Routes of Change founder in Alberni March 14

Markus Pukonen has spent nearly 250 days kayaking, pogo sticking and cycling across Canada, and he’s nowhere near stopping yet.

Markus Pukonen hops his way through a Winnipeg park on a pogo stick as part of his 1

Markus Pukonen has spent nearly 250 days kayaking, pogo sticking and cycling across Canada, and he’s nowhere near stopping yet.

Pukonen, who started his journey in Toronto, is raising money and awareness for small, local non-profits.

“The message that I want people to take away is that small changes can make a big difference,” said Pukonen.

“Local, small non-profit organizations are doing really great work and could use some support.”

He didn’t set out to make a stand against motorized transportation or to inspire people to give it up—though that has been a welcome side effect—but instead wanted his fundraiser to be something he was passionate about and something that would help the people close to him.

“I was taking a look at my niece’s life and how I could make it a better place for her on this planet,” Pukonen said.

He also realized that if he was going to make a stand, now was the time.

“At the same time I also got some bad news about my dad’s life, I found out that he was given two weeks to live with leukemia and all of that combined to make me think that life can be really short and that I shouldn’t waste it doing something I’m not really passionate about.”

Thus the idea for Routes of Change was born. Pukonen aims to circumvent the globe in 1,825 days using only non-motorized forms of transportation.

He’s almost 250 days in and some days have been better than others.

“The hardest single part was probably the transition from snow into the rain, which happened all in one day. It’s that transition of coming out of the cold and still being in the cold but then being wet was extremely uncomfortable and cold,” Pukonen said of his descent out of the Coquihalla Pass near Hope, B.C.

Recumbent tricycling was also physically challenging.

“Even though I had storms on Lake Superior and I skied in -20 degree Celsius and slept outside in -25 under trees, the hardest part and the most dangerous was when I was on a tricycle in the Prairies on the highway. You never know if people are paying attention or if they’re texting.”

Pukonen’s favourite mode of transportation ended up surprising him.

“My favourite mode of transportation was by far the pogo stick,” said Pukonen. He hopped for 10 kilometres.

“I thought that was going to be the most painful thing I did but something about the fact that it was forcing  me to smile and laugh at myself made my body feel better doing it.”

But the overall highlight of the journey has been the people.

“I’m just continuously meeting really amazing, inspiring people who are making really cool, positive changes on the planet,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s really small little things but it’s really inspiring meeting so many people who are doing so many cool things and who are super generous and kind. It just hammers home the point that we are all pretty kind on this planet and it’s just a matter of smiling and noticing that someone is there to get to know how amazing they are.”

Pukonen will speak about his journey when he cycles into Port Alberni from Tofino on Monday, March 14. The talk is in partnership with the Alberni Valley Transition Town Society and is at 7 p.m. at Char’s Landing with a suggested donation of $10. For more information, visit www.routesofchange.org.

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