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.

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 20 – 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 21 –  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 22- 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 23 -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 24- 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.

Karen

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

Rightsizing
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 Gobankrates.com 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 Retirement.com 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 365.com. 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): canva.com