Last year I walked the Camino.
I knew it would change me.
I just didn’t know in what way or how much of an impact it would actually have. It took me a fair amount of time to process the experience.
To be honest, I am still processing it.
Then, ironically, during a weekend spent with my closest Camino friend, in the middle of a conversation while out for a drive, the thought popped into my mind I no longer wanted to continue with my much-loved business, Travel Charm.
Just like that, the passion was gone, and I couldn’t continue.
I’m like that. When I’m done, I’m done.
I want to consider things and take my time to ponder. But it just doesn’t happen.
Even though I said I would sit with the idea and think about it, by the time we got home from our drive, I knew it was over.
Even more, ironically, COVID 19 was just about to shut everything down. I found myself in the perfect place to start on a new path.
A path I had already started planning, but without an idea as to how big the plan could be or how perfect the timing.
So, where did that leave me?
My focus for nine years has been Travel Charm.
What I realised was my business had been a vehicle for my personal growth. I started Travel Charm back when my marriage collapsed—a time when I could finally focus on myself and my goals.
That was the problem.
Back then I didn’t have any goals.
I had never focused on myself or had the self-confidence to think I was good enough to do anything on my own.
I had a passion for travel, planning and writing.
Back then, travel was a way to escape a life that quite frankly made me miserable.
Travel Charm took me on a personal journey of building my confidence and learning new skills.
After hosting wine and food tours, ghost and art tours, overseas and local trips, events, providing a travel planning service plus learning all the skills needed to run a small business, I can honestly say I feel accomplished.
And one of my biggest Camino lessons – I am not a quitter – allowed me to finally let go. I finally understood to let go of Travel Charm was not quitting, but moving forward.
I thought I would feel like a failure, not achieving the financial goals I had set, but I don’t. I am happy to leave it now and feel proud of all I learnt and accomplished. And thankful, for all the wonderful people that joined me on my journey. I will miss my community the most.
How did the Camino change everything?
I love my family, my house, my village and the area I live in. I love the life Dan, and I created when we moved to the Blue Mountains.
I finally realised I no longer felt the need to escape my life. I feel free at home, as much as I do when I travel.
Please don’t misunderstand; I still love travel. And will continue to do so. Well, when I can once this whole COVID 19 thing is over.
But as I embrace who I am and learn more about my personality, I discover the things that feed my soul.
I love to travel, I also love home – both nurture my soul.
I love food – growing it, cooking, preserving and of course, eating it! And I love cooking food for my loved ones.
This too nurtures my soul at a core level.
Some of my happiest times as a couple, are when Dan and I are in the kitchen together – cooking, laughing, working as a team.
The Signs were there
Living a more simple life has been in the making for a long time. When Dan and I moved to the mountains, we culled a lot of material things from our life.
We adopted new habits like walking in nature, spending time in the village buying locally where we could.
And the things I loved most about travel pointed in that direction too.
I was never one to cram an itinerary full of destinations, running from one place to the next. I loved slow travel, spending more time in fewer places.
I challenged myself to travel solo – and I loved it. I challenged myself to go on a small budget and learnt I enjoyed my experiences a whole lot more when I had to choose carefully.
I fell in love with packing light and only taking carry-on luggage.
But the ultimate lesson was walking the Camino. Things do not get more simple than walking 45 days with all you need in your backpack staying in albergues and hostels and becoming not only used to the experience but enjoying it.
Even my choice of destinations spoke volumes.
Like Italy. Where food is eaten in season and where the Slow Food movement began.
I long to travel to Scotland and the Faroe Islands – where I want to explore not only the cultures but the natural environment.
What’s my next chapter?
I am becoming a gardener.
Yep, from travel planner to full-time gardener. More so, I want to learn about Permaculture.
It’s not a foreign concept. My dad was a gardener. He also loved the idea of living simply and self-sufficiently.
Our home on a property outside Grafton in Northern NSW where we lived during my teenage years ran on 12v batteries fed by solar panels. We also had appliances running on gas as well as a combustion stove for cooking, heating and hot water.
I feel close to Dad. He passed away 13 years ago, and ours was not a close relationship. But I now have more of an appreciation for his passion.
I remember him reading his Grass Roots magazines, experimenting with mud bricks and alternative building methods. We moved to the 25-acre property when he was in his 50’s so he could fulfil his lifelong dream.
I loved the idea of it all, but I was a teenager, and other things were more important.
My new journey feels a little like coming home. It feels familiar, even though up till now I have only dabbled with gardening.
I discovered a few years ago that I love challenging myself, pushing hard through my anxieties.
With each new achievement, my confidence soars.
As someone that was raised on fear and only ever thinking about what “could happen”, it is a pure delight to not worry about unknown outcomes, instead being open, and excited, about where the journey will take me.
I recently talked to my 90-year old mum about letting fear overtake our lives. It was the first time we spoke so candidly about this topic.
It was a supercharged emotional conversation.
For me, it always seemed she was more interested in her fear. Never about me or what I had done.
Let me explain.
She hates me travelling. It makes her crazy with fear when I do. She was never a traveller, apart from returning to Holland a couple of times to visit family. Travelling for the pure pleasure of exploring a foreign country is unfamiliar to her.
However, when I return home from a trip, she is so relieved that the only thing she can focus on is that her fear has gone. She has no or very little interest in my experiences.
She was surprised when I expressed my feelings about this. And she admitted I was right.
She has never known anything other than fear. She thought this type of worry was typical. She had not realised that I had been pushing myself for years, so fear would not dictate my life.
I only mention this because parents teach their kids fear and anxiety, and it might be something to consider.
My mum taught me, and I taught my daughter. I am doing my best to end that cycle.
Walking the Camino gave me complete faith.
In myself, the Universe, Life – that everything will be ok. Whatever comes my way, I can and will deal with it.
Fear is exhausting, and I am grateful to be free.
Life outside the box doesn’t only mean outside society’s norms and expectations, but my own.
To step outside the box of rules and restrictions I have placed on myself and live a life that is perfect for me.
No more Boxes or Labels
Minimalism, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto are all labels I don’t like. They feel like boxes, tags. A way to segment us.
We are human, we are individual, and this idea that you must be “something” does not resonate with me.
I think because my divorce was such a massive life change, and because I opened myself up wholly to new things, my personal growth became a roller coaster ride of new experiences. There were so many!
I have tried many things in terms of lifestyle and diet. It’s an ongoing process, but at the beginning of that journey, I was given this advice – let your heart take you to wherever it wants to go.
The explanation – whatever sparks your interest, do that.
Don’t overthink it.
Don’t try and fit it into a box of how it will work or where it will take you or how much money it will make.
For months before that fateful day when I realised I wanted to change my life’s direction, I had been obsessively watching gardening videos on YouTube along with Tiny Home living, minimalism, cooking and sustainability videos.
My heart had been leading me in a direction, and I was ready to listen.
I like to think Dad would be excited for me. Maybe even proud.
So, did COVID 19 change the direction of my life?
I know that this pandemic is changing many lives. What is happening, and what will happen after is unprecedented.
It can be a frightening thought, or an exciting one – depending on how you choose to look at it.
Dan and I realise the life we have created for ourselves works. We are blessed not to be impacted by these trying times as much as other people.
Now, more than ever, people are exploring the option of self-sufficiency. You only have to try and buy seeds and seedlings to know they have been panic bought like toilet paper.
The idea of being a full-time gardener was a way I could contribute to our household, as well as enrich our lives.
It had been a dream of ours for so long to create a huge garden, but one of us had to commit to creating and maintaining one full time.
Dan runs a full-time web development company.
I am happy to step up to the challenge.
So, did COVID 19 change the direction of my life?
I had already decided on my new direction.
But it sure feels like a huge neon sign saying, “You are going the right way!”