On the coast just to the East of Santiago de Compostela I crossed some dunes on a long wooden boardwalk and found Carnota Beach stretching out lazily in the sun. It was unlike any other beach I had visited and a day there felt like a day spent in Heaven. The curved beach was wide and flat, with perfect, uninterrupted sand as soft as a bedspread. The crystal sea which gently licked the edge called to me and was tepid as I waded in. But it was the light which had the most memorable and mesmeric effect, because it seemed diffused between sea, sand, sky and air as if they were melded together in an other-worldly mistiness.    I did not know it at the time but Carnota Beach is considered to be the finest beach in Galicia, and once voted by some travel writers as the second best in the World.  For some unknown reason the sea is always a few degrees warmer than other beaches in the area, so maybe I did find a magical Paradise after all.


Looking back I am now beginning to understand more about the new sense of calm and peace that I was experiencing on this Journey. It was not just the lack of responsibility that freed my spirit so, but the lack of the material.

Now I appreciate the freedom that backpackers must feel with their only possessions tortoised on their backs. And hermits and monks with even less to weigh them down. It is a lightness of being.

Those backpackers would laugh, but for me I was travelling light. I had brought a case of well-chosen clothes that I washed and wore again and again and a functional toilet bag stocked with miniatures. I had a small stock of kitchen, cooking and bedding items.  Compared to my usual lifestyle I was carrying very little around and, it seemed, within me.


I remember emigrating to France with my family and coping with just the contents of our suitcases and a box which we called our life raft. Our removal van was due to follow us a few weeks later but a fuel strike paralysed the country and it was stranded for an age. I thought those possessions were essential but when that van pulled into the drive of our new home my heart fell unexpectedly and looking at the packing cases I felt weighed down like lead on the end of a fishing line.

I believe it was being less burdened by “stuff” on my Journey that freed me to experience a different me, one who could slow down, watch nature, observe colours, shapes, movement and light differently. Unfettered, my creativity was set loose and I preferred to spend my leisure time reading, writing, photographing and even sketching a little.

Spiritual teachers inform us that the well of most of mankind’s unhappiness is sourced by attachment to possessions, be they objects, valuables, or even people or status. We believe it is these possessions which give us our identity and the loss of them, even the fear of their loss, sends us into crisis. If, and it is a big if, we can liberate ourselves from this acquisitiveness we can operate on a more content and tranquil spiritual plane. We can be, as it were, self-possessed.

Psychologists say that possessions reaching unmanageable levels, cluttering our environment, can lead to us feeling overwhelmed, disorganised and even depressed. One descriptive image is of an invisible, emotional thread attaching us to each possession so that we walk through life dragging all these numerous threads and their loads behind us as if wading through treacle.

In her book “The Age of Miracles”, which celebrates the unexpected rewards of aging, Marianne Williamson says: “To the ego, simplification means having less; to the spirit simplification means having more. Wherever there is an overabundance of material substance, the experience of spirit is limited. Whether it’s decluttering your house or dropping dysfunctional relationships, anything you can do to prune away excess material involvement leaves the soul more free to fly up to its natural state.”


This has relevance for the aging process. She continues, “Age involves a lot of letting go – some of our physical prowess perhaps, or certain worldly opportunities, or our children to live their own lives. Yet such letting go isn’t meant to constitute a depressing sacrifice of happiness. Anytime we are called to let go of something, there is a hidden treasure to be found in the experience. No birthing of anything new can occur without a dying of the old.” One of the things we often let go as we age is speed, but in going slower through life we can go deeper, we can become more contemplative and “rev up psychically”, thus progress to the “highest, most creative work”, that of “consciousness”.

Carnota Beach is a symbol to me of the joy of being light. If life is a beach let it be as sparsely populated as possible. We do well to take to it only the barest of essentials as we enjoy our time there.


  – + –

3 Responses to “TRAVELLING LIGHT”
  1. Sonia says:

    This is one of my favourite posts to date. Perhaps it’s the reference to Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ – a book I treasure and love. Like you, I need these journeys, these physical reminders of lightness and why it matters, why it is the only truly essential thing. Thank you for the sobering, timely reminder of how less is more. And here is a poem about exactly that:

    That Will to Divest

    Action creates
    a taste
    for itself.
    Meaning: once
    you’ve swept
    the shelves
    of spoons
    and plates
    you kept
    for guests,
    it gets harder
    not to also
    simplify the larder,
    not to dismiss
    rooms, not to
    divest yourself
    of all the chairs
    but one, not
    to test what
    singleness can bear,
    once you’ve begun.

    – Kay Ryan

    Thanks a million. Sonia x

  2. Pamela says:

    I really enjoyed that one. It is just what I need. My dream is to be with very little and live simply.

  3. Joan says:

    This blog is quite poetic, well done, I did so very much enjoy reading your comments. Joan

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