Walking through remote landscapes and reflecting meditatively on life has become my new way of life. In 3 month periods I explore and make pilgrimage, meeting fascinating people along the way. Then I return to my home in Edinburgh to write about it. Through this I weave Shiatsu: teaching and giving sessions as I go.
Origin of the blog name
There is a book by Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes”, and there is a French Camino named after him which has a personal, family connection for me. Just as it is possible for campers to stay in a site where a tent is provided, ready-erected with a camp-bed in it; so there are many who take treks and have a mule or a person to carry their bags. I walked around Spain with a rucksack on my back (containing what I needed for a 3-month stay, summer – winter), rather than having a donkey carry it for me.
“Whenever I was asked: ‘Why did you go to Santiago?’ I had a hard time answering. How could I explain to those who had not done it that the way has the effect – if not the virtue – to make you forget all reasons that led you to become involved in it in the first place.” Jean-Christophe Rufin, The Santiago Pilgrimage
Reading and Writing
My mother taught me to read before I started school and plied me with books for which I am so very grateful. Among them were first-hand accounts of adventure in foreign lands: ‘My Journey to Lhasa’ by Alexandra David-Neel, ‘As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ by Laurie Lee, and ‘The Songlines’ by Bruce Chatwin.
I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by and to set out for the unknown. Alexandra David-Neel
Exploring is my way to search, to understand. Walking is my teacher.Sarah Marquis, uber-explorer
I wrote some of these blogs when I was away, and added to them on my return. Others I penned whil travelling, in the evnings, in cafes or on my bunk.
‘But we are all …too, travellers with a donkey; and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend. He is a fortunate voyager who finds many.’ RLS *
* Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson (incidentally a son of Scotland). https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Robert-Louis-Stevenson-and-His-Walk-with-a-Donkey
Donkey fact: In January 2019 I discovered the Scots word for a donkey is cuddy. It was when I came across The Cuddy Trail on the Berwickshire Coastal Path stretching from England to Scotland.
I was not able to stop walking when I first returned to Scotland, and so set about exploring my home city and further afield with ‘a new eye’. I have given this group of blogs a slightly different name, in recognition of the fact that most people I meet are out because they have a canine friend to take with them. Me – I’m just crazy about walking and need no excuse!
Scotland is as spectacular as Spain, although it must be said that the sun does shines a little less.
I have always enjoyed a good conversation, and now I have discovered a joy of writing – inspired by the places I have been and the wonderful people I have met.
‘The words simply tumbled out of him and he listened to them in astonishment as they lined up, seemingly of their own accord, to create a meaning that became apparent to him with surprising clarity only after he had spoken them.‘ p 31-32 A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler.
Happily, I was asked to teach Shiatsu in Paris and as I was already on the continent I thought I could walk in Normandy. Another lucky co-incidence then occurred: I had been working on a Shiatsu mobile application, Tsubook, and was invited to visit its creators who were staying in …. Normandy. When I searched on the map I saw that they lived on the coast only a few days from Mont Saint-Michel. I immediately knew I needed to go there and so, another walking project was born, and that was where I walked in May 2017.
Then, in 2018, I went to Spain and France again and started the Fife Coastal Path. The month of May saw me trek the St Magnus Way (Orkney) in Scotland, my home country. I also added photo essays and other blogs of London and Edinburgh.
It is said that the hardship of a pilgrim journey invests the path with its power and that each step is an offering.
‘My Journey to Lhasa’ Alexandra David-Neel p. xii