Since early November, I have been exploring the way I might walk from Rome to Jerusalem. Whilst I’m not planning an exact daily route — that will take care of itself when I start walking — I just want a reasonably accurate estimate of how many days it might take me to walk the whole way to know if what I am planning is feasible, especially for the European Schengen countries where I am restricted to staying 90 days stay in a 6-month period.
I have been feeling very excited about the possibility of starting my pilgrimage from my dear friend Ina’s house who lives near Augsburg, Germany and following the Via Romea Germancia to Rome then continuing to Jerusalem as originally planned. It sounded great in theory until I started getting into the detail and asking questions then I hit major roadblocks.
1. The Schengen visa: 90 days isn’t long enough. It is likely that I would run out of time walking through Greece to Turkey.
2. The shipping companies have told me I cannot get on a boat from Limassol to Haifa if I “illegally” enter Cyprus through the Turkish-occupied ports in the North of Cyprus. They directed me to the Greek port of Piraeus that is completely off-route and definitely not reachable within the visa limitation.
3. Unlike EU passport holders, as an Australian passport holder, I need a visa to enter Cyprus and my passport would have to be stamped. So even if I entered Cyprus via the Turkish-occupied ports and then crossed the green line into the Republic of Cyprus, I would probably be arrested and deported for illegally entering Cyprus.
4. Syria is a no-go zone so the ferry to Cyprus from Turkey then boat to Israel is the only detour without flying that keeps me moving forward and not back-tracking.
5. Given the relationship between Turkey and Cyprus, there are no flights into Cyprus from Turkey.
6. There are no boats or flights into Cyprus from Rhodes, the nearest island.
7. This means there is no way I can enter Cyprus other than from Greece which doesn’t work because of the Schengen visa limitations nor from a distance point of view and because I want to walk through Turkey.
The thought crossed my mind that this was all too hard and surely I could choose something easier to do but only for a moment, it was replaced by the question that has been leading me these past two months:
What are the possibilities?
When an obstacle appears before us we can choose to give up and stay put, to turn back, to find a way over or to find a way around it. I’m seeking a way around.
One of my guiding mantras is ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
This is not about being stubborn or rigid or forcing the outcome. No. This is about being fluid and flexible, open to guidance, open to ideas and different ways and surrendering any fixed ideas I have about how this journey should take place.
As I hit these roadblocks, I ask myself, what are the possibilities? How can I find my way?
So far I have a few options:
1. Catch a bus from Eurasburg to Innsbruck or Verona or some other starting point from where I think I can walk through Schengen countries within the visa period.
2. Attempt to seek permission to overstay my Schengen visa in Greece.
3. Attempt to obtain a long-stay visa in Italy.
4. Walk the reverse way from Jerusalem to Rome as there is no restriction in travelling from the Republic of Cyprus up into the Turkish-occupied regions of Northern Cyprus.
5. Walk to Antalya in Turkey then fly to Israel (via Istanbul as there are no direct flights.)
6. Walk to Antakya in the very southeast corner of Turkey then fly to Amman in Jordan (again via Istanbul as there are no direct fights) then walk into Israel via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. However this has a big question mark as Antakya is only 30 kilometres from the border with Syria and the Australian government currently recommends reconsidering your need to travel within 50 kilometres of Syria.
7. Walk to Antakya then fly to Tel Aviv (again via Istanbul).
At the moment, I’m not sure from where I will start my pilgrimage or which way I will walk but what I am sure of is this: the way will appear. It always does even if it’s not the way I expect. I just have to be open to possibilities.
With love and courage
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