Tag Archives: Micro Adventures

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

Hola friends,

Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.

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

Stage Two: Maarn to Rhenen – 25kms.

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

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

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

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

Serendipity– when someone accidentally finds something good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buen Camino friends! I’ve missed you.

Fran xx

Create your own magic

Dia dhuit,

As the days become shorter and the air crisper there is a new constant in my days. Di luna. Yes, her majesty – the moon. (ps the clip above provides a good background sound to this post). Now I don’t profess to know much about the moon I rely on others to tell me where she is, what she’s doing and what that means for me. But, I do know this – if you’re looking for something magical to happen in your life you could start there. Start with the moon. Dance in her light. Charge with her energy.

Di Luna, she is there when I wake and long before I go to sleep at night as we move into the darker months here. Her lunar phases unfolding before my eyes week by week as I cycle my children to their evening sport practice. Soon we will also be riding to school under the light of the moon.

The moon – something we can take for granted in our increasingly noisy, blamey, scared entitled plastic world. Glory we can forget to notice … and yet I think we are screaming for the kind of magic the moon gives us. There’s something mystical and soothing about being in the presence of the moon. Wiser, greater and more precious than anything the mall or the memes can sell us. Peace. She can of course be a bit scary in all her glory … asking us to stand honestly in her presence. Honesty isn’t always easy amongst rush, noise and plastic. Unsure? Let the moon guide you – that’s where you’ll find wild adventure and an escape or break from fake. Keep it wild from where we stand 101 friends.

Both the moon and a special moon (knowing) friend have been orbiting in my world the past few years, (there’s a pun for the week for you Annette) and I believe they have been slowly giving me clues to help find magic. A deep magic. As much as I love Harry Potter I know we can’t really shake a wand and make something happen … we need to be a part of making it happen.

Isn’t it wonderful though to be able to drift into fantasy. Fantasy reminds us of the value of magic. Perhaps indulging in fantasy takes us closer to our reality? Perhaps there is more of a fine line between the two than we realise? Magic happens when we bravely step into life seeking to believe there is meaning beyond the rush, noise and the plastic.

I truly believe we can learn about life and ourselves in the company of the moon (all nature really but I’m currently in a moon phase). Along the camino, particularly my last one in September I walked most mornings under the moonlight. It taught me a lot about fear and as scary as it was it was also exhilarating.

This week I took myself out running and misjudged the sunset. Again, I found myself alone in the moonlight. We live in a world where solace is not often sought amongst the seasons nor the elements. We seek only to be comfortable and to control them. And yet every time I loosen my grip, trust what’s uncomfortable and unknown and step into solitude in nature I begin to uncover more of what’s true.

During my run I discovered where the my magic will come from this winter. I’ll be making my own illuminated by the moonlight . Perhaps she’ll help me refine those wild truths my old friend, the courageously daring feeling wind shook up these past few winters.

Ag siúl go maith,

Fran x

PS My first half marathon starts at midnight – yep it’s a night run, ironic that!

Summer Camper Trip – The White Cliffs of Dover, France.

The home run!

We left the potato farm we camped on last night to begin the last drive home through Belgium. On the way out we were excited to be able to see The White Cliffs of Dover. I realise I haven’t described these towns and the people that live in them in these blog posts but I’ve been profoundly shifted by them – it’s been a reflective writing period. Typical of a long holiday in that it started full of excitement, then weaved it’s way into the deeper life stuff and towards the end into the promise and resolution towards life at home beyond the experience. Travel drives, shapes and guides me. It always has – blame the novaturient in my DNA. But I’m also a nester and this 15 kgs of potatoes we just picked up (out of a vending machine, not kidding) will be potato rosti, roast potatoes, potato soup, mash for days! And the feels of France will live on.

Here are some snaps from the passenger seat this morning. I hope my photos along this journey have given you what my words haven’t – how absolutely beautiful the life, cultures, traditions, languages and landscapes along these French and Spanish coastlines are. The first shot is England from France and those white cliffs.

Along the way we also stopped for an overnight at Lac Marin which become two nights because let’s face it – why not! Campering in a motor home park at €10 pn and 100m from the lake. See Louie with the SUP on his back (packs down small eh) … it’s a family affair this sipping business.

I got chatting to a Spanish family at the Lac and what started as a brief chat turned into a long one. They even gave us the address of where they were staying in case we needed anything. It reminded me of a favourite passage from driving over lemons where the author talked about changing it up in your midlife – moving, learning a language, learning a new skill, trying something new … whatever! Just living you know, being interested and interesting not existing. No matter how hard this year has been (the re-settling) one thing I feel is alive in my life – not bored.

I’m not a shopper (hate it) and the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings and a necklace Greg bought me when I was pregnant with Lucas with three rings … when we though three was it ;). Where would we be without Jimmy – no, four was definitely our number (and I love babies, naturally, I’m midwife). Anyways back to my splurging (on myself) some delicate hand made bracelets a style I’ve been loving for a long, long time and some red symbolic beads. Remember that thought I had back at the Picos. The one about being busy with our hands? That’s what the beads are for. To remind me. Our hands are the key … want to write a book, write. Want to give up wine or coffee, don’t hold a glass, cup. Want to read, hold a book, want to run do your laces up, want to paint push a brush in your hand, want less of the marketing … press unfollow, unsubscribe, worried about your health pick up the phone make the appointment …. yes what we do with our hands matters. There will always be another excuse about ‘why not now’ another tired day, another party, someone, something to blame, another story we tell ourselves about why not, but really there only is right now.

So as the little and big Vegemite’s unplugged the power for the last time this trip I bid you farewell from the Summer Camper Trip. I hope if you’ve followed along you’ve perhaps found something of value in my musings. I sure have in writing them. And in the spirit of sharing one more book and a story about putting stuff vulnerably out there and the answer finding you here’s one.

The Barefoot Investor

It’s Aussie centric but wow did it answer some questions for me. I come from a frugal background and obviously we’ve had to save and plan for this sabbatical (living in a 2br with all kids in one bedroom, selling stuff, adjusting wants etc). We bought ourselves some time out by forgoing other things. Recently the reality of getting older and the question of ‘is our super ok’ hit me. When I wrote about that after the camino I felt nervous sharing it, was it to personal? But it put the question firmly on my radar. And, my super is ok … I found the answers and the guide I needed in this book. Well not mine we’ve only had one real long term income so ours. I know it breaks all the rules and I am that women who without a career and by chosing home as hers and has ended up relatively ‘superless’, but I trust my marriage. And it’s not to late to start adding some and forward planning. I read this book in full yesterday that came recommended to me after wondering about super. It’s not about spreadsheeting – man I can’t live like that but it’s a practical plan and a way to think about your finances. We’ve been harvesting for a while but now it’s time to get back to the growing … Scott has really made it simple to understand. So if you’re like me overwhelmed with the information out there but committed to living within your means and wanting financial security with the good life life along side that, this book is awesome. Wise and wild right.

Buen Camino dear hearts! The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the camino (next week, next month) indulging my wayfarer soul. Maybe?! I haven’t decided if I’ll blog it yet. But can I share that as we drove through Calais this morning where for many years refugees have lived in camps it hit me how important my One Girl volunteer work is. The educations we provide these girls gives them the chance of creating a life for themselves and their families where they are and it gives them dignity and hope. Life giving stuff.

Fran xxx

Camper tips:

Total accommodation spend: €403 – 38 nights (€185 was the four nts in a caravan park I wouldn’t do that again). We don’t own a car (we use bikes and train and a green car on the odd occasion we need it) so we consider the cost of hiring the van covered by what we save in petrol, registration and insurance.

If you want to do it! Do it! If you can’t yet – plan. Practice – go camping. Get outside as often as you can, walk amongst trees, along the sand and in the mountains. Connect with yourself, your life, your family and nature – and watch the magic unfold.

Oh and an egg in bread is an excellent 11pm dinner when you’ve driven into the night.

If you have any camper questions please ask in comments.

Summer Camper Trip – Cabo Ortegal, Spain.

One holiday. So much variation.

What would a wild adventure be without feeling exposed and humbled? When you travel in what is effectively a tin shed, you can be sure you’re going to feel the extremes. And naturally a dip in the extremes suits me – given that I like to feel my way through things. Except the heat. I struggle in extreme heat and I especially struggle in heat, in a tin shed. Hence the Nth Coast of Spain, far better climate that the Sth for summer.

I knew we were going to be in for a treat along this coastline. It’s not remote but it is the path less travelled. It’s certainly not luxury and the beauty of that means it’s often ours alone … even during the European summer. The deeper we travel into Galicia the wilder it becomes.

The Cabo (point) Ortegal took me back to the time we parked in the camper on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Back then I remember wondering if the camper would blow over on account of the wind and was I being irresponsible as a parent. I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep that night in Ireland. How times have changed! Obviously I wouldn’t Camper in a storm or wind warning but to feel the ferocity of wind is to know you’re alive! Especially when you can cosy up with a hot chocolate afterwards.

The wind holds a lot of spiritual meaning to me. It scares me less to stand in the wind and be exposed than to slowly wither under the pretext of safety. This camper stop was a rugged one – a stopover in turbulence. A time to feel humbled by just how big the world is. And to harness a little of that wind spirit into my bones. I’ll need it for my re-entry back into life off the road to help with the culture shock!

A midnight walk to the light house with my oldest was spooky … seriously spooky. I haven’t felt spooked in years. This rugged coast where ships have been wrecked must surely have its stories. Add the howling wind with absolute pitch black darkness and sure I’m imagining ghosts (I don’t actually believe in ghosts)!!

It was a stop where we taught the kids how to play charades. A game that lasted into the early hours of the morning and will go down in my memory bank as one of the best nights of the trip. Dinner was a frittata. The classic use what’s left over in the fridge dish. Abuela’s flowers are still traveling with us, love on the table. And not only was I graced by my friend the wind … but I woke to mountain goats outside my window.

My friend Paula sent me this:

I FOUND THIS – mountain goat symbolism is letting you know that this is a time to begin new climbs and new endeavors. You must also plan your course and take your time. In other words, look closely at what is ahead so that you can be surefooted along your course. Similar to the rat Mountain Goat meaning is also be letting you know that it is time to stretch yourself. Therefore, reach for new, and higher goals.’

Thanks Paula – I loved it! I love for this kind of kind, meaningful stuff. Yes this is the stuff I want to collect. xx

Actually did I tell you the story about Sydney … the first day I moved there and we moved into a house that had a rat? A massive rat. I didn’t feel the same way about that rat as these goats, I actually never went downstairs at night – truly! But … I did begin the journey there that brought us here. Perhaps the rat was there as a catalyst. I am a hippie at heart.

So onward after a night of turbulent winds … towards something calmer. Where, logistically? We’re not sure so we’ll simply start the drive. Where, personally? Out of the wind for a while … to secure my footing, but I am looking closely and getting ready. Just as if I were to climb a rock face behind the scenes I’m securing the anchor points to steady the climb.

Onward. Upward. Forward.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Enjoy the beauty of simplicity … using a wine bottle as a vase. A corner that makes you smile because it’s homey! Reminding your oldest son to give you a kiss on the cheek without being shy! And getting the littlest to remind him to put some effort into it. The extra ‘I love you’s’ that are met with ‘I love you too’s’ because as the trip goes on you will have more and more of these moments as you become tighter. And as the trip goes on you get closer to going home so sink in as deep as you possibly can. You will be changed and connected by this trip.

Summer Camper Trip – Foz, Spain.

What is it they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Foz was beautiful. Not classically. Not in an eye popping with wonder every where you look type way. In a presence kind of way. Galicia was my favorite region walking the camino. It can be wild, rugged, overgrown and rundown but baby it’s ALIVE. It’s a region of growers and makers with green pastures and buildings of past eras. It’s not for everyone I’m sure. But I love these ancient Celtic lands with her wind spirit that mesmerizes and opens me in the way Ireland also did.

Towards the end of the school year I became friendly with one of the mums at school who is Spanish. She mentioned to me they were going to be in Foz and encouraged me to stop by if we were passing. The timing worked in more ways than simply hitting this part of Spain at the same time. The joy of synchronicity was ever present in this stop.

We planned to stay in an Aire (a motor home park) for the first two nights. A €13 (with power) and washing machines kind of place. It wasn’t particularly inspiring but we could see the beach, the kids could run and I would cry as my back became unbearable. I knew it was muscular but obviously when something gets worse in a foreign country it starts to gets a bit unnerving. I messaged my friend who replied straight away saying her sister was a Dr and they’d pop over. Can you believe it? A Sunday night house call – in a motorhome park ;). I had since put a disposable hot pack (excellent first aid kit staple) on it and was already feeling a tad better. Turns out it was muscular and I was prescribed some strong ibuprofens which in Spain are easily obtained over the counter. Of course! This is camino country where 600mg of ibuprofen is standard.

The medication worked a treat and the next day I was able to walk into town with Greg and the kids for an unplanned explore. I had envisaged a long lunch – a Galician food feast. I was quite taken with this town. Again not because of its beauty but it’s soul. It’s pride in who it was. A fisherman’s village with a strong, proud community. It’s permanent photo exhibition – ‘the photo albums of our grandparents’. And, when gardens are growing food not manicured lawns – I’m quite sure the world is in a good place!

Did we have a Galician feast? Yes friends we surely did! The kids were super obliging and tried everything … although they did order burgers. It was such a delicious afternoon. I’d rather camp for free and every now and then, indulgently, eat out. I did do something I don’t normally do … I looked at restaurant reviews when it was time for lunch. My sister was adamant about this on the camino and we ate pretty well! In tourist towns it can be easy to get a shit meal. When your traveling with four kids and don’t often eat like this – good food matters (to me anyhow).

My back survived a day of walking and we moved ourselves over to a beach car park – for nada, of course! It was cruisy and relaxed. If you want to beat the Euro crowds in summer … you won’t find them here. Only Spaniards holiday here. In fact we’ve only come a cross a handful of other nationalities. The local baker even drives through with fresh bread at the respectable time of 10am! Just as we’re beginning to rise. We are completely on Spanish time now ;). Living the dream you say … but wait – there’s more!

So you know I’m reading a truckload. Well I just finished Sheila O’Flanagan’s ‘The Hideaway’ set in the province of Alicante in Valencia, Spain. Today I lived my favourite and most heartwarming scenes from the book. My Spanish friend invited us over for a drink at her family’s summer finca (farm). More than sipping local wine it was also a taste of Spanish life. Tortilla de Patatas (gooey and creamy, the BEST ever) & Pimientos de Padrón cooked by abuela herself … all bucketed down from the kitchen. I practiced my Spanish which is basically still single words but I loved the feeling of being embraced by the inherent warmth of a big Spanish familia. I left with two beautiful Hydrangea flowers – gifts from abuela. My favourite flowers.

Yes, a PINCH myself, this JUST happened kind of day and stay in Foz! Perhaps Australia or Ireland won’t be where we find that place to see our our retirement years, the cottage with abundant gardens and horizons for days … perhaps the warmth of Spain is starting to seep into my pores. But … it doesn’t have to happen straight away – the dream can be a dream (in the dream pool with all the others). Life can reflect the values I love about that style of living (even in the city). Omg I’ve changed! I didn’t even look up real estate :) The dream pool is amazing but living in today is amazing’er. It’s a slow built this dream of mine, the one where a book like The Hideaway could be set! And, of course you’d all be welcome the dinner table will always be ready and gardens overflowing.

Buen Camino friends … towards the dramatic coastline with a heart full and a back that is feeling loads better.

Fran xxx

Camper tips!

Make sure you have insulation for the front windows. We didn’t last time. This time, yes! The entire camper is dark until we wake – BONUS helps with Spanish time. And it’s neither freezing nor boiling first thing. A huge difference.