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80000 Miles: Routes of Change with Markus Pukonen

“Impossible dream” they said. 7 years in the making. You want to walk, bike, paddle, HOP… 80000 miles across multiple continents?

I believe I can do this. YES. – Markus Pukonen. 

LBH had the opportunity to listen to Markus Pukonen founder and advocate, dancing man extraordinaire of Routes of Change. A grass routes’ organization with the purpose of raising funds and awareness for organizations across the globe with social, environmental and economical goals which proceed to make sure this planet is left in a better state that we are currently operating.

How does one go about accumulating 80000 miles, circumnavigating the globe without a motor of any kind?  Slowly and with Passion (and lots and lots of roadside dancing).

Preparation: if you can call rowing from West Africa to Miami prep?

Human strength, the ability to persevere through trial, passion infused personal evolution & undefeatable spirit in my research comes from one consistent thing, despite the multi layered complexity of our differences. The common denominator is a clearly defined ‘WHY?’ & the ability to trust our own intuition, or ‘gut’ feeling. It’s inside our personal why that gives way to strength & endurance in moments of uncertainty.

“Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not.”
Simon Sinek  

Markus, and three team members embarked on a journey together – they set out to row (going approximately 1.8 miles per hour) across the atlantic ocean. 24/7 two men rowed, and the other slept in shifts.


Photo Credit

This seemed to me like an enormous and extremely dangerous undertaking, however we in the crowd listening that night were assured that those on this particular adventure were experienced; Markus one of Canada’s Top Modern Day Explorers according to Canadian Geographic, an olympian, a rower and the captain whom in this same vessel rowed from New York to England previously.

I love seeking the american beauty moments in any story, so this being true for me, I asked the question. At which moment where you struck? Talk to us about that moment, awe. Pure awe. I completely get that an undertaking such as this would be so calculated, but I think the awe factor is there too.

It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in. -Ricky Fitts

Markus talked to us about two such moments.

The first was animal, a very large pod of porpoises surrounded them on all sides and swam with the boat for miles. Can you imagine the frenzy? Delicately dipping below the surface of the water only to reemerge and jump gracefully forward. For a full account with pictures and video – invite Markus to come and speak to your school or organization or visit his website.

The second was cosmic, or ether. Markus spoke to us about the night row. Shifts of four hours in the dead of night where when the weather was calm the stars stretched infinitely across the sky as they do, only in this night row the starry gift was for them. On one such night, admittedly as they were nearing the bermuda triangle, something strange happened. A light rose out of seemingly nothingness. This band of light coming from darkness, it shone brighter and brighter, streaking in a perfect arc, still and peaceful but vastly right across the sky. After a time, an understanding manifested. It was aptly named in the moment a “Moonbow”. It was a rainbow of sorts, a halo of light reflected from the moon. Beautiful. Awe.

The rest of that journey was a spec more dramatic, abrupt changes, happen without warning, very much as in life.

5 Years, 80000 miles, 10 million dollars


It was time, time to change the worlds perspective one literal step at a time. After the rowing experience, Markus Pukonen was ready.


He will not get on a plane, in a car, or any motorized vehicle at all for 1800 days as he seeks out amazing people who need our support in creating a healthy future. We believe that there’s no avoiding change so we might as well embrace it and share ways that we can better adapt to a new sustainable way of life on earth. There are many ways to follow the route on the Routes of Change website join the route, inspire the route, or contribute to the route. On his site there are many tools to help you interact with Markus and the Routes of Change team and help us share the change.


To date, Markus has been on route for 248 days, had rowed, biked, sailed, hiked, skied and even HOPPED! from Ontario Canada, through to the west coast of British Columbia and is now headed toward the west coast of the United States.


Routes of Change’s goal is to raise 10 million dollars for grassroots social and environmental organizations around the world. From their website; “Yes it’s a lofty goal. We like to dream big. We know that if everyone in Canada above the age of 45 donated a dollar we would easily reach it. So why not donate two and tell a friend!”

Routes of Change is a registered Non-Profit Organization. 100% of your donation to the society goes towards the mission of creating positive change on the planet. Until the get great sponsors and reach the operating budget your support may be used to keep Markus inspiring the masses and giving free school presentations along the way. Any donations received now will be equaled by future sponsors and will go directly to the people who need it most, the small, local organizations who are working hard to create a healthy planet. They will partner with hundreds of non-profit and charitable organizations during the five years of the journey and distribute your support evenly amongst them. The list will grow on the Leaders page as the route lengthens. If you would like to support a specific organization and not Routes of Change we suggest you visit their website and do it directly. Thank You!



With the strength in Markus’s why, he has met each day with the same formidable spirit. I asked him specifically how he is handling adversity, the challenges and the long days trekking?

His answer: Keep it simple. Every day I believe I can do this, I know I have to keep going. I keep taking steps. There is no other alternative, for me now it’s about something bigger & I believe I can do this. Oh and Dance. Dancing is good for the soul. 

From our team here at LBH, we support you! God Speed.

words by Deanna Beaudoin

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