Month: May 2023

If only my feet could talk…Blog #121

Walking down the cobbled road, decending the steps, walking through the tunnel and past the young man playing the bagpipes, then entering the vast Praza do Obradoiro, home to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, we, my hiking partner and I, were both elated, and exhausted!

We had finished the walk from Sarria and arrived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in the early afternoon. The final task was to visit the Pilgrim Office to receive our official certificate, the Compostela. To earn this recognition we had to walk at least the last 100 km of the Camino Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and collect stamps on the Credencial del Peregrino along the way (at least two each day) to verify we actually did in the walk.

Over our six days of hiking, averaging 20km per day, we were graced with perfect weather, while soaking in beautiful, lush, peaceful meadows, and fragrant forests of acacia and eucalyptus trees. At times we walked together, sometimes chatting with other pilgrims, and other times we walked alone, each lost in our own thoughts. And we climbed many, many long hills on paved, cobbled, rocky, gravel, and forest bed surfaces. Then down again. Only to turn a corner to find another hill daring us to reach yet another peak. 

At the end of the first day we humbly admitted that we had never been more physically challenged in our lives…and that was just day one! Day two boasted an unfathomable 24 km, 17 of which were mostly vertical. How would we ever complete another 4 days of this?   

But we did. At the end of each day we were rewarded with unique and wonderful accommodations, mostly dating back to the 1700’s. Each place had been refurbished while retaining most of the original structure and elegant beauty. Meals were created from locally sourced foods by skilled chefs — a delight to our tastebuds, and nourishment for our weary bones.

People choose to hike all or a portion of the Camino for various reasons. I really didn’t set out with a defined purpose. The thought of taking a break from a busy schedule and the demands of daily life was appealing. Getting away from technology was also something I looked forward to, however, without the use of a phone and internet with EU access, the journey would have been greatly impeded.

I had watched videos of the Camino and was certainly attracted by the scenes of serenity as pilgrims traversed trails that guided them through countryside and ancient villages, some seemingly uninhabited, others more vibrant yet quiet and peaceful. My experience certainly reflected the shared experiences of pilgrims that had gone before.

For me, this hike was more physically and mentally challenging than I had imagined. However, through texts, FaceTime, and daily handwritten notes of encouragement from my husband (he had written a note for me to open each day on my voyage), his message of “Dig deep, find that place of courage, strength and peace. You can do this!”, was food for my soul. Add to that the cheering voices of my kids, grandkids, niece, and friends — there was no way I was going to quit (much to the chagrin of my feet and their growing blisters!).

On day 5, while climbing yet another hill and reminding myself to breath, a moment of realization hit me; I still had the physical and mental fortitude to push myself to the limit, and walk (or limp) the St. James Way trek in my 65th year. I could do this…and more!

As I’ve written in past blogs, and in my soon to be published memoir, ‘What if…’ life is to be lived to the fullest, even in the face of obstacles. Age should never be the determining factor of what adventures we embrace. Pain, injury, health crisis, you name it, don’t necessarily have to change your goals, just the path you take to get there.

Currently we are riding a bus on a very windy road enroute from Bilbao to San Sebastián, Spain. In Bilbao we explored the Guggenheim — the architecture was every bit as mind blowing as I expected, walked the streets of Old Town and visited the Cathedral of Santiago. Unbeknown to us, our Credencial del Peregrino granted us free access (and another stamp) to take in the beauty of this structure. While wowed by it’s beauty I was once again saddened and left wondering why so many homeless individuals sat, kneeled, or lay prostrate just outside the doors of such obvious wealth and opulence, begging for money or food. One of life’s many injustices.

I am excited to arrive in San Sebastián and get my feet into the Atlantic. By the ocean, or sea, continues to be my place of rumination, a great place to sit, breathe, and reflect on what I’ve experienced over the past 2 week since leaving home. 

Stay tuned for more reflections as I probe and ponder experiences through life and travel.

Steps 3,4 etc in my publishing journey…Blog #120

What does it take to go the publishing process? Patience, tough skin, open mindedness, patience, tough skin, open mindedness…repeat, over and over!

Seriously though, I’ve learned that the writing of a book, deciding to publish, finding a publisher and submitting the manuscript is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to actually getting a book to the point of publication.

I last wrote about this adventure on January 26th, and since then the process has been wait, review, edit, submit, then wait again. The most challenging aspect has been receiving the feedback and recommendations from the deep edit. Ouch! I know I may not be the best English grammar student – ok, not even close. But to see the word pictures I so lovingly and painstakingly created and scripted, and reflections on happenings from days and years gone by that have etched their learnings into my psyche, placed under the editor’s critical microscope and dissected without consideration of my virgin writer’s feelings, is tough! 

And necessary, and has taught me so much!   

Thanks again to my writing mentor, Karen, I had to take a step back, to become more objective in reviewing the editors comments and recommendations. While the feedback was valuable, I was still responsible for deciding what elements of the feedback aligned with my message, my voice, and my goals. Don’t get me wrong, there was no question whether or not I would accept the many grammatical corrections, the awkward construct of sentences, and the amazing suggestions regarding the structure of the book. Still, what stories remained, the emotions I wanted to provoke, and the seemingly unimportant details were up to me. 

I had three choices: accept the changes, consider what parts of the suggested changes I would accept, and what I would reject. The end result was a better manuscript, and a great deal of gratitude to my editor.

Right now the publisher is working on the book layout, including photographs from my journey, and I have approved the script for the back cover; the editor did an amazing job on that! The graphic designer is working on a few edits for the front cover, which I should be signing off on shortly.

The next big step for me is getting the ARC (advanced reader copy), and sending my book, ‘What if…’ out to a few trusted readers for their endorsements. 

So, as far as I can see, we are on track for a late summer release, and I am excited! For now, I wait, again. 

But that’s just fine – I leave today for Spain, where new adventures await. We will be walking a section of the Camino, sandwiched between a few days in Madrid, Bilbao, and San Sebastian. Stay tuned!

First photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Second photo by Shane Kell on

Travel is wonderful…until…Blog #119

I love travel! It has been part of my life as long as I can remember. 

Travel has been experienced with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Together, we have travelled to many countries, visited amazing places, eaten delicious food, walked trails that would be strictly forbidden in Canada. We traveled for pleasure and for business.

Our chosen accommodations have covered the gambit from yurts, to tents, to cottages, to cave houses, all the way to reclaimed palaces and castles. We’ve experienced the aftermath of war zones, hurricanes, drought, and culture shock. We’ve witnessed celebrations, wins, architectural wonders, the resilience of humanity, the wonder of creation, and the quirkiness of traditions. We have always come home with new perspectives, refreshed and rejuvenated (albeit somewhat exhausted…but a good exhaustion).

We have always been richer because of such adventures. Until ‘it’ happened.

It happened on a solo trip to Europe. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my six decade life. In a matter of minutes, one sick individual managed to crack my love of adventure, my confidence in self and belief in humankind, my love of travel, my sense of safety. 

I was sexually assaulted. I was alone. I was scared, I was vulnerable, I felt deep anguish.

This isn’t the place to unveil the details, suffice to say, it set off a domino effect of emotions, self-doubt, self-evaluation, reaching out for help, questioning my faith, leaning on my amazing support network (personal and professional), and a renewed determination that one depraved, evil … (you can imagine what other descriptors would fit here), poor excuse for humanity, would not determine how I live my life.

But the journey to this determination was not easy, is not easy. It is still in process, but with the help of a wonderful trauma counsellor, and supportive family and friends, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am a firm believer in scenario planning. Going through the process of asking ‘What if…’ (the name of my memoir that is scheduled for release at the end of summer).  It’s natural for me to think through the potential challenges we may face in any given situation or event. I use it in business, teaching, and in my personal life…travel included. This scenario planning helps prepare for the journey ahead, helps me know what I can and should do to mitigate any potential road blocks or obstacles. If something doesn’t go as planned, I find myself reflecting on what I missed, what I should have thought of. If I had only thought of that, I could have avoided whatever happened.

That’s exactly what I did after it happened. I questioned and doubted myself. What did I do wrong? What did I miss? What could I have done to prevent it happening? The answer? Not a damn thing!

This experience taught me that some outcomes and happenings can’t be prepared for, or even identified. Sure, I can, and should, prepare, be equipped, scenario plan, but doing so will not stop bad things from happening. Bad things happen to everyone. Evil and good exist in the world, and no-one is exempt from the impact of either.

What can I do? Continue to build into the strong, amazing, support network I have — believe me,  it truly is a lifeline, continue to do due diligence in planning, AND, invest in some good self defence classes. I can’t stop such attacks from happening, and hope I never have a repeat performance, but I can prepare just incase. 

Photo by Pixabay on

As women, we should never have a fear of solo travel, but let’s be prepared, just in case. I will travel again, mostly with family and friends. But, if a solo trip is called for, I will go. It will call for certain courage, but I will go. 

Let me wrap up by expressing deep compassion for those who have been victims of such attacks…and worse! Don’t stay silent, reach out for help, find your voice, and don’t let these predators win!

If you need a listening ear, I’m here