Inspired by a childhood story, Filipe Masetti de Sousa Leite has embarked on a long journey home.
Leite is riding horseback to Brazil, after starting his journey at the Calgary Stampede.
Along the way, the 25-year-old journalist hopes to raise awareness of human rights.
Leite was in Fort Macleod last week on a ride that will cover about 16,000 kilometres in 12 countries over two years.
Leite’s journey began with a story read to him by his father about Aime Tschiffelly’s 1925 ride on horseback from Argentina to New York.
“It’s the earliest story I can remember,” said Leite, who estimates he was about four years old when he heard it. “It’s a story that resonated with me my whole life. It just became a passion for me.”
Leite’s family in 1996 emigrated from Brazil to Bolton, Ont. Leite’s father Luis was a cowboy and organized one of the first rodeos in Brazil and himself dreamed of making a long ride such as the one in the story.
Marriage, children and the business of life prevented the elder Leite from fulfilling that goal, so Filipe decided it would become his destiny.
Luis Leite perhaps determined his son’s destiny when he named him Filipe, which means “friend of horses” or “lover of horses.”
“It just feels right,” Leite said Saturday at Fort Macleod Midnight Stadium, where he was introduced to the crowd at the demolition derby. “If I didn’t do this I would not be true to myself.”
Leite knows his way around horses, having competed in rodeo and roping in Ontario, twice qualifying in tie down roping in the National High School Rodeo Association finals.
Leite is also an experienced traveller, having volunteered and filmed in Canada, Central America, Cuba, Brazil, Peru and Kenya. He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese and has Brazilian and Italian citizenship.
Leite began planning his horseback journey while he was completing his journalism studies at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Leite did extensive research on the route and what he would encounter along the way, and sought sponsorships. Many people closed the door in his face, declaring the young man crazy for taking on such an adventure.
The young cowboy turned journalist will take his time on his journey, stopping to visit with people and learn about their lives and communities.
He spent time last week in Fort Macleod, where Don and Connie Hunter put him up at the Sunset Motel and the Fort Macleod Agricultural Society provided accommodation and hay at Midnight Stadium for his two horses Bruiser and Frenchman’s Tru Angel.
Leite visited The Fort — Museum of the North West Mounted Police and talked to people in the community about life in Fort Macleod.
He will put his journalistic training to work, producing about every two months a 10-minute documentary on his ride. Some of the more compelling stories he hears from people along the way will be incorporated in those documentaries.
At the end of the ride, the footage Leite captures along the way will be distilled into a 120-minute documentary.
Along the way Leite will visit university journalism programs where he will ask students about human rights issues in their communities and discuss ways of raising awareness through the media.
Leite is relying on the kindness of strangers on his journey, often appearing at farms at the end of the day to share his story and ask for lodgings for himself and his horse.
That’s part of Leite’s goal, to show the world just how friendly and accommodating people can be to strangers.
Leite his only travelled from Calgary to Fort Macleod, but he has already experience that kindness.
“The people who help you along the way are amazing,” said Leite, who on Saturday had people walk up to him, press $20 bills into his hands, and wish him well.
You can learn more about Filipe Leite and follow his journey at www.journeyamerica.net.