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A Chicago native completes a historic trek on the Trans-Bhutan Trail

CHICAGO – A Chicago the man shares his journey, which he hopes can be an inspiration to others as well.

It’s a trip that Patrick Wingert has dreamed of for years and finally accomplished despite the odds.

There are times when our steps lead us to a new path. And this path for Wingert began on October 24.

Then a 20-year dream to visit the country of Bhutan, sandwiched between China and India, became a reality.

“I actually read about Bhutan when I was a sophomore in high school in 2002,” Wingert said. “I read that the king is abdicating and it shocked me. I couldn’t understand why a monarch would do such things and it’s been on my bucket list ever since.’

His life after school took its course: he married and pursued a career in the city’s bustling restaurant industry.

“In the last three and a half, four years, I got divorced, I got sober, the restaurant group I was a part of had to close all of their restaurants and slowly lay off jobs to build up again,” Wingert said. “And then I got into a car accident, lost my leg.”

In the months since the accident, his path has changed in many ways.

“This is not like the beginning of a new chapter, but a completely new book for me as well. It opened my own eyes,” he said.

After the accident, Wingert began to participate in Dare2Trian organization that helps break down barriers to sports and fitness.

He said that’s when he decided he wanted to do something “a little crazy.”

“I read an article that the Trans-Bhutan trail is being opened for the first time since the 1960s,” he said.

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So he sent an email and that’s when the new book started. The new route extended across the country, through 14 mountain passes, stopping at hotels, farms and campsites along the way.

That was 250 miles in 27 days.

“The people of Bhutan are great. They are very friendly, very hospitable,” he said. “They haven’t seen a single Westerner for three years since the country was shut down in the pandemic. “It was gratifying to be a source of joy to so many people, to find joy in doing something I’ve wanted to do for so long.”

On November 22, Wingert became, locals told him, the first Westerner and the first amputee to ever walk the route.

“I didn’t go to Bhutan to try to find something spiritual. I went on a hike, and I came out of it with a completely different mindset and a kind of inner peace and spirituality that I didn’t really know I was looking for,” he said.

It shows how mind over matter can effect a change in perspective and the beginning of a new path.

“The book is still open and unwritten,” Wingert said. “I don’t know what will happen next. I’m just taking the journey as it is at the moment.”


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