Photo: Bryan Steward. Source: CommunityNews.org
This man hiked 500 miles this summer, and he also has Becker muscular dystrophy.
This is the inspiring story of Bryan Steward. He is a 24-year-old man who was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy at a very young age (when he was only 8 years old). However, he has never stopped hiking. Since he was a child, his parents used to take him to great outdoor trails in the states of Wyoming and Colorado.
But this is certainly the greatest hiking challenge he has ever faced. The Camino, which is a 500-mile walking trail that connects Santiago de Compostela and the Pyrenees Mountains (Northern Spain) has been walked by thousands of people, and now Steward became another one. Starting on August 18th and finishing his journey on October 2nd, Steward walked The Camino regardless his condition.
Although the Camino is not the toughest walking trail in the world, it is still a big challenge taking into account the distance people need to walk to complete it. Steward walked the road while facing the degenerative condition named Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD), a condition which had his muscles holding up, but he still did not surrender.
Making the decision
Bryan decided to push himself and walk the Camino with the purpose of seeing the edge of his own abilities, getting to know new cultures, being in contact with nature and seeking some kind of spiritual connection. Many people around the world state that the Camino is a place to find oneself and focus on spiritual enlightening.
Becker muscular dystrophy is a condition that can leave Steward sitting on a wheelchair at any moment, for that reason he preferred to take the risk while he is still able to. “I want to stay active and do everything I’m able to before it’s too late,” said Steward.
Before starting his journey that lasted 46 days he posted a blog breaking down all these aspects that led him into making this decision to walk the whole road in norther Spain. The blog was titled “Walking 500 Miles While I Still Can” and was uploaded onto the Muscular Dystrophy Association website.
The results of a life-changing journey
Steward finished the walk 46 days after he started. Although people take usually around 33 days to walk it, Steward took his time to appreciate nature and file as many memories possible during this big adventure. Also, it is worth mentioning the Camino is considered a quite tough terrain to walk, and not everyone is able to walk 500 miles.
“Walking makes you understand about distances. You see everything in a different way,” mentions Steward. He said that one of the most attractive aspects about this journey is that he had to step out of his comfort zone, and he did, radically.
Many people ask the question if he endeavoured to complete this journey all by himself, and the answer is yes. Getting permission from his boss was not a big deal; she and the other 6 part-timers he works with were all very excited about this decision and never stopped supporting their colleague’s trip. Steward, who works part-time as an administrative assistant, asked for it and his boss supported his decision. Sadly, none of his friends were able to go with him, so he decided to do it himself. His parents supported the decision as well, not without feeling a bit nervous about it.
In a mixture of worry and excitement his working team let him go asking if he was going by himself and cheering him up with “go for it, man!”
Dealing with his absence at work required some adjustment from other part-timers. They looked at all of Steward’s updates, celebrating every place he visited. Once he was back to the office, they celebrated the big achievement with an Oreo cookie cake.
This journey also had an impact on Stewards figure, who lost seven pounds while trekking across the Camino.
A big journey, completed all alone?
Steward went to Spain alone, but fortunately, he made a bunch of friends there. Along the way he was able to meet many different people. In some cases, he was not able to keep up to their pace due to his condition, although this could have been frustrating, it actually helped him make more friends during the journey.
Probably the toughest part of the journey was “The Maceta,” Steward actually called it a mentally draining trail. Although he considers it the easiest part to complete regarding the physical performance required, it is a deserting, long and unbroken stretch composed by sand and dirt. Steward commented, “Looking back you will see where you were an hour ago, looking ahead you will see where you will be in an hour. It is exactly the same.”
The Maceta usually takes 4 days to be completed, but in Stewards case it took a little bit longer, 6 days in total. Steward says this was the time he was about to give up, but he reminded himself that he wanted to do it, and that no one pushed him to make that decision but himself.
Steward is usually considered a wise man for his young age. He highlights that challenges like this can make anyone understand that there is no such thing as being strong or being weak. It is a matter of focus.
Although the routine of waking up, walking and then sleeping, repeated for a month and a half became a bit intoxicating, it helped him understand that big challenges are about perception.
Finally, feeling like a new Steward, he completed the walk and came back home where his parents were waiting for him with a pizza. While they could not hide how worried they were during their son’s journey, they were also very proud he was able to complete it.
Paul, his father, said that he had no doubt Bryan would be able to complete walk. He’s now urging his son to write his experiences in the Camino in a book. His blog posted on MDA website has raised $500 so far, and Bryan has also considered making a documentary about the journey.
Bryan has made clear that he does not want this to be his last adventure. He’s thinking about going to Mt. Kilimanjaro or probably the Appalachian Trail. He said, “It is not about a goal, it is the journey.”