Tag Archives: reflection

Camino Day 6 – Writing from Santiago de Compostela.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Here I am. Santiago de Compostela. Once again but this time different. This time complete. The final day in a trek that has added over 1,000kms to my legs, sent 28 girls to school and taught me about persistence, belief, charity, honesty, fear, bravery, courage, community (shin splints) and kindness. An adventure that asked me to stand bigger than I’ve stood in many years. An experience that has left a legacy, one that will shape every step I take as I move forward into the next chapter of this long life.

Today started early! We rose at 5.30am to walk through the early hours. After a mammoth 12 hour day yesterday we hoped to avoid this afternoon’s heat. Fortunately I lucked in with another dorm night where I could sleep through. This is no mean feat with at least 15 fellow walkers sharing the room. Thankfully there were no loud snorers or late night shufflers. I also had a bottom bunk and a night without a buddy on the top bunk eases the sleep situation. I’ve grown quite fond of the shared accommodation this camino. I’ve seen it as a personal challenge to be more amongst people. Also as a solo traveller the single rooms are not as affordable as they were when I walked with my sister and shared the cost.

As early leavers we do what is courteous for our fellow ‘roomies’ by taking our packs out of the room to organise them and get ourselves ready. There are a few things I’ve done differently this trip that I think are worth sharing if you’re reading and planning a camino! I have a small 40 litre pack. It’s enough, so much better in fact. The weight is about 5kgs. I have a sleeping sheet instead of a sleeping bag – brilliant. Less clothes, a truckload less toiletries and food wise I have an energy breakfast bar for each morning as well as regular salt stick tablets.

Another beautiful walk that started with hours of darkness. We walked under a sky full of stars, the Milky Way … it was magnificent. There was no need to break our stride looking for the ‘way’ today because it is well marked in reverse from Santa Marina. I’m glad yesterday’s hill is behind us. It’s a nice feeling to know that you took a few extra kms yesterday for today, those 46 kms mean only 43 today! Only – ha ha.

Breda and I walked together to our breakfast stop some 12kms from where we started this morning. It was the village and cafe where I first sat with Christian and wrote in his diary a few days before. It’s funny walking back where you’ve been as the villages already hold moments and memories. Breda and I swapped numbers here and arranged to catch up in Santiago for dinner. While we both like walking together the track is now light and on this last day I think walking alone is calling us both.

It’s quite magical to walk alone. To take the time to relish in being on the camino. To hear the sounds, feel the villages, smell the freshness – to simply be at one with yourself and the landscape. I had that also last time with my sister. We were able to intuitively know when and how to skip into aloneness or perhaps ‘oneness’ is a better description.

There was a great sense of accomplishment building as I walked closer and closer towards Santiago. Always mindful that I hadn’t quite made it … but deep down knowing I would. I felt the warmth of every ‘Buen camino’, ‘Buenos dias’, ‘Buenos Tardes’ … where else in the world will every single person you meet smile and wish you a good day or a good walk? It’s unique and I wonder what the world would be like if this courtesy was practiced daily. Smiles and greetings, no doubt they could change the world.

I’ve walked over 1,000 camino kms and 34 camino days and naturally there have been challenges. But I keep walking and step by step I walk through it or I walk into what I need. It’s a little how I feel about life right now. The stronger we walk the better we get at surrendering to the ‘not knowing’ of what’s to come, through those harder steps life sometimes chucks in our path and into what scares us. Finding trust frees us up. And when we free ourselves we open ourselves to experiencing pure joy and isn’t the experience of joy worthy of learning to surrender.

Casa Pancho: I should have stopped here to eat but I pushed on. I was walking a part of the trail that I had walked in the first few hours of my first day. I was fresh and full of beans then. Today my feet were not so fresh! I didn’t recall that there were steep hills from here and no food stops for another seven or so kms. I had run out of food and water. Luckily I had drunk enough litres and had enough fuel on board but I was silly to walk past a lone cafe when I was feeling the need to refuel. Nevertheless, I walked on …

… And found myself here, in this tiny cafe. The first place I stopped on my way out of Santiago six days before. No signs to warn me I just walked into it with its welcoming grape and kiwi vines. The perfect last stop to have a tortilla and a cold drink before walking the last 12 or so kms into Santiago.

Physically this was the hardest part of the walk as my feet ached with each step but personally it was hugely rewarding. I knew I was nearly there. I was making the most of each step. I felt ready to finish and excited to make it to the cathedral without the trauma of last time’s injuries. I was also excited about this new feeling I was uncovering … that something was ending and creating space for a new beginning. With each step this camino, this hike for one girl was nearing its completion. This last week had given me the opportunity to finish of what I had started so bravely and provided the perfect setting in which to be able to let it go.

When I created this project I was disillusioned with travel and the form in which it’s often shared online. I wanted to know I was contributing to the travel ‘noise’ in a way that was true to her essence, that she gives and we shouldn’t use her to take from or to encourage a world that wants ‘more’ at any cost. Travel, when we become immersed in her with new people, cultures and landscapes usually encourages us to want less, to give more. I think I achieved that. I know sharing the beauty of the camino inspired others to also walk, to dream of reflection and simplicity – to take time in nature and to want to be a part of something that was contributing. We sent 28 girls to school, girls who had more chance of becoming child brides before we stepped in (or up) – that action my friends MATTERS. It matters a great deal. It was a call to action (to protect what’s vulnerable).

I hope it also encourages others to come to this beautiful part of the world and participate in walking across a country! Travel that is sustainable for the environment and for the communities it supports. Travel that you come home from feeling content and with new fresh and challenged perspectives. And lastly by standing for something along the way I hope it helped others to feel they too could be brave, that bravery is not only about hustle and being loud or by insincerely telling others how they should live or what they need at the cost of your own soul. It’s simply about being honest and having the courage to take the action you need to be true to yourself by knowing and standing for what matters to you, no matter how small or big. Tip toeing, stepping or striding forwards.

If something doesn’t ‘feel’ right it probably isn’t. It’s far more courageous to explore your own intention and live your own truth. I think that is bravery not the bullshit we are fed, a lot of that is really just packaged up marketing or the projection of someone else’s needs. Which if you also need – unreal. But if not … it’s extraneous noise getting in the way of living your own real connected life. On the trail it all feels so real … I’m looking to surround myself with even more people like that. People who are living and feeling ‘real’ and standing for something. And I’ll be tuning in with those daily camino’ism type habits that keep me moving in the right direction. Along my path, towards my truth.

Of course just as I was about to walk back into civilization, into what would be the final section of this trail I happened upon this little guy. A cotton tail rabbit. Happily munching away, not frightened of me and contented to let me stand and stare in wonder. Of course if you know me you’ll know that his presence will be taken as a sign. A coincidence of great importance. I don’t believe this bunny is my animal totem but I do believe he was there to celebrate my ending. In a read of rabbit symbolism I know why this rabbit was on my path today. How about you? Are you noticing what’s along your path? And are you taking the time to understand why? Tell me a story if you have one to share.

And then in one unexpected second this gloriousness happened. I walked up from the forest track and into a view of the cathedral of Santiago. It was one of the most surreal experiences. When you arrive in Santiago from the other more popular way you don’t see the cathedral. I was nearly there. For the last few kms I started to undo all the plans I had for arriving and decided to just go to the cathedral and sit in the square (plaza). No, I wouldn’t check in, shower and do things in any order, I’d simply arrive.

How did it pan out? Well I ran into Helen within two minutes of hitting the square. Helen is the Dutch lady I met who flew in on the same plane. We took a photo for each other. I lined up on my sore feet in my stinky hiking gear at the pilgrim’s office to get my compostella and guess who walked in? Breda of course :) after getting our pieces of paper we bought a beer and sat on the plaza together to drink it. Naturally we’d do that! She’s Irish and I’m an Aussie and a beer signals a hard day’s or in our case week’s work. It was pretty amazing to sit in the square for a while. Sure I was tired, sore and smelly but I was also contented and in the mood to linger in the moment. We talked to fellow pilgrims and met a couple who had walked twice a year for three years to finally make their way along the camino Frances into Santiago. Every story is different, but everyone has one.

This trip was a bit about me being open to people and while I quietly harbored the desire to hibernate in my hotel room, I decided to go out and share a meal with Breta to celebrate finishing. I’m glad I did as again we met pilgrims with stories. A man (72) who just walked his first camino. He plans to do one a year ‘why not’ he says ‘I can still walk’. Why not indeed?!

There’s more I could write about my camino but then I’d never get this published! Do know I ate Santiago tart for breakfast (yum) … and I did run into Helen again at the airport (camino community and coincidence are always around the next corner). And we all know I’ve been back over a week now and am actually already living in the next chapter of my story (I’m keen to live in that, many unknowns but I’m sure it’s going to be a good one).

My camino Frances is over but don’t for a minute think I’m not on the camino. Don’t for a minute think you’re not on the camino either … every step we take is along our very own personal camino, our walk through life. What a privilege. I’m trying to not waste too many seconds by not remembering that – it goes fast, gosh my kids are growing. And boy do I love being a part of and awake enough to be sharing and present in that.

Again it’s time to say buen camino dear friends. Thank you from the depths of my heart for all the support and donations along the way and a special thanks to Sherilyn for the painting you did for me. I received it at the airport and have been profoundly moved by your sentiment. Of course Sherilyn I also see this as a great coincidence as it came at exactly the right time. And I want you to know that it was the moment that officially finished this last leg of my Camino Frances (hike for One Girl), the moment it all made sense. Thank you for creating an artwork (a gift) that helped me realise the importance of being proud and aware of the legacy I will leave for my children. That my life will stand for something important because I stare at the things that didn’t sit right inside and answer the call. That’s my personal truth and I will continue to build on that … for now by remaining close to home. The equinox has blown in and her timing is quite perfect. Time now to do small things with BIG love. But we know it’s the small, simple things done with love that are really the big, brave things don’t we ;)

Talk soon.

Fran xx

Camino Day 3 – Writing from Finisterre.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

And here I am! Finisterre. Where the Roman’s considered the world to end. If you see a sunset here and you’ll understand why. This final leg that had taken me across the country! I’ve literally walked across Spain.

I hiked out early under the moonlight! It was something … spectacular. It was much darker than yesterday and I may have walked a bit slower knowing there was a pilgrim with a head torch 200 metres behind. Walking in the month where daylight savings is ending – a head torch is definitely worth packing.

BUT! So you know I practice what I preach … I stood at a crossroad this morning. Finisterre to the left and Muxia to the right. I will hike to both this trip so the order didn’t matter. The ‘head torch’ pilgrim was going to Muxia. Do I take the scarier path on my own in the dark or do I follow the head torch? I nearly followed the torch and then I turned walked my own walk. Fear did not make my decision. I think when your ‘adulting’ you need to know when fear is stealing your freedom. Somewhere along the way we get some conditioning and it’s nice to stare in the face and consider if we need it. (Fear of security, change, image, failing, control, trust ya da ya da.)

I walked 15kms without a soul in sight until I hit the town of Cee where I stopped for breakfast. It’s quite something this contrast on the camino – to walk hours through the country side and then all of a sudden to be wandering through a charming village. How about those bench seat tiles!

At the 28km or so mark there she was … the ocean. Staying on the path was not a consideration, not for me and not for any pilgrim walking the camino. Zero consideration was given … taking your shoes off to walk with your feet in the water was instinctive. A celebration of feeling alive and connected with nature. Did I even mention pagans once walked here to worship.

Ok so for those of you who love the people I meet along the way story … here you go. Once in Finisterre I found a bed at an albergue. I have to say (and there’s a photo up there, it’s dark I just took it) this is a luxury. That’s my bed with the light. Each bed has its own light, power supply and locker. Also sheets, a towel and a doona are supplied. No chance of bed bugs here. And all for €13 per night.

Sorry digressing. After securing a bed I walked in to get my Finisterre Compostela and who do you think I saw? Yes, you’re correct – Christian. We had a beer and and chat about our walk. He hadn’t yet found someone to write in his diary. And then … Jisca walked past. She was the French lady from the pilgrim meal at A Pena. She joined us and of course wrote in the diary.

Eventually a German girl from the next table also joined and also wrote in the diary! And then three super interesting Portuguese women sitting at the table behind us joined the conversation. They had just completed a different camino – the primitive way. I WISH I’d hiked a day with these adventurous women! There are some people you meet that you wish lived in your hood or that you’d see on the trail the next day so you could talk more. These three were those people.

I watched the sunset on today across the Atlantic. For many that sunset signifies the end of the camino. Not yet for me … I’m only halfway. Tomorrow I’m meeting Jisca early to begin walking to Muxia together. She started her camino in Paris seven years ago and each year she does a little more. She also speaks a number of languages, I don’t know much about her but I like that we ran into each other again … I’m interested to hear some of her stories. Tomorrow.

Buen camino friends,

Fran xx

Camino Day 1 – Writing from Alto da Pena.

Hola Amigos!

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Oh my what a start!

I am so glad many of you are back again reading along and joining me on this adventure to continue where I left off. So today … today I was thinking about how exciting beginnings are and the anticipation of great things happening. And then I thought as I climbed a hill and my heart was beating and my head was sweaty (you know that hair clumpy, humid, sticky feeling, can I smell myself crap I’ll defo have to shower don’t stand near me kind of sweat) this IS greatness. GREATNESS is living. And all of this is enough, where I am, what I’m doing, the people in my life. I have enough. So everything else – is all a bonus. And the second thought I had was that SO much time gets wasted because we are looking for something … that most of us already have and we have it IN abundance. Freedom. Freedom to choose trust over fear. JOMO over FOMO.

Sure BIG cool things happen like getting accepted into a Masters, yep that happened yesterday (still not sure if I’m going to do it). And getting some of the kindest messages from people who read your stuff – really read, read because they love what you write, they get you, yep that also happened. And then there’s your daughter biking to the station with you and telling you she’s proud that you’re wearing a school dress and isn’t embarrassed of you because she thinks you’re doing ‘cool stuff’. And the big fear you had of being noticed in a dress is actually more liberating than awkward! Yes friends the heart beating, the sweat, the kindness, the love and the liberation of doing my own thing, my own way that is GREATNESS. And it’s freedom – freedom from fear.

Right I guess you want to hear about the camino. Oh wow – I love it. You probably all know by now that my mate Frank the Tank missed his flight yesterday. That was a complete bummer because you know how much we enjoyed walking the camino with those Texan Crackers! But it happened so it has became a solo adventure and I’m ok with that challenge. I’m good with hiking alone and now I won’t be able to rely on having a friend to hide behind. I’ll have to be there … at night with all the people at the pilgrim meal. Plus I’ll convince him to do a hard one like TMB with me!

I spent the first night in Santiago. I’m not gonna lie I was a little out of place. Generally, people here have just finished their camino they’re in a different space to a new arrival. I stayed at an old monastery I had pre booked for €17 a night and it was kind of spooky and lacking in that feeling of ‘connected’ walkers. I had a single room and wondered if I should have booked the dorm. Dinner was a few bits from the supermarket. I ate as I people watched in the canteen. I can happily report I did sleep!

I needed to find a map last night as I wasn’t sure how to get myself on the camino today. After a nice sleep in (8.30am) I set off to begin my first leg of this hike the Camino Finisterre. I managed to find the trail and enjoyed walking the first 12kms to cafe for my morning coffee. This was a favourite camino habit from last time. I must take it on board at home. Rather than a coffee when I wake – move first! The Galician countryside is like walking through a ‘move to rural Spain’ travel memoir. I could see all the characters come to life as I walked.

I had spent a bit of time wondering how far to walk … how will I know when to stop? How do I fit in 240kms in six days? I decided I’d just walk … walk until I was ready to stop. And what do you know it worked … I actually felt the need for lunch. So I stopped. I ended up in a bar with old men and the only thing on offer a bacon sandwich but hey I’m not gonna go chasing … I’m going to roll! And it was all I needed. The half I couldn’t eat was wrapped as a take away and after a 1/2 hour rest of the feet I was ready to walk on towards the unknown.

Last night I felt like a stranger rolling up in town whereas today I was among fellow pilgrims and hikers on the camino. I walked solo. There were people on the trails but not so many. I enjoyed being in my own company and giving time to the how and what this camino is for me. I had a brief chat with Skye from Canada. I wasn’t sure where I’d stop … and at the 28km mark (same as last time) I felt ready. So when I reached A Pena I decided to take a bed at the first albergue. I’m in a dorm of four (€12) and I sat at the pilgrim meal (€9 three courses) amongst Italians, French and of course a friendly German.

I feel a sense of home here on the camino. I think most people who have walked it do. Many return. All are changed. I’m glad I’m back for whatever greatness unfolds especially hearing the trees who in the Galician winds with their huge bendy boughs talk. Truth.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran xx

Summer Camper Trip – Hossegor, France.

‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ ~ Albert Einstein

This is the choice. It’s what kids do when left to their own devices. And if it’s one thing this trip has reminded me of it’s this. Living with optimism and honest appreciation is a luxury most of us can enjoy if we choose to. When I get home … this is what I’ll be protecting with new boundaries and by setting limits. My right to live in a world of everyday miracles. I’ll be following acts and conversations of kindness not competition. Bird song not pity song. Creativity not greed. Compassion not self interest. Today not last year or next year. Taking action to grow by planting. Out with some old ways to make room for some new … ya da ya da. Life’s just too short to waste on the bullshit things.

A lot of the confusion I felt after walking the camino has found its place. On many levels I know where I’m going, I don’t know where I’ll end up but I’m completely ok with that. I’m comfortable. Walking the walk each day with purpose towards the destination (some goals I’ve set myself). Goals that came from throwing some fears, honesty and vulnerability out to the wind. By shedding some layers, looking in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions. It’s true what they say, the camino starts when you finish … but like any major life event/tradition/change it takes time to process, time to feel. I’ve had a few this past year! Finishing long term travel, my littlest starting school, the culture shock of moving a family abroad, !walking the 800km camino Frances. Phew! What a year. Yes a quiet year in my nest sounds like a plan.

There is a time when it feels like our whole life is a head of us and one day you realise there’s a lot behind too. This trip has left some wonderful behinds, no regrets. Hand holding, food sharing, laughs, adventuring, playing, reading, marveling, singing, closeness, bonding – memories and connection. It’s also been slow and long – a holiday that filled with white space. Space that has given all of us the precious and luxurious gift of time. Time where thoughts have had space to be hung out soaking wet with enough air and wind to dry. Time to be in our relationships and on our own – just us, just them, just me. Presence.

The last of our long stops has been in Hossegor on the SW coast of France. We are returning after spending Z’s birthday here last year. Within walking distance of the surf vibe town we’ve spent three nights and four full days here (€12 per night, no power). I could see us spending an entire summer here one year, perhaps the next one. It reminds me a lot of the summers we spent camping in Barwon Heads before leaving Australia for this European sabbatical.

We could live our camp style life (especially for kids) and enjoy the ease of having a town close by. These days I even need to share the mussels … it appears all the kids are getting gamer. We learnt a good food lesson … where you eat in France matters. We had some shocking meals last year contrary to the romantic notion of French food. It’s not all good – do read google reviews. This year we were not disappointed. So in amongst this trip we found some tradition amongst our traditional ‘off the grid’ kind of summer. A return to a place we all love. This time we played on the river with our SUP. We’re all getting quite hooked on the SUP’ing which is a good thing. At home we’re surrounded by water and it can become a home hobby too. In fact I’m quite looking forward to seeing my village from the water and the idea of my teenager hopping on his bike to go SUP.

And in case you were wondering … YES I DID (we all did). Chop chop! I shed the heaviness of the lochs and it feels quite symbolic. I’ve also managed to drop a fair bit of heaviness and confusion that I’ve been carrying of late – out here in the wilderness, on this camino of ours. Indeed start with the head Paula ;). Next the cheese weight ;)

Buen camino friends, I truly hope you’re well. Are you ok?

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Greg noticed some teenagers emptying the facilities ‘shitter’ for their family’s camper and commented that they were his little heroes. To which our nearly fourteen year old replied … ‘I’m going to empty the shitter, I’m your little hero’. And he did as the nearly nine year old filled the water. He’s been emptying it ever since. Helping, contributing, learning to be self sufficient – all important. And no we don’t give him pocket money to do it helping out is a normal behavior to cultivate in family life, yes? One which gives an intrinsic reward.

That’s a wrap – I’m officially moving forward!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 28/28

Recipe: Be exhilarated by the challenge

I didn’t quite write every day, oops I lost it at day 16 (my sister arrived to visit and she took precedence) … but never mind the challenge was a success. While writing always gives me time and space to reflect, one also needs time and space for action and living. After my post adventure camino lull I managed to pull up my socks, lace up my shoes and get back on my way. It took 28 days of adventures on my bike with food and connection at the centre but yes I’m moving again – with purpose. My time on the camino certainly still lives on in my days.

Simple Camino’isms:

Move.

Walk each day with purpose.

Keep it simple, we have enough.

Don’t be afraid to walk your own way.

Keep simple routines with flexibility.

Notice with all your senses.

Value people.

Value yourself.

Pull back and push forward as you need.

Allow the big questions time to unfold – they will.

Life is motion – it will move even if we’re not ready. There will always be highs and lows, joys and sorrows, boring and exciting times, beginnings and endings. But what a gift – that we get to live it. And how wonderfully exhilarating to be connected to every part; the people, the food, the environment, our curiosities, feelings and dreams – the stuff of life.

See you from the road friends … we’re currently winding our way along the motorway. Yes, we’re back in the camper for the summer.

Buen camino,

Fran