When Stephan Lukacic returned to Canada after years in international music production, he thought he would continue the career – not heed the call of the wild.

But Lukacic followed a different passion when he returned to his family’s summer home in Haliburton, where they had operated a hunting and fishing camp. Compelled, he turned a rekindled interest in the outdoors into a business, guiding fishing, hunting and foraging. He has also garnered a social media presence, with more than 7,000 following him on Instagram, where he posts his self-prepared meals.

With the job change came a lifestyle shift. Almost everything he eats is self-grown or caught. He lives off the land – something he said has changed his life.

“Just getting outside, getting my hands dirty, breathing fresh air, being responsible for the food I eat, it’s made literally all the difference in my health, just my general wellbeing, my happiness,” Lukacic said.

For him, leaving a “cosmopolitan” life for a rural one was a boon. He said he suffered for several years from psoriatic arthritis – an incurable autoimmune disease, causing significant joint pain. He said the side-effects of treatments became as bad as the disease itself. But those symptoms dissipated when he changed how he lived.

“I tried to alleviate or cut out as many industrial products from my diet as possible and it’s made all the difference in the world,” Lukacic said. “We’ve become so removed from nature … When I was a music producer, 15-16 hour days were not uncommon in a dark room full of blinking lights with no natural sunshine. I really am convinced that’s why I got so sick.”

After gaining first-hand experience, Lukacic began to share his knowledge with a wild mushroom foraging course done in partnership with Yours Outdoors. He operated the course during the pandemic, with social distancing and health protocols enforced.

“Teach people the methodology to start their own foraging career and have the skillset. I give them a blueprint,” he said. “I cover a lot of the ecology of wild mushrooms and how important they are to every single ecosystem on the planet.”

The course proved to be Yours Outdoors’ bestseller in 2020.

“Steve is an extraordinary teacher with so much knowledge and an engaging personality,” Yours Outdoors experience broker Barrie Martin said. “He is a fun guy.”

Lukacic said he slowly built up his Instagram following and it has exploded in the past 12-18 months, driving him to expand his range of content. He has added more wild cooking videos – something he hopes to offer a class for in the future.

“A lot of people aspire to a cleaner, healthier way of living and it’s very hard to do in a city, where you don’t have outdoor space,” he said. “There just seems to be a lot of interest.”

Lukacic said there is value in becoming more self-sufficient.

“What happens with most people – you get really good at one thing they pay you for and you kind of don’t know much else,” he said. “When you can start doing these things for yourself, it’s very empowering. Not only is it empowering, it’s better for you, and it’s cheaper. It’s just a good way to live.”

Lukacic’s courses are available through youroutdoors.ca. His Instagram is stevie_ funfur.

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