Spain

“When in doubt, just take the next small step.”

– Paulo Coehlo, The Pilgrimage

Hiking in Tenerife

Me, contemplating what next

Putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next small step is something I’ve been doing a long time. It’s no secret that hiking is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. It’s also one of my favourite things to do on weekends. There’s something about it that just feels so liberating!

I love the way walking the trail frees me from all those mundane distractions. This clarity and the incredible and unexpected landscapes that I discover are the main reasons why I love trekking. 

So, after months of wishing, planning and asking a million questions on the Camino de Santiago, I’ve finally made plans to begin my own pilgrimage.

What is the Camino de Santiago?

Symbol of the Camino de Santiago

Source: Flexitreks

The Camino is a pilgrimage route that has existed in Spain since the IX Century, when the remains of Saint James Apostle were discovered to be buried in Santiago de Compostela. peregrinos (pilgrims) travelled to Galicia from all over Europe to see it.

Nowadays, there’s an entire network of routes coming from all over Europe to converge at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The most popular way, the Camino Francés (or French Way), was declared the first European Cutural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Camino de Santiago routes in Spain

Source: Mundicamino

While The Camino has been the subject of many books and films, its popularity probably  increased dramatically after the release of Emilio Estevez’s film, The Way, in 2012. Last year, almost 250.000 pilgrims walked reached Santiago – roughly 65% choosing the Camino Francés.

Not me though. 

I’m doing the Camino del Norte, or Northern Way – see red route in the map above.

Out of all the routes – why the Camino del Norte?

While significantly less-travelled and more challenging than others, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that the landscapes are worth the challenge. Starting in Irún (a small town in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country), the trail follows the rugged northern coast of Spain, combining coastal walks and mountain hikes.

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr 

The entire route from Irún to Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) is a +800 km (roughly 500 miles) trek, which most people complete in between 30 and 40 days. The thing is: I don’t have so much time available on one go (in fact – not many people do!), so I’m planning to complete my pilgrimage in smaller episodes.

This time, I’m planning to trek from Irún to Oviedo (roughly 490 km – or 300 miles). This might seem irrational at first: Why not start somewhere halfway to Santiago in order to reach the final destination? First and foremost, Because I’m stubborn – and really really want to, eventually, do the whole thing. But also because it’s summer, and I am excited about seeing more of the Northern coastline – maybe even dip my battered feet into the cold Cantabrian Sea.

After all, the Camino is not so much about the destination, but about the journey!

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr

One of the many things that I love about the Camino is that there is no right and wrong way of doing it. Some people walk the entire +800 km in one go, while others complete theirs by going back year after year. Some stay at albergues and camping sites, others book hostels and hotels on the way. Some go solo, others go in groups – heck, there are even organised tours in case you can’t convince your friends about the fun in walking +20 km per day but don’t really want to do it on your own, either.

Why I’m walking the Camino

People walk the Camino for many reasons – and they’re certainly not always religious. I’ve got many little reasons to walk it. I do it for the challenge and the adventure; to get out of my comfort zone. I walk for the solitude; for the opportunity to unplug, appreciate the present moment and gain some perspective. But then, I also walk for companionship; to meet new people on the road.

I am really looking forward to spending the next 3 weeks thinking of nothing else than taking the next small step!

During the trek, I will be sharing live updates on Twitter and Instagram (PS: are we friends yet?), so follow along!

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Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On the road

Tenerife from above, Spain

August was shorter than May, June and July all combined. How is that even possible? The past month still feels like one big blur. So much beauty. So much sunshine. So much food. So much wine. Each time I return home for a few days, it becomes harder to leave. As I arrived at the airport to check in for my return and couldn’t find my passport, I felt a guilty relief. I thought that it was just meant to be.

Fortunately or not, life has other plans. We found my passport and I left Tenerife once again – but not without plenty of great memories and adventures, such as watching the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain.


Weekend scenes

The Power of Summer - Outdoor Cinema, London

Whenever I feel grumpy about London, I remind myself of the amazing things you can do on a sunny weekend in the city.

One of my summer favourites has been The Power of Summer – a pop-up food & film festival set at one of London’s coolest landmarks – Battersea Power Station (an old power station south of the Thames). After working our way through the food market, we grabbed a mojito and entered the silent cinema area, filled with colourful bean bags and set with the power station as a trendy industrial back drop.


Mantra

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

– Thomas Jefferson

July goals

View from Guajara, Tenerife (Spain)

  • GMAT. August has definitely seen me struggle. While some days I thought I could totally beat it, others I felt like giving up. It just felt disheartening to spend so many hours devoted to something, only to see you fail. But there’s one valuable thing I’ve learned from this: making  mistakes is not a bad thing – it’s actually a good thing, it forces me to learn something new! I’m repeating this over and over until I breathe this new mantra.
  • Hiking. My two weeks in Tenerife were adorned with great escapes to the outdoors. Aside from watching the sun rise from the top of an active volcano, I also peaked over lava fields (picture above) and watched the sun set in between lunar landscapes. I just love volcanic landscapes!
  • Photography. I have a confession to make. I forgot to pack my camera! I think I’ve gotten so used to not carrying one that I don’t miss it. And that’s not a good thing. Instagram may do miracles, but I really want to get back to the time in which I had photo memories of my travels that I could print in large size if I wanted to.

September goals

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

  • More GMAT. I can’t believe I’m half way through my GMAT course already! There’s still plenty of new material and revisions to do before the exam though. I aim to take my first test end of October-Mid November, so I really need to speed up during the next two months!
  • School selection. and am starting to get a better sense of what exactly I’m looking for, so it’s time to dig deeper into my top programs and develop an application strategy to describe my story. This month, I aim to narrow down my selection to 4 programs I truly love and reaching out to at least one current student or alumni.
  • Getting back to the habit of running. Can you imagine what I enjoyed even more than hiking? The lunches and dinners afterwards. Spain, I love you to bits – but these 3-course late lunches that last the entire afternoon have serious side-effects! So I want to make use of the (still) late sunsets and (occasional) rain-free evenings in London to head to the park before it’s too cold. P.S.: No. I don’t run outside in winter. I hibernate.

Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


Where to begin… I guess it’s been a while is a bit of an understatement. The whole reason I redesigned and rebranded this blog was to start over. It hasn’t been easy to keep up to my expectations: when I haven’t been working, I’ve spent most of my time preparing to take the GMAT. Whenever I sat down to write a new post – I felt guilty for not using this time to do something related to the test. I guess it’s become my priority!

While I’m still working through endless books about Quant and Verbal reasoning, I’ve decided to set aside a little time to indulge in blogging to share what has been going on for the past month.


On the road

Tarifa, Spain

By far my favourite experience in July was my short escape to Tarifa (Cádiz), via Madrid. The heat, the sunshine, the fresh fish and sea breeze, the 4€ mojitos and sharing all this with some of my closest friends was exactly what I needed. I would have extended it for a bit longer (maybe 6 months instead of 6 days!) – Why does always time fly when you’re having fun?

Since returning to responsible life in London, I’ve been adding some holiday flair to my daily routines – like having a Coronita after work in the sun!


Weekend scenes

Coronita Extra

Who said England doesn’t do summer? Ok, maybe it was me.

Well, England proved me wrong: this past month turned out to be one of the warmest and sunniest months in the UK since – wait for it – 1910. Ok, it hasn’t been ridiculously hot (at least not above ground). But still – it has been the sunniest and warmest month since I’ve moved to London already 3 years ago.

Weekends have been spent reading in the park or on the balcony with a cold Coronita next to me. Heaven. 


Reads

Sunset

Even though the GMAT is taking most of my reading time, I occasionally indulged in some fun and lighter reading – my latest addiction was Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by Helen Poole. Confession: for a brief time in my teens, I dreamt of becoming a flight attendant (who didn’t?). One of my closest friends’ mom was one herself and, as soon as I told her about my dreams, she made it clear that I was no flight attendant material. I now thank her for her honesty.

Not only is Cruising Attitude witty and fun to read, but it provides a real insight into the life of a flight attendant. You’ll gain a whole new level of respect towards them on your next flight!

And now to my favourite online reads.

  • On feeling out of sync. Incredibly well put, Candace explores what caused a series of hapless travel blunders: “We find our rhythms in life, and we fall out of them.” I’ve felt this way many times before, and while it feels like you’ve completely lost your mojo – it soon enough returns, once you’ve adapted to the new rhythm.
  • On airport security checks. Every now and then, new airport security is introduced to our already stressful travel concerns – now, you won’t be able to fly to the US unless all of your bazillion electronic devices switch on. Nice one. Ché (aka. IndieBerries) has a charming way of showing the World the new security check routine – an absolute must for any traveler!
  • On acts of kindness. We’re all always wanting to be better people – but most of the time, we don’t have the time (or, well, at least that’s what we tell ourselves). Sarah explores 19 super easy ways to make the World a better place. No more excuses!

Mantra

Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.

– Anonymous

July goals

Sand dunes, Tarifa (Spain)

  • Stay active. My goal was to run 2/3 times per week and try to reach 5K in 30min. Maybe that was a bit optimistic. I’ve gone for an average of 1/2 runs per week and am still a good 7-10min away from the 5K in 30min goal – which is still better than my June average!
  • GMAT. I’m very proud of the efforts I’m doing to spend my 15 to 20 weekly hours working on the test. I took my very first CAT test without keeping track of time (I know that’s not the way I’m supposed to do it… but I wanted to check my skills, not my speed). I scored a 590 (Q35 / V35). Nothing to be particularly proud of – but it was a start!
  • Health. During July, I slept like a Queen and ate like one, too. I haven’t fully regained my energy yet so I’m wondering what else could be causing this drowsiness. Any ideas to regain more energy?

August goals

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

  • More GMAT. Throughout the month of August, I’ll still have the GMAT as a top priority, which may or may not mean that this space over here will be quiet for another few weeks.
  • Hiking. The great thing about August is that I’m spending all of the month on holidays. I don’t have anything very exciting going on (I didn’t have the time to plan it!), so I’ll be heading home to the Canary Islands for 2 entire weeks! I’m hoping to go on a day hiking trip at least once a week (or maybe even a 3 day journey on a different island!).
  • PhotographyI’ve realised that, since I got an iPhone, I’ve been drifting away from my DSLR. Most of the time, the reason I don’t take it with me is because it’s heavy and bulky. But I miss it. I’ll be taking it with me this time and hopefully will return with hundreds of beautiful landscapes of one of my favourite places on Earth.

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Today marks the one week count-down to my departure from Barcelona. Aside from a week exploring Costa Brava and another week back home in Tenerife, I have no further travel plans. Nor life plans, as a matter of fact. I am moving out of Barcelona and into some kind of expat limbo.

It feels wrong, but also right – for the first time, I don’t have a plan (a major accomplishment for someone who tends to pre-plan everything up to her free time).

Swing dancers in Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Barcelona has been an unforgettable and highly rewarding experience. I fell in love with the City the first day I arrived and have never felt any other way. I know I could live here for the rest of my life.

So then, why leave?

There are still many places I want to explore and many experiences I want to live before returning to Spain. I want to spend time indulging in outdoor sports and nature, learn a new language and be inspired by other cultures. I want to continue to evolve and be challenged by the World – adopting new skills, interacting with new people and adjusting to new cultures.

Certainly one of the traits (or possibly drawbacks) of being a Gen Y – seeking for constant newness.

What next?” is a question that has been popping up for the past month at least once a day. The truth is: I have no idea what I’m doing next. My Excel Planner – a financial manager’s alternative to an old-fashioned notebook – is overflowing with tabs, color codes, lists and calculations. My calendar shows a wedding in India late November that I can’t yet RSVP to due to not knowing which country or even continent I’ll be flying from. This is what Barry Schwartz must have meant with The Paradox of Choice.

September 25th, the deadline I’ve set to make a decision, is quickly approaching. In the meantime… any suggestions?