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I'm spending all of 2012 learning and experiencing new things. This blog is my way of documenting it all, while keeping my family and friends back in the states in the loop. Here's to 2012. Check out my website- Kat Carney Photography

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's easy to get lost when you're finding your way

I started my journey on the Camino Ingles (English Way) alone.  I honestly don’t know what I expected. I guess I thought I would walk the entire 120 kilometers by myself, thinking about life and taking pictures. But in reality I spent about 2 hours of the Camino alone before I met a group of four people from Andalusia. I asked them where they were from and we walked together for the next 110 kilometers or so. None of them speak English although they had a lot of fun trying, and I was able to practice my Spanish a lot. It is a great feeling being able to make friends in a language that is not your own. It makes me so happy every time I do, because I know that if I would not have put forth the effort to learn their language we never would have become friends. And we certainly became friends. We struggled through blisters and exhaustion together. We laughed a lot. We saw a lot of northern Spanish countryside on foot. And we generally enjoyed each other’s company. One of the stereotypes of people from Andalusia is that they are always happy and singing. I have to say that this is mostly true. I don’t think I could have spent my five days on the Camino with a better group of people.

The Camino Ingles is one of the Caminos de Santiago that pilgrims from all over the world take every year. They journey on foot from France, Portugal, and all over Spain to their final destination- the holy city of Santiago de Compestela. A lot of people make the journey for religious purposes. For them it is a spiritual journey. Although I consider myself a spiritual person, I have to admit, for me, I thought of it as more of a physical challenge. It turned out to be spiritual though. I learned a lot about Spain, a lot about myself, and a lot about the kindness of strangers.

The Camino Ingles is the typical journey that pilgrims from the UK, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries used to make when they landed at the port in Ferrol in the north of Spain. From Ferrol the journey is 120 kilometers through beautiful northern Spain.

I started in Ferrol alone and got lost before I had even left the city. A jogger ran by and yelled, “Peregrino, para ya, para ya!” Which means “Pilgrim, to the right!” I don’t know why but a lot of times instead of using “de recha” and “izquierda” (the words for “right” and “left”) they often say “para ya” and “para ca”. It seems a little crazy to do the Camino alone in a foreign country, but I have enough confidence in my Spanish now to get by with only minor difficulties. A lot of the frustration of not being able to communicate is now gone.

I met my Andalusian friends just outside of Ferrol. I was planning on staying in the albergue (backpacker’s hut) in Neda but we arrived there early and my friends offered to call and see if there was an extra room in the hostel where they were staying for the night. There was a room so I kept walking with them. When we got to Fene (18 km) we had a delicious dinner and did some sightseeing before going to bed.

The next day it rained on us almost the entire way from Fene to Betanzos (28 km). Luckily we all had ponchos. My new friends were two couples- Fernando and Loreto, and Tamara and Pedro. Loreto and I started getting blisters first because we were both hiking in new shoes. She taught me to puncture and lace them with a sewing needle so they didn’t keep filling up, and also how to clean them properly. That day there was a huge city party in Betanzos and we went out to look around. It was a beautiful city situated in a valley and it was buzzing with people.

Day three from Betanzos to Bruma (29 km) was basically a blur of pain, but I remember some beautiful sights as well. My feet were bleeding and oozing puss and I was overjoyed when we made it to the alburgue in Bruma. Bruma is home to about 40 people and there is not a store in all of the little village. We were the first backpackers of the day to make it to the albergue and the caretaker talked our ears off. Luckily we were able to order food from a nearby town and they delivered it to us for both lunch and dinner. That night we sat around the table, compared blisters, and chatted with all the other backpackers about the journey. I was the only English speaker, but they all thought I spoke Spanish really well. I still feel like I don’t speak it well, but I am overjoyed that people can understand me and I can understand them.

After Bruma we trekked to Siguiero (27 km). We had dinner and laughed a lot, bought more bandaids, and then prepared for our final stretch of the journey the next day. At this point my feet felt like death. So I constructed makeshift cushions from sponges and taped them to my feet the next morning. My feet felt better for about 6 km and then began to ache tremendously again. But it didn’t matter because we were almost there. We waltzed into Santiago at 11 a.m., went to Mass and received our Compestelas. I had one last dinner with my new friends before I caught the train up to A Coruña.

It was such a memorable and wonderful experience and even though there was pain, I got lost, and I had no idea what to expect, everything worked out for the best. It’s a strange parallel to life when you think about it. Sometimes you have to start the journey alone, knowing nothing and no one. When you take that step into the dark you can’t think about the what ifs and the maybes. There will be pain. There will be joy. There will be laughter and friends. Take the step. It will all be worth it.

In other news... The boyfriend made it to London and is now training with team U.S.A. in Birmingham. He throws the 8th and 11th of August! CHEER LOUD AND PROUD! USA USA USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I go to Scotland in a week and then London on the 6th of August. Back to the states the 15th!
My friend Laia from Barcelona in A Coruña.
A Coruña at night.
Images from the trail. Mis cuatro amigos!
Pedro and Tamara

The beach I wake up to every morning in A Coruña. I left the Mediterranean for the equally awesome Atlantic Coast of northern Spain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Awesome things

Holy crap my boyfriend is going to the Olympics! His name is Craig Kinsley and he qualified at the trials this week. I hope everyone I know will watch and cheer like crazy with American Flag painted faces on August 8th and 11th when he throws. I am so pumped for him. I was following the results here in Spain from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and when I found out he was going to London I did a couple silent punching jump kicks in my room, so as to celebrate but not wake anyone up. I'm going to London too, and it will be the first time I will see him in about 8 months. Needless to say I can not flippin wait!

I have a few days left in southern Spain. Then I head to northern Spain for three weeks and Scotland for two weeks, before arriving in London. To be honest I can't wait to leave Murcia because it is about a trillion degrees here everyday now. And I feel like once I get on the road time will fly by and it will be super fun too. I have a problem where I really hate routines and I would say I am thoroughly in a routine here now. It's about time to break it and shake things up a bit.

I have so many pictures I haven't even looked at yet. I might be editing for years after the next few months of my life.
Hiking in Aguilas 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To: A younger me

I have this vivid memory of walking through the doors into the sunshine on the last day of school when I was in 6th grade. "I don't want to be a 'sevie'," I said. I linked arms with my best friends at the time and we crossed the threshold into the summer before our seventh grade year together. There are so many things I would say to that little girl now that I am a quarter century young.

I would say that she needs to stop wishing she had brown hair like everyone else. Your red hair is beautiful and different and when you are 25 you will be unbelievably thankful that you have never had to color your hair a day in your life. It's fierce and awesome all on its own. And the boys sure don't seem to mind now.

Your parents are right, the braces will be worth it.

The boys you have a crush on now will gain 25 pounds in college due to excessive drinking and you will wonder how on earth you ever found them remotely attractive. When you're 25 you will have a ridiculously handsome 6'2, 200 pound ball of muscle for a boyfriend. He's smart and nice and stuff too ;).

Pay attention when learning the metric system because your boyfriend is a professional javelin thrower and speaks in meters and kilograms. Learn to convert.

Also, one day you will be cliff jumping into the beautiful Mediterranean Sea when your Spanish friend asks how many meters the jump was, and how many meters deep the water is. You swim to the bottom and you think it is about 20 feet deep and the jump is about the same. But it takes you at least 5 minutes to convert that into saying just over 6 meters- in Spanish.


Sometimes the people you love most in life hurt you. It's best to forgive and keep stepping forward. You are not perfect and neither are they. All hurt eventually fades with time, don't hold on to it longer than necessary. Also, some people just aren't meant to be in your life. Let them go with grace, harbor no ill feelings, and remember them with fondness.

The above being said, sometimes guys suck at life. They say one thing and do another. Don't sweat it, when you meet a good one (and you will- summer 2008) all the bad ones of the past fade away quickly. Luckily I don't need to teach you a lesson in self-respect. You got that covered!

The friends that are meant to be in your life will be there, through everything. Even when you don't see or talk to them for months on end because you moved to New York, or Arizona, or Alaska, or Colorado, or Spain... When you get back things will just pick up right where they left off with these friends.

Listen to your coaches. Drop the attitude and always play like it's your last day on the court. One day it will be, and you'll be surprised to learn where that is. Volleyball will always be your first love.

Which reminds me, skip the first practice of your sophomore year of high school (torn ACL #1). And during the Dowling game (game 2, score 21-13) your senior year of college don't go up to hit a beautiful set that Heather throws your way (torn ACL #2). The one right after you block the Polish girl like you're building a house and she hit the roof. Audrey screams, "that just happened!" in your face right after. Yea, the next set, don't hit it. Just fall over or something.

Freshman year of college, don't go anywhere there is a lake in the middle of a road.

Life gets so much better after high school. Like better beyond your wildest dreams. You will be thankful that all the things you wished for from 7th grade to high school never came true. You'll be thankful for the failed and successful relationships, all the hard work your parents made you do, all the time you spent working out or on a volleyball court somewhere, and all the time you spent learning about cameras and taking hundreds of thousands of photos.

Live your life with passion. Everyday is an adventure.

Blue and Orange. Normally this little pool is crystal clear and great for diving, but this day it was orange. It seemed to be from rain run off coming down from the red rocks and bringing the color of the rock with it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The long in short

Many things have happened since I last wrote, but I will keep it simple and tell you the basics-

- My boyfriend is a total BAMF and threw (javelin) the Olympic A Standard in Chicago over the weekend. He PRed by 4 meters with his throw of 82.31 and is currently second in the U.S. to a guy who threw barely further just minutes before his throw. The two furthest throws in the U.S. in about three years. He throws for a spot on Team USA next week. Check out his website to send him a comment or message of encouragement. USA!USA!USA! He's the best :).

- I bought a plane ticket to Scotland- in Spanish. I bought it in Spanish because I realized that was easier than figuring out how to change the language setting. I will arrive in Scotland on the evening of July 24th.

- This weekend I went to La Manga with the family I live with because they have friends with a boat there. La Manga is this really thin strip of land between the Mar Menor and the Mar Mediterraneo. You can walk from one body of water to the other in literally 2 minutes. The Mediterranean beaches there are world class, and while the Mar Menor is a really cool experience but it should be called El Mar de Medusas Millones (The Sea of a Million Jellyfish). I had never seen a jellyfish in my life before this, but I saw enough to fill a lifetime in one day. Everyone I was with got stung at least once, but I somehow managed to escape this fate. Even though I went diving with goggles and my underwater camera and was absolutely surrounded by them. It was insane.

- This week I am teaching 5 volleyball classes at a school here- in Spanish. Lord help me. I forgot how to say thumb (pulgar) several times yesterday, but the kids helped me out. It was fun.

- I take my tests this week to determine my Spanish level! Wish me luck.

- I head north in 2.5 weeks to spend the rest of my time in Spain on the north coast, in La Coruña. I am going to do the English Way of the Camino de Santiago at some point.

The next three months look like this for me- Southern Spain, Northern Spain, Scotland, London, Wales, Ireland, New York, Connecticut, Newport, Boston, (New Hampshire Vermont Maine Canada New Foundland Nova Scotia- yet to be planned), East Coast road trip, final destination for a little while- Florida Keys. Whoa, how am I ever going to edit all these photos and video?

An old one from Semana Santa, but I love it because that old guy's name is Hermano Gaspar and he is one of my favorite people here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Blues, beach, boyfriend

I went to a Yemen Blues concert in a Plaza in Murcia the other day. It was incredible. The band is a mixture of people from Israel, the USA, Finland, and Morocco. Their music can be described as "mesmerizing and earthy sounds of West African stringed guimbri, and rocking Middle Eastern rhythms, all coursing together in a raucous party of a stage show. With Kalahani’s soulful vocals alternating between the grit of the Mississippi Delta to the falsetto of Prince-style funk."

It was incredible and my friends and I had a great time. What an insane cultural experience. In a Spanish square with everyone around me speaking Spanish, listening to this eclectic and really freaking good band sing in Arabic. Just before the concert we went to an African dance and music show held at a museum. One of the dancers spun for over 10 minutes while throwing about colorful skirts and fabric. He looked like a human top. Me cuesta mucho describir esto porque es algo que necesitas para ver, y lo que digo no se compara.

I have been going to a different beach almost every weekend. I love the waters of the Mediterranean. They are a color that is unlike anything I had ever seen before. Everyone needs to see it and experience some sort of Mediterranean culture at least once in their lives. Could I live in this culture forever? Absolutely not- they are far too impractical for me. My dad would go insane here...haha! But I love it all the same, and I can appreciate and enjoy it. Every single week (if not every single day) I think to myself what an amazing experience this is, and has been, and will be.

Those of you who know me well know I have an awesome boyfriend. A lot of you probably know him too. Craig is really good at throwing a spear, and is currently throwing his way to London 2012. Read about his season here. Read his updates here. And go donate to his sponsor, USA Athletic Trust, here. He is an incredible athlete and person and I hope you will all cheer him on as he continues his journey towards the Olympic Games in London this summer.

Mediterranean Sea

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I miss Kansas because sometimes, during the Spring, you are in the mood for a good old fashioned, crazy, terrifying lightning storm- most likely with tornadoes involved. Ya know what I mean? Of course you do.

Nothing but boring, old sunshine in Spain. Who am I kidding, I'm not going to complain about sunshine! If that is the most I can complain about, I'd say life is pretty good. Here are some of my Spanish experiences I haven't written about yet...

Semana Santa was like a month ago now, but the amount of photos I have from it is intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that I have only edited one photo from this entire week. I will get around to it eventually. The week consisted of massive processions with men carrying giant religious sculptures and handing out candy. A very interesting sight indeed. But they are literally every day of the week, and honestly if you see one, you see them all. They are all the same, but the men wear different colors everyday, and some days have different themes. Like one day was complete silence. Another is at night, in the dark. All around a cool experience.

Las Fiestas de Primavera were the week following Semana Santa and this week is full of more parties and parades. It's a little like Carnival in Aguilas, with scantily clad woman dancing, drunk people everywhere, and people throwing toys all over the place. Definitely a cool cultural experience. My mind was blown some of the time.

I spent the weekend in La Carrasca en Sierra de las Cabras. It's a mountain town home to exactly 19 people. Far from absolutely everything. The first day I was there I went on a long bike ride through the countryside. I saw one car the whole time. I rode into "town" as well and talked to a couple kids in the street. They were astounded to meet an American with a weird accent. The second day, I was violently ill and I almost threw up on some sheep crossing the road as I took photos of them. The third day I hiked a mountain. Good times.

Volleyball is over now, but there is a beach league this summer. The team ended up third in Spain. I had an amazing time, but I have to say it wasn't the same as playing for my college team. I was more disconnected...and maybe it was the language barrier, maybe it was because I was only there half the season, and maybe it was because I had just met all of these girls and they have known one another for a long time. The president asked me to play for them next year, but I don't think I'm going to. If you would have told me five months ago that I would be turning down this opportunity I would have called you crazy. It's a combination of my knees sucking, me not really connecting, and a few other things. Part of me would love to stay another year, maybe get that connection finally, learn how to speak Spanish perfectly, and generally be entrenched in Spanish life. But I think at this point in my life I would rather start chasing another dream. Maybe it's time to hang up my volleyball shoes and start paying attention to the other things I want to do. I can't express enough how happy I am I did this. If only to know that I could do it. Volleyball has been the love of my life for so long, since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. It was there when boys weren't. It was there when I was angry, happy, sad, and a million other things. It's always been the thing I could do when I didn't want to think about anything. I could forget my problems for the two or three hours of practice a day and think of nothing but playing. That is a great feeling. That focus is incredible. It's not like I'll never play again. I just won't compete indoor at this high of a level. I never said anything about beach ;) I need a partner this winter in Florida.  Who's in?

I went to Bolnuevo beach last weekend with some American friends. I had an amazing time and every Spanish beach I have been to is incredible. The Mediterranean is such a unique and wonderful body of water. I have about a million photos from this weekend I need to edit as well. We went to Mula for a festival the next day and had a great time hanging out with all the locals. I'm pretty sure we were the only foreigners there.

There have been more times than I can count where I stop doing whatever I am doing and think, "Whoa, this is my life. EPIC!" I love those moments. It happens when I'm having a conversation with Spaniards in a tiny town in the middle of Spain called Mula. It happens when I walk through the streets of Murcia ever morning. It happens when I'm swimming through the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, and it happens when I'm riding a bike through a Spanish mountain range and come across sheep on the road. I'm thankful each and every time and I look forward to the rest of my life feeling like that.

Swimming in the Mediterranean 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I miss my mom. I miss my whole family, but you know how sometimes you just really miss your mom? Is 25 too old to feel that way? Ok, but my mom is literally the best mom ever. And she always knows what to say, even if I don't want to hear it. And damn it, she is always right. It's to the point now where if my mom tells me something I know I really need to do what's right and just follow her advice. No more questioning, no more mulling over the problem. Her word is law.

I'm so thankful my parents repeated these phrases when my four brothers and I were growing up- "life isn't fair" and "you can do anything you want to do if you want to do it bad enough" and "do your best and if that's not good enough piss on it."

They didn't shield us from the world, instead they pushed us into it and surrounded us with great people. Life still isn't fair and that is okay because life is awesome. I've found out what it means to want something so bad that I find a way to get it, and to not want something badly enough, so I lose it- both in my personal and professional life. In a few months I'll be starting a new journey towards an old goal. And along the way I've felt as though I've failed many, many, countless times. Failing sucks. It hurts. And it hurts even more when you admit that it was something you really wanted. But that's okay. It means I'm still doing things that fuel my fire. And I'd rather fail 1,000 times than not try at all. But at 1,001 times...well shit, then I'll just piss on it (that's for you Grandpa :)

For a while I felt like I was failing everyday trying to learn and speak Spanish. Now speaking is coming more and more easily, and I understand most conversations. It's kind of true what I'd heard. One day you wake up and the language just doesn't sound and feel all that foreign anymore. It's a good feeling. Now I see people on the streets I know. I stop and have conversations with them. All in Spanish. Learning a language in a foreign country gives a new meaning to the saying "Learn something new everyday." I really feel like I am.

My parents are awesome. My dad is as just awesome as my mom. He is this very practical, straight-to-the-point kind of guy who likes basketball, beer, and barbeque. He is also wildly intelligent. I feel like I could ask him anything random and he would know the answer. He's like a walking encyclopedia. But one of my favorite things about my dad is that he has this ability to make people feel like they matter. And not in the normal way people typically do this. He doesn't hand out compliments. That's not really his thing. In fact, a lot of times he doesn't really say all that much. He has always said that a person's favorite topic of conversation is himself. So my dad listens. He has a presence. The same as my grandpa had. When he talks people listen, and when people talk, he listens. It's such a simple thing, but I think it makes people feel like they matter. The thing I love the most about him is not just that, but it's that it is the same regardless of who he is talking to. It could be a drunk in a bar or a rich businessman. Everyone is equal in his eyes. No one is above or below him. I love that about him. I think my older brother Zach has some of these same traits, but with the social personality of my mom mixed in.

I feel very blessed to not only love my parents, but to like and admire them as well. This is a really long post about my family, but I miss them so I thought I'd write about them. I have a lot to say about my recent adventures in Spain, but that will have to wait until next time.

Spring smells like flowers in Spain, and this reminded me of my mom's roses in the backyard at home.