I first remember meeting Alf in Pamplona; however, I first remember seeing him in Larrasoaña at the same municipal albergue (hostel) we were staying at. He walked with another guy, a Canadian named Josh, who wore a kilt. Tall, bearded, and gentle, Alf emanated a sense of kindness toward others. We eventually met over a cup of terribly made coffee and orange juice the next day while huddled underneath a dodgy looking structure during the drizzly trek to Pamplona.
Alf is from Sweden, and he had the smallest smartphone phone I've ever seen. Also memorable, the hiking boots he wore were from the brand Alfa, which I thought how fun it would be to have boots with your name on them. That detail hasn't left me.
By day four or five, maybe seven, I'm not sure anymore, Alf decided to stay behind in a small town as his feet were terribly bruised and battered from his new, unbroken-in boots. At this point, we, along with a handful of other pilgrims, had banded together as a sort of awkward international minimally acquainted family. In this rag-tag family were a couple of young gals from the UK, a Canadian woman who pursued acting, Alf & Josh, myself and Brookelynn, and finally Lee, an Australian we would come to become quite close with for a majority of the walk.
That last night when Alf let us know to keep going as he stayed behind, we all went out to a modern feeling restaurant in the middle of the ancient village we were spending the night in and celebrated what also happened to be his 30th birthday. I was honored to be a part of it. Perhaps others won't remember that moment quite as well, but as we sat there eating our overcooked steaks and drinking beers with one another, recounting stories from the past few days, I was thankful for this gentle Swede.
I asked him for his email to be able to follow-up after the Camino and see where his journeys took him, but he hasn't responded. I've reached out a couple of times recounting small remembrances and thoughtful notes, but no reply, which is actually ok. I still feel fortunate enough to have met this friend.
There are a lot of people I met along The Way, but for some reason, Alf is one of those individuals who, although I didn't know for much time, I felt connected to. There are buckets of these types of stories that come to life while walking, but also, if we are looking for them, they are right in front of us in our ordinary and everyday settings.