Be Thankful, Love Life

Be Thankful

It has been a long time since I have posted my rambling thoughts and adventures. Not sure why. Perhaps due to my return to work during the last  four years, along with new friendships and relationships having  taken my time and focus. Perhaps because this phase has been harder, and I have been less sure of my next steps, direction and desires…

I guess the place to start is where I am now and how I got to this point. After packing every free moment with adventure and discovery for the last five years I have spent the last twelve days mostly in solitude in Mazatlán and now in Puerto Penasco. I’m working out how I got off track and reflecting upon what is next?

How can I recapture a servant’s heart? Repair relationships damaged in this whirlwind of change? Find a kindred spirit who is not put off by my love of being social as well as my need for solitude out in the wilderness?

I have stayed  intentionally quiet these last twelve days limiting my activity  to sunrise walks, a simple diet, early bedtimes and moments of gratitude so profound that I weep. I have experienced equal moments of sadness and regret, feeling so lost that I weep some more. Mostly trying to stay in the moment, accepting the feelings of pleasure or discomfort as they arise and releasing that which no longer serves.


Perhaps a recap of the past few years is helpful, to remember where I started and where I have spent my time.


The beginning:

In 2010 I started to awaken to the understanding that while I was grateful and blessed with a huge loving family, all was not well with my heart and soul. I was not happy and did not know why.

I had been shutting down emotionally for several years but life was full of activity.  So I just pushed down those feelings and moved on. Around this time my nephew– a young man I adored– was battling brain cancer. His courage and commitment to living his life fully was something I will never forget. The way his wife, mother, father and sisters pulled together was a testimony to faith, endurance and their abiding love of Brandon. Living in the moment, finding humor and grace in the simple act of fully living were Brandon’s hallmark traits.  His passing is something my heart has still not recovered from. My love for him will never fade.

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Mary Schnack

In 2011: My neighbor and dear friend, Mary, was in the depths of battling another round of cancer. A seventh round of surgery went off course resulting in a stroke. She became partially paralyzed, blind and unable to speak. With the help of family, an amazing community and the support of Hospice, we brought her home to my house to care for her.  While the community and my family took care of her during the day, I continued to work and took the night shift.

Mary was a force of nature, fearless, driven and uncompromising in her desires, work and mission. She was generous in her friendships while at the same time demanding in her expectations of all those around her. I loved her magic–that gift of making connections and looking for opportunities for those in her circle.  She was magnificent and exhausting in her unbelievably fearless and demanding nature!

During the long nights Mary liked to hold my hand while I read to her. Often after Mary fell asleep I would have hours to think deeply for the first time in years. I contrasted our lives and began to understand that I needed a change of course. I had no idea what that meant but I knew I was going to find out no matter what the cost. It was Mary’s courage seeping from her hand and heart to mine that propelled me on a journey of which I was not yet aware.

Mary ended her battle in early 2012. It was in my guestroom that she passed, with me telling her that it would be okay and that it was time to let go.

We laid her to rest next to her father and celebrated her life in Sedona with people flying in from all around the world to pay their respects and share their memories of her.

While all of this played out I battled demons of second guessing:  Was that last dose of pain meds too strong? Was it I who expedited her passing? Had I correctly understood the directions from Hospice over the phone? Did I load the syringe with the right amount of drugs???

There were so many gut- wrenching moments combined with self-imposed isolation. I never shared my fears and grief about this with anyone. During this darkness I knew my only way out was to deal with the pain of Mary’s passing and to finally address my own lost joy in life that her departure had brought to the surface.

I had to get off this spinning hamster wheel of life and find time to heal.

Somewhere along the way I recalled desires of walking the Camino of Santiago pilgrims’ trail.  This 500 mile long trek slowly became my obsession.

Although it terrified me, I quit my job and began training for my first big walk. With the support of family and friends I began to regain my health, lose weight and train to be fit enough to physically handle this first solo adventure. None of it was easy.

I often woke up at night hyperventilating and filled with fear and second thoughts. I was largely responsible for the financial security of my family, so what was I doing??? HOw could I fly to Europe and walk so far alone? But I did do it after all and learned for the first time what it takes to be afraid and do it anyway.

On a sunny day in September 2012 I walked out of St John Pied de Port to cross the Pyrenees Mountains and make my way across Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

My first Camino– a 500 mile journey of discovery, beauty, joy, and pain was an experience that changed my life forever.

(The original blog has my day to day posts with feelings and experiences along the way.)

What remains with me is the day my heart opened and I named my pain. It changed everything. I accepted the pain and knew I could and would face this pain and put it behind me. What followed was a time of immense JOY, spiritual and physical awakening.


Camino Frances 2012

God felt near for the first time.  Peace exploded within me and I knew all I could do was to continue to grow and change. I was now committed to finding out what my heart and spirit needed to flourish. I fell in love with people and their stories. I longed to keep the memories of the amazing pilgrims I met along the way alive in my heart and thoughts.  A desire to bring the lesson of the Camino into my daily life. While traveling solo I realized that I could do more, challenge myself more and become responsible for my own well-being and no longer blame others for my shortcomings and loneliness.



Dingle Way, Ireland 2016

2013: I returned home November of 2012 and within a few months I knew I needed to return and walk another Camino. This time it was the Camino del Norte (500 miles) followed by a good chunk of the Vezelay Camino in France.  It was a summer filled with pure joy. The Norte Trail always went up into the mountains only to return to the sea. It was physically challenging and splendidly breathtaking. The pilgrims I met along the way still hold a special place in my heart. I still communicate with a few on a regular basis.

I arrived in Santiago, celebrated the 500 mile walk and then flew off to Paris to begin part II of my long Camino on the Vezelay Trail which largely follows the Bordeaux wine region, eventually ending back where I started in September 2012 in St John Pied de Port. What more can I say about the wine, the food and the lovely French locals that took such great care of me along the way?

Camino Norte 2013

2014: When I returned home from Europe in July of 2013, I began to think about walking a wilderness trail solo. The John Muir Trail called to me and I once again became obsessed with gaining the knowledge and physical strength to walk this 220 mile long wilderness trail  in complete  solitude.

Summit Mount Whitney JMT 2014

While I trained and my August departure loomed near I was once again filled with paralyzing fear. What was I doing? How could I ever sleep alone in a tent in the complete wilderness? What about the goddamned BEARS?

I completed the hike in twenty-one days. I discovered a new-found strength and courage in adversity that I did not know I had. I returned in the best health and stamina of my life. I met people who inspired, challenged and changed me forever.

By 2015 I was longing to return to do another pilgrimage and took on the Portuguese Camino. A lovely walk with a community of pilgrims that I won’t forget. Still to this day they give me hope and inspiration.

2016 was a brutal year full of conflict and remembrance of a childhood trauma that took my innocence and faith. Yet, I ended the year peacefully walking the Dingle Way in Ireland with a dear friend. If you have not walked in Ireland you are missing out.  The landscape, music and fellowship of locals along the way is not to be missed. I even got to sneak in a small Camino– the Kerry Way!

Tour Mont du Blank 2017

September 2017 found me walking a tough trail along the Tour Mont du Blanc. Yet another epic adventure, this  time out allowed me to  realize I had neglected my growth in recent times. I needed to release an unhealthy relationship that had sapped my joy. I realized that God and my own Being again wanted me to have the peace, joy and return to the simple pleasures that living out of a backpack brings.

My dear friends, family and fellow pilgrims, I end this rambling hot mess of a post by returning back to today, December 31, 2017, with the close of another year. Back to the place I started at the end of 2011, searching my mind, heart and soul for answers of what am I placed on earth to accomplish?

Can I find the courage to face this next phase?

Will I get over the momentary heartbreak that has consumed the last few weeks?

Will I put my house in order and once again accept the fear of delving into the unknown, guided by faith alone? This is my desire, my prayer and my hope.

I pray that each of us finds our heart’s desire and why God has placed us here at this moment in time.

I pray we all find or rediscover our servant’s heart—

That we find a way to bring joy and comfort to others.

That we ask for forgiveness wherever needed and we forgive our own shortcomings.

I wish all of us a blessed 2018 filled with love and acceptance.


Ps: All of my posts have left out the rich details of my journey. I have been encouraged to share those private details by many friends and Camino pilgrims. My goal is to find the courage to do so in 2018.

Posted in Bobbie Surber, Buen Camino, Camino de Santiago, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances, Camino Portugal, camino Vezelay, Chemin de Vezelay, John Muir Trail, Mary Schnack, Portugal. Camino Portugal, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, St James's Way, the Way | Tagged | 1 Comment

Day 6 Ballydavid to Kilcummin

9/17/16 Where to start? Spent the night in Ballydavid at an Air B&B with host Patrick Murphy, the kindest, most generous host of all time. He picked up on our interest in the history and culture of the village and off we went to explore the area including:

12th century church where his parents rest in peace. The Keyhole to Heaven with a heartbreaking story as ancient as time; those with money persecuting and taking advantage of those without.

Then onto a 7th century church and ancient Beehive dwelling ruins

The next morning Patrick was kind enough to drive me back to the trailhead for the hike over the pass of Mt. Brandon. The weather was not great and locals were concerned about my solo hike. I assured them of the fog drifted any further down I would return. That said, I did have a moment of nerves looking at the climb! 

​The hike to the top is about 3.5miles straight up, no switchbacks just soggy, boggy uneven footing to the top then an unbelievable steep downhill with even less stable footing! By 6 miles you are on a dirt, mud filled road and grateful for it!

It is then an easy 4 mile hike down into the village of Brandon. 

This was a day I had been looking forward to. It was Mt. Brandon in honor of my nephew by the same name. I wanted so bad to summit in his honor. The peak was impossible with the pea thick fog but I made it to the saddle with the peak above me. When I made it to that damn muddy road I looked back at the mountain as the fog rolled over the top and down to the valley floor. Ever so slowly the fog seeped onward with fingers of fog reaching down spreading across the mountain while the top of the fog lifted up to the heavens. It was awe inspiring, magical, a moment in time that felt like a blessing, a gift given yet not earned.

I knew in that moment that the peak was not important that it was the day of remembrance that mattered. I knew Brandon  would be proud as much as I know how grateful I am to have had that amazing young man in my life. How I’ll always honor his love of the outdoors, that no one remained a stranger more than 5 minutes and that his family meant everything to him. 

The day was physically and emotionally draining. A perfect trail day, a moment I’ll never forget.

To you my dear Brandon, Sláinte

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Day 5 Dunquin to Ballydavid

9/16/16 our easiest walk so far. About 10 miles split between road walking and three wonderful beaches. An earlier stop for coffee and lunch perched on a stone fence overlooking the sea.
Then on to Ballydavid and our Air B&B for the night. Before I could call Patrique Murphy our host he pulled up beside in his car and invited us to the pub for a pint. Off we went met s few locals, drank a pint of Guinness then back to the B&ab to rest. So I thought however Patrique had other plans. First was a church from the 9th Century. All dry stacked stone and still no leaks in the stone roof.

7-8thr century chirch Ballydavid,Irl

Then on to a church, Kilmalkedar from 7th century by St. Moalcethair. Patrique told us a story of the Cro Na Snaithde (keyhole window) in the church and that if you fit through you you get to heaven. The story goes that the church caught on fire and the starving Irish made it out but the overweight oppressive English land barrens parished in the fire.

Finally back to the house for a peaceful nights sleep.

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Day 4 Dingle to Dunquin

9/15/16 Whew this was the hardest day so far. 14 mile day that started by departing  Dingle heading to Venty, about 4 easy miles other than it is all hard surface. Ventry has a small post office combo grocery store. Took a nice break and met some very kind local ladies hosting a fundraiser for Hospice. The locals had baked their best desserts for the event and they invited me to join the event. Two cups of coffee and more sweets than I care to admit I was ready to hit the next 1o miles. 

As soon as you leave Ventry you are treated to a nice long beach walk to the other side of they bay. School children were busy cleaning up the beach and locals were walking along the beach enjoying a bit of sunshine.
Next up was a bit of road walking along Sledge Drive with dramatic views of the sea before turning up to Mount Eagle. A tough climb for several hours through sheep pastures and dramatic views of the sea. 

The path was wet, uneven and a thigh burner but the day was as lovely and as magical as you would hope to find. I wish I had the words to discribe the uniqueness of walking through a new land. You get a chance to see a vista unfold, smell the earth, local bakery, the smell of livestock, getting to witness the locals, the tiny in between places that a car can never reach. You experience a level of intimacy that cannot be duplicated by any other mode of transportation other  than your own two feet.  My heaven for sure.

Besides the views and walking along ancient walls of stones we got to see many Beehive ruins. Ancient dwellings from the 9th century.

About the time I could not go uphill anymore the trail took a steep decline down to the road and the start of the entry to Dunquin.

 A stop for coffee and another two long miles on hard road to the Youth Hostel and the exceptionally kind host that takes such great care of her guest. Another great day!

View from Hostel.

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Day 3 Inch Strand to Dingle

9/13/16 left Inch Strand after another huge Irish breakfast and made our way to Annascaul following trails and secondary roads overlooking the bay then turning inland to Annascaulwith more secondary roads leading to a rocky beach and castle. 

Followed by Saint John the Baptist Well which I can find little about on the Internet.

after leaving the beach it was a few miles to Lispole then on to Dingle.

So much to share about Dingle. First stay a few nights as this is a not to miss destination. A small easy to walk village with music at every turn, fantastic shops and a great place to restock, clean up and get ready for the remainder of the trail. 

Not to miss is Dick Macks Pub which is a serious Whiskey bar and extremely knowledgable bartenders. For music just pop your head in any pub and you will find Ireland’s version of Nashville with hundreds of talented musicians on every corner. A stand out is Courthouse Pub. A sliver of a pub with an impossibly low ceiling, friendly staff and my favorite music in Dingle. 

Dick Macks Pub

Sunset over Dingle Harbor 

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Day 2 Dingle Way/ Kerry Camino- Camp to Inch Strand

9/10/16 Sunday was an unexpected  restless night after a wonderful light dinner of fresh shrimp and salad followed by the immensely entertaining evening at Railway Pub owned by a long bearded Irishman named Mike. Each  Sunday the locals gather to play their instruments and sing. So lucky to be welcomed by the large gathering of locals. Mike hospitality included a drive back to the B&B. I was tuckered out any 10pm. I think it was the combination of Guinness, Whiskey and the local boys that wanted to twirl me ever so un-gracefully across the miniature dance floor that did me in!

9/12/16 Valerie the host of the Lurraga House B&B prepared a full Irish breakfast. You cannot imagine the size of such a breakfast! I’d like to tell you I could not finish my plate of egg, sausage, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms & brown bread but sadly I report to you that I cleaned my plate. Valerie is a kind and generous host with bright sunny rooms with very comfortable beds

After Breakfast a short walk to Inch Strand.  7 miles following a track through sheep country, a little mud and some steady hill climbing. ☘the views could not be more tranquil and I felt my life at home slipping away. What seemed so monumentally important a few days ago now seemed silly in retrospect. I had found my way once again to the land of peace as I enjoyed the steady climb, the impossibly green country side and the sheep looking at me seeming to wonder why I was in their territory.

In all too short of time I found myself making my way down a steep incline that was more of a little creek of running water than an actual trail to Inch Strand Beach.

If the countryside was peaceful the sound of waves breaking  at Inch Beach sure lit up my heart and my day. I think if you’re  born to be near water there is no greater joy than standing at the shore being lulled by the waves.

Next was the check into the Strand Beach Hostel a very clean and friendly place with small dorm rooms or private rooms. Serves a free large continental breakfast or for 5€ a full English breakfast. Across the street is a bar and restaurant with a fine selection of Whiskey, good food and friendly service.

Another great day on the trail.

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Day 1 of Dingle Way/Kerry Camino. Tralee to Camp

Saturday night in Tralee. A lovely small city that is the county seat of Kerry. Arrived by train with a short walk to Castle  Hostel which turns out to be more of a B&B. Private quiet room with private bath. A fast visit to St. James ,  scouted out the start of the hiking trail and found the Kerry Camino with the icon of all Camino trails,the scallop shell.
Felt a bit a nostalgia looking at the path sign outlining the 3 day Kerry Camino. Daydreaming of my past adventures while the excitement grew for this one. By the way Dingle Way shares the same path as Kerry Camino. A true 2 for 1 deal which will allow me to add another Camino route to my list 🙂

Back to the first day of my hike. Sunday 9/11/16: Overslept, late start and epic wind/rain along the trail. Whew, the Irish weather living up to its reputation! Fortunately found recovery at the end of the day in a sliver of a pub in Camp which was built by the bartenders great  grandfather. 

 Then off to find  Lurraga House B&B ran by a kind and welcoming owner Valerie. A small nap, shower, threw on a scarf to dress up my hiking clothes and   I was ready for my evening at the pub! Sunday night at the Railroad Pub the locals gather to play their instruments and sing.The pub was right out of an Irish small independent film. The characters embracing our visions of rural Ireland by their welcoming hospitality, music, song, and dance. Even had a stumbling turn on the dance floor myself. Mike the owner busy working behind the bar took the time to drive us back to the B&B. The traditional music and singing has been the highlight of the trip so far!

I could not ask for a better first day, just cannot keep from smiling. 

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