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One man's zero-emission tour of the world

Words by Tess Becker

Most people have dreams of exploring different parts of the world, seeing cultures and lands beyond what they’re used to. One man decided to do just that, except with a twist - he is circumnavigating the globe, entirely with non-motorized transport. 

Canadian firefighter Markus Pukonen is due back to his home in Toronto after seven years traveling the world with nothing more than “muscles and some wind.”

He used almost every type of transport you could think of, from canoes, kayaks, cycles, tricycles, skies, trimarans, rafts, sailing boats, and stand-up paddleboards, crossing 29 countries to promote more sustainable travel. 

“No planes. No trains. No cars. Not even an elevator,” Markus said.

In total, he covered about 80,000 kilometers motor-free. He had completed similar expeditions previously, paddling down the Mississippi River, but nothing at this scale.

It was his father who after being given a few weeks to live, inspired him to do the journey. 

“I was fighting wildfires in Canada, and my dad called and told me that he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia,” Markus told CNN Travel.

“I basically asked myself what I would want to be doing if I found out that I was going to die in a few weeks. How can I live my life without regrets?”

Before the trip, he founded the non-profit Routes of Change with the aim of raising funds and awareness for small social and environmental organizations along his journey.

After setting out over seven years ago he’s nearing home.

“I don’t want the journey to end when I finish the trip in Toronto,” Markus said. “I’d like somebody to continue it. And I’d like to help somebody to continue the Routes of Change in their own sort of style and manner.

“So if anybody out there who’s reading this is really keen and wants to do something similar, they should get in touch.”

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here

Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more

Step Up for Students. They help provide funding to students in Florida trying to attend secondary education. Check them out

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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