A Travellerspoint blog

Camino de Santiago

Back to basics walking to Santiago de Compostela.

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Tradition tells us that the apostle James (Santiago in Spanish and Galician, Jakob in German, St Jacques in French) was transported from Jerusalem to Galicia in Nothern Spain, the city which is now known as Santiago de Compostela. Now a holy destination, pilgrims for over a thousand years have been walking to the city on pilgrimages.

I walked from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, a total of approximately 230 kilometres. Each day varied between 15 to 30 kilometres, with each day bringing at least one mountain to climb over.

My motivations for completing the walk were originally:
- to do something "big" before leaving Europe
- to challenge myself physically and mentally
- to experience Portugal and Spain on a more local level

What I didn't expect was to experience personal changes and learn in a spiritual sense. I didn't expect to make amazing friends either.

I went alone, but I was rarely alone. Some days I had to quickly shuffle ahead of the group or laze on behind, just so I could collect my thoughts on an individual basis. On the days that I walked with my new amigos, I laughed the entire time. In the evenings at the hostels ("albergues", or hostels for pilgrims), I continued laughing, had communal meals, talked to new people and discussed our feelings on the Camino and life.

Most of the ideas, thoughts, knowledge and learning I had in a spiritual and emotional way can't be put into words here. It's all in my head, I know what I learnt, but I can't describe it in a way that makes sense. On my second day of walking, I thought of a quote in the movie "V for Vendetta". Finch, one of the investigators into the "terrorist" named "V", says:

........I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It's like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back....I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we're all part of it, and all trapped by it.........

For those of you who have seen the movie, you should understand that the message extends far beyond a man in a Guy Fawke's mask. If you haven't seen it, see it (not to understand what I'm saying, but simply because it's one of the best films ever made).

It's like when I was walking, I could feel the connection between things, I could understand why people have walked this pilgrimage that has extended back hundreds of years, I could see my life up until that point, and my life ahead, I could understand why I'm living, why I'm here. I could understand how simple things in life should be, rather than being trapped by the money driven society we live in today.

I don't expect you to understand my reasonings on this at all, as it was in fact, somewhat a personal revelation, and, well, that is the best way I can describe it.

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The Way is marked by yellow arrows, directing you where to go. It was difficult to get lost. If you missed an arrow because you were so involved in your personal journey, you just figured it out and got back on the Way.

It's the same in life. The arrows directing us where to go are invisible though. You can get lost, but if you do, you just figure things out, get yourself back on your feet, and get back on the path. Maybe you realise that this new path that you got lost on, is actually a better way that makes you happier. There is no wrong way, it's just the fear of going the wrong way. Follow the path YOU want, the path YOU choose, and enjoy the ride along the way.

What's following is a selection of the best photos that I took of my journey to Santiago de Compostela. The remainder of the photos plus an edited video of my Camino experience will find their way online at some point.

Working in the countryside
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"Fevers Bridge", where a pilgrim died of a fever in 1252
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One of the delicious water fountains along the Way with fresh cold water
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This German man is on a 4 year pilgrimage to Jerusalem
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A glimpse into a pilgrim during medieval times perhaps?
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An odd pair of extremely happy dogs along the Way
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Portuguese casa
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Where is the path taking me?
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Morning sun on the lake
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Some new friends
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A cat soaking up every glorious minute
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The 1st yellow arrow out of Porto
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Myself on the Way
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Border crossing into Spain
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A pilgrim decided to go barefoot?
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Stones that pilgrims have collected and placed along the Way
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Myself after arriving at the end of my journey Santiago Cathedral
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The group of new friends after arriving in Santiago
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My collection of "sellos"
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0.0km at Finisterre, Galicia, Spain, the place which people thought was the end of the world.
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Paulo Coehlo has written a book on the French route of the Camino de Santiago, and there is a new movie coming out produced by the Sheen family (Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez), releasing in October in the States.

I didn't allow myself to read Paulo Coehlo's book until I had finished the Camino, as I didn't want it to create any sort of expectations, but I am thrilled now to be able to, as Paulo Coehlo is one of my favourite people on the planet.

I have made two big lifestyle choices since arriving back home. Probably if I hadn't experienced what I had the last few weeks, this wouldn't be happening.

The Camino didn't change me, it just made me realise who I really am.

But the man, and still more the woman, who can be accused either of doing "what nobody does," or of not doing "what everybody does," is the subject of as much depreciatory remark as if he or she had committed some grave moral delinquency.
- John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty", 1859

Love Cat.

Posted by CatAttack 02:21 Archived in Portugal Tagged the of spain way santiago de st portugal james galicia camino finisterre Comments (4)

Every Cat Has 9 Lives

What's next for this Cat?

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As I prepare for my next life, post-Amsterdam, I sit here and wonder where my life is taking me, and will take me. My plans for the next months are enough to keep me busy with research, and planning.

In September, I will be visiting 3 different continents, one new.

First, I am spending a week in the USA with my boyfriend. Time split between Orlando, Florida and Lexington, Kentucky, where I will get to meet my boyfriend's family and friends. It's a short trip, but as my 4th trip to the US, it will be nice to see some new states.

A day after returning from the US, I am flying solo to Marrakesh, Morocco, where I will spend a few days, before travelling overland (train, ferry, bus, bus) to Porto, Portugal. From Porto, I will be walking 232km the Camino de Portugues to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The three week trip will be around 3 days in Marrakesh, and 10-14 days walking the Camino.

After 10 days of rest in Amsterdam, I will be returning to Australia on the 10th October 2011 – three years, 2 months and 18 days since leaving Australia for Vietnam at age 20.

With no-one challenging me, I choose to challenge myself.

I've wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago since hearing about it from a German traveller in Copenhagen in December 2010.

I've read countless web pages about people's experiences while walking the Camino. I haven't been on a strict training schedule, my equipment is not high-tech nor pricey, and being a simplistic girl, I'll be travelling pretty light. As long as I have enough food and water, and a bed to sleep in, I will be happy.

I have an open mind about my potential experiences, I have no expectations, because really, I can't. I have never been to Portugal or Spain, and I can't even imagine what it will be like. I simply can't wait. I have recently bought a camcorder, with which I can record my experiences and make some sort of video blog.

The Unknown

My current stereotype of Morocco at this moment is couscous, belly dancing, camels and cities resembling the fictional city Agrabah in the movie Aladdin. Oh, and my experience at Florida's Disneyworld in 1997, in the Epcot Centre), where we “visited Morocco”.

I look forward to be challenged with a new language, new continent, and new people. I will try my hardest at speaking the French and Arabic that I don't know, and the Portugese and Spanish that I somewhat know, and meeting lots of interesting people.

To close, Paulo Coehlo, a Brazilian writer, said:

“'Someday', 'maybe', and 'if' are dangerous words that should be avoided”.

I agree completely.

Follow your instincts, listen to you heart, and don't put things off.

When you do, life is one hell of an adventure.

Love.
Cat.

Posted by CatAttack 08:40 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

On my L's.

Is there an end to learning?

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View The Netherlands & Vietnam & Indonesia on CatAttack's travel map.

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Spending the last (almost) 3 years away from my home of 20 years, is a constant learning curve.

Life seems to just keep throwing us all sorts of excitement. Life gives back what we give in. Life throws us all sorts of challenges. It's up to us what we do with them. We smile, we laugh, we frown, we cry, we feel scared, we feel confident. It's always changing. A neverending cycle of emotions, feelings, thoughts, towards ourselves, others, our meaning, our point, our existence.

One could say that my journey over the past 3 years has been eye-opening, life changing, or something along those dramatic lines. I can say, that it has been a constant learning curve. It's true when someone says that you need to be IN it, to WIN it. You need to do it, to experience it. You need to experience it, in order to understand it. It seems that we as humans, have this amazing capacity to learn. To keep on learning.......My question is, do we ever stop learning?

Will I be able to say, that at 40 years of age, I have learnt everything I possibly could? At 50? 60? 70? 80? 90? Death?

I have learnt countless things about myself, about life, about other people, about relationships, and about how to take steps forward rather than back. The experiences we go through, directly mould who we are to become, who we CHOOSE to become. As a woman who grew up extremely fortunate, with a loving family, food, shelter and more, there have also been challenges. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am today.

There is some sort of myth, over a man named C.H. Duell, who in 1899 said,

“Everything that can be invented has been invented”.

Now, clearly this is ridiculous. To even consider saying this is just.........hilarious. People just 5 years later could have laughed at that statement after:

.....the birth of the teddy bear in 1902

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.....the invention of the first airplane by the Wright brothers in 1903

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.....or the discovery of Albert Einstein's famous theory of relativity in 1905.

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This is my theory: There is really no limit to inventing. Such, there is no limit to learning. It just never stops!

Gandhi once said

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

We can either continue to live as we are, or choose to continue learning. To use the practical steps of reflection, review and application to ensure that we make the most of the short life that we have. Reflect on the fantastic moments in your life, and review what it is that makes you truly happy. Apply it to your next steps. Never stop learning about yourself, about others, about what you were put on the earth to do!! Make your life what YOU want!! Treat others with respect, give back, and someone out there will take care of you. And don't forget, a smile never goes astray.

I'm no life guru. So take what I say with a grain of salt. Feel free to agree or disagree with me. Comments are welcome.

And, as you know, humans make mistakes, I have made many mistakes, I will continue to make mistakes, becase, I'm still on my L's, and I will be for the rest of my life.

Posted by CatAttack 02:52 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Simplicity

My adventures in The Netherlands and abroad in the New Year of 2011.

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"You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one...Each day brings a miracle of its own. It's just a matter of paying attention."
- Paulo Coehlo

I have this quote pasted on my bedroom wall. It helps me remember the small things, the simple things that are so easily taken for granted........or forgotten.

My days in Amsterdam are approaching 6 months. That means the halfway point of the time I am legally allowed to reside in the Netherlands. My first half year in Amsterdam has been incredible, and I can expect only better for the next half year.

I have made some incredible friends, travelled around the country and abroad, and learnt a good level of Dutch. The children I take care of, Carlijn and Jort, are growing up.

Carlijn, who is almost seven, is becoming a component young reader. She loves to show off her skills and practice. She is an excellent Dutch teacher at bed times. When I can't read a word, she reads it for me! She and her friend recently set up a small business on of their school holiday days. They busked outside in front of the house, and asked for donations from passers-by. With a turnover of almost 10 Euros in an hour, they made a great team. I thought this was just so clever. I don't remember being this confident nor entrepreneurial at this age!

Carlijn and Cat in Het Spui, Amsterdam
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Jort is almost four, and has really grown up the last few months. He's progressing towards childhood, away from toddlerhood, dramatically improving in his language, and making big steps towards becoming more independant. They both are fantastic happy children, and we have developed strong relationships.

I spent two weeks over the December winter vacation in Scandinavia: Copenhagen, Aarhus and Holstebro in Denmark, and Stockholm in Sweden.

In Denmark I visited one of my best friends, Kikki, and her husband Nyom Nyom, who live in Aarhus together. In Sweden, I travelled by train up to Stockholm and experienced a real Scandinavian winter, and met some fantastic people along the way.

Christmas in Holstebro, Denmark:

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Copenhagen, Denmark:

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Stockholm, Sweden:

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Since being back in Amsterdam after the New Year, life has only got better. My adventures over the last few months have included:

lots of dance lessons, in all varieties of styles
discovering the nightlife of Amsterdam
making some great friends
hoping to see just a little more snow before the spring arrives
going to an “Australian” restaurant and talking to some Aussies (I have no Australian friends here!)
regularly visiting the Dierentehuis Amstelveen (animal shelter) to walk the dogs
making pavlova! This was actually very exciting, because I'd never made it before. But it was successful, and I got to educate my foreign friends about Australia's dessert.
hanging out with Carlijn during her school holidays

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I have chosen a life abroad (for now) and have enjoyed every second of it. However, sometimes things like this make me remember the small things that I miss. For example: grass.

I keep on having this memory of when my father, brother and I would play cricket on the back lawn in our family home in Glen Iris, Melbourne. For some reason it keeps coming back in dreams! It's a really nice memory. In Amsterdam, children grow up with a lot, but not normally with a garden, at least those who grow up in the city. There are parks here, but I really do miss having a space to sit outside, a sort of private retreat and enjoy the sun and nature. In Vietnam, the only spaces with grass are the countryside and parks. In the parks, you are only allowed to walk or sit on the hard spaces, and not touch the grass.

I've always appreciated Australia for it's worth, but lately I've had quite the epiphany........Australia has a lot of grass! Well that's when it's well watered and the land isn't in severe drought.

I'm appreciating every moment here in Amsterdam, and really enjoying myself. I have given thought to my next steps. I thought I'd write a little here about my thoughts, as there is the never ending question of what I plan on doing next.

I won't go into too much detail on my intentions, otherwise people may start quoting me and holding me to my word! Let's just say that I have recently started to miss home a bit more. With recent events – the floodings in Australia and the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, it has made me realise just how far from home I am.

In addition to coming home for 'x' days/weeks/months/years, other things that I have on my list of potential adventures post September 2011:
walking the Camino de Santiago, Spain
travel around India
travel North to South (or South to North) Africa
stay in Netherlands

The opportunities really are endless when you take in a global perspective. I still have a whole 6 months here in Netherlands. Who knows the adventures I will go on, the places I will see, the people I will meet, and the friendships I will form.

It really is true that each day brings a miracle of it's own. Don't forget to look out for them!

I do intend to continue to keep you updated, but life just seems to get in the way of the internet! For now, I need to go.Not to sound like a snob, but, I'm going to Paris tomorrow and I need to pack.

Love.
Cat.

Posted by CatAttack 08:21 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Winter in Amsterdam

It has been a long time since last writing on this page. To be honest, I have been rather unmotivated to keep it up and have been putting it off, but I feel today is better than anything. To sum up the last couple of months, here are some photos:

Sinterklaas' entrance into Amsterdam. To read about the Dutch christmas traditions, read here

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Zwarte Piet (Sinters helpers, Black Pete's)

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Friends and I with Zwarte Piet

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At Nemo Museum in a giant bubble:

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Residences in the town of Edam (home of Edam cheese)

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On the beach in Bergen

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On the train heading to Gouda (home to Gouda cheese)

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Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Woods)

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Carlijn

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Carlijn's friends (note the blond hair)

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Jort

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My friend Saras and I on Museumplein (near the centre of Amsterdam where many Museums are situated)

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Cycling in De Hogue Veluwe

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with friends at the Dam Square Carnival

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with Alejandra

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A Century

My great-grandmother, who was to be 100 years old yesterday, passed away recently. 100! A century! She was born in 1910. Long before many things that we use on a regular basis, were even invented. We really can't imagine what life will be like when we are 100. Imagine what she saw, the things she experienced, and her feelings during the World Wars and other major world events. Her life is a novel. A novel of happiness, complexities, laughter, difficulties, love, pain, family, friends...Everything that life brings. To a great-grandmother who I always seemed to think would live forever.

Attempts at Humour

I've started an improv comedy workshop at Easy Laughs. It's every Sunday, walk-in, no pressure fun workshop with games and activities that have you improvising random scenes every step of the way. Being a devout anti public speaker, and a preference for small groups, I was a bit nervous at the thought of this “improv” and about what I would need to “come up” with.
To my relief, it was only fun. If you live in Amsterdam, I highly suggest this group. You can even do proper formal courses, where you actually “learn” how to improv, and show off your new comedic skills in regular public performances.

Yoda, ik ben

The Dutch course that I've been doing is now over, and I am now fluent in Dutch. Yes! I knew that 200 Euro paid off. No, in all seriousness, I am lucky enough to be able to use Dutch every day with the kids. This has greatly strengthened my relationship with both the kids. It's is great to be able to understand parts of what Carlijn says and start to understand her complicated 6 year old life. It is amazing to see the kids develop into independent, competent children who will one day be adults.

The only language I”m fluent in is English. Yet when I'm trying to speak Dutch, I sometimes speak in random words of Vietnamese or Portuguese. I regularly confu

Dutch is a fun language to learn. They have a very different sentence structure to English, with most verbs being placed at the very end of a sentence. Pointed out by my mother, many sentences make you sound like Yoda. It's fun, because you say the subject/form of what you want to say, and then “choose” a verb at the end to suit accordingly!

Great Danes & Vikings

I head to Denmark tonight for one week to see two of my best friends and their family for Christmas. Following that, I am venturing solo up north to one of the coldest capitals in the world, Stockholm. Scandinavia has always in my mind been an exotic destination, land of the vikings, the expensive Kroner, and the shortest days in the world. Although expensive, I may never get this opportunity again, so here I come Scandinavia!

The snow is cold, but who cares, it's beautiful!

With all this snow aorund, it really makes me think of people's perspectives on weather. Depending on where you are from, and grow up in, we acclimatise to different climates. Adapting to Hanoi's humid summers and cool winters wasn't so difficult, but experiencing a “real winter” was something to get used to. To be honest, I am loving the cold – the beanies, scarves, leg warmers, coats and mittens are just so much fun. I love dressing the kids up making them look similar to Maggie Simpson in her snow gear..

Carlijn and her friend Ula ice skating

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I am confident that by the end of my working year in Amsterdam, that my body will be able to just morph and adapt to any climate that my adventures throw at me! Ignoratnly, I used to think that life stopped (work, school, day to day activities) simply stopped for those in cities receiving a lot of snow. Life really does just go on. Whether you like or not. You just gotta deal with it.

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Heleen taking Jort to creche on the sleigh

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Festive Season

So, with both Christmas and New Years approaching with speed, I wish you the best of times with your family and friends, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Finally, New Years resolutions are not just for New Years! There's no better time than the present. In the words of a motivational speaker / serial killer character on TV-series Dexter Season 5, “Take it!”. Oppostunities are awaiting, and they won't be there forever. No excuses, there's always a way.

Love,

Cat.

Posted by CatAttack 01:32 Comments (0)

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