A Calgary family has just returned from an epic year-long adventure to 18 countries and they did nearly all of it all by bicycle.

The McFerrin family left on July 2, 2017 and wouldn’t trade the good times and the challenges for anything.

Rick McFerrin says it’s impossible to describe what the past year has been like for his family of five, including three teenage boys.

“It’s kind of like going to India; if you’ve never been there it’s hard to describe to anyone. It’s been enjoyable, it’s been challenging, and it’s been adventurous. I love figuring things out and it’s been a year of figuring out new things and coming up with crazy solutions to every day kind of things like where we’re going to stop for the day or what kind of food we’re going to eat,” he says.

In total, they travelled an average of 70 to 80 kilometres a day which meant about four to five hours on the bike but some days they travelled 130 kilometres and there were some days they didn’t ride.

The family felt like modern day explorers as they left Calgary for the U.S where they took a flight over to Norway and explored Norway, Finland, Sweden and spent three days in Russia. They took a ferry from Russia to Estonia and also visited Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary.  Then they flew to India where they traveled around for two months before flying to Thailand to spend three and a half months in Southeast Asia with stops in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Then it was off to their final stop Japan before flying home to Canada.

McFerrin says it was important to show the world to his three sons.

“It’s about the experience, it’s about meeting people and interacting with people and learning that things are different all over. There’s no right or wrong it’s just that things can be different and wonderful. I think it’s just a real treat for me as well to see the world and experience different cultures and people and be invited into homes and try new food,” he says.

His children agree it was the trip of a lifetime.

“There’s so much more to world than what I have thought about,” says 17-year-old Sampson McFerrin. “We learned something new in every country, we met amazing people and tried delicious food.”

“It was challenging but also very full of experiences and learning about different cultures, religions and peoples,” says 13-year-old Tarn McFerrin.

The McFerrins mostly camped or stayed in hotels during their year –long journey but sometimes they accepted an invitation to stay the night in the home of someone they just met.

 “Ninety-nine per cent of the time we’d say yes,” says Rick “We kind of had as a family this unwritten rule that if any of us felt uncomfortable in any situation and if they said you know hey let’s not do this then we’d respect that and not do it.”

Rick says the biggest challenges they faced was extreme weather.

“In Eastern Europe in late fall and waking up to temperature below freezing that was challenging just getting the guts to wake up when it’s minus 5 and putting all your clothes on and getting on the bike and ride. We had a similar thing in India just extreme heat where the sun was so intense that we couldn’t bike between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. so those were some environmental challenges,” says Rick. “We had some mechanical issues with some of the bikes but we problem solved those.”

School was still in session for the McFerrin children during this trip.

They registered with a school called Vista Virtual through Alberta Distance Learning Centre and would skype or email with their teachers.

“We did school work on-line. We got computers and every once in a while we talked to our teachers over wifi but it was just mostly downloading stuff on a computer and doing work sheets and then submitting them,” says Tarn.

“There are important parts about school but I think the experiences we had were far more valuable than what I would learn in a textbook,” says Sampson.

The family returned to Calgary early because Sampson has an exam otherwise they may have opted to remain on the road until mid-August.

The boys both say India was one of their favourite stops.

“India by far,” says Sampson. “Vietnam came close and Japan came close but India was so different; it was like another planet.”

“I liked all the places for different reasons. India for its food and same with Southeast Asia,” says Tarn. “I like Japan because it’s very modern and Europe for different languages and religions.”

The McFerrins created a blog to record all their adventures.

This isn’t the first time the family has been on an extended trip; they spent 2009-2010 in Mexico City.