By JACK SKINNER
Markus Pukonen, a former student at Balmy Beach Public School and Malvern Collegiate Institute, set off on a journey to travel the world without the use of a motor eight years ago.
He plans to make his return to the Balmy Beach Club, the spot from where he began the journey, this Saturday, July 8.
Pukonen started his trek on July 18, 2015, his 33rd birthday, on the steps in front of his house on Silver Birch Avenue. From there he walked with friends, family and supporters along the Boardwalk before setting off in a canoe onto to Lake Ontario.
Almost eight years and a global pandemic later, he is returning home. Travelling more than 60,000 kilometres, Pukonen has paddled, hiked, walked, cycled, pogo-sticked, and sailed around the world.
Before he set off on his world journey, Pukonen founded a non-profit organization, Routes of Change. His goal for this organization is to “use adventure and entertainment to support the unsung leaders of our planet.” said the Routes of Change website.
“What I am doing is inspiring the public and students at presentations and connecting with local non-profit organizations to share their stories and raise support for them,” said the Routes of Change website.
Pukonen first travelled across Canada by paddling, cycling, pogo-sticking, and by walking, ending at the western shore of Vancouver Island. He then he headed south to San Francisco and proceeded to the last stop in North America, Hawaii, via sailboat.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, Pukonen was staying in Rishikesh, India, and he didn’t know how serious the lockdown could get.
“I was very prepared to just not move and stay put. I thought about going to a yoga retreat and spending some time editing videos, but I ended up being more social because I got stuck in a guest house with travellers from all around the world. Coming home was never really an option,” he said on the Routes of Change website.
He was locked down for eight months in India, but as soon as the restrictions were lifted, he cycled the country, bought a sailboat, and sailed to Africa.
Pukonen recently made his way north through the United States, paddling through the Intracoastal Waterway to Georgia, and then hiking through the Appalachian Trail to Albany, New York.
He is now back in Canada, and as of Wednesday, July 5, was paddling towards Toronto via Lake Ontario.
According to the Routes of Change website, he plans to begin heading east across Toronto from Etobicoke early on the morning of Saturday, July 8. At approximately 4 p.m. he will be at the west end of the Boardwalk in Ashbridges Bay Park and will then head east from there to the Balmy Beach Club where a celebration is planned for 5:30 p.m.
For more information and updates on Pukonen’s journey, please visit the Routes of Change website at https://routesofchange.org/
For an earlier Beach Metro Community News story on his journey please see: https://beachmetro.com/2015/07/21/year-global-journey-begins-balmy-beach/