life

Yoga: the beginning…


It’s often easy to start something new, the hard part is continuing and making it a part of daily life.

This has been my experience with yoga, I begin earnestly, only to find myself giving up after my body seemingly fails to contort into the uncomfortable poses.

It hurts, I cannot bend and it simply seems too hard. However after walking part of the Camino de Sanitago this year, I now know it is not the body that gives up, it’s the mind.

When faced with an extreme physical challenge, the mind likes to trick the body into believing the challenge cannot be conquered. At times whilst walking the Camino there was an overwhelming feeling to just give up for the physical exhaustion was so intense. But I didn’t give up, I placed focus on the path directly in front of me, and allowed myself to simply take one step at a time and focused on the Now.

I took time to rest and most importantly, took time to tell myself how much I’d achieved. It may not have been as much as another pilgrim, but that did not matter as it was my journey.

As the days progressed my body grew stronger and my mind began to accept this journey I had taken it on. The weight I carried no longer felt heavy, I felt exhilarated and at peace with myself.

People practiced yoga whilst on the Camino and I remember seeing a girl practice on a grassy patch high on the Pyrenees. I knew I wanted yoga to become part of my daily life and on returning home, I started doing some research.

As I preferred to practice at home, I began searching and trialling countless apps, yet many were full of meaningless chatter and hurried poses that were difficult to follow. Yet I was determined to find something and funnily enough, I came across Down Dog by chance after clicking on a link from an unrelated app.

It was easy to navigate, had various options of voice, music, style etc and most importantly, it was devoid of that endless chatter that seemed to accompany other apps.

So I began.

I am now into Day 4, which is 2 days further than I’ve been before and whilst I’m struggling , I’m listening to my body and letting it ease into the poses.

I don’t have expectations, and like my Camino, I am simply taking one step at a time and letting my body adjust to this new movement.

Note: I do not have any affiliation with Down Dog, it’s just an app I’ve found to work best for me.

life

Finding your happy place…


It’s a place often sought: some of us find it, some of us don’t.

yoga1

If you’re lucky, you’ll find it maybe more than once.

I’ve been lucky.

I’ve found it, yet I’ve also lost it, and as a consequence wasted time trying to find it again.

So what is this illusive happy place? It’s actually very simple.

It’s called being home.

It’s called being with my sons.

It’s called being with my precious, four-legged family, Stanley, Oscar, Simon & Eddie.

It’s called sharing moments with special, loyal friends who never judge my failures, rather, they find ways to have me celebrate them.

It’s called reflecting and feeling grateful to have had an amazing job that allowed me travel the world, to experience special moments, and to have shared those moments with beautiful people.

It’s called being grateful for opportunities presented.

Finding your happy place?

Simply embrace simplicity…

life, photography, travel

Along The Way…


Whilst walking part of the Camino de Santiago, I wrote brief anecdotes via my iPhone and posted here and other social media sites. With only a small backpack, no DSLR and no computer, my plan was to document my experience in greater detail once home. However life has unwittingly taken the driver’s seat and it’s now over 2 months since I returned without a single word written.

Time to start writing. Or perhaps for the moment, just a few words accompanied with a collection of images. As the cliche goes: a picture speaks a thousand words…

Day 1: New friends, breathtaking scenery and 24 kms of endless hills that pushed me to my physical limits. There were moments where my body screamed for me to quit, and it was in those moments my mental strength needed to be stronger. It was and despite the extreme physical challenge, my mind conquered, it was intoxicating & exhilarating …

Day 2: 22 kms – Exhaustion has taken over. It’s so physically challenging and everyone we meet says the same. Apparently the first 10 days are known as the ‘Suffering’ I can absolutely attest to that. On the upside the scenery is breathtaking as were the positive and uplifting comments on social media…

  • Kim Lindquist Good on you girlfriend I feel like I’m walking it with you…wish I was…but sad to say I’d be one of your pesky snorers 🤣1
  • Mark Lindquist Hang in there Jen. Your mind will lead you not your body.😎😎😎
  • Jenny Joyce What fabulous scenery!! I’m enjoying reading your blog and in awe of the incredible trek you are doing.
  • Gabrielle Oliphant What a fantastic experience 🌺
  • Gavin Curtis You’re going well Jen . Your physical conditioning will improve as you go and it’s a fact your mind will try to give up 100 times before your body will . Keep thinking happy thoughts.

Day 3: 19kms – I walked alone for most of today, and I only came across 3 other pilgrims. I didn’t listen to music, just the sounds of Spanish countryside…

Day 4: Rest day in Pamplona…And my own room ❤️❤️❤️

Day 5: Pamplona to Mendizabal, 22.5kms
Both Chu and I said we felt as though we were walking through Tuscany. It was beautiful. Only one drawback was the crowds. This was the first day we’d encountered many people, but we took our time and waited for the masses to pass which allowed us alone time. We stopped 1.5kms short of the 5th stage, and we’re now staying at a lovely homestay with only 1 other pilgrim from NZ. The hospitaleria is right now, making us dinner whilst we sit in his lounge room sharing our experiences . Being only the 3 of us means an uninterrupted sleep is a definite. ❤️❤️💤

Day 6: I’d read how walking the Camino exposes you to so many emotional, physical and cultural experiences. Day 6 encompassed that for me.

I’m not religious yet felt drawn to walk into a 16th century church and send peace & love to certain people. I felt my body overheating so i took time to let it rest. And tonight, dinner was shared with 7 other people from Australia (me), Italy, France, Korea, China & USA. We could not understand each other, yet we all spent over two hours enjoying each other’s company. For me, best night on the Camino so far ❤️

Day 7: I brought my late Dad’s rain jacket with me on the Camino and today, we are taking a walk together in the rain and sipping steaming lattes in quaint cafes …❤️

Day 8: It was time to head to France to walk part of the Camino Le Puy, via San Sebastián. But my last morning on Frances was spent walking 14 kms through beautiful vineyards, olive groves and fields of wheat that framed the long stretches of dirt road.

In the distance, emerald green hills rolled over the landscape and the endless tweeting of small birds filtered through the air.

I did not listen to music, only the sounds of nature and the gentle crunching of my footsteps on the dirt track as I placed one foot in front of the other.

I felt totally alone in the world. It was peaceful, therapeutic and incredibly calming.

I cannot verbally express the feeling of peace. The feeling of knowing I was on the right road.

My road.

life, travel

Realisations & friendly strangers…


For quite some time I’d entertained the idea of buying a house in or around the Dordogne region of France.

I’d spent countless hours scouring the pages of Rightmove bookmarking properties, yet when I finally arrived, it simply didn’t feel ‘right’,

The town of Brive la Galliarde was exceptionally beautiful, as was the apartment I rented. It’s circular staircase snaked upward through the centre of the building, stone steps worn from the imprint of many footsteps that tread upon them over many years, or possibly centuries.

A Juliet balcony overhung the cobblestone street that carved its way through buildings dating back to the 17th century. It was historically mesmerizing: but again, I didn’t feel it.

However rather than wallow in the disappointment, I embraced the fact that I was meant to come here and make the realization that this is simply not my place.

And that’s okay.

Yet still my love affair with France continues: it’s language, it’s people and it’s culture pull me into its melodic web.

And that sentiment shone brightly yesterday when I arrived in Lyon and stopped at a street cafe for a beer after a long walk to the hostel.

Just as I took my first sip, a group of people approached my table and asked me something in french. Obviously not understanding their quickly spoken words, yet as I’d perfected my short, french spiel, l happily blurted: ‘… ah je suis australien, et je ne parle en petit peu Français, parlez plus lentiment, s’il vous plait.

Basically saying, but probably butchering their beautiful language: ‘I’m sorry I only speak a little french, could you please speak slowly’.

There were no raised eyebrows or sly sniggers, quite the contrary. They graciously responded by speaking perfect English with oh so sexy accents.

Funnily enough, after exchanging stories bestowing them with more of my childlike french, they said when I spoke french, for them, I sounded sexy!!! Too many Pernods perhaps?

What I found most humbling during my time with these lovely people was their kindness and willingness to help me with my french. I was also extremely touched by their praise for my apparent bravery at travelling solo, however I never feel my solo travels are brave.

It’s interesting to see yourself through someone else’s eyes as I have never labelled myself as being brave.

So as dusk begins to ascend upon my travels and my time in Europe draws to a close, I’m humbled as to where I’ve left my footprint.

I’m grateful for where I’ve been, who I’ve met and what I’ve achieved.

So for now, I’ll spend my last few days in France enjoying the company of an old friend.

And the next chapter? That remains unwritten…

life, travel

A French love affair…


Walking along paths framed by wheat fields, climbing across majestic mountains and traversing through forests whilst being stalked by horses was an experience I’ll never forget.

And already, I deeply miss walking the Camino.

I miss the feeling of knowing the morning heralded another day of simply being in the present. Another day of simply placing one foot in front of another, hour after hour. It was so humbling and and so rewarding.

I truly wish I’d had more time to finish the entire Camino: unfortunately I did not.

But like others before me, I will return.

Instead, I’m continuing my love affair with France, a country I adore. The language, the landscape and the friendliness of the people.

Some may ‘tut tut’ at that last sentence, but I’ve always found French people to be warm and friendly.

This visit is no different.

My chance encounter with a French couple who’d just completed the entire Camino [Le Puy en Valay to Finisterre, approx 1600kms]. They happily shared very useful advice on walking Le Puy.

Bruno, my Airbnb host who warmly accepted my very last minute booking ( 1 hour), and who then praised my poor French language skills.

The wonderful people who invited me into the masses to enjoy and support Gay Pride.

And today: the wait staff at a restaurant where I stopped for lunch. They chatted animatedly with me before inviting me to join them later for drinks and dinner. I declined as I needed to get back to my Airbnb, however I was humbled by their kindness.

Tomorrow I head further north for a few days of walking through old villages, before heading to Lyon to spend time with an old, dear friend who I’ve not seen in quite a few years.

And just as my love affair with France continues, so does my love of travelling solo.

I’m never lonely, never frightened and despite missing my precious sons, special friends and of course my beloved sausages, life is sweet.

To those who fear solo travel, fear not, for it truly is an amazing experience that heightens the senses and soothes the soul…

❤️❤️🐾🐾❤️❤️

life

A new road to walk…


Due to the date of my return flight, and commitments with my Sausage Dog Hotel at home, my time on the Camino Frances was only going to be 7 – 10 days.

As my walk continued, I knew the day was soon approaching when my walk in Spain would end.

And today was the day.

Whilst walking alone on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Camino, something happened and I just knew today was the day to leave the Camino Francis.

It wasn’t planned, I simply set off earlier than my lovely Camino buddy, Chu and sometime during that 14 km walk to the next town of Los Arcos, I knew my time on this walk had come to an end.

And what an end it was.

Vineyards, olive groves and fields of wheat framed the long stretches of dirt road. In the distance, emerald green hills rolled over the landscape and the endless tweeting of small birds filtered through the air.

I did not listen to music, only the sounds of nature and the gentle crunching of my footsteps on the dirt track as I placed one foot in front of the other.

I felt totally alone in the world. It was peaceful, therapeutic and incredibly calming.

I cannot verbally express the feeling of peace. The feeling of knowing I was on the right road.

My road.

It was then I knew it was time to walk part of another Camino: one that takes the pilgrim through the south west of France from Le Puy en Valay to Saint Jean Pied de Port.

Although my feelings to head to France and walk part of Camino Le Puy were strong, it also made sense for two reasons: firstly I’d be closer to Paris and my flight home and secondly, I’d get to walk through some of France’s most beautiful villages and countryside.

I arrived in Los Arcos and found bus that took me to San Sebastián via Pamplona and then onto Toulouse.

The journey from Los Arcos to Pamplona gave me an insight as to just how far I’d walked. I can’t describe how I felt seeing the massive wind turbines that I passed only 3 days before. It was a highly emotional moment. Had I, a 57 year old woman really walked that far?

I had and I was so damn proud of my achievement.

In Pamplona whilst waiting to my bus to San Sebastián, I spoke with an Italian man who is about to commence his Camino. He looked fit and about 30, yet he said he was getting a bus to Roncesvalles, rather than leaving from Saint Jean and traversing the Pyrenees: ‘It’s too hard…’ he told me. ‘I’ve heard it’s very tough on the body, I don’t think I’ll make it…’.

I smiled at him and said, ‘You can do it, yes, it’s tough, but believe in your ability to do it and you will. If I can, then so can you…’

I saw him a little later: he walked over to me and in broken English said, ‘ I go to Saint Jean, I walk over big mountain like you…’

For the second time today an enormous feeling of gratification flooded through my body. My Camino Frances experience had washed over and inspired someone else.

I felt elated.

I’m now sitting in a hostel in San Sebastián, sipping a cold beer and feeling pretty damn happy.

And San Sebastián is stunning btw..

But instead of exploring, tomorrow it’s on to my beloved France and hopefully a nice walk in the countryside…

life, travel

alongside the snoring, aching bodies and blisters, laughter is in abundance …


It’s now 0500 on day 3 of my Camino Frances and everything I read about sleep deprivation due to snoring in the dorms has become a reality.

Upstairs in our dorm room, it sounds like 3 freight trains are roaring through the room. My earplugs seem to have no resistance against the cacophony, so knowing there’s no chance of sleep, I’ve come downstairs, bought a coffee from the vending machine and curled up on the couch to write in the cosy, common loungeroom.

And as I write, I reflect on how the snoring, blisters and physical exhaustion are difficult elements of walking the Camino. Yet the camaraderie, scenery and personal gratification inspires and drives your determination to push through.

Walking over the Pyrenees on Day 1 attested to that. To say it was physically challenging is an understatement. During the toughest inclines, my legs were like jelly, I felt dizzy and at times, was on the verge of vomiting. But despite the discomfort, something was pushing me up those mountains. Was it spiritual or simple determination: I don’t know?

Despite the challenges, Chu and I limped into Roncesvalles 10 hours after leaving Saint Jean.

Chu is a wonderful lady from California who I met on my first day in Saint Jean Pied de Port. Something clicked and we just started walking together. Chu is doing the entire Camino and as I can only do part of it due to flight changes, we will soon part ways.

She’s such a warm, funny woman with a wealth of trekking knowledge and walking together seems to fit us both well. We’re both independent woman who enjoy our own company, and over these last two, oh so tough days, we’ve been a huge support to each other. We walk comfortably in silence, neither of us feeling the need to fill that silence, which is quite rare when you first meet. At different times we’ve walked ahead of each other, knowing that we’ll reconnect somewhere along the track. It’s comforting to know someone’s ‘got your back’ but also comforting knowing we’re walking our own Camino.

After our tough climb over the Pyrenees, Day 2 was supposed to be a little easier. And it well could’ve been if our bodies were not trying to recover from the Pyrenees climb. Day 2 presented different challenges, our bodies hurt, we’d both developed blisters, which made the rocky terrain difficult.

We walked with pain, yet we also walked with laughter.

Day 2 took us through rural farmlands where there’s an abundance of sheep, cows and horses, many of whom wear large bells that filter a sense of calm across the Spanish landscape.

Yesterday whilst walking through a thickly forested area we could hear the calming bell somewhere nearby. As we rounded a corner, a horse appeared. It was grazing about 3 metres from the path. We were not concerned or afraid. But within a few minutes another 5 joined their bell wearing leader. Again we were not too concerned and continued past them and on our way.

Before long we heard the bell jingling close by, and on turning around, we saw our new friends now sauntering along the path behind us. We stopped, thinking they would just keep moving on, but no, as we stopped, so did they. They watched us curiously and as we started walking again they followed suit, yet as they walked quite a bit faster (they obviously didn’t have blisters) they got closer.  Before we realised they were soon right behind us. We tried stepping off the path to let them pass, but again, when we stopped, they did too. And when they did, they simply waited and watched with an occasional munch on a wayward piece of grass.

This went on for about an hour until Chu decided we ‘hide’ behind a tree to let them pass. So on finding a thick tree that seemingly hid us well (and safely I might add) we waited. Our new friends sauntered closer, yet to our surprise, just as they arrived at our tree, they turned on their hooves and bolted in the opposite direction never to be seen again. We were left somewhat perplexed at this sudden change, yet also found it highly amusing.

So alongside the snoring, aching bodies and blisters, the laughter has been in abundance.

The Camino stirs many emotions and despite the physical hardship I’m grateful to be having this incredible experience.

life

One night in Shanghai…


There’s always a downside to travelling: long flights and long layovers.

  • Sometimes they afford wonderful opportunities and experiences, whilst on the flip side, they can leave you incredibly frustrated.
  • In my case it was the latter.

    Having 17 hours between flights in Shanghai the best thing to do was get a hotel. And according to Booking.com there are an abundance of reasonable hotels within 10 minutes of the airport.

    With a few clicks, my bed for the night was sorted, as was the free shuttle. All I had to do was get off the flight, get on the shuttle and then get into bed: perfect.

    But like all best laid plans, it often takes only one element to fail and everything turns proverbially pear shaped.

    My failed element was the shuttle. Yep, it wasn’t there.

    Not one to be daunted easily I simply walked over to the info desk where a lovely young girl happily offered to call the hotel.

    Enter problem number two. The number on my booking.com booking was not connected.

    ‘Sorry, number not work, you get taxi…’

    Ok so be it, taxi it is. Still undeterred I asked her to check how far and the approximate cost of the taxi. As any experienced traveller will tell you, unsuspecting tourists often get slogged for small taxi fares. Better to err on the side of caution.

    ‘Ten minute only, 60 RMB…’she said dismissing with a wave of her hand. Obviously I’d used up all my free questions, so off I went in search of the taxi rank.

    It wasn’t hard to find and after being directed to the next taxi, I showed my driver the hotel address, which was also in Chinese. With much nodding and hand waving, there was some semblance of assurance that I was on my way and I felt mildly confident that I’d soon be enjoying a hot shower and a warm bed.

    There was no doubt I was on my way, just apparently not to my hotel and my supposed 10 minute ride quickly became 30. I suppose I should’ve been grateful for the tour of Pudong and to have met a few lovely hotel receptionists at the ‘wrong’ hotels we stopped at, but fatigue and frustration had started to take over.

    Clearly my driver had no idea and just when I was about to try and get him to head back to the airport, he started gibbering excitedly and was gesturing toward a brightly lit building.

    ‘Jie Jia, Jie Jia…’ he shouted gleefully behind his plastic driver protection screen, whilst animatedly pointing at a brightly lit building.

    Apparently, we’d finally arrived.

    Thirty minutes and a hot shower later, I sat on the bed and had a little giggle to myself. Yep, travel certainly presents challenges that can result in frustration, but I guess it comes down to how we let those challenges affect us.

    Sometimes you just have to let it ride over you and smile.

    P.S

    And on the plus side of my soirée in Shanghai. Meeting fantastic China Eastern crew and two hilariously funny Chinese tourists whilst waiting in line to board the flight to Paris. They were in the 70’s, thought I was Russian, then on finding out I was on my own, Australian and walking across Spain, I became their hero 🤣🤣🤣. I could easily dedicate an entire post to them …

    Fabulous China Eastern crew – checking out 1st Class

    life, photography

    The many faces of isobella…


    A number of years ago I was introduced to a young girl who volunteered to be my model whilst I was studying. In the years following that meeting, I’ve had the pleasure to not only photograph Isobella many times, but to also experience Isobella’s incredible ability to adapt her look.  Not only does she photograph beautifully, she is also an incredibly beautiful person. Here’s a collection of my favourite images.

    life

    Still, stagnant water…


    It’s that same road again,
    the cycle repeats.
    The scenery never changing,
    it remains cold and bleak.
    At times there is sunshine,
    Rays of hope, light and love.
    The clouds though take over,
    Raining sadness from above.
    Try to find light,
    in the bleak, endless hail.
    Searching for a rainbow,
    To repair what’s now frail
    The darkness, the shadows,
    the whispering thoughts.
    The endless days,
    equating to nought.
    Petalless flowers,
    dry, yellowing grass.
    Still stagnant waters,
    a sad, heavy heart…