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Cross-Canada on a bike, for lessons in life

Charles Michaud in Squamish after fulfilling lifelong dream of travelling 6,000 km from Eastern Quebec

Charles Michaud bought a new bike, took it to the farthest point of Eastern Quebec, turned it westwards and pushed the pedal on a 6,000-km, cross-Canada journey to Squamish.

The journey was much more than a youthful adventure for Michaud. It was a chance to see Canada, to learn English, and more importantly, to find for himself what English-Canadians thought about Quebecers.

"I learned that you are scared of what you haven't seen," he said while relaxing at his friend's Westway Avenue home. "I found out that there are good and bad people everywhere, but most of the English-Canadians I met were helpful. They congratulated me and they said, 'Keep on cycling.'"

Before he started, his father and his sisters were apprehensive about the trip. They feared he was too young to attempt such an arduous trip alone. They said his broken English would be problem outside Quebec. There were others who doubted if he was fit enough to make such a trip.

Michaud, a 23-year-old from Quebec City, said he had no doubts or fears - the trip was a personal mission that was overdue. The idea of a cross-Canada trip first came to Michaud in 2006, when he was travelling in France. The crowded streets of Paris made him long for the Canadian wilderness and his need to connect with it.

When he returned to Canada, he enrolled at the University of Quebec for a degree in outdoor recreation and adventure tourism. When he was informed the final project involved a major outdoor event, Michaud knew he wanted to bike across Canada.

He would bike all day with five minutes' rest every hour, stop at 9 p.m. and pitch his tent wherever he could. After a week, he would rent a motel to do laundry, take a proper bath and sleep before resuming his trip.

He saw them all: the Rockies, the Prairies, the mountains, the ocean, the lakes and rivers, the small towns and the ordinary folks of this country.

Sunburns, sore legs, flat tires and broken gears, the fierce wind in Manitoba, a twister in Saskatchewan: nothing could stop him. He just pushed the pedal hard and finally, 44 days after he had started, he was in Squamish.

Michaud plans to stay in B.C. for some time to improve his English, but he plans on making the cross-Canada trip again.

"There were so many people who disagreed with me on this but I just listened to my heart and I had a dream," he said. "That's all you need for this."

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