MONTREAL – From now on, Jean Beliveau plans to limit himself to shorter walks.
After an epic 75,000 kilometre, 11-year trek across the globe, the Montreal native said he’s looking forward to more casual strolls through his hometown’s parks.
The 56-year-old crossed a bridge onto Montreal soil early Sunday morning to wrap up a gruelling journey that took him to 64 countries.
Beliveau shared an emotional reunion with his wife and mother as a crowd of onlookers welcomed him home with cheers.
“I never expected such a huge welcome,” Beliveau, who should not be confused with the Montreal Canadiens great of the same name, told reporters.
“It’s amazing, it’s hard to describe,” he said after embracing his wife, Luce Archambault.
“But I can also tell you that I feel a certain peace.”
Beliveau decided to leave Montreal in 2000, after closing his business and going through what he has described as a kind of mid-life crisis.
The former neon-sign salesman said he was inspired by Terry Fox, dedicating his trip to promoting peace and awareness about children facing violence.
When asked if he was tired after such a long journey, Beliveau cheerfully replied: “They say walking is good for the health. Imagine how healthy I am.”
Beliveau said he now plans to embark on a different kind of adventure. He wants to make up for lost time with his family.
Earlier this week, Beliveau met his five-year-old granddaughter Amira for the first time and was reunited with Laury, his 10-year-old granddaughter whom he has met just once.
And Beliveau saw Archambault, his spouse of 24 years, about once a year during his travels.
As she waited for her husband to cross into Montreal, Archambault said she was excited and had “butterflies in her stomach.”
The couple managed to keep in touch through email and Skype, and the time went “surprisingly fast,” she said.
When Beliveau first announced his travel plans, Archambault initially thought he was trying to end the relationship. But Beliveau, who was fed up with his nine-to-five job, told her that was not the case.
Beliveau plans to write a book about his adventures, which include being taken in by escaped murderers, eating insects in Africa and having a close encounter with a puma in a South American desert.
Beliveau stayed with some 1,600 families over the years and said he has learned to appreciate the little things in life.
“The naive guy who left 11 years ago now he sees his own place differently,” he said.
“There were difficult times, spiritually and mentally, but my wife always encouraged me. She’d say if you stop now it’s like you’ve done nothing.”
One of the things he missed most during his trip was sharing a morning coffee with his wife, he said.
“Maybe that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.”