A Big Lesson Learned

We’re waiting for our train to arrive in Ourense station.  We’ve completed 311 kilometers of our Camino from Leon to Santiago De Compostela.  Our plans changed last minute, as we were going to walk an additional 100 klms to Finesterre, the famous and beautiful beach just west of Santiago where many pilgrims go to relax.

One lesson I learned from the Camino is to pay attention to what my body is telling me.  I had a strong habit of overriding the signals it pleads me to listen to and go ahead with what my mind tells me, when the majority of the times it isn’t good for me.  I would continue to walk when I shouldn’t have.

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As a result I paid the price during my Camino.  I insisted on walking as close to 30 klms (and sometimes more) a day, that way we can get to Santiago as early as possible.  My feet screamed with pain and my body was exhausted.  I still pushed through regardless, ignoring the pleas.

Then I found myself stuck on a 1350 meter high mountain crying my eyes out with 13 blisters and nowhere to go.  It was 10 klms of rocks in all directions to a roadway.  I didn’t know what to do – either die out there in the woods or crawl down because my feet just would support me.  Walking barefoot was out of the question.

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Thankfully two angels disguised as older Sicilian men came to my rescue.  They spent over half an hour patching my feet up, giving me proper socks and fixing up my boots in order for me to make it to the next town, that way I could get proper footwear.

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I would like to think that I had learned my lesson by that point but I hadn’t.  I still insisted on pushing my body far beyond what I should have. It wasn’t until my Hubby got injured that I finally learned many things. 

We were on our way to Montan when we started to feel tired and drained.  We stopped for a while for him to rest.  The muscle along his shoulder blade began hurting more than usual and he wasn’t able to carry his backpack, yet he insisted on doing so.  I finally convinced him to change backpacks with me.  I was surprised at how heavy it was, but I carried it anyway for the rest of the way to the town.

It was then I realised how we weren’t honouring our bodies.  I pushed to make sure we met our goals regardless of how I was feeling, and he refused to part with things in his pack to make it lighter. 

We made a promise to each other that we would not continue doing what we had been doing up to that point.  We shipped our tent back home, we gave away my hiking boots and I donated other things I had that we could live without.  If we needed something, we would find a way to get it.

When we approached Santiago, I could see the city in the distance.  Every step I took, I felt more exhaustion, more pain and more frustration.  I just wanted to get there but it felt like I wasn’t moving.  The walk to the Basilica seemed like it took forever.  Once we arrived, it took all the energy reserved to just high five each other.

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Then we went to our aubergue.

And I cried. And cried. And cried.

I cried because every ounce of my body hurt.  I hurt in places I didn’t know I could hurt.  I cried because I was beyond exhaustion.  I cried because I know I mistreated my body and yet it still cared for me and carried me regardless.

And I cried because I had successfully completed one of the most difficult and amazing things I had ever done in my life (outside of giving birth).

And so, after a few days in Santiago, we decided to forgo Finesterre and make our way to Ourense, which is a not so well known place that has natural Roman Thermal Baths.  We decided to celebrate and honour our bodies, as they allowed us to do the most amazing thing – hike through northern Spain and endure the not so nice treatment from us.  It was our way to say thank you and help them heal.

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We spent a couple of days floating in these outdoor natural mineral pools.  As I would step into the pool I could feel the tingles of the minerals healing the aching and wounded areas of my body.  I could feel my body say thank you as I would float around, and how it would just sigh as I’d switch between the different temperatures pools.

The Camino really does have a way to bring to your attention that which requires listening to.  I’m grateful that we were willing to listen and able to hear what was being said to us.  This newfound appreciation for my body is something that I will carry within my heart for my lifetime.

With love,
Smartie

The Way

How do you explain The Camino?

I don’t know how to answer this question. And I’ve heard it asked many times by different people, and I hear the same words over and over….I don’t know.

I’ve attempted to answer this question myself. I can’t either.

You see, The Camino isn’t a trek across northern Spain. It isn’t about the magnificent changing scenery. It isn’t about the fabulous people you meet along the way, and it isn’t about the challenges and growth you experience.  It is all of the above, and it isn’t either.

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The Camino is magical, it is fascinating, it is exciting. It is also something that changes you, humbles you and grounds you. It is a force that moves you deep within.

I want to tell you so much of what has been taking place, I want to share with you all that has happened over these days, it is so hard to choose which stories from all that I have.

So please bare with me until I get time to write more.

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Love,
Smartie

What A Beginning!

It is the middle of the night of day three and I’m waiting for the Melatonin to kick in. I’ve had broken sleep until now because the muscle pain in my legs keep waking me up.  There seems no better time to capture my thoughts and experiences than now.

We’ve walked 80 kilometers in three days, and the last 25.8 kilometers was all uphill – roughly 1000 meters high.  It wasn’t a paved park path either. In a day, we walk through so many different environments, changing from practically minute to minute. We would find ourselves walking on roadway, and then on gravel, through a town, then what seems like a sandstorm, the woods, through places that reminded me of a jungle and then kilometers of this – stones, rocks and big chunks of edges. 

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There is a lot of time to think, because talking I find expends a lot of energy, of which is a precious thing to me at the moment.  Almost all peregrinos we’ve met so far have started from the beginning in St. Jean and they say that walking gets easier. The first three days are the hardest. You are challenged mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And I agree with them one hundred percent! My feet are proof of this. Three days, and eight blisters, don’t stop you from walking and to continue means you are definitely being challenged.

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I never thought that I would be able to walk 80 kilometers in three days. When we were training back home, walking 30 kilometers was difficult enough and I would be totally exhausted by the end of it, and to do this day after day is something else entirely!

Everyone has a reason for walking the Camino. Even those who say they have no reason but to just walk it, one gets revealed to them eventually. As I said before, there is a lot of time to think, and this is what I find is happening to me – reasons are being revealed to me. And I’m finding it liberating because with each step take, I feel myself cracking open, feeling things that I’ve never felt before but also discarding things that no longer serve me but have been hanging around like a bad smell.

I brought with me some stones which represent people that I love and which I intend to place on the trail along the way.  There are so many stones placed strategically along the way, some with messages on them, and you know that these all represent a loved one to someone.  And to know this is so moving! We passed this special location below which just moved me to tears, and it became a resting spot for a couple of my loved ones.  I find that I’m crying a lot, but that is no surprise.

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There are stretches of the walk where it has been just Hubby and I and we wonder where everyone is, and then at times you tend to see the same people over and over again.  The people you meet while walking are so lovely, and with some you just make a certain type of connection.

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We walked through these open fields for about eight kilometers without another person in sight.  We came across a booth of food and drink for free, a haven for pilgrims being offered by such a generous soul.  There was no home, but you could see that someone lived there.  When the man was questioned if he lives there alone, his response was “I live here, but I’m never alone. I have God with me all the time. I have nature and the universe with me.” How amazing! One of the pilgrims was moved so much by all of this that he spent the night there.  He crossed my mind a few times today as I wondered if he was OK, what he experienced etc.   We did cross paths again today, he told me about it all. He said that he felt that this was the place he needed to be in order to be filled up with God’s energy and now he feels that he can pass it onto others. It was a very spiritual place indeed. You could just feel it! And this is the man providing it, and the little boy from my previous post is in the picture too!

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We have also experienced some synchronicity too.  While we were climbing today, suddenly an overwhelming feeling of hunger swept through us (I still can’t believe how hungry I am – I imagine that this is what a teenage boy feels like) and we decided to sit on the side of the path. We didn’t want to walk back a few meters to an opening. As we are eating, hubby sees a big stone with writing in front of him, and he nearly fell over when he read it! You see, Hubby wrote a book called Energizing Love.  It was picked up by a publisher in the UK and it is being launched in September. So to see this out of the blue is very special and meaningful to us.

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And of course, it hasn’t always been quiet, contemplative and serious. We did take part in the Roman festival yesterday in Astorga. Astorga was invaded by the Greeks, Romans and others, but was never conquered and so they have this festival every year to celebrate. How fun it was walking around town with people dressed up in all different costumes!

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And now to sleep some more!

Love,
Smartie

Peregrinos

We are officially Peregrinos. We started our Camino today, well this afternoon at around 2:30 and wasn’t another pilgrim in sight.  We were walking in the right direction, we followed the arrows and sea shells that lead the way, but we seemed alone. I couldn’t figure out why.

But as we walked on, I started to figure out why. The sun was scorching down on us.  I would take advantage of any bit of shade I could find. It was friggin hot. The kind that could easily make you dizzy.

We started our journey in the afternoon because we had quite the adventure arriving to Leon yesterday. After the two hour delay at Pearson, we had to wait two and a half hours to get through customs in Barcelona. From there, what we thought would be a 4 hour drive to Leon, actually turned out to be almost 8. That didn’t bring us into the city until 10:30pm.

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Our couch surfing hosts were awesome and seemed to take things in stride. They actually felt like old friends. They cooked dinner for us, and afterwards, at 12:30am we went out into town. I don’t remember the last time I did that.

Needless to say, with getting in at 2am, we slept in, which meant it took time to get ready.  But we did it. We walked through Leon, through a few other towns and saw the most amazing things.  And now we’re in the town of Villadangos del Paramo.

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As we checked our boots by the front door, I saw these tiny ones and wondered if there was a kid, or if the owner had really small feet.  But as I walked to the beds, there he was, dead to the world asleep. I found out that he is six years old, has been walking since France and walks between 33-38 klms a day!

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We’re sitting in the front courtyard of the Auberge waiting for the fiesta to begin.  I doubt we’ll see much because one thing I’ve noticed is that the Spaniards like to do things late at night and don’t actually go out until after 10pm.

Tomorrow morning is an early start and so I will have to get to bed, in a room with 30 other people, and I get the top bunk!

Adios,
Smartie

Up In The Air

As I begin to write this post we are somewhere over the Atlantic. I’m not exactly sure where, but we’re getting close, probably and hour or two to landing.

I’m anxious about our walk. I have no problem admitting it. It is the most craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Walking 400+ kilometers with a backpack across northern Spain. Why did I agree to this again? I used to be the type of person who when I would travel would have plan A, B and C in place in case anything were to happen and I’d have everything with me packed in the event I would have to action them. And now my pack contains 3 underwear, 2 sports bras, 3 socks, 2 shorts, 2 t-shirts and whatever I’m wearing now and limited toiletries. Uh, helloooo? Can you see why I’m sort of, big time anxious?

I guess you could say that my travels this year have prepared me for this trip because I have learned to scale back (not through choice) – not having our luggage for 4 days during our honeymoon courtesy of United Airlines, packing for the wrong weather in Australia and for this trip, cutting available space in the backpack in half because we are planning to tent for a portion of the trip.

I’m sure things will be OK.  There will be plenary of people there, and it isn’t like I’m going to a third world country with no infrastructure. Besides, I will have this gorgeous guy by my side the entire time.

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And it’s about letting go, right?

Well, because of that I’m finding that I’m a bit emotional.  I’m wondering how my daughter is doing on her flight to Portugal, if she has slept, if she is OK. I’m also missing my mom and sister a lot.  Most of all, I’m missing my dad. I dreamt of him while I slept on the plane and I feel that he is with me. It’s a strong feeling, probably the strongest I’ve felt from when he died almost five years ago. These are the people I will be taking on my walk with me, along with Hubby’s family.  They will be in my heart the entire time.

I just looked out the window and see that the sun has risen. What a beautiful sight.  According to my watch it would be almost 9am in Spain and we would be well into our walk for the day.  It looks warm and cozy out there – a big contrast to the very cold cabin we are in. 

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I’ve brought my boots with me onto the plane as there was no room in my pack for them. I just put them on to warm my tootsies, and it is the first time I’ve donned them on in over three weeks. What a surprising homecoming feeling! I feel so grounded! Who would have thunk?

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I really should get some more sleep but I feel fully awake. Hubby is sleeping which is good. He struggled with the time change between Australia and Toronto, so I’m really glad he’s sleeping. This trip was the easiest for me to adapt back to Toronto time. I hope my body cooperates with me now in Spain.  We must be getting close to arrival – I can smell the coffee coming from the back of the plane! Time to catch more z’s!!! But now I see land!!!!! Yay!!!! How could I possibly sleep now?

Love
Smartie

Hello, G’day Mate, Hola

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

We arrived back in Toronto less than 48 hours ago after three weeks in sunny Australia.  And in an hour and a half we will be making our way back to the airport to head out to Spain to begin our 400+ kilometer trek across northern Spain.  Some have asked why did we even bother to come home, but I’m glad we did.  The short time put a lot of pressure on us to really focus on what needed to get done and we spent a lot of quality time with my Mom and Sister.  I really enjoyed it.

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Our trip to Australia was good.  Before leaving I had a feeling that things weren’t going to go as planned, and with life, that usually happens.  Overall it was a great trip but it had its challenges – from faulty aircraft entertainment units, adjustments to travel plans for family, little internet connection and even not up to par accommodation.  It was challenging, I won’t deny that.  In the heat of the moment I found it difficult to deal with, but what I can see now is that it played a purpose to teach me things.  My initial reaction was to play the victim and have a poor me attitude, but these events weren’t about me.  Things went wrong, people had to look after themselves, I had to adjust.  And I had to let go and let be.  Isn’t that what we should be doing most of the time anyway?  I promised myself that despite what happens, I will have a good time.

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The purpose of our trip though, was to see my husband’s daughter, who happens to be an extremely beautiful and talented actress, perform her opening show for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Sydney Opera House.  What an honour to be able to witness and be a part of this.  Wow is all that I can say!!!

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Hubby with daughter

We spent most of our time in Queensland, specifically in the Gold Coast, minutes from Surfers Paradise, and up in Hervey Bay, and of course in Sydney.  I already thought that Australia was beautiful, and now I’m even more convinced.  We played tourist for more of the trip, doing a lot of touristy things such as daily walks on the beach, body surfing, visiting amusement parks and meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in years and just took it easy.  It was a busy yet relaxing vacation where we were on the go a lot. Oh and the sunsets were to die for.

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But now a new adventure is going to begin, one that is entirely different.  I hope to write more.

Buen Camino to us!

Love,

Smartie

And Soon It Will Begin….

I had a dream last night.  I don’t remember much of it.  But one thing that has clearly stuck to my conscious mind is the message (which I can still hear being said with a big, deep voice): Yooooou neeeeeeed to coooonnnnnect with yourrrrrr creeeeaaaativity agaaaaain.

Yeah, yeah….I’m not surprised.  I’ve been missing writing, drawing, dancing and singing (don’t tell my hubby the last part!).

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I’ve just been busy.

This year, 2015, has brought many new things into my life.  I’ve traveled to the Caribbean and Australia, my hubby was picked up by a British publisher for his book, I’ve been in school, opened up a holistic practice (Cheney Holistic) and now a Solution-Focused Coaching practice (Teal Tiger).

Through all of this, I’ve felt myself being stretched in so many ways.  I’ve been happy with the growth, wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained.  My relationships with the special people in my life have improved and I can honestly say that life is good.

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It hasn’t been all rosy, trust me.  I’ve done a lot of ‘inner work’ which forced me to uncover a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to.  I’ve taken a two week home retreat in which I dedicated my 9-5 hours to contemplation and self-discovery.  That was so hard.  I found out about a bunch of belief systems I was carrying around which I realized that they weren’t mine, but were adopted from others.  I learned about what I like and don’t like, and most of all, I was able to make peace with parts of myself that wanted to be heard.

A lot of my growth came especially during my intense studies in Solution-Focused Coaching.  There were many times in class where I felt I was struck by an eighteen wheeler truck as I learned about behaviors, beliefs, values and vision.  My passion for this just kept growing and growing.  I can honestly say that I’ve found my calling in life, and I look forward to helping others live their life to their fullest.

As busy as the first half of 2015 has been, my journey is just beginning.  The next three months will be a different sort of journey; one that requires me to leave the comforts of my home, my city, my friends, and some of the time my family as well, for an extensive period of time.  We will be visiting Australia again and from there we will be going to Spain to do a 400+ kilometer pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago plus other travels.

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Many people have asked that we post pictures of our trips onto Facebook.  I honestly didn’t want to post anything, and wanted to stay screens free during this time period and disconnected.  I’ve really been trying to minimize my interactions with social media and really, media in general.  I am planning to write in my journal during this time, and my husband is planning to take pictures so we’ve decided to combine the two together.  This way, you can join our journey with us.

And so, our journey began today with our last long walk on our favorite path.  We’ve walked this path for months and have logged at least about 300 kilometers on it as we trained for the Camino.  We’ve encountered many friendly (and curious) people along the way, and have seen such beautiful wildlife (deer, rabbits, beautiful birds, beavers, snakes) – all within minutes of our front door.  I will miss this path during the next few months, and look forward to seeing it again in the fall.

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With Love,

Smartie and Philosofree