- At 26, Tom Turcich set out to travel the world on foot.
- He has planned a five-year, seven-continent journey called “The World Walk.”
- His travel plans have led him through 10,000 miles of territory across the US, Central, and South America over the course of two years.
- He camps, and keeps his few possessions in a baby carriage.
- In Texas, he adopted a dog named Savannah who walks with him.
- After travelling through Costa Rica, Peru, Argentina, and others, he is currently in Europe, and looking to head into Africa and then northeast into the plains of Mongolia.
It took me two years to walk from New Jersey to Uruguay.
During those two years, I bribed my way through a Mexican checkpoint, saw the bodies of a gang execution in El Salvador, had the soles of my shoes melt off in Costa Rica, climbed the Colombian Andes, walked for months in the Peruvian and Chilean deserts, and nearly froze while camping at 15,000 feet.
I’ve been given food and shelter by complete strangers. I’ve learned Spanish. I’ve tried frog legs, guinea pig, alpaca, and the unparalleled Peruvian ceviche.
The madness which now possesses me emerged after a friend’s death at seventeen. Like most teenagers, I assumed that all my friends and I would lead long and full lives, but in an instant, Ann Marie’s was snuffed out. Her death scared the hell out of me. It left me in a fog, and it wasn’t until discovering the film “The Dead Poets Society” that it lifted. “Seize the day” – that was the answer.
I would die, but while I was alive, I’d be damn sure to make the most of it.
I wanted to travel – that much I knew. But at seventeen, I had less than $US1,000 in my bank account, so I needed to get creative. I figured walking would be the cheapest mode of travel, so I searched something along the lines of “walk the world” and discovered Steven Newman and Karl Bushby – one man who had already walked around the world, and another in the process of doing so.
Their stories planted the seed in my mind. Walking around the world would be a personal test, and allow me to experience it slowly and fully immersed. It would be a simple life, but one of discovery.
I wanted to leave immediately, but knew $US1,000 wouldn’t even get me started. So I went to college to study and buy myself time. I worked summers, I saved, and after I graduated, I lived at home to keep my expenses low.
By 25, I realised my window to begin The World Walk was closing. I couldn’t live at home indefinitely, but if I moved out I’d be on a path of increasing responsibility: My apartment would become a house; my girlfriend, a wife; my job, a career.
Just a few steps down that path and The World Walk would be out of reach.
So I made a break for it. I didn’t have the money to pay for all five years of the walk, but it turned out getting started was all I needed.
The owner of Philadelphia Sign read an article about my plans, and because he knew Ann Marie personally, he agreed to give me a small stipend and donate a dollar a mile to Ann Marie’s scholarship fund.
I rolled the dice and struck double sixes: I had the support to see my dream through while raising money for a cause close to my heart.
So the day before my 26th birthday, I walked out my front door and began my epic 25,000 mile adventure.
At first, I could barely walk 15 miles a day. My legs ached and cramped. My feet blistered. I lost toenails. But over time, my legs grew stronger and my feet more calloused. Soon I was walking 24 miles a day without even feeling it.
Everything I owned I kept in the baby carriage I push.
Initially, I brought too much, so I gave away the things I wasn’t using with regularity – including a camp chair, Spanish flashcards, and spare fuel. Over the months I whittled down my possessions to a minimum. I had a tent and clothes and little else.
I slept behind churches or hid in the forest. Each night I’d be startled awake by a snapping twig or rustling leaves. Then I’d sit wide-eyed, waiting to spot someone lurking nearby. I continually thought how I’d sleep better if I had a dog.
After four months of walking, my cousin picked me up in Texas to take a three-week rest at her home in Austin. On my second day there, I adopted a puppy.
Savannah was only three months old. She was mangy and had a paralyzing fear of cars. When I started walking again, she would only walk a few hundred feet before laying down and refusing to get up, so I had to push her in my cart.
As the days went on, Savannah grew, and by the time we entered Mexico, she was walking 24-mile days and pawing at me to keep walking while I was passed out from exhaustion.
Our route from there was only loosely planned. I knew I wanted to get to Panama City, then from Bogotá to Montevideo, but I found there was no use detailing every last road. Locals warned me to avoid certain places, some roads were too narrow, and others stretches too barren. Our path adapted accordingly.
Each country made some aspects of walking easy and other aspects more challenging.
In Costa Rica, the heat prevented Savannah and me from walking past 10 a.m., but I could always find a place to sleep in the palm plantations.
In Panama, road work on the Pan-American Highway meant walking over gravel, but also that I could expect a group of workers and cold water every 10 miles. In southern Perú, the road was so barren I’d be alone for days, but in turn I never worried about being found in the middle of the night.
From my front door to Montevideo, The World Walk was as complex and challenging as I could have hoped for.
Now Savannah and I are in Europe, on our way down to Africa, and then headed northeast to the plains of Mongolia. With 10,000 miles behind us, another 15,000 lay ahead.
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