Tag Archives: travel stories

A break from the usual!

Do you remember this photo? It was one of my favourites from the Camino.

‘Sunset over Cape Finisterre.’

To me it paid great homage to the Cape. The sun setting at the end of the Camino almost as if dropping directly into the Atlantic Ocean. A perfect display of why the Romans would have seen this to be the end of the earth. And Celtic music playing in homage to the ancient Celts who worshiped here at their alter to the sun.

Fresh from a weekend in Berlin where one cannot but be inspired by the lively, unapologetic LOVE of all things creative. And a weekend in the company of one of life’s great souls I’ve found myself in somewhat of a creative burst.

‘What is it that I make?’ ‘What can I make?’ ‘And how can I make something with that?’ The things I make come from my experiences with travel. They are photos and words (observations and reflections). Wanders near and far. With no desire to be a travel blogger. I’m genuinely not built for that, not disciplined enough nor am I structured enough in my writing. But I have got to get a little more creative with what I make from my travels! I think my home will be the recipient of this creativity.

Firstly, I entered the above sunset photo in a competition! If you liked it or like it maybe you’d consider liking it in the competition.

You need to click through to here:

https://photocompetition.klm.com/home/galery/id/21843

You can like with FB or email or just like it in your mind – also super cool ;) It’s not about winning but actually about getting some movement with creating and owning my work.

And ps speaking of FB have you seen The Great Hack? It’s a Netflix doco. I don’t have FB maybe you won’t either after watching.

Secondly, I wrote an article about the camino that someone asked me for a year ago! Seriously, I really only respond to callings when all the planets align. There’s definitely been aligning … watch this space ;)

Thirdly, I’m here doing something different. Perhaps a few more small posts may happen, little life tidbits!

And fourthly – I’m going to print an exhibition of my camino photos. I sure am – for my dining room or perhaps my hallway ūü§£!

Ok awesome ones I’ll get back to my bursting! How are you? What is bursting out of you? I think the moon has been sending some pretty awesome creative vibes out across and through the seas. Can you feel it? I am loving everything I see you do on the GRAM, in your private messages, our What’s Ap chats and you know all the places we connect. And if life’s a bit shit for you right now hang in there we’ve got you. Don’t forget to ask us your friends for some company. As my friend Annette says … ‘don’t forget to look up at the sky’, do that, really look there. We can hold your hand that way, through the stars.

Fran x

 

 

Mi Camino. Surrender. Stage five.

 

‚ÄúSurrender means the surrender of your¬†ego.‚ÄĚ Radhanath¬†Swami

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Veirlingsbeek to Meerlo ‚Äď 20kms.

Total kms: 155 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $135

In response to last week’s post a few songs were sung … my friends Paula and Nicole sang:

“Hey Fran – Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek – 50kms … we all have a song to sing … and so do our sisters … so one day we can all sing as one … “

Thank you for enchanting my life you two wild women.

And Lizzy was singing her favourite tune along the Murray River in Corowa with her favourite song¬† … ‘road trips, new vistas, campfires’!

Hope we get to camp together one day Lizzy!

It took a while for me to get stated this morning. Yesterday knackered me. Lucky the B & B served up a euro breakfast. I could drag my ‘getting started’ out just a bit longer.

Not that I am complaining I like to push myself to the edge sometimes … it makes me know I’m alive. I am hungry to know I am alive. Perhaps that is why I find comfort in the extremes. This is something I thought a lot about today, my desire to sit in the extremes, the all or the nothing’ness.

Sleep wasn’t easy to come by last night. It seems staying in a B&B is worse for zz’s than lying amongst the snorers in the Albergue’s. There was the bar fight down below at about 10pm that ended with a car screeching off into the night. And there were the 1am party goers who arrived back and acted like they were the only people on the planet!

For the first time in a long time I didn’t wake desperate to get hiking. Along the camino lights out was generally 10pm and it’s only said snoring that will wake you. Don’t get me wrong that is a massive challenge in itself but at least it is not consciously inconsiderate. I am considering taking a tent on my next over nighter, especially now that the weather is warmer.

You never know who you will meet along a camino, a walk. These are the moments I love. The chance meeting, conversation, serendipitous moment. As I set out I missed a turn off and as a result I had to find my way back onto The Pieterpad.

I walked a way with this local. Everyone in this town had a camino story to tell. The publican told me of two locals who had walked from here (Veirlingsbeek) to Santiago de Compostela. I haven’t done the maths here but I think that is possibly a far longer journey than my one towards Rome. This local, he also had a story. The story of his neighbour.

His neighbours (husband and wife) had planned to walk the camino together. Then one day she died. So what do you think his 65 year old neighbour, let’s call him Kees (a good Dutch name) did? After the funeral Kees packed his back pack and left for Santiago. He left from his front door and he walked for three months until he reached Santiago. I’m guessing Kees walked through his grief and towards the next phase of his life. This story reminded me of why I’m here. It reminded me why I am a long way from home and it reminded me that this is home.

I am here because I don’t want to wait for an opportunity that might not come. I live in the extremes because I am hungry to feel life and to explore, seek, create meaning – whatever it is that you like to call it. I chase the is’ness, the feeling of being amongst something that is alive, the feeling that everything has meaning. And the people I meet along the way … they remind me of this. They are my way markers.

And this is why I am forever walking forward, open to what lays ahead.¬† Every now and then I get a little trapped in my thinking but usually that is because I’m walking backwards or am caught in the immediateness of those who situationally surround my life.

Today as I walked tiredly on I did something I don’t usually do. I stopped half way. I ordered a coffee and I looked up the bus timetable. And then I took the three hour journey home, 25kms short of my planned destination. I decided I would go a little more gently on myself. I would listen to my body. I have a long way to walk with this body of mine and perhaps in challenging my extremeness I could reframe said extremeness.

I would begin to go extremely gentle on myself moving forwards. I would be ok with all the things I don’t get done when I’m in stop mode. I would, perhaps, try to capture the ‘is’ness’ of escaping onto the trail without the physicality. I think this has been alluding me.

I would seek to only live in the currency of what feels right to ensure the path I take is the one for me.

What would that look like? And what would that create space for? Ok, I can tell you that would look like physically … a women with crappy toenails because man I walked hard yesterday. It would also, I imagine, be about finding firmer ground and questioning the ego I stop with and the ego I walk with.

Buen Camino friends,

Fran xx

 

 

 

 

 

Mi Camino. Into the GRIT. Stage four.

‚ÄúMost men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.‚Ä̬†‚ÄstHenry David Thoreau

Do you have a song to sing?

Where does your soul find its song?

I have a song. I’m not sure I’ve sung it yet but I am singing towards it.

On a very recent Saturday morning¬† with a smile from ear to ear I left home (on my bike) for the first of what will become many overnight hikes of my camino from home to Rome. Is it my song? I’m not sure. But definitely, it’s where my song is nurtured and inspired. I think it is where I sing, where my lyrics are formed. Walking amongst the trees in the silence of life. The invisible shield of being one with the birdsong and lullaby of rustling leaves.

(Speaking of lyrics I am listening to the most exquisite song in my headphones and a bit of this as I begin to write this stage of my camino to Rome up, ear phone up if you care to join me.)

 

 

Home to Rome for One Girl Update:

Stage Four: Nijmegen to Veirlingsbeek  Р50kms.

Total kms: 135 kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Total Raised this trek: $85

As always I hiked in my dress! As you know I set this page up as an Ambassador for One Girl. A place to share my hiking and raise awareness for girl’s education. And on that – a few wonderful things to share:

Paula and Nicole two of my hiking sisters from Sydney decided they were going to walk with me and sponsor my walk $1 per km. My mind was blown and gratitude on OVERFLOW. Ladies, I have no expectations here and am happy for my walk and writing to provide good in any form that takes. From the depths of my heart I thank you.

Also, randomly I received a message from Wilderness Wear saying they were sending me some new gear! I decided not to chase any sponsorship this hike.¬† I was deeply touched because I absolutely believe in the ethics of Wilderness Wear gear and am honoured that they want to support me to support One Girl. In the adventure world it is honestly can be a little tough as a mature age women to feel confident to contribute. Imposter syndrome I think they call it. Know it? Anyway … what a boost!

Sometimes I go quietly inwards for a while because I know if I wait grace will always arrive to remind me of where my song is. And it did. So with that, this little story of mine, of walking long walks continues to grow.

‘This world has only one
Sweet moment set aside for us’
~ Who wants to live forever. Queen.

If we choose we could spend much of our lives frolicking in the frivolousness of many things. Small talk, social scenes we can’t be bothered with, situations or relationships that bore us, tedious negativity, believing that curated feeds are actually genuine. Eek and yet there is an amount of all of that in which we must take part in. But me I choose to ESCAPE it – often. How about you?

It’s an act of rebellion.

To actively CHOOSE to escape bullshit.

Think about that a little … are you with me?

Sometimes I spend whole days listening to whatever music is touching me at that time, reading books that speak to me and sometimes I walk hundreds of steps. I don’t have it all worked out but I can say the closer I am to the trees, the more I wander on my own two feet, the more I sing.¬† Dream. Imagine. Get stuff. Get me.¬† Maybe there’s a reason our final act is our ‘swan song’.

Sorry, if you’re here to hear about my walk, I digress with big thoughts … but thoughts transpire from walks.¬† Walks are freedom from bullshit. And this blog, well, it’s a blog about a very long walk. And I’d love it if it encouraged you to go for a walk or to step into a deep talk.

A long walk, yes that is what happened this last stage, somewhat accidentally.

“Can you look up the halfway point between Nijmegen and Venlo?” I asked the guy I choose to walk this life path with.

He was working at home and I was teaching. I needed to book a b&b because I was escaping for a weekend of walking.

“Vierlingsbeek” he texts back. From here on let’s call him Vierlingsbeek Guy! You’ll understand why later.

 

So I booked the last room in the village.


It started like any hike starts, excitement for the unknown, anticipation for the joy of it and the delirious happiness that comes with choosing an act of rebellion, heading off on a solo hike weekend. On the train I realised I had forgotten my guide-book, so Vierlingsbeek guy took photos of all the my maps to text me. He’s a keeper like that. He is my actual mission control.
 


The first 10kms I spent walking toward the Pieterpad. Now if you’ve never heard of the Pieterpad and if you’re not from The Netherlands there’s no reason you would have, it’s a walking path that goes from the North to the South of NL.¬† It is a 498km long walk. If you live in Holland I think everyone should to aim to do this or at least a few stages in their life time. Seeing a country by foot is in my mind the only way to really know it. Yes even in cities! It’s the kms you do walking around a city that invites you into its soul.


The Pieterpad I discovered was like a camino. Look at this picture I took … how camino’esque.¬† Most people were walking North so I walked alone towards Vierlingsbeek. Bloody Vierlingsbeek … it wasn’t halfway. Now by halfway I mean 40kms I was planning a couple of big days. My sweet spot is 28-30kms so I was aiming high.


I’m not sure when I realised I’d be up for an extra long walk. I was busy staying on track. Me and my shitful navigation skills. The guide-book (photos) were in Dutch so I couldn’t follow the written commentary and the maps weren’t to scale, nor did they have streets marked. I was fine in the woods as the paths were marked but once I’d arrive in a city I was lost. Every.Single.Time.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was beautiful though. The landscape is always varied when you walk distances here. Heathlands, forests, farmland, big rivers, cute villages. Arriving at a village on the camino in Spain it’s always the spire of a church you see, soon followed by the welcoming sight of plastic chairs! A cafe. Don’t laugh those plastic chairs are like seeing Christmas at the end of a camino day … am I right fellow pilgrims? But in The Netherlands it’s the windmill you’ll see alongside the spire.


I think it was when I arrived at a boat crossing with no cash that I started to wonder how long I had to go. No cash. Nope, not a cent. I hadn’t thought about getting any, I had my food and water with me. I was going to get on and play dumb … what could I do (insert shrugging emoji here). There was NO way I was walking back to a bank teller. LOL the teller, it was maybe 500 mtrs back but by now I was up to 30kms and I kid you not … GOING back is NEVER ever an option on feet that are beginning to feel every step. Is going back ever an option? I think I’m more of the move forward variety. Digressing … no cash. Turned out it was no problem, I could do a bank transfer for the 90c charge ;)


On that two-minute boat ride across another very big river I realised I still had 20kms to go according to the guide-book! What the actual FECK! And there was nothing I could change because my accommodation was booked and paid for. So Vierlingsbeek guy wasn’t feeling like such a keeper at this point. “You’ll be right, you’re tough” he texted me. He is never in charge of the halfway point again, ever again. I don’t hike to music but something from the¬†Gladiator movie may have come in useful about now. I was going into battle!

 

So into the grit stores I dug. I had to of course what was the option. We all have to dig into grit sometimes. And PLOD on. As I sit writing this now, a few weeks later I can tell you the sky was a beautiful colour as I arrived in Vierlingsbeek, the beer was deliciously cold and the fact that I had booked a b&b with a restaurant, was, in my best Aussie slang ‘The Duck’s Nuts’.

The b&b to my absolute delight was right on the path. Unlike Spain there are no pilgrims meals here but being close to Germany meant there was Schnitzel and with an Oma in the kitchen there was seasonal soup. All I needed right there.  That and a good soak! Initially my heart sank a little when I saw that the shower was in the bath. One of those euro hand shower ones at waist height. It turned out a bath was the better option.

As I sat alone in the bistro I felt the joy of having walked a long day’s walk alongside the joy of being in a place where I could do this with my life. Get on a train from home to walk to this small Dutch village and experience the is’ness of this moment, of living in Europe. Through all the hard stuff, we had done it, we had actually created a way in which we could have these choices and options. I could have cried with pride right here at this table.

Finding our own song, singing towards it … I think it matters more than the conformer’s and dream crushers would like us believe. Life is but a sweet moment and I want to be singing. Beautiful sweet songs. So I rebel. And I walk to remind me how. You?

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’. A¬†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

Mi Camino – Home to Rome. Via Francigena. Stage One.

Hola adventure hearts,

I know you are. You wouldn’t be reading along here if you didn’t feel that twinge of excitement when possibility strikes. That lust for life, the thirst for something a little less ordinary. A deep desire to feel a part of your world – the world. Possibility.¬†Oh what a word … what a feeling.

Stage One: Hilversum (home) to Maarn – 27kms.

Total kms: 27kms (of about 2000kms to Rome in a dress).

Now you know I’ve been playing with and committing to the idea of running a 1/2 marathon a month for One Girl. I had the first one planned but I couldn’t quite hit the enter key to register, nor could I hit book for a flight. It was an idea, one I had jumped into and one that felt like it could be possible. There were a few hurdles and slowly this month the hurdles became crossroads, choices – perhaps there was another way. A different adventure for me.

When I signed myself up for the idea the same company whose running shoes I wear were offering an ambassadorship. Of course I took this as a sign and applied. Four pairs of shoes they were offering for the year. I would be needing those. As with my last One Girl challenge I’m not looking for freebies … but a product I actually use and need that contributes to the adventure I’m ok with that. Hey honestly I’d prefer corporate sponsorship as in donations to the charity but that’s a whole other hurdle (note to self – one to explore)!

Although it would be poignant of me to point out that since the last camino my view on sponsorship has shifted a little. At first I thought it was a great way to build my camino – to get some recognition and air play for it. But now I realise that while it gave me some confidence in promoting the camino I didn’t need it for that.

The gear was awesome, it saved me buying it and I am grateful for all the support I received for my One Girl hike. I won’t be asking for more because I’m still wearing it! Shameless plug for Wilderness Wear¬†I love everything about this ethical company. The air play for the camino and the actual financial aid that made it possible to put girls through school that didn’t come because I had sponsorship. Nope. It came because people (women mostly) related to, shared the story and supported me. Grassroots relationships.

So the hurdles … well the main one was the physicality. I’m fit and I’m strong minded but my body isn’t ready for what I was going to ask of it. I have been doing the right things, adding anti inflammatory foods and drinks (namely broth) to my diet. I’ve sought treatment for a few niggles that were surfacing and I trained. After a rather severe neck strain last week I decided to move my challenge start date from January to April. I can make up the rules as I go, why not it’s my challenge.

Now coinciding with this challenge is of course all the other stuff that goes on:  my responsibilities, my capacity, my resources and importantly my current season of life. A few more little signs played out this month. I went for a walk to the post office and I know that sounds ordinary but normally I ride. I love my bike life . LOVE it! But I realised that like a car you end up going from A to B and that little walk to the post office reminded me how I love to walk and immerse my senses in the pleasures of it.

I also started seeing a Thai masseuse and she has the healing hands … those practitioners are GRACE. The ones who with a touch of their hands, or words from their heart know what you need. As she dug into my muscles I realised they were full of tension. FULL. Perhaps from some of the stresses of the year and definitely getting exacerbated from the running training. Those massages have felt a bit like a detox. And like any detox they have cleared some space to create some softness and an urge to be a little more gentle on myself.

A few posts back I talked about needing something, some motivation something to move forward with while at the same time remaining grounded. I’m not looking for an off the chart adventure. I don’t want to travel for months on end or pack up my life. No this gypsy soul wants to remain planted, secure and within the same four walls but she doesn’t want to feel stuck or bored or going through the motions. Of course I need an adventure and some shit giving … that’s my soul food, my love language but it was becoming clear that the running might not be the right one.

And then there was a story about an opportunity. A new door to step through. A friend who I had met through IG (gosh so many good stories have come from there). I have found a tribe through that little ap. Digressing sorry. This friend asked if I’d be interested in coming to her home in the UK and talking about my story, my camino and my work with One Girl with a group of women. She would arrange it and a small donation towards One Girl would be the ‘ticket’ fee. Perhaps we’d aim for $300 – one girl – one education. I actually called this friend and I am NOT a phone person! This idea lit a spark and it seems like something I could /should/want to do. Something of a possibility wouldn’t you say?

I didn’t get the shoe sponsor and I was relieved … it was a free pass to change the path I was on.

And I did.

Today I walked out the front door and started walking to Rome.

I don’t even know how many kms away that is! I’m pretty sure it’s well over 2000. Am I crazy – SURE. Crazy for a life well lived. You see when I walked the Camino Frances I though to myself ‘if I was retired I could definitely see myself (with Greg of course) walking from place to place. Wandering the globe for a while, walking.’ And why would I wait? I have patience for many things but time that waits for no one. I have two feet, a love of the trail and a cause I’m committed too – again I ponder ‘perhaps there’s another way’.

Traditionally a camino starts from home … from your front door. Perfect! Here I am, start where you are (I always say that, it’s the only place to start eh). Walk towards Rome (I always wanted to learn Italian). And so I started. I walked to a small village 28kms from here and on the way to Germany. As I left my village the church bells rang across the town and as I arrived in Maarn a choir version of ‘the little drummer boy’ was playing into the gardens of a castle, both¬† beautiful harmonies for the beginning and ending of a special day. Day one.

I took the train home and for the next hike I’ll train back to where I left off … every hike getting further away and closer to Rome. Eventually I will need to go for longer periods but for now I think I can make my way into Germany in this way.

It’s perfect because it suits my family and our need to be settled in one place with routine and structure. And it satisfies my need for that ‘something’. Possibilities friends … they are endless. As are the different paths we can take.¬† And today I took one that passed through villages and farmland, along countryside and roadsides and I felt pretty bloody ecstatic to be back on the camino. My camino. I think I’ve found my way.

Buen Camino and I wish you and your families a beautiful Christmas,

Fran xx

https://www.doitinadress.com/frances-antonia