One B.C. man plans to make the world a better place, and he’s going to do it by traveling all the way around it, one pogo jump at a time.
Last week, Markus Pukonen began an 82,000 km, five-year journey, circumnavigating the planet without a motor. Raising money under his Routes of Change organization, Pukonen plans to support a variety of nonprofit organizations along the way, hoping to leave the world a better place than he found it.
Pukonen first had the idea for Routes of Change six years ago, after suddenly losing his father the leukaemia.
“I thought about my life and how I needed to be doing exactly what I loved as soon as possible, just knowing that life can be taken from you so fast,” he tells Vancity Buzz. “Around that same time I found out my sister was pregnant with my niece, so it just sort of hammered home the point that I need to do everything I possibly can to create a healthier future for her, as well.”
A documentary filmmaker and accomplished adventurer, Pukonen was recently named by Canadian Geographic as one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers. He has a long list of accomplishments, including being the first person to stand-up paddle board across the Georgia Strait, as well as rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, and paddling down the length of the Mississippi River.
Setting out from his childhood home in Toronto, Pukonen will use as many people-powered methods of travel as possible. Walking, skateboarding, pogo-sticking, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, sailing; whatever he has to do to put the miles behind him.
“This project is sort of a combination of all my passions. It’s exactly what I want to be doing on this planet, it’s my way of giving back, it’s a way of living the life I want to live,” he says.
While the trip is a massive undertaking, he’s confident his experience will allow him to adapt to any of the challenges he’ll encounter.
“I’ve actually done very little preparation and planning for this trip, to be completely honest. I mean I’ve been dreaming of it and thinking of how it will work for six years, and I have the experience of how an expedition will come together, but on a trip that’s going to take me five years around the planet I’ve basically worked on the first steps,” he says.
The planning he has done has mostly involved working with organizations that will provide funding, support, and donations. He has even signed a contract with a television production company to create a series based on his adventures.
“It’s been a lot more desk time and computer time than I’m used to, so I’m probably starting this trip in the worst physical shape that I’ve been in in a while,” he says, laughing.
When it comes to leaving his home for the five year trip, Pukonen says the last several years have given him new perspective in regards to what home and family means to him.
“As cheesy as it sounds I’m pretty good at carrying my loved ones with me. I think the fact that I’ve lost both my parents has changed the way I look at relationships and loved ones, in the sense that I tend not to focus on the lack of somebody’s presence, but more on the fact that they’re in my life, and with me,” he says. “So I’m able to carry the memories of my parents with me, and also the love and support from everybody I know.”
“I really believe that I have the ability to raise a lot of support for organizations that are doing really amazing things. That’s what I’m most excited for. Obviously it’s going to be an endless learning experience for me, so I’m going to be constantly meeting and experience new things, learning more about the planet, and myself. There’s so many unknowns that I’m really looking forward to.”
After years of planning, Pukonen says he’s excited to finally see what’s out there waiting for him.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen. Because I have no idea,” he says.
To support Routes of Change, or to sign up to join Pukonen on any one of the legs of the his journey, visit the Routes of Change website.