A go-with-the-flow kind of feeling

by Henriëtte van der Noord

In the summer of 2018 I walked alone from Åre (Sweden) to Trondheim (Norway) the last 250 kilometres of the St. Olavsleden. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do the whole path.

I was fifty-seven years old at the time. Funny that some people I know would not ‘dare‘ to undertake such a trip on their own, while I feel most safe in nature. I did however think it was a bit exciting wether I could find my way along the route. But I need not have worried about that: there are many road signs in all kind of different forms – beautifully painted wooden signs with the famous St. Olavsleden symbol, on a tree, on a sticker attached to a lamppost, or painted on big boulders. Only once it took me a while to find the next marker. I called Ruben (of Nordic Pilgrim) for advice, but if I had walked a few hundred meters further I would have found the sign post myself. I found the fact that I had Ruben on ‘stand-by’ very reassuring. This allowed me to fully focus on the experience.

In good spirits and a bit giddy I was waved goodbye by the manager of B&B in Åre and soon I had my first stamp in my pilgrim passport. On the second night I ran into a fellow pilgrim: Isabella from Cologne. She had just graduated, was my daughter’s age and we just clicked. Together we crossed the border into Norway. It was a hot day and the longest stage of the path, so we left early. On our way we met two German women, also pilgrims, who walked a short part of the path. The four of us shared the moment of crossing the border.

Isabella and I walked on, having wonderful philosophical conversations. Upon arrival at the overnight spot, we shared a can of beer. Her feet were hurting and much to her regret she continued her journey by car, together with my luggage.

During the days I walked alone and in the evening we met up at the accommodation. For me that was a win-win: I could focus on my own experience while walking, enjoying everything I saw along the route, and at night I could share with Isabella what I had experienced. Had it not been for her, I would probably have written more in my notebook that I always take with me when traveling.

Every three or four days, I stayed an extra night at an accommodation to rest a bit and enjoy the surroundings. The accommodations were very different, which I liked very much. You leave your accommodation in the morning, not knowing where you sleep the next night. It is a go-with-the-flow kind of feeling.

The last stage Isabelle and I walked together again and the arrival in Trondheim gave me mixed feelings: I had made it and I was proud, but the adventure was also over. I didn’t want to go back to the Netherlands, but stay in the beautiful Scandinavian nature. I found the reception at the pilgrim hostel behind the cathedral, the showing of the stamps in my pilgrim pass and then receiving the Olav letter a solemn moment. Afterwards, being welcomed as a pilgrim in the cathedral during a special service moved me very much, even though I am not a religious person.

After this trip I made the decision to work less (in special education) and to follow a training as a tour guide. That has brought me a lot of new positive things in my life. And the friendship with Isabella is for life.

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