I began writing this after a 15 hour bus ride from Santiago de Compostela, with still a possible full day of travel….I couldn’t bring myself to complete, without it sounding like a play by play of events- a report. Now after a few days rest I'm sitting here on the aft deck of Catamaran S/V 'Enjoy' in Marinas del Mediterráneo, Estepona, Spain. Feeling settled enough to share & update since last I posted about Calais --->>> Bordeaux ---->>> & departure for Santiago De Compostela.
When I arrived in Santiago de Compostela- the final destination of those pilgrims following The Way of the El Camino, after my failed attempt entering the UK, I sought refuge & stillness ++.
I met a family with two little girls, ages 2 & 7 offering free room & board in exchange for some care & conversational English with their daughters. And if I were to stay at least 2 months or more their father knew other families that would pay me to have English conversations with their children, thus supplying me with some sort of income. The going rate would be anything from 15-25 euros an hour. This sounded nice after 2 months of solo travel; to be in a home, to be with family. I told them I wanted to check on extending my tourist visa, ending Oct. 20th, so that I could have time with them.
The next day I spent the afternoon at the immigration office. Spain being one of the more lenient with visas, informed me that unless there were health issues, they are unable to extend my visa. I left, walked around, sat on a bench, and walked some more, cried a little & asked myself, "where to?" "Eat first." I responded. You talk to yourself a lot when you’re travelling solo.
Resisting the urge to go back to my hostel and sulk I headed back towards the Cathedral & crowds. I walked into a quiet, dark, stony, cafe. It had caught my eye; A Buddha statue inside, floor cushion seating & multi denomination & cultural peace symbols. I ate comfort foods, consisting of traditional bean soup & rice dishes. The woman who cared for me there, I'm pretty sure is the sole proprietor; & ‘Just because’, I handed her back a 2 euro piece after I paid. She stepped back, as almost in shock & said, "Gracias!" & turned to grab something from the register, to offer me offer me; a pressed 4 leaf clover. I chuckled & said, "Wow, I could really use some luck right now". She touched her heart, bowed her head a little & gestured, “Here you go”.
I left grateful for the exchange of kindness & found myself walking back toward the Cathedral, having not gone in yet since I arrived. I thought this was a good time. As I've said before, I don't consider myself a practicing Catholic, but sitting in the old ones- this one 1500 years old, has always felt like a refuge, close to something I know, more or less, a safe place to sit quietly, affording me reflection and an opportunity to listen. I walked around, seeing all the familiar things you’d find in a Catholic Church, but these being on a grander, much older scale. The confessionals, the baptismal area, statues +++ I explored corners of the cathedral that held smaller chapels, dedicated to Saints etc. & found one that had Mary & baby Jesus at the front; mother & child. I sat there, looking, listening. Coming to some sort of relaxed acceptance that I would not be able to stay in Europe beyond October 20th, questions began:
Do you feel that you’ve seen & done all that you (loosely) set out to do? More or less, yes, sure, there are places I had hoped to explore, people I had hoped to visit, but I am confident, now more than ever, that if I set my mind & heart to do something, see a place, I can make it happen again & I will be back on this side of the Atlantic. I have made amazing friends, networked with organizations & have invitations to return.
Are you disappointed? I sat with this question. Disappointment is a feeling I am familiar with. I scanned my body for the feeling & relieved I said, No, I feel complete with this passage, this part of the journey & making my way back, in reflection, feels like it is time. I am full from this experience & am now ready to see what integration may bring. Be it with my family or in community somewhere. The chance possibility of living with that family in Santiago de Compostela showed me that.
More questions came that brought more clarity and resolution….
I lit a candle & the thought came, “Well, you’re not just gonna fly back.” That would certainly feel like failure on this Quest, giving up because you couldn’t find work or travel to the UK ++.
Obviously, you’re gonna sail back. I thought to myself. Of course I am.
A couple exchanges with friends:
"Calais did bring me down, then learning I couldn't stay made me cry today. But I sat in the big old church for awhile today. Thought about my family, sailing and now this all feels right. I don't feel like I failed or disappointed in myself. I love being on the boat. It's time."
"I made a last ditch effort to see if I could extend my visa in Europe. When that didn't pan out, since I have to leave europe, I'm going out with dignity & class."
I left the Cathedral knowing I would need to move fast, that many folks begin to head towards the Canary Islands, via Gibraltar, to position themselves for a westward Atlantic crossing, usually to Barbados. I got back to the hostel, got online, updated both of my crewing profiles & began to search for those planning on crossing. Within an hour I had communication from several people & I was narrowing down to a couple. I’d sleep on it and make arrangements to head south to Gibraltar, from Santiago de Compostela in the morning.
I woke and packed up, heading to the bus to see how I could make some miles. There was a chance I would hop on a boat leaving Gibraltar in a few days, bound for Morocco, Canary Islands, Cape Verde & across to South America, so I needed to make my way in that direction. And I was coordinating with the boat-Atraxia, I came across on, currently in Portimao, Portugal, to pick up some miscellaneous items I had stored there for safe keeping that I hadn’t needed while on foot travelling throughout Europe. And they would be in Sevilla, Spain the next day running some errands. So, I had some choices in route planning.
I found a bus going to overnight all the way to Sevilla, Spain leaving at 4pm, arriving the next morning at 7 am. This allowed me time to grocery shop & do some much needed laundry back at the hostel & getting to Sevilla in time to meet, pick up my stuff & still have some daylight left to head to Gibraltar. So began another marathon, overnight travel, extravaganza! Oy vey.
This overnight bus ride had no border patrol & thus uneventful.
This brings us to Sunday, October 2nd
Let’s recap, shall we…
September 24 I left Berlin, Germany headed to London
Overnight I was detained in Calais, France
September 25 I travelled from Calais, thru Paris to Bordeaux, France
A 33 hour adventure
I rested there for 2 nights, spent the day wandering Bordeaux and headed to Santiago de Compostela on a 2am bus ride the 28th arriving at my hostel by 5pm on the 28th where I stayed until Saturday, October 1st.
*For the record, night buses serve a dual purpose. They include overnight accommodations & transportation. Most the time, they are my only option as I prefer not to fly.
So there I was in Sevilla, Spain. Utilizing taxis to get from one place to the other, picking up my stuff, going across town from one bus stop to the other, boarding a bus, by the skin of my teeth bound for Algeciras, Spain (& leaving my polarized, prescription Ray Bans on the counter- they had a 5 year run, which is good for pricey sunglasses).
By this point I had picked & confirmed to go with a 46 ft x 24 ft. Catamaran, that currently had two other crew, including the Skipper, a man from Colorado, who lived on the Big Island, who had retired to travel the world & find unspoiled places. He had picked up his boat near Greece & had been travelling since May through the Mediterranean. He would be joining a Rally from Tenerife, Canaries with around 30+ other boats, making the crossing to Barbados, called @Cornell's Atlantic Odyssey- Reflecting the growing concern for the state of the oceans, participants will carry the message “The Ocean – Our Future” to all corners of the world. The Odyssey rallies are designed for sailors wishing to enjoy the safety and social aspects of a sailing event with the added extra of an environmental and scientific program.
He invited me to join them wherever they were that day, so I was determined to get to them & from Algeciras I was able to get on another bus to Puerto Sotogrande, Spain. The bus stopped on the side of the road, they said, “just walk that way.” I looked and saw nothing, then I looked a bit closer & saw a single track trail cut through some brush. When I bought the ticket they told me I’d have to walk about 500 meters to the marina. It was a bit more & now fully loaded, with an additional backpack on my front side, and snorkel gear in tow with my bright orange dry bag I’d carried throughout Europe off I went in the direction of the sea on this single track as the sun began to set. At this point I felt like I was in a scene from Wizard of Oz and found a lot of humor in my encounters with various characters on the trail assuring me I was going the right way and I just had to keep walking. After nearly an hour of walking I was ecstatic and exhausted & relieved to see my Skipper who guided me to the dinghy and motored us to Enjoy.
*Insert Hero’s Journey metaphors a plenty here.
As many of you know I have been searching for a paid position on a boat. I haven’t given up on that idea & there may be opportunities in the Caribbean this winter for me (& a very likely chance of work next year on a Educational Tall Ship- in the spirit of Outward Bound, called Atyla Ship), but knowing I needed to make a move I was happy to find a boat that was doing the crossing, that wasn’t going to charge me a daily rate. All I needed to provide was my own cost for my own food. So, I get to spend the next 2 months on a boat, with my only expenses being food cost. Cool huh?
Soooo, I’m back on a boat, coming about full circle, heading west, crossing the threshold, across the Atlantic. Trusting myself & the way, the path, mysterious as it is most of the time. It’s beautiful to witness. So grateful for your holding space, support & encouragement & we’ll see what the future holds... on the other side.
"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will" - Karim Seddiki