XNE 150222 THAIR-Thair Abud during interview at Al Ghurair Rotana Hotel, Deira Photo-Arshad Ali

Dubai: Austrian Thair Abud is a man on a mission. For the last eight months, he has been walking the earth, literally, to fulfill a promise he made to his sister battling cancer.

When XPRESS caught up with the German-born earlier this week in Dubai - his fourth stop in an 8,000 kilometre journey on foot from his residence in Graz, Austria to Makkah – he recalled how it all began last summer. It was, he remembers, following a ‘short’ 2,500km trip on foot from Austria to Santigo de Compostela in Spain the previous year after his sister, Zaussen, now 50, was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.

“When I arrived back home from Spain, she told me that when her pain was unbearable, she found comfort by following and reading up more about my trail. It is then I made an offering that if she turns healthy again, I will walk all the way from Graz to Makkah.

“The promise was made but, for the first time in my life, I was afraid of losing her. So when I decided to walk, it was as if I was secretly running away from her death,” added the qualified civil engineer who dumped a €10,000 plus (Dh42,000) job as general manager of an Austrian MNC and a BMW 730i before setting out on the journey on July 25 last year in a pair of jeans and a tee. “Here I am now on my way to fulfill my promise,” recalled Abud, 49, how his ‘life changing’ journey took shape.

Walking with a rucksack on his back, a Panama hat for shade and two Nordic sticks for support, Abud, son of an Iraqi father and a German mother, has since walked through Zagreb (Croatia), Nikšic and Podgorica (Montenegro), Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Skopje (Macedonia), Shkodër (Albania), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Istanbul, Samsun and Trabzon (Turkey) before eventually reaching Tehran and then Isfahan in Iran en route to the UAE.

After a short break in Dubai this week, he will set out on his journey’s last leg – a roughly 2,000km road trip via Salalah in Oman to Madinah and eventually to Makkah, the final destination.

“The day I reach Makkah, it will be the culmination of a word I gave to my sister after she was detected with cancer. Today she has, after several rounds of chemotherapy, beaten the killer disease and is undergoing her breast reconstruction therapy,” explained the father of three who speaks Italian and Spanish besides fluent Arabic, German and English.

Abud will be covering 8,150km across 12 countries in about 270 days walking 30km on an average per day. “The journey has changed my perception about life and the world around me. It has also made me physically resilient,” says Abud.

Facts about the way

• Countries: 12

• Languages: 10

• Kilometers to go: 8150 km

• Kilometers a day: 30

• Duration: about 270 days

• Start: 25th July 2014

• Arriving: March 2015

• Number of shoes: 6 pairs

• Weight to carry: 14 kg

• Walking speed: 4 km/h

• Steps per km: 1132


YOUSPEAK: Have you ever taken up a challenge for a personal cause?