Arrows of Intuition! Follow them!!

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“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” – Dr. Joyce Brothers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, so I thought while I’m not working, this would be a good time to clear the cobwebs accumulating over in the “creative side” of my brain! While I may not have tons of travel news and photos to convey, I am posting from my new “home” in Florida! Leaving Tennessee was a difficult move, but one I feel is truly best for me.

In the past few weeks, a number of people have commented to me about how “brave” I am to  pick up and move with no job lined up and no big savings in my pocket. When I was travelling alone through Southeast Asia, I heard the same thing about how brave I was to travel alone. Of course, when I returned to the United States, I continued to receive wonderful praise about being brave. Funny thing though, I rarely heard that on the Camino de Santiago!

The Bing Dictionary definition of brave is the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. With that definition in mind, I think of all the people I met along the Camino. We all walked with determination to stay the course, to have no fear, to not be deflected from our journey. At the time, it was not bravery at all – it was simply the desire to walk with grace. It was a walk of faith, a walk of kindness, a walk of solitude, a walk of peace, a walk of forgiveness. It was whatever each of us needed it to be. I don’t think anyone walks it to be “brave”.

On the Camino de Santiago, I woke up every day in a room full of strangers in a foreign country. I ate meals with people who didn’t speak my language and yet, we communicated! On the path, I was greeted with the familiar words of “Buen Camino” and passed those words on to other travelers. And how did I know where to go? Simply follow the yellow arrows that were painted on barns, etched into trees, formed with rocks. It was as simple as that….just follow the arrows and trust they will always be there for you. Think about that: a single woman in a foreign country with only a backpack following arrows across the landscape! And yet, they lead unfailingly! They were always there!

Now as I continue on with my life, I realize how important it was for me to take that walk. I appreciate so much that people see me as brave! While some may think that to move to another state with no job and no money is foolish, I see it differently – I am brave! I’m taking once again a walk with grace. I’m following the arrows and choosing to believe that they will lead me unfailingly. This time though, the arrows aren’t painted on the fence posts along the Spanish countryside. They are in me…it is my intuition that is leading me! I’m following my little arrows – my hunches!

So, here I am in Florida, with no job and no big savings and feeling brave. I will find a job, I will get settled, I will survive! I of course, am thankful that I have help (love you Aunt Sandie and Uncle Terry!!!) and I’m looking forward to this new journey! You too, should follow your arrows! Buen Camino!

Ending the Camino….bringing down the wall….

555The last time I posted a blog, it was May of 2012. It was shortly before I started my journey across Spain walking the Camino de Santiago. One of the committments I made to myself concerning the Camino was that I would not do a “daily log” type of blog about the Camino. I really wanted to spend my time walking and absorbing the journey. Little did I know that when I finished the walk, I would have so little to say for so long! The truth is, even now it will be difficult for me to talk about it. So am I breaking the silence? Because I finally have the strength to do this…..

It’s easy to superficially talk the the Camino. It was a 794 kilometer walk. Yup, that’s a long ways – about 500 miles. I can give you all the logistics about the terrain, etc., but in reality, none of those details are important. I could tell you all about how and what to pack, best places to sleep, and how much money you need. But again, you can pick up any Camino guidebook and the information will be there.

What I want to tell you about, is the effect of the Camino on me and what I learned…so here goes!

1.) I am not alone. While I was not raised with any formal religious teachings, it became very clear to me on my walk that I couldn’t possibly be alone. There were so many moments when taking one more step seemed impossible and yet, one foot followed the other (blisters and all!) and I reached my destination. No matter how lonely I felt at times, I always knew I wasn’t alone. Returning to daily life, I continue to feel that presence…every day. I am not alone.

2.) I am compassionate. I’ve been told many times in my life that I’m not a compassionate person. But compassion isn’t just about caring for the sick. I’ll admit – I don’t like being around sick people. On the Camino, I found myself crying with a woman who had lost her husband to cancer; I found myself helping an older man up a steep hill just by slowing my pace and waiting for him; I found myself loaning my walking sticks to a woman who sustained an injury one day on the path. Nope, I don’t like being around sick people but, I am compassionate.

3.) I am strong. Day after day, I faced physical challenges unlike anything I’d faced in my life before. Walking over the Pyrenees became sort of a joke because in reality, there were so many different and equally massive challenges throughout the journey, that they seemed like just a walk in the park! But being physically strong is minor in comparison to the mental strength that’s needed. Finding a place to sleep every night, ordering food, seeking medical assistance….all were challenges…and all had to be done with the language barrier. Sleeping in dorms with literally dozens of people from all different countries takes emotional strength. I am strong!

4.) The path in life is always marked. It’s hard to explain to others how I found my way each day. It’s a weird feeling to wake each day, step outside into a foreign country and look for something as simple as a yellow arrow. Whether I was walking in a big city or through miles of vast open land, it was up to me to find those arrows. Arrows were on trees, curbs, on the back of road signs, formed out of rocks on the ground, painted on barns…..but the reality is….the arrows were always there even when they weren’t always clearly visible. Never once did I get lost. And life is the same….the path is always marked. All I need to do is look for the arrows!

5.) Life, like The Way, is meant to be shared. I have a tendency to keep a wall up around me. I have friends and family around me, and yet, I consistently feel the need to keep an emotional distance from most people. I know it, my family knows it, and I’m sure my friends can sense it at times too. But on the walk, you have to share….there is no way around it. You have to share your pain, your food, your space, your laughter and your tears. There was no way I could do the journey alone. I may have walked alone, but always there was someone sharing the road. I know that sooner or later, I have to let the wall come down because life, like The Way, is meant to be shared.

It’s taken me a long time to open up about my Camino experience. For each person, it is a different journey. We all walk the same path, but the experience is unique. I will always have good, bad, scary, tender, funny memories of my adventure. But more importantly, I recognize the things in me that are good, bad, scary, tender and funny for having taken on this challenge.

To those who will take on the challenge…Buen Camino! For myself…..it’s time to work on the wall and to absorb and apply the things I learned!

Aside

More from The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho…..

“We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. Many times in our lives we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don’t, our soul dies, and agape (spiritual love or selfless love of one person for another) cannot reach it.”

I know I’m a dreamer! I always have been and always will be! Over the years, I’ve felt uncomfortable thinking that my dreams were somehow related to an unhappiness with my life. But the truth is, dreams are just really goals wrapped up in a different package! Dreams, for many, probably seem unattainable while achieving goals is simply the end result of hard work. But that’s not true! Dreams do come true….and many times, by doing the same things you would do to achieve a goal! The added element is simply a leap of faith!

There are people in my life who seem to have given up on their dreams. I’m sad for them because without dreams, what motivates us? They seem unhappy and lost. While some may believe that dreaming puts our head in the clouds, I think dreams put our feet firmly on the ground. They give us something to hope and work for, something to believe in, and a sense of accomplishment when we achieve one. That is how I’m feeling now! Some say that I made a foolish move by quitting my job during a bad economy. Some say that I’m unhappy with my life in the US so I’m always searching for something different. Regardless of what others say, I only need to be true to myself.

In saying that, here is my truth: The reality of this journey has surpassed every dream I ever had about it! Giving up my apartment, selling most of my things, leaving my job, family and friends – all of it was worth what I’m experiencing now. I feel wonderful about my decision and I’m proud that I took that leap of faith.

A leap of faith!

Letter to Aunt Sandie!

Dear Aunt Sandie,

Please seriously consider walking the last leg of the Camino de Santiago with me in May/June!

Love,

Cheri

Now, I know some of you are probably wondering why I would write a letter to my aunt as part of my blog. Well, it’s pretty simple – it’s blackmail. Yup, down and dirty public exposure! It’s kind of like that book, “The Secret”, that says if you tell the Universe your needs, it must provide! I’m thinking that if I ask for this through these public forums we call Facebook and the blogging process, it’s as good as asking the whole Universe!

And why the short letter? Another easy answer. Aunt Sandie and I talked about the Camino so often during my visit to Florida, that there’s no need for explanation or further discussion. She knows what it is, why it’s done, and what it would mean to me if she showed up!

Okay, so before any of you get upset about not getting a request or invitation, let me assure you I’m a “the more the merrier” kinda gal. But this is not any old vacation or get-away. This is a whole different ballgame in the world of travel! This is a journey that requires the ability to sleep in a refugio with many other people. It is hours upon hours of walking. The Camino is about sharing your thoughts with another and yet, at times, sharing no conversation at all. This trip demands that you understand there is a purpose for walking the Camino and still,  you may not even be aware of it’s purpose until it’s done and over. When I think of all the people I’ve travelled with over the years, I know that Aunt Sandie is the one person who could share this journey with me.

How do I know she can do it? Once again a very simple answer! Because she wants to! She knows it and I know it! For all the physical, mental, emotional, and financial struggle this would be, she is the one person who could tackle them all…and win!

And so, my letter to her is now public. I expect my friends to chime in and encourage her! She doesn’t have FB, so just send your comments to me! I’ll be sure she gets them! It’s like I said, once you put something out to the Universe it must happen!

Love you Aunt Sandie….see ya in Spain! 🙂

Ending….to the waiting…I’m BOOKED!!!

Wow! December 13th and I am finally booked on my round the world trip!

So here’s the deal – I opted to keep the flying to a minimum. I’m heading out February 1st for Singapore. I have stops along the way of course, in San Francisco and Hong Kong! On February 3rd, I’ll be in Singapore. After that, I can decided when I want to move on to Malaysia and Thailand.

Now, about Thailand. Many of you know I have this ridiculous fear of snakes. I’m going to try and be a big girl and just relax and not expect snakes to come out of nowhere in Thailand just to scare me! But I will be cautious I’m sure. I haven’t figured out why I think they will be EVERYWHERE! But, the ticket is booked. I’m sure if I get too freaked out in Thailand, I’ll turn around and head back south or maybe further north to China! No matter what, it’s a done deal now!

After SE Asia, I’ll be heading to Europe for a few months. I’d like to see some of eastern Europe. I’m flying into Paris, but I’ll be doing lots of overland travel on the trains. Eventually, I’ll be heading to southern France to start my Camino de Santiago walk! I have a friend in Europe who will be holding my things for me for this journey!

After Europe, I’m heading back. I really have no STRONG desire to see Australia and South America right now. But, I am considering these parts of the world for my next trip. Oh God, already I’m thinking beyond this one. I’m obsessed.

So, I’m done waiting to purchase the ticket, done hesitating because of my fears about snakes, do I have enough money, where should I go; done thinking maybe I should just kill the travel bug altogether and settle in to another cubicle job. I’m done wondering when I should go, what’s the best time in regards to weather. I’m done worrying about travelling solo. Oh the list could go on and on! The truth is…..I’m ready!!!! 🙂

Oh and for those of you who think world travel is expensive, my ticket was less than $3000! 🙂 Thanks to Justin at airtreks.com for all his hard work in putting this together!

Ending my day….with a little reading that’s scaring me!

So here it is….the kind of stuff I read at the end of the day! This is actually just the tip of the iceberg – my NookColor is usually in use also!

For the last few years, I’ve been making a conscience effort to end my days by either reading or journaling or both. It calms me! It’s a time for me to let my mind be at peace. Especially with journaling, I find I am able to empty my head right onto the paper. Writing is especially important for me when I’m struggling with something or another. It’s like, well, once the words are on the paper, the pain or sorrow or fear are now out of my body! I feel like all the stress flows out of body through my hand as I’m writing.

When I read, I usually try to find things that are soothing. But lately, my reading material is focused on the Camino de Santiago of course. Those of you who know me could have figured that out! Once my mind is on something, it tends to go full steam ahead! So here’s the deal – I’ve read all my books about the facts concerning The Way of St. James. Now I’m reading a book by a women my age who did the Camino Frances which is the same route I will take. Her name is Jane Christmas and the book is “What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim – A Midlife Misadventure on Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela”.

I’d like to be able to report to you that this book is encouraging me to do this walk. Quite the contrary! The book is funny, irreverent, exciting! It’s also, for lack of better words, scaring the crap out of me! Her descriptions about her first day tackling the Pyrenees has me re-evaluating this little adventure I have planned! As I read, I laugh out loud about the struggle she is having because she just makes it all sound so funny, and yet, I know this will not be nearly as funny when I’m actually doing it! She curses her way up the mountains and wonders what the hell she is doing, a middle-aged, out of shape woman in a foreign country on a walk that somehow, is supposed to bring her closer to herself or God or other people or whatever! Reading her words, I can see myself in this same situation! I have a feeling I will be repeating some of the same awful words I’ve read on the pages of her book!

It’s a good thing though, that once I start a book I read it to the end. She is past the mountains now and realizing what her journey is about and just like every book I’ve read about the Camino, there is a change happening inside her. Once again, I’m reassured after all that scariness, that I too, a middle-aged, out of shape woman can do this! Buen Camino!!!

In the middle….planning, planning, planning!

My first real guide to the Camino came today in the mail! Thanks to my friends where I worked previously, I was able to purchase two very necessary guides at Amazon.com at very little cost to me. That gift certificate REALLY came in handy…and to think I almost forgot about it! So, a quick thank you to my friends at Current USA…I miss you all and thank you so much again for gift card!

The Camino de Santiago Map guide is a wonderful little (and lightweight, but sturdy) booklet showing all the different stages of the Camino. It gives information regarding the elevations, types of paths and roadways, places to stay, official albergues (hostels), places to eat, shops, post offices, etc. It’s a plethora (I love that word) of information for each day of travel. Keep in mind, travel can be broken up into as little or many days as one wants to take! I can’t believe how much information is in this tiny book! It includes distances between points of interest, what type of terrain to expect, where churches, chapels, and wayside crosses are located, windmill locations – it just go on and on with all kinds of little icons representing what I will see and need to know!

The other book that I ordered is written also by John Brierley and is called, “The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago”. It contains information on how to prepare for the trip, historical background in regards to the sights and towns I will pass through, and practical information about the Camino journey. Right now, it’s on backorder….I can’t wait to get that one!

In the past few weeks, I’ve been really thinking about how to pack for this journey. I’ve looked at everything from different backpacks to rain ponchos to trekking poles! Can you even image it – me with trekking poles. I giggle just think about that…I’m so clumsy! I’ve also purchased a few things here and there like Liquid Skin (for blisters), a fleece jacket (yes, it will get chilly crossing over the Pyrnenees mountains), and sock liners. This weekend I’m heading to Knoxville to check out Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (very much like REI) for new hiking shoes!

But I must be honest about this trip – I’m really looking forward to what this journey can help me learn about, well, ME! I know – I’m terribly selfish to think that way, but it’s the truth. Why do I feel this need to be alone? Will it ever change? Is is okay to always feel this way? When did this happen to me – when we lost our son Jason? When I divorced? Who knows…but maybe this trip will help me figure myself out!

In the meantime, I’m in the middle of planning, planning, planning. I’m working on finding the right equipment, preparing myself physically and mentally, and of course, the regular logistics of all travel – airline tickets! 🙂

To learn more about the Camino de Santiago go to: http://www.americanpilgrims.com/camino/camino.html

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