Alexandra Pope, staff writer
November 6, 2011 — When you spend 11 years walking around the world, you encounter every conceivable kind of weather.
On August 18th, 2000, at 9 a.m., Jean Belliveau went out for a walk. He didn't come back for 11 years.
The 56-year-old recently returned to his native Montreal after more than a decade spent walking around the world.
His journey started as an antidote to a mid-life crisis, but it became an epic campaign for peace in recognition of the United Nations' declaration of 2001-2011 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.
“When I left, it was because I had a need to change my life,” Belliveau explained in an interview with The Weather Network. “Now, after all these years away from home ... I feel like I'm looking at the world and my own country differently.”
Belliveau walked 75,000 km across 64 countries, pushing a three-wheeled stroller containing his camping gear, clothing, food and medical supplies.
Along the way, he passed through some of the most extreme climates on Earth, from the deserts of Sudan and Chile to the lofty heights of the Andes and Rockies.
He experienced the rainy season in Central America, winter in eastern Europe and scorching heat in the Australian outback.
“It was 45°C nearly every day for at least three months,” he said of his time in Australia. “I had to drink 10-12 litres of water per day.”
But walking in extreme heat was easy compared to walking through days of steady rain.
“Sometimes there's nothing around for a long, long way, and when you walk in the rain and become all wet, the blisters come,” he said.
Belliveau said watching how people adapt to their environment and local weather was one of the most eye-opening aspects of his journey. He developed a new appreciation for the importance of water, especially after watching families in northern Mozambique struggle through prolonged drought.
That new awareness has prompted him to change his lifestyle now that he's back.
“I try to be aware, with every product I buy, whether it helps people or exploits them,” he said. “I believe too we should be aware of our own problems in Canada and try to make a better life for our own children.”
Belliveau said returning to Canada has been a big adjustment, but he's happy to be back.
“It's beautiful to sleep in the same bed every night after 4,077 nights away from home,” he said.
For more information on Belliveau's journey, visit WWWalk.org.