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Two Hikers on the Camino Del Santiago Find Lasting Love Amid Uncertain Future

Two Hikers on the Camino Del Santiago Find Lasting Love Amid Uncertain Future

Loni and Kjarten – courtesy Loni Bergqvist

The Camino del Santiago is the ironing board of the stress of life—a way to find oneself and direction in life through walking, day after day across the Iberian Peninsula.

However an American and a Dane didn’t find themselves on a hike across the famous European pilgrimage trail, they found each other.

Kjartan Bergqvist, from Denmark, and American Loni Philbrick-Linzmeyer, both experienced the sort of listlessness that causes one to buy a backpack, throw an assortment of worldly objects inside, and travel the world—in their case, both to Spain to hike the 500-mile-long Camino del Santiago.

On their own paths through life at the time, it was something they both felt they had to do alone. He was a 24-year-old medical student destined to seemingly pour over textbooks forever, she, a 29-year-old schoolteacher at a crossroads after a tough breakup.

Both departed from the traditional start point in Paris within days of each other.

“It’s very open on the Camino, it can be as independent or as social as you want or need on the day.” Loni said, recounting her love story to Francesca Street at CNN Travel. “It was weird, it wasn’t love at first sight. I think I ended up forgetting his name later—but certainly there was a moment of, ‘Okay, maybe I’m kind of interested here.’”

That was her first thought when seeing the departing figure of Kjartan Bergqvist, whom she first met in a forested area outside the city of Burgos. Little had been said between the two, apart from a discussion of the weather.

That night, the two crossed paths again in the Camino inn inside Burgos, and they thought that maybe they’d explore the city the next day—which they did, after a sleepless night for Kjarten, and a coffee that morning.

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That set off, as they explain to CNN, a difficult 24 hours deciding whether or not they would fulfill their original intentions to walk the Camino alone, or follow their connection, which was immediate and joyous, and walk the trail together.

As it turned out, they, and a Canadian named Liz, chose the latter option.

Commenting on how their trip evolved, Kjartan told CNN’s Francesca that Santiago, the endpoint of the pilgrimage trail, “didn’t really matter anymore.”

“Those three weeks felt a lot longer, in a good way, a very good way,” says Kjartan. “I was just flying so high—obviously very much in love, and it’s summer, and there’s no place you have to be other than where you are at the moment.”

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After reaching Santiago, the pair decided that sharing contact info, or even agreeing to a long-term relationship, none of it seemed even remotely acceptable. So Kjarten asked Loni then and there, in the streets of Santiago, if she would be his wife.

This story happened 10 years ago. Now, Loni Bergqvist lives in Denmark and works as an education consultant while raising three bilingual children.

They used to often talk about keeping the “spirit of the Camino”—the spirit of waking up every day with a single objective, without any other considerations. But as time went on, they began to focus more and more on the future. There’s a saying that “the Camino provides.” The Bergqvists believe it provided each other.

Read the whole story here on CNN

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