Postcards From The Camino Trail 2017: Week Four

Day 18: Herrerias to Fonfria – 20 km.

.. I was a bit anxious about today’s hike. Our guidebook described the first eight kilometers as “it climbs steeply through the chestnut woods and offers no respite along the way”. After that, even our ‘non-judgemental’ map showed today’s walk to consist of relentless ups and downs. To top that off, despite my zealous foot-care, I had acquired two blisters (one on each heel), both of which had become quite cranky. The opening climb was tough, as promised, but the scenery was among the most stunning that we have seen so far. About six kilometers in, I must have looked in rough shape. A man walking a horse came by and asked if I needed a ride to the top. Needed? Absolutely! Ego willing to give in? Not quite yet! I continued walking. Despite the unending climbs, the views remained phenomenal throughout the day. Oh, and I would be neglectful not to mention the amazing pound cake that we had at the top of our first climb (O’Cebreiro). It was just like my Grandma Weissmann used to make. It tasted like home, childhood and family in every delicious bite!

Day 19 – Fonfria to San Mamed Del Camino – 25 km.

Just when we thought that nothing on the Camino could surpass yesterday’s views, today’s scenery was literally jaw-dropping all day long. (So much so, we made very slow progress because we were always stopping to take photos!) Today was a ‘perfect Camino day’ with so many things that we love about this trail combined into one. The weather was gorgeous and our paths were tree-lined and shady for much of the way. We had breakfast at a small, quaint restaurant. Our lunch was at a ‘help yourself to whatever we have’ spot (coffee, tea, juice, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cookies…) all for whatever donation you would like to leave…with no one watching or judging. The concept is totally built on trust! We also stopped at a tranquil picnic spot for a snack. We ended the day at a picturesque auberge that was ideally suited to sheer relaxation! And if all that was not enough, we discovered that Jenny, Sven and Ida (the couple walking with the ten-month old baby) were staying here as well. We finally had the chance to ask them why they decided to hike the Camino. They answered, “We had five weeks off of work and thought about what we would like to do with all of this wonderful time together. We considered hiking the Alps, but then thought that the Camino would be a perfect choice.” How inspirational is that?

Day 20 – San Mamed Del Camino to Portomarin – 27 km.

Today started exactly the way that we like our Saturdays to begin — SLOWLY! We slept in later than usual and had a leisurely breakfast before we began our walk. This was followed by many other casual stops along the way. At one spot, Richard lingered over coffee and the newspaper. He even tried to convince me that he can now read Spanish. He recounted (in detail) one story that he believed he had read. “It’s easy”, he exclaimed. “There are enough Spanish words that are similar to English that you can get the gist.” Or, he just totally made stuff up…which is the more likely version! Despite our relaxed beginning, we still covered more than 27 km. Quite accidentally, we ended up in a huge auberge with more than 100 beds in one room. Not as bad as you might think…but not without its challenges!

Day 21 – Portomarin to Palas de Rei – 24.6 km

With just 70 kilometers left to reach Santiago de Compostela, we no longer wonder ‘where have all the pilgrims gone?’ They are now omnipresent and can be seen (and heard) almost everywhere. One of the reasons for this is that Sarria (a town that we passed yesterday) is one of the most common starting points for the Camino Frances as it offers the minimum distant that must be covered in order to receive the official ‘pilgrim certificate’ in Santiago. We love the excitement and energy of so many different types of walkers on the trail. But we do miss having long stretches of tranquil, stunning paths to ourselves (…if you don’t count the occasional cow). It was sheer luxury! Oh, and the cost of a bed has just doubled (Ten euros instead of five). That’s supply and demand for you!

Day 22 -Palais de Rei to Boente – 21 km.

.. A blogger that I follow, recently posted about the simple pleasures in life. This is also very true on the trail. With Herculean effort, I have endeavoured to keep my backpack both small and light. There have been many consequences to this. One major consequence is that my all-purpose trek towel (yup, the one I use after showering) is smaller than the average hand towel! I thought that I had been making do just fine. But, tonight, our auberge offered freshly laundered, ‘regular-sized’ bath towels for only one euro more. I tell you most solemnly…it was sheer heaven! Who knew that one small (make that ‘medium-sized’) towel could make such a difference? As an added bonus, I purchased two new pairs of trekking socks (for a fraction of the cost that they would be at home). The two pairs that I had with me, recently lost interest in this walk. The difference that fresh, new socks can make is truly magical! Richard, on the other hand, found his own ‘simple pleasure’. To each his own!

Day 23 – Boente to Santa Irene – 25 km.

Today was the second last day for most walkers to reach the Camino’s official end point in Santiago (and the last day for most bike riders). The energy, excitement and uplifted spirits were palpable. When we were relaxing outside a small cafe in Calzada, a brass band rolled by, on a truck, and played some very funky, upbeat music. Instantly, everyone abandoned their coffees (and other refreshments) and began dancing on the trail. Very fun! We are now in Santa Irene, less than 25 kilometers from Santiago. Irene is my sister’s name (now deceased). I have thought about her often during this walk. That is inevitably one of the key attributes of the Camino. It strips away the ‘busyness’ of our daily lives and helps clear our minds to reflect on what is most important to us.

Never Say Never: The Tale of a Reluctant Blogger

I always said that I would retire when hell froze, and I’d become a blogger on the twelfth of never. After making these unequivocal statements, I retired two years and four months ago at age 55, and I have written 87 posts in my first eight months of blogging. All of which means that I either don’t know my own mind (scarily true) or that the Yiddish proverb “Man plans and God laughs” is accurate (I have no doubt).

Since Donna’s readers reasonably expect to be hearing from someone who is willing to reflect (blog) about retirement and I’ve clearly been ambivalent, okay hostile, about both, I’d better explain.

Donna and I come from the same background –education—and even worked in the same school district, although we unfortunately never met. I wish we had. Donna, as I’m sure you agree, is terrific –warm, thoughtful, engaging.

Back to my story. I saw my work as my life’s purpose and did it to an extent that even workaholics found excessive. The wheels came off the bus after I left the school district to write books for teachers, principals, and students, and to travel all over North America doing workshops and keynotes based on those books. Six professional books, three adolescent literacy programs, and hundreds of speaking engagements later, I burned out. You can watch the short version of that story in the whiteboard video on my site. The video is called “Joining the Club of the Living Dead” which is a completely apt description of how I felt when I left education. So I didn’t so much retire as collapse, not something I recommend to aspiring retirees!

reluctnat blogger

As for blogging, my current site is not my first rodeo. My publisher, Pearson, urged me to blog for the readers of my books. They claimed that people would be fascinated to learn about the person behind the author/speaker. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would care one whit about what I did in my life outside work. Besides, I didn’t have a life outside work! Being crazy busy writing books on deadlines, I blogged reluctantly, inconsistently, and only about education.

Everything changed after I recovered from burnout. I relished the opportunity to reboot my life—to live more intentionally and choose what is meaningful to me beyond the world of education.

I decided to start Profound Journey as a way to both document my own journey, and to find my tribe of women who want to live vibrant, creative, purpose-filled, passionate lives.

Here are the categories on the site and the title of a sample post within each:
Personal Change – Your Transition to Retirement is Supposed to Be Difficult
Creativity – A six-part series on writing memoir, including Why Your Memoir Needs a Theme and How to Choose One
Self-Care—Guided Meditation Help for Beginners and Skeptics
Perspective –Appreciating the Wabi-Sabi Way of Life
Tribe Stories – 25 Not-Too-Scary Life Questions Worth Asking Yourself
Wow Notes – Longplayer: Music for 1000 Years

No longer the reluctant blogger, I am delighted to be a reader of Donna’s site and of the many other excellent sites she has highlighted through this Guest Post Series. Thank you for being a blogger’s matchmaker extraordinaire, Donna, and for the opportunity to introduce my site to your readers.


Profound Journey

From Retirement Reflections
– I, too, wish that Karen and I had met personally when we both worked for School District 23. I greatly appreciate her remarkably open and honest sharing. I highly encourage you to check out her site at Profound Journey. I’m confident that you will find her blog to be filled with much wisdom and encouragement, as well as fascinating information.
For next week, please grab your hiking boots! Anabel Marsh from ‘Glasgow Gallivanter’ will be taking us on walking adventures around the globe. Don’t worry about the pace, Anabel always stops for coffee!

Post Cards From The Camino Trail 2017 – Week Three

When I left you last, Richard and I had just arrived in Leon. Since the city offers so many cool things to see and do, we were contemplating staying an extra day. That night, we stayed in the Monastery (five euros each). Richard and I had decided to make it an early evening. We were both quietly reading in our bunk beds, when a nun came in and asked if we wished to join the ‘Pilgrims’ Blessing.’ How could we refuse? (I did mention that she was a nun, didn’t I?) We quickly got dressed again and joined in. We were glad that we did! Simultaneously, the participants offered their prayers/good intentions in their own languages. That was followed by two fellow pilgrims who volunteered to sing a closing song. Their voices were outstanding. On the way out, the nun handed each participant a small individual scroll. Richard’s said, “A parent’s job is to give their children roots and wings.” Mine said, “He who loves money will never be satisfied with money.” Very fitting messages!

Day Twelve – Leon –

Richard and I mutually declared today to be a ‘slow start/low kilometer’ day. We planned to visit a few sites in the morning (Guzmanes’ Palace, Leon Museum and Cathedral) and then begin walking around noon. None of the sites opened until after 9:30 a.m., so we wandered randomly down the streets in the Old Quarter. That’s when we spotted a quaint hotel that was ‘postcard perfect.’ Instantly, Richard and I had the same idea. Within fifteen minutes (literally) we were checked in with spa appointments booked (when going off-course, you may as well go big)! We rationalized that the price for both room and spa were significantly cheaper than we could get at home! Feel free to call us ‘slackers’, but it was a wonderful, chilled-out day!

Day Thirteen – Leon to San Martin Del Camino – 26 km

Richard and I were both eager to begin walking again. Our path was relatively flat. Still, we both found today’s hike to be a grind. The highlight of the day was definitely Virgen Del Camino Basilica. We didn’t immediately recognize it as a church from the outside. What first attracted us to it was the stunning doors, and very cool sculptures. The basilica was built in 1961 on top of an old 17th Century church. On its facade the artist, Jose Maria Subirachs, created individual sculptures of the twelve apostles and of Christ ascending to Heaven. The small church is absolutely stunning. Inside it radiates peace, the power of simplicity, and an incredible sense of spirituality.

Day Fourteen – San Martin Del Camino to Astorga- 24 km:

Perhaps it was the combination of thirteen solid days of walking, plus our rest day (and massages), but Richard and I each felt stronger today than we had previously. When we reached Astorga by 1 pm, we both felt that we had enough energy to go further. Ultimately we decided to stop because we had heard such great things about this quaint town. Astorga offers many attractions that are worthwhile visiting. These include the Episcopal Palace, Ayuntamiento de Astorga (Government Buildings), Roman Wall (and Museum), Plaza Mayor (a cool place to chill-out and people watch) and of course the cathedral. In addition, Astorga is famous for its chocolates, and its puff pastries! We prepared our own dinner in our hostel this evening…and included an ‘Astorga pastry’…which was incredibly delicious!

Day Fifteen – Astorga to Foncebadon – 28.6 km (1400m elevation)

When we began this trek (two weeks ago today), it didn’t make sense to me why so many walkers were up, dressed, re-packed and out the door by 6 a.m. It was barely daylight. What was the rush? Now, I hesitate to admit, we try to leave as early as we can (today was a 6:15 a.m. start). This allows us to beat some of the intense heat. It also gives us more time to cover the distance that we choose, while still having enough time to enjoy our new location each evening. Today we wanted to challenge ourselves…and we did just that! We covered 28 kilometers. A large proportion of that was uphill with over 600 meters of elevation change. We have now reached 1400 meters of height…leaving us less than one hour away from the highest point on the French Way Camino (1500 meters). When we reached the top of today’s climb, Richard was literally dancing to ‘Johnny B. Goode’ on his iPhone. I, on the other hand, felt like I needed an ambulance…but I made it!

Day Sixteen – Foncebadon to Molinaseca – 20 km –

Today was certainly a day of contrasts. We started this morning with a short, brisk walk to Cruz de Ferro. This iron cross (replica of the original) marks the ‘roof’ of the Camino Frances (1500 meters). Traditionally, many pilgrims bring a stone from their own countries to place at the base of the cross. As we had not done that, we left our good intentions instead. In contrast, the remaining five+ hours of descending over one-thousand meters in elevation, on a very rocky, uneven, twisty-turny path can only be described as punishment for feet, ankles and knees! As a picture is worth more than a thousand words, here is what our steep, descending path looked like all day long! But all was not lost. At the end of this trail, no beer has ever tasted better, no lentil soup more perfect (sorry, Mom) and no bed more comfortable! Something tells me that I will sleep well tonight (and I did)!

Day Seventeen – Molinesca to Villafranca Del Bierzo – 30 km

We finally made it 30 km in one day! Despite the photo, we did not take a bus or taxi. Although it was good to know that there was a taxi sign seemingly in the middle of nowhere! No stony paths today, and great views all around. Although as you can see below, sometimes we were the view!

Day Eighteen / Villafraca Del Bierzo to Las Herrerias – 21 km

Richard noticed in his trusty guidebook, that according to the author’s ‘suggested stages’, we only have seven days left to reach Santiago de Compostela. Yikes, we’re not sure that we want to be finished that quickly (although we do have approximately five-ish additional days to get to Muxia and Finisterre). According to our calculations, we have walked 417 official ‘trail’ kilometers so far (plus many additional kilometers for exploring the cities and towns where we have stayed). We have 180 kilometers left to reach Santiago and an additional 100 kilometers for Muxia and Finisterre.

Thank you for following. It is very motivating to know that you are out there. See you next week (internet willing)!

Three Ways That Rightsizing or Minimalism Prepares You For Retirement

Smart Living 365

One of the stories I can vividly remember my father telling me years back was related to his pride at managing his money in retirement. At the time, both my father and mother lived on their social security and some modest savings held in a 401k. Dad frequently bragged that he lived better, traveled more, and seemed to have more fun than many of his friends who retired with big homes and generous pensions. From my perspective, at least at the time, their lifestyle seemed more humble and restrictive than I felt necessary. Now, less than 20 years later, I recognize that their simple and minimal lifestyle afforded them tremendous benefits that millions of other “hope-to-be-retirees” could learn from—including myself.

Recently, I read an article about how, for some people, any form of retirement may just be another form of magical thinking. On top of that, a recent Google Consumer Survey done by reported that almost 50% of all baby boomers and those older have only $1,000 or less in savings. Naturally, those thoughts led to even more questions. Is retiring well and happy even possible for the majority of us in the world? What about retiring early? Or will you and I be able to afford to take care of ourselves until the end?

Eventually, those questions led me back to what I’ve learned about minimalism and the many advantages of a more sustainable lifestyle, no matter what our age. A couple of years ago, Thom and I started using the word “rightsizing” to describe the minimalist direction our life was taking. Many use the word downsizing to describe that action. Downsizing implies that you are sacrificing or giving up something better for something worse. Rightsizing implies you are making a move that looks and feels “right.” Big difference.

By the same token, I’ve also realized how valuable an example my father provided. Looking back, he taught me three big things about the concept of rightsizing or simple living that I think would benefit most of us today.

1) Live below your means:

If you knew my dad, you’d know that he would laugh to think that it was even necessary to share this tip. Dad always lived below his means even when mom or us four daughters were against it. Dad carefully budgeted the family’s expenses, especially when they retired. Even after mom had several mini-strokes, developed Alzheimer’s and would ask for certain extravagances, Dad firmly decided when money would be spent. From the outside, it may have seemed less than kind to my ailing mother. But due to my father’s careful money management, they both were able to live comfortably in their own home for the remainder of their lives. They never needed outside assistance from their children or the government.

On the other hand, a friend of mine told a very different story as her parents aged. Both her mom and dad had well-paying government jobs with generous pensions. When they retired, they did nothing to alter their lifestyle. All was well until they aged and physically deteriorated. That’s when they began spending the majority of every day on the Internet and QVC buying things for entertainment. Naturally, they used their credit cards to make those purchases. Before long there was no money in the bank for anything. That’s when their children had to step in, take away the credit cards, slowly begin paying off her parent’s now considerable debts, and virtually support her parents for the remainder of their lives.

Living below your means might not sound like making the most of your life today—but it is resisting the urge to spend money you don’t have, to buy things you probably don’t need, to impress people who you don’t even know. Much worse is spending money to entertain yourself because you’ve forgotten what really matters and what is most important to a happy life.

2. Your happiness has nothing to do with all your stuff:

Again I can hear my father laughing at this one, but as simple as it sounds, I think we all know people (hopefully we aren’t one of them) that end up buying more and more stuff, and then often just throwing it in the closet. I have a friend who recently lost her job and then her 5,000 square foot house. After moving to a much smaller home, she is now in the process of sorting through and selling what she can’t even afford to store. Not only can you see how giving up that stuff is painful to her, but she still insists on telling you how expensive it was to buy and how much she still owns, as though her identity would disappear without it.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with buying stuff, especially stuff we need. But what happens is we start associating those “things” with our happiness and well-being. Then without them, we often don’t know who we are or what matters to us. Believing that we need any material possession to give value to our lives is setting ourselves up for a fall. And even if we end up holding on to our stuff for as long as we live, chances are good that when we pass on, it will be sold cheaply at a yard sale, given away, or simply tossed in the trash. As Joe Hearn, author of Intentional says when talking about settling an estate after people die, “I’ve never been to one that didn’t involve a dumpster.”

3. Trying to impress or keep up with others is a waste of time:

My father was far from perfect, but he never struggled with trying to impress others. I know he liked nice things (don’t we all) but he vastly preferred the freedom and peace of mind of knowing he lived below his means. Up until the time he passed, he lived modestly in a free and clear home, drove a free and clear car, and had a bit of money in the bank. But what was far more important, he passed on with dozens of good, long time friends, and a family that loved him—and the knowing that he’d left the world a bit better by his life.

My husband, Thom, and I are not yet retired, but we do consider ourselves rightsized. Even better, because of our rightsizing, we can comfortably retire whenever we choose. As I’ve written about before, rightsizing is taking the time to focus in on what is most important to you and then eliminating everything else. Our journey to rightsizing led us to sell our big home and move to one that fits just the two of us perfectly. We also got rid of stuff that didn’t matter much to us, and instead started focusing on quality experiences. If and when we decide to retire, we already know how to live below our means and that real happiness has nothing to do with what we own. Finally, the richness of our life has absolutely nothing to do with what anyone else thinks. That’s why it is probably SMART to remember that simplifying your life, getting rid of the clutter and rightsizing is the best possible thing you can do for your retirement.

RightsizingAbout Kathy: Kathy Gottberg has been a published author and writer for over 30 years. Her current passion is blogging at SMART Living where she shares ideas and experiences that lead to a happier, peaceful and more meaningful life. Her recent book is entitled Right Sizing* A SMART Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement. Kathy lives in La Quinta, California with her husband, Thom, of 40 years and her dog, Kloe. Ultimately, Kathy strives to live life fearlessly rightsized….and to remember that each of us get to make it up!

From Retirement Reflections: I am a big fan of Kathy’s blog on smart living and reinventing retirement. She offers thoughtful, practical advice that I wish I’d read much earlier…but am still able to implement today. Please join me next week when we welcome Karen Hulme of Profound Journey. Karen shares with us her experiences at (originally) being a ‘reluctant retiree.’ I’ll meet you there!

Photo Credits (3, 4, 5):

Post Cards From The Camino Trail 2017 – Week Two

When I left you last, Richard and I were in Burgos (lingering in a restaurant that offered free WiFi). Burgos is home to the only cathedral in Spain that has independently been declared a World Heritage Site. So, we decided to have a peek inside. Two hours later, we were completely overwhelmed and had barely scratched the surface of all that there was to see. From its incredible architecture, to its exquisite paintings and sculptures, to its intricate and lavish decorations, including heavy use of real gold (that seemed to go on for endless rooms) it was often simply hard to comprehend. An unsettling question was, “where did all this money and gold come from?” If any readers have visited this cathedral previously, I would love to hear your points of view.

Day Five – Burgos to San Bol – 26.7 km:

Never trust your guidebook completely. Seriously! Just about twenty-six kilometers into this walk, I was over it! Honestly. Done. Richard had it in his mind to continue an extra five kilometers to Hontanas when I saw a sign for a small hostel in San Bol five hundred meters away, but off of our path. Richard was skeptical. His guidebook called the hostel “medieval” and stated that “almost everyone” prefers to travel on to the next town. Never one to conform to the “almost everyone” mold, I started walking off the trail to the nearby albergue. “They may not have food”, Richard called after me. I was not deterred. When we arrived, it was an incredible oasis! It had a large garden with a natural spring pool where you could sit and soak your (very tired) feet in the cool water. You could also do your laundry in the outdoor spring (very National Geographic)! We were one of nine guests that evening. We were served a community dinner of homemade chicken paella, salad, crusty bread, wine and vanilla pudding….all for only twelve euros each (including our beds). If traveling this section of the Camino, I highly recommend staying here!

Day Six – San Bol to Itera de Varga – 22 km:

The annoying thing about my iPhone camera is that it does not adequately capture the steep climbs that we have faced so far. So when I start whining about today’s climb, for example, you’ll probably glance at the photo and think that the path was no big deal. Wrong! We ascended over 100 meters in less than one kilometer. Okay, it may not be Everest, but in the extreme heat, with our packs, it seemed huge!

Day Seven – Itera de Varga to Villalcazar de Sirga – 28 km

Where have all the pilgrims gone? In the last week, we have always seen at least a few pilgrims during the course of our walk, and we have always seen several pilgrims when we have stopped for breakfast and lunch. On today’s walk, we saw no other pilgrims walking on route or during our rest stops. Richard’s theory is that most other walkers leave before our usual 7:15 a.m. start time and are following more traditional beginning and ending points than we are. My theory is that they all took the bus today, and got off just before their destinations. That’s my theory and I am sticking to it! (And after a hot 28 km walk, a bus ride does sound lovely!)

Day Eight – Villalcazar de Sirga to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 22 km

We seriously need to ditch our guidebook. Its forecast for today’s walk was “flat, monotonous and hypnotic”. But we quite enjoyed it. (Who doesn’t love ‘flat?’) We also had the chance to walk on this very cool road that the Romans had constructed and trod upon. We also came across two young (very fit) parents walking the Camino with full backpacks…and a ten-month old (very smiley) baby in a pram. They are planning to walk all the way to Santiago from Burgos…and have been staying in regular hostels like most of the rest of us. Seriously, I can’t even imagine attempting such a feat. But, the three of them seemed to be happy, relaxed and content!

Day Nine – Calzadilla de le Cueza to Sahagun – 22 k

Last evening there was a debate between my upper back and my legs. I have been pleasantly surprised (shocked actually) how well my body has responded to suddenly being immersed in this intense fitness boot camp (…at least so far). But it was Day Nine and although my pack is relatively light, my back was voting for a ‘rest day.’ My legs, however, were feeling stronger than ever and were eager to continue. Being the consummate libra, I compromised…and had my backpack transported to this evening’s hostel in Sahagun. It’s easily done. Put five euros in an envelope, label the envelope with the address that you wish to pick up your bag later that day, trust in the Camino, and your pack magically shows up at your desired destination by noon! The funny thing was, that even though we walked slightly fewer kilometers than usual, my back was still equally tired at the end of our walk! I now blame my water-bag. Water is crazy-heavy!! This got me thinking that perhaps I should quit being such an overly prepared nerd and carry only the amount of water that I need for each portion of our trek. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Day Ten – Sahagun to Reiligos – 26.5 km:

Ask and the Camino answers! Today we had the choice of taking the regular trail, mostly alongside main roads, or walking an extra kilometer or two and taking the ‘scenic route’. The catch was that for seventeen kilometers straight, there would be no options to get food, water or any real shelter of which to speak. We had done something similar a couple of days earlier and we had ample (i.e. too much water and extra food) so we believed we would be fine. At the last town before our long ‘wilderness’ trek, we had full breakfasts and ordered two vegetable sandwiches to go. (Who knew that tuna and eggs were vegetables)? Richard filled up his litre bottle with water and added an additional bottle as an extra. With my new ‘sensible’ water plan, I only partly filled up my water system (3/4 litres). That would make my pack lighter and we would still have plenty of water. Half way into our trek, we stopped underneath a rare (and skinny) tree to eat our lunch. That is when Richard’s full litre bottle of water spilled and drained completely (up until then he had been drinking out of the back up bottle…that was now almost empty). Why is it that whenever I consciously decide to quite being such a Girl Scout, something calls me back to my roots?

Day Eleven – Reiligos to Leon – 24 km:

We have now arrived in the major city of Leon and are considering a potential rest day here tomorrow as there is so much to see and do. I will keep you posted as to whether we stay or continue on. Something else from this week that I want to mention before I close, was an encounter that we had earlier. Richard and I were alone on the middle of a trail, when we suddenly saw an older (our age?) local Spanish wonan who literally rushed up to us. “Did you know that the top fastener on your backpacks can be used as whistles?” Strange opening question, but actually we did not know that. “Make sure you protect yourselves — keep covered, have lots of water and pieces of fruit”, she continued. Finally she advised “Most importantly, you will need much patience to be successful in your journey.” How did she know that I am sometimes lacking in that particular area? Camino Angels are everywhere!

My sincere apologies for my extreme lack of proofreading on my Camino posts, and for my long delays in commenting on my favorite blogs. Reliable internet has been a definite challenge…combined with the additional challenge of sheer exhaustion at the end of each day. I will attempt to do a big catch up when I return home!

Shout out to Dr. Creighton Connolly on his 29th birthday 🎉 today!

Easin’ Along…In Search of Perfection

Easin' Along
We named our website Easin’ Along simply because those are the words that describe our retired lifestyle. We invite readers along on a Slow Walk through the Golden Years with a focus on our faith, a love of the road less traveled, a passion for great food, and memorable moments with our family and our dear friends. From the beginning, our purpose was to participate in and promote an active retirement lifestyle, combine those activities with a love of writing, and share our experiences with Easin’ Along readers.

In the years leading up to retirement, Helen (adorable wife) and I had both compiled long “do lists” filled with things we hoped to accomplish once retirement was no longer just a plan. Our vision for the Golden Years was a busy lifestyle filled with activities that we could only dream about while working full-time. We had passions to pursue, and new interests to explore. Additionally, we both shared a craving for time spent traveling to fascinating places that lay just over the horizon and beyond. Our mission would be simple…catch sight of the perfect sunrise and toast the perfect sunset.

In my case, all hopes and plans probably have been propelled by memories of my father who, throughout my adolescence, kept a toy truck camper in his study. That camper represented his dreams of long road trips with my mother once he put away his briefcase. Unfortunately, cancer took away those dreams, and my father, before his 53rd birthday. To this day, the memory of his premature death prompts me to get up and get moving.

Within days of joining the ranks of the retired, we took Easin’ Along readers on a five-week road trip exploring the East Coast, traveling from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the deep woods of Maine. We have taken readers on three more extended journeys since, including our most recent trip where we rented a motorhome, named it Sherman, and drove from Chicago to the Pacific coast on a sojourn we titled Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Once smitten by the RV lifestyle,
a travel trailer named Bertha soon followed us home. In the future, we will share some of our activities on the road with Bertha, either across the country or perhaps to a military installation…preferably near a beach town. We might also load up and head out to one of the many fairs and food festivals in a mountain community nearby. We’re perpetually on the lookout for events where we can enjoy the Bluegrass or Appalachian folk music for which our region is known, as well as the opportunity to amble over to a flea or farmer’s market and browse…slowly.

When not traveling,
we stay busy. Helen has found new interests that she enjoys enthusiastically having uncovered a love for both pottery and pickleball. Somehow, she manages to work both into a schedule that includes arranging flowers for the church, singing in the choir, and treasured time with friends. As for me, I serve as an elder in our church and sit on two committees there. I participate in two exercise classes at the YMCA, and my mission to master art through the lens of my camera is an ongoing endeavor.

If I’m completely honest, I will confess that there are aspects of working full-time that I find myself missing on occasion. I miss the friends and the relationships I accumulated over many years of a career building homes. I find myself missing time around young people and feeling the effects of their boundless energy and enthusiasm and their connection to things current. I miss the daily challenges that one confronts in the workplace and the process of finding successful solutions to those challenges. Finally, I miss earning a paycheck—not because of the money, but because every dime I ever received represented hard work, dedication, and a contribution toward the task of accomplishing a goal. Nevertheless, I’m not trading any of the above for the job I have now.

The greatest blessing to come out of retirement
is that I have been afforded the time to write. I truly and truthfully enjoy every minute I spend composing posts and articles for Easin’ Along. Having just passed the second anniversary of the first post, I can honestly say that being able to share our activities with others is both a gift and a joy. The thought that a weekly creative commitment is something to dread has never, ever, entered my mind and I cannot envision the day that I will tire of writing.

Helen and I also remain committed to
the job of searching for the perfect rising or setting sun. Shared above is a sunrise Helen captured on a predawn walk along the shores of Lake Michigan last fall. We have yet to witness perfection, but as is evident, we have ventured close. Therefore, our search continues and probably, hopefully, always will.

We remain firm in our conviction
that retirement is the best gig going, and, for as long as we are able, we will continue…Easin’ Along.

Easin' Along
Joe Bruner retired from a career in the home building industry and a second career as an officer in the US Army Reserve.  He and his wife, Helen, who retired from the staff of a private preparatory school, live in Knoxville, Tennessee. They have written extensively about their travels and retirement lifestyle on their website Easin’ Along. Their articles also appear on and in R & R Travel News.

From Retirement Reflections – Thank you to Joe for sharing his (and Helen’s) retirement travels and passions with us. If you are feeling a bit of wanderlust, you’re in for an adventure when checking out his blog!! Please join us again next Sunday, when Kathy of Smart Living 365 will share with us the secrets of ‘right-sizing.’ This is great advice for retirees and non-retirees alike. See you there!

Post Cards from the Camino Trail 2017 – Week One

Our days on the Camino have been incredibly full, with reliable internet being rare and illusive. Once a week, whenever the internet gods are with me, I will attempt to post quick postcards of highlights for that week. Here’s a sneak peek from Week One.

Getting There – July 19 & 20:

We had a direct flight to Paris and a second flight to San Sebastián, Spain so that we could have a two-night recovery from jet lag before beginning the trail. This literally involved over thirty hours of travel by car, ferry, multiple buses, skytrain, international plane, domestic plane, more buses and taxi! Also, as modeled by Richard (above), our travels involved much waiting (as well as a 9 hour time change).

Pre-Walk Rest-Up Days – July 20 & 21:

San Sebastián was stunning with amazing food everywhere (there are more Michelin Star restaurants there than anywhere else in the world)! Since their annual Jazz Festival was taking place while we were there we were able to see a free Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders concert with standing spots near the stage. Very cool!

Starting Point – Najera – July 22:

Last year we ended our eight-day Camino Trail walk in Najera, so that is where we decided to start from this year. Don’t we look fresh, energetic and ready to go?

Day One – Najera to Granon (29.5 km):

If you know me personally, you already know that for four solid weeks before our departure I had an ongoing sciatic nerve injury, dreaded ear-infection, plague-like virus and bronchitis. I was worried that I had not done enough prior training for this trek. Knock on iPhone, the first day was surprisingly okay! (Yes, these sunflowers are for you, Dee!)

Day Two – Granon to Espinosa del Camino (24.1 km)

One of my favorite things about the Camino is the fascinating people that you meet, and hearing their stories about why they are walking. Tonight we had dinner with a man, Johan, who began walking from the Netherlands on April 1 and plans to continue walking to Santiago de Compostela, Spain (over 3000 km in total). That made our 700 km goal seem like a piece of cake. Johan was walking to raise money for a friend’s son who had been diagnosed with leukemia. He had taken off time from work to do this. Very impressive!

Day Three – Espinosa Del Camino to Atapeurca (21.9 km).

Today was the most challenging so far. We spent much time climbing straight up (ascending over 200 meters). Although I usually walk at a faster pace than Richard, I was almost crawling and cursing (just a bit, Mom!) as Richard strode effortlessly straight up. Seriously, how does he do that?

Day Four – Atapeurca to Burgos (20 km)

After a relatively easy five hour walk today, we are now safe and sound in Burgos. As the day is not yet over, you can catch that write-up next week. Please stay tuned!

17 New Things in 2017

Pat Doyle Retirement Transition

I recently read a blogger’s post about doing 17 new things in 2017. And I have a friend in Singapore who is doing the same thing, posting on-line his 17 new things in 2017. Don’t you love serendipity? Well, it’s halfway through the year, and I wondered if I was challenging myself to try 17 new things this year. One of the aspects of my retirement is to explore – new activities, new things to learn about, new experiences.

So let’s see if I am exploring the new… my 17 new things in 2017 are:

1. Did a spiritualist reading with tarot cards in January – a bucket list item! Interesting and yes, I’d do it again.

2. Created a vision board – OK not a new tool, but a new board for 2017; and then a design one for our new house. This is my first time doing a design board!

3. Bought a new (old) house and began downsizing. This has been a big item on our retirement vision. Downsizing and moving are a lot more work than I expected.

4. Went on an Africa Safari (July). This trip encompassed a number of bucket list items – crossing the equator, another continent, two new countries, the Big Five in their natural habitat, and a balloon ride. Plus I packed only 33 pounds total for 18 days. That itself was a huge learning activity!

5. Swim lessons started this summer. Finally.

6. New restaurants with my mid-week food club and other friends – too many to list, but having fun exploring new places in town.

7. Date Night – OK, again not new, but continued enjoying our monthly dinner and a show – seeing new live theater performances regularly.

8. Attended yoga (at least) weekly. Again, this is not necessarily a new activity as I started yoga last November – but doing it regularly is new. I wanted it to be twice a week, but April and May were tough with so much going on. And now with our house move, I need to find a new yoga studio. So weekly yoga is a good thing to keep in mind.

9. Joined Leading Ladies at the Playhouse – a philanthropic group and a new experience for me, as I have never belonged to this type of group before.

Still to come this year, besides the Africa trip and swim lesson executions, the actual move into our new house (OK that is the same as three above) and selling the old house. I’m calling selling the house item #10 because I am sure there will be a new experience in there somewhere. Then in the new house, there is buying new furniture (11) and designing a new garden (12). Also, want to “GOMO” – from Sizzling Toward Sixty meaning ‘Go Out More Often.’ My planned day trips have sizzled out lately (no pun intended) with too much working and moving. I need to boost them back up before year’s end.

Some other milestones have included
hitting the 2-year mark on blogging, the 3-year mark on retirement, and the 25-year mark on marriage. And that list is definitely not in the right order of importance! But that adds nothing in 2017 as something really new.

Looking ahead, there’s another philanthropic foundation, Impact 100. I plan on joining it this fall (#13). Oh dear, not yet to 17! Maybe I can split Africa into some of the bucket list check-offs to hit the last 4? Or perhaps be open to serendipity in the next six months? The planner in me had a major twinge on that, but perhaps that is good for me!

I love this ’17 in 2017′ approach to learning and exploring new things
– it pushes me both physically and cognitively. What are your 17 new things in 2017?

Pat Doyle: Retirement Transition
Hi, I’m Pat: Aspiring Writer — Researcher — Synthesizer. I have been transitioning into the next stage of my life, traditionally called retirement. Although I am an avid planner, I had no pre-plan in place. This blog has been my attempt to capture my retirement research and the initial steps of my journey. I look forward to continuing to connect with others on a similar course. You can find me at Retirement Transition. I hope to see you there.

From Retirement Reflections: I absolutely love how Pat’s post was originally inspired by another Guest Host (Sue, from Sizzling Toward Sixty). It is this interaction, sharing of ideas, influencing and connecting that I love most about blogging. As Pat has just returned from her travel adventure (African Safari), I begin mine (Camino Trail…With very inconsistent Internet access.) Therefore, for many of the remaining guest posts, I will leave you in the capable hands of the guest hosts. However, I will chime-in as often as I can.

I’d also like to thank Karen Hulme, of Profound Journey, for turning my one-word answers to her insightful questions into a Guest Post. You can check it out at While there, why not submit some of your own answers? I would love to read them!

Coming Soon: Joe Brunner from Easin’ Along (July 30), Kathy Gottberg from SMARTliving365 (Aug. 6), Karen Hulme from Profound Journey (Aug. 13), Anabel Marsh from The Glasgow Gallivanter (Aug. 20), Joanne Sisco from My Life Lived Full and Following A Bold Plan (August 27) and many more whom I will tell you about in an upcoming chime-in. Stay posted!

Celebrating a Milestone Birthday: 700 Kilometers on the Camino Trail

Richard and I now have our backpacks packed and are ready to set out for our 700 km Camino Trail walking adventure. For quite some time, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to write a post about our plans for this trek. I was delighted when Sue, from Sizzling Toward Sixty, gave me the nudge and asked me to write about this trip on her site.

As some of you may already know, my husband, Richard, turns 70 this September. For his birthday, Richard and I have decided to take the leap, challenge ourselves and celebrate together by walking 700 km on the Camino Trail in Spain. We both love the Camino and have done two separate eight-day sections previously. (You can check out posts on our last Camino experience here). We had always wanted to walk the full Camino Frances but kept putting it off. Finally, we decided if we didn’t do it now, when would we do it?

Ready for his 70th birthday trek![

In two days, we fly to Paris, then to Biarritz, then bus to San Sebastian then to Najera, Spain to begin this journey. We will definitely try to keep you posted on this trip….when we can find internet!

You can read more about our plans over at Sue’s site.

I hope to see you there!
Birthday: Camino


From Grammy’s Grid

Hi everyone, I’m Dee Blanding. Most know me as Grammy Dee. Thank you to Donna for asking me to be a part of her Sunday Series: Favorite Retirement/Lifestyle Bloggers. I’m a wife, mom, and grammy in my 50s. I’m from Alabama. I blog at Grammy’s Grid about things meant to amuse, inform, inspire, and make you laugh.

Summer is my fav season. I like sunflowers, palm trees, comedies, thrillers, photography, technology and I’m a gadget nerd! My fav saying is: ‘Laughter is the best medicine!’

I had to retire from my nursing profession after I became ill with fibromyalgia. With this illness, you can lose contact with friends and co-workers, even family sometimes. Connecting with others online who shared my same symptoms, long before I received a diagnosis, probably saved my sanity.

Starting my blog was one way I felt like I could connect with women my age who have something in common with me. Everyone doesn’t have an illness like I have, and everyone doesn’t want to talk about it even if they do. What many of us have in common, and are often eager to talk about, are our grandbabies.

I love my grandbabies more than words can express. The best thing about being a grandmother is experiencing a love like no other, a love that I didn’t even know was possible. Having grandbabies is like nothing else. My hubby always says that if we had known our precious grandbabies were going to be so much fun, we would have had them first!

Grandmothers unite! Speaking of grandmothers, I started a blog link party with two other grandmothers who helped me with co-hosting. Later on, another grandmother joined us. There are now nine hostesses! The Blogging Grandmothers Link Party is held on the 1st of each month and lasts for about a week each time. It’s for grandmothers who blog to come and share their posts with us.

We also have a Blogging Grandmothers Facebook Group for grandmothers who blog. We’d love to have you join us for friendship and networking. We grandmothers have to stick together you know!

Every week on Wednesday, I host a blog link party called Wednesday AIM Link Party. The AIM stands for amuse, inspire, inform, and make us laugh. It is for everyone, not just for grandmother bloggers.

I value the connections
I’ve made on the web with women all over the world. Some of these connections have turned into friendships that I treasure. Thank goodness for my laptop and phone, as there are days when I’m not feeling well and I’m unable to be at my desk with the computer, I can still connect with my online friends from my bed or recliner.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope to see you at Grammy’s Grid, at the Facebook group, and connecting on social media.

Grammy Dee

Grammy’s Grid

From Retirement Reflections: As you can tell from this post, Dee is very warm, funny, open and generous. She is also incredibly supportive of other bloggers. Be sure to check out her website and link parties — you won’t want to miss them! Up next week is Pat, from Retirement Transitions, sharing with us her ’17 things for 2017′. This post will likely cause you to take stock of your own 2017 — it certainly did for me.
Finally, for the first time since I began this blog, I have published two posts in one day…this post and a teaser! In my following post, I have linked to a guest article where I have written about my upcoming Camino adventure. I would love for you to join me there!