VF Day 21-24: What is Living a Balanced Life?

VF Day 21-24: What is Living a Balanced Life?

Jun 25, 2022 | All Blog Posts, Via Francigena | 4 comments

Since you heard from me last we have walked 47.6 km, took a train for 31.5 km, and enjoyed a bit of rejuvenation. See our stats at the end of the blog. Can you feel the zen of a balanced life?

Brian and I have lived by the school calendar our entire lives. We don’t know anything different than the ebb and flow of intense times in the semester, holiday breaks, and summer vacation. For both of us, we went from being in school, to being college students, to working in academia.

To be fair, we have both worked in the “real world.” Brian dipped his toes in the life of labor for a few years during college. Me, on the other hand, I was a single mom raising a son. Not only did I did I dip my toes, I swam in the deep end of hard work for many years. At a point during my college career I was working 4 part time jobs while going to school full-time. When I graduated from college, starting my path in academia, I taught more than my required load and worked full-time every summer.

Me and the one who changed my life forever in 1991

My life as a single parent was a never-ending struggle of raising my son well, maximizing my time with him as much as possible, combined with trying to make enough money to pay the bills. I worked in the food industry, sold office supplies, sold windows, worked in a beef factory, sold Amway, ran my own consulting business, and taught wherever I could. The struggle was real and the vivid memories of it will never leave me.

Fast forward to the first summer I am married to someone on the typical teaching schedule. Mind you, I had been finding ways to make money for the 15 years I was a single mom so not working every day of the year was something I didn’t understand.

Our new blended family, 2008

It was 2008 and we on our first vacation together, Brian is playing in the pool with his son while I am grading papers because I am teaching a full load of summer school classes. I will never forget catching myself in a long stare at them and wondering, “What in the world are you doing, Michelle?!” I looked at Brian and said, “I just want you to know this the last summer I will ever work.” His reply? “Ok, good.”

Of course that’s his reply, he’s known a bit about the balance of work and play his entire life. I don’t want to downplay Brian’s contributions (he is reading this you know). My husband works tirelessly through the school year and his brain never stops even in the summer. He’s always thinking about what musical he’ll direct next, selecting music, designing sets, preparing a show choir theme, or working on the next music gig. Today, social media can feel like a second job but that’s another story for another day.

Once I began to pull back on how much I was working, the stress I was carrying started to lift. Once I got a glimpse of a balanced life, my researcher brain was all fired up. I needed to answer the question, “What does a truly balanced life look like and how can it be maintained?” Mind you, I was realizing that neither of us were balanced, yet.

I had taken a vacation. I took my son to Disney World, Washington DC, we tried camping, but all the time I worried. I wondered if he was happy, I worried about money, and I was stressed to “get it all in” before our bank account was empty and our time was up.

Vacations are a lot of work. Then there’s this philosophy of a “once in a lifetime” trip. It is too much pressure. It’s to imply that we won’t or can’t ever see something again so we have to see it all…NOW!

It’s hard to feel balanced when you are constantly shifting gears from work to hurry up and see it all. At some point, we have to put the car in park and be ok with seeing and doing nothing.

I am going to explore this idea of finding and maintaining a balanced life in the next few blogs as we cross through the Apennine mountains and then enter Tuscany. Leave a comment and let me know what you think a balanced life looks like or tell me how you find balance.

Our new view today!

For today, I am thrilled for the shift in view, the challenge of the mountains, and new scenery all around us. It’s almost time for dinner and I don’t want to miss it. I am a hungry pilgrim you know.

Check out our YouTube video from Corte Sant’Andrea to Fiorenzuola d’ Arda

Walking stats from Corte Sant’Andrea to Piacenza – 14.4 km

  • Lodging – Residenza Venturini – €81

Took a train from Piacenza to Fiorenzuola d’ Arda – 31 km

  • Lodging – Hotel Mathis – €86

Walking stats from Fiorenzuola d’ Arda to Fidenza – 16.1 km plus we took a train for the last 5km. Here’s that YouTube video.

  • Lodging – Hotel Astoria – €70

*Listing our accommodation is not an endorsement. This is just a point of information for fellow pilgrims. See our reviews on Booking.com, the guidebooks, and fellow pilgrims for more details to make the decision best for you.


  1. Hilary Jones Rowan

    Michelle – I am working on the balanced life. Currently, I have a volunteer job that is turning out to be just as busy as a paid job. Will be finishing the year and then letting it go. I have my Via Francigena to train for and want to do some other things. I listen to a meditation that says “Pay Attention to the things that make you happy”. I’ll be doing more of those things.

    • The Colemans

      Oh that’s a good meditation!! Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it. ❤️

  2. pariskat10400

    Thank you to you and Brian for your videos, which I have just discovered as I’m on the treadmill at the gym and was researching the VF and now I’ve found your blog. As a teacher too, finding your thoughts on balance fascianting. Thank you! I’m just loving you two!
    And now I’ll read through to find out when you went and your budget. Your advice is invaluable.

    • The Colemans

      Thank you! I love binging YouTube Camino videos while I am walking the treadmill too! Make sure you subscribe to the blog and our YouTube channel as we are walking the Camino Frances this summer. Take care – Michelle



  1. VF Day 25-26: Two bees, a swarm of flies, and relentless knats – Cruisin' with the Colemans - […] can’t talk more about a balanced life yet (see last blog post). Right now, I feel like an amateur…

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