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Camino experts interviews (no. 5): Ivar Rekve

Ivar Rekve came from Norway and settled down in Santiago. He runs the ´Camino de Santiago Forum´, a digital forum wich is getting close to 2.5 million visits a year. This deserves him the appellation as a great Camino expert.

SON do CAMIÑO – What is, in your opinion, the appeal of the Camino?
Ivar Rekve – For most pilgrims that travel from outside Spain to walk the Camino, it is a journey that starts the moment you decide to do it. They start to plan online, then travel to Spain and start walking. They meet people from all over the world with the same destination and goal as them: to reach Santiago. This common goal, and doing this together with so many people from so many places around the world is what makes it special.

SdC – What changes have you observed in the Camino in the last years?

Ivar – 12 years ago, when I started my online community, most pilgrims traveled to Spain just to walk the Camino. They were more prepared, they knew what they were up for. With the Camino becoming more popular, there are more less prepared pilgrims. They need more help with planning. Planning the trip itself, the equipment and just general “traveling in Spain” help.

SdC – How do you think could the Camino be improved?
Ivar – With the Camino Frances getting crowded in the summers season, promoting new Camino routes is important. To give pilgrims an alternative to the crowded routes. The ´Camino de Invierno´ seems to be a very nice route that I hope can take some pressure off the French route over time.

SdC – What do you think about Son do Camiño´s proposal of experiences for pilgrims after their Camino?

Ivar – This is a great idea. Offering something to pilgrims, not thinking of them as tourists, but pilgrims. There is a difference.

SdC – Which experience would you like to try that is not offered by Son do Camiño?

Ivar – I am not sure. I think what you offer now is a good start, then you can fine-tune your services once you get to talk to pilgrims and hear what they are looking for.

SdC – Which experience would you recommend pilgrims for after completing their Camino?

Ivar – It depends, since there are many different types of pilgrims. Some look for “activities”, something to keep them busy. These are usually the pilgrims that have walked a 5-6 day pilgrimage. They are normally looking for tourist-like activities like a bus trip to Finisterre or museum. Then you have the pilgrims that have walked for several weeks to get to Santiago. They are usually looking for something more quiet/spiritual. For them the walk to Finisterre/Muxia is a short walk and they usually find the peace and quietness they are looking for there.

SdC – Which is to your mind the major charm of the Camino, of Santiago and of Galicia for somebody from your country?
Ivar – a) the camaraderie and common goal of walking the Camino with others from so many different cultures; b) the Spanish culture with food, wine and cultural history; c) the simple life.

SdC – In a few words: What is for you the Camino?

Ivar – The simple life.

SdC – You keep what is probably the most well-known forum for pilgrims (caminodesantiago.me). Tell us about your experience. ¿What was its origin? ¿What is it now?
Ivar – With more than 2.300.000 visits in 2016 (more than 1.000.000 uniques) the site is quite busy. But it was not always like that, the first month where I collected statistics on the visitors was November 2005 and I think I had around 2000 visitors then. It started out as a hobby while I was learning Spanish, I liked the way that it kept me connected to people all over the world and I saw that it was growing every year. Growing online and I could see it growing in the streets of Santiago as well, so I just kept going. Now it has become how I make a living. I consider myself very lucky to be able to live of helping pilgrims. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago are the greatest, they are happy and “all smiles”. So much positive energy that I get to enjoy. Perfect job!  

SdC – What other projects do you have for Casa Ivar?
Ivar – Casa Ivar started at the beginning of 2016. I have helped pilgrims online since 2004, and the plan now is to see if I can also help some of them in Santiago since I now have a physical location. Exactly what it will be, I don’t know. I like to take things as they come and “go with the flow”. I have some ideas for 2017 and then after that I will most likely make some changes.

SdC – Thank you, Ivar.    

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