I read a very good quote the other day which said “Motherhood is not the graveyard of your dreams”. In fact, for many, motherhood is the dream. It was my dream for a while, and then once I became a mother I found I had loads more. Small ones, dreaming of a lie in, a solo trip to the supermarket, a chauffeur. Then bigger dreams, a return to a career, travel and time. Time to do some of the things I wanted to do.
So, with no children at home, I went, I spent 6 weeks walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. A 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain. I had my rucksack which had the minimum clothes and supplies I needed and that was all. I stayed in Pilgrim hostels with 60 people to a dorm in bunk beds (think snoring and smell)!
It was truly life changing in so many ways. Walking across a country is amazing, you get to see things that you never would if you were in a car, you stop at cafes and churches that are not accessible by public roads and pass through stunning little villages that you would otherwise possibly not find.
Having everything in a back pack is so liberating. I had 2 pairs of trousers (both the same) a pair of shorts and 3 shirts. No decision in the morning about what to wear, no worrying about what you look like in what you are wearing. Due to the need to keep the weight of my pack to a minimum, I had toothbrush, toothpaste a bottle of soap stuff that washed hair, body and clothes and a small pot of Nivea. It was all I needed.
The people I met were what made the experience for me, all different ages, nationalities backgrounds. People you found yourself spending 24 hours a day with, sharing a washing machine at a random launderette, finding yourself virtually in a double bed when the dorms were so crowded they had pushed bunks together, sharing meals. People who checked you were OK and looked out for you, and all of them strangers until you all decided to walk across Spain.
The most extraordinary thing for me was just being me. I was alone, I wasn’t someone’s wife, mother, sister, daughter. The people you meet obviously know you are those things, but they are temporarily part of another life and they just get to know you. I felt like a teenager, well early 20’s is probably more accurate. I was strong and capable and funny and interesting and all the things that I felt had slightly diminished over the previous 18 years.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, they are my whole world, but for those 6 weeks I remembered who I was, the kind of person I was and wanted to be, that I’m not just someone’s wife and someone’s mother I can still go after my dreams while helping them fulfill theirs, it doesnt have to be one or the other. You can have both.
That was 2016. 2017 I spent 2 weeks walking from one side of England to the other (Coast to Coast Walk). This year I walked the border between England and Wales (Offas Dyke) and next year I am hoping to do the Portuguese Camino. Thanks to a very understanding husband, this is now my annual time to refocus and reset. Every time I come back from a walk I make promises to myself of things I’m going to do and things I’m going to stop doing. Often ‘Real life’ gets in the way and some of these get lost or diluted, but the following year I re evaluate how I have done, what I have achieved, set new goals, come home and begin again.