life

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…

❤️❤️🐾🐾❤️❤️

travel

To sleep or not to sleep…


That is the question.

After 3 nights of listening to a cacophony of snoring, the answer is easy.

Sleep wins!

So I booked a quaint hotel in the old town of Pamplona, and after only a short 2 hour walk from the snoring shed, I’ve arrived.

And whilst it’s not the Sheraton or Hilton, the room is mine, all mine. Honestly, I could do one serious Happy Dance.

I’ve been paying $AU20a night to sleep with snorers, I figure $A65 is worth every cent.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the warmly lit hotel restaurant, enjoying a buffet breakfast. Classical Spanish music plays softly and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, creating an inviting atmosphere.

Walking the Camino expends serious energy and when coupled with sleep deprivation, the impact that has on physicality is immense.

And besides, I’ve never been one to conform to the norm and just because one’s ‘supposed’ to stay in hostels when walking the Camino, does not mean one has to!

If the truth be known, I rather wish I’d brought a small tent and sleeping mat, as I feel camping would be more conducive to a good nights sleep.

I’ve seen some pilgrims with pop up tents and sleeping mats; they’re definite smart ones.

Anyway, it is what it is.

With the sleeping decision made, I soon have another decision to make: when to leave the Camino.

Due to my return flight departing Paris on June 17, my plan was never to finish the Camino Francis this time.

Depending on when I choose to leave CF, I may have the option to walk part of the Camino Le Puy, which would allow me to walk through a beautiful part of France. That has its advantages because 1. I love France and 2. it’s closer to Paris and my return flight.

But for now, its a rest day in Pamplona and hopefully a much needed good nights sleep.

life

Humanity…


Humanity’s footprints. They are there, everywhere…

life, photography, travel

It’s all in a days work: a flight attendant’s life…


For the last few weeks I have had freedom – freedom from assignments, textbooks and endless hours studying in order to gain a post-graduate teaching qualification.

And during those wonderful weeks of freedom I have had time to reflect upon a life once lived. And a good life it was. Flying around the world, partying in Paris, having slings in Singapore and lunching in LA.

But as the saying goes; all good things must come to an end. And so with wings clipped and and a life now lived with feet firmly planted on the ground, I thought a flying photo essay (the type of essay I prefer) was in order.

Enjoy…

life

And before it truly begins, it ends… or is that end the real beginning??


I did a status update on Facebook recently that read, ‘Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be, but we when have to leave, we find ourselves wanting to stay’.

Collage
Penghu

In early November I moved to Penghu, an island off the coast of Taiwan, to take on a teaching position. When I arrived I found my new home somewhat daunting and foreign. I felt a little lost, a little alone and a long way from those I loved most. But this new life soon began to feel comfortable, and metaphorically, somewhat akin to buying a new dress. Initially, wearing that dress is exciting for it feels new and fresh, but it also feels strange as it doesn’t quite fit the contours of your body. Yet after a while, it begins to feel comfortable and before long, it fits perfectly.

That is how I felt following my first few weeks in Penghu. I had eased comfortably into my teaching role, created my space in a small apartment and fell a little in love with a few of my beautiful students, whose enchanting smiles and infectious giggles enriched my day. I knew I had found what I wanted to do and I was happy.

In those first weeks, I also heard about a place called The Beach Break 衝浪店, a funky little bar run by South African expat, Ted and his wife Shao Mai. It was apparently the place where the handful of Penghu foreigners (roughly 20 in total) gathered on Sunday afternoons to play music whilst enjoying cold beers and good company.

One afternoon I headed out to Shanshui, the quiet beachside village where the bar is located. After a 15 minute ride I arrived, and soon found the ramshackle bar tucked on the corner of the main street. It exuded character and charm.

A collection of well used boards...
A collection of well used boards…

Waxed surfboards stood against a graffiti covered wall and inside, a scattering of wooden stools and a well-worn leather couch created the space in which I imagined, many travel tales were shared.

At the bar, two men stood talking, obviously comfortable in each other’s presence and on seeing me, welcomed my presence with warmth and enthusiasm. That afternoon, in a little bar on a remote island, new friendships were formed and ones that filled my remaining weeks in Penghu with fun, laughter and true companionship. That dress had truly begun to fit, I loved my teaching role, I had formed new friendships and I was very comfortable living in this unique part of the world.

However, there was one element missing. My sons and my dogs. I missed them terribly and they missed me, yet we managed that ‘missing’ with regular Skype calls and messages and accepted that my plan to stay in Penghu for 12 months would remain in place.

Picture 9
Rob on Skype

But plans change. And change they did. Certain changes occurred at home and it meant my presence in Australia was needed and as a result, a decision had to be made. It was difficult, for I felt a strong sense of obligation to fulfill my contract in Penghu, yet as a mother my children’s needs were of paramount importance and therefore naturally overrode my needs and the needs of others.

Within days, hurried travel arrangements were made amid mixed emotions and tearful farewells to my beautiful students and a group of people who had quickly become my Penghu ‘family’. The kindness and care from Wednesday, Lisa and the lovable Bamboo had touched my heart and saying goodbye was not something I wanted to do so soon after meeting. And bidding farewell to Vivien, who I met quite by chance one day at another friends house, was particularly difficult. A beautiful woman of Taiwanese heritage, who had lived in Germany for many years and as a consequence, spoke with an accent that was a wonderful mix of Chinese and German.

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Dinner at Peters…

Shortly before I decided to leave Penghu, I was at Viv’s house sharing a good bottle of French red and great conversation. Asking her advice relating to my need to head home she offered these words: ‘Jen, does it make sense’, at that moment I knew staying in Penghu didn’t make sense and I had to go home despite my strong desire to fulfil my commitments in Penghu. Adding to my distress, I now had my ‘Penghu kids’ who were depending on me and the thought of disappointing them tug at my heart. But Viv’s 5 words put everything into perspective and I thank her for that and also thank fate for allowing our paths to cross.

wednesday12
Ancient village…

I am now home and happy. My 3 months in Penghu changed my life in many ways. That unique little island gave me direction and my wonderful children who I had the pleasure to teach, fuelled my desire to take my teaching to another level and as such, I am about to commence Graduate Diploma in Teaching. And my wonderful new friends? We will meet again, maybe in Penghu or maybe elsewhere.

Sometimes we do find ourselves in a place we never thought we’d be and if you happen to find yourself there, embrace it for it may shape the rest of your life, as Penghu has for me.

shanshui24
Abandoned house: Shanshui

life

Changing lanes…


When settling into your seat to watch the flight attendant deliver the safety demonstration, have you ever thought about what life is like for that flight attendant?
Maybe you havent. Or maybe you have. And if so you may have thought, hmmm they must travel in one of life’s fast lanes. Paris one week, Rome the week after and possibly London and New York the week after that.
From someone who travelled in that lane for close to 25 years, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Well the good bits anyway.
Yep I can tell you, I enjoyed lagers in London, parties in Paris and slings in Singapore. But aside from having a great time, being a flight attendant was also exciting, rewarding and at times, very humbling.
Sipping caprioskas whilst watching a Roman sunset is exciting.
Watching snowflakes search for a place to land amongst the skyscrapers of New York, claiming the soil of Ground Zero as their final resting place as did some 2000 souls on 9/11, is humbling.
And seeing a child totally enthralled by the fact that you, the flight attendant have captured clouds in a teapot, is rewarding. (Dry ice + water = instant clouds).
But being a flight attendant can also be very comical.
For instance, try telling an Indian man that the sanitary napkin you gave to the woman sitting next to him was something he really didn’t need?
My words were to no avail as his reply, with a swift roll of his head went a little like this. ‘No, I’ll be thinking you’ll be not understanding me madam, I’ll be saying that I’ll be wanting what she is having’ as his head again rolled from side to side.
I repeated my words, but they were in vain for he seemed relentless in his pursuit, so in the end I gave up and gave him his much needed package, and as I passed it over I wondered just what he would do with the contents.
On my next walk through the cabin, my question was answered.
There he was, sitting ever so proudly, with a very large,very white, sanitary napkin firmly placed across his eyes!
He had peeled off the adhesive label and quite obviously decided that this strange white object was the latest design in airline eye masks. At that moment, between holding back fits of laughter, I was so thankful that he didn’t discover the little white numbers that were housed in the same package and decide to use them as ‘earplugs’.
Ah yes, flying truly was a beautiful blend of the good, the bad and the downright ridiculous. And for those of you who have aspirations to try life in that fast lane, I strongly encourage it. I lived in that lane for many years, and loved it. Then I began to question which lane was really the more important one to travel in, fast or family?
So now instead of sipping cappuccinos in Rome, seeing rhinos in the wilds of Africa and waking to the sounds of street hawkers in Singapore, I now wake to the sounds of my beautiful children starting the day and my beloved Stanley panting excitedly and the prospect of going for his daily walk.
Yes, I was hostie and I lived in the fast lane, but I chose to put my indicator on and change lanes.