‘I think you will like these lyrics Mum,’ my 21-year-old son said as I accompanied him to Brisbane yesterday so he could sit a uni (college) entrance exam for the Feb 2020 semester.
‘The song’s called The Colour of Leaving‘, he continued.
I was immediately drawn to the title for it was cryptic, beautiful and could be interpreted in many ways. I also found it ironic considering I’d just completed my post about Meg before we left.
As the kilometres ticked over I absorbed the lyrics and as I glanced over at my beautiful son, I also embraced the importance of being present.
The moment was bittersweet and melancholic for the lyrics generated sadness, yet at the same time, the present enveloped me with love and gratitude: an interesting juxtaposition of emotions.
Settling lower into my seat, my gaze resting on my son’s strong hands, holding the steering wheel, I took comfort in knowing life is a kaleidoscope of colour, with the colours often changing with each passing moment.
And sometimes, those moments blend to form magnificent rainbows, allowing the colour of leaving to fade, and the importance of being present to shine brilliantly…
In the early morning spring light, well-worn paths are framed with rows upon rows of vibrant, fresh produce.
At every stall, small silver bowls are selected, then filled with delicious morsels that will later become the foundation for building mouth-watering meals.
Melodic chatter fills the air as locals barter for a bargain, tourists linger and friends gather to share stories and laughter.
Fresh, simple. Beautiful.
I take time to simply observe the simplicity of the moments. Moments that are unhurried, moments that are embraced.
And as a solo traveller who does not need to move within another’s time frame, I have the freedom to move to my own rhythm.
A rhythm that does not have me visit tourism offices, nor to source ‘to do’ sights. In doing so I discover interesting places, and more often than not, those wondrous, out of the way places where locals gather.
Day 5 of my yoga practice saw the mind trying to conquer the body. I didn’t let it. Conversely, rather than trying to ignore negative thoughts, I acknowledged them, let them go and rolled out my mat.
Living in the southern hemisphere means summer is on the horizon, and the once cool spring mornings are now warm, making practice outside comfortable.
Whilst I live in a sub-tropical climate, it does get quite cool in the winter months and poolside, deck time is quite limited. Therefore as the weather warms, the option to be outside is greatly celebrated by my beloved sausages.
The appearance of my mat also causes great celebration, as does the child’s pose at the beginning of my session. The boys seem to think this is the signal for them to nuzzle into my face and shower me with wet, furry kisses.
Yet a sense of calm is soon established and they sit quietly listening to the birds herald in the new day, whilst I quietly continue my practice.
I find the challenge is not simply about becoming conversant with the various asanas, the real difficulty lies in having to watch the screen to ensure I’m doing the poses correctly. This impacts breathing and enjoyment.
Yet again, rather than letting the mind tell my body it’s too hard, I simply pause the video and take a few moments to breathe deeply and tell myself how well I’m doing.
Having read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I know the importance of allowing yourself to be in the moment. And whilst there is part of me that yearns to practice as seasoned yogi’s do, I also realise the importance of enjoying the journey.
As Dory said in Finding Nemo, ‘just keep swimming…’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…