It's been over 4 years since I started this blog... It’s hard to believe
that so much time has passed. In many ways it feels like only yesterday that I
was sitting on the couch here in my mam's place in Arklow, with my backpack
waiting for me at the front door and a plane ticket to Australia
folded neatly in my hand luggage. It was the 24th of April 2009. I
was heading to Oz for the second time. Even though it wasn’t a first, it was a
huge step; I’d just finished my therapy and I was only newly opening the door
to the outside world, after months of isolation, cleansing, counselling,
refuelling, writing and setting my self free from an addiction that had
controlled me so intensely. As I sat on the couch that day, filled with new
life and ready for adventure, I wondered what name to give the fresh new little
writing place here in cyberspace. A Distance Beyond, came to mind. And it
At that point in time, this blog was like my springboard, I guess. I
literally felt I was about to dive into an outside world with a changed
perception of reality, and I didn’t have a clue what was waiting for me. I didn’t
know if I was strong enough to cope with life, without resorting to old
behaviour in order to stand strong in this world. I was putting myself to the
test, well and truly. But I was following my feelings and they were taking me
away from this particular place where the cleansing, clearing and re-creating
of new ways had started to take place. In many ways I was still so frail and
vulnerable. But I made a promise to myself, to cherish the lessons I'd learned
throughout recovery. I'd taken a vow to never neglect myself and to ONLY look
towards myself for the answers without seeking validation from the surrounding
environment. I knew such an approach would keep me floating freely and
in-tune with my inner guidance.
Looking back now, I can only say that I've had periods of time when I was
diving deeply yet staying safely afloat, happy to just be with my own self.
Balanced and open. On other occasions there was no depth and in my attempt to
dive, I'd hit a wall and feel as if I'd been smacked in the face by life, with
solidity all around me... no floating, no flying, no diving. Simply... stuck. There
are no regrets though, for how certain choices came to plan out. There’s simply
full acceptance of the different levels of awareness I practised, the different places and
cultures I needed to experience, the different people I was destined to meet and
the different lessons I needed to learn.
When passing through Australia, Thailand, India, Ireland, China, India and onwards
to Ireland once again, I can only say that every part was equally amazing. My
journey has been perfect and will continue to be. The perfection is found in the
meaning behind those events. Purpose and meaning have always been brought to my
way in the moment I'd choose to connect with the world here on this particular
blog and NOT to isolate my moments of either immense joy or dazed confusion. (And the size of the world I'd connect with has never been determined by or limited to the
amount of visitors that have hopped onto this blog ;).
When I came up with the name 'A Distance Beyond', I truly was setting the
intention and creating space for that unknown and untouchable destination to
come join me on this journey - even though it may not have always seemed to be
so, on the surface level of life.
How grateful I am, that I've taken to creating in such a manner that the
writing does the title justice.
From this week on however, I'm moving my writing to another place. Things
have changed so much since I first created this diving board 4 years ago and
now, for them to keep on moving and expanding, I'm almost (happily) forced to change
places. The name will change to ‘best
face forward’ and it’s a part of my new site (www.niamhkeoghan.com). I can only hope
that this title too, just like A Distance Beyond, sets the intention for my
writing to be a platform from which I can project my best face forward out into the world, no
matter what the journey may bring. (I guess in this very instant I’m setting
the intention for it to be just that!)
So, I’d like to thank all the visitors who have popped upon this blog over
the past years. And I hope you continue to follow me from my new place. I’ll be
sure to keep sharing my posts on Facebook too. Sending love and light always.
In the evening we sit, and reflect on the journey of just
Everyday has the potential to start off on a high note. In
the same sense, everyday has the potential to start off on a lower one. By being
honest about how we find a balance between the bright and dark, we raise understanding
for the process and this understanding increases our ability to move towards
the light. It also brings home how we ourselves participate consciously in
fuelling either shade of life, and thus that we ourselves have the personal
choice to give fuel to the light, or fuel to the dark.
Moving from dark to light is only real, if it’s experienced
(as with all things in life). Otherwise it remains just a
concept that’s never fully
In just one day, I saw how going from dark to light was made
possible by stepping out of the mind and moving towards other individuals. (Something
I’ve experienced in the past, yet I needed to be reminded of
its importance and its elevating effect.)
We open our eyes in the morning, we don’t really
appreciating the new day and the sunlight, we feel the world is a dark place
with heavy clouds in the mind. Our eyes are closed to our experiences and
the ‘worries of the world’ weigh heavily on our stiff shoulders. It feels
massively out of character, daunting, unfamiliar, and, at the same time, it feels
so sluggish and draining. We can’t ever imagine to feel ‘normal’ again, to feel
naturally on top of the world, invigorated with energy, focus, drive and a
passion to do. In feeling and seeing our clouds, we’re aware of how powerful
our bad thoughts are and how debilitating it can be to fuel them. In the same
sense, we know how powerful our good thoughts are and how liberating and
energizing they can be when we consciously source them.
In a desperate attempt to save the day, with our
clouded perception of the world, we secretly pray, hope, wish, repeat mantra’s
and ask for guidance - from whatever force we believe to be present in our
lives – so we can be led into our lighter and brighter frame of being once
Trying to simply BE at ease with those moments of pressure,
stress and haziness, is the hardest thing. But the emotions that come as a
result of this negativity, are necessary; the emotions hold a meaning… and
their reason for existing are often to remind us to simply BREATHE through life, appreciate our very breath and
let-go of what’s festering. Yet, so agitated the mind is and we push for peace
instead of breathing in to peace. In that pushing, peace will never come. Then we
ask ourselves: ‘How will this haze ever pass?’ All within the space of only
minutes, since waking up to the literal light of day but the figurative
darkness of the mind, we’ve become lethargic and low as a result.
Then it’s time to ‘simply’ let-go of the push for peace, to
relax into our present haze and trust that the wish, hope, prayer, mantra, or
whatever guidance we’ve requested, will be answered.
In the process of letting it go, the daily routines unfold, chores and tasks are seen to; it’s time to open up to world around us (even if it’s not as bright, ‘perfect’,
stimulating or inspiring as one would hope). The requests, prayers, wishes and
hopes we’ve sent out into the universe can only be answered if we open up to
the world around us; only then can we let the outside world in. Even if it’s painful
to be honest, open and present in our daze, even if we feel we’re not worthy to
be seen, to be spoken to, to be connected with, it’s the only way for our
wishes to be granted.
We ask for something so we must place ourselves in a
state of receiving gracefully that which we’ve requested.
Feelings of self-loathe become irrelevant in the grand
scheme of things. Our worries and clouds never ever bring another soul to look
down on us the way we ourselves, in our darkest hours, look down on ourselves.
Opening up is the only way we can witness just how the world outside STILL will
respond to us with kindness, support, love and help – even when we’re at a very
low point, even if we’re not being kind, supportive, loving or helpful towards
Stepping away from withdrawal in those moments of daze and
CONNECTING is the key that turns the lock to the door we temporarily closed… be
it the door to our heart, the door to our inner potential, the door to the
outside opportunities and connections. When those doors are locked, we’re
stuck. There’s no flow, there’s no movement.
The negativity that has arisen
isn’t shifting if we remain in our isolation. The secret of negativity’s
presence is that it NEEDS to be let-go of, otherwise it festers, we feed it, we
‘nourish’ it, and we drag ourselves down in the process. Only by connecting
with the world and the people in this world, can we actually let in all the
goodness we’re in need of, all the goodness that reflects just how good we are.
In that way, the negativity can clear and we learn we’re ‘not so bad’ afterall…
Step by step, the day unfolds and one connection leads to
another and we’re given the opportunities to share our inner worlds with these
understanding and loving souls. We move slowly from dark to light and our
request and wishes are granted, in that very movement. We slowly come to
witness that we, ourselves, aren’t JUST ‘not so bad’. Instead we, ourselves,
are amazing. Just as amazing as the people are who we’ve opened up to, the
people who support us, the people who never turn away, the people who don’t
judge us in the same manner as we judge ourselves.
Isn’t it amazing how we can find love for ourselves, on days
when we can’t EVER imagine we’ll love ourselves again, not nearly as unconditionally
as we do on our ‘naturally high flying days’…
What a lesson, after simply one day of reflection.
I’ve truly learned how the power of connecting gets us into
the flow of life. And it’s a wonderful life… to say the VERY least.
Being in Ireland again – something I was hardly able to
foresee, think about or contemplate when I was walking the Camino – has gently
eased (or subtly forced) me back into a slower pace of life. It’s been quite a shock to the system to suddenly not be
moving so constantly.
Physically, the walking itself as well as slowing down and
stepping away from it, have done me the world of good. I notice how my stamina
has increased, how much more grounded and strong I feel when I’m out walking (I’ve
even started jogging again, after YEARS of thinking it was bad for me… The
Camino experience has made me realize how good it feels to do strenuous
exercise, pushing the physical boundaries a little). Mentally, slowing down, has been tough. I’ve had a few days when my head has been
screaming at me to get moving again. There’s been panic when I’d realize a move
isn’t literally happening at this very instant. Of course, frustration follows
suit. Mental turmoil, if we can’t find our centre, will lead to emotional
earthquakes and inner explosions…
Needless to say, as the hills I’ve walked, go up and down, I
too have been taking that same course since stepping away from the Camino.
I never realized when I was walking just how much was being
mentally sparked-off. A certain old way of perceiving life: going, going, going…
without daring to STOP and witness the journey. Literally, when I was walking,
I recall having stretches of let’s say 20 or 30km where I experienced EXACTLY
that! I’d be walking so intensely, the mind would be racing, the legs would be
on auto-pilot, I’d be dealing with whatever ache or pain that would show up on
the body, I’d be fixated on finding the yellow arrows (which would guide me to
that days destination), I’d be concerned about eating enough and finding the
next meal and often fail to actually STOP in my tracks. The faster the mind
goes, the harder it is to slow it down. And my mind hardly stopped, throughout
the whole experience – whether I was moving to the next place throughout the
mornings and early afternoons or lying down and refuelling in the evenings and
nights. The speedy took over… and many times I felt I was walking away
If we never manage to slow down the constantly racing
thoughts, of course stress and pressure accumulates. And for me it triggered my
old need to RACE through life without consciously taking space to breathe.
When walking any camino it’s necessary to have a certain amount
of stress. But it’s positive stress we need; this is what activates us to do
certain things. It’s probably better to call this an energy that awakens due to
being inspired and passionate to do something. Without it we’d become passive
and lack the drive to actually get up and going. A person can’t pursue something
that pushes the boundaries (on whatever level) without having a certain amount
of positive stress produced by a drive and passion to pursue (and hopefully
succeed at) something that’s so challenging. However, when that energy shifts and
is no longer sourced from a deeper space of inspiration, it becomes something
sourced from a superficial place – a place that’s never satisfied, that’s
clouded, blind and only wishing to achieve for the sake of face, regardless of
what the feelings are telling us to do – then the stress becomes a negative
form and a person starts losing themselves in what they’re doing.
There’s a fine line between positive focus and negative
force. The first we can sustain, the latter we can’t. The first empowers, the
latter drains. Positive focus enables us to enjoy what we’re doing. It permits
us to feel our limits, to accept those limits and to be real about how we’re
experiencing our experience. Negative force doesn’t care one way or the other;
it will push the individual to do, achieve and reach whatever it’s aiming for,
even if the eyes are closed to the surroundings and the body isn’t
strengthening but only weakening as a result of the challenge.
Looking back, I can see how I had times of positive focus
but also of negative force. And I know that was all part of the learning
experience. I could hardly see any of this – at least not as clearly as I can
see it now – when it was happening. Only by stepping away, I’ve come to see it
as such. And I’m delighted I stopped when I did; I’m certain I gave power my
positive side and NOT my negative side, by doing so.
Now that I’m slowing down and the racing mind is changing
its focus, I sometimes feel I’ve lost something, that I’m falling and there’s nothing
to catch me. But I know this is just an illusion – of course as it always is.
The mind will do its best in convincing us that where we presently are, is the
wrong place and what we’re doing isn’t enough. This is only logical reaction, taking
into consideration the extreme differences in reality that have been encountered;
so close in space and time, yet worlds apart in experience.
So, I’ll sit through this strange period of transition. I
let panic and frustration fly away. I breathe, I breathe and I breathe. I focus
on where I want to head, trusting that it will work out in due time, in
whatever way it’s meant.
From Salamanca I made my way to Madrid on Sunday afternoon (the 28th). I moved from a city of gold to a city of silver. I felt Salamanca as being gold, not only because it was my 'finishing line' but also because the city itself is an accummulation of architecture made up of golden bricks. The sun was shining, making the buildings even more striking. That particular place really made its mark, feeling like a tranquill open air museum, where the people only have oceans of time and next to no worries at all.
The first impressions of Madrid, were silver. Maybe because that was the colour of the sky and the buildings. The clouds had formed - which many will class as being gray. But considering this city as being gray, would take away much of the glow that would otherwise be experienced in this Spanish Capital. So, silver it has to be!
The train journey yesterday brought me back to reality. We travelled at 150km an hour, through the midlands of Spain. We moved across more than 200km in only 2 hours. This is of course normal. I know. But when you've been moving at a 'speed' of 5km per hour, for 3 full weeks, then to suddenly be moving hundreds of kms in the space of a few short hours, it's quite... different, amazing, odd, fast and EFFICIENT! I sat, staring out at the landscape racing passed the windows and realized it would take 7 days to walk - if a walker is moving at 'high speed'. Just goes to show how the perspective of time and distance can change, when a person is solely reliant on their feet to move them forward around this world.
Since finishing the walk on Friday, the temperatures have dropped. In Salamanca the skies were blue, but it was only 2 degrees at 8am on Saturday morning. Listening to the locals, it seemed to have come out of nowhere; only a few days previous it had been hitting 30! When I left Salamanca, I'd hoped Madrid would be a little warmer. But it's just a chilly and the silver clouds hanging above have opened themselves up, making me look at the locals and tourists with envy, seeing how they´re snuggled up in their wintercoats, hats and scarves.
Today, as I walk the unknown streets of Madrid, looking like a person who has just come from the wilderness, I'm wearing every stitch of clothing I've got (which I've been wearing everyday now for almost 4 full weeks) to keep myself warm. I'm feeling very much misplaced and in need of some pampering. Also aches and pains have started surfacing, from the walking. Obviously these are pains I had to suppress these past weeks. And when a person slows down, what needs to surface, will arise. My energy feels lower than it did, now that I've slowed down. But that's a normal effect - nothing some rest and refuelling won't cure.
Everything is happening as it should - as I cool down in Madrid. Everything is only adding to the experience.
As I walk, I'm browsing this life, this city, the locals and their ways. I'm taking in how the tourists stroll, snap pictures and try to figure their way around the maze of this city centre. I contemplate a life here in this silver city, as I've contemplated a life in the golden city of Salamanca, the authentic Sevilla and all the other 20 or 30 places I've roamed through, this past month.
I can only conclude, that it's not really possible to know if I'd be suited to any individual city, town or village here in Spain. Only by doing something, can we know if it suits. Therefore I can't yet know. All I DO know is that Spain is quite a special place. There's a spirit here, that's unique. There's the warm temperament and passion of the native people, together with the language. There's the relaxed attitude and the importance that's placed on social interactions, above everything else in life. These could be reasons for Spain to hold a special place. Or maybe it's simply because I've had my first REAL experience as a 'wanderer with a purpose'...
This is where I've roamed the roads step by step; where I've struggled but grown; where I've felt challenged but still was able to overcome. It's where I've appreciated the uncountable different landscapes I've come to cross paths with and watched the wildnerness change before my eyes with every km I moved.
For sure, this past month has awakened many things. For sure, it's opened my world. For sure, it will move me onwards. Right now, as I sit in an internet cafe in the centre of Madrid, I can't be sure exactly where it will lead. I can't know until I take the next step and distance myself a little.
The next stop will be Dublin. Tomorrow morning I fly back, or onwards should I say. With eyes wide open and a wish for new opportunities to present themselves, I know that the place I came from will have changed - even if it's just a little - by having had this experience of the Camino and of Spain.
After a short day on Tuesday of 10kms, on Wednesday I was able to go a full stretch again. It turned out to be the most amazing day. I was free, full of life, open to my
surroundings, appreciating every km and trusting that eventually the full
33 kms of that particular day would bring me to a bed.
My feet brought me
all the way, not only to a bed, but also to be reunited with many of the
walkers I'd met weeks ago (some of which I didn't think I'd meet again). It was
quite a special evening in the hostel; the most communal
feeling I've had on the whole Camino. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the
journey had been so 'up and down' up until that point and on that day I felt I was being welcomed back in to a
family with open arms, especially by Irish Mary and her Spanish and Italian
companions. How unexpected, but so precious for our paths to cross again.
The next morning I decided to walk with them. They'd invited me before
but I'd pulled back, wanting to go alone. At that stage however, it felt right
to let myself be apart of a group. I realized, during the 28kms on Thursday,
that walking together in a group, if the pace is right, is just as special as
Thursday evening I suddenly saw the end of this part of the
Camino, drawing closer; Salamanca was only a 24km-day away!
I´d been contemplating walking another 70kms, from Salamanca to Zamora, before flying to Ireland on
Tuesday morning (the 30th). Because a part of me didn't want to stop moving. But I realized the largest part of myself, wanted to take a breather, to catch
up on some rest, to step back from the experience and to cool down properly and process. I
didn't want to be running off the Camino trail and on to a Ryan Air flight! Before starting
the walk, I'd planned to stop walking in Salamanca, to visit the city properly
for an extra day and then visit Madrid before flying back to Ireland. So, with
great relief, on Thursday evening I decided that arriving in Salamanca on Friday would be the final leg
of the journey, for the time being. I also chose to walk the last 24 kms from
San Pedro de Rozabos to Salamanca, with the group.
It´s quite fascinating how this particular group became like a family
to me; Mary from Ireland, her Spanish friend Hugo (from Cadiz in the south
of Spain), Mari and Jose (from Barcelona), the beautiful Russian Sasha and
Angelo from Italy. The amount of language barriers there were, didn't stop me
from becoming quite absorbed. Friday afternoon, after reaching Salamanca, we spent the day with the 7 of us, roaming the streets of beautiful
Salamanca, taking in the city vibes and celebrating we'd made it so far.
Yesterday I was still very much in the 'Camino' bubble. This morning, after saying goodbye to the group, it
started to open up. Mary, Hugo, Sasha and Angelo have
walked onwards and will continue to, until they reach Santiago (another 500kms north west). Mari and Jose went
back to Barcelona this morning. As for me, I'm in Salamanca, taking some time
to start stepping into whatever will come next.
There are hundreds of reflections, insights and feelings that have come
to me throughout the previous 3 weeks, and the nearly 550kms I´ve walked - both
alone and in union with other walkers. To sum it up for now... I think the
biggest revelation is that LIFE itself is a CAMINO (camino meaning ROAD in
Spanish). The biggest issues we stumble upon as we walk these routes, are the issues
we're actually dealing with during our daily life. However, in our daily
life, we're not always faced with them so 'sternly'. On the CAMINO, there's no
Throughout the passed week, I was feeling as if this walking was
actually bringing me to be walking AWAY from myself. But the consciousness that
these walks have almost forced me to place on my physical body, tells me what I'm dealing with most in my own life, but was unaware of. It's true that, not until we start
challenging ourselves in ways that our daily lives don't challenge us, do we
realize our shortcomings. I realize mine... I've given those shortcomings my attention and made them a priority on this Camino. I've
learned the importance. I've felt the satisfaction that comes when the phyiscal
body brings us further than we ever imagined. However, I've felt the fear, when
it doesn't. I know my mind and my core are so powerful. And the house in which they hold their space, is just a relevant, sustained, strong and invincible yet vulnerable all at once.
My last update was from Casares - 9 days ago (the 18th). I left the city the following morning and the walking upped a few notches. Things started to unfold at lightening speed. I had stretches of more than 30kms and the rising heat, my insuficient Spanish and the absence of a guidebook, didn't make my journey any easier than it could've been. Moments of panic and fear, mainly brought on due to extreme fatigue, really challenged me. It's quite daunting what the mind can do, when it's pushed beyond its limits and exhausted.
The reason for the stretches to be so long has, most times, been due to having no other option along the way, in regards to hostels and facilities. Over the past weeks, I've spoken with many experienced walkers who have walked different routes in Spain. And everyone says the same: this particular Camino is a tough one, because there are limited hostels and facilities along the way. Apparently on other routes, after every 5 or 10 kms, there are places to sleep and eat. But that's not the case on this route, and it's therefore become known for it's level of endurance. As this is my first Camino, many walkers have been intrigued WHY I chose this route instead of the more popular, easier and better facilitated one. The answer to this question, was IN the question; other routes (especially the traditional route of Frances) are too populated and heaving with tourists. This particular one - Via de la Plata - is less popular. That's why I chose it; I'd be sure to have more space.. And if long distances between hostels is a price to pay for receiving more silence, then it's not too high.
So I'm not sorry AT ALL that I chose this particular route. Yes, I've been challenged but these challenges have taught me so much, and the people I've come to meet, whilst facing these challenges, have even been like teachers to me.
Last Sunday for example (when my legs were to take me 32km from Grimaldo to Carcaboso), I met a man from Valencia as I set out at 07.30am. Manuelle. He's one of the strongest and fastest walkers I've met, for someone who could be my grandfather. I was well-impressed, as he was with me. His pace fitted mine, hence the reason for us to walk together. Without him speaking English, I sourced some of my very basic conversational Spanish. It was all very simple, but that didn't matter. After walking 32km together, it was as if we'd been friends for ages.
What I learned from him - simply by observing HOW he'd approach his walking and be successful in maintaining his pace with as little frustration as possible after walking 2 full days with him over a stretch of 70kms - was the importance of storing energy and building physical strength from within. As well I could see how a certain level of experience and preparation means the mental ability expands and makes it more possible to walk certain stretches, without feeling the stress or pressure is going to break the physical self.
On the second day (Monday, the 20th) we walked together. It was the biggest day I was to have; 40km without a town or facility of any kind in between. I was feeling strong at the start. But after only 20kms, I started to fade away. I was clearly overdoing it, but I'd started that stretch, so I'd continue (it's crazy how hard it can be, to STOP when you've started something. If you're so obsorbed, it can take MORE effort to step away than to actually go on).
At one stage, with 10km more to go, I started to feel physically ill and felt I was screaming from within, as I pounded on the pavement for the 4th or 5th hour. The fact that I didn't know what terrain we were about to walk on, what circumstances I still needed to go through, if my legs would carry me or if the heat would melt me... were uncertainties that accumulated and I let those worries zap my energy, until I had no choice and simply HAD to STOP.
On the side of a motorway, I felt my body was going to fall apart. But I wasn't alone. I had my walking companion. And in such situations, words aren't needed. We don't need to express what's going on inside - there's simply a level of understanding. And the smallest gestures then are enough to feel as if the heavens have opened up and GOD has sent the saving grace. There Manuelle stood, with a piece of fruit and half a bun... (my own food supply had run out). Well, I nearly cried inside... realizing that all my body and mind needed was MORE food (so much in fact, that my backpack didn't have enough space for a big enough supply to see me through the 40kms). Some fruit and a bun later, I was smiling again. Exhausted, but sure I'd eventually make it... Slowly but surely, my legs brought me to my bed for night....
The mental ability that's needed in order to stretch yourself out over such a distance, is quite daunting. It's impossible to know what the circumstances will be before heading off on the road. But how we deal with certain circumstances that arise, totally depends on our own selves, our level of energy and our peace of mind when taking on whatever our situations present us with. This is why I was so inspired by Manuelle; he's got this constant state of calm control, in all situations, and knows he'll get to his destination. He's totally IN the journey, moving through the motions and not wasting his energy on certain mental drawbacks.
That day was the toughest by far. My fatigue blinded me to the ability I have to overcome challenges. And it was the accumulation of kms, since leaving Casares, that exhausted me. I was hitting 130kms in the space of 4 days. My mental capacity to deal with such pressure, nearly broke me. But I was able to understand it. It brought home many many revelations. As well, the importance of food and rest, hit me, on every level. Wow... such simply things we otherwise take for granted.
The following day Manuelle had to go back to Valencia. So, we said goodbye, promising to keep in touch. I was delighted to have met him, but also delighted to be out on my own again.
That day, there was the possbility of doing only a 10km stretch. And it meant I was able to slow down the train I felt the Camino to have become. It gave me a chance to rest, to sit, to write, and to eat MORE. I was simply listening to my body, doing what it was telling me to do. And the day before, as I stood on the roadside, my body felt as if it was going to fall apart. It was terrifying almost; a feeling that pushed me to go further beyond my boundaries where food is concerned. I felt the only thing, besides rest, that would keep me together, was mountains of food. It didn't even matter what or when it was. So the ill-varied food that's available here, was suddenly my glue. And how grateful I've become for the simplest of sustenance to keep me satisfied, energized and sustained along the way.