Jean Beliveau
Canadian Jean Beliveau walks across the Atacama Desert, near Antofagasta, 1300 km (812 miles) north of Santiago, September 5, 2002. REUTERS

He left his home in Montreal, Canada 11 years and two months ago when his business went bankrupt; now Jean Beliveau has returned home after literally walking around the world.

Instead of falling into a midlife crisis - or perhaps because of it - Beliveau left Montreal on Aug. 18, 2000, his 45th birthday.

The former neon-sign salesman first asked himself how long it would take to walk to New York. Shortly after that he calculated the distances between nearby countries. Then, he says one day he just asked himself Why not? and set out planning his decade-long journey.

He began running, and ran all the way to Atlanta, Georgia before slowing his step for what would become the longest uninterrupted walk around the world, traversing 46,600 miles across 64 countries.

What began as an urgent question - Is this all there is? - morphed into a mission. 56-year-old Beliveau, who arrived home to a hero's welcome on Sunday, said that his real mission was to lobby Canada and other governments to create ministries of peace.

Beliveau said that the so-called ministry of peace could lead to the creation of a team that would lecture students on peace issues as well as the formation of a Canadian peace corps.

We may never have peace but if we take one step forward, and then another, I think we can create a better world together, Beliveau said.

We are all different, and that is what is beautiful about life on Earth - our different colors, different beliefs, different political systems, he told the eager public upon his arrival in Montreal.

Those are all musical notes. We must create harmony from them, create a common tune, he told the crowd assembled at city hall in the old section of the French-Canadian city.

Beliveau did not enter Montreal alone. He was joined by over 100 supporters who walked the final few miles through the streets of Montreal.

The seasoned walker was welcomed home by his mother, whom he had not seen since leaving 11 years ago. Beliveau also reunited with two children from his first marriage, and two grandchildren, one whom he has met just once, and the other whom he met for the first time.

He was also greeted by his wife Luce Archambault, who offered Beliveau both emotional and financial support for his long journey. Archambault flew to meet Beliveau wherever he was each Christmas. Last month, she was quoted saying I'm his Penelope and he is my Ulysses.

Beliveau said that he remained faithful to his wife throughout the trip.

Some women wanted their babies to have blue eyes, Beliveau said on Sunday. I never wanted to. I respected my Luce. I saw her for three weeks a year.

Beliveau reportedly was taken in by escaped murders, ate insects throughout Africa, wore a turban and donned a long beard in Sudan, was escorted by armed soldiers in the Philippines, ate snakes in China, and nearly escaped a close encounter with a puma in a South American desert.

He said it was the poor people that helped him the most.

I knocked on the doors of the privileged, asked them to help me, and they refused, Beliveau said. Some even threatened me. The poor shared what they had.

When asked if he was tired after such a long journey, Beliveau joked, They say walking is good for the health. Imagine how healthy I am.

While the Canadian man claims that his 11-year trek is the longest anyone has ever walked without returning home, he emphasized that he is by no means the person who has walked the most.

I met a lot of people and I saw a lot of walkers, he said. An Indian guru walked naked from morning to night. He walked a lot more in his life than I have - and he's not alone. There are many like him.

So how is Beliveau enjoying his native land?

I feel like a stranger in my own country, he said on Sunday. I don't know what kind of music people are listing to these days, or what is on television, in politics, or on the news.

Beliveau plans to spend some time penning his story, holding seminars, and sharing morning coffee with his wife.

You can learn more about Jean Beliveau's walk and see a map of his journey HERE.