My name is Alan John Francis. I’m 54 and live in Stafford, England with my wife, 2 children and 4 dogs. On the 3rd January 2017, I signed up to Country Walking magazine’s challenge to walk 1000 miles in a year. I think my wife thought I was mad, but by the end of February I had already walked 240.9 miles and had visions of completing the challenge within 6 months, which I did on 30th June. It is now November and I am currently on track to finish the year with 2000 miles under my belt, or should that be feet.

For the past 18 years I had worked in IT for a software house, starting as a support analyst before moving to software development and finishing up as a team leader supporting a project manager. I had been unhappy at work for a couple of years and every day just seemed like turning the handle on yet another project with little or no satisfaction. Earlier this year, after a somewhat gruelling project I confided in my wife and after discussing with family and a few close friends, decided to pack in all in and retire. A couple of months earlier I heard of some fellow walkers walking the Camino de Santiago and decided to read about it. It was not long after this that I was hooked and knew it was something I just had to do; something was calling me to walk 500 miles across the northern edge of Spain and to this day, I still don’t know what the trigger was, I just knew I had to go. It was not the first time I had heard of the Camino as my father (also called Alan Francis, but with no middle name) cycled the route with his brother after he retired several years earlier.

Perhaps the Camino was the the ingredient I needed, a catalyst if you will, that helped me make up my mind to retire – who knows. Whether or not I have actually retired, whether I am taking a year out or if this is a turning point in my life and I will come back to do something completely different remains to be seen. I just know that the Camino will be good for me.