Former athlete takes inspiring walk across America
MONTE VISTA— On April 21 Sebastien Jacques began a 5,000 km walk in Virginia Beach, Va. Jacques’ walk is an emotional journey and a personal symbol of determination, courage and hope for himself, but more importantly a symbol to inspire others to overcome the individual obstacles in their lives. Jacques walks 25 miles a day in a journey to Santa Monica, California, bringing him through Monte Vista on Saturday, July 29.
Originally from Quebec, Jacques was an athlete and a star tennis player, winning two national championships before going to Virginia Tech on an athletic scholarship in 2007. Jacques began having health problems during his fourth year in college and by 2014 “…wasn’t able to walk more than 15 minutes a day for four years. I had learned to live that way.” Jacques learned he had a brain tumor in the center of his brain, originally considered benign and inoperable. Through research and fundraising Jacques found a team of skilled neurosurgeons in Santa Monica who performed a removal operation, restoring Jacques’ ability to walk, function and lead a normal life.
Jacques is now on a mission “to inspire people to overcome the obstacles in their lives.” Jacques added, “I am lucky to be alive, but so is everyone,” and explained he wants to have a positive impact in the lives of others and would consider his walk a success “if I was able to help one person know that they can survive.”
Jacques has heard a variety of struggles in the conversations he has had during his walk and understands how everyone’s struggles are always subjectively difficult to the individual who is suffering. Jacques doesn’t minimize anyone else’s troubles, stating he has spoken with people who have health problems and people who are going through difficult breakups among a variety of other problems. “I feel like everyone has their own story. People know my story but by not judging a book by its cover I hear a lot of other important stories… That means even more because a lot of people go through a lot of different things, some very crazy stuff… This walk is more for the people who don’t feel like there is any way out.”
Jacques’ message of hope and determination is a symbol of inspiration, to remind everyone struggling and feeling stuck in a bleak situation that if he can now walk across the country when he could barely walk at all only a couple of years ago, anyone can overcome a difficult situation like he did.
The route of Jacques’ walk is also symbolic. Jacques explained some of his Canadian friends have criticized his choice to walk across the United States when he is from Quebec, but Jacques defends the journey starting where he first experienced symptoms and became ill and ending with shaking hands with the neurosurgeons who performed the surgery that restored his health. Sometimes hosts take Jacques into their homes while he is travelling through the area, and sometimes he camps. “I have been really lucky since Kansas,” he explained hosts have taken him in for the last month. “It’s amazing to see how generous and willing to come out and lend a hand people are. It’s great to see complete strangers open their homes to me.”
When asked what the hardest part of his journey so far was, he stated West Virginia was difficult, “At one point I was constantly going uphill, in the middle of the mountains.” Jacques added he also saw a bear while out walking through an isolated mountainous area there, joking, “I didn’t sleep very well in my tent that night.”
When asked what state he has enjoyed the most or what sights stood out to him, Jacques stated “Colorado is amazing so far… The coolest thing I have seen is the sand dunes…that is something I will for sure remember. I’ve traveled a lot and that is a really cool thing I have seen.”
Jacques took a resting day on Sunday, but normally walks 25 miles a day. After expressing how unexpectedly easy he found La Veta Pass to be, Jacques asked if Wolf Creek would be similar and although he knows it will be considerably more challenging, will face it and the rest of his journey with characteristic resolve and fortitude this week.
Jacques anticipates shaking hands with the doctors in California by the end of September. “This isn’t my walk; this is everyone’s walk,” Jacques stated, adding he wants others to share their stories via his social media @iamsebjacques and on his website sebastienjacques.com where progress and photos of his cross-country journey can be viewed.