“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore, let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing; and let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the Phoenix rise above its own ashes… And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky – the let your heart say in awe, ‘God moves in passion.’ And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.” -Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
Deciding to leave the GR20 was an easier decision than I thought it would be. Having to end the Camino early had put me through the hardest emotions and feelings of failure that I have had to go through so ending this trail seemed like a more natural and clear decision that I needed to make. I very clearly have a stress fracture and can feel the exact points on both sides of the shin where it has occurred, but I do not regret pushing myself with the injury on the GR20 to see as much of those mountains as I could. I felt a deep peace with the decision to leave and it immediately began to prove to be the healthiest decision for me mentally and physically.
I had no idea what I would do for my last few days on island once the trail was over. Without any plans I put a thumb up in the air and decided I would say yes to every opportunity that arose and would follow whatever came my way. Within ten minutes I had a hitch from a man going to let his goats up the mountain, who through broken english and hand gestures conveyed he had hiked the GR20 five times and considered himself to be as strong as a goat in the mountains. Unfortunately he wasn’t going into any towns, but took me a few kilometers down the mountain and dropped me off near a beautiful river where I swam for a few hours before continuing down into a city.
Hitching in Corsica has proven to be an incredibly easy experience. Immediately I was picked up by an older man with his three sons in the car. Before I got in he motioned to one of them to hop in the back seat and made room for me in their jeep. He spoke incredible English and told me he was driving all the way across the island to Ille Rouse and if I wanted I could ride with them. The decision I had made earlier made it easy to say yes and was ready for whatever would come up.
- Beach time in I’lle Rouse
He took me to the center of the city and showed me the supermarket and the camping areas and where the best beach access was before he returned to his home. I got out of the car and bought some food before heading to the sea for a swim in the absolutely stunning waters. There were again a few moments sitting in the city by the sea watching the sun set behind “The Red Island” or swimming in the warm, salty blue water surrounded by high cliffs and white sand that made me feel so alive and lucky to be experiencing such beauty and wild adventures. I wished to be experiencing this with someone else, but was happy to be there as I was.
When night time fell over the city I began to look for a place to sleep and noticed an abandoned restaurant on the coast just outside the main street of the city. I wandered around the back of the building and found a time when no one was walking by to throw my bag up and climb up the edge of the wall to get on the roof. As I sat on the roof I watched a band play a few hundred feet away for people swimming in the dark water until midnight. The stars were bright and the moon began to rise behind me creating a very comfortable atmosphere for my night alone on a roof of an abandoned building in a foreign city.
I woke up early to get off the roof before anyone noticed me and snuck down the back wall again to begin another exciting day wandering the island. I found a coffee shop and talked with friends back home for a while, but began feeling anxious and thinking about my next few days of loneliness and the plane ride I would have to take. Admittedly, I began to try and control my path again and tried to find ways off the island and leave behind and opportunity to relax in peace on a beautiful paradise island because of my fear of solitude and flying. Sometimes I feel like when I’m alone for too long I notice thoughts or feelings that I have always felt the need to run from and when I have to sit or be alone I have to face those feelings and it terrifies me. As Khalil Gibran writes, “There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone. The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.” So again, I began looking for ways to run, from this:
After a few hours in the city charging my phone and taking a swim in the sea I decided I would try and take a ferry the next day to Nice and then take a bus to Barcelona. For the rest of the day I wanted to try and hitch to Ponte Leccia and spend a night camping by a river to build a fire. I have noticed that not a lot of people here have beards and that I get some interesting looks in towns and wondered if my beard maybe made me look crazy or intimidating so I decided to try and find a way to shave it off. Just to see what would happen. Plus it was getting to be a hassle with the heat and how long it had become.
I went to a store and bought some razors and shaving cream and then found a secluded spot near an abandoned home after a ten minute walk down some railroad tracks and began the hour long process of shaving under a tree. I thought it would be a funny story, but it was miserable. I sat with two water bottles and a small towel over a tiny bowl I filled with water to clean my razor as I shaved. I went through four razors and two liters of water before I was finished. Surprisingly I only had two cuts and only missed one spot that someone would point out to me later that day.
With a freshly shaven face I walked to the main road to Ponte Leccia and in ten minutes I had a hitch half way there. I was dropped off on a hot road in what felt like the desert of Corsica. I hid under a small tree from the sun and waited for cars to drive by to leave my shelter and ask for a ride. Thankfully I was picked up in only ten minutes by a man named Pierre who, little did I know, would become a good friend and someone I would share some amazing experiences with in the next two days.
Pierre was on his was to Bastia and was more than willing to take me to Ponte Leccia and help me find a spot on the river to camp after I bought some food in town. We immediately hit it off and we’re both excited to learn from each other and share stories of our lives. He was going to Bastia to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day on a sailboat, but wanted to spend more time with me the next day if I was around. We placed a flag made of a plastic water bottle bag on a telephone wire to mark the area I was going to be staying so that the next day he and a friend of his could come and find me to spend a night camping with me. We said our goodbyes and I began making a home for myself near the river.
After a few hours of swimming, boulder hoping, rock skipping, skinny dipping and sun bathing I made a fire and watched bats fly all around making high pitched shrieking calls in the fading light of the setting sun. I didn’t take long for the stars to come out and they shined like diamonds on black velvet while I laid next to my fire on the warm sand by the river listening to the water sing it’s infinite song. This was a moment of deep peace and a realization that this would be my last night alone on this journey with the unclear direction my life would take the next morning.
As much as I wanted to camp with Pierre and his friend, I started feeling incredibly anxious and resting in the moment seemed to be impossible for me when I woke up on the river. I began trying to find ways to get off the island again to meet Ryan on the 17th. In Ille Rouse I found that I could take ferry’s and buses to get to Barcelona for less than 70 euros and instead of enjoying the paradise island of Corsica and spending time finding peace in solitude I would set out and began moving to run from those feelings of loneliness and fear. As I sat near the river I knew I was beginning to try and control the situation again, but had decided I would take a ferry and leave Corsica. I would have to let Pierre know that I would not be at the river when he returned.
I gathered my things and began to hitch my way to Ponte Leccia to catch a train to Bastia to get on a ferry to Nice where I would get a bus to Barcelona. Clearly from that sentence you can see all of the stress and variables included in getting to Barcelona rather than resting and being still on the island and enjoying my time there until my flight on the 18th, but this is my struggle with solitude and my issues with controlling my situations and emotional stability. In any case, I got a hitch into town and bought my train ticket to Bastia. I had twenty minutes in town before the train came and I began looking up ferry tickets to buy them so I could be ready to leave. I messaged Pierre and told him I was going to leave and he responded feeling bummed to be missing me, but understood I was wanting to begin my trip to Barcelona.
- The famous bridge in Ponte Leccia.
Right before my train showed up I found out that ferry prices had sky rocketed and bus tickets to Barcelona had risen as well. Beginning to feel incredibly stressed I got on my train and started frantically searching different ferry options and ideas with the hope to leave the island asap. After an hour of searching for ideas on the train I realized it would be too much money to leave and I would have to stay on the island until my plane flight. What’s crazy about this is that the ferry I was going to take that day left at 11:30 am and my train was to arrive in Bastia at 10 am, giving me plenty of time to get on the ferry, but when I realized it would cost too much and decided to stay on the island I put my phone away and looked out the window to realize I was on the wrong train. I was headed to Ajaccio, which is on the opposite end of the island from where my ferry would be leaving. So even if I had bought a ferry ticket, it would have been useless. I would be staying on this island whether I liked it or not. The second I try and control the situation something pulls me back to the lesson to just relax and be where I am, which is also funny because the word I had stitched into my hat for this trip to Europe is “tranquillité”, which means rest, peace and stillness. This was another powerful moment for me sitting on that train and realizing that I had once again tried to control my situation and was not resting in the current, but graciously was somehow guided back to peace and clarity while my controlling plans were foiled.
So now I’m on a train to Ajaccio and have no idea what I’m doing. I text Pierre and tell him I am staying and we make a plan to meet back in Ponte Leccia in the afternoon to go camp in the Ascu Gorge. Thankfully the ticket guy on the train was forgiving of my mistake and wrote a note on my ticket for a free ride back to Ponte Leccia from Ajaccio, which is a three hour train ride. The train ride was breath taking because of the beautiful mountain views, but also because it rides cliff edges dropping off into the depths of the insanely rugged mountains of Corsica.
Eventually I made it back to Ponte Leccia and met up with Pierre and his friend Matilda. We got some coffee and made a plan to camp. After getting some food and wine to bring to the gorge we left and found an amazing spot to swim near the place I camped the night before and then spent a few hours talking while the sun set, drinking wine in the darkening sky. It was so incredible to be discussing relationships, religion and passions with other people from a different part of the world and realizing how similar we are. They were so accepting and loving and excited to get to know me and learn about my life and share about theirs. Within a few hours I felt like I had made some really good friends. We would talk late into the night covering a range of topics from love and loss to fears and dreams.
The next morning we woke up and ate breakfast before going for an other swim in the river. We ended up spending the majority of the day splashing around and cooking in the insanely hot summer sun. I laid down on a warm rock while Pierre and Matilda read a book to me in French for a time without knowing a single word they were saying, but comforted by the beauty of their language. Eventually we had enough of the sun and my body began turning red so we left to go explore an old village in the mountains called Lama. As we explored Pierre and Matilda began teaching me some French and I’m happy to say that I can now tell someone, “I prefer to kiss a girl in the wind than to drink wine in the river”; as well as a few other sentences.
After exploring the old village for a few hours we left to go swim in the sea close to Ille Rouse. I didn’t know what the night would bring in regards to finding a place to sleep, but while we sat on the beach Matilda offered to take me to Bastia and give me a place to stay until my plane left. Unfortunately, Pierre would have to return to Calvi having to work the next day. After a while near the ocean watching the sun set we said goodbye to Pierre with the hope to see him the next night in Bastia for my last night in Corsica. It is amazing to me the joy that comes with resting in the present moment and trusting the wind to blow you into beautiful experiences and deep peace. Because I got on the wrong train and my plans to take a ferry off the island were all contorted, I now am getting a place to sleep, having good conversations and relationships with good and interesting people.
In Bastia, Matilda and I ate huge burgers and fries and walked to her flat in the middle of the city in the top of a building. I was given a bed upstairs with a view of the ocean and the mountains and took a bath in a jacuzzi before laying down in a huge bed with the sounds of the city lulling me to sleep. Trail magic in France!
- Views of Bastia from Matilda’s flat.
Pierre and Matilda had very similar interests to me in music, books and movies and I found that we shared a love for Khalil Gibran. I had just finished The Brothers Karamazov and was looking for something to read during my last day in Corsica while Pierre and Matilda were working so Matilda let me borrow her copy of The Prophet. After a cup of coffee in the morning I went to the harbor to read and watch the ferries come and go, happy to be trusting my path and my plane ride the next day. Terrified still of flying and hoping to not jinx my flight, I feel like I am exactly where I am suppose to be and that no matter what happens I would rather be living in line with my true path in peace than trying to fight my fears by controlling circumstances only to watch my attempts crumble and break down. Relaxing in trust is so much easier than stressing over every little part of my life and I am often amazed at what surprises and joys come my way.
So often on this journey I have felt beaten and broken in my attempts to accomplish my goals, but repeatedly I am assured that when I adjust my sight and look to the direction I am being pulled rather than the goal I have set for myself, I find genuine peace and healing in the deepest regions of my heart and soul, which was my original goal in this summer adventure. It’s crazy to assume that I can possess the perfect knowledge that leads to my healing and my growth and the sooner I learn to trust the Divine movements that shape and guide my spirit, the sooner I find peace and the remedy to begin healing. Again with Khalil, “Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, and the cup he brings, though it burns your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears”. I am so thankful for the struggles this journey has brought me through because it has allowed me to step into a new light and see the parts of my heart that have been darkened by narrow lenses for so many years. I’m beginning to trust the Physician and to drink the remedy in quiet spaces in stillness and peace.
After a few hours drenching myself in the words of Khalil Gibran and staring out into the endless sea, I found my way back to Matilda’s home to meet with her and Pierre for dinner. We went to a supermarket to grab some food and went to the harbor to meet with some of their friends who live on sailboats for a picnic with the sunset over the sea. We stayed there for a long time and I listened to them speak in French without knowing a word they were saying, but wearing a huge smile thinking how wonderful life is to be sitting on the edge of an island with new friends speaking another language feeling welcomed and cared for.
We left around midnight and Matilda went home to get ready to sleep while Pierre and I wondered the empty streets of an old district on the outskirts of town. Walking around with him and learning of the islands history and more of Pierre’s life is a memory that will stay with me all of my life. I am so thankful to have met such amazing people and to have received so much compassion from them during my time there.
Late in the night Pierre and I returned to Matilda’s home and I fell asleep in my huge bed with the sound of the ocean and the city harmonizing in a steady hum to bring me to sleep. In the morning we didn’t have much time to hang out and quickly left for the airport to catch my flight to meet Ryan in Barcelona. We had a coffee at the airport and promised to stay in touch before saying goodbye. If Ryan were not meeting me in Spain for the Pyrenees I would be majorly tempted to stay on this island to spend more time with these two amazing people. I have learned so much from them and been given so much love.
I view my time in Corsica to be a time of immense healing both physically and mentally while the stress and frustrations of the Camino have led me into that head space having now accepted the direction the wind is taking me. I want to find confidence in giving my reasoning the passion it needs to solidify my hearts desire to live a fulfilling life in wisdom and truth. I want to give my zealous spirit the reason and wisdom it needs to not over work myself physically or emotionally and feel consistent in my energy and drive to give and receive love from the world around me. I am so thankful that I have not entirely gotten my way on the journey so far and that I have been lead by the Unseen to walk a path that leads to what I truly want; healing and development. I am one plane ride away from the start of a new adventure that will test this new heart of mine and give me an opportunity to live in the light and trust the current I find myself in. There is a deep peace in my bones and a strong joy in my spirit. I rest in reason and move in passion. Thanks for reading!