Sometimes you meet people in ways you were not expecting…
Thus my story of meeting Amara begins…with wonderful scents from her big pot of homemade vegetable soup in the communal kitchen of Le Village Hostel in Paris. As my nose followed the smells that reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen, my eyes spot her friendly note inviting all the hostel guests “to share”.
Food has a way of starting conversation. Soon we were both eating soup and talking about where we had traveled and where we were traveling next.
The “next” for Amara, a 28-year-old, 4th grade schoolteacher in Minnesota, is to walk 500 miles solo along Pilgrimage Trails in southern France to Spain!
Today starts her adventure with a three hour train trip from Paris to Avallon in southern France…followed by a 10 mile hike to Vezelay and her first stop…two nights contemplative refuge at the peaceful monastic run Maison Bethanie where “silence is required”.
After Vezelay, her next 490 miles are without reservations. Like the Pilgrims before, she trusts she will find housing along the way, meet other travelers, and soak in the beauty of the route and its architecture.
In 50 days, she ends her 500 mile walk just before the Spanish border in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
We can follow her adventure as she blogs her walk.
What an inspiration to her 4th grade students. She has shown them it is possible for anyone to live their dreams!
I finally arrived in Beijing and couldn’t wait until my life changing tour of the Great Wall! After Googling tour groups after tour groups, my enthusiasm took a dip. It seemed like all the tours used large buses packed with tourists and forced frequent stops at souvenir shops and jade/gem factories. Plus, they usually traveled to highly renovated sections of the wall that I feared would be no more exciting than a trip to Disneyland.
Refusing to give up my search for real adventure, I was at last rescued when I discovered a small tour group through Peking Downtown Backpackers Hostel in the Nanlouguxiang hutong area of Beijing. They traveled to the Jinshanling section of the wall, an area still retaining much of its original wall and towers. Plus, they used only a small van, and NO stops at souvenir shops or factories! I was sold!
A surprise bonus! The hostel is on a charming street lined with small shops. I changed my plans and spent the day exploring.
The 68 mile trip to Jinshanling was worth every mile. The scenery was spectacular and easy to enjoy without the crowds.
Several locals would walk beside and offer an outstretched hand to help over the steepest parts. I finally completed the 20 tower walk, tired in that good way that makes one smile. The local guide, that adopted me during my trek, offered to show me a few tee shirts he carried in his sack.
I now wear mine proudly, remembering his kind assistance. The best souvenir I could imagine!