600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

6 months to cross the chasm

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Tuesday, April 15, 2008
6 months. It has been six months since I completed Camino Frances, my journey of 600km across Northern Spain. I held my blog in suspension with too many words to say, but no courage to cast them in stone.

My real life consisted of patterns I wanted to shed away, habits that became obstacles, and excuses for not doing what I really wanted to do.

I began on a journey and I am no longer at the same place as I was before. Even though I did come back to the place I started. The pilgrimage I went on gave me ideas. With these ideas, my mind was stretched to encompass greater possibilities, which I had erased or buried over the years.

The last 6 months was the time I had taken to cross my own chasm, within. I decided to leave behind my old pattern, to seek to recreate a new one. Sometimes, we need to purge out old toxics that accumulate over time, pare ourselves down to the bare basics, to start anew. Too often, we let our lives drift on by, without knowing what we have unconsciously allowed to happen.

Change is not easy, no matter how many times one has been through it. So many times, I question myself what it is I want to change. Is it that important to change? What do I have to risk to make this change? I find myself struggling within fighting internal battles between my rational mind and my heart. I find myself seeking consolation in friends’ advice, and fighting them at the same time. I find myself living in two worlds, the ‘real’ one that existed outside of me, and the ‘surreal’ one that existed within me. Both are parts of me. Hence, which should I disown? Or could I?

I decided to be still and let time and its quiet nights guide me. Amongst some sleepless nights, someone told me her mother’s great advice. The right decision is the one you can sleep in peace with.

On January 1st, 2008, I decided it was time for me to leave Singapore. It has now been seven years since I returned to Singapore from the US. I feel the urge to leave now and expand my life more. It needs more light, scope and space. Like a seed that needs the right soil to grow well, I need an environment that supports my growth in other ways.

I have also left my full-time job in Singapore and chose to be open to any opportunities that come my way. My kind employer and teammates have been really kind to leave options open for me, supporting me in more ways I can imagine. This choice is perhaps one of the hardest I had to make, leaving behind the team and the work I had grown with over the last four fruitful years. I had to leave financial security behind, trading for freedom and its flipside, uncertainty. But a wise friend’s words stayed with me throughout this time and I carved them onto my heart.

“In many ways, financial security is a myth. True security comes from knowing you can deal with any situation that comes to you.” When I learned the meaning of these words, I then realized that I have only just begun to appreciate the lessons I learnt on the camino.

Camino Frances ended, but the spirit of the camino continues to live within me. Life feels great with its endless possibilities. I realize now, after all the internal struggle, that this feeling of freedom is priceless. I may end up paying more than I anticipate. But for now, nothing can take away this present moment I feel, with no longing of the past, and no fear of the future.

2 Response to '6 months to cross the chasm'

  1. Anonymous Said,'> 2 September 2008 at 01:44

    Read your inspirational article in Straits Times today. I'll like to contact you for more information because I too want to make this prilgrimage. I first read about it in Paulo Cuelho book. Michael.


  2. ks Said,'> 2 September 2008 at 23:31

    Hi Denise,

    Above comments (I assume by Michael Lum) took all the words off my mouth. Just like him, I am inspired by your article and am thinking of walking the path. Keep me in touch too --> Thanks.


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