Learning through adventure

How Veronica Ryl pushes herself to her limits to help others

As if her daily life as a paramedic wasn’t exciting enough, Veronica Ryl spends her free time chasing adventure around the world.

Her latest challenge, and likely her toughest to date, will see the 27-year-old Edmonton paramedic join the upcoming Sedna Expedition. In a test of endurance and daring, the all-woman team of divers and scientists will embark on a 3,000-kilometre snorkeling relay in the Arctic for research and education about climate change.

“I just like challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone. I think it’s really important to constantly refresh myself,” she explains.

A fast-paced life

Ryl, an Emergency Medical Technician grad and former instructor at NAIT, now works as a paramedic in both Edmonton and Maskwacis, an aboriginal community about 70 km south of the city. She also supports seniors in community care, works on a specialized mental health support team and is a mental health trainer for first responders.

In her spare time, she travels and explores – kayaking in Alaska, riding her motorcycle through the U.S. and Mexico, scuba diving in Nicaragua  and, last summer, snorkeling in Iqaluit as a prelude to her Arctic expedition.

The Sedna adventure is a 100-day relay that begins in the summer of 2018 and continues in the summer of 2019. Ryl and her 10 teammates will snorkel the Northwest Passage, braving frigid temperatures, murky waters and assorted creatures of the sea and ice.

The trip will take place over 2 summers (for 50 days each) because the passage is only free of sea ice for a limited time each year. While the expedition is most certainly a huge adventure for Ryl and her teammates, it is also about issues important to Ryl, like education, community and the environment, she says.    

Pushing her limits

Challenges like the Sedna Expedition push her to test her limits in an uncontrolled and unpredictable environment, she adds.

“It’s exactly what EMS (Emergency Medical Services) is. You’re responding to very critical situations in which you have to decide what you’re doing in a split second. To be able to train your system to respond appropriately is a skill that needs to be cultivated, and travelling helps with that.”

She also hopes to build stronger connections between Arctic communities and the rest of Canada through the expedition, particularly by working with youth in the north.

“The more I travel, the more I realize and I see how we are connected. No matter where I am in the world, no matter who I’m speaking to, we’re all humans and we all come from the same place.”

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