The lonesome pilgrim and the ability to quiet a racing mind

I knew one of the challenges on my pilgrimage through Sweden and Norway would be the loneliness. The path is not very well known with only a few hundred walking it yearly. In comparison with the 300,000 pilgrims collecting their certificate in Santiago de Compostela. During my 4 weeks on St. Olavsleden I only met one single pilgrim until I reached the end destination Trondheim, the Swede Johan who biked the route. We spent a couple of hours walking together and sharing (life) experiences.  So not only did I walk alone, I quite often spent the night alone too. Sometimes in rather remote places. I had read good reviews about one particular place, a small cute cottage set on the edge of the forest near a little stream. According to my guidebook it was in a village and me not being the most bravest person on earth, thought it sounded nice and doable being close to other people.

So I booked the place and set off with plenty of food (and chocolate) on that day´s 20 kilometres forest hike. Late afternoon I arrived to what was nothing but a couple of rather empty looking houses (with no village in sight). A few hundred meters down a path was a tiny little cottage. That was my place for the night. And indeed it was very pretty. But it had no running water, no electricity, no Wi-Fi. I did have what looked like a comfy bed though, a wood burner, some candles and an outdoor loo. And I had my chocolate..  I also had a lot of voices and conversations going on in my head. Especially when it got dark outside. It got very dark and there were no street lights (but then, there were no streets either!). It´s funny how the mind works. One voice telling horror stories, another trying to be reasonable, a third planning escape routes just in case… So which voice do you let take over? To me, it felt like I had a choice. Either accept that I was going to spend the night alone in the forest. Or force my already exhausted body to walk another 5 kilometres to next possibility for accommodation. I chose the first. I can do this! And then it came, wrapping itself around me as a warm, cosy blanket. When slowly accepting the present moment, the mind quiets down, the breathing becomes regular and the only sounds to be heard were coming from the wind in the trees and raindrops on the roof. And with the comfort of a lit candle and all that creamy chocolate in my belly, sleep found its way and I woke up in the early hours to a cold but pretty morning. I don´t think I was rested enough for the 30 kilometres hike I had in front of me, but I did feel proud of my little achievement of not only spending the night that remote on my own, but also for having the ability to letting go of all the what ifs and actually to accept my situation (lets agree that the chocolate did help too!).

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