every day. I can’t exist is chaos and I especially can’t exist without my soul being nurtured. And how that wonderfully magical ancient path reminded me that life is joyful! Worrying and existing without cultivating what nurtures my soul distracts me from experiencing joy.

So poco a poco (little by little) and steadily each day becomes part of moving towards something bigger as I fill my days (mostly) with things I love. And to move joyfully with purpose through the more tedious bits.

The big issues like tackling superannuation and looking at money begins. Researching a new fund as the one we have is FULL of fees (boring admin stuff that has a big impact on the future). As does considering what that fund needs to look like in the future (within our reality and constraints). It can be one of the things that gets left behind when you live away from your home country, having your pension in another. So yes we are living an adventure but there are costs … it’s best I clean the closet! Budget time.

Finding momentum in life and satisfying my soul creates comfort in my every day and they go hand in hand. I LOVE music. This week and honestly most weeks it’s Bernard Fanning’s ‘Tea and Sympathy’ album (a creature of habit I am). I listen to it when I need to move at home. Folding washing and dancing, mopping and singing, writing lists and dreaming. It’s good for the soul … and then flow happens. The kitchen calls and the play lunch gets baked and a new little desk space is created … a place that’s hidden away for things to be created (exciting stuff).

Career? Well that’s always going to be tricky. Currently my midwifery registration is on hold because I can’t practice here. So I’m working as a substitute teacher at an international school. I have a lot of down time there – the kids are very motivated learners, super interesting too. So I’m swinging that my way by learning something new. I study Spanish while the kids are working – sometimes I even get the Spanish kids to help me with pronunciation, bonus.

‘Life has a way that’s unpredictable but you can’t spend it waiting on a miracle.’ ~ Bernard Fanning.

And slowly I’m working on tidying and playing with this blog. My blogs have always reflected where I am in my life and this one is a special one. I’m not one thing. Nope, I’m not a lifestyle, travel, adventure or fashion blogger ;). To be honest I don’t even consider myself a blogger. I’m a sharer of words with a love of many things. I write about them for me. It’s simpler for me that way – not writing with a need for my words to deliver something.

I’m proud of this blog, for what I’ve achieved for One Girl and for contributing to the landscape of women and adventure. I love that I’ve connected with some wonderful creative women along this writing path. I will always write to continue moving forward, to improve and challenge myself, to live in a positive and optimistic space. Just like sharing on IG I write to satisfy my own need to share, create and think out loud. There are a few of us that need that, hello to those of you that visit because you too need or get that. And to those of you who like colossal posts.

Life. It’s happening today! It’s where we live, the people we share ourselves with, the beauty in the world that we notice, nurture and protect and what we cultivate each day that feeds our soul. Joy will come from there and will always be grander than anything we buy, any trip we take or ‘all’ the extra things we do begrudgingly. Today is a dynamic place, we are constantly moving. Feeling (presence) and reflecting through each phase of transition offers us yet another opportunity to step forward – wiser, wilder, bolder and awake in the life we’re actively creating for ourselves.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Zariquiegui – Day 4

There’s a saying around here that says ‘whatever you need the Camino will provide’ and it does. Of course you have to ignore the DOMS in your legs, the old injuries that you WILL feel and the heat rash or whatever it is on your feet! Oh and you must be good with the squat … don’t worry a tree to hide behind or a path to scurry down will appear. Oh but how I’m loving all of it.

Days on the Camino – 4

Kms – kms today 30 kms. Total is around 85kms (all the maps are different). I’m still blister free but I have some weird kind of heat rash (I think) on my feet, not itchy or bothering me.

Starting point today – Larrosoaña, Spain.

End of the day – Zariquiegui, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,350.00 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’m dedicating to Martha, the super sweet young Danish girl we shared a room with last night. She was providing this past 24 hours … a meal for a fellow pilgrim who arrived late (remember Carol :)) and some expert pack adjustment that saved someone’s upper back a whole lot of wasted load bearing (mine 😉). She’s a special one and I just know this walk is going to make her one courageous and strong young women – even though she already is, she’s here alone hiking the Camino! She’ll know she can do anything after this.

Accommodation – The albergue San Andrés in Zariquiegui is another awesome hostel. It’s €11 per night (shared mixed dorms). The pilgrim meal was $11 with a choice of 3 courses, wine and served at whatever time you want to eat – that’s a first!

Food highlight – Ooh a hard one today … each meal featured the locally grown regional specialty of long peppers. Tonight’s pilgrim meal wins because … a. starving … and b. hiked my guts out today.

In a word(s) – aching and smiling equally, from the inside out – freaking love it.

Yesterday along that route we came across a man handing out brochures for an Albergue in Larrosoaña … guess where we stayed?! And it was the only place in that small town that was serving a meal and the company was excellent – the Camino provided!

At that hostel I heard a man telling his story of why he is on the Camino. There was a butterfly in it and there was an older man from across the seas telling him about synchronicity … I think I heard tears. I won’t share people’s full stories here, these are shared with pilgrims on the Camino. They’re personal and where they should stay. I do hope that man found some peace being provided with the idea of synchronicity.

We’ve now discovered these privately run albergue’s that cost €3 or so per night more than the municipal ones but have a slightly higher comfort level. We’ve also realised that hiking the extra 5 kms further along the route to stay in the small villages provides with accommodation you don’t need to leave once you stop.

The travel aspect of this trip is the walking. Those 7 or so hours I’m spending on my feet wandering through the Spanish towns and countryside. It’s such an unbelievably amazing experience to be breathing fresh air and never knowing what will unfold in that time. We plan the next destination the night before and that has worked well for us. It has provided us with the freedom to stay in today.

Today most of the day was spend walking alongside the river Arga and for the first time we hiked through a city. We laughed out loud when we realised at the traffic lights in Pamplona that as my sister stretched I was busy rehydrating from my water bladder … not standing still! The laughs with my sister have been flowing and that’s providing me with such a great feeling of fortune to be able to share this experience with her.

In the next few days we want to average about 27kms per day. We also know that we want to land, shower, wash our clothes and plonk ourselves down in the afternoons and then not move. It’s our MO. My sister reads, I write, offload my photos and catch up on my One Girl stuff. It’s providing the opportunity for a nice routine. It’s what I wanted to re-invigorate on the Camino – the non negotiable’s in my day.

A lot of socializing happens but I think I hike as I do life .. if it works like last night – great. But mostly I don’t always need it, my sister is similar. Just the same as once we hike beyond where a new friend wants to stop we say good bye and we’re careful not to try and commit to meet ups, the walk takes precedence. Meet ups will happen organically if they work. We’re walking our own walk and there’s a nice feeling of comfort in not compromising what you do and don’t need.

Currently we seem to be on par with the young Germans we started with … we’ll see if our stamina can keep up with those young guns!

Thoughts go through my head while I’m walking but not as many as I’d expect for 7 hours of it! It’s a day’s work. A day that brings, satisfaction, laughter, community and joy in its simplicity. I can’t put it into words yet but a Camino in its routines, space and community feels a lot like an approach to life?!

Writing from Larrasoaña – Day 3

Arriving, unpacking, showering, clothes washing, afternoons to write, ponder the day, share stories and relax, dinner, repack, breakfast, hiking … repeat! That about sums up my days so far on the Camino. Quite routined yet absolutely unpredictable.

Days on the Camino – 3

Kms – 28kms today = 57kms total (blister free).

Starting point today – Roncesvalles, Spain.

End of the day – Larrosoaña, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,295.00 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 Ian! We met some 15 years or so ago sitting in the immigration office in The Netherlands. We can have years without contact but always when our paths and cities collide we eat and we laugh. He has been so supportive of this trek, providing hours of PR work and life support (as required ;)). Since moving to The Netherlands he has been one of my closest confidants and biggest believers even though he lives in France. I love you my dear friend.

Accommodation – The albergue San Nicolás in Larrasoaña is a family run pilgrim hostel. It’s €12 per night, we added a pilgrim dinner here for €11 for the 3 courses. The rooms are female only which is nice.

Food highlight – It definitely wasn’t the breakfast – toasted baguettes that were so toasted I’d call them croutons! We stopped for a lunch break in Zubiri after the first 20kms – a tuna and olive empanada pie highlight hands down👌🏼👌🏼.

In a word(s) – settling in.

The Roncesvalles albergue runs like a well oiled machine. Not quite out of the mountains it sits at an altitude of 950m and is populated by 30 inhabitants! With the help of the Dutch friends of the camino who volunteer at this old monetary, pilgrims are orderly organised in from 2 and out by 8. Wake up music plays through the 200 room dorm speakers at 6.30am.

This morning we tried the pre-ordered breakfast. We had a long day of hiking ahead. We ordered it simply because of the ‘habit’ of sitting down to breakfast while on a holiday and because it was available. Note to future pilgrims walk a little on your way and you’ll find a better cafe and supermarket.

We soon realised that on the Camino sitting down to breakfast is a quick affair. Walking is what we get up to do, however you do you camino. While I carry my pack some opt to forward theirs on with transport to their next accommodation and this gentleman opts for a trolley for his bigger pack! I prefer to carry mine so we can decide on the day or during the walk where we will stop, but I have a time luxury, a strong(ish) back and my age helps.

I also like the idea that it feels like a day’s work! Good old fashioned hard work. Moving my body beyond its comfort zone and making it stronger. There was a time when we all would have moved and carried heavy things. That’s what I’m telling myself ;)

There was a lot of one foot in front of the other today and the ever present friendliness on the trail. I think walking your own pace is important and your own way … but sometimes when you meet someone who’s pace matches and the conversation is good and it works it’s awesome.

I think we’re beginning to build our Camino family. Tonight we caught up with the sprightly one (Carol) and said goodbye as we plan to go further tomorrow. It struck me over dinner as I spoke with Manuel (7th Camino) with his Spanish and my non Spanish how completely surreal this environment is. You know how kids love school camp? I think this is like that and as adults we’ve forgotten how fun school camp was!!

While the routine of how we start and finish the day each step, each climb, each corner brings something new. As we trekked away the snow topped mountains and through the rolling hills of the Navarra region we met the spring. We walked through farms, towns, plains, across rivers as we followed the Camino arrows into the realization that these days with their uniqueness will form something spectacular.

We’re going to try something new tomorrow. We’re opting for an early start with fruit (from the supermarket) to snack as we walk … we’ll stop for coffee at the first town.

The simplicity living with what you need in a pack and this minimal routine provides an ease to make these tweaks. The tweaks that improve the flow of the day, days that lead to weeks, weeks that will form the month – the walk. Each of us here will tweak different things but we will all arrive home tweaked for the better – how could we not.

Buen Camino

Fran x