When Dana Meise began his cross-country trek on May 6th, 2008 he set out from Cape Spear, Nfld. to be the first man to walk the entire 23,000 km Trans Canada Trail.
He has walked more than 13,000 km, walking six months straight out of the year for five years. Meise’s mission is in honour of his father and he’s also aiming to help unite people across Canada.
Although Meise, 39, calls Prince George, B.C. home where he works as a forest technician when he is not walking, he now refers to himself as a “Homeless man with direction.
“It’s two days walking in Red Deer, because you have almost the same amount of trails as Edmonton does,” explains Meise. “Edmonton has 47 kilometres and Red Deer has 40 kilometres.”
Meise explains that the Trans Canada Trail was originally founded in 1992 by two doctors – one is an astronaut who designed them to connect the old rail lines and to get people out and exploring.
“The idea behind it is to connect communities and it is more romantic. If you are standing on the Trans Canada Trail right now I bet someone in Newfoundland would be too.”
Meise once called Red Deer home when he lived here with his father many years ago. It was here that Meise’s life was changed forever at the age of 12 when his father, Ronny, suffered a brain aneurysm.
His father embarked on a five-year journey to learn to walk again until he suffered from a later stroke and lost the ability to walk.
It is for his father and for his country that Meise now heads down the historical paths that line our beautiful country. “No one has ever done it and it is almost impossible for people to comprehend how complex the trails systems are,” he said.
“I’ve had lots of people email me and tell me they are going to try to do what I’m doing but no one realizes how complex and challenging the trails are, so no one else ever gets further than a thousand kilometres and now I’ve walked the equivalent of twice across Canada or three times across the U.S. by myself.”
Meise has learned much about himself and his country while on his journey, as well as a great deal about the power of community. “It’s a completely different world than people can imagine,” said Meise.
“Just the self-motivation to get up in the morning and walk 30 kilometres is tough. I have no support team with me daily, no one to tell me to wake up and get going in the morning, no one there when I was by myself down and out laying on a rock by Lake Superior screaming what am I doing?”
Although Meise travels alone, his online presence grows daily via his followers on twitter (@thehikingfool), facebook, and his blog www.thegreathike.com.
Meise states that his main idea behind the walk from the very beginning was for the purpose of the book that will be to follow, in which he is writing as he goes.
“My hopes for the book are that somebody from Alberta picks it up and reads it and says ‘Holy he really did his research and maybe he will learn something about his own province’,” said Meise about his book.
“Or maybe someone from New Brunswick will pick up my book and read about Alberta and think ‘Oh maybe Alberta is different than I thought’ and come visit.”
He will be the first to admit that his values have changed along the way and that as he travels across the country on his journey, he is also travelling towards being a better person. “It’s very humbling to have just your backpack and be in the middle of the prairies and see how you get treated,” said Meise.
“I’ve had women not want to sit beside me because they thought I was some street bum, I’ve had garbage thrown at me so I know what it’s like to be homeless and these are my fellow Canadians who if I met under different circumstances would greet me with open arms.”
Meise restates that Canada was founded on the principle of helping your neighbour and he wishes more Canadians would just help one another.
“No matter who you are or who they are, give without receiving and that could mean anything – a smile or more.
“What are you in such a hurry for? You have to get home and watch TV? Try living a good life and helping someone and turning off the TV set. You can honour those people that helped make our country the way it is by volunteering and giving back to your community.”
Meise will continue his journey from Red Deer to Olds and onto Calgary with the hopes of spreading the word of community and humility on his journey to conquer our country’s trails.
“When you lose that big truck, your car, your house and your TV, who are you now? What would you have left?” said Meise “We’ve got one shot at life, you have to make it whatever you want. Sure I will have spent eight years of my life walking, but what did I really give up? My truck?”