Many people sign up for walk-a-thons to raise money for charities and awareness, and usually these events take several hours, or at most a couple of days. But in the summer of 2000, Jean Béliveau of Montreal was going through a midlife crisis and just started walking. And walking, and walking, and walking — in what sounds like a part of the film, Forrest Gump. About 4,000 days, 46,600 miles, and 53 pairs of shoes later, he’s finally about to walk home.
The 11-year journey has taken him across 64 countries in six continents and became more than a remedy for his midlife doldrums; his more-than-casual stroll inevitably caught attention, and he used it to promote world peace, according to his website. He did this in conjunction with UNESCO and their proclamation that 2001-2010 was to be the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.”
Béliveau packed light and carried all his necessities in a three-wheeled stroller: food, some clothes, a first aid kit, a small tent, and a sleeping bag. Whenever he was tired, he slept; whenever he was hungry, he ate. But he wasn’t alone the entire time; his supporting wife Luce met him for a bit every year on the road to walk with him. Each year was a “new honeymoon” as they reunited in New Orleans, Ecuador, Chile, Malawi, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Nepal, Taiwan, and Australia.
Béliveau undoubtedly met many people along the way, as one does when traveling solo — although with his mission’s clout, he was fortunate to also meet four Nobel Peace Prize winners along the way, including Nelson Mandela when he walked through Durban, South Africa in October of 2003.
Looking through photos of Béliveau’s World Wide Walk website, you can definitely see how much he’s evolved over the past decade — particularly his dark hair going white — but that hasn’t stopped his spirit to continue walking for peace. His journey will come to an end on October 16th though, back in Montreal where it all began, a place where he welcomes the comfort of his bed, and the reunion with his wife and two grown sons.