He's worn his way through 16 pairs of shoes while walking his way from Canada to Argentina. Now he wants to tackle the rest of the world, hiking his way around the globe on a journey that will take him years.
Pushing a three-wheeled baby stroller loaded with tent, sleeping bag and his country's Maple Leaf flag, Canadian Jean Beliveau walked across Argentina's cattle-graising pampas into Buenos Aires on Tuesday. He's now some 10,800 miles into his journey -- less than a quarter of the way into the hike he hopes to finish in 2012.
The 47-year-old former salesman, who once hawked neon advertising signs, said he awoke one day in 1999 and thought about doing something unusual.
"I needed a change, but not just a change of jobs," Beliveau said. "I started thinking 'How long would it take to go from Montreal to New York? And how long from Montreal to Mexico?' I went and looked in an atlas at the distances and began thinking more and more about setting out."
After Argentina, he next wants to hike a relative short leg up the coast to Brazil. Then his dream is to fly to South Africa and begin hiking northward, cross Europe and the Middle East and perhaps even Iraq if conditions permit.
Next up would be Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and then Canada from west to east before finally returning home. He said he is walking for world peace for children.
"Great day for a walk!" Beliveau said in French-accented English as he hoofed down a stretch of highway past verdant fields near Lujan, 40 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
The last licks of a thunderstorm pelted him with drizzle. A speeding bus splashed him with its spray as the driver pounded the horn.
Others gawked in disbelief, like a tractor driver who stood amid fresh-mown grass and stared at the lanky, gray-haired Canadian in a khaki shirt and blue jeans filing past.
"Canada?" asked the tractor driver, David Nieves, quizzically. "That sure is a long way away."
Stares and smiles are nothing new for Beliveau, who from Canada walked south from New York State down to Texas, crossing Mexico and Central America to the highlands of Peru.
Stopping occasionally to rest, he then crossed Chile's searing Atacama Desert -- one of Earth's driest spots. From there, he trekked across the Andes Mountains, walking from Chile into Argentina.
The Canadian said the idea of walking the globe came to him in 1999. After months of mulling it over, he told his wife, Luce, and their two grown children, who gave their unconditional support.
Beliveau stays in frequent touch with them via email and occasional phone calls. Still, he has missed events like the birth two years ago of his first grandchild as he crossed Texas.
He said he covers about 25 miles a day in a journey that has proved adventurous and sometimes dangerous.
In Brunswick, N.J., he overnighted from a thunderstorm in a cemetery mausoleum. In Central America, he slept on a dirt floor only feet from the hogs owned by a poor family -- one of hundreds of families that have sheltered or fed him along the way.
While trekking through Peru, he hiked past Incan ruins with llama herders who shared their own nomadic way of life.
On Monday, he walked along a highway leading to Buenos Aires with trucks, buses and squadrons of bicycle racing enthusiasts who train on the route.
Beliveau says his only regret is missing Colombia, where authorities made him fly across to Ecuador because of a civil war.
Other than that leg, he said it will be one foot in front of another until he's covered some 77 countries and roughly 53,000 miles. That means no cars -- no matter how extreme the conditions.
"Many drivers offer to give me a lift along the way. But of course I can't accept."
(China Daily March 13, 2003)