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I recently came across this amazing adventure from an article shared on Facebook.

Hiking the longest trail in the world!!! Wow. What an extraordinary adventure

Here’s Mel’s website if you’d like to read more about this amazing adventure as she faces 2 Canadian winters and hikes through some of the most incredible scenery, from one side of Canada to the other.

http://www.betweensunsets.com/cross-canada-hike/

You can find her on instagram https://www.instagram.com/betweensunsets/

Now that is an adventure to inspire the inveterate explorer. 🙂

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Over the past 18 months or so I have read many many articles and blogs about or relating to the Camino de Santiago. Most (95%) are positive and uplifting with the emphasis on sharing the pilgrimage with fellow walkers, getting to know them, sharing experiences both good and bad, sharing a table, helping others who are struggling, cheering on those who are doing well…… regardless of whether they are walking for religious, spiritual or bucket list reasons.

But every so often whether on a group thread, a Facebook page or a forum, you’d get that one person who had missed out on the ‘spirit’ of the Camino and makes an unnecessarily negative and judgemental comment like this one I saw on the Confraternity of St James’s page: “I don’t like the cheapening of the experience by commercializing it. I walked it 3 times and it was the most extraordinary spiritual experience. Tourists on walking holiday, as long as there aren’t too many, will hopefully not ruin it for pilgrims“. I’ll leave you to make your own decision on that comment.

I remembered a thoughtful post, 10 Commandments of the Santiago de Compostela, I’d read some months ago on the Camino de Santiago forum and I’m sharing it here in it’s entirety; these are not my words, but rather the words of the writer on the forum ( I’ve added the link below):

“There are many articles offering tips for walking The Camino. This selection is one pilgrim’s views and I do not apologize for any you disagree with or for not including any you believe should be included. This is my Camino:

I. Thou Shalt Do Your Own Camino: This is a personal journey and you walk, ride, crawl for your own reasons. Walk 5k or 20k or 40k per day. There is no right or wrong. Follow your heart and soul.

II. Thou Shalt Not Judge Others: Just as this is your Camino, theirs is theirs. Big pack or no pack, 30 days or 1 day, 3000k or 10k. One man’s 40k day may be another’s 5k as there are many people on The Camino with health and other issues.

III. Thou Shalt Be Humble: Lose your ego. For many this is a life changing journey. For others a bucket list item or just a fun walk. The Camino has a Spirit and she loves humbleness and gratitude. Look for ways to be of service to other pilgrims and anyone else in need. For example; offer to carry the pack for a struggling fellow pilgrim, give a hug to someone who needs one, listen and be compassionate when a fellow pilgrim talks to you. Pick one day to give back to the Camino and carry a plastic garbage bag and pick up trash.

IV. Thou Shalt Not Overplan Your Camino: She will communicate with you via signs, people, animals, music, etc.. There are no coincidences on The Camino. Be alert. You may come across angels. Anything and everything is possible on The Camino. So be ready to veer from your plan because The Camino will provide what you need. Open your heart and she will show you your soul. The more you follow Commandment III the easier this will be.

V. Thou Shalt Open Up to Fellow Pilgrims: Of course if a Camino of solitude is your choice it is your Camino after all. However, the Camino is a special place and a key part of it’s magic are your fellow pilgrims. You will find that you keep seeing the same people and very likely The Camino wants you to connect. Get out of your comfort zone and just go introduce yourself to anyone who you have a feeling about or see more than once. By following this Commandment you will make lifelong friendships or more.

VI. Thou Shalt Start and End Wherever One Chooses: Many do The Camino in stages perhaps a week or two at a time and take years to complete it. Many start from St. Jean Pied de Port, others from Pamplona or Le Puy En Velay or Seville. Some Europeans start at their own homes. While many end at Santiago, some go on to Finisterre or Muxia at the edge of the world. Some believe if you are religious ending in Santiago is appropriate, but if you are spiritual walking on to the sea is special. A few do as the pilgrims did prior to the 1900’s and walk back home. Again there is no right or wrong.

VII. Thou Shalt Travel Light: While it is your choice the lighter your burden the easier it will be on you both physically and mentally. There are many writings on what to bring and not to bring.

VIII. Thou Shalt Stay Wherever Thy Chooses: From a tent, to a municipal auberge, to a 5 star Hotel. Remember it is your Camino. Though I agree with the purists that the auberge’s are special and put one in better position to connect with other pilgrims.

IX. Thou Shalt Not Obsess About Blisters: If you read any of the books various former Pilgrims have written, many mention suffering with blisters. Just as with traveling light there are many publications on how to deal with blisters. Focusing on prevention and applying some lubricant such as Vaseline is best but be prepared with compeed or your treatment of choice. Wear shoes or boots that YOU are comfortable with.

X. Thou Shalt Have Fun on The Camino: Perhaps for some the walk is long and arduous but for others including this peregrino it is pure joy. As you begin walking each day, concentrate on your breathing for ten to twenty minutes, in and out, to clear your mind of any worries and you will find yourself in a happy rhythm. After a long hard day, if a waiter places a whole bottle of vino tinto in front of you, drink and enjoy the company and conversation with fellow pilgrims. Don’t take yourself too seriously or these Ten Commandments. The Camino shows you how precious the gift of life is. Make the most of it.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!” From the blog of www.thesenioradventurer.com

I loved these 10 commandments and plan to keep them in mind when I’m walking.

Of course I’m definitely guilty of #4 – I’ve planned my trip almost down to the minute LOL but I’ve left some days where I’m just going to go with the wind. My biggest issue has been securing accommodation. I haven’t yet managed to just go and let the Camino provide, so to that end and keeping #8 in mind, I’ve booked all the nights of my first 6 days and the last night on the route before I get to Santiago. Mostly because I really don’t want to rush to get to an accommodation by a certain time and I found from my research that in order to get a bed at the cheapest alburgues you have to get there early and wait. I don’t to stand around waiting, I have places to explore and things to see enroute. So for me, on most days, I’ve booked ahead. I have conceded though to stay in hostels in many places, to get some of the sharing experience. Although of course I use the YHA a lot so I’m used to sharing….anyway it’s just a bed and a pillow for the night 🙂

The Camino Provides - 2017

The Camino Provides – 2017

#7 has been a challenge. When I first started researching what to pack, I read that it’s best to stick to 10% of your body weight. Okay so that gave me at that time 8 kgs to play with. So once I had decided what I ABSOLUTELY had to take with me, things I REALLY couldn’t live without, I weighed everything and packed my backpack. 7.5kgs brilliant I still have .5kg to play with. Then I did my pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury!!!By Day 2 I ditched 1.5 kgs of stuff, packed it in a box and sent it home LOL Jeez! How heavy can 7.5kgs get anyway? I never realised the impact that weight would have on my body. So lesson learned; pack light. However I suspect this is still going to be a challenge. I’ll do my final pack on Tuesday next week and then see how I get on.

packing for the camino de santiago

Packing for the Camino de Santiago

As for #9, ahhh yes. Blisters. The bane of any walkers life. I learned a very hard lesson during my pilgrimage to Canterbury in July – I walked with wet socks and the resulting blisters were horrendous and brought my journey to a screeching stop on my penultimate day. Walking with wet socks is NEVER a good idea. So in order to protect my feet I’ve bought an extra 4 pairs of the best out of all the socks I’ve tested so far and they will be my luxury item for the Camino 🙂

This experience is going to be very interesting for someone who has mild OCD and loves to plan things down to the last item. I suspect there will be a lot of challenges ahead, I have no doubt I am going to learn some interesting life lessons, once of which will definitely be about being with people. I’m very much a loner and love being on my own for hours and hours, so it’s going to be interesting to see how I communicate on this journey.

pilgrimage

finding your way to Santiago

Buen Camino

Previous blogs about my impending Camino 2017

Countdown to my Camino 2017

Walking with wet socks

Harassment on the Camino

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One of the more unfortunate aspects of walking as a solo woman on the Camino is the perception that you’re easy game. I’ve read recently on the Facebook forums that I follow of women being harassed by men; naked men who chase after these women whilst masturbating, men waiting under secluded bridges till a woman comes along then yanks his pants down to expose himself. Men follow along behind the pilgrims and make lewd comments, or just hang around making a general pest of themselves.

Many of the women quite understandably get quite frightened, or as in one case was so badly upset by the whole thing that she packed up and went home. It’s a real issue and seems to be escalating somewhat. There are often discussions about how to deal with these incidents with some folks suggesting pepper spray which is banned in Spain, or whistles, and various other suggestions, none of which are really acceptable and could lead to further problems.

I recently read an interesting article about the escalating harassment of women in the Middle East regions, that although not specifically about the Camino, does talk about the harassment of women in middle east countries. Interesting, although unfortunately they don’t mention the biggest factor in these countries; women are viewed as 2nd class citizens…ergo men can do what they like coz they’re superior. Perhaps they should look at the cultural issues from the cradle up….men treat their wives in an appalling fashion, often abusive. Boys witness this and think its okay to be abusive towards women. Its pretty much the same in every patriarchal society. It won’t change till parents teach their kids about respect.  Reading this article I get the distinct impression that the author/researcher is making excuses for why boys harass girls. These young men “have high aspirations for themselves and aren’t able to meet them,” he says. “So they [harass women] to put them in their place. They feel like the world owes them.”

Harassing women is not a new phenomena in the Western world; its as bad and has been for decades in our society where morals are loose and again, men are disrespectful towards their wives. Frankly those men’s magazines and light pornographic magazines, sexually explicit films, advertisements with half naked women spread across cars et al, all play a part in the sexual harassment of women. I remember with clarity, as a young girl developing breasts and having to start wearing a bra, the boys, would come up behind me or my school mates and snap our bra-straps or try to undo the hooks – behaviour they STILL indulge in 50 years later. We were always, without fail told to ‘just ignore it’. In fact I recall very clearly telling my daughter much the same thing 25 years later….either that or wallop the boy in question….which of course would then lead to her being punished for ‘assaulting’ the little shit.

However, there has been as is a shift being made in this area. I recently read where a Mother was called into the Headmaster’s office because her daughter had punched the boy who snapped her bra-strap. The Headmaster and the parents of the boy tried to make an issue of it, but the Mother neatly turned the tables by reminding them that what he had done is actually sexual harassment and that she would be happy to call the Police and lay a charge. Problem solved. Frankly I wish I had done that for my daughter, how much more empowering it would have been.

But, and here’s the thing…..it is sexual harassment, and the problem begins at home. Until all of society begins to see women as equals and deserving of respect, until parents unanimously teach their sons about the boundaries and how to treat a woman with respect, women will continue to be harassed on the streets….no matter which country we live in. I, however, am not holding my breath.

And if any man, young or otherwise even attempts to give me grief while I’m walking the Camino, he will live to regret it.

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Since deciding to walk The Camino, I’ve read a wide range of blogs written by the vast array of people; both men and women of all ages that walk the different Camino routes – some blogs are documentary, some short, some long, many are very personal; walking the Camino and lessons learned.

different paths; different journeys

different paths; different journeys

I have learned a lot about how some folks behave on the pilgrim routes – which honestly has come as quite a surprise.

One of the most profound stories I’ve read so far relates to sunflowers;

It started when I really considered the sunflower plant. I often leave town in the early morning darkness. That’s when the sunflower has its head bowed low awaiting that first ray of sunlight. Then it perks up and turns its face toward the sun and absorbs sunlight and energy all day. Then, at evening, it again bows low and rests for the night. After a period of time, it starts to lose the beautiful yellow crown surrounding its seedy face. It becomes more difficult to raise its head toward the sun. At last, it dies. That is, the plant dies, but the seeds live on.

Another interesting blog I read, also spoke about sunflowers:

That is, I had never considered their significance until the life cycle of a sunflower was explained to me by a German opera singer named Anja.  As she explained it, just before sunflowers die, they give up their seeds from the brown part of the flower (the seed head).  Their last act, if you will, is to give of themselves to ensure that future sunflowers will grow in that area next season.

and continued with a story about keeping the peace; relating a situation with a man called Ted – a story I found to be both interesting and shocking. It described how this man would get drunk and behaved in a manner totally unacceptable in normal society, never mind on a pilgrims route; it never entered my head that people would behave like that on the Camino!!

What I found so interesting was how they both said the same thing: I had never considered.

Another fascinating journey that I am following on instagram is Walking for Peace. It’s been so interesting to follow Mony and Alberto and see the lessons they are learning; some of which have reduced me to tears, given me goosebumps. It’s marvellous that they are so aware of what is being learned. So often in life the lessons we are meant to learn present themselves again and again before we finally accept them.

Since I started my ‘journey’ and even though I haven’t yet walked even one step on ‘The Camino’, I feel as though my journey has already begun. I’ve been walking a lot (604.89 miles since 01/01/2017), practising with my backpack, feeling my way with how much I can or cannot cope with. I have enjoyed hours and hours of travelling, walking and exploration by myself. I am becoming more observant of my surroundings, something that would please my daughter who gets very frustrated with my usual lack of observation!! My usual answer when she says “did you see that Mom?” – and I’m like “What?” But it was right in front of you!!! LOL

I find that I am slowly learning how to ‘let go’, although that is still a really difficult and annoying part of my personality; replaying over and over and over in my mind after an incident that disturbs me: ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have done that’, the emotions of the moment churning and churning till I want to go mad.do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace - dalai lama xiv

I am beginning to believe that this churning incidents over and over in my mind relates very much to my childhood, a long period of time when I found myself in bad situations, times when I felt completely helpless, unable to verbalise my fears, afraid of what might happen if I did speak up.

I’ve noticed a common thread among these pilgrim stories; the real Camino begins once a peregrino returns home.

And as my journey draws nearer, I do muse on what lessons The Camino will hold for me. It has certainly consumed pretty much my every waking thought in the meantime.

walking the camino and lessons learned

the many paths in life we get to choose…..

Do join me on my journey as I prepare for what is the 2nd most important journey of my life. Follow along on instagram as I travel around the country, working, walking, learning and discovering more about myself and the country I now call home.

Buen Camino.

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I absolutely love that this man has become so well known, that he’s generated so much media attention. Imad Alarnab arrived in London in 2015 after fleeing the brutal warfare of his home city of Damascus in Syria, and now he’s launched Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Bethnal Green in London.

He’s a Syrian refugee. He’s a human being. He’s a great chef. He’s a person with emotions, feelings, love. He has a family. http://www.reuters.tv/v/F2c/2017/03/13/syrian-refugee-chef-cooks-taste-of-home

Because of the enormous refugee crisis Syrians, like Amad, and other people of other cultures have become and are portrayed as a faceless mass.

Due to this we forget that they’re people, the same as you and me.

Because of this portrayal they become an entity to be feared.

This man, along with millions of others, have been demonized, vilified and manipulated by governments, religious organisations, and media and yes, even ‘humanitarian’ organisations wanting to promote their own causes.

I truly hope that this particular story helps people to change their thinking. To realise that on that whole people don’t just up and leave their country of birth with nothing, just the clothes on their backs, a bit of money and a whole heap of HOPE,…. without good reason.

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The more you give the more you get back. It’s scary opening our heart sometimes but I urge you to try it. If you have the courage to be vulnerable, especially if you’re in a leadership role, you empower others. I arrived in India 2 days ago to do a yoga course and didn’t know […]

via The power of being vulnerable  — Less is More

I’ve shared Helen’s post as it comes a few hours after I read an article about the Camino that really caught at me. I posted the article on facebook along with this comment:

“Reading this actually brought tears to my eyes….I simply cannot wait to go. It also clarified for me why I want to do this on my own….I want to be taken right out my comfort zone, I want to be confronted by challenges, I want to be alone in the crowd and yet one with my companions, I want to be physically, mentally and emotionally challenged, I want the Camino to ‘walk’ me!!! I simply cannot wait…albeit wait I must…but soon. Soon.”

Helen’s post resonated with me tonight because when walking the Camino we do open ourselves up to being vulnerable; in so many ways that we cannot even begin to comprehend until we start.

Here is the Camino article. http://www.caminoadventures.com/days-arriving-santiago-de-compostela/

What really caught my attention in the article was this: the 3 important questions necessary for growth (if not sanity):

  • Where am I going?
  • Where have I been?
  • Who am I?

I can answer the first two fairly easily, but it was the 3rd question that caught at me. This is something that I have been questioning of late and sometimes I really don’t know. Life has shaped me in weird ways, experiences have either warped me or shaped me…..Who am I? is a question that I reckon my journey along The Way is going to challenge me.

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I have just been watching the Remembrance Sunday commemorations on BBC1, a highly emotional experience, especially as I watch our Queen and her Consort, who is now ageing quite fast. I find the march-past of the veterans to be of special poignancy, knowing that they have fought for the freedom of the country.

remembrance sunday, remember, armistice day, war memorials in london

Remember

I’ve said this before, one of the things I really, truly love about this country are the traditions. I love that they commemorate significant events in the history of the country and the world. I have attended as many as I possibly can over the last 15 years and have attended Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph at least 3 times (my memory fails me as to whether I’ve been more often). Like Trooping the Colour it is one of the events on the annual calendar that I feel compelled to attend…from a sense of gratitude, thanksgiving, of obligation, of community, of being a citizen of the country.

Remembrance Sunday is a time for families who have lost loved ones in conflicts to come together to honour and remember them, for the veterans to receive thanks and pay tribute to those that knew who died in those conflicts. A time of national remembrance.

My daughter and I agree to disagree on whether there is any point in remembering these past events. Her thoughts are that war is pointless, that people go into the army through choice (especially these days) and that remembering these wars just keeps perpetuating the aspect of wars.

My thoughts are that these people have died in service to their country, they’ve fought to keep our country safe. They’ve left loved ones behind and died in foreign lands in order that I may live in a country that is relatively free.

But, I have to agree with her on the pointless act of war.

Crimean War 1853-1856  : number of dead 213,147 – 293,447. The immediate chain of events leading to France and Britain declaring war on Russia on 27 and 28 March 1854 came from the ambition of the French emperor Napoleon III to restore the grandeur of France….ego.

WW1 1914-1918 : 17 million dead 20 million wounded. The explosive that was World War One had been long in the stockpiling; the spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Ferdinand’s death at the hands of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, set in train a mindlessly mechanical series of events that culminated in the world’s first global war….ego

WW2 1939-1945 : over 60 million killed or 61 million on the Allied side and 11 million on the Axis side. The Treaty of Versailles may have set the scene, but WW2’s main progenitor was one man: Adolf Hitler. Most historians of the causes of World War 2 agree that its seeds were sown at the end of World War 1…ego.

Since the apparent end of WW2 we have had:

1945 and ongoing : Korean conflict
1945-1946 War in Vietnam
1945-1946 Iran crisis
1946-1945 Indochina wars
1946-1949 Greek civil war
another 12 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1948-1949 Arab – Israeli war
another 12 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1950-1953 Korean war
9 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1955-1975 Vietnam war
26 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1961-1975 Angolan War of Independence
14 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1964-1975 Rhodesian Bush War
1964-1992 FULRO insurgency against Vietnam
1964-2016 Colombian conflict
1964-1974 Mozambican War of Independence
10 wars/conflicts around the word and then
1966-1989 South African Border War
9 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1968-1998 The Troubles
17 wars/conflicts around the world and the
1973 Yom Kippur War
35 wars/conflicts around the world and then
1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan
3 wars and conflicts around the world
1980-1988 Iran – Iraq war
6 wars/conflicts around the world and
1982 Falklands war
27 wars/conflicts around the world
And all of these are just between 1945 – 1989 some are still ongoing.
1990-2002 : 65 wars and conflicts, some ongoing
2003-2010 : 39 wars, conflicts and insurgencies

My source for these wars was wikipedia. But if you really want to see the reality of our world at war since 1900, why not scare the shit out yourselves and have a look at this:

All wars in the 20th century I haven’t counted then all, it’s too depressing. According to the site I’ve hyperlinked it is impossible to be sure but at best guess:

Total deaths: 79,284,507 I’d say that’s probably an under-estimated figure.

Number of wars per country is an eye-opener, but what’s really sad is UK 30 & US 24. The only country with a figure higher than that is China with 34. It’s worth having a look…please also do read his comments on the criteria for the figures compiled.

Today, as for centuries past, our main wars are fought because of ego, religion and money…..oil and wealth; vested interests. Countries still go to war to claim land, to kill those they do not agree with and to protect their vested interests. Ego and money is what drives the world.

 

People have been marching for peace for decades and yet we are no nearer to not having wars than we were nearly 100 years ago. There have been countless wars around the world since the end of the First World War nearly 100 years ago: the war to end all wars.

remembrance sunday, armistice day

Harry Patch – veteran of World War 1

Well it didn’t end all wars, we are and have been fighting wars constantly and continuously ever since. We may not be publicly involved in all of these wars, but you can be absolutely sure that we have ‘boots on the ground’ in one way or another; vested interests. So 100 years on, is there any point?

Why do we have Remembrance Sunday when the UK is classified as the 2nd largest arms dealer in the world? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-is-now-the-second-biggest-arms-dealer-in-the-world-a7225351.html  with most of the weapons now fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East, conflicts that come back to bite us where it hurts.

It seems a moot point really.

There are fewer peace marches or walks, or anti-war protests than there have been wars.

Are we really marching for peace? or do we march for war. Let’s face it, people make money from wars. There will never be peace on earth. There hasn’t been since time immemorial and there will continue to be wars until the planet implodes or explodes.

Why do we remember?

 

 

 

 

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