pilgrim Jessie Jager Stevenskerk

Slowing down – that’s what people often think of when making pilgrimages. This summer, Jessie Jager featured in Runner’s World and Women’s Health with a completely different experience. Jessie walked our 136 kilometer trail not in one or two weeks, but 16 hours. Yes, 16 hours! By running.

How meaningful that can be, she tells Women’s Health :

pilgrim Jessie Jager Stevenskerk
Jessie at endpoint the St. Stevenschurch

“A day like this is grueling, but also very impressive. Friends and family walked along, you experience everything very intensely because there are no distractions. There is only the path, you, and the lovely people who support you. It puts things in perspective. The start and end point of the Walk of Wisdom is at St. Steven’s Church, which towers far above the city. I had visualized what it would be like to finally see the tip of that tower, that kept me going. Once I saw it, I was overwhelmed with emotions. No matter how hard it is, there will always be a good moment, or a solution. That’s what I try to pass on to my children. I now know how far perseverance can take you. ”

An ode

Her pilgrimage was an ode to her inspirator Jaap, she writes.

“Forward and don’t falter!”

“That’s what Jack would say. 25 years ago, supreme joy and intense sadness were so close together.

I was almost 15 and was in 3 gymnasium of the Lorentz College in Arnhem when in 1994 the call came to sign up for the musical Bumper: a self-written production inspired by West Side Story. I jumped on, I wanted to get on that stage and I was going to audition! After rehearsing as a dancer for over a year, I was standing together with all the other, more than 100, participants receiving thunderous applause in the city theater of Arnhem. “Three evenings the great hall was destroyed!” Jaap said in his last speech. Jaap was the choreographer, the man behind the direction and the set. Outside the musical he was a gym teacher and owner of a ballet school. But above all, he was an inspiration to everyone. His creativity, decisiveness, perseverance, positivity and ability to bring out the best in people was a big example for me. He saw where there was nothing to see for others.

And then, 11 days after the red curtain was drawn and there was partying until the wee hours, suddenly the thump of Jaap’s death came. My world stood still, this was incomprehensible as a 15-year-old. The farewell was beautiful; once again an overcrowded hall and again as the last song Somewhere. Jaap would be in my heart forever and many times in my life I would find answers thinking, “That’s how Jaap would have done it.”

Then suddenly I saw a pole with a symbol

The years passed. I have now been working for more than 15 years in Nijmegen at a secondary school where I, as a production manager, make a major contribution to beautiful musicals. I have left the dance world behind me for a while. But I still like to move. Running through the woods and mountains is what I love to do. We are lucky that there are beautiful nature reserves around Arnhem and Nijmegen.

So is Berg en Dal. The forest I became acquainted with while running 3.5 years ago. I was taken in tow and pointed to the most beautiful paths and the most magical light when I suddenly saw a pole with a symbol on it. In a moment of bewilderment, I saw in that symbol the logo of Jaap’s ballet school. That was very special. While I feel so happy and energetic, it seems to me that Jaap is dancing around. The symbol on the pole turned out to be part of a pilgrimage route called the Walk of Wisdom. A 136 km long pilgrimage trail that starts at the St. Stevens Church in Nijmegen. You only have to follow the posts and you have all the time to think about life.

As my trail run ambitions developed,to walk this trip in one go does not seem to be a bridge too far anymore and I’m making plans in preparation. I will dedicate my Walk of Wisdom to Jaap, because in my experience he dances around there. I’ll be ready in a few weeks. I look forward to this day when I will have memories of the past 25 years around me on my longest journey ever. And when it’s heavy and tough I’ll think:

“Forward and don’t falter!” Jessie Jager

Jessie Jager

Opening Walk of Wisdom by Ger Loeffen copyright

Photo: Ger Loeffen)
The Walk of Wisdom is inspired by a sense of connection with the planet. As a symbol of that connection, we are working on a pilgrimagetrail in all countries of the world. It’s quite a plan!

Airy-fairy? We believe that a sense of interconnectedness is needed to solve the major problems of our time. With almost 8 billion people, no one can lock themselves up in their own region. Everyone is confronted with large-scale climate change, nature destruction, migration and inequality. It is about time we land, says the French philosopher Latour. To no longer see the earth as a background for our actions, but as a base. A habitat.

We like to help with that landing. With a new pilgrimage tradition where connection with the world is central. Feet on the ground and forward.

10.000 times on track for wisdom

Short manual for the modern pilgrim
By Petra van Bloemendaal

Most funds did not believe in our “utopian plan.” We opened our first Walk of Wisdom in 2015 anyway: a pioneer trail of 136 kilometers around Nijmegen. That route received a major regional prize, a series on national television and last August the 10,000th registration as pilgrim. Hooray!

The road ahead? The success emboldens us to internationalize the pioneer trail. It is the most direct way to realize our global ambitions. If international pilgrims become as enthusiastic as the Dutch, there are bound to be a few who ‘see’ a Walk of Wisdom in their own country, then to begin one. Utopian – no – organic thinking.

We also begin work on our second pilgrim book of hours: On the Road to Wisdom. The book will have four chapters – the pilgrim tides – each of which to be released separately as e-book and then together on paper. The first pilgrim tide will appear in June 2022. Theme: the mystery of inspiration. We’ll invite inspiring personalities to walk the pioneer trail to write a contribution. Non celebrities are also included and art and poetry will ‘enlighten’ the texts, just like in our first book Seasons of Life (sold out).

How can you help

We have sufficient resources until June 2022 to work on the internationalization of our pioneer trail and the first chapter of On the Road to Wisdom. For the way after that we need help.

Guard near our first book
The unique edition of our first pilgrim’s tide book Seasons of Life. It contains all the original artworks and there is only one. Every first Saturday after sunrise we read a story from it: welcome! See departure ceremony de pelgrimslauden.

Non financial ways to help:

silent walk Walk of Wisdom
Photo: Marja Hakkoer
  • nominate an inspiring personality that we invite to walk the route and write a for the book.
  • do you live on the route? We need sleeping and dining addresses for our guests.
  • Social media skills? We need your help.
  • English language skills? We need help with translating and editing.

How to materialise an idea: 

  • Donate €10 or more. You will receive the first pilgrim tide as e-book in June 2022 and thus finance the second. Do: link.
  • Donate €50 or more and you will become a veritable angel as far as we are concerned. In addition to the first pilgrim tide (e-book), earthly advantages are a special invitation to the presentation. Do: link.
  • Donate €333 for 3 years as a super sponsor. You get a steel statue of Pilgrim, designed by Huub and Adelheid Kortekaas. These artists are a great source of inspiration for the Walk of Wisdom and designed the symbol as our contemporary guardian angel. Do: link.

Art lover or company?

  • Sponsor the fee of an inspiring guest pilgrim. A way to connect with whom inspires you and an original way for companies to show values ​​and mission. Mail: [email protected].
  • Own a piece of cultural heritage and buy a miniature from our first pilgrimage book Seasons of Life. Limited edition. The proceeds will be divided by Intermedi-Art between the artist and the Walk of Wisdom foundation.
  • Participate in the auction of the unique edition of this first pilgrimage book with all the original artworks. The publication is now in the Stevenskerk (see photo, above, starting price €15,000). The Medieval Books of Hours on which this book is inspired are now worth millions of euros.