Adult Journeys: A Reflection on Southern France
I have known about Wonder Voyage for years and knew the organization offered adult journeys where individuals could join group pilgrimages and other travel adventures either alone, as a couple, with friends, or with strangers. I am a busy wife and mother with two jobs, so I have plenty of excuses to not travel in this season of life; yet I recently joined a small motley crew of nine men and women, most of whom I had never met, on a beautiful journey to Southern France. This was the trip that we thought would never come to fruition after four Covid-related reschedules. The trip was deeply meaningful, and I want to share a few highlights.
I thoroughly enjoyed our unique accommodations. We stayed in two different abbeys; one abbey was a chateau built in the 16th century cared for by local, Redemptorist nuns in traditional habits, and one abbey was a new, modern retreat center managed by nuns from different orders throughout the world. These devoted Sisters hosted us in clean, simple rooms and served thoughtfully prepared meals. One bane of my routine parenting responsibilities is figuring out meals while hearing complaints and comments from my offspring about said meals. It was a luxury to not think about grocery stores, cooking, and cleaning, and it allowed our group to leisurely relax around the table multiple times a day.
I loved the spontaneity and flexibility of the trip. We had a loose itinerary and a seasoned guide who adjusted plans to fit our group’s needs. Because we weren’t relegated to a giant bus, our vehicle allowed us to wind through small roads and villages that infrequently see tourists. One of our members had limited walking capabilities, and we pivoted our tour of Toulouse from walking to riding a small train around the city center, which was not only historically rich but also silly fun. The walking guide that was scheduled to show us around Bordeaux canceled and we ended up on a wine cruise along the Garonne River. For every change in plans, it seemed an equal or better solution popped up.
I appreciated the challenges of the trip as well. We were stretched beyond our usual comfort zones, trying unusual foods, sleeping in different beds, and traveling alongside new friends. One day, the seven women of our group walked for nearly 14 km along the Camino de Santiago, or in French, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. It was unseasonably hot and we may have made a wrong turn or two, yet I would not have changed a moment of it. The conversation was deep, strong, and intentional. We learned about one another and built each other up. As we took physical steps, we planned and dreamed about figurative steps we each envision taking in our respective futures. The natural beauty was breathtaking, including fields of sunflowers and lavender, abundant fruit trees, and the occasional farm animal or wandering dog. We took a break in a corn field, eating fresh baguettes with prosciutto and camembert, relishing in a newfound sisterhood.
On our last day of the trip, we ate at a luxurious ocean view restaurant, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean while dining on oysters and Pommes Frites, sipping espressos. We hiked up to the tallest sand dune in Western Europe (and by hiked, I mean some hiked and some, namely me, ate ice cream at the base of the dune). We ended the evening with a time of reflection, alternating between laughter and tears.
I would travel with strangers again. I would visit a new country again. I would put my trust in a mystery itinerary again. The way these pilgrimages are curated brings out the commonality we share as humans and as spiritual beings. Taking a week to explore and refresh was everything I didn’t know I needed, and I am filled with gratitude.
Kristy has been a supporter of Wonder Voyage since 2003 and is married to Jason, one of the WV guides and webmaster. Her favorite travel adventures so far have been her recent trip to Southern France, her honeymoon in Bora Bora and a "Middle Earth" tour in New Zealand.
You are such a talented writer! Hope you do some more WV trips & share them !!
Thanks for the kind words, Debra! This trip definitely lit up my desire to travel again!