Two Calgary parents and their three teenage sons took the family roadtrip to a new level, spending an entire year travelling the world by bicycle.

The McFerrin family left Canada on July 2, 2017. They spent the next year biking more than 15,000 kilometres while exploring 18 countries.

Parents Rick and Tanya had planned the trip for about five years. They wanted to show their three sons world.

“It’s about the experience,” Rick McFerrin said. “It’s about meeting people and interacting with people and learning that things are different all over.”

The McFerrins founded a non-profit nearly 20 years ago to encourage young people to cycle, so it was a natural fit.

Rick McFerrin says the family felt like modern-day explorers as they set off in Norway, making their way through other Scandinavia before flying to Russia.

The journey then took them through eastern Europe, India and southeast Asia and Japan. They pedaled about 80 kilometres per day, which took four to five hours.

“I love the freedom it gives you,” Rick McFerrin said. “You can go at your own pace, you can stop when you want to. You can see things right at street level.”

For most of the trip, the McFerrins camped, braving frosty mornings in eastern Europe and the extreme heat of India.

Back in Canada, with a year of experiences, the McFerrin boys say that their worldview hasn’t just expanded, it’s exploded.

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

But the yearlong trip wasn’t just a vacation. The brothers had to keep up on their school work, completing work online and video chatting with teachers.

Sampson said that although “there are important parts about school,” he believes the experiences he had while biking “were far more valuable than what I would learn in a textbook.”

Although they only returned earlier this week, Rick McFerrin says that the next trip is already on his mind.

He’s planning to start a boutique bike travel company, offering trips to places like Argentina, Finland and Estonia.

With a report from CTV Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks