I started my hike along St. Olavsleden on July 19th 2018. I arrived in Trondheim four weeks later.
The initial plan was to walk from Selånger to Trondheim in order to put a big exclamation mark at the end of the first part of my life, so I could move on. Or as some might call it: dealing with a midlife crisis. I wanted to let go of things from the past. But only on the last day, when I was already in Trondheim, I understood that this was not possible. You cannot let go of anything that you do not hold in your hands. Memories are a part of you and cannot be erased, nor can you let go of them. The one thing you can do is accept that life went the way it did. And only then you can move on. That is what I have been trying to practice over the last year.
When I came back from my trip, I had some sort of a hangover feeling – the so-called post-hiking blues. Because I had been walking alone, I could not share my experiences along the way with anyone else. It was therefore very difficult for the people around me to understand what the journey had meant – and still means – for me. I have been comparing this feeling to the one you can have after a funeral: not so much the grief, but the experience of living in a bubble, all by yourself. It took me a while to get out of that bubble.
It has been thirteen months now since I arrived in Trondheim, and even though I don’t think about my journey every day, it is still in the front of my mind.
The first thing that comes to mind when looking back, is the day that I found out that my shoes were no longer suitable for hiking. Both soles had come off and I contacted the people where I spent the night before, Astrid and Rickard. They picked me up, took me to Östersund, where I bought new shoes. After that, I was dropped off somewhere along the route, so I could finish my hike for the day.
I strongly remember Gustav and Kerstin from Revsund. I spent two nights in their cosy B&B, that smelled like freshly baked bread from their bakery. A few days later, to my surprise, I met Gustav again, since he decided to walk a part of the path as well. We had a great walk together and shared a beer in Mörsil before we both went our separate ways.
I remember meeting a Dutch couple, Marcel and Elise, and two Swedish women, Madeleine en Carola. We did not only share the path, but also our experiences together.
Last but not least I remember the tattoo shop in Trondheim, where I had the St. Olav cross tattooed on my lower leg. It was – and still is – my only tattoo and I cannot remember a time being so nervous for anything.
My advice for future pilgrims would be to have a flexible mind. I was often confronted with the stiffness of my own. That made my pilgrimage more difficult than necessary – on a mental level. In one of the many log books that I kept while hiking I wrote: ‘Keep on walking, keep on wandering.’ Just be there. At a unique spot, at a unique moment in time.
Matthijs’ website: https://matthijswind.wordpress.com