Over the Threshold into Retirement

identity

After months – no, years — of planning, I finally have walked through the door to retirement. I have received my last paycheque. In a couple of weeks, I will pack up my office at work. I have bought a house in a different province, in a community closer to our kids and grandkids. And I have booked a moving date.

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One of our favourite hikes in the landscape we are leaving behind.

Rethinking my Identity

It has been an emotional roller-coaster. Regular readers will know that I have struggled mightily with the challenge of stepping away from my work identity. What you might not know, as I have not shared it until now, is why I have found it so hard to leave work.

After all, a job is just a job. People go to work to earn money in order to support themselves and their families. If they are lucky, they have work that enables them to contribute something useful and meaningful to society. If they are even more lucky, they have the kind of workplace where colleagues are almost like family; where they work together with respected colleagues to create and build new knowledge, systems, or services; and where they are deeply appreciated and seen as integral to the business or institution. Sometimes, a person becomes so wrapped up into their work role that it becomes almost impossible to separate one’s personal identity from one’s work identity.

That is my situation. My job isn’t just a job for money; it is a big part of my identity. You see, I am an academic.

From the day that I began pursuing my PhD in the late 1980’s, through to accepting my first tenure-track position as a professor, to achieving tenure, eventually being promoted to full professor, and then moving into university administration, I have loved the academic life. I have deeply enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with students: in a teaching role, as graduate supervisor and mentor, and designing and developing academic programs and services to support students.

I have loved being a researcher. Really, could anything be more interesting than thinking up questions that you want to know the answers to, or speculating about why things are the way they are, and then studying those problems and writing about them? On the practical side, it is very satisfying when the problems you have been studying lead to new processes or ways of doing things that make a real-world difference for people. This is especially the case when you have the chance to work with a new generation of researchers and teachers who are inspired to take their own practices in new and productive directions. How could I ever walk away from all that? That was the dilemma that faced me when I began to consider whether and when I should retire.

Yet, I had reached a level of exhaustion and burnout that was scary. My creativity and love of the academic life had faded to numbness. My husband had been retired for eleven years already and was eager for me to join him before we both got too old for outdoor adventures. Our four grandchildren were growing up in locations far away and we could not visit as often as we would have liked. None of our close friends lived nearby. I could afford to retire. All the signs were pointing toward retirement, but still it was hard to make the choice to do so.

Putting Plans into Action

However, for me, the long interim period of working through the decision of whether to retire, how to retire, and where to live after retiring was necessary, I think. It helped me come to terms with the identity question. I decided that although I was leaving my role as a university professor, I would retain my involvement in research for at least a year or two after formally retiring. So I made arrangements to facilitate that plan, and committed to continue on with some academic research projects that I had initiated during my year of administrative leave.

We toured around the province in which we knew we wanted to live, and jointly made a decision to buy a house on Vancouver Island. As it turned out, the date we took possession of our new house was the same day I retired! I thought that I would write cautionary notes here, advising readers against combining the two stresses of retiring and moving by doing them simultaneously. However, for me, it actually has been a great thing. It has distracted me from mulling over what I am leaving behind to focus instead on the new home and new life, and to throw myself into the practicalities of making it happen.

There is a sense of relief in finally moving from thought to action. Coming to our new community and new home, knowing that we will be moving here for real very soon, I have a huge sense of anticipation about new possibilities. Vancouver Island is so beautiful and lush. I love being near the ocean. The grocery stores have lovely produce and seafood counters. I will be closer to people that I love. Already, I can hardly remember why I was clinging so hard to my old life and our former home. Onward! There are exciting adventures ahead!Gideon Sock Puppet

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The beautiful BC coastline, not far from our new home.

From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Dr. Sock for sharing her longstanding dilemma with her decision to retire and the reasons behind this. As a long time follower of Dr. Sock Writes Here, I am privileged to have ‘Gideon Sock Puppet’ as my new real-life neighbour. I know that her retirement has been off to a fantastic start. I look forward to reading (and now ‘hearing’) about her upcoming retirement adventures!

Please join us next week — same time, same place. Janis, from RetirementallyChallenged, asks us “What’s So Challenging About Retirement?” This post contains Janis’ signature positive outlook….you won’t want to miss it!

ABANDONED!

Why to ensure that ‘the shoe fits’ before embarking on your Camino!

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#WordlessWednesday

Creating a Lifestyle Catered to You

Lifestyle

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me over to participate in your Sunday Series. It is a pleasure, and an honor, to be called one of your favorites. My ego is bursting!

A retirement lifestyle?

Lifestyle
At 42-years-old, I am not retired, although many people might think differently based on the lifestyle I have been living since 2003. It’s either that, or they think I am on a perpetual vacation, or that I am rich, or all of the above! Living an alternative lifestyle throughout adulthood causes these assumptions. Unfortunately, the reality is “none of the above.” Although I have the flexibility to sleep in and form my own schedule, that’s where the comparisons stop. I still need to make money and sacrifices to survive, and I own nothing, not even a retirement account. My husband, Mark, and I like the minimalistic approach and don’t require much to be happy and free. All our belongings fit in our red Toyota Prius and, other than our business, The Wirie, we have no burdens or responsibilities. We don’t have a home, children or pets (yet) and go wherever we find an attractive long-term house and pet sit. To us, creating memories and going on adventures is more important than collecting material goods or financial wealth.

Blogs to inspire and share?

In 2007, Mark and I embarked on an impromptu cruising adventure with our two big rescue dogs, Kali and Darwin. After a failed attempt two years prior in Northern California, because the dogs hated sailing on a monohull (which lays on its side when moving in certain directions), we searched and found a 35-foot catamaran (more stability and less seasickness for me) in Annapolis, Maryland, and named her Irie, which is a reggae term meaning “It’s all good!” I started my first blog, It’s Irie, to document all our adventures and share tips while cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific. We ran a business from the middle of nowhere (tricky!), I wrote blog posts and magazine articles, and we indulged in many foods, cultures, sights and wildlife encounters while living on a tight budget. The longer the money lasted, the longer we could sail and explore the islands.

Eight years later, in August 2015, the challenging yet rewarding lifestyle proved to have been enough. We sold our sailboat in Tahiti, French Polynesia and ‘moved’ to land in the United States, to focus on the long-range WiFi business we started in St. Martin in 2009 and to concentrate on my writing. I started a new blog, settling on the name “Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary.” I moved from the Blogger platform to WordPress and have been a happy camper since. Picking a name was difficult. On the one hand, I did not want to let go of the term “irie” (which, as our floating home, had been good to us and which is part of the name of our product), on the other hand, I wanted something that reflected our ever-changing lifestyle. Now, I am happy with the name, since “roaming about” is exactly what we keep doing. It is a versatile topic, and even when I report on my writing progress (or digress) it is still related to travel and adventure, since those are the topics of my stories and non-fiction book.

Where does this wanderlust come from?

Good question! Since I am working on a memoir right now, I have been wondering about my wandering needs. On a recent visit to my parents in Belgium, I asked them once again: “Is there anything that I was doing as a child that gave any indication that I loved adventures, explorations, to be out and about?” Once again, the disappointing answer was “No!”. I was as normal a child as could be. (That changed during my teenage years.) My dad was in the Belgian Navy for two years back in the late sixties, after which he said: “That’s it. I have seen enough. I have been to all the places I wanted to see.” Since then, he is happiest at home. My mom enjoys short weekend trips and getaways, but needs comfort and luxury when doing so. I do not see any similarities with the way I live and travel. As kids, my brother and I went on family vacations to France, Spain, Italy, and Norway. Lots of Belgian kids do. By the time I was seventeen, I had developed an unexplainable love of traveling, by necessity, on a budget. This attraction to adventure and aversion to spendthrift never changed.

While apprehensive at first (which mother would be comfortable when her 17-year-old daughter hitchhikes to and in Italy for three weeks with a boyfriend?), my parents quickly got used to and even supported my traveling lifestyle. I worked… to save… to travel: a 5-week summer expedition in India, a year to Southeast Asia with a backpack and friends after college, another year of backpacking to Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia by myself at age 25, after working as a teacher for two years. I went back to my elementary school job in Belgium for two more years and then, I left. Indefinitely. It wasn’t planned in that summer of 2003, but I never returned to live in my home country. Instead, I explored the US, Canada, and Alaska with a camper, a boyfriend and a dog for a year and a half. And, I met Mark in December 2004. We unsuccessfully attempted that sailing trip to Mexico with his two dogs. Then, we changed gears and mode of transportation and drove a truck camper throughout Mexico and Central America for a year. This was followed by life in a tent and car for two months, until we found Irie.

Traveling full-time is exhausting! After this last sailing journey, Mark and I have found the perfect lifestyle in house and pet sitting. We adore dogs and enjoy the creature comforts of electricity, water, and internet, while moving about, resting up, exploring new areas and living rent-free. As to the origins of my wanderlust, the answer had been found! Apparently, there is a gene called DRD4-7R, which causes people to take risks and explore new places. That has got to be it – this gene is part of my whole being. It is possessed by around 20 per cent of the population, so I can’t help but wonder: are those people stuck in a boring 9-5 work situation, living the so-called American (Or Canadian, or European, or Down Under) Dream, feeling trapped and craving freedom? Or have they found other creative outlets to let their spirits soar?

What do you want to achieve in life?

This guest post is getting long enough. I hope I have not bored you to sleep! The words organically appeared as I was trying to shed some light on our lives in an attempt to show you that it is possible to live the life you desire without financial or other restraints, but with a dose of curiosity, flexibility and determination. When people say “You are so lucky to be living like this!” I can’t help but correct them: “Luck has nothing to do with it. Life is all about the choices you make.” Granted, bad health and certain responsibilities can be debilitating, but hopefully only for a period of time. It is a cliché, but we only have one life on this beautiful and fascinating planet, so we better make it count and try to own our happiness. My best friend recently asked: “What would you like to accomplish by the time you die?” My answer: “I don’t want to have any regrets.” The other idiom “It’s better to regret the things you did than the things you didn’t do” is closely related to how I feel as well.

Roaming About

Lifestyle

How about you? What do you want to achieve in life? What would you like to change? What would make you happy/happier? Any chance of achieving this state of mind or lifestyle change (soon)?

Liesbet

From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Liesbet for sharing her facinating story of living life freely and fully — at any age. Her minimalist lifestyle, and focus on creating memories and adventure is incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. Please join us again next week when we welcome Gideon Sock-Puppet from Dr. Sock Writes Here. See you then!

Spanish Doors of the Camino

I love following the Thursday Doors Series. Still, I rarely contribute. The doors to which I have regular access seldom speak to me. That all changed during our recent trek on the Camino Trail. Actually, if Richard hadn’t given me his ‘ahem’ voice (quite a few times), we would still be lingering in Spain, with me trying to capture all of the awe-inspiring photographic moments that surrounded us. Here is a sampling of just a few of the doorways that caused us to stop and give pause.

Azofra, Rioja. The first day of our month-long hike. We immediately realized that ‘Camino doors’ were far from ordinary.
Calzadila de los Hermanilos, Castile and Leon. The colours and textures were rich and captivating (some more subtle than others).
Valverde de la Virgen, Castile and Leon. The selection of this photo is more about the name than the door. But you must admit, it fits!
Acebo, Castile and Leon. Heavy and cumbersome ‘strip doors’. Not my favourite to pass through. But they do photograph well.
Riego de Ambroa, Castile and Leon. If only these doors could talk!
Trabadelo, Castile and Leon. Door for sale.
Belorado, Catle and Leon. You could feel the texture of these doors from a distant glance.
Ambasmestas, Castile and Leon. Sometimes it was not the door itself, but what was in front of it, that captured our attention.
Pedrafita do Cebreiro, Galicia. Some things reveal themselves best in black and white.
Palas de Rei, Galicia. No matter how small the town, intriguing doors were everywhere.
Palas de Rei, Galicia. I don’t know about you, but I interpreted this as being meant as a doorway.
Camino, Galicia, This was almost a full view of a Camino door. Honestly, I could not have planned this shot if I had tried!
Samos, Galicia. Shed door showing ‘the way’.
Triacastela, Galicia. It wasn’t only the doors that were funky and original.
Triacastela, Galicia. Is the door half-open or half-closed?
Negreia, Galicia. Okay, I admit. Perhaps this is an archway. Still, it is an entrance…which surely must count!
Muxia, Galicia. So maybe this is not an official ‘door’ either. Though it is quite similar!
Finisterre, Galicia. We were sad to leave the rich and textured beauty of Spain. Although we will not likely be back on the Camino again, it was a trip of a lifetime for which we are immensely grateful.

Thank you for traveling with me. Be sure to check out the thought-provoking (and beautifully photographed) door posts of other writers and photographers in this week’s series, #ThursdayDoors.

Conquering the Monsters of Life

How often do you get asked to say something nice about yourself, or to promote your best attributes, and find it one of the most difficult subjects to talk about? Granted, not everyone will find the subject of promoting themselves difficult, but many, including myself, find it a route full of potholes, bumps and barriers, because of the monsters we are born with.

Deep down inside, I’ve always wanted to be on a stage, the spotlight directly on me, in front of a room full of people focused on nothing else but me! It’s a desire I’ve had since one of my first school teachers, without asking, told me that I’d be playing the part of The Mad Hatter in the school’s Christmas production of Alice In Wonderland. My heart sunk when she called out my name, yet inside of me was a feeling that I’d come to a well-maintained part of the road that I would later go on to call life.

One by one, Miss Banks told us to read out a part from the script she’d written. The Mad Hatter appears during the middle part of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and I was relieved that I had time to get myself together and to do all I could not to stutter when reading out my lines. Often, for no reason, I would start to stutter when talking face to face to somebody, or when in a group, but I’d never been asked to stand up and read out loud from a book or a script in front of an audience. In my mind, while taking little notice of the other children reading their parts, I went over and over reading the lines Miss Banks had chosen for me to say.

When I stood up that day and started to stutter, a group of children in my class started to snigger and laugh. I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up, or my Mother to suddenly arrive and take me away from one of the worse first experiences of my life. However, Miss Banks was having none of it and, after giving the children who were laughing a stern look, she told me to take my time and to pretend that she was the only person in the room.

Fast forward to the evening of the school production, not only had I experienced my first bit of stardom, but I overheard my mother thanking Miss Banks for giving me the part of The Mad Hatter.

“No problem at all” she told my mother. “I wrote the part especially for Hugh. I’m not sure if you’re aware or have noticed anything about the way Hugh writes or reads, but he seems to get a little muddled up sometimes. He’s told me that some of the letters get mixed up and that he can’t pronounced some of the words. I’ve not seen this type of thing with any other children before, but I have mentioned it to the Headmistress.”

Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it and, later in my school life, many of my school teachers would tell her that they put it down to me being a slow learner or that I was not a very intelligent child. My mother never spoke to me about it, yet I somehow knew that she and I knew that what they were saying was not the case. Why? Well, because even when some of my teachers dropped me down to classes with children a few year’s younger than me, I was still experiencing the same problems.

Fast forward again, this time to 2014, and I found myself starring at a website called WordPress. Over the years, since playing the part of The Mad Hatter, my desire to write had grown and I’d secretly written a few short stories that nobody else had ever read. Now, right in front of me, here was a chance for me to finally allow my passion to become a published writer to be unleashed.

Pressing that ‘publish’ button was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I had the same feelings I’d had the day Miss Banks had asked me to stand up and read out some lines. Then the sound of her voice telling me to pretend she was the only one in the room came into my mind. I had more flashbacks of not only the day I stood up in front of my class and read out some lines Miss Banks had written especially for me, but of the evening of my first school play. I saw my parents standing up in the audience clapping their hands and cheering along with all the other parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives of the school children who had just put on their first school play. I pressed the publish button, walked away from my computer and went for a walk.

The day after I stood up in front of my class and read out the lines of The Mad Hatter, the monster I called ‘stuttering’ stared to retreat. I was starting to find confidence in myself and in talking directly with other people, yet in class the letters still got mixed up and I found certain words hard to say.

The day I pushed the ‘publish’ button on the first post on my newly created blog, I started to conquer the monster I called ‘Dyslexia.
’ Even to this day, I still cannot pronounce the word ‘dyslexic’ properly; yet today I have a self-published book of short stories under my belt, and a successful blog which attracts thousands of readers every month.

My monsters may still live with me and be with me until my ‘best by’ date comes up but, when I do walk over the rainbow bridge, one of the first people I am going to look for and thank is Miss Banks.

Hugh

conquering the monsters
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From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Hugh (and to Miss Banks) for reminding us that we can put our monsters behind us and achieve things that we never thought possible! Please join us again next week when we welcome Liesbet who will inspire us with a life less ordinary!

And We’re Back (Home That Is)!

When I left you last, Richard and I had finished our full Camino and had just spent four interesting (and restful) days in Finisterre. Since we had padded this trip with extra days, we had almost two full weeks left before our scheduled flights home from Paris. What to do? Some of you suggested Portugal, others suggested places in France, while still others said that if they were us, they would head home early.

What suggestions did we finally decide upon? A combination of all three! Here, in photo format are our post-Camino adventures.

Porto, Portugal

We arrived at sunset, giving us a spectacular ‘welcoming view’ of the city. For the first night, we stayed at the Miradouro, a hotel that was strangely trapped in the 1950’s. We half expected Carmen Miranda to walk into the bar at any moment! The next morning, we set off on a city-tour bus…which we quickly abandoned, being much more comfortable exploring on foot.  We loved the bright colours, the water views, and the ‘unexpected’ which seemed to appear around every corner.

Food, Drink and Port Wine Tasting

Porto was an amazing place for eating, drinking, and to visit one (or more) of the many famed port houses. While there, we had breakfast at the famous Majestic Cafe. We also took in a tour of Taylor’s, participated in some port wine tastings, and ate…and ate…and ate!

Transportation: The Good, The Bad….and The Cranky

In the past 35 days, our only transportation was by foot. We quickly discovered how advantageous that had been. You get up and go whenever you like, you stop whenever you like, and there is very little ‘hurry up and wait’!! In a few of our travel photos, you are able to see Richard’s rare (but very expressive) cranky face! Totally understandable, as both of our fights were delayed, giving us much airport wait time. Oh, and this is the perfect spot to insert this glimpse that we caught of a girl who had just finished the Camino Trail and was awaiting her bus. I just loved the contrast of her backpack and her handbag….I never could figure out what she did with the handbag during her hike!

We’ll Always Have Paris

For our final stop, we stayed two nights in Paris. As we have visited before, we were able to have a relaxed itinerary of cafes, strolling along the Seine, photo ops at the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Luxembourg Gardens and Notre Dame. Oh, and it also included Richard demonstrating his ‘modeling’ talents at the outdoor Dalida Photo Exhibit. This was followed by meeting a great friend (who we know from Beijing) for drinks and dinner. It turned out to be an amazing day, and a perfect end to our time away.

We are now back home safe and sound and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends here. Thanks so much for following along. We have greatly appreciated you joining us! Please join us again tomorrow for a special guest post by Hugh from Hugh’s News and Views!

Dream, Dare, Do!

When Donna asked if I would write a guest post, I was a little taken aback.

What exactly was my blog about anyway? I had no idea how to answer this question.

Unlike my life, which is rather organized and definitely goal oriented, my blog is not.

When I first started blogging in 2014, I envisioned it to be a look back on my life – an autobiography of sorts. I had just spent a year trying to document my parent’s life story and thought it was equally important for my children if I documented my own.

The problem was … the past simply wouldn’t talk to me.

Even though I had *retired*, I was still all about moving forward. Instead of resting on past experiences, I was more interested in developing new ones by going to unfamiliar places, dreaming up new challenges, and learning along the way.

I feared that retirement would make me complacent and that I was at risk of drifting from day to day without direction. I didn’t want to arrive at the end of a year and wonder where the time went. So three years ago I started a ‘New Things Project.’

I maintain a spreadsheet full of new things – both big and small – that I want to do or try. It is broken into categories like New Foods, Personal Development, Travel, New Experiences, Books, and Home Projects.

This spreadsheet has become a touchstone for me, especially whenever I feel I need a nudge to get out of a rut. Because of it, my blog has become a mashup of stuff from this life of new things. I might blog about a story from my past, but more likely it will be a recent *find* or experience from one of my regular excursions near or far.

Right now, there are 243 items on my ‘2017 New Things List,’ of which 74 of them have been done so far this year. So if I had to say what my blog was about, I’d point to my ‘New Things Spreadsheet.’

However, I often never get around to writing about most of the things I do. There are just not enough hours in a day for me to fit everything in – nor do all these new experiences provide a story for me to tell.

If there was a single message I would want my blog to leave behind, I’d say that time is going to pass by regardless of whether you do anything to challenge yourself or not.

Dream

So why not dream big? Then dare to do it!

Joanne

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From Retirement Reflections:
Thank you to Joanne for this ‘gentle’ nudge to dream, dare, do and try new things! This is important advice for all stages of life — especially retirement. If not now, when?
Please stay tuned for our September Line Up: Hugh from Hugh’s Views and News (September 3), Liesbet from Roaming About (September 10), Gideon Sock Puppet from Dr. Sock Writes Here (September 17), Janis from Retirementally Challenged (September 24) and Terri from Second Wind Leisure Perspectives (October 1). See you there!

The End of Our Camino Experience: Arriving in Finisterre

Day 32 – Arriving in Finisterre – 17 km.

As we walked our final kilometers to Finisterre, we became poignantly aware of all of the lasts that we were experiencing. Our last morning in an auberge (desperately trying not to wake those around us), our final glimpses of stunning Camino scenery, and the end of our trail breakfasts. We had a good seven kilometer hike before we spotted an open ‘restaurant’. As good fortune would have it, we eventually found a very rustic, ‘by donation’ spot that we absolutely loved. Although basic, they do have a Facebook page — which is one of the many delightful contradictions of the Camino. Shortly after we resumed our hike, we ran into our ‘2017 Camino Angels’, Tundie (from Budapest) and Caroline (from New Zealand). We had first met them in San Bol, and then saw them each day until we stayed the extra night in Leon. They were just leaving Finisterre and were headed to Muxia (the more common order). They said that they were hoping to see us again. We were delighted to see them as well!
Other than knowing that Finisterre had long been considered ‘the end of the world’ (and predetermining that we would burn a sock or two here), we had few expectations for this destination. As soon as we spotted this city in the distance, we were delighted by its bright colours, and brilliant ocean views. After spending our first night here, we knew that we would want to spend extra time in this fascinating place.

Aug. 24 – The final 3.5 km.

Although we arrived in Finisterre early yesterday, and considered that to be our last ‘walking day’, there were still 3.5 kilometers to go to ‘Cabo Finisterre’ and the famed ‘Lighthouse Faro’ where the Finisterre Camino Trail officially ends. We had a very relaxed, ‘backpack-free’ hike there this morning. If you look closely at the attached photo, you’ll notice the ‘0.00 km to go’ on the sign post. That means that we have now completed 720+ kilometers of the Camino Trail in a thirty-three day time span (two of those days, plus today, being rest days)! The feeling was bittersweet. Then suddenly, everything just came together. As we looked around, there was a marker honouring the 2008 visit of Stephen Hawking (whom I greatly admire). There was also a ‘Peace Pole’ planted by the International World Peace Project. There are currently many ‘Peace Poles’ around the world. They are intended to be an internationally-recognized symbol of the “hopes and dreams of the entire human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth.” What more appropriate message could there be for the end of the Camino? As planned, we also followed the pilgrim ritual of burning something in the fire pit (me, a well-worn pair of hiking socks, Richard a note). The symbolism behind this is letting go of things that no longer serve us, including fears and behaviors that are destructive to ourselves and others. We didn’t realize it until now, but our 700+ kilometer trek was very similar to the moral of The Wizard of Oz. Viz., We all have more presence of mind, more bravery, more physical abilities and more compassion/understanding than we realize until we get out there and do it! Richard and I have decided to stay in this inspiring and thought-provoking city for two more nights.

Aug. 25. Finisterre – Continued.

We already miss our walking routine. So many things that we love, and thrive upon, were automatically built into our time on the trail. Time together. Time spent in nature. Time getting lost in our own thoughts. Fitness and excercise. Meeting interesting people. History. Culture. Spirituality. Mindfulness. It was all naturally there…without trying to find a way to fit it all in. Our challenge now is to to maintain as much of this as possible as we return to our ‘regular’ lives. As we begin to readjust to life off of the trail, we have enjoyed being able to immerse ourselves in one city…and Finisterre has been a perfect place to do just that. This morning, we took a long walk on a quiet, tranquil beach. We then wandered through a busy and colourful Friday Market. After lunch, we had a long siesta. Research indicates that the Spanish are one of the top fourteen longest-living nationalities–and some of that is attributed to regular walking, olive oil consumption, and afternoon naps. Why would we not follow suit?

Aug. 26 – Final Night in Finisterre –

.. It is a common tradition for pilgrims to splurge on something (often a seafood platter) at the end of their Camino. When we arrived at the ‘0 km’ marker in Cabo Finisterre the other morning, we knew what we wanted our ‘reward’ to be. Overlooking the famed lighthouse at the ‘end of the world’, is a small and very unique hotel. Yes, it was significantly more expensive than any of our other room costs in Spain. But, it was quite in-line with average hotel prices in Vancouver. And, if you add up all of our accommodation costs on the Camino and divide by our number of nights here, it was really one heck of a steal! (Yup, I can justify just about anything!) We had a lovely (and reasonably priced) lunch. For dinner, we made the five-kilometer round trip to the nearest grocery store. We then had a sunset picnic on the point with views that left us speechless. It was a perfect ending to an unforgettable adventure.
As we still have almost two weeks left before our booked flights to Vancouver (via Paris), our dilemma is what to do next. Head out to France and stop in some unique places along the way? Take a side trip to Portugal? Return home early (our tickets are changeable)? As amazing as the world is, as everyone knows, there’s truly no place like home! What would you do? Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.

The Camino Trail 2017 – Reaching Santiago…Then Heading to Muxia and Finisterre

Day 25- Reaching Santiago de Compostela- 25 km.

Last week, I published my Camino post one day earlier than usual. I wanted to open this new entry with arriving in Santiago. Arriving here can be an indescribably moving experience, and the thought of it filled me with anticipation. Above, are photos of our two separate entrances to Santiago. The first is after our 110 km trek in 2010. The latter is from earlier today. Sadly, much of the exterior of the cathedral is currently undergoing restoration. This definitely damped the quality of our arrival photo. It also may have been a sign of things to come. After twenty-five days of extended periods of peace and tranquility on the trail, the loud, chaotic, ‘hurry up and wait’ pace of this diverse, bustling city was a bit overwhelming…and not quite the arrival experience that we had imagined. Richard and I responded in the best way that we knew how. We had a 5 p.m. dinner, ordered a large pitcher of Sangria and retired early (to a private hotel room…with our own bathroom). Tomorrow would be a brand new day!

Day 26 – Rest Day in Santiago de Compostela.

And today was much more enjoyable! Although the crowds and fast-pace remained, somehow none of it seemed to be quite as daunting. We began the morning by waiting in line, for almost two hours, to receive our ‘compostela certificate’ as well as our certificate of the ‘official’ distance that we had walked so far this year on the Camino Trail (604 kilometers). In line, we met a very engaging couple from Western Australia. It is remarkable how good quality conversation can make time pass so quickly! We then attended mass in the cathedral. This service included the famous swinging of the botafumeiro (large, metal incense burning container). As this feature is quite expensive (more than 400 USD each time that it is operated), it is not included in every service. We were very grateful to have been able to witness this ceremony both at this mass, and during our 2010 visit.We also stopped by the Camino Museum, had wine and tapas for dinner and attended to the mundane…but very, very necessary washing of our hiking shoes. Seriously…check out the before and after photos!

Day 27 – Santiago de Compostela to Negreira – 21 km.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said every fiber of my being as I got up this morning and prepared to continue walking. “But we already have the certificate,” protested some of my body parts even more loudly. I’d love to say that today’s walk was a breeze…but it just wasn’t so. Beautiful? Yes. And we passed some amazing scenery, quite unlike other views that we had seen before. In the suburbs of Santiago, we even fantasized about living in one of the gorgeous haciendas that we passed. Sadly, none of that was distraction enough from the LONG, 2.8 kilometer climb from Augapesada to Trasmonte. But, we did make it. (With me questioning why we had ever decided to take on this portion of the trek, and Richard barely breaking out in a sweat!) When we arrived in Negreira, we chose an alberge next door to a large grocery store so that we could prepare our own dinner. I just couldn’t eat one more piece of bread or heavy meat. And Richard would have a tantrum if there was any more tuna hiding in his salad, pretending to be a vegetable!

Day 28 – Negreira to Santa Marina – 21 km.

The author of our guidebook, John Brierly, suggested that today’s route end in Olveiroa, and thus consist of 33.8 km (36.9 when accounting for the climbs involved). However, he is also the same author who wrote that after completing this stage he stumbled up the stairs, saw “surreal images” (hallucinated?) and passed out in pure exhaustion. Not wanting to recreate his experience, we stopped in Santa Marina for the evening. We had plenty of time to chill out and meet more great people. Sadly, again we could not find reliable internet, so I needed to handwrite this post to be transcribed later.(Definitely not my favourite thing to do!)

Day 29 – Santa Marina to Dumbria (23.3 km).

Since we were both wide-awake quite early this morning, we began today’s hike an hour before full daylight (6:45 a.m). The walk was indescribably peaceful, and remained that way throughout the day. Part way through, our path divided towards Finisterre and Muxia. We wished to end our trek in Finisterre (long ago considered to be the ‘end of the world’…and a traditional spot for Camino pilgrims to burn their hiking clothes)! So, we headed towards Muxia — definitely the road less traveled. It was one of our favorite hiking days so far. When we stopped in Dumbria for the evening, we passed on the ultra new and modern auberge (only six euros) because we wanted to have wi-fi. We stayed instead at a local pension (40 euros) that said that it offered wi-fi. And it did offer wi-fi until their restaurant closed (5:30 pm)…giving us less than two hours of internet use during our stay. That’s Camino karma for you!

Day 30 – Arriving in Muxia – 22.3 km.

Although we plan to finish our Camino in Finisterre, when we arrived in Muxia, we were overwhelmed with the feeling that we were at the end of our walking journey. This small fishing port (population 5,000) quietly radiates that it is special. Its scenery is beautiful and its beaches are stunning (and surprisingly uncrowded…at least when we were there). As a pilgrimage site, Muxia holds much significance. It is said that the Virgin Mary came here by boat to visit Saint James. When near shore, her boat crashed. Its pieces became petrified into stone (believed by many to be some of the same stones still seen here today). Regardless of one’s belief, this site can’t help but fill you with wonder and respect for all of the history that came before us.

Day 31 – Muxia to As Eiras – 15 km.

We loved Muxia and found it to be both peaceful and fascinating. Before heading back on the trail, we once again visited the famous rock formations. One of the rocks, said to be formed from the sail of St. Mary’s ship, is also said to cure arthritis if you pass under/around it nine times. And one of us (the one without arthritis) successfully completed this ritual in proxy for the other. If that’s not true love, what is? When we made our final stop before Finisterre, we jinxed ourselves by bragging (just to each other) that except for two small blisters each, long since healed, neither of us received any illness or injury in our 700 kilometer walk. Shortly after saying this, Richard fell out of the hammock, that he was attempting to relax in, and received a large bruise and scrape. Seriously, I’m not a talented enough writer to make this stuff up!

Just 17 kilometers left to go!
To be continued…

The Glasgow Gallivanter

Anabel Marsh is a 60ish retired librarian from Glasgow in Scotland


Do you remember starting school? I do. Before then, I had spent my time playing with my friends and my little sister – now I was constrained. I remember feeling, though I couldn’t have expressed it, that I would never be free again. Well, I have news for my 5-year old self! That freedom comes back with retirement. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my education and my career, and I’m still a responsible person who commits to whatever she takes on, but now I have far more choice over what I do.

I also have more time to blog, although I don’t consider myself a retirement blogger as such. The Glasgow Gallivanter started life in 2011, the year before I finished work, and was originally titled – very unimaginatively – Anabel’s Travel Blog. Essentially, it’s my way of keeping a diary of everywhere I visit, and some places I have visited in the past, lavishly illustrated by my husband John’s photographs. So I’m my own number one reader – I want to be able to look back when I’m 90 and enjoy all these places again – and at first I regarded it as a bonus if anyone else stumbled across my posts by accident. Now, although I still write for myself primarily, I find it’s so much more fun when you reach out to other people. I really feel you get to know people by commenting on each other’s blogs, and sometimes that can spill over into real, as opposed to virtual, life. I’ve met four blogging friends so far, and had a great time with each one.

So what will you find on The Glasgow Gallivanter? Foreign travels such as our trip to Budapest in the Spring, and our upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies. We love to hike, so expect some great views! I haven’t done so well with retrospective posts lately, but last year, I wrote a series about our visit to Tibet in 2000. Not many people come home from vacation with snaps of road digging equipment, but we did – flooding trapped us between a landslide in one direction and a swept-away bridge in the other. That’s the only time I truly feared I would not get out of somewhere alive.

I also write a lot about Scotland, and Glasgow in particular. I’m very proud of my home country and city and I love to tell people about them. I always seem to get more readers for my Scottish posts than for my globetrotting ones and I’m very happy with that. This year, I instigated a monthly round-up post, Glasgow Gallivanting, in which I include smaller events that wouldn’t make it into a full post, and I usually like to end by teaching my readers a new Scottish word. In that spirit, I will now say that you have probably had enough of me blethering and it’s time to haud ma wheest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to The Glasgow Gallivanter, and I invite you to gallivant with me.

Anabel


Glossary
Gallivant: to go about in search of pleasure; gad about
Blether: to chatter; gossip
Haud ma wheest: be quiet (roughly equivalent of holding my tongue)

The Glasgow Gallivanter

From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Anabel for introducing herself here and inviting us all to go gallivanting with her. I highly recommend that you take her up on this offer. I know that you won’t be disappointed. Want to live your life more fully, and follow a bold plan? Please, join us next Sunday when we welcome Guest Host, Joanne Sisco.