Big Island author / photographer / explorer Brandon Wilson knows what it means to take “roads less traveled.”
Recently, he completed hiking the nearly 600 km. (373 mile) St. Olav’s Trail across Sweden and Norway accompanied by Anders Stavhag, his Swedish friend and fellow Explorers Club member.
The pair began trekking this official Explorers Club Flag Expedition on Aug. 6th in Selanger, Sweden after an interview with Swedish National Television News 4.
Although Wilson had hiked the companion St. Olav’s Way across Norway in 2004, he couldn’t imagine the extent of the challenges they’d face on this 1,000-year-old pilgrimage route: often poorly marked trails, lack of accommodations and food, and temperatures ranging from 90 degrees to freezing rain.
As luck would have it, Stavhag would provide much-needed logistical support after fracturing his foot on the fifth day of the journey.
After a grueling 23 days on the trail, the pair arrived at historic Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway on Aug. 28.
The impressive cathedral is renowned as the burial place of St. Olav (King Olav Haraldsson) who is credited with bringing Christianity to Scandinavia in 1030.
The modern day explorers were joined by trail officials and proudly posed at kilometer marker “0” holding both the Hawaii and Jämtland Republic (Sweden) flags.
Wilson is no novice to these types of journeys. He calls them “traveling outside while traveling within.”
They began in 1992 when he and his wife Cheryl became the first American couple to hike an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, presenting prayer flags to the King of Nepal as a symbol of solidarity.
Since then, Wilson has hiked five of Europe’s most important pilgrimage trails: the Camino de Santiago’s 500-miles across northern Spain (twice), as well as the Camino Catalan and Camino Aragones, the St. Olav’s Way 450-miles across Norway, and he was the first American to hike the 1150-mile Via Francigena from Canterbury, England to Rome.
In 2006, Wilson finished a harrowing two-continent, 2700-mile walk for peace from France to Jerusalem to create the Templar Trail.
Wilson believes these paths are the perfect way to reconnect with what is important in life and find inner peace—one step at a time.
Wilson has shared these experiences through his four award-winning books and has given readings at dozens of Hawaii libraries, bookstores, schools, the Iolani Peace Institute, Hawaii Rotary Clubs, and Tibet House in New York.
The Society of American Travel Writers named his Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace the year’s Best Travel Book and Wilson received the Lowell Thomas Gold Award, the industry’s Pulitzer.
Prior to returning to Hawaii, Wilson was honored to be named a Knight of Grace by the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, a venerable ancient organization.
Wilson also received the St. Olav Cross, only the sixth time this medal has ever been awarded.
Wilson will begin work on a new book about this latest adventure.
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