I’m back!

"Walk neither faster nor slower thank your own soul." Paulo Coelho

Hello all!

I’m back from the Camino, Germany, Austria and Turkey. I’m back in Switzerland and I can say that I’m not the same person that was here over 2 months ago.

This is just a quick hello to let  you know what’s coming…

I’m going to be writing a book of my experience on the Camino. I tell people that it the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and the worst. I had many physical challenges which helped me to grow both emotionally and spiritually on my journey. It was touch an go at one point whether I would complete the Camino.

Over then next few weeks, I’ll be posting the journey on here for those of you who I’m not friends with on Facebook or Instagram.

I’m excited to be reliving the experience again as I post and reflect the 42 days I was on the way.

The journey begins now.

"Walk neither faster nor slower thank your own soul." Paulo Coelho

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Leaving and the epic journey

When I was 18 I returned from Amsterdam only to be greeted with all my luggage searched and a strip search (thankfully no cavity search). Ever since then, transitioning through airports has taken on a new heightened anxiety-riddled dance. Try as I may, I know my heart rate is elevated and I always seem to be breathing as if the room is depleted with oxygen. Of course, I try not to let anyone know how I’m feeling so I’m also trying to stuff it all down. Keep this in mind as you read this blog post…

We arrived at Victoria airport, and find out our plane is 35 mins delayed leaving. Alaska Airlines says, no worries for the connection. You’ll just have to go through customs but you’re golden. Then the call over the PA system for me. Up to the front we go and we find out that in actual fact we might not make it. We will be rerouted through Dallas and then on to Philly with an arrival time of 12:50am. AFTER MIDNIGHT.

At Victoria Airport

This essentially means that we will miss picking up the rental car to drive to New York and we will have to find a hotel. Since this is the air traffic controls issues in Seattle, the airline isn’t responsible so we’re on the hook to pay it all.

Welcome aboard, your journey starts now.

Luc and I start to talk about options about what we could do if the latter issue happens… but there isn’t really much we can do until we find out how it’s going to go down.

We arrive in Seattle. Touch down: we have 50 mins before our next plane backs out of the gate.

We’re ferried onto a bus. Then through a maze of walkways, into customs. There Luc goes one way (he’s not Canadian so he has to go somewhere else) and this causes me a ton of anxiety. Jaedyn, me and Vivi head to the check-in terminals. I’m literally shaking wondering what is about to happen.

We get our paperwork, and off to the first person we see. We have big X’s on our slips so we have to head down the yellow line… why? Cuz we’re a family. Phewf ok. Then to the customs person named Howard (how do I even know this?). I can barely breath and he asks “Final destination?” New York. Well Philly first. “Reason for travel?” I sputter “to visit” Vivi fills in “It’s a holiday” yes yes it’s a holiday that’s what I wanted to say. Stamp stamp stamp. Carry on.

I’m frantically looking for Luc; he is already down at the carousel collecting our bags. Together again – thank god. We grab all our bags (forgetting the booster seat – damn) and head off to the next stop which is another person who asks us more questions (I think). Then to another place to recheck the baggage. I have a ton of judgement about this process of collecting bags and the rechecking them again. Stupid stupid stupid.

“Wait”, I say to the guy there, “what if we don’t have enough time to get to our flight? What happens to our luggage”? He asks “What time does your flight leave?” 11:55. “What time is it now?” 11:25. Plenty of time he says. And off our luggage goes down the conveyor belt. This is now becoming and exercise in trust and “it will all work out”.

On the plane to Philly

We leave there and next stop is the second security check of the day. This time the shoes come off, it’s hot, pandemonium and this guy asks to see our boarding passes. We show him and he says “precheck boarding is upstairs”. What the heck does that mean? So I say, “what does that mean?” He says it again. Luc asks this time “Are we supposed to go upstairs? What does that mean?” he says “If you don’t know what that means, then it doesn’t matter” HUH? “So we stay here?” No answer. Ok, we’re going to stay here.

As we get closer and closer to the screening, the four of us are spread across 12 different trays/backpacks… I’m beginning to wonder what we’re about to forget. Then I’m ushered into the device that encircles you with your hands up. Jaedyn has the same fate. Luc and Vivi get off much easier. Is it the red hair? Why us? No time to think about that, we need to get our shoes on, pack up our 50 items and truck along to Gate D.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, when we rechecked out baggage that guy told us it was two trains to get to gate D. Jesus. Time is ticking. Onto the first train. Off. Onto the second train. Off. Luc starts running for gate D. I have no idea how far away it is. Me and the girls start jogging. Clearly we’re going in the opposite direction as everyone else #swimmingupstream… then I see a guy driving a people mover…. I start to speed up until I’ve caught up with him and ask him if we can jump on and he can take us to gate D. “Sure!” he says. We get on, catch our breath and I yell out “excuse us!!” as people get in the way of the people mover.

Vivi working on her travel journal

We make it to gate D (American Airlines), thank the nice man and run up to the woman waiting there. It’s 11:44. Luc is there dealing with the fact that he has to get a boarding pass (so many problems if you don’t have a Canadian passport). We hand over our boarding passes. The woman says, “You’re going to need to check your backpack. And her backpack. And his carry on.” Say WHAT?!?

My heart is racing, I’m HOT, adrenalin is coursing through my body, and now I have to figure out what I’m taking out of my backpack to get on the 5 hour plane with. Out comes the laptop, the Euros, the American cash, the pens for Vivi to colour with. Luc grabs the iPads, the journal and activity books for Vivi.

The woman starts yelling at us, “you have to go or they will lock the gate. If you don’t make it there on time, they will cancel the flight.” Ok, now you’ve pushed me too far. I lash out “I’ve been moving for the last 45 mins trying to get to this gate. Do not pressure me into getting to the door of the plane. You can clearly see I’m trying here.”

Onto the plane… I don’t even know what seat I’m sitting in. Vivi and Jaedyn I assume are ahead. When I get close to our seats I see the girls in tears. I’m also close to tears. “What’s going on?” Jaedyn explains that the woman was also yelling at her “go go go! If you don’t hurry they will cancel the entire flight!” Jaedyn was trying to tell her that she didn’t want to be separated from me and Luc and the woman wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

That pushes me over the limit and I start sobbing… I mutter “horrible horrible”. I’m overcome with emotion from all the adrenaline, stress, pushing, lack of control and seeing my girls upset. Not being able to manage the unknown. I’ve literally been running and pushed for the last 45 mins trying to figure out my way through multiple gates.

One of the flight attendants comes by and asks me if I’m ok. “no I’m not” I say. He asks what he can get me. “Water please”. Thank you for showing me some compassion. It means a lot. Luc and Vivi are sitting beside me and hold my hand and fanning me. Vivi says “we made it. Just breath, Mama” and then she takes a deep breath like I do for her when she is upset.

She is wise beyond her years.

We made it.

I wonder if our luggage will be so lucky.

The journey has definitely begun.

After conversing with Luc, he says he didn’t experience the same thing. For him he says it was more like “it is what it is.” I feel like I have heard that one before.

UPDATE:

LUGGAGE DID NOT MAKE IT.

After collecting our bags that were checked at the door (thank god those made it), we waited and watched the spinning conveyor belt spin until there was no one left and it stopped spinning…

We walked to the baggage area where we spent the next 1.5 hours trying to locate and get the bags shipped to New York. We were starving and still needed to get to the car rental and then to New York (2 hours away).

I started to cry. Again. Overwhelmed by the day and knowing what was in front of me still.

We walked outside at 10:30pm East Coast time. We waited for the shuttle to pick us up to go to the car rental for about 30 mins. FOREVER.

We get to the car rental and they have a car for us. And a car seat. Hallelujah. I ask “Anywhere to eat near here?” the guys says “At this time? Doubt it.” It’s 11pm. So we take off for McDonalds. I can barely believe I ate there this morning – I think I was delusional.
I wanted to stay in a motel in Philly so that my night stopped and I could regroup. But Luc and Jaedyn assured me that they were wide awake and they would be capable to drive and co-pilot so off we went.

Stopped in at a store to go pee before our 2 hour drive to New York and one of the stalls had a hypodermic needle on the floor, one stall was flooded and thankfully one stall remained mostly untouched.

2 hours later and much of my heightened anxiety in the back seat, (yes I was your classic back seat driver) we arrive. Find the Airbnb, go inside, brush teeth and off to la la land we go.

What did I learn about today:

  • I probably need to do some completion around what happened to me in the airport when I was 18 years old.
  • Managing the unknown is exhausting.
  • It’s ok to cry and release on an airplane filled with people.
  • It’s ok to say that I’m not ok. I will get help.
  • My kids are more resilient than me. Damnit!
  • I need to practice letting go more.
  • The bigger the breakdown, the bigger the breakthrough
  • That this probably won’t happen again while we’re travelling.
  • That we have $500/person if we have delayed baggage to buy stuff with. World Nomads is our insurance provider.
  • Water and food are important and I definitely didn’t have enough of that yesterday (it was next to impossible TBH).
  • There are quite a few ways to look at what happened yesterday and I get to choose how I look at it:
    • Anxiety
    • Fun
    • Adventure
    • Incredulousness
    • It is what it is

Next time I will practice choosing differently.

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Less than 3 months…

to do list

Wow, it’s sinking in more and more… I’m going to be leaving. Sometimes it hits me in waves, other times like a truck. For soooo long it’s been just a project to get to July 19th. So much stuff to do. Like stuff you never thought of that you had to do, we’ve done it. It’s also totally possible that we’ve done way more than we “had” to.

Not long ago, we really started getting asked more and more “Are you excited? You must be so excited.” To be honest the first thought that would come to my mind was “there’s so much to do”. Which then had me feeling guilty for not being excited, for not being grateful for this amazing opportunity, for actually considering the stuff to do, was a burden.

Wow, that’s when I knew I really wanted to shift how I was relating to the to-do list. If you remember, I got a tattoo of the word “journey” on my arm. Yeah pretty hard to forget that this is all my journey through life, even the daily grind.

When I forgot Violette’s birth certificate and didn’t notice until I had stood in line for 15 mins at the passport office on my flex day only to realize that I’d have to come back again two weeks later with the passport. As annoying as that is, it’s also part of the journey. And when I returned 2 weeks later and the woman at the passport office quite clearly was missing some happiness in her life, I could have easily looked at this as how much I really didn’t want to be there anymore than she did, but instead I zoomed a little extra love her way.

This journey has already started.

More recently, I’ve been looking at how Luc and I communicate with each other. We’ve did a very little bit of relationship coaching with Ruth Sowter from Intimacy for Intrepid Souls the other night. First of all, she’s amazing and offers 1 hour free sample coaching sessions for couples. Secondly, she helped us to distinguish a new practice for how we will operate when it comes to determining how we’re going to make a decision.

It’s so interesting, you would think after 14 years together, we’d be on some sort of common understanding. Oh god no. And it’s things like planning a trip around the world that really tests that. Luc loves to do a ton or research and come up with the best logical plan. Thank god for him because research is not my forte. I more like to move with how I feel in the moment and that doesn’t always jive with logic and research.

For example:

  • After we are finished in the South of France I could have come back to Switzerland for 2 days before going to Spain to walk the Camino. It would have cost the exact same amount. Logically, why wouldn’t I? I could drive for an hour back to his parents, see Violette’s first day of school, drop off some stuff, drive back another hour to the airport and then start my walk. Same price. But instead, I chose to just go straight to the Camino. Mostly because I didn’t want to fly back and forth, and I just wanted to get walking. Neither way is right or wrong. And notice if you sided one way or the other. 🙂

So we determined through the coaching, that we would state our feelings and research and what we each wanted to do. Then we would really check-in: is this something that I need to have go my way today? Am I tired and just want to lounge on the beach? Could I do my own thing? Or could I choose powerfully to do what he’s suggesting because it really doesn’t matter to me. On a scale of 1-10, aligning with our intentions for our trip, where do we see this falling? Worst case, if we both dig our heels in, a coin toss (or Violette) makes the choice.

It might seem so small. But these conversations are important to sort out before you get into these scenarios or trust, love, connection and communication are thrown into the mix (the above example we hadn’t had coaching at that point so Luc couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to do his logical suggestion). And by no means are we going to master this… but we’re practicing and hopefully together we’ll find more communication,  support and ease along the journey.

And there you go… be ready to read about what we’re up to – but with a twist. You’ll get a bit deeper into our lives, how I’m growing, being outside my comfort zone and how that feels; essentially more authenticity and vulnerability than a regular travel blog. I want to share not just the nice stuff but the humanity I face, being ok with failing at things, and that the journey is not always a straight line. After all, I’m a life coach that is travelling… this whole experience is one big growth, love, connection and joy project.

Get ready 🙂

to do list

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Island Parent Submission: #1: Trip around the world

Journey

This is being submitted to Island Parent for publishing.


My family and I are going on a trip around the world. It sounds so crazy to say that. It’s like a dream come true.

We’ve had the idea about 5 years ago, and we’ve been planning it for about 2 years. We are now 4 months away from leaving. It’s getting real.

I have a 7 year old daughter, Violette who is in French Immersion. My husband is from France/Switzerland. I also have an 18 year old daughter who is on the other side of the country going to university. My husband and I both have full time jobs which we’re taking 1 year leave of absences from.

Violette, who is Canadian/Swiss, will go to school in Switzerland for 5 months at a French speaking school and then we will world school her after that (I’d be lying if I said I know what I’m doing).

I will walk the 800km Camino de Santiago in Spain at the end of August. It will take approximately 40 days. A journey within a journey.

The voyage hasn’t even started and yet it has in so many ways… it’s a journey of the heart and soul, a journey to seeing what is outside your comfort zone, a journey in relationship with my family, friends and work. A journey to entrepreneurship as I started my own business as a life coach to support our travels while we experience the world.

I’ve been asked a lot about a few key pieces of the prep and the trip. I’ve shared them here in priority of what comes up most.

  • Budgeting: How much money does one need on a trip like this? We created a budget to save money and another budget for while we’re on the road to know how much money you anticipate spending. This enabled us to know where we could scrimp and save prior to leaving. And then how we can ensure we stretch our dollars/euro/francs/etc… the furthest.
  • Our home: Are we going to rent it out or sell it? We will be renting it out. Currently we’re getting it ready to post and find our perfect renters. We have spent days working on the house, fixing, cleaning, repairing.
  • Our child: What are we going do for schooling? We are pulling Violette out of grade 2. This is quite easy in our school district. We spoke with the principal and she has given us lots of ideas and resources. We hope Violette will be a pen pal to her friends at school for her to practice her writing and keep those important connections and relationships.
  • Our jobs: What are we doing with our jobs? We’re taking a 1 year leave of absence. Something for you to consider is: could you quit your job or find a location independent job? Could you work remotely? There are a lot of websites out there now that support location independent lifestyles. While on the road I will continue to life coach and Luc is going to be looking for jobs along the way. He’s also starting up his own YouTube channel soon with Violette. They will be father/daughter cooking around the world.
  • The itinerary: Where do you want to go? Think cheap to start… Thailand or Vietnam. Could you stay with friends or family in distant countries? Also consider slow travel to make the money go further. We will be spending about half our time in European countries and then heading over to South East Asia, Indonesia and Australia.
  • Our friends and family: When did we tell them? We started telling people about a year ago. This helps to socialize it early for people to get used to you leaving. Also, throw a big going away party for them before you go.
  • Many many extra things to think about: Visas, what to pack (you’re going to be gone for 4 seasons and only one backpack? This makes my head spin), mail, travel insurance, vaccinations, passports, automating monthly payments, cancelling your cell phone and all businesses that know that number, and so much more.

It’s a lot of work and a lot to think about, and it’s all worth it. Sometimes it feels like the preparation is never going to end but before we know it, we will be leaving on a jet plane in July.

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My journey and the lotus

Lotus and journye tattoo

Sometimes the universe just brings it all together.

Yesterday I went and got a new tattoo. I LOVE IT. I haven’t even showed my husband it yet (I might be nervous of his judgement – I can own that).

The tattoo is of a lotus with the word “Journey” incorporated.

The lotus has two meanings for me:

  1. “With its roots based in mud, it submerges every night into murky river water, and—undeterred by its dirty environment—it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.” This symbolism to me represents growth, flourishing, beauty.
  2. It also symbolizes to me that we can overcome obstacles on our journey.

Which leads into the word “Journey”.

This morning I got to go on a walk in the rain and wind with a beautiful human. She asked me about the journey I’ve been on. What timing since I just got this tattoo last night.

It was such an honor to be able to recount where I’ve come from to where I am now. The mud that I’ve come through to be that beautiful flower. Every day something new I’m learning about myself. Every day I get to learn about myself from the people who come into my life. I see myself reflected back in them and the journey that they are on. The re-invention of myself every day.

I see my personal journey as one that will never be over. That excites me! I see where I was 10 months ago as a scared little girl (this might not be your experience of me – it’s me who lives inside my head) to someone now with so much love, freedom, peace, play and joy. The part that excites me is what could possibly come next?! I’ve been living more and more outside of my comfort zone to find out where I can push myself just a little bit further.

And finally “journey” represents the journey that we’re going on. This life that I’m up to creating out in the world. Exploring the world. Experiencing ups and downs. The journey of the Camino. The journey that hasn’t happened yet. The one that got me to here. There is so much possibility in my journey.

Lotus and journye tattoo

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OnFocus Journey

Footprints

Today I share a piece of unperfected writing that I will submit to Island Parent for consideration for a monthly submission for the next 20 months. I’ve never considered myself a writer, hence never thought myself good enough. It’s with fear of failure, trepidation, and feelings of not good enough that I write this – and will submit it anyway. Please share any feedback you have to make this article great. The idea is to have a monthly article posted in Island Parent of the journey our family is taking both from a worldly standpoint and from a inside-out perspective.


My phone bings. I look at it. It’s Trello being updated by my husband. Ahh the sweet sound of our 5 year-in-the-making, 1 year trip around the world coming closer to a reality. (Trello is a sudo project management app that is helping to keep our unquestionably complicated journey in check.)

5 years ago, after living 5 months in Switzerland while I was on maternity leave, Luc (my Dear Hubby) and I decided that we would come back there on a more permanent basis after our eldest daughter graduated high school. 2 years ago, that idea turned into a trip throughout our world. And now we’re 9 months away from leaving.

A lot has happened in that time, I became a personal life coach, we have both approved leaves from our jobs, and our dreams of where we want to explore have grown and expanded. We are discovering what it means to “slow-travel”. AND it all hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows – oh no! I remember wondering what are we going to do with our house (still a bit of a question mark to be honest). There was one particular planning session with Luc that went wildly sideways (I might have said “forget it let’s abandon this trip altogether” – not a shining moment). Our daughter graduated and then left for 4 years of university across the country to follow her dream (yep we’re going without her). And the thought of homeschooling our soon to be 7 year old sends me running as fast as I can to the interwebs.

While I explored my dreams and goals with my coach, I knew that the only thing between me and my dream was me. It’s all possible. It’s also completely outside of my comfort zone. That little voice in my head tells me still “oh this is going to be a lot of work. Why would you want to do this HARD thing. It’s going to be scary out there. Just stay right here where it’s super warm, cozy and you already know how it’s going to go.” Got it. Thanks. And I’m going to chose something different and something unknown.

One of the first things that people say to me when I tell them we’re going on a 1 year holiday “I would too if I won the lottery”. Know this: you 100% don’t need to win the lottery. There is a crazy big community of families that have been living for years on the road. Giving up their jobs and making money while travelling. There are resources out there that can make travelling cheaper (house sitting, buying plane tickets with points, and budgeting to name a few). Coaching can also help to dissolve your relationship to money – it’s definitely helping me.

What I will provide over the next 20 months: many many resources to help families like us, see that this can be a reality. Inspiration to people to live the life that they dream. Courage to show that it can be done. Reality of what life actually throws at you and the humour that surrounds it. The journey that we as parents are on in this world and in our lives.

Our itinerary so far: New York, France, Switzerland (where our home base will be for 5 months and our youngest will go to school in French), I will walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bali, Australia and Fiji.

My journey to get me to where I am right now has been one of self love, self reflection, giving up suffering, control, right and wrong, tapping into who I am, humanity, time and money. I have by no means perfected any of this, it’s a work in progress and I will be working on this until I die I’m sure of it.

This has and will be a journey. I look forward to the journey with you.


Robin Howe is a mother to two beautiful smart daughters (18 and 7), wife, public servant and a personal life coach exploring what it means to be human and what this great big world has to offer. Follow her journey at OnFocusCoaching.ca

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Choice

In the end there is always choice

As I travel along this journey through life and the kick ass program that I’m in right now, I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection and noticing about how I’m “being” and what’s going on around me.

These past couple of weeks particularly, have been interesting ones.

I have all the tools at my finger tips to move myself down the path to one of freedom, choice, love. I have the support team, my coach, my family and my friends. And interestingly, with the advice and powerful questioning that comes forward, I realize that this journey is my walk to take.

I’ve been a certain way for a long time. Scratch that, I’ve been many ways for a long time. Ways that empower me and ways that dis-empower me.

Ways that empower me: I can get shit done and take action. I’m a leader. I can build relationships. I have compassion. I have strength. I listen. I’m strategic. I am learning constantly. Knowing that when I’m outside of my comfort zone, it’s uncomfortable but it’s also a place of growth.

Ways that don’t empower me: I am afraid of rejection and judgements placed upon me (this blog post is conjuring up those fears of judgement right now). I control. I see things as right and wrong. I have a fear of not being good enough. I worry (about everything). I need safety in all aspects of my life.

Now that I know all of that, what do I do with it? I can practice choosing differently to have a different outcome. I see how the choices I have made for the last 42 years have impacted my life. Would I change any of those choices, I doubt it. Doesn’t matter. What I now see is that by making the choice to get stuck in something (pissed off, sad, angry, “in it”) is a choice I get to make. And that choice is powerful because I can choose to be sad, and really feel sadness. And then I get to make a choice to continue to do that or do something else.

When I found out about my friends daughter, I allowed myself to feel the sadness. Like really feel it. No suppressing. Crying, sobbing, the whole range of emotions. And then I chose to go to her and be there with her. And the emotional release that I had prior to that had me show up as love, strength and compassion for her rather than still trying to suppress myself.

In the end there is always choice

Yesterday, I was in a meeting, the meeting went a bit sideways and I got pissed off. More accurately: I was embarrassed and angry. I wanted to leave the meeting so bad (run away). I closed my computer and backed away from the table. Then I stopped and asked myself “Am I really going to do this?” and this question was enough to catch me and stop me. I then noticed my heart was pounding/racing and there was tension in my face. I was angry, embarrassed. I chose to take a few deep breaths and BE with the feelings and body sensations. I chose to stay. I noticed the embarrassment was only something I was feeling. And I noticed that it was just an interpretation of what someone else had said. It didn’t mean I was wrong or bad or stupid. It was just a difference of opinions.

Now, I didn’t say much for the rest of the meeting because adrenaline was coursing through my body and to be honest, I still had residual anger. And when the meeting was over, I didn’t dilly dally leaving. But I did go for a walk later to check in again: how was I feeling now? No anger. No embarrassment. No energy around it. No needing to be right. Huh. Not my usual M.O. And there was freedom in that, in choosing and noticing what is really going on RIGHT NOW. What do I want to do now? What choice do I want to make.

That to me comes from a place of inner power. I look forward to practicing this new found self awareness over and over again.

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