When Fran found her old hiking boots stuffed in the back of her cupboard, she realised how much she missed her outdoor life. As a mum of four kids, she'd been really busy! So she made some changes. Big changes! And right now she’s on her most epic adventure yet. A busy family life doesn’t leave much time for hiking and adventures. At least that’s what Fran had thought. But from the minute she pulled on her old boots she realised exactly what she needed to do. She was over all the craziness of city life anyway, so she was going get out into nature and spend more time doing what she loved. Fran didn’t realise at the time, but that simple decision set her life on a new path. At the start, it was just Fran out on her own adventures. But pretty soon the whole family would be off hiking and camping every available weekend and school holidays, having a ball! Eventually, after some serious soul-searching, Fran and her husband decided to trade a bunch of worldly possessions for six one-way tickets to Europe and a campervan! After months of travel adventures together, the family eventually settled down in the Netherlands where they live today. We say ‘settled down’, but it can be hard to swap that lifestyle for the routine of normal day-to-day life. And why would you want to do that anyway? Fran certainly didn’t! If anything she was more determined than ever to keep that sense of adventure alive. And so she started planning her biggest challenge yet: a 30-day hike of the Camino de Santiago. In a school dress! And that's where she is right now. Her journey, on a trail (coincidentally) known as The Camino Francés (or 'French Way'), started from the French medieval town of St Jean-Pied-du-Port and will take her through 769 km of gorgeous countryside, villages, and towns of northern Spain, to Santiago de Compostella. And she's approaching the halfway mark of her journey, her most recent stop was in Calzadilla de la Cueza, Spain. But it won’t be just a long, hard trek. As Fran covers the blister-inducing month of 20 to 30 km a-day walks, she’ll also be raising money for One Girl, to fund our girl-focused education projects in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
"I think all the time about my four children and the world they will grow up into. I really want it to be a better place, so this walk is something I can do right now to help the girls that One Girl supports in Africa," she says.Fran originally wanted to raise enough to educate 10 girls, but even before she left home she'd passed that goal. So she's upped her target to $7,690 - $10 for each kilometer she's trekking! She’s been blown away by the support she's been getting. Right now she's just smashed the $5700 mark, which is enough to educate 19 girls! Fran says: "The generosity and kindness of people have been overwhelming. Not only in fundraising but also support – that’s huge. None of us can get by without support. It’s nice to have a tribe of people who have time to be kind." Fran first learned about One Girl’s work when she and her daughter Zoe heard Morgan Koegel, our previous CEO, speaking at the Women’s Adventure Expo in Sydney. As Morgan described the stark contrast between the lives of girls who have access to education and those who don’t, she challenged her audience: "When something feels wrong in your gut – do something about it!" That message really resonated with Zoe and Fran. Over a crazy two-weeks, just before the family headed off to Europe, Zoe and a group of friends raised enough money for One Girl to educate 8 girls for a year! Fran was so inspired by what they achieved that she became a One Girl Ambassador. And now she's actually doing it. Right now. Putting her passion for girls’ education into action. Doing a walk like this a huge undertaking. But whenever she's felt any self-doubt creeping in she's stayed focused on why this hike is so important to her. “This is quite an undertaking I have set myself. I am excited because it feels right to combine my love of hiking, travel and adventure with giving. My daydreams and life are entwined right now," she says. For more than 1000 years people have been walking the Camino - not just for the physical challenge but quite often as a journey of the soul as well. You can’t walk all those kilometres without it having a profound impact on you - which, of course, is why it's so many people do it in the first place. And Fran is really excited about that part of her adventure.
"I will end up changed, fitter and along the way, I’ll see amazing sights and make memories and friends that I’ll treasure - [all] while helping a great cause."Fran's been posting regular updates to family, friends and all the people who have supported her, so if you’d like to follow her journey, check out her blog: www.slowerfamilytravels.com