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Bemidji Middle School students hear presentation from husband and wife exploring team

Bruce Junek and Tass Thacker have spent the last 45 years traveling the world. On Tuesday, they traveled to Bemidji Middle School to teach students about overcoming challenges and achieving goals.

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Bruce Junek answers a question from a student during a presentation on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Bemidji Middle School.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Bruce Junek and Tass Thacker have spent the last 45 years traveling the world. On Tuesday, they traveled to Bemidji Middle School to teach students about overcoming challenges and achieving goals.

Many of the couples’ journeys were seen from a unique point of view: their bicycles.

Originally from Rapid City, S.D., they have also released several books about their travels

BMS students watched and listened intently as the couple gave their presentation entitled “Images of the World” to Kyle Fodness' class on May 17.

During the presentation, the couple detailed their adventures of biking the path of early civilizations across Africa, Europe and Asia learning about Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Islamic cultures they took in 2005.

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Bruce Junek and Tass Thacker pose for a photo during one of their bicycle trips.
Courtesy / Images of the World

“It was cool to see all the pictures of them traveling around the world,” Bemidji student Elizabeth Realy said about the presentation. “It makes me want to travel when I get older.”

As they journeyed through the Great Western Desert in Egypt, the couple biked an average of 75 miles a day, experienced temperatures up to 119 degrees, and even stopped for an emergency root canal after Tass spent much of the trip with a toothache.

But the challenges made the trip even more rewarding in the end.

“Obstacles and challenges make us stronger,” Junek said to the students. “They give us the confidence to continue setting goals and dreams in our adventures, business and everyday life.”

Rather than working toward a specific job or profession, the couple said they focus their energy on creating a lifestyle — striving to immerse themselves in local culture to have a better understanding of how people around the world live.

“Tass and I aren’t rich, sometimes it takes us three to four years to save up for a big adventure. Our friends use their savings to buy new houses and fancy cars,” Junek said. “Tass and I like to live simply, we save our money and that’s how we pay for our trips.”

Since 1990, giving their “Images of the World” presentations to students all over the U.S. has been the couple’s full-time job – one they don't have to quit in order to travel.

The educational school assembly programs are based on core curriculum and standards prioritizing concepts like healthy lifestyle choices and goal setting.

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Bruce Junek translates an Arabic sign in the Great Western Desert of Egypt during a bicycle trip with his wife.
Courtesy / Images of the World

“Take a moment to think about your dreams and goals,” Junek said. “It's so important for everyone, no matter what age, to have dreams and set goals. I think that’s what makes life so fun.”

Prioritizing experiences over possessions and financing all the trips themselves, the adventurous couple dedicated their lives to sharing their experiences with students.

Their motive is to promote a better understanding and respect for different cultures while inspiring young people to chase their own dreams and purpose.

One of the bicycle trips they took was 26 months long and went through 22 countries. And 14,000 miles and 42 flat tires later, this tour still remains one of the grandest of all their adventures.

“The big picture of what I learned is that anything is possible,” Bemidji student Aria Robertson said after the presentation. “Even if you’re not rich you can go places and experience cool things.”

Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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