Tag Archives: reflection

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 Villafranca – Day 10

25-04-2018I’m not here on a journey to find myself nor am I here to make a big decision. Inevitably I will make some decisions and find more of myself. How can I not? Walking each day, pushing a little more into my comfort zones stepping into the stillness and calm of the landscape as I step closer to Santiago and educating a class of 25 girls in Africa.

Days on the Camino – 10

Kms – Today 29 kms. Our total is now around 260 kms.

Starting point today – Grañón, Spain.

End of the day – Villafranca, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 20

Total funds raised so far $6,030.00. 

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 – The anonymous donaters! The last of which from Santiago (I might know who you are ;)) just lifted us up to 20 girls who can educated next year. I am so grateful to your quiet support. I like to do a thank you because your contributions are so generous and I am so very grateful. It honestly makes this walk so much more meaningful. I don’t know who you are. But here I can say it – THANK YOU for your BIG love. I hope you read here and can take this big hug.

Accommodation – We’ve taken the leap back into dorms. Landing in Villafranca in a €9 room at San Antón Abad. A pilgrim albergue built by an owner who walked the camino and wanted to give back. There is a room with single beds which I think you can pre book so do that! It’s the first time we’ve arrived and it was busy. There’s a 12km walk from here with no towns so I imagine it’s the last town to stop if you’re at your limit.

Food highlight – It has to be pinchos for the second breaky right? As usual we walk once we’re packed and we eat fruit on the way. Normally our second breaky with coffee is at the 8km mark … with closed towns we had to wait until the 15km mark today.

In a word(s) – I’m not coasting here or in life anymore.

This morning as I gazed over the green hills and took deep breaths of fresh countryside air I had this feeling that I’m awake in my life. Not just because I can feel my feet, knees, hips, legs and shoulders at different intervals throughout the days. But because here I stare in the face of my comfort zones.

The physical push is not the biggest challenge for me. It hurts but I can move through that … I almost enjoy that. The biggest challenge for me is being an introvert in what can be quite a social environment. From what I see the social aspect is what most people enjoy the most and sometimes expect that everyone is the same.

Last night I was worried that maybe I needed to delve more into that, try harder. Today we are back in a hostel (after recovering from the bed bug incident) and I realise that I don’t. I’m happy being around the action but I don’t need to be in the action. I can quietly sit it out in my own space amongst the crowd. I’m the kind of person who meets people slowly and we are, some brilliant people (I’ll tell you about them tomorrow).

This blog writing has been a helpful boundary … after the shower, the San Miguel and the sandals are on I start working on this. Writing each day is also pushing me out of my comfort zone. I love that I’m documenting my trip here for you and for me. For this One Girl story. It will be lost otherwise … I can’t write retrospectively and ultimately my purpose here is to hike for One Girl.

Today in that stillness I realised that I don’t want to waste a second of this valuable life of mine. I want to face my comfort zones rather than coast. So as I walk I’m thinking about this … what do I want or need to learn? Which comfort zones are the ones that are going to make a meaningful difference to my life? The world is big and in my small world I have much still to do.

Buen Camino,

Fran x x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘When you feel it take your breath away

Just keep walking towards it anyway

Because life is a leap of faith’

~Sia lyrics from Leap of Faith

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

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

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

Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Frances Antonia

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

How to be accountable? What to write? Either be living your best life or get bored.

It’s something we all struggle with from time to time us bloggie types.

It’s not all this blogger struggles with. There’s discipline, routine and self doubt! Gosh it’s a wonder I ever get a blog post written.

Today my friend Annette of I give you the words wrote piece that I loved reading. On her way to 50 she’s writing a post a day. That’s a post a day till I hit the Camino. My friend Rory also wrote about the difference a year makes when you find some motivation.

I’m no stranger to how different one year to the next can look. I used to have a house full of stuff, I lived on a different continent, I’d never taken a serious photo, I owned a car, I’d never been on a public forum or had a social media account, never written anything other than essays at uni and all that was just a few years ago!

This year I’ve struggled a bit with motivating myself. I don’t have anything to declutter, my garden isn’t growing, my kitchen isn’t productive, there isn’t a scoby or a kaffir grain, heck there isn’t even a sour dough starter on my bench. Settling after long term travel, planting roots in a new country has had its challenges. I’m not good at writing about negatives so where is my fodder for inspiration? I’m not doing a great deal of little interesting things with my time (there was a difficult situation that sucked a bit, no a lot of my energy but that’s for another story).

Perhaps I’ve taken slow living too far, it certainly feels a little slow around these parts, can that be a thing? Yes, I’ve walked a load and I have this super exciting Camino for One Girl coming up but how many training hikes do you want to read about? We are all more than one dimension. You know I can’t do instructional posts. Shoes on, open door, walk. See really not my thing!

I’m not yet feeling settled in my days, in this new life and I haven’t found my groove. I am very happy and appreciate to be here of course but I need to work on that feeling home feeling. There is an upside to feeling unsettled! Boredom has served it’s purpose and here I am lining up my ducks, finding somewhere to land. Calling myself to action.

What Annette reminded me was that it matters that I write. It matters to me. I don’t need to produce anything … I don’t have to write a book and blogging will never pay me but I do have to show up. Here. Yes, I need to continue showing up here. Playing around, following what makes me curious, changing up what doesn’t work, allowing my writing about life to evolve in whatever direction the wind is blowing me at the time.

Rory reminded me to give myself permission that it’s ok to want something more. All my kids are at school now and I admit I do want something more. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I need more … the days are long on my own. I have the space to create something. I don’t think this bloggie place will provide that opportunity. But it will provide the place to write myself into an opportunity and a more grounded daily life.

A blog or a journal is a place to lay it out. To slowly grow something through words. Something you ask. What something? In my experience a direction, a flow, a community, an investment in one’s self. Taking the time to examine and share takes guts … guts makes you stronger and from there things happen. Then the right people start turning up.

For me blogging can be a place where thinking out loud and documenting creates the foundations for something grand. A grand adventure in everyday life. A journey of sorts. An exploration from what’s in here to what’s out there. The impetus to get stuff off the ground or out of my head and into my life.

Ok Annette I’m with you. Let me combine my love of travel, nature, adventure, history, the simple life and photography with some non-exhaustive writing. Something good for me and if reflective words are your thing, also for you lot. And Rory, you’re damn right. One year is a long time. I have a year till 1-4-2019 and I want to make something and to be somewhere else professionally.

Poetry. I’m going to write us some poetry. Not to become a poet but to find my way forward.

In my life I’ve written 3 poems (the third one today, it’s published below). It’s been on my mind to dabble in it. My dad has an unexplored talent and there’s an Aunt also – they are both wanderers too. I have a suspicion that wandering, observing and reflecting lend themselves to poetry writing.

Where do I start? Who should I read? Can a rebel take on something with rules? Any blogs I should follow? Let’s see shall we.

Today’s poem, titled Daffodil was inspired by my morning walk as we mini break this Easter in London. London in Spring is spectacularly refreshing. The photos in this post all come from this morning’s wander. I even shared it on my IG because I’m not going to be afraid of putting myself in the ring. If we don’t try, nothing will ever change right? Going live keeps me accountable – now to find the discipline and routine …. something for me to play with during the long days of substitute teaching perhaps?

Did you know the Daffodil comes from the genus Narcissus. A word from Greek mythology. Narcissus quite taken with his own image leant into a pool to take a closer look at his reflection. He fell in, drowned and turned into a flower. Poor Narcissus. I also coincidentally read The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) this week speaking of tragic stories of narcissistic young men.

Eeek, I don’t want too stare to hard at my reflection … or think too long about my reflecting – I don’t want to drown. Yes, something positive must be the fruit of reflection.

It was the Romans who brought the daffodil to England. And now this delightful flower, humble in its needs is the joyous sign of the impending spring.

So here is my poem for the week. The first installment of my non-exhaustive writing challenge:

Daffodil.

Gently arriving to restore the poetry of spring to our days.

A prelude to the promise of long days and warmth from the sun’s rays.

Inviting the end to the harshness of winter’s final haze.

Magnificent daffodil inspiring more than a lingering gaze.

~ Frances Antonia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

Do you want to hike for one girl too? Join us here on the women who hike team.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship