There are moments where everything suddenly changes. Everything we knew. Everything we were once sure of falters and casts doubt over everything we've been up until that very moment. When this upset is the result of a disease, an additional challenge arises: not falling into the trap of identifying ourselves with the disease itself.
For Michele Agostinetto, this moment came in 2020 and revealed itself with a series of symptoms which, unfortunately, lead to a terrible diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis: a degenerative disease that causes him perpetual physical and mental fatigue which is difficult to imagine and to communicate to non-sufferers.
After a year spent in fear of being unable to recover, however, Michele realized that he is not that; he is so much more. He still has his dreams, his goals, and most importantly, he has a new message of rebirth to communicate in order to raise awareness of this disease as well as provide support to those affected by it. To do so, he decided to set out again, literally. His goal is to take his message from the mountains of the north to the seas of southern Italy by walking nearly 2,000 km.
This is how his project Un Viaggio da Sclero was born. And to promote his initiative, Michele decided to rely on WebSite X5, which he used to create his website unviaggiodasclero.it.
Today, Michele is here with us to share his experience.
Hi Michele! Let’s start from the beginning. Receiving such a diagnosis must be very difficult, but you managed to pick yourself back up. Can you tell us more about it?
2020 was a pretty tough year, both physically and emotionally. Receiving the diagnosis was like coming to a wall in the middle of a road after a curve. I felt lost. My job, my convictions, my plans...everything was lost. I spent months waiting for the therapy to work. In the meantime, my life became unrecognizable, and I saw no future. We all grew up seeing commercials that only showed people in wheelchairs, and the only idea you have is what you've seen on television.
The turning point for me came on May 1, 2021. After throwing the crutches into the living room, I decided to take back what was rightfully mine and began walking. Initially, it was 100 meters, then 300. After a week, I walked an entire kilometer! Needless to say, I came home crying like a baby.
And, as I walked and improved my stamina day by day, I thought back to when, as a child, my parents took me to Puglia to visit my grandmother. This is how the idea of Un Viaggio da Sclero took shape: I would set out from Valdobbiadene, my father's hometown, and walk to Puglia, the region where my mother was born, to take my message of hope from the mountains of the north to the sea of the south. No sooner said than done! All that was needed was money and lots and lots of training.
How did you prepare for this endeavor, and what goals did you have in mind when you thought of Un Viaggio da Sclero?
The first year was basically physical and organizational preparation. For all of 2021 and until April 2022, in fact, I planned the stages, came up with the logo and name and began to look for funding and sponsors to get me going. Preparation for the actual journey was then needed. I began walking at least 10 kilometers every day, not only to strengthen my muscles, but more importantly to understand my limitations due to the disease. So all that remained was to decide when to leave. I chose May 1, 2022, just one year after rediscovering my new life.
However, the main purpose of the project is to show people with my condition that it's not all predetermined, that it's often possible to be reborn through an abundance of willpower. And this seems to be working because I get messages all the time from people who are picking themselves back up, just as I did.
You've been on the road for a long time now. How are you doing? Is it as you imagined it would be?
My journey began almost two months ago, and I must admit that I had thought it would be completely different. After initially following a different route, when I arrived in Viterbo, I shifted to the Via Francigena, and now I'm on the outskirts of Rome, halfway through the journey.
Beyond the physical effort, which I had obviously taken into account, what I did not expect is the notoriety that this project has brought me. More and more people are joining and accompanying me mile by mile. I feel like Forrest Gump!
Let's now turn to a topic related to your trip: the internet. In fact, at some point, you thought of sharing this idea of yours online as well. When and why did you feel the need to create a website to support your project?
Initially, I promoted my project through social media, specifically on Instagram and Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel where I post videos of my walking days, so everyone can accompany me. But I needed a web page that was visible to everyone and that was not just a social media page: a kind of hub to which I could connect all my contacts and where I could provide more information about my story and my initiative. This is how I decided to create my website, unviaggiodasclero.it, which sums up my entire experience. Basically, those who want to learn about me will find everything there.
And as your traveling companion, you chose WebSite X5...
That's right! WebSite X5 is a program I was familiar with and have used non-professionally in the past to create sites for friends. To bring myself up to speed a bit, I decided to upgrade to the new version, first downloading the Go edition, which I used to create the foundation of my current site, then upgrading to the Pro edition and supplementing it especially in terms of the responsive aspect.
Why did you rely specifically on WebSite X5, and which benefits did the online visibility bring to Un Viaggio da Sclero?
I definitely chose WebSite X5 because it was a tool I was already familiar with. Moving on to the latest version, I greatly appreciated the program's obvious improvements, especially with respect to the ease of managing the content to be inserted. The greatest satisfaction is in looking at the finished site and realizing that it looks like it was done by a professional, but yet it was done by me! Now, I have people outside my circle of friends who are asking me to make them one.
My website has proven to be a great business card. As I mentioned earlier, it collects all my contact information and also allows me to insert links and references to external products. It was also very helpful to me in raising money to help me fund my initiative. In fact, I have included a page devoted specifically to crowdfunding in addition to one listing all the newspapers that have mentioned me.
WebSite X5 has helped provide visibility to my journey and, as a result, share the message of awareness that I want to take with me.
Let's end with a positive message. What would you say to those who find themselves faced with a difficult situation like yours?
Everyone deals with their lives and situations as they're able, but sometimes you need an example in order to move forward. And if you can't find an example, be your own!