Meet the Calgary family wrapping up a year abroad cycling

Three teens and their parents learned to live and travel together from Norway to Tokyo and are headed back home on the final stretch of their cycling adventure.

Family of five pedalled from Norway to Tokyo and aren't done yet as they head home

From left: Tanya, Tarn, Rick, Markos and Sampson have been travelling together for an entire year overseas, mostly by bike. (Supplied by Sampson McFerrin)

After a year on the road, a Calgary family is riding, not flying, home. 

Tanya and Rick McFerrin and their three teenage sons explored 18 countries in 12 months — mostly by bike. They touched down in Vancouver last week and are making their way back to Calgary, exploring familiar landscapes at a slower pace. 

"Tanya and I are like modern-day explorers," Rick told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday. "It's in our DNA to travel places we haven't been. And we haven't biked from Vancouver to Calgary." 

From Vancouver, they made their way to the Kettle Valley Trail between Hope and Castlegar, B.C., and are camping along the way to finally arrive home in Calgary.

But the slow ride wrapping up their year-long trip can't drag on too long and they hope to wrap up before July 31. 

The McFerrin Family, Tarn, left, Markos, Sampson and Tanya, head home from Beijing touching down in Vancouver after a year-long bike adventure. (McFerrin Family)

The trip started in Norway, where the family touched down with all their gear. Then they biked to Sweden and Finland. They took a side trip by ferry to Russia and returned to bike through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary. 

Hungary is when they got a bit chilly, so their trip took a warmer turn.

"Temperatures were dipping below freezing at night," said Rick. "It's very hard to bike with all your clothes on, so we took a flight to India."

Their trip through India began at the southern tip. Then, for three months, the family biked through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. They flew to southern Japan and spent two months biking there before flying back to Canada. 

Smiling faces in Japan

"Japan was a real highlight," Rick said. "The roads were great … we could free camp about anywhere we wanted. The grocery stores were full of really interesting products and food we love to eat. So, you know, getting plenty of food was important."

His son Markos said it was an amazing shift to go from countryside bike rides to city-centre cycling. Even though Tokyo was a bustling centre, he said the people were nice and biking in traffic was a breeze. 

"It was really easy and fun to travel there," Markos said. "Not needing to have any understanding of the language but still be able to communicate and see these smiling faces everywhere." 

But father Rick said it wasn't all easy. Along the way, there were mechanical issues with bikes. And with changing weather and temperatures, biking with layers can make it tough to enjoy the ride. 

For the McFerrin family, biking is sometimes literally a push uphill. (Supplied by the McFerrin family)

And, of course, travelling and moving as a family unit 24-hours a day for months can be tough.

"You learn different ways to problem solve and work things out," Rick said. "We're definitely closer and enjoy each other's company."

For now, Markos is excited to get back home into his own bed and see friends, but he's not done living outdoors.

"It's such an amazing lifestyle, I don't think I will stop once I get home," he said. 

With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener.