A Tofino man is on the verge of completing an epic odyssey that most of us could only imagine.
Markus Pukonen has spent nearly eight years travelling the world, all without the use of a single motor.
“No, not even an elevator,” he told CHEK News. “When I say I don’t use motorized transportation [it’s true.] I just, I like to be a man of my word. And it’s fun.”
The idea for the trip came to Pukonen while he was fighting forest fires in B.C. Initially, the idea was to make a film to inspire people to live with a lighter footprint.
The concept sat with him for seven years before it found new urgency.
“My dad called me up and told me he had two weeks to live,” said Pukonen.
“He had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia out of nowhere. And on my way home to see him, I basically scribbled down on a piece of paper the ‘Routes of Change’ journey,” he said.
Pukonen has been documenting the trip on YouTube on his account Routes of Change.
The journey was supported by savings, crowdfunding and some odd jobs.
It saw highs – like forging new friendships – and some lows, like living through eight months of lockdown in northern India.
But it was 40 days adrift at sea onboard a small sailboat in the Indian Ocean that almost brought to the voyage to an early end.
“There was no wind, and that was about six years into the trip, and [it] was the first time of the whole trip that I wished I could give up,” he said.
But the wind came and he sailed on, south around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean.
He traded his boat for a paddleboard in Florida then hiked and biked across the United States.
He finally crossed back home into Canada at Niagara Falls.
“I just went around the corner and I guess the thought that I was in my homeland just hit me and I just started bawling my eyes out,” he said.
Pukonen now has just 20 kilometres left to go, the last of more than 73,000 travelled so far.
The last stretch will be tackled Saturday the way he started the trip, surrounded by friends and family.
“I’m going to start by walking, and I know some friends are going to bring some other forms,” he said. “It might be some skateboarding, maybe some rollerblading, maybe some roller skiing if that comes about. But I think mostly I’m just on foot and dancing. Lots of dancing for sure.”
Pukonen says he’s looking forward to returning to Tofino, where he can bike or walk to the beach. But for the trip home, he’s planning to take the train, a mode of transport with a motor that he’s certainly earned.
With files from CHEK News’ Keith Vass