I was one of those who couldn’t understand why people prefer to walk, while you can see so much more and a lot faster by bicycle or motorcycle. For this reason, I honestly never walked for a whole day in my life before. Then suddenly, I called myself a pilgrim, walking the trail from Oslo to Trondheim. Miracles really do exist.
It’s impossible to put in words, all the moments, the memories, the experiences. But let me take you to the final moment of the trail. ‘How would it be, after so many miles, to arrive at the Nidaros Cathedral, our final destination.’ The answer might surprise you, because honestly, when you finally arrive you will, most likely, feel disappointed. Which is, when you think about it, absolutely normal. After such an intense trip, weeks, days filled with ultra high and ultra low moments, you somehow expect a climax in the end. According to the feelings you’ve felt, that would be: a whole orchestra starts playing, people get on their feet and applaud loud as you walk your way to the last mile stone. Which, of course, doesn’t happen. In reality, you walk around the corner, where Nidaros appears. The first thing you see, are the many tourists in front of it. It made me feel stressed and I actually just wanted to turn around and walk away. After spending such a long time in nature, I didn’t realise how much it changed me. Instead of getting on a busy bus, I rather walked. Instead of sitting inside, I rather stayed outside. And I was longing to see someone I knew.
What most of us, pilgrims, realised, some for the first time in their lives. Having other people around is something to be grateful for. Sometimes you can’t wait to see someone again, to share a moment you experienced. You have this list in your mind ‘things to tell when I see someone’. I remember very well, on a day all the bad luck seemed to find me, I really hoped to see Alena, a pilgrim from Germany. I knew she was nearby and I hoped she would catch up on me, as I was desperately in need of a hug. But she didn’t catch up on me that day, and I felt absolutely lonely on the top of the mountain, in rain and cold.
Just 2 days later, I met Tore, owner and co-founder of Mr Gay Europe. He asked me to work on the documentary of the 2016 competition, it takes place in Sweden and Norway. Suddenly all the bad luck disappeared. By meeting just one person, a whole new door opened. And it’s up to you to grab the opportunity that gets along.
Something which is always on your mind, the weight you’re carrying. Having a heavy backpack literally makes you question what you actually need. Do I really need this lamp? Do I really need my headphone? Is it worth dragging it all the way. Some of the situations you can compare with daily life. It can be very hard to keep yourself in balance, over rivers and small paths. It’s even much harder when you are loaded. And from the stuff you did decided to carry along, you realise it’s all you have. Once I walked 3 km back, to get the water bottle I forgot nearby a church. During the path, you learn to appreciate what you have, you learn to find a balance. Because balancing is what you do, the whole time.
As much as I have to get used to large groups of people again, I walked around in Trondheim city feeling balanced and special. Not because of the paper I received, not because people told me I did a good job. But, simply, because I said so.
THE REAL FINAL MOMENT
Having a drink with other pilgrims and sharing our experiences for the last time, we all agreed. As much as we were focused at the end, it’s the path in between where it’s all about. After the pilgrims service we kissed goodbye and then, completely unexpected, the real final moment appeared. One that exceeded my expectations.
As it was my last evening in Trondheim, I decided to return to the Nidaros Cathedral. When I walked in, it was actually closed. Normally you’re not allowed to film inside the Cathedral, but I decided to take my chances and just ask if I could make a few shots.
They didn’t sent me out again and agreed, I could enter the empty Nidaros Cathedral to make a few shots. But it got better, there was a whole orchestra doing rehearsals, filling the air with dramatic music as I walked up to the altar, where St. Olav is buried. A Nidaros all to myself, an orchestra all to myself, I sat down and enjoyed the moment, the music, the light, the everything. ‘Yes, miracles do exist.’
I don’t know if I will ever will have a big walk in my life again, but I enjoy these short walks now more then ever.
Lord, here at your altar, our resting-place,
we put down our pilgrim’s staff.
We thank you for all helping hands,
for the creative fellowship that we are part of.
Preserve us from a life that stands still.
Make us willing to depart from our egotism.
Show us the paths that lead to righteousness
and hope for all people.
Strengthen our longing to explore new roads
where we may find meaning and a goal for our lives.