Lukach brings world view to International Dinner
When Justin Lukach talks about the last three years of his life, it’s in the context of a voyage of self-discovery, experimentation, establishing friendships, testing boundaries and experiencing different cultures. It sounds a lot like university life, but in his instance, it was education to the extreme.
Lukach is one of the co-hosts of the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) hit travel show, Departures, and he’s the keynote speaker at the upcoming International Dinner, presented Feb. 15 by the University’s International Centre for Students.
A one-time engineer and Seneca College graduate who worked on fire safety systems, Lukach has spent the last three years of his life traversing the globe with high school friend Scott Wilson and cameraman Andre Dupuis. They document their travels as they seek out extreme locations, experience local cultures and basically explore the world.
“It was like winning the lottery when I got the call,” says Lukach.
Wilson, who grew up with Lukach in Brantford, Ont., was already working on a travel show with his own production company when he pitched a new concept to the network. They loved the idea but suggested he find a travelling companion.
“I was working in Hawaii at the time and Scott called me up and asked if there was a chance of me leaving my job and travelling for the next year. One year then led to three and it’s been amazing,” says Lukach.
The group essentially hit the road for eight months out of every calendar year, trekking across Canada in 10 days, hiking through the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan and living off the land in Cambodia, for example. Along the way, Lukach learned not only about the world, but also about himself.
“Starting off on this journey, you do it for the right reasons at the time, you want to travel and see the world, but there was this other side that I never expected and when it happened it was great,” says Lukach. “After that first season, the show really took off and we found that we’d really inspired people to get out there and see the world.”
He says it added motivation to what they were doing in some of their darker hours.
“We were definitely tired at times, but to know that people were really loving what we were doing, it inspired us,” he says. “That pushed me and motivated me to get out there and push a little harder to find something more real and off the beaten path.”
He says his friendship with Wilson evolved over the course of the show to where they were like, “an old married couple”, and that their travels brought the world into perspective.
“One day you’re in Russia and then you move on to China, two totally different sets of people,” says Lukach. “But then you get to Mongolia and you see the blend, and you realize the world slowly does come together. It’s not as black and white as you think, you see all the colours of gray in all the different cultures, and as you make your way across the world they all slowly mix together.”
The annual International Dinner is a celebration of those cultures, their diversity and uniqueness within a common space here at the University of Lethbridge, and on a grander scale, within the globe. Lukach is excited to bring his experiences to campus and continue to inspire audiences to drop their inhibitions and venture out into the world.
“You never know where you’re going to end up,” he says. “I was an engineer and then I was a traveller. Now, there are a bunch of projects I’m working on, and it’s just a matter of taking a chance and going and doing it.”
GET THE FACTS
• The U of L is home to students representing more than 85 different countries.
• This is the International Centre for Students’ 19th International Dinner. A total of 11 different ethnic dishes will be on the menu, including food from Spain, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Trinidad, Thailand, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Israel, Mexico and Italy.
• Lukach says a highlight of their travels included the rare opportunity to visit North Korea.
• Cheating death on more than one occasion, Lukach says the scariest instance was surviving a monsoon while sea-dooing off the coast of India.
• Departures is no longer in production, but the third and final season of the show is currently playing on OLN.
• For tickets to the International Dinner, visit www.uleth.ca/ics/dinner. U of L students can also meet Lukach at a free appearance in the SU Ballrooms, noon to 1 p.m. on Feb. 15.
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