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

Beyond Boundaries

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I met Richard on the slopes of the Camino. He is my 'compañero de Camino'. When I first saw him, I thought, "Here's a poor old man who is having difficulty with the slopes." It turned out, I found out later, that he had similar thoughts about me, "Here's a poor little girl who is having difficulty walking straight." He introduced himself as a luthier (i.e. guitar-maker) from Quebec. We walked together, tackling the road with the same tempo.

On the road, Richard always joked, "I can't walk too fast, I'm old." He is about 25 years older than I am. And I would retort with "Me too. I am a girl." But, we believe neither of our own stereotypical labels. Just as I don't believe I am disadvantaged in any way as a young woman on the road, he does not believe that his age is a stumbling factor.

Richard is younger at heart than any person I know. He sings his way on the road, makes friends of all ages, and is endeared by everyone who know him. Wherever Richard is, life is a party and adventure. His friends call him "love on two legs". His hair, white as silk, bursts into daylight like a wild flame. Many people start to identify him as 'Einstein' or 'Professor from Back to the Future'. Put together, we look like the incarnation of opposites: young and old, east and west, good and evil, dark and light, yin and the yang. We cannot look more opposite than we do. And yet, we are bound by our passion for life, our trust in God and our search for truth.

Because I went on the Camino for myself, we decided to walk separately. We both wanted to walk alone and not short-change the interior journey it was meant to be. It was perhaps destiny that we crossed paths at least six times. At the last point, I decided to go with the flow and follow the 'arrow'. We decided to continue walking together after Santiago.

Does age matter? This was a question I asked myself ten thousand times. When the question is as personal as this, there was no running away from the truth. Initially, yes - and I was ashamed to feel and admit so. Because Richard and I believe in total honesty, we also talked about it in the most mature and open way. I had to probe why it mattered. Why? Why? Why? And when you probe deep enough, you get to the core of it - the fear. It could be fear of death, fear of losing a loved one, fear of uncertainty, fear of fragility, fear of other's judgement etc. When I got to the bottom of it and name my fear, I realized then that I could let it go, and start to live.

There are young who have already died in their soul, and there are old who are still growing, learning and living life to the fullest. It is the attitude we have in our hearts that matters ultimately, not age. The question I ask is not "how old is he?", but "how well does he love?" Love, not fear, is the answer. It always is. This process of facing and letting go of my fears, I learnt, applies to every part of my life, in everything I do to become who I am.

A friend once said to me one way to find out more about yourself is to know where your boundaries are. I can't help but agree, because it is through knowing what my values, beliefs and limitations are that I learned to define who I am. Without boundaries, we would just melt our identity into another, like a young infatuated couple who does not know where they begin and where they end.

The irony about boundary is that once we know where the line is, our next challenge is to go beyond it. While I believe in knowing our own personal boundary, I believe in a world without boundaries - a world without discrimination of age, money, colour, race, language or religion.

And here's Richard overcoming one of the challenges by me - climbing up a coconut tree.

0 Response to 'Beyond Boundaries'

    Ave Maria - Lourdes, France

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