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Ryan Steer finds way to forgive himself during cross-country trek aimed at soul-searching

Ryan Steer stands at the bottom of George Street.
Ryan Steer stands at the bottom of George Street.

When you see a guy walking down Harbour Drive in St. John’s carrying a backpack almost as big as he is, you have to wonder: what is this guy’s story

As it turns out, Ryan Steer was on a cross-country trek that encompassed 7,000 kilometres and gave him a chance to mend a lot of personal issues.
Steer, 29, originally from Brantford, Ont., departed Vancouver on July 2 and through a shopping list of transportation means, has made his way to Canada’s far-eastern coast, landing in St. John’s on Thursday, Sept. 21, completing the travel part of his journey aimed at fixing a broken heart and a broken man.

His story is one of a child growing up without a dad who died too young, a mother with addiction issues, and the strife and grief caused by a relationship gone bad.

Steer says he didn’t set out on the journey for any kind of attention, but rather to find a way to fix himself, and he wanted to achieve that prior to turning 30 this fall.

“I blamed myself for a lot of things that happened in my life, always thinking that I was never good enough,” he said.

“I am a lot better now and have learned to let a lot of things go. I am proud of myself for once, something I haven’t been in an awfully long time,” he said.


How it all began
Steer said his quest for a soul-searching journey came with the end of a bad relationship he was in while living in British Columbia.

His girlfriend, whom he had been involved with for more than three years, had her own issues that ultimately were a bad mix for the two to sustain a relationship.

“I was playing in a Vancouver Street Soccer League and was just getting ready to play in an international qualifying tournament when I broke my ankle badly,” he said.

“The depression caused by that injury and the situation with my girlfriend, who was a manic depressive and an alcoholic, was too much and I had to get away.”

Steer said he thought they clicked as a couple, “but I guess not.”

“Turns out she was just an overall awful person.”

Steer said he had his own struggles with substance abuse, including cocaine and alcohol.

While he says he still drinks socially, cocaine has left his life due to a seizure he suffered several years back caused by the drug.

“I fell down on a platform and smashed my face up pretty good, he said, pointing to the scars above his right eye.

“That is when I called it quits.”

He said drinking and lugging around an 82-pound backpack are not great for the system, either, so he has been able to refrain from partaking in that demon throughout his trip.

“You can’t be hung over lugging that thing around, or walking and travelling the way I have.”


Newfoundland connection
On each stop of his journey, Steer made sure he found temporary work before moving on to his next location. He had hoped to pick up a few days on a fishing vessel while in St. John’s, but said that proved difficult, as captains were looking for people for longer stints.

When he left Vancouver, he intended to go as far as Prince Edward Island, but a friend of his, Michael Earle, a Newfoundlander and a tattoo artist, said he should go all the way to St. John’s. So he did.

Earle has provided Steers with several tattoos and will create a commemorative tattoo to signify the completion of his journey once he gets back to Brantford. He operates Shogun Tattoos in Cambridge, not far from where Wayne Gretzky spent his formative years.

Another friend, Grant Courtney of St. John’s, met Steers late last week and helped him with the Newfoundland Screech-in tradition.

The soul-searching mission has drawn interest across the country, with many media outlets doing stories on Steer’s journey. His Facebook page is getting numerous hits as people follow his progress, and a pair of independent filmmakers, Adam Norman and Nicole Da Silva, are chronicling the journey for a documentary they are producing.

Likely to be included in that documentary will be incidents Steers experienced on his way across the Island, including a 2 a.m. conversation he had with a gentleman in a Tim Hortons.

“I couldn’t understand a word he said, but he seemed like a nice, genuine guy,” Steers said.

He had a tent pole snap in the prevailing Newfoundland winds on another night of his trip, saw a host of great views across the island and learned lots of the history.

“And I also learned in Newfoundland, it’s not where are you from, but like this journey, it’s, ‘Where you to,’” he said.

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