Faculty and Staff

Engineering science prof completes ‘walk around the world’ with treks to work

June 28, 2018
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Andrew Rawicz is just a few more steps away from walking around the world —a 40,070-kilometre feat.

The SFU engineering science professor will reach that milestone on Friday morning, when he emerges from the steep trail that leads from his Burnaby home, heading to his SFU office.

“I didn’t start out to do this, but I realized that if I added it all up, I would soon be walking the equivalent of the earth’s circumference,” says Rawicz. He completes a five-km trek up the Burnaby Mountain trail daily, carrying a full backpack of books and a change of clothes, then later, descends.

Rawicz, 68, says his decision to hang up his car keys and start a green routine of walking his commute—started in 2002—has improved his health, saved gas and parking costs and helped him champion the environment.

From his house he reaches a trail that begins at the end of Hastings Street. He climbs up over another trail, crosses Centennial Park, and makes his way along the university ring road and onto campus. “I avoid roads as much as I can – there are beautiful trails in the park and no gas exhaust,” he says.

He clocks it at around 46 minutes. Weather is no deterrent. Even the annual SFU “snow days” don’t stop him. (“I am still more reliable than a car,” he says.) He delights in the variety of climatic challenges and even multitasks along the way, packing a set of small resistance elastics to work his upper body on the easier downhill trek home.  

He has also inspired other faculty to walk their commutes or ride bikes.

Some walks have been particularly memorable. He once passed by a mother bear with cubs frolicking in bushes and heard the mother groan, and just kept walking. He frequently runs into deer, whom he deems “polite”, as well as coyotes. Occasionally, he listens as a woodpecker plays loud percussion on a metal cap covering a utility pole.

So what’s next for the intrepid professor? Learning to fly; he hopes to soon secure his pilot’s licence. And even though circling the world from above might have some appeal, he has no plans other than to spend a little time in the solace of the sky.

“It’s peaceful up there,” he says. “Everything below seems so much smaller and less important. Just like my daily walks, it puts things in perspective. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said – ‘I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things’.”