Jean Béliveau, a 55- year-old man from Montreal who spent the past 11 years walking around the world, says this last portion of the walk is the “driveway” home.
Béliveau has spent the past decade walking alone through deserts, mountains and everything in between — a three-wheeled stroller that holds a bit of food, his clothing, a First Aid kit, tent and sleeping bag replacing his former urban life.
Béliveau spent several nights in Golden last week on the final stretch home to Montreal where he is due back to meet his wife, children and grandchildren in October.
“People said when I first got to Vancouver that I still had a long way to go to get to Montreal,” said Béliveau,” But I said “What— I’m almost home!””
Walking over Rogers Pass to get to Golden was a challenge for Béliveau. He was strongly advised against walking this stretch of highway, infamous for high avalanche activity and fast-moving commercial traffic.
Béliveau, though, wasn’t about to miss this part of the Rockies in the last few months of his journey, claiming that he’s been in plenty of “dangerous places.”
Thanks to several generous community members, Béliveau had a place to stay and rides up and down the Pass over the week so he could finish his walk to Golden, which he did on Sunday.
Béliveau came up with the idea to walk around the world during a bit of a mid-life crises, a time when his business had crumpled and he was not happy living in Montreal.
He began by calculating how long it would take a person to walk his proposed route around the world and even drew a diagram of the three -wheeled stroller he would take with him.
“I kept wondering if I was crazy and kept the whole thing to myself for eight months.”
Then, three weeks before leaving, he told his wife, Luce, his plans.
“I said I know you are a strong lady,” said Béliveau, explaining that he took a risk in their relationship by proposing the idea, and that she took a leap of faith by supporting him. Luce came to visit Béliveau for several weeks every year and the couple will move back to the Eastern Townships after the big journey is over.
Béliveau has already started to write a book, and imagines “They (although he wasn’t specific as to who “they” are) will keep him busy in the next few years with public speaking events, etc.
Béliveau’s walk for peace is in support of the United Nations proclamation that 2001-2010 be the international decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world.
“I started out by having no idea what peace meant to me,” said Béliveau. Slowly, he explained, and after a long evolution of experiences, he started to understand what the word meant — whether that’s referring to politics, religion, and as an internal, personal state.
Béliveau remembers his time walking through the desert for weeks at a time in the outback of Australia. Not only was there no one to talk to, but nothing but sand and heat to occupy his senses.
“I was thinking completely by myself,” said Béliveau, explaining that his mind was in another world, void of distractions and any sort of societal pressure. When he reached the end of the desert and encountered a farmer, he was almost afraid to engage in conversation in fear his state of mind would be too disconnected to make any sense.
Béliveau has walked 71,000 kilometres in the past 11 years and worn through 50 pairs of shoes.
Does he ever want to just give up?
“I wrote an email to my wife when I was in Ethiopia telling her I wanted to go home.”
Béliveau said that it was very hard to communicate there, and that he felt over-saturated in the culture.
Luce replied by saying that the family loved him and he could come back, but that if he gives up part way through, it’s almost as if he didn’t go at all.
Now — 11 years after Béliveau left his home in Quebec — he’s returning home.
Although he still has a few provinces to cross off the map, Béliveau has almost crossed the Rocky Mountains, and, according to his blog, from here on in it’s“ flat terrain all the way to Montreal!”