Traveling long distances can be exciting, but most people eventually sigh and ask the inevitable: “Are we there yet?” Even the most eager of jet-setters will find traveling tiring at one point or another.

Then there are those who find solace in great adventures—particularly long walks. A number of brave souls have even traversed whole continents on foot. Usually, such travelers will plan their voyages carefully in order to face parts of the world that most of us will never see.

One Canadian man, however, was not much of a planner. His deep desire to visit one particular site fueled a mission that resulted with him disappearing into thin air. But the real story was much more complicated…

In 2012, a Canadian man and former humanitarian worker named Anton Pilipa left his home with only the clothes on his back. Telling not one soul of his departure, he abandoned his life—not to mention, his identification—behind in search of one thing: the National Library of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The year before his journey, Anton had been treated for possible schizophrenia. He’d also been charged with assault and weapons offenses, which likely provided the motivation for his fleeing Canada. Strangely enough, he decided to travel by foot, surviving by eating berries, taking clothes from trash cans, and relying on the kindness of strangers. Sadly, when he finally reached the library in Buenos Aires, he was turned away for having no identification.

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After being rejected, Anton simply turned on his heels and ventured into Brazil. He trudged through the Amazon rainforest, where he lost all his toenails. A Brazilian police officer discovered him barefoot by the side of a dusty road. The officer then tracked down Anton’s family, who were understandably shocked.

Anton’s brother Stefan was worried he’d died, saying, “That was the only thing I could come up with that explained his absence.” Five years passed between the time of his disappearance and his return. Despite his ongoing struggle with mental illness and feeling overwhelmed to be among people again—as well as having to answer to the charges filed against him—Anton was undeniably happy to see his family.

Anton’s journey, while impressive, is indicative that there remains a lot of work to be done when it comes to treating mental illness. Thankfully he found enough help in the kindness of strangers to get him back on the right path. Hopefully he’ll resolve his issues at home—and be able to revisit the National Library in Buenos Aires under better conditions!

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