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Thirty years after I’d first toyed with the idea, I finally took a gap year.

In those interim decades I’ve enjoyed a great professional career, interviewing people and telling stories in print, sound, pictures and film. But three years ago it was finally time to take stock and throw the dice.

P1040600I spent a month walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago; camped and climbed in the Scottish hills; trecked across parts of wild New Zealand; explored ruined, forgotten places; wrote short stories; and completed a novel.

The twelve-month career break flew past and turned into almost two years. And I couldn’t go back; I’d followed Mark Twain’s romantic advice and “thrown off the bowlines, sailed away from safe harbour, caught the Trade Winds in my sails”. I explored, dreamed, discovered.

I’ve picked up my journalistic career again, but I continue to walk, write and travel. For two dark Scottish winters I rented seaside cottages and divided my time between my laptop and the beaches on the doorstep. And in the summers I lived and worked from my tent or camper van so that I  had the freedom to discover new places whenever the opportunity arose.

But then came a renewed need for home, a growing longing for roots rather than the perpetual motion of wheels and new horizons. And I now have that place, a small stone fisherman’s cottage with views out to sea.

It’s a “lock and leave” so I can still travel and follow John Muir’s advice to “climb the mountains and get their glad tidings” then do some work to pay the bills. Or buy a little whisky.

This blog is an account of the work still in progress.

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43 Comments Post a comment
  1. Indeed a familiar story and a fine one. Good luck and I look forward to following your adventures. 2016 is probably the Via Francigena for me – so many possibilities. David

    September 19, 2015
  2. Rene Wilson #

    Hi Nancy, I am truly inspired by your writings of your Camino journey. I start my own Camino journey April 12. I’ve spent over a year of research and planning which I consider to be big part of my experience to come. Thank you so much! All the best to you !! Rene

    March 1, 2015
    • I’m excited for you Rene and wish you Buen Camino. Walking the Camino Frances as a pilgrim was the best experience of my life to date. Will you be writing a blog or keeping a photographic record? If so please send links – I’m fairly addicted to how others experience their journey. Thanks for visiting and all the very best. N

      March 1, 2015
  3. Yaay! Follow your heart – what an adventure 🙂

    July 30, 2014
    • Thanks Marianne. The adventure takes new directions all the time and I’m just hanging on, catching the Trade Winds and enjoying the ride!

      August 1, 2014
  4. Good for you! I look forward to following your adventures 🙂

    July 30, 2014
    • And I’ve just discovered your Spanish Scribbles. Good to meet you !

      August 1, 2014
  5. Don’t doubt the way, go with your first instinct they usually are the correct ones! I’m sure a lot are envious of your active & adventurous lifestyle myself included but it’s understandable to have moments of doubts we all do it is life’s breathing pattern…
    Meanwhile I am very happy to have found your blog… following & scrolling down 🙂

    April 30, 2014
    • Thank you for the encouragement and for visiting, I’ll be checking out your story too.

      April 30, 2014
  6. Marvelous! Wish you all the best in your adventures.

    April 24, 2014
  7. Angela Finnigan #

    I have done a similar thing at 64 and am dividing my time between Australia and Europe, avoiding winters. I’ll walk the VDLP in May and hopefully the European peace walk from Vienna to Trieste. Aiming high but won’t be disappointed if I run out of steam, I’m happy just to have the ideas and the means and inclination to buy the plane ticket. I’ve been doing this for two years since I retired. Wondering how long homelessness can feel so good and liberating, I’m willing yo find out. I’ll follow your blog with interest. All the best!

    March 22, 2014
    • Good to “meet” you Angela and thanks for taking an interest. I love the sound of your lifestyle and would be fascinated to hear how you get on with the VDLP. Buen camino.

      March 22, 2014
  8. We are walking the Camino in September this year and so are keen to just read of others adventures! Glad to have stumbled across your blog and will trawl through your archives to learn more of your experiences!

    March 15, 2014
    • You’re very welcome. September is a great month to walk in Spain. Buen Camino.

      March 15, 2014
  9. Gorgeous! In a few years I want to travel the world as well. Until then, I follow with great admiration life stories as yours!
    Salut, Gilles

    March 2, 2014
    • Thank you Gilles. I’ve just acquired my camper and look forward to a summer of work, play and travel. All the best with your own plans N

      March 2, 2014
  10. Right on. You’ve taken a leap into the uncertainty of life. Backed away from the cookie-cutter void and into the abyss. I truly admire that and am very happy to have come across your blog here. Keep up this momentum!

    January 27, 2014
    • Eek, abyss wasn’t quite what I was aiming for Nicholas! Momentum is being stepped up… just in case.

      January 27, 2014
      • Hmm… perhaps I should reevaluate my understanding of ‘abyss’? 😉 I see how that can be off-putting…

        January 27, 2014
  11. Manus Brennan #

    Really enjoyed your account of the Camino. Retiring this year and considering the challenge myself. I think you have persuaded me!! Many thanks

    January 24, 2014
    • I’m so pleased if I’ve influenced you at all! Savour every second of it, even when you’re weary and your feet are dragging. I long to do it again, and when I do I’ll take more time. Buen camino.

      January 24, 2014
  12. I stumbled onto your blog via Which Way Now 101’s. Everett and I “retired” to an RV about a year ago, but our productivity is WAAAAAY below yours! Looking forward to sharing stories with you!

    January 21, 2014
    • Welcome guys. I’ve had a look at your blog and you’ve already taught me what a 5-wheel is – I had been wondering! I can only hope that info isn’t as fictional as the characters that inhabit your world?

      January 21, 2014
      • Pretty much everything here is real – we’re not creative enough to make stuff up. We just don’t let reality get in the way of a good punchline. You know how you always think of what you SHOULD have said? That’s how we write!

        January 22, 2014
  13. …and I’m nominating your lovely blog for the Versatile Blogger Award. I’ll mention you when I post my “acceptance” blog post on Monday-stay tuned for the pingback!

    January 18, 2014
  14. Nancy, what a beautiful story you weave. Shedding possessions, walking and writing – it just doesn’t get any better than that. I’m so glad to meet you and have enjoyed every word you’ve written. Looking forward to many, many more stories. All the best, Terri

    January 17, 2014
    • Thank you Terri for such generous words. What a wonderfully supportive community of nomads exists out there! Look forward to reading more of your adventures too. Nancy

      January 17, 2014
  15. Oh Nancy, I’m so delighted for your time of discovery. We’ve done a lot of trail-walking in Ireland, and France is our hearts’ home. Walking over the Pyrenées is high on the list. We chucked it all in-from a 3 bdr, 2 bath, 2 car, 2 career household to 15 boxes of possessions-and moved to New Zealand a few years ago. An ill parent brought us back to the States, but after a few more years of pursuing new careers, we hightailed it to this little slice of paradise, where I’m able to write full-time. Life is a rich, frightening, glorious journey. I’m thrilled for you to be walking yours with such courage.

    Let me know when you are ready to trade manuscripts. I think I’m at the point where I need readers of this early draft before I undertake round…3? 4? of revisions…

    January 16, 2014
    • Hi Julie, Until last Sept I’d never heard of the GR10 but since then I’ve met three people who’ve crossed the Pyrenées and spoken passionately about their experiences, which makes me wonder if I should aim high too, later this year. Re manuscripts, I’ve had a major confidence crash so need a little more time before I share but that prospect gives me a little impetus! Please stay in touch, Nancy

      January 16, 2014
  16. Scribe's Arcade #

    Hi Nancy
    thank you for following our blog and we love yours! Good for you – this new path of yours sounds wonderful, liberating and wise. Take care, Catherine. xo

    January 9, 2014
    • Thanks Catherine. You’re right about the first two. But wise? I’m not so sure. Good to meet you.

      January 15, 2014
  17. Hi Nancy, nice to meet you. Been travelling all over your blog, and look forward to reading the whole Camino de Santiago story. I hope your book is a huge success and that your gap year lasts forever!
    Thanks for visiting and following our blog. I hope you enjoy the stories of our journey, both inner and outer
    Sláinte
    Alison

    January 8, 2014
    • Thanks Alison. It’s encouraging to meet other people here who’re following alternative paths and having diverse adventures. Look forward to following your story. Nancy

      January 9, 2014
  18. I have read your camino journal with great delight. I have dipped into many camino blogs, but rarely find them very enjoyable. Yours is written beautifully. Thank you for reviving so many memories (although they are never far away). Which route are you planning for next year? I am probably going to walk the Portuguese route, starting late April. Buen camino!

    December 13, 2013
    • Thank you for your comments; the pilgrim bond is strong, isn’t it, even when we walk at different times and never meet. And I agree, the memories are never far away. Next year? Still to be decided!

      December 14, 2013
  19. Walking and writing. Selling possessions and stepping out into the unknown. It seems we have a lot in common. We even have the same wordpress theme! 🙂 Looking forward to reading more!

    November 15, 2013
    • And I almost bought a camper this year; postponed until the spring. Exciting times.

      November 15, 2013
  20. Sounds amazing. Have you walked the whole Camino de Santiago? We came across it in the Pyrenees. It looked grueling.

    November 15, 2013
    • Yes, from St Jean in France across the Pyrenees and all the way to Santiago. A fantastic experience – and not too gruelling. Well… maybe sometimes!

      January 16, 2014

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