When Jeff Laybolt set off from his Halifax home for a cross-Canada hike just over 10 months ago, he had no idea what he’d be in for.
“I’ve been at this for just over four hours and I’ve made it less than five kilometres,” Laybolt says in a video diary update the first week as be was battered by wind.
But wind, snow, sleet, bugs and sweltering temperatures weren’t going to stop this epic journey.
“What made me want to leave home and hike for a year of my life?” Laybolt laughs. “Actually, it’s been a dream of mine for my whole life.”
Calling it ‘The Great Walk About‘, Laybolt is raising money for diabetes research.
His mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and it’s affected three generations of his family.
But Laybolt was totally alone on his solo journey, camping along the way and making a daily video journal of his tenuous trek and the life-and-death conditions he endured.
“There were times in Ontario, just because of the heatwave, I didn’t have water for days because there were no ponds or rivers left running and some towns might be two or three days apart,” Laybolt explains.
He admits there were quite a few times he wasn’t sure if he would make it.
“Those moments you really start to question your conviction and wonder how far it is to get out,” he says.
But after 308 days, 9,000 kilometres, and 17 pairs of shoes, Laybolt finally made it to Victoria, and a hero’s welcome.
“It’s an amazing journey,” says walk supporter John Switzer. “He’s challenged himself to quite the feat and it looks like he overcame a lot of physical challenges.”
“I find it very inspiring because of the perseverance that would require,” adds supporter Christine Farrell.
The incredible achievement is even inspiring others to try their own fundraising walk.
“This is one of my dreams,” says Alexis Fox, who came down to Clover Point to watch Laybolt finish. “I want to do this one day myself — either walk or run or ride a bike across Canada for a cause.”
Laybolt’s raised around $12,000 — exceeding his $10,000 goal — and plans to keep fundraising until March.
“It’s been incredible,” he says. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful and amazing places Canada has to offer.”