‘these are the roads that bind us’ Roseanne Watt from Between Islands
Origin of the blog name ‘Walking Without A Donkey’
My adopted country is Scotland, and it was a 19th century Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes’ in which he hired an ass, which he named ‘Modestine’, to carry his bags. His path is now The Stevenson Way, a French Camino or Grande Randonne (GR70). 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, glamping, so there are many who take treks and have a mule, van or person to carry their bags. I haven’t yet done this. My first Spanish walk was with a rucksack on my back containing what I needed for a three-month stay which spanned three seasons. I plan to continue to do this until my body gives out – I am my own ass!
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 penned some of the Spanish blogs while travelling – in the evenings, in cafes or on my bunk, most I wrote on my return. My daughters will tell you that I was a tad obsessive about it, but I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop. I somehow knew, that it was a way of practicing the discipline of writing and that, perhaps, it would lead to something bigger.
In the Autumn of 2017 I received a publisher’s invitation to make a book proposal and, luckily, 2018/19 found me in Estonia and Wales, sitting down rather more than usual, as I penned my first book ‘Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice’. The manuscript is with Singing Dragon (part of Hachette, formerly Jessica Kingsley) now, and will be out on 21 August 2020. What a sense of achievement!
‘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.
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 with a canine friend – I don’t see many folk walking without one.
Taken from Aberdour, Fife
Scotland is as spectacular as Spain, although it must be said that the sun doesn’t shine so much.
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, the year after I returned from my first foray in Spain, I was asked to teach Shiatsu in Paris. As I was already on the continent, I planned to walk in Normandy. Not long afterwards, 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, 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.
One of the ‘randonnée’ way markers along the Normandy coast, France
Walking without a donkey – Travels in Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere
In 2018, I went to Spain and France again, and then in Scotland I started to walk the Fife Coastal Path. In May, I trekked the St Magnus Way on Orkney. 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