Last week a fellow pilgrim referred me to this blog written by an American lady by the name of Ann who walked from Santiago de Compostela to Jerusalem via Northern Africa in 2011/12. Ann has walked around 8 pilgrim routes with her longest journey being 11 months. She walks less known routes like the southern roads to Mexico and the Way of Saint Andrew from the Ukraine to Patras in Greece - routes I have never heard of.
What is really incredible about her is how she walks:
- Without money - or a phone - or GPS;
- Using maps she finds along the way and asking locals for directions;
- Carrying only 8 kilograms on her back;
- And a marathon almost every day!
Her stories and her way of walking captivated me so I read all of her blog over the last week and it has given me a lot to consider:
- How do I choose to walk this time?
- What boundaries within myself can I challenge?
- What can I embrace?
- What can I let go of?
- What are the possibilities?
It is the last two questions that are resonating most deeply at the moment.
1. What can I let go of?
After all my travels I know I can live happily with just a bag of clothes, my camera, computer, phone and dive gear. Although I let go of furniture and belongings before I left on my sabbatical five years ago, I still have a lot of stuff that I am hanging onto but rarely use because I think I might need it one day.
I walked the 2,000 kilometres of the Via Francigena carrying 13 kilos on my back. It was too much and as a result I suffered a neuroma in the ball of my left foot and daily pain in my feet and body, often excruciating. I know I need to walk lighter so there is no pain. I want to walk lighter because that feels more joyful, expansive and free.
To do this, I need to let go of what I think I need for what I actually need. I have started the process by letting go of clothes I think I might want to wear one day, old documents I have hung on to because I never got around to sorting them out, old electronics that are obsolete that I didn’t know how to dispose of.
The deeper question throughout this process really is, “Who am I without all of this stuff?” As well as addressing my attachment to things because I think they will make me happy or keep me safe.
Sometimes working through our outer world helps us to create space and lightness in our inner worlds. Things are already shifting for me and I've only just commenced the process.
2. What are the possibilities?
Walking from Rome to Jerusalem only became a possibility in my mind after Peter and Paulius (the Danish and Lithuanian men I walked the last 9 days into Rome with) spoke of their plans to walk to Jerusalem this year. It was only when I arrived in Rome that I felt the urge to keep walking to Jerusalem.
Sometimes we have to complete the first step to know what the next step will be.
This journey is full of possibilities. The only limitation is visa restrictions, especially in the Schengen countries where, as an Australian citizen, I am only permitted to stay 90 days in a 6-month period. My route needs to take this into account.
I thought I was going to have to walk the most direct route, a journey of around 2,700 kilometres that will take at least 90 days of continuous walking. Then I worked out I would only spend around 35 days in Schengen countries. There is the possibility of a different, longer way.
But why would I want to walk a longer way when 2,700 kilometres is long as it is?
This walk is not about arriving at the destination but the journey itself. My sprit loves an adventure and loves me being a little out of my depth and in the unknown. My spirit is asking me, “how far can you go?” It’s not just a question about distance but of exceeding inner boundaries to discover how limitless we really are.
The map below depicts the routes I am current considering. The main route is depicted in blue and red with other historic paths marked as dashed lines. You will see that they pass through Syria and Jordan to Israel. Unfortunately due to the conflict and violence this is not an option for me to consider so my possible routes are shown in purple and green.
1. The direct route starting in Rome following Via Appia to Bari, ferry to Durres then following Via Egnatia to Istanbul then:
a. Directly southeast to Alanya to get a boat to Cyprus then hopefully Haifa to walk down to Jerusalem; or
b. From Istanbul along the coast to Alanya where somehow I might be able to visit Anzac Cove along the way.
2. Start in Rome then walk up to Venice then down through Slovenia and Croatia to Durres (the green route) then the rest of the direct route (purple).
3. Start near Augsburg (where my dear friend Ina lives) and walk down to Rome and then the direct route.
Who knows how it will unfold. I'm mapping it out in pencil. Right now, option 3 holds the most excitement for me – being able to spend time with my friend Ina then leave straight from her house, spending extra time in Italy – a country that I adore, and perhaps the possibility of walking the Way of St Francis (of Assissi). I need to estimate distances and visas to determine if it really is viable. I hope so.
I'd love to know which way you would choose: the direct way or the longer way? Why? And what are you holding on to that you could let go of or at least ease your grip so that you travel lighter through your days? Leave a comment below.
With love and courage,