Don’t stop me now…

Who remembers these lyrics?

Don’t stop me now I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball.
Don’t stop me now. If you wanna have a good time just give me a call.

I’ve been home now for 19 days and I’m still really proud and pleased with my trip to Italy with all its ups and downs (literally, physically and emotionally). I really had a good time, in fact I had a great time, so I’m going to make sure that I don’t stop now.

Apart from getting my feet back in order here are a couple of things that I’ve set in motion since my return. Firstly, my business… I’m now a My Bucket List Coach. I’ve been to training and am currently getting everything in place to kick off in the coming days. There’s a potential position on a Board for an amazing organisation, and as part of my own Bucket List, today I have had my motorbike pre-learner training and I nailed it.

Of course there’s so much more to each of these stories that I will share soon. I just wanted to let all of the amazing people who are following me that I truly appreciated all your support on my adventure and let you know all is well. The GAP year still has a lot of things in store.

Plan B for Brilliant

Did I truly do what I set out to do? Yes I did. Looking back on the reasons I gave for setting of on this quest I’ve ticked all the boxes. 

Firstly to do a walk of significance. Florence to Assisi is a pilgrimage in its own right and 200kms is significant, particularly as it was much more challenging than expected. I pushed myself further than I ever thought possible, met interesting and lovely people along the way and experienced some extraordinary locations and events. 

Check.

I wanted to spend a significant time in Italy. Funnily enough the enforced stay in Assisi has given me the experience of having to deal with day to day matters. Doctors, hospital, chemists, food shopping, finding my way around on local public transport, chatting with the locals and basically hanging out. It’s no Under the Tuscan Sun, but it has opened up another world. 

Check.

I wanted to do something that I was responsible for from start to finish. My successes, my mistakes. There’s no doubt I achieved both. Things in the planning and delivery worked, others didn’t. No one else’s fault or responsibility. I was so fortunate to have complete freedom to execute this adventure with unwavering and

Check.

In my blog about my legs before I left I said there would be tears and arguments in my head and both of those have come to pass but not as savagely as I thought they may. I also said these legs were made for walking and they didn’t let me down. From my ankles to foot arches is another story. 

As I come to my last days in Italy I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve got so many stories, memories and enthusiasm to plan more adventures. 

Remember my GAP year is all about getting another perspective and I’ve sure done that. Anne’s GAP year is not over yet!!! 

A Flash of Orange

Good on them. Hare Krishnas strutting their stuff in potentially the most Catholic town outside of The Vatican City. Groups of people travelling together are rife in Assisi – there are more people following flags around than there will be at the AFL Grand Final next week. Young, old, walking, limping, wheeling, touring, riding, pilgrims, all on their own adventure and all with their own reason for being here. 

Limited to exploring anything close to a seat today I visited one of the buildings in the Piazza that is named (wait for it)… Chiesa Di Santa Maria soprano Minerva Tempio Di Minerva. In short (or long) it is The Temple of Minerva circa 1st century BC that currently houses the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, built in 1539. The columns are the only original part of the 1st Century BC building that remain. It is one of those spaces you walk into and have to sit and soak in. Obviously as a tourist also snap a few photos.

Something moving happened while I was admiring the 17th century Baroque renovations of the Church that froze me to my seat. A lady fell onto the kneeler behind me sobbing. I couldn’t move. Her intention of being in that place at that time was so intense. I couldn’t turn, I certainly stopped taking photos and I felt somehow privileged to be there. When I could sneak a look I saw her husband (I presume) standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder. I’m not sure how much time passed. I imagined dozens of scenarios for this response as improbable as she had done her achilles like me to a true spiritual desire to reach this place. Eventually they both quietly left, tears mopped up and a knowing look toward each other. 

It doesn’t really matter why they were there or what it was all about. It felt like an honour to be present. To me this lady was the epitome of a pilgrim when there are so many I’m meeting on “pilgrimages” who are essentially tourists (including myself). I like to think I’m a good person but as for spiritual the jury is still out. I haven’t quite defined what that means for me. 

What I did observe was someone who wholeheartedly believes in something. That’s got to be a good thing. No instructions on what that needs to be – religion, football, nature, music – leave that up to you. 

I’m sure the Hare Krishna crew are passing through on their way to somewhere special and totally believe in their quest. So again, good on them and what they believe in, although I don’t think they’ll do much good recruiting here.

The Wisdom of Brian

How lucky am I to be told to put my feet up and stay in Assisi for 7 days? It wasn’t luck I felt when I heard these words in broken English. There was that momentary sinking gut feeling mixed with annoyance and disappointment having sat in a run down waiting room and various corridors in Assisi Hospital for 8 hours to get what I genuinely believed would be a letter saying “send her on her way”.

Then I remembered Brian. Not the name I was expecting from a 20 something, bright eyed Colombian boy with the worlds biggest smile, but Brian it was. My fellow travellers from Wales and I ran into Brian on the final stage before walking into Assisi. He told us he was on a spiritual year and was on a practice walk before leaving on a to trek to Rome the following day. 

This young philosopher was one of those truly interested people. Asking us about our trip, why we were doing it, our families, how we were feeling. In 5kms he dug deep and brightened the day.

Brian also shared his philosophy on life – that we are all where we are meant to be at any given moment. Whatever it is we are doing or wherever it is we are, then we are in exactly the right place doing the right thing.

I have thought about the “philosophy of Brian” quite a bit over the past couple of days, particularly today as I lay on a bed in a foreign country with my legs up on pillows, with the most exciting thing to look forward to being the salami and cheese in the refrigerator and a self administered needle. Why is it exactly where I should be? 

Admittedly I’ve struggled a bit to find an answer. Perhaps Brian’s lesson is about being present. Feeling okay and soaking in the moment. This is a lesson I have never fully grasped. I have spent a lot of time anticipating the future, anticipating the good and bad of a situation before it’s even happened. Literally living moments ahead of time. This can lead to disappointment if things don’t turn out the way I imagined (and relief if they do).

I know Brian didn’t invent the idea of being present, but he is definitely living it. So if you ever run into Brian – and he did say part of his year is to come to Australia – then thank him for reminding me that the most important time of any day is right here, right now. 

A rose never smelt as sweet as massage oil!!

It’s Day 14 of the walk and I’ve caught up with a scheduled rest day. Sadly I have had to add another one either side as I attempt to get my feet/Achilles back in working order. Because I was powering along so well over all but one day of the previous 180km it is disappointing to be laid up at all. I’m only 3 days from Assisi and I’ve narrowed my focus, for now, to walking into there on two feet. 

Perhaps I was meant to stop and smell the roses. The Way of St Francis is very much a hike. Most days have no towns between start and finish with the focus always firmly on your feet. One step after the other, interspersed with some spectacular views. It has also been unseasonably hot with up to 34 degrees. My fellow pilgrims who left this morning will be glad of the cloud cover today. 

Now back to smelling those roses. 

I am sitting at the very top of the historic hill town of Gubbio that appears to be just hanging onto the hillside. It’s long history goes back to the days of Roman Gods. I travelled up here in a standing basket zipping up a cable and this photo is the view. The Duomo at the top is simple and beautiful. 

I took a tour of the town in a little red train negotiating narrow streets, roadworks and really bad Italian parking. And this town is so steep they provide public lifts to take you up to each level of roads on the hillside. Not very pilgrim like but I’m guessing if lifts had been here back in the day, St Francis himself would have taken one as well. 

It’s a strange feeling travelling alone and not being able to share this with loved ones. Most Italians I meet ask if I’m alone and then tell me I have courage. I’m not so sure it’s courage but I haven’t come up with the word for it yet!  

Well back downhill to ice the achilles again before another appointment with the sweetest rose of all – the therapist trying to get me back on the road. 

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