WorldTowning Vlog – A Must See Traveling Family…

In our preparation for the Camino de Santiago, Michael and I have been devouring every Youtube video on the Camino we can find. I honestly don’t know how WorldTowning didn’t come up sooner in the searches, but I’m so glad they finally did! WorldTowning is a family who travel the world together, exploring its various landscapes and cultures with a joie de vivre the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed. WorldTowning are Will, Jessica, Avalon, and Largo Sueiro…and they appear to be on the road to everywhere. They homeschool their children along the way…but the education they’re receiving by being fully immersed in all the various cultures of the world is far more valuable than any textbook could ever be.

We dropped in on WorldTowning for their Camino vlogs (They start at around Episode 67 of their vlog series) and then we stuck around to catch up on their past travels. And since they kept on going after the Camino de Santiago, we’re watching as they make their way through the rest of the world in their own unique and remarkable way.

That’s the thing that really blows me away. Not only did the Sueiros do the full Camino Frances pilgrimage route of the Camino, but it was only a stop along the way. AND they kept on going once they got to the ‘End of the World’ at Finisterre. They’re doing a mind-blowing world tour. And they’re not afraid of going off the beaten path and taking their viewers to unique locations that tourists don’t often see.

Watching the vlogs of their fascinating adventures, it’s easy to see that their two children (Avalon and Largo) thrive within the extraordinary atmosphere that world travel offers. They may not know just yet how lucky they are to be experiencing the different peoples of the world, but I’m sure it won’t take them to long to realize the ultimate gift their parents are bestowing upon them.

Will Sueiro does a remarkable job filming their adventures. I think I want to be a drone operator when I grow up! ALSO, nothing says dedication like carrying all that extra film gear on the 800km pilgrimage route in Spain. A regular viewer of their vlog nicknamed Will’s Camino de Santiago backpack ‘the kitchen sink’ because it appeared to be large enough to carry everything but. And I thought I carried a heavy load in 2014…until I saw the one Will lugged across Spain.

A long time ago, in another lifetime maybe, I used to attempt to hide my tears whenever something hit me hard in the feels. But I’ve come to accept that it’s okay to cry at commercials and movies and songs and books and…okay, yeah…just being in the presence of sheer beauty, even. I WANT to cry when my feelings explode so much that I can’t handle how big the joy or sorrow is. Jessica breaks down every now and then…and I think that’s wonderful. It makes her more real and authentic. It’s a gift to feel that deeply. She does tend to apologize for it occasionally. But I always say cry if you want to. To be honest, they’re seeing beautiful and remarkable things in their travels. Nothing makes me cry more than, say…the way the water laps at the side of the boat when you’re floating down the Ganges watching funeral pyres on the shore, or, say, the way the fields of poppies in Spain dance in the wind while you’re walking by making your way to Santiago. Tears are just an expression of gratitude or sorrow. We should never apologize for them. And we should never tease others for shedding them. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a few times while watching the WorldTowning vlog.

Oops. A blog post from me wouldn’t be the same without a digression. Enough about tears.

If you’re looking for a delightful travel vlog to watch, look no further than WorldTowning. Here’s a link to the WORLDTOWNING WEBSITE. Check it out to see what they have to offer YOU.

The Sueiros are also on PATREON and TWITTER and INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK.

An Evening With John Brierley and Canadian Company of Pilgrims

On my first trip to the Camino de Santiago, I walked with my friend and Camino guide, Sue Kenney. As a longtime Camino guide, Sue organizes group Caminos to take pilgrims on the last 200km or so of the pilgrimage route in Spain. (Sue is doing TWO Camino tours in May, 2019…One of which is already fully booked.) The one thing Sue always makes sure her pilgrims have with them during their Camino is what I have come to understand is the Camino Bible. It’s probably the most popular guidebook ever written for the Camino de Santiago.

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Two Tickets to Paradise, Courtesy of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims

A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés): St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago is the title of that guidebook. It’s so well organized, detailed and curated that it’s easy to forget that it’s the brainchild of one person. Everyone on the Camino carries it. I carried it. It is a wealth of knowledge. If you have a question regarding a town, a restaurant, an albergue, or anything else…you turn its pages and you find the answer. If you have traveled the Camino and you didn’t do it with the guidebook below, chances are you saw other peregrinos (pilgrims) carrying it and/or flipping through its pages.

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CLICK THIS PIC to go to AMAZON to order your copy.

Last night the Canadian Company of Pilgrims had an event in Toronto at the Yorkwoods Public Library Theatre. Sue Kenney and two other peregrinas–Mony Dojeiji and Ingrid Folkers–opened the event with a short panel discussion on their own experiences with the Camino. Then the man who wrote the Camino Bible pictured above was there. In person. John Brierley himself was there to enthrall a packed theatre audience with tales of the Camino de Santiago and the various routes leading to the now mythical cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela. John also brought with him a rousing message of love and connection. It turns out the man who wrote the guide walks the walk. He was as lovely as the feeling one gets from experiencing the Camino itself. He was eloquent, informative and inspiring. He talked about the Camino family that I myself have experienced and am now a part of… and he cemented in me everything I have come to believe about the Camino.

By the time John’s talk was over and he had hypnotized an entire audience of some 300 people into blowing out the tiny candle he held out to us, I was more than ready to head back out onto the sacred pilgrimage in Spain. But he also told us we were not merely blowing out the candle, but sending the flame out into the world to give light and warmth to our Camino brethren now currently walking the paths back in Spain.

And I believed it.

I imagined that flame leaving the candle and crossing the Atlantic to find the heart of every pilgrim brother and sister currently walking the various Camino pathways leading to the cathedral and beyond… to Finisterre and Muxía… to the END OF THE WORLD.

 

 

Some pics of my first Camino in May, 2014. Michael and I will be heading back in September, 2019, walking from Astorga to Santiago. I can’t stay away.

If ever you hear whispers of the Camino de Santiago, take heed. Listen up. It is both a gift and a question. And I assure you, your heart wants to know the answer. It wants the gift. With my own journey, I discovered that the Camino calls you. I heard about it in passing and it sat quietly inside me. But quietly like a river that knows a waterfall is coming in the distance. When I didn’t heed the call, it got louder… because something inside me wanted to manifest my inner journey into an outer one. When I stepped foot on the path years later, I knew that it was meant to be. The Camino won. It called, and inevitably I answered.

And I know we Camino pilgrims probably sound like members of a cult…the way we go on about the pilgrimage years after we have walked it…but it’s just that it has given us so much. It’s just a long walk, right? A walk that thousands of people have taken over thousands of years. If you listen closely while you’re out there in the wind, putting one foot in front of the other while making your way to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, you can hear their whispers… their inner thoughts. Lean in. They have left their mark on the path lit nightly by the magical Milky Way. Even the stars know the importance of the Camino, and it is their wont to show you the way to Santiago.

But if you don’t trust the stars to show you the way, if you’re afraid of relying on the Vía Láctea to bring you to the sacred cathedral at the end of the sacred path, trust John Brierley. He’ll take you there.

 

(Much thanks to the Canadian Company of Pilgrims for showing me the way to John Brierley.)

 

On the Horizon – 2019 Goals

  • I will finish my Middle Grade non-binary novel and figure out a title for it
  • I will have my 7th novel published. This is a given as the contract was already signed. Look for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT early in the new year (release date to be announced)
  • I WILL find a home for my young adult Camino de Santiago novel
  • I WILL finish my young adult novel The Book of My Dreams
  • I will write more often
  • I will continue to discover who I am and work towards becoming that person
  • I WILL walk on the Camino de Santiago once again!

I don’t have a lot of goals for 2019 and at least one of them is already achieved. I can’t wait for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT to be out into the world. It’s been a few years since I wrote an adult novel. NO…that doesn’t mean it has any explicit content or anything like that. It simply means it’s not written for a teen/child audience. It’s a contemporary family saga, I suppose. It virtually came out in one sitting at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon…and it was added to and polished in the meantime. Going through edits with the publisher soon-ish. I will announce the release date soon. It actually won BEST ADULT NOVEL at the marathon… An honour I NEVER get tired of receiving. I WILL TELL THE NIGHT was my 5th marathon win.

cropped-untitled2.jpgLast night I had a hard time sleeping. Not a very good way to spend the last night of sleep of 2018. BUT! I came up with a way to get my characters out of the basement dungeon in my young adult horror novel THE BOOK OF MY DREAMS. Once I complete the middle grade I’m currently working on, I will make it my mission to finish the Dreams book! I took notes this morning to help me get there. (-: And I have really been letting the aforementioned middle grade novel percolate in order to find my next moves that will take me to the end I envision. It’s my first (but hopefully not my last) novel with a non-binary main character. I really want to finish this one! It’s gone through a few title changes already, but none of them are sticking. WHICH IS REALLY WEIRD FOR ME, AS I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS START WITH A TITLE AND GO FROM THERE. I don’t mind. I just know it deserves a better title than the ones I have thus far come up with.

 

In September we are heading for the Camino de Santiago in Spain again. Hopefully before that time I will be able to announce a home for my Camino novel that I worked so hard to create. It really is a special one for me, so I NEED it to find a home. Honestly, whenever I have a novel out on submission I struggle to write regularly. It feels like that exposure–knowing that it’s out there–causes a crippling handicap to my creativity. But not only that, I just really want it to be in the world.

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The Camino Passport Book (Credential) and patches for our backpacks!

I hope all your goals and dreams for 2019 come true. If you practice New Year’s Resolutions may they all be reasonable and kind. And may you achieve them or be kind to yourself if you don’t. I hope you find a more firm standing in self in 2019. Enjoy your shiny new year. Stand in the place where you live.

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Pokhara, Nepal (September, 2018)

 

A Way to Forgiveness – Healing on the Camino de Santiago

It seems I really cannot get enough Camino in my life. Recently, I read the exceptional travel memoir Walking to the End of the World – A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago by Beth Jusino and it took me back to the beautiful pilgrimage experience I had in 2014. And today, I stumbled upon another documentary on the Way of St. James (Through the Facebook group POST CAMINO Support Group). It was an amazing movie!

A Way to Forgiveness – Healing on the Camino de Santiago is a documentary by Erin Dooley. This documentary is a compelling film tracing Dooley’s pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago as she pondered over and struggled with the concept of forgiveness, both in general and as it related to her own end-goal of forgiving someone in her own life.

From the beginning, I was hooked. I meditated over forgiveness myself as I walked the Camino. I saw many parallels in Dooley’s journey with that of my own…including how things would suddenly come up on the Camino to remind her of the person in her life she wished to forgive. The Camino somehow seems to mirror us, so it was no surprise she discovered things along the path that startled her into immediate recognition of home. The perfect example was how–in small town Spain–she heard the song she and her husband chose to use when entering the reception that followed her wedding. Coincidences and synchronicity are commonplace on the pilgrimage. You don’t realize how startling those coincidences are until they keep happening to you.

For any fan of the Camino–whether you have already walked it, wish to walk it, or are just being called to it now by stumbling upon this post–this deeply personal and contemplative look into the gift and burden of FORGIVENESS is a must see documentary. With the beautiful Spanish countryside as a backdrop, and the vulnerability and authenticity Dooley’s emotional journey…you won’t be disappointed.

As a pilgrim of The Way, I just wanted to also mention…one of the things I most feared as I traveled from my home in Toronto to Spain actually happened to Dooley on her pilgrimage. Imagine the terror of arriving in Spain to walk the Camino and realizing your backpack didn’t quite make the journey! She handled this hurdle with amazing calmness…and the still of her hugging her backpack once it finally decided to meet up with her is worth the price of admission!

Here’s the trailer for the movie:

 

 

 

You can watch A WAY TO FORGIVENESS in two ways. Rent it and stream it now, or buy a DVD copy.

Visit A WAY TO FORGIVENESS online and pick it up today!

Follow A WAY TO FORGIVENESS on Twitter

 

 

 

 

My WCSC 2nd Place Short Story Contest Entry – Helen Finds Her Way to After

What follows here is my short story Helen Finds Her Way to After, which won 2nd Place in the 2017 Writers’ Community of Simcoe County’s Short Story Contest. Unfortunately, the WCSC has since become defunct. My short story had been published on their website, which no longer exists. So, I’m sharing it here.

HELEN FINDS HER WAY TO AFTER

 Both of Helen’s feet bled steadily as she walked. She fought to ignore the blisters making a nasty soup of blood and puss in the heel of each of her merino wool socks. It was nine a.m. With each passing hour she lost a little more of her will to carry on. She held on to the memory of her ex-husband’s laughter at the folly she displayed in thinking she could make this journey. She carried her daughter Meagan’s doubt, freely given when she had told her of her goal. Their lack of support was perhaps the only thing left to propel Helen forward to Santiago de Compostela. And to the apostle James, whose bones lay waiting for her there, whether she made it to the cathedral or not.

Must keep walking. It had become a mantra Helen hated just as much as she needed. Must keep walking.  

Helen’s left baby toenail had fallen off two days earlier, somewhere between Sarria and Portomarin. She had mourned for a moment before bandaging up what was left and carrying on. Must keep walking. Rationality had left her long ago.  

“Buen Camino,” a couple mumbled in tandem as they passed her by on a narrow dirt pathway leading to a cobbled bridge. Their walking sticks click-click-clicked as they walked by without looking up from the uneven ground.  

“Buen Camino,” she said before reentering her gloomy thoughts.  

Continue reading “My WCSC 2nd Place Short Story Contest Entry – Helen Finds Her Way to After”

As it is On the Camino, So Shall it be In Writing – Intentions

You may have noticed by now that I relate things to a circle of a few of my favourite obsessions…most notably music lyrics and the Camino de Santiago. Okay, and Paris. Paris is the filter for all of life. Today, while writing a short story for a specific short story contest deadline that is quickly approaching, I stopped in my tracks and said, “What are your intentions?”

That sentence, or variants of it, were heard and overheard on my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago almost constantly. “What are your intentions?”, “What is your intention?” “But what are your Camino intentions?”

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Today, I had begun a short story without having intentions. It’s a habit of mine, like watching the sun go down (excuse the gratuitous song-lyric relating). I write without purpose or plan or intention quite often. I always had faith that the story would reveal itself to me as I went along. Whatever I start doing to my characters, they’ll eventually discover a path for the plot, arc, story, etc…and they’ll take it from there. They’ll run with it. Why should I do all the work? I did create them, after all. They shouldn’t be so lazy. They should pull their weight. I shouldn’t have to do everything.

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I’m SUCH a lazy writer…

Enter lately. Lately is not a friend to my style of writing because lately I am discovering that stories are fizzing out, ending abruptly in a puddle of purposelessness. I can’t always rely on my narrators and characters to see the story through to the end after all. That’s a nasty realization. Am I getting old? Is my memory slipping? Am I losing my mind?

Or have I just been too lazy to do things properly, and up until now very very lucky that it seems to work out in the end anyway? I’m suspecting this is most likely the case.

Today I full-tilt stopped writing long enough to ask myself, “BUT WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION!?” When I looked around me and came to the realization that I did not in fact have my backpack on–and I was not in fact in the north of Spain on a dirt path following yellow arrows all the way to Santiago de Compostela–I knew that I had struck a chord. As much as pilgrims on the Camino talk about carrying intentions and purpose for their pilgrimage, so too should writers carry intentions and purpose for their stories. We should always ask ourselves what those intentions are. If we do not know, then do we have any business whatsoever even writing the story in question?

Probably not.

This is my new plan. Before I run headlong into a story, I’m going to demand of myself what my intentions are for the story. Not quite the same as Camino Intentions, but the same idea. I won’t rely so much on my characters to figure out the plot path. I should do the heavy lifting. I’m the one wearing the backpack. I’m such a lazy writer, you have NO idea.

On the Camino, we often answer the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? question with things like I will be okay if I need to slow down today. I will not be judgemental today. I will be kind to others today. I will release something that I am holding onto today. I will breathe today. We choose these daily intentions and we walk while meditating on them.

In writing, I think my answer to the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? question is quite obvious…even though I have almost never held myself to such scrutiny while exploring story.

Today I set up a homeless guy to spend the night taking refuge in a hidden cubbyhole in a library. It began interestingly enough. I thought it went well, actually. The hoops he had to jump through to pull off the deed seemed plausible. He overcame the odds and tricked the library staff into forgetting him. He made it! Victory. He found himself alone in the library overnight.

Then, once the dust settled and the character glared at me awaiting the next move in his adventure, I hit the proverbial brick wall. That’s when, without thinking, I whispered that age-old Camino question to myself. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? I have/had absolutely no idea. Getting him locked inside was the extent of my vested interest in the story. Clearly that’s not enough. The STORY has to be about what happens after the set-up succeeds. CLEARLY!

It’s high time I started asking myself these rather important questions prior to wasting several thousand words on a story that is not a story. I don’t need to outline. God knows I’ve tried doing that enough times to know it doesn’t work for me. But I DO need to know my intention. I need to know what I want the story to be about prior to sitting down to write it…at the very least. At the bear minimum I should know what the bloody story is going to be about.

I have to stop doing this to myself.

So, do yourself a favour. And not only at the beginning of your story, but all the way through it. Whether it’s a novel or a short story…or a poem or an article or an essay or a blog post. Ask yourself that all important question at every step of the journey. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? If you don’t know what your intention/motivation is, figure it out. It’s better than leaving yourself high and dry or leaving your poor character abandoned in a library overnight with nothing to do. You deserve better and so does your character. Don’t do what I did. As obvious as it is that a writer should ask themselves what the hell it is they want to accomplish in a story, they sometimes forget to do so.

Say it with me now…

WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?