20km LAST DAY. As a lot of you probably saw from the Facebook live video, We made it to Santiago!!!! I’m overjoyed that this part of the journey is complete. Although I read something yesterday that said “this is not the end, only the beginning”. I get shivers and a little emotional when I think about that. I’m going to blast us back to 6:30am when I woke up. It was a rough sleep: felt sick, room was hot and I had to pee 14 times (ok not that many). Then I got up and with my head lamp I noticed the tell tale sign of bed bugs… small brown spots on the sheets. Not sure if it’s their poop or my blood. Then I looked a bit more and there was a bug on my bed. “Fuck” I said out loud and told Luc to get out of bed cuz there was bed bugs. The woman beside heard me and she got up too. Up and out of the albergue. Well we said we wanted one more authentic pilgrim experience. We got it. No bites started to present on me until we got to the hotel that night and now it’s become the biggest smorgasbord I’ve had the whole Camino (we think over 100 bites). My whole right side is ravaged and some of them have even turned into blisters. Never had that. I’ve been using tea tree oil which really helps and I have some antihistamine pills left over. But it’s not enough. Luc, of course, is unscathed. Probably because they were like “hey there’s this sweet red head down here no need to go up top”. I’m surprised too since I slept so poorly, how and when did they attack? Anyway, one last gift from the Camino. I walked with my backpack again starting in the dark. Night hiking is really kinda different. It takes on a different kind of appeal being close to the stars and the moon. There were a lot of people today. I might have made some dominating hand gestures to a woman who looked like she was going to try to get in front of me for the bathroom. I spent a lot of time looking inward, I had a lot of pain in my feet today. Searching for how I was feeling knowing that I was literally moving closer and closer to the finale. There was peace. Later on in the night Luc asked me some questions like “who was I the most grateful for?” And “what was the most memorable experience?”
And every time I had this feeling of contentment and joy wash over me when I think back to all the amazing experiences I’ve had. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Although I remember back when I was sitting in my hospital room all alone wondering “will I make it to Santiago? Or will I go back to Switzerland or even Canada?” And so the tears washed over me when I finally got infront of the magnificent cathedral that I made it. I did it. I fucking did it. So while it is about the journey, the destination is also important to me especially since I really had no idea if I was going to make it. We stood in line to get our official document for about 45mins. Then headed back to the cathedral. And then over to our hotel room. Showered and headed off to wash and dry our stuff in a laundromat while we drank beer (see photo). Returned to the room and then headed out to check out the shops. I wanted to see the inside of the cathedral so at 10 past 8pm we walked inside and mass was on and what I thought I had missed, came true. They swing the botafugio And not 5 mins after being in the crowded cathedral did they swing it. I can hardly believe my luck. The universe provided exactly what I needed. How special a moment to see this. I’ll provide the video separately. We had a wonderful dinner with a beautiful bottle of red Rioja wine special for completing our Camino. I’ve been thinking about all of you as well who have been following and supporting and cheering me on. I’m so grateful to have so many people in my life who have been there for me along the way. Even if you have been reading but not commenting I can feel your energy and that has helped to move me through this epic journey. When you have the love and support of your friends and family, you really can do anything. So I thank you 🙏. It almost doesn’t seem enough to say thank you. My mom and aunty for doing this 3 times, being my inspirations and for guiding me in all the different directions. It meant so much to have you both close by every single day.
And I want to say a very special thank you to my husband and best friend. He made it possible for me to go on this journey by helping violette get adjusted to school, Switzerland, new friends, everything. And when I needed him and was crying and moaning from the pain, he listened on the phone and loved and cared for me when I felt so alone. I love you to the moon and back my love. Thank you for coming and being a part of my Camino. ♥️♥️
I hiked in the dark this morning with 5 other people who spoke French but that doesn’t mean they were from France. What I love about the Camino is you choose the language that most people speak and that’s what you speak. The other day I was speaking with an Italian who spoke French so that’s what we spoke together. I STRONGLY suggest you learn Spanish before you get to the Camino. Meeting so many people from different lands has inspired me to learn at least two more languages. Eventually, the guys in front took off and the older people were at the back so I ended up hiking down the mountain essentially by myself. Which was perfect and serene. I found the guys in the next town and I had coffee with them and then walked with them (fastest I’ve walked so far) to Ponferrada where I wanted to slow down a bit. I took it easy walking out of Ponferrada and threw on the head phones. I danced and sang at the top of my lungs the last 5Km. To be honest, when I do that under the sun by myself I feel so alive and in my essence. I love it. I’m in a little albergue in a room with two bunks and me and another red head named Katie from the USA are occupying the bottom bunks. We’re going to leave together tomorrow around 6:30am. We had some good discussion tonight about the USA political state. Very interesting. Also, Monica and Jörg found me and we all had dinner together. Tomorrow it’s a short day to Villafranca del Bierzo (15km and I’ll carry my pack tomorrow for the first time in a few days) where my package was delivered 2+ weeks ago and where I’ll find the love of my life around 6:30pm. Tomorrow is the last day I walk alone and then I will be in a team of two. I’m ready.
Day 33 – Camponaraya to Villafrance de Bierzo
First day of carrying my pack again. I haven’t had any discomfort and it was a smaller distance so I figured let’s go for it. I walked with Katie from the states. 24 years old. I really liked her. We started at 6:30am (dark until 8) and chatted the whole way to Villafranca where we parted ways around 11am. I love leaving early when it’s cool but I still have a fear of walking in the dark by myself so I usually asked if I could tag along with those who left early. Wow! Villafranca! What a great little town. I got the box I shipped a couple of weeks from the albergue I shipped it too. Took out what I needed/wanted and shipped it back to Switzerland 🇨🇭. I did laundry in a proper machine (had to be clean for when I saw Luc!) and then headed over to the hotel/hostel that I booked. It was a proper room with my own bathroom. It’s been a while since I’ve had my own room (hospital?) I had a lovely shower and then relaxed on the bed for a couple of hours. I maybe should have discovered the town but I was more content resting and enjoying the room alone. Then I headed for a drink and off to meet Luc at his bus stop at 6:30pm. It was hard to wait all day!! But oh man, so incredible that he’s here now. I feel this safeness, security and love wash over me. I guess that’s who he is for me. ❤️ We went back to the hotel room for him to shower and park his bag and then headed off for dinner. It was. nice to get reacquainted with him and share my experiences I’ve had. Also, the things I’ve learned about myself. I’m not the same person who started this journey. I’m more the person I want to be. They say the Camino is a metaphor for your life in many different aspects. From the people who I have talked to, my journey may have been the most challenging that they have heard. I also know that these challenges I’ve faced have created something new in me. I experience the upset less intense but the contentment and pure joy in my life is more accessible. Love is a constant and to have the love of my life by my side, is the most incredible gift.
Day 34 – Villafrance de Bierzo to Las Herrerias
First day hiking with Luc. It was a very flat, on the road kind of day. I’d say a perfect introduction to the Camino. I only wish it was so easy for me. 👍🏻 the weather was overcast (what?) I loved walking with him and hearing about violette and how she’s adapting to school in Switzerland and with her grandparents and making new friends. Luc was so curious about the plants and fruit and the cute towns. I realize that I had missed this along the way or I had forgotten and to see it through his eyes was beautiful. He asked a lot of questions about how things are and what I’ve experienced and I really enjoyed being able to share my experience. We stopped in Las Herrerias, this cute little town that had a tree where you could tie your dreams onto. And a beautiful little river where I cooled off my feet. Luc’s first experience in a bunk bed room and I have to say it was a pretty clean nice place. Although… there wasn’t a window and typically what happens is the door gets shut. So with 10 people in the room I woke up at 11:45 sweating and had to get out of the room. I sat on the stairs and shortly a man cane down from upstairs. I didn’t want to scare him but inevitably I did. He was heading outside to get some fresh air and smoke a joint which he invited me to partake in. I politely declined. I’m so enjoying Luc with me my pack is still heavier than his but that’s my choice. Tomorrow up and over the last mountain O Cebreiro and into Galicia.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.