The Man Who Walked Around The World

The Man Who Walked Around The World
by: Tessa Jennison

TEDx 2012 featured many amazing speakers from across the planet. Some spoke about technology, some spoke about art, some spoke about peace. One man in particular caught my attention above all others. His name is Jean Beliveau, and he is theman who walked around the world in the name of peace. In 2000, following a mid-life crisis, Jean left behind his home in the city of Montreal, his successful business, his wife Luce, his family, and his friends, to begin his epic eleven year journey which would take him through 5 continents, and across 64 countries, traversing 75 543 kms of our planet on foot. Jean pushed a small buggy to carry food, water, and other very basic life essentials. His journey was long and challenging, and his determination and strength has inspired countless people around the world.

I had the rare privilege of sitting down with Jean and his wife, Luce, backstage at The Center in the Square on March 21st 2012, to discuss his incredible journey.

One of my first questions to Jean was how this walk, this eleven year odyssey, had changed him as a person, and what it was like to leave everything behind. Answering in his thick Quebecois accent, he told me:

“You come used to this culture, and then you change again and change again on the way so I had to have a big adaptation concept. Now how I see the world, this is a small world. I see people from everywhere, new immigrants, and I’m not shy to go …’you’re from where originally?’… Before I just kept away, and now I try to meet them… It’s linked. I feel very rich to have that privilege to be able to talk to everybody.

I didn’t have much things. Now I’m coming back in our system, and I have to get used to how everything is thought in the future. I was completely lost. My life was the present. I learned to live the present, the now. Tomorrow will be tomorrow. Slowly, I am learning to live the future… In our society we live for the future, and we don’t live much in the present…now, I recall my driving license. I lost it. I could have a walking permit (he said with a chuckle). Three days ago I got my driver’s permit again. I begin to have my bearings. I was always in movement. So when I arrive there (back home)… I was lost for a couple of months.”

He then discussed having to re-learn old habits, like locking the door of the house, and finding his way around his city again.

Jean recalled some of the most beautiful moments on his journey, passionately recalling the memories of the many families whotook him in, shared their food and their culture, and taught him so much about the incredible diversity of the human race:

“for me, what I want always to remember is when I was with families, very simple people. I stayed with about 1600 families. It was a big privilege to be in their heart, and to be received. They shared their food and share about their culture, how you eat, and they teach you. And they laugh because we are so not used to it. The way to take food in cultures change. These sort of things were unique for me.”

I spoke with Jean’s wife, Luce, about how Jean’s long journey away had affected them, and their period of re-adjustment after Jean’s return.

“We had to adjust to our living quality. It was very difficult. Friends had told me ‘It’s going to be hard, you’ve been living alone for eleven years…you’re not used to having somebody living with you.’ I said, ‘oh no, we will adjust easily’, but it was not easy. It was not easy at all, because I was living alone, and doing all of my things, and I’m very structured. It was not easy for him and not easy for me.”

Jean then spoke about his new fast-paced live as a speaker, talking to audiences around the world about his journey. He recently signed a contract with a french editor for a book. With a smile, Luce said, “It keeps us alive”.

Sitting and talking with them, I was so incredibly moved by their story, not just of Jean walking around the world, but also of thestrength of their bond. Jean and Luce were able to support each other through that journey, and despite their physical time apart, they did not grow apart from each other. Theirs is a rare example of love, understanding, and the human connection.

You can find more informaiton on Jean Beliveau’s journey at http://wwwalk.org

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