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Mindset Coach Pilgrimages Self Development

Three Steps to Powerful Decision Making

And a few reasons why you are brilliant at it already!

I’ve just retaken a personality test that I did some months ago. Not to worry, I am still firmly set in the space of introversion:)

A key takeaway for me from the results of this current test is that my decision-making has improved.

But before I give you this three-step process, I want to start by telling you why you are already an awesome decision-maker.

Here goes!

  1. Micro Decisions

You start making conscious decisions the moment you open your eyes in the morning.

Each micro decision you make gets you through your day. Making your first cup of coffee; your thoughts and actions while you are getting ready for work; getting into your car; doing the shopping; dropping the kids off at school; doing your incredible work.

These are all micro-decisions, and we often forget that they are decisions because they have become part-and-parcel of your daily process.

So, take some time today to stop.

Stop – what are you thinking? How are you feeling? Are you worried? Concerned? Happy? Comfortable?

Stop and observe.

2. Your decisions have shaped who you are

Take a look at your life up to this point.

Yes, there might very well be low points and things that you might regret or feel sorry or sad about.

However, when you position yourself into a space of gratitude for everything that has come about – whether you flourished or learnt a lesson, your decisions have carved out your life.

Your life is a reflection of you.

This might be a sobering thought for some of us. If so, your decisions that you make today then can be an epic way to repurpose your intentions and move you into a space where you are able to flourish.

What are you going to decide to do today?

3. There are no good or bad decisions

Regret.

I used this word to discuss a past decision that I had made. My friend lovingly reminded me that regret has no place in our past decisions.

Since past decisions cannot be undone, they must be seen as points along a journey. A journey that has brought you here to this place.

If that is a sobering thought and you are not altogether comfortable with your space at this moment, then another decision – one based on learning from that regret, can make every difference to your onward journey.

We make decisions every second of the day.

What are you going to decide to do today?

I made a decision that changed my life

I decided to go on pilgrimage and walk the Camino de Santiago.

When I started walking, I didn’t realise that I was carrying with me such immense grief. I was aware that my mood affected my life and my relationships, but I had never considered that I was suffering grief.

It seems so obvious to me now.

My decision to walk the Camino Frances saved my life. It allowed me to re-discover my courage and to face the loss of my brother, my grandparents, my best friend and my parents.

The beautiful gift of time that I had given myself gave me space to consider my own goals and my own dreams, and it changed my thought around how I was going to live the rest of my life.

My decision to go on pilgrimage was the first decision of many that have now shaped who I am.

We have to decide who we are, and what our primary purpose is, in order to thrive, and not only survive.

What are you going to decided to do today?

Now onto what has improved my decision-making skills.

Since I am an introvert and I use both judging and sensing to make my decisions. This might be somewhat different for you.

However, since I have taken to using my own coaching tools and techniques that I have learned on myself in addition to my clients, I believe that my thought process has developed because of my increased overall confidence.

This three-step process is ideal when you are facing challenging situations, and a decision must be made.

  1. Define the challenge

By this, I suggest that you really give it a good assessment.

  • What are the facts;
  • What has worked before and can you apply this positive outcome;
  • What hasn’t worked;
  • Who can you count on to help you – consider your outer resources;
  • How can you overcome this yourself – consider your inner resources;
  • Who do you know that has faced a similar challenge to support you through this moment.

Once you have clearly assessed what needs to be done, and who can help you you are 80% of the way to making a well-formed decision.

2. Consider all possibilities

As human beings when we are faced with difficult decisions as a result of situations or circumstances we often resort to the worst-case scenario.

This is absolutely great!

Using our intuition and considering the facts together, we are energised towards finding a workable solution and then making well-formed decisions around the challenge.

Considering all possibilities, even the nasty ones, allows you to make short-term and actionable decisions to get you moving forward. That forward movement will empower you through those challenges even when, at the outset, they seem insurmountable.

3. Consider the consequences

My go-to question to myself, when I am at this point is:

“What’s the worst that will happen?” That worst-case scenario aspect of decision making.

I often find myself writing up a “pros vs cons” list. It’s funny how my “pros” are always longer.

It’s because, I believe, that we know intuitively what to do, it is only our limiting beliefs that often get in our way.

It’s very helpful to consider the consequences from both angles:

  • What will happen if I don’t make this decision?
  • What will happen if I do make this decision?

Ask yourself how will this decision, whether you make it or not, impact your loved ones. Those people who count on you.

What are you deciding to do today?

If there are no challenges you are being faced with today, observe your thinking and contemplate this statement:

Thoughts are real forces.

This is the first law of the mind, as described by John Kehoe.

If you believe that thoughts are real forces, what are your thoughts about?

If you need to change them are you deciding today to be happier, more fulfilled, more successful, more purpose-driven, or will you decide that the status quo is ok for you right now.

Either way, there is no right or wrong decision, as long as you remember that every decision shapes our lives.

Our lives are a reflection of ourselves.

What are you deciding today?

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Categories
Pilgrimages

Why Protecting This Global Icon is Important for Pilgrims

The Cruz de Ferro is in the spotlight these days, and not for the reasons you might think. The Authorities in the municipalities in which this unassuming cross stands, want to remodel and “upgrade” the area around it.

The pilgrims who know and love the Camino de Santiago have banded together, and there is a public outcry to leave this global icon and the surrounds, as is.

We wait with bated breathe on this issue.

The Cruz de Ferro or Iron Cross is humble in its stature. It is a simple wooden post around five meters in height, with an iron cross at its summit. It is situated on the highest point on the Camino Frances, one of the routes making up the popular Camino de Santiago.

Historical Relevance

It is well known in the region that the Romans built roads while they territorialised the Spanish countryside. The remnants of some of those roads can still be seen along the route today. It is believed that the Romans used the cross to demarcate the border between territories, which given the history of the Romans could have been one of the practical purposes of this landmark.

So true for the medieval pilgrim, who on his journey to Santiago de Compostela, this would have been a useful wayfinder, especially during heavy snow. Undoubtedly, for the modern pilgrim despite the routes being well marked, this Iron Cross remains a well-established and arguably the most sought after wayfinder.

The Spiritual Legend

This legend gives this cross it’s relevance today.

It is believed that St James himself placed the cross. On his spiritual journeys throughout Spain, it is said that he encountered pagan priests who were performing a human sacrificial ceremony.

Engulfed with rage St James took a stone from his pocket and threw it at the pagan altar. With the power of God, the altar is said to have disintegrated as the stone struck it. To honour this almighty power, St James then placed the cross where the altar had stood.

The Modern Pilgrim

Many pilgrims from all walks of life go on pilgrimage on the popular Camino Frances. It is a tradition for all to take up a stone, which is usually carried from home, and when reaching the Cruz de Ferro, this stone is placed at the foot of the monument.

The full journey is from St Jean Pier de Port, on the border between France and Spain to the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela. Its distance is around 800km’s.

The accomplishment of reaching the Cruz de Ferro is more than half of the way and a milestone for all who undertake this pilgrimage. It is a sought after monument and beloved by all, and when new pilgrims are doing planning, it is a visit to this place that is included in the day’s walking routine

For those who undertake this journey for religious reasons, a prayer is said at this point:

“Lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage, that I lay at the foot of the cross, weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds someday when the deeds of my life are judged. Let it be so.”

Nevertheless, whether a pilgrim is religious or not, the tradition of placing this stone at this point is poignant for reasons that are personal to every one of them. The stone might represent healing or discarding of a bad habit or even in memory of something or someone that is sentimental to every pilgrim.

Its the place where you figuratively leave your burdens behind you.

There are particular sites across the Camino Frances which offer the walker or the rider a sense of peacefulness, and a place of reflection. So too for the pilgrim to be part of a historical tradition, the Cruz de Ferro is indeed these things.

It is for these reasons, that the remodelling proposal is being vehemently opposed.

The Proposal For Upgrade

It is proposed to install a cement walkway, with parking lots and curio shops. Aside from removing the natural trail that leads to the monument, which is currently a bug-bear for walkers all across the routes, all of the other proposals are there to boost tourism.

While this is necessary for the whole region, to boost tourism after the two years that we have experienced globally, this does not lend to the natural beauty that is the Camino. In that natural beauty, tourists and pilgrims alike should be enticed to the Camino de Santiago.

In a normal year, and when I refer to normal I mean without a pandemic, over 347 000 pilgrims walk the Camino routes. This bodes the question of whether this monument and monuments like it along the routes need to be upgraded to the extent being proposed.

I would suggest not.

If it is a question of accessibility to non-pilgrims, the Cruz de Ferro is situated alongside a road, and it can be easily accessed by vehicles. On the route between Sarria and Santiago de Compostela on my lasts day of my pilgrimages, I saw buses along roads that can be described as even more rural as the road that passes the Cruz.

When Joni Michell sang of paving paradise to put up a parking lot, she didn’t mean it as a good thing.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

I say “NO” to the proposed upgrade!

https://www.change.org/p/ayuntamiento-de-santa-colomba-de-somoza-digamos-no-al-plan-de-remodelaci%C3%B3n-de-la-cruz-de-ferro-en-el-camino-de-santiago?recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_message&utm_medium=whatsapp&utm_content=washarecopy_26915197_es-ES%3A0&recruited_by_id=9fd31ed0-5993-11eb-9e44-e797826a0a61

Categories
Home-based Business Pilgrimages Self Development

How My Core Values Helped Me Understand My Purpose

Understanding our purpose, help us towards our personal goals.

If you were to sit down to do an exercise on core values, you might find that the results highlight your past behaviours. It certainly did with me!

The reason’s why you made the decisions you made make more sense now that you have clarified your own intrinsic core values. Likewise, this exercise might also clarify your reason for your trajectory into entrepreneurship.

It is likely not unknown to you, the reason you chose to start a new venture. However, by determining and understanding your values, during this exercise, you will have deep-seated feelings which surface that you never knew existed.

What is Value?

I love reading the meaning behind these words that we so often take for granted. For me, reading their meaning gives the word more power.

When you check the dictionary for “Value”, the words describe that it is a:

“principle or standard of behaviour.”

I love this though —It’s one’s judgment of what is important in life.

At my ripe old age, I did a Core Values Exercise

After reviewing and prioritising an expansive list of Core Values, I systematically formed my own list.

From my own list that I had chosen, I then went on to give those personal values each a winning/losing name tag. They were weighed up against each other.

The result was a list of my seven Core Values.

My top two, I discovered are those that have driven me forward through my expansive career. So too they are what have driven me onto my journey into entrepreneurship.

They have helped me to define my purpose. This purpose is what has for the very first time, identified a set of personal goals.

These goals now entrenched in core values and purpose; I find that I have this burning desire to achieve.

Freedom and Adventure — my top two core values.

Upon reflection

Looking back on the various moves that I made in my corporate and private career, it actually really wasn’t that I was bored. I would get to a point, and decide that I needed to move on because, at the time, I thought that it was just boredom driving me to my next challenge.

Now I understand that it was always because my top core values were consistently driving me. No career that I could ever have gleaned from a traditional mindset would have provided the satisfaction and happiness that I so desperately wanted.

My values of Freedom and Adventure were never met when I was working within another set of guidelines. I had to find and make my own set, to get me to the point of fulfilment, to find my purpose, and to eventually have my soul set on fire.

I was on a pilgrimage, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

There I was sitting on the patio of an Albergue at the end of my walking day. Looking out over the beauty of the Spanish countryside, I was desperate not to have the journey finish.

It was a bit of a catch 22 because my goal was to get to Santiago De Compostela. At the same time, knowing that when I finished, this journey would end, and I would have to go back to my life.

Did I really have to?

I knew that I needed to make some massive changes if I were to go on living life like a perpetual pilgrim. I didn’t know what to do, but I saw my life flash before me, and it was now or never.

Yes, I know — my life flashing before me is a cliche. It so aptly describes what I experienced though. Here I was facing my 50’s, and I wanted to walk pilgrimage for the rest of my life.

It was one of two things:

  1. I was either having a mid-life crisis; or
  2. I had the most incredible epiphany.

I chose — having an epiphany.

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Yes, there might be a risk. Yes, there will be failures. Yes, there will be times when you want to pack it all in and go back to a comfort zone, you know.

Sometimes you have to trust and have faith in yourself to go for it.

Life is short, and when I looked forward at my life, I knew that the pilgrimages I wanted to do needed every bit of time for me to do them.

During my revelation, I was excited and frightened all at the same time. I knew that I needed to change my mindset completely. I had always thought that I was never afraid of anything, but in fact, I realised that I was afraid of most things.

A change in mindset was necessary.

I only understood my core values and how they drove me after I had made all these decisions that would have a huge impact on my life.

Once I made this discovery, I didn’t feel weird to the world. I always believed that the way I had set up my life was because I was unnatural from other people.

It turns out that it wasn’t weird or unnatural. It was just different.

This freedom and adventure thing was my inner driver. It was leading me to everything important to me. Important to how I lived my life.

This was my first change of mindset. I wasn’t weird.

An evolving mindset is necessary.

Arriving home from my pilgrimage, and having made this decision to be on a pilgrimage for the rest of my life (I laugh at myself when I write this — I can’t help it) I had to come up with a new strategy.

After much searching, within my soul too, the digital world was my answer to this problem of time that I had. It would free up how I spent my day. It would allow me to be location independent.

I envisioned sitting back on that patio at the Albergue, working on my laptop. It was the laptop lifestyle that I needed. My office in my backpack while I am on a pilgrimage.

Maybe I could turn this hobby into a career? My love of the pilgrimage, because it is so life-changing, could help me realise my dreams. The bonus is that it could also help others realise their dreams too.

But the pitfalls of how our minds work to protect us, to keep us safe and secure were a constant reminder of how much change I needed to make. They are still a reminder; the truth be told.

You see, setting up an online business is as easy as pie. There are so many tools and applications that are now available to an online entrepreneur. You can have a website up and going in a few days. A few hours if you are completely focused!

There are so many resources available to us all. The digital world is growing; it isn’t new. So there are no new pioneers out there now, only people who are learning from others.

The critical lesson for me was that while I needed all the skills, which I could learn as I go along, my mindset needed to be constantly and persistently developing and growing towards these new very lofty personal goals of mine.

My core values now drive me.

Looking back on my journey to this point, the last year has been the most rewarding for me. At the same time, it has been the most frightening too.

I have constantly had to check myself for my fears that pop every time I have to make a decision. That is every second of the day.

As I am writing this, I am fearful that I am not going to make it to my next goal. Almost simultaneously, I recheck that thought and get it into line.

It is an ever-changing scenery. One day the wins elevate me to heights that I love. It is on those days; the goals that I have pinned above my laptop are within my reach. The losses, I feel even more deeply because these core values slip away from me.

The valleys, where most of my work is done, need to be managed too—the highs, the lows, the valleys — an emotional roller coaster that needs round-the-clock examination.

Are these fears rational? What do I do now? What is holding me back? What’s my next step? How do I achieve this next goal?

My core values might lead me to disaster. They might lead me to an ultimate metamorphosis, and where I am living completely aligned with my core values and goals. Although I am there, it is a changing landscape, and an evolving mindset helps to navigate that landscape.

This is the life of an online entrepreneur. This is the life of someone who has Freedom and Adventure as her core values.

I wouldn’t give it up for a thing!

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Categories
Pilgrimages Self Development

My damaged hips helped me rediscover my faith

In our Pilgrim Discussion Group this past weekend, an interesting comment was made by the author, John Brierly.

The comment was to create some thought around the difference between a “pilgrimage”, and “just taking a long walk”.

For those who have not yet walked a pilgrimage, Mr Brierly has authored several collections of maps and guides all relating to the famous Camino de Santiago.

Camino de Santiago Guide Books by John Brierly

Mr Brierly is not only an author, but he is also a proponent of the pilgrimage as a way to re-evaluate life’s purpose. He recommends that this “long walk” can have a massive impact on your life.

I was reminded of the scene in the movie The Way, when Tom’s character played by Martin Sheen says to Sarah, that “we are all just taking a very long walk”.

This comment is, of course, made very early on in Tom’s journey.

Tom has just discovered that his son died in a storm in the Pyrenees, which is the route you would take if you were walking the Camino Frances, from St Jean Pied De Port.

We find out that Tom doesn’t really understand his son’s penchant for the wanderlust. So when Tom is called to identify his son’s body, it sets in motion Tom’s own journey of self-discovery.

The Way

What is the difference?

I agree with Mr Brierly’s sentiment that at its core, the fundamental difference between a pilgrimage and a long walk is, faith.

When you purchase a Brierly guide book, as part of the introduction, he asks you to do a short exercise to discover your true purpose of why you are going to make this pilgrimage.

Setting off on my first pilgrimage and in preparation, I did that exercise. Admittedly, I didn’t fully understand the importance of it until I reached Santiago de Compostela on my second attempt.

When I got home, I took the time to consider the changes that had happened to me. It was then that the massive impact made sense.

Getting back to the difference between a pilgrimage and a long walk, I understand that it is faith that sets you in motion. It is from that same faith that brings you to your final destination.

Faith

I want to write a little bit on faith because I am now only just getting to grips with it myself. Very deep down inside of me, I have always had a sense of faith. It does not essentially stem from a religious connection, but more a physical and mental belief in myself, and also an understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses.

It is quite a paradox. Since I am not formally religious in any sense, I am more spiritual than I am religious, I do have a very profound level of love and respect for the traditions of religion. I feel this every time I walk into a cathedral or a church.

When I first walked into St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, I felt the embrace of the column’s around me. Those particular columns designed so long ago in the shape of welcoming arms.

I was filled with complete reverence when I walked in St Peter’s Cathedral. The same feeling of veneration engulfed me when I walked into the square in Santiago de Compostela. Entering the Cathedral was complete overwhelm.

It was a culmination of achievement and gratitude, which was deepened because of the pilgrimage I had taken. It was the realisation that every step I had taken was one made in complete faith.

My first attempt was unsuccessful.

When I first walked the Camino de Santiago, I injured myself some six days into my journey. It was this unsuccessful attempt that had me questioning everything about my faith.

Up to that point, I had lived every day with faith. At least I thought I had. Faith got me up to go to work. It was what drove me through the traffic. Faith had me manoeuvring through the day, regardless of what challenges lay before me.

I am a problem solver, and I have always thought that it was my faith rather than my skills that got me to the point of completion of my daily tasks.

Having to come home after my unsuccessful Camino and then deciding to go back, was the first real test of my faith. I was honest with myself; I really didn’t have the skills to make such a long walk. So I was returning on complete and utter blind faith, and this is fundamentally what a pilgrimage is all about.

My injuries are with me always.

In my early twenties, I had a triple osteotomy on both of my hips. I was blessed with shallow hip sockets which is what is known as developmental dysplasia. It was always with during my childhood and was probably the cause of the most excruciating pain in my legs as I grew older.

The nature of this type of operation has your entire pelvis being realigned to create better coverage and support of the femoral head in the hip socket. I was in the hospital for eleven days, and on crutches for six months after both operations.

I was blessed, though. Blessed because my hips are part of my journey of life. They have made the strong person that I am today, and in the same instance, have made me far more aware of where my limitations lie.

Knowing where our limitations lie is such a great opportunity to understand where development is required. It is my fundamental belief that we are only really limited in our minds, as long as we take committed steps to acknowledge our fragilities.

My faith showed me that on my second time back to Spain.

My faith got me to Santiago De Compostela.

I arrived in Sarria, opting to do the shorter version of the Camino with an inflamed pelvis and a pulled calf muscle, which was settling down into some comfort.

My osteotomy’s had not fully resolved my issues with my hips. In my late thirties and early forties, I had had both hips replaced. So, I was now really the bionic pilgrim!

This nagging issue in my pelvis is a result of the previous operations and the skilled surgeon’s efforts to make do with what my bone in my pelvic area has to offer. It will always be with me. This weird feeling, not always a pain — in the nether regions.

Equipped with the lightest load that I could muster, my trusty walking poles, which support my penguin-like gait, and well-worn pair of trusty old boots, I set off.

I walked every day, sometimes splitting the stages in half only walking 10km’s on some days. As I progressed, I felt stronger, more comfortable, more aware of my surroundings. I felt joyful, and a complete sense of happiness was with me every day that I walked.

It was then that I realised how much faith was driving me. I had booked the return ticket to Spain on complete faith. My calf had not quite healed, but I booked the trip nevertheless, knowing that I would be ok. Faith.

I arrived in Sarria having complete faith that the next day when I started on the final 100km’s that I would ok. I never booked an Albergue and had faith that I would be alright and find a bed for the evening. I was never let down.

I was never let down having the support from fellow pilgrims, sharing a meal, finding a bed, passing around sweet treats while walking in a group. Being alone on the trail, and revelling in the beauty of the Spanish countryside and the silence that allowed me to acknowledge how my renewed faith was my driving force.

A long walk is just that — a long walk.

On Sunday, I was walking. A practice walk in one of the local nature reserve’s around Johannesburg. I am preparing for another pilgrimage next September.

I will walk from St Jean Pied De Port to Santiago De Compostela and then onto Finisterre. On my first Camino, I started in Pamplona and reached Los Arcos before I had to surrender.

My long walk yesterday was just that. It allowed me to enjoy some quiet time outside of the city. I was amazed at how nature had restored itself after what looked like quite a big fire — the little green spruces of grass where all pushing through the black cinders with great gusto. There were a few animals about grazing on the lush parts of the plants that had grown from the past weeks’ rain.

It allowed me the time to consider what a pilgrimage means to me. It gave me context about where my faith had faltered and at which point it had rebirthed itself for me.

The truth for me is that my renewed faith doesn’t just get me to a place where my thoughts are on pilgrimage. It is with me every day now, as I progress through my newfound career. Not in the way it was there previously, but now a real and active point of reference upon which I base my purpose, and upon which I anchor my values of freedom and adventure.

When I set off in September next year, in 2021, when the world is again open to all of us, I will set off only in faith.

Categories
Pilgrimages

A Journey to the Edge of the World – The Camino de Fisterra

The goal of every pilgrim walking the routes of the Camino de Santiago is to finally reach Santiago de Compostela, where it is said that the remains of St James, The Greater are interred. The Camino de Fisterra or the Finisterre Way is a little different though having its traditional starting point in that ancient city. For this reason, it does make this short route very unique.

It is common for pilgrims who have walked any of the other routes to Santiago de Compostela, to continue onto the edge of the world. As history will tell us, this is what the ancient pilgrims would have done too.

The ancient symbol of the pilgrimage

For all who are familiar with the Camino de Santiago, the shell worn by modern pilgrims symbolizes that we are on a pilgrimage. Not only is the shell worn by pilgrims but all along the various routes, this symbol of the shell is a waymarker to keep us on track towards our eventual goal. As long as you have a sign of the shell pointing you in a direction, there is no reason to question your progress. You simply follow it onto your next waymarker. It is what epitomises the simplicity of life on the Camino.

Since the scallop shell is natural to the coast of Galicia, in ancient times pilgrims would walk to the coast to retrieve their own shell to demonstrate the completion of their journey. Unlike modern pilgrims, our predecesors completed this pilgrimage as a penance so it was paramount for them to reach the coast. Today, although there are many pilgrims who undertake this journey for religious purposes, many also take to the trails for their own personal reasons. Whatever the reason, this pilgrimage is beloved by the majority who venture out to their respective adventures.

The references to the scallop shell are many, and for more information on this interesting subject please refer to:

The facts about this route, in a “scallop shell”

For those pilgrims short of time, this route is another great option.

Distance: 89km

Time to end: 4 / 5 days

Endpoint: This Camino includes Muxia as an option for an official endpoint for your journey. Both towns have the 0km marker. Many pilgrims choose Finisterre as their endpoint, and tourists visit the site too making Finisterre a busy little hub. If you prefer the quieter option, then Muxia is for you.

Circular Route: Although many pilgrims will continue their journey from Santiago de Compostela to join the Camino de Fisterra since it is a circular route (Santiago de Compostela – Finisterre – Muxia) it can be started at any of these sites

Distance Certificate: The great news for all pilgrims is that whichever route you choose, whichever direction you walk, your Distance Certificate can be issued at any of the sites too. The Information Centre in Finisterre and the Municipal Albergue in Muxia can issue these. Of course, the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela is the “head office” for this task.

There is no better way to experience a Camino than to have a visual of it. If you are planning a walk or waiting for the time to start your walk check out Efren’s Vlog on this very special historical route.

Categories
Pilgrimages

The Camino de Madrid – a contemporary pilgrimage

As the name suggests, this pilgrimage has it’s starting point in the beautiful city of Madrid. Perfect for pilgrims who travel into Spain by air, which has an international airport, which post our Covid-19 restrictions, will soon welcome all guests to this amazing country.

Credential and First Stamp

For those pilgrims who have not obtained their credential from their local Confraternity, you are able to get a pilgrim passport from either the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago de Madrid or from the Parish of Santiago and San Juan Batista. While you will not pay for the credential provided by the church, it is commonplace to leave a donation. This parish church will also be your first stamp collected along your journey.

For the pilgrim to receive their compostela in Santiago de Compostela on completion of their journey, you are required to have a passport with stamps proving that you have made the journey. In addition, your credential is a must for access to pilgrim accommodation along your desired route.

The starting point

Pilgrims will generally leave from the Plaza de Castilla, where the first real waymarkers are found. As with all routes leaving an urban area, be careful to watch for the welcome sight of the yellow arrows to guide you on your journey.

The route

This pilgrimage is a modern route, which has been restored and maintained by the Amigos de Los Camino de Santiago de Madrid. It follows a northerly path to Sahagun, where you will meet up with the popular Camino Frances.

The route (Madrid to Sahagun) measures around 321kms and is reportedly well-marked. The beauty of this particular pilgrimage is that is steers away from the tarmac and favours natural paths for most of the route.

The first 100kms is through the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama and there is a climb to 650m in the first 8kms. After the descent into Segovia, the route is described as being virtually flat.

When not to go?

During the months of July to early September it is very hot, and the route has few shady areas. Similarly, in bad weather and snow, the mountains should be avoided.

The reasons to do this route

Since this is a fairly new route, it is not as popular as the other more established camino’s. This means fewer pilgrims, and so if you are after some peace and quiet, this one is for you.

The route follows more paths than the road, so a pilgrim wanting to experience nature will get that on this pilgrimage. Other than the climb at the beginning of the journey, it is mostly flat easy walking, and is cyclable for most of the route, so this one fits the bill for both a pilgrim seeking solitude and those pilgrims who enjoy their camino’s on the bike.

Planning

As with all routes on the Camino de Santiago, you will need to do some planning by way of the availability of albergues, hostels and pensions. Please refer to the following website for updates on where to stay during your journey.

Buen Camino!

http://www.demadridalcamino.org/caminomadrid/recorrido/madrid-colmenar-viejo

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Pilgrimages

What you need to know before setting off on the Way of the Gods, the Via Degli Dei

I was reading a post by a pilgrim who had walked the Camino de Santiago, who mentioned the Via Degli Dei. Another pilgrimage? How wonderful, I thought. My only real challenge here is that I feel that I might not have sufficient time in my life left to walk all of these routes that Europe has to offer. Let alone the routes in the United Kingdom. So many pilgrimages, so little time!

The Way of the Gods

I was intrigued! The route evidently takes it’s name from the route it follows through mountainous regions and bypassing and crossing Mount Venus, Mount Juno and a mountain called the Moon Goddess. How can this route ever be missed? With such reference to Roman Mythology, and what these particular Gods meant for their followers in years gone by.

The Flaminian Way

As with most routes through Italy, and Europe as far as North England, the walker or rider is bound to encounter the magical history of this area. While it bypasses the beauty of the Apennine Mountains, the Roman Road known as the Flaminian Way will, on some parts of the route, be your guide. This ancient road was started in 220BC and was the main thoroughfare between Rome and Ariminum.

Five Stages – Five Days

The route can be divided into five stages, which depending on your fitness level will take around five days to complete. Guides and information on this route, say that it is a medium to difficult hike and others who have walked the route mention that you will need to be slightly more walking fit, than other trails.

  • Stage 1 – 22kms – Bologna to Badolo
  • Stage 2 – 28kms – Badolo to Madonna dei Fornelli
  • Stage 3 – 18kms – Madonna dei Fornelli to Monte di Fo
  • Stage 4 – 24kms – Monte di Fo to San Piero a Sieve
  • Stage 5 – 34kms – San Pietro a Sieve to Florence (Fiesole)

Best time to go

During the months of April, May and June where temperatures are better for walking. Not too hot during the day, with cooler evenings. Alternatively, during September and October, although you are likely to encounter rain during October.

Where to stay

There are B&B’s, hotels and some hostels throughout the route. From some research, you will need to prebook in each town. Make sure that if you are going during the pandemic that you check your countries travel restrictions before setting off.

For more information visit:

/https://www.visittuscany.com/en/itineraries/via-degli-dei-in-tuscany/

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Pilgrimages

The Camino Ingles – the shorter alternative

The English Way, another route of the Camino de Santiago has become a popular trail for those pilgrims not having months at their disposal, but who still want to enjoy the wonder that is this famous pilgrimage. There are two options from where you can make your start, with the towns of Ferrol or A Coruna, being your first waymarker.

A Coruna is around 75km from Santiago de Compostela, so if you want to receive your pilgrim certificate, be prepared to have walked the remaining 25km in your country of origin before you set off to Spain. You will be asked to prove that you have walked an official pilgrimage with credentials to support you claiming your Compostela when you reach the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela.

If you plan to start your walk in Ferrol, you are around 118km from Santiago de Compostela, with a route that will take you through the delightful province of Galicia. The Camino Ingles is available year-round but be prepared for rainy weather, which is a common expectation for this province. Being in close proximity to the sea, you are likely to experience many weather changes, so have your waterproofs and ponchos on hand.

In medieval times, this route was popular with pilgrims from the Nordic regions and England, since it was quite easy to access the mainland from neighbouring countries. It is still popular for those pilgrims in these areas, to travel to Spain by ferry, which should be on everyone’s bucket list, in my opinion. What an amazing spectacle to see the approaching land, which is stunning to behold along the northern coast of Spain.

The route is generally well marked, and recently there has been a change from the more natural trails in favour of the city routes, but you are still able to enjoy the beauty of Galicia, and also have pilgrim support along the route. If you are walking from Ferrol it will take you around 5 days to complete the route, which makes this a great alternative if you don’t have loads of time available to you. As with all the trails, the most popular time to walk is during the summer months of July and August, so if you want some peace and quiet, walking off season is your best option.

Enjoy Efren’s vlog for an amazing visual of the Camino Ingles.

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Pilgrimages

Camino del Norte

The magnificent Northern Route of the Camino de Santiago stretches some 825km from the Basque Country of Irun to the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela. It hugs the northern coastline of Spain boasting spectacular views and meanders inland until it meets the Camino Frances in Arzua. In comparison to the Camino Frances, this route is less traveled by the pilgrim and offers a more challenging hike.

For the history buffs and those who appreciate Roman history, in particular, the Norte follows the Via Agrippa in some parts. The Via Agrippa is any stretch of the network of Roman roads that were built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, in his reorganisation of the Gauls. The routes of the Camino de Santiago never fail to produce some of the most beautiful scenery and a trip back in history all rolled into one incredible journey.

The best way to demonstrate this routes beauty is in Efren Gonzalez’s vlog series, currently available on YouTube.

Categories
Pilgrimages

Making it to Santiago de Compostela

I was reminded this morning, of the feeling I had walking into Santiago de Compostela, after a very eventful pilgrimage. Walking over the hill and seeing the cathedral in the distance, I was initially filled with relief. Relief at having just made it. I wasn’t concerned with anything else at that point, but to just have made it to the finish line.

It was a challenging time for me. I struggled with a hip injury and when I considered that I might have been underprepared, I settled on the fact that I had prepared as best as I could have, under the circumstances. It is all you can do really. Try your best, prepare for the worst, and go walk.

In any event, I walked into the square feeling relief as I said. I stood for a long while staring at what I thought I would never see, and watched while other pilgrims completed their pilgrimages. Some were overjoyed, some were overcome with emotion and some like myself, I assume, were quietly contemplative. I then did what I do always, and assessed my internal “thermometer” for the actual feelings that should have been there. Those feelings that I had expected to be there. At that point, there was nothing. I left the square feeling as though my backpack (which was very specifically so light that I could pick it up with two fingers) weighed a ton. Heading to my hotel, which I had booked as treat for myself, I had this overwhelming feeling of “underwhelmed”

My stay in Santiago de Compostela was planned for five days, after which I would be flying home. After a hot shower, unpacking every single item in my backpack and getting into clean clothes I headed into the old city to join some pilgrims for an early supper. I was glad it was early, since I was planning on an early night to head to the Pilgrim Office the next morning to collect my Compostela. I would then go to a pilgrim mass hosted in a nearby cathedral since the main cathedral was still under repair. For me, it was a quiet meal, since I was still trying to mill through what felt like a massive hole that I had inside.

As planned, the next morning I was up early and headed back to the square, and there I sat for the next few hours, watching the going-on and being witness to other pilgrims’ joy at finally reaching their respective goals. A lady approached me, to ask that I take a photo of her, she was walking alone and I happily obliged. We exchanged a few words, and what she said to me will stay with me forever. It is not anything new, or anything none of us doesn’t know, but she said how wonderful it was for her to have finished, she said she felt accomplished, but that she was also slightly blasé at entering the city! I told her how I had felt the day before. As she walked of thanking me, she said…”well it’s not really the destination, but the journey that we make to that destination that is important” As she walked off on what were obviously tender feet, my tears were real and if I remember correctly, I might have been sobbing just slightly.

It was most certainly a journey for me. I had planned a Camino for years, postponing one for a hip replacement, holding another off to be home for a parent who I thought needed me, this time wasn’t right, that time wasn’t right until eventually, it all culminated into a pilgrimage that I would again have to delay because I had picked up an injury! So many delays, and my relief, joy, happiness, accomplishment, and all those good feelings had too delayed themselves until a very wise lady put things into perspective for me. It was never about making it to Santiago de Compostela, it was about that journey that took me to the ancient city, and I felt grateful and blessed to have persisted in fulfilling this dream. I never went to the Pilgrims Office that day, I went to Pilgrim mass and cried a little more, and those tears were happy tears, were tears for my old self, because this new person is strong beyond measure. I am not finished walking the Camino de Santiago. I will walk as long as my body allows, and when it doesn’t, on that last pilgrimage I will go to the Pilgrims Office for my Compostela.

The effect on my life of walking the pilgrimage continues to fill my thoughts, and while we have all been restricted to our countries over the past months, there are pilgrims waiting to commence this incredible journey. I wonder if some, like myself, are underestimating the impact it will have on their lives? It’s changed mine in ways I have no words to explain. Simply speaking, it brought to the surface a boldness, a strength that I never knew I had inside of me but most importantly, it brought a sense of urgency. I am urgent to live my life to it’s fullest. I am urgent to live with purpose and with an authenticity that only I can understand.