About

Michael Stefanyk -

 

Mike excited to be on a mountain bike

Born July 12th, 1976 (Cancer) in Edmonton,  Alberta, Canada. Mine was not the conventional    route growing up. I rebelled at the age of 13, but not necessarily in the bad sense, however my parents might disagree. I realized later in life that with the birth of my first brother around that time. My reign as the spoiled, only child was over, so I sought attention in other ways. Interestingly, the rebellious things I did set in motion; a realization that if I set my mind to something anything  was possible.

 

My first big event occurred when I was 14 when I loaded a bike trailer and rode from Edmonton  to  Jasper and back.  A trip of about 750 kilometers which I completed in 7 days.  I tried to do the same trip  he year previous at the age of 13, but my parents learned of my plan from friends and came and picked me up at the first campground.  At 15, I got kicked out of junior high school for skipping classes and ignoring my teachers. At this point I lied about my age and got a job at a Panorama Ski Resort, in the Canadian Rockies, a 6 hour drive from home. I did odd ball things like this until I was 19 when I stumbled into the truck driving profession. I needed to make some real money and without any high school education my options were limited. I already loved to travel, my parents started me on this path with summer holidays camping, hiking, cycling and fishing where ever we could reach for 2 or 3 weeks. So trucking didn’t seem like a bad place to make some money while getting to see some country. This lasted only a couple of years before I realized I needed something more.

 

At 23 I had the epiphany that it was now or never to make another attempt at school. I enrolled at a local college and began taking high school courses while working part-time driving truck. At 25 I was only half way to a high school diploma but had filled the minimum requirements to enter a science degree program at the University of Alberta as a mature student. I majored in Conservation Biology paying tuition by trucking in the summer and on weekends.  I graduated with a B.Sc. in 2005. No high school diploma but a degree none the less. Better than having my degree, I finished university having found my sole mate and true love, Karen. I cannot overstate how much I valued my time at university and how much it changed me. I learned  to love learning and crave it. learned to look after my body through exercise and proper nutrition and  that spending time with friends and family is far more valuable then living life over working to support a materialistic lifestyle.

 

After university, I began a career in the environmental consulting field specializing primarily in wildlife biology and wetland ecology. Unfortunately after 3 years I got restless again and felt unsatisfied. Here I was at 31 having tried two very different career paths and still no closer to knowing what I truly wanted to do with my life. Having spent a year in Australia doing a university exchange and traveling, even if short trips, every year after, I new travel would help me find the answers I was looking for. Fortunately my wife was at similar point of in-contentment in her career and she also had the bug to travel, thus the epic 5 year bike tour was spawned….

Karen (Brown) Stefanyk -

 

 

Karen - Rioalta Beach

 

Born February 8th, 1982 (Aquarius), also from Edmonton. I am well …  quite the opposite of Mike. I was an avid student (aka geek) and since Grade 4, I always knew I wanted to be a biologist. I played soccer throughout grade school for both my community and school teams, in addition to trying my hand at rugby. I have always enjoyed the outdoors from a young age through my involvement with girl guides, spending the summers and holidays at my best friend’s family cabin, and family trips to the mountains. At the age of 17, I went on to study Environmental and Conservation Sciences at the UofA where I met Mike. I have always has a passion for traveling, but didn’t have the opportunity when I was young, it really took off after completing my bachelors degree in Conservation Biology when I visited Mike during his exchange in Australia. We traveled together for a month and I carried on for another two months on my own throughout the east coast of Oz, Tasmania, and a few weeks in Malaysia on my way back home.

 
Ever since I was little, I’ve had this list of things I’ve wanted to do.  I guess you could say it’s my ‘bucket list’. It has changed and grown over the years, but in many ways I know this trip will help me refine and accomplish this list, some items include the following:

 

  • - Become a biologist – √
  • - Learn Spanish – in progress
  • - Learn how to play the guitar – I have one, can play a little, have a lot more to learn
  • - Learn how to play the fiddle – have one … can play twinkle, twinkle poorly… save goal for later
  • - Get over fear of water (long story) – √ – received my Open Water diver cert. in 2006 and Advanced in 2007
  • - Become a dive master – perhaps on this trip
  • - Deepen my yoga practice – a daily goal
  • - Study at an Ashram in India
  • - Run a Marathon – √ – Royal Victoria Marathon 2009

 

Mike & Karen -

 

 

We started dating in 2003, it was an unlikely match as we had just started to see each other when Mike left for a full year exchange in Australia. We had only been together for 3 months but  and without any expectations we decided to see how a long a distance relationship would pan out. As the fates would have it, we managed to get through it. We’ve traveled quite a few places together: Australia, Belize, Thailand, England and France and got married in Mexico in 2009. We push each others boundaries and goals, I introduced Mike to backpacking and he had pushed me to get over my fear of water. We are two very different people, but we see a lot of the world through the same eyes and many of our goals are intertwined.

 

We have many ideas for what this trip will mean to us and what we hope to discover, the following is just a few, but naturally will change and evolve with our trip:

 

  • - to live simply;
  • - to break ourselves from the reliance on consumerism;
  • - to solidify the belief that people all over the world are inherently good;
  • - to explore the unconventional;
  • - to travel with an open mind;
  • - to travel slowly to appreciate every detail and place;
  • - to travel under our own power; and
  • - to explore both our inner and outer worlds.

 

Many long-term travelers have a cause they are working with and for to help raise awareness and funds for. Although there are many causes we are extremely passionate about, we felt it was important for us for this trip to leave with out any commitments to organizations, without a pre-defined message. We don’t oppose this approach in any way, we just don’t have a message (yet) and felt we may discover this as we go, or maybe not.