A young man from New Jersey just spent the last seven years walking around the world. Tom Turcich — now 33 — has traversed 35 countries, and gone through 45 pairs of sneakers. When we caught up with him, he had just crossed the St. Louis Bridge in Missouri on the homestretch.
Walking along in light rain, Turcich told The Epoch Times some of his endless adventures since he set off from the house he shared with his parents and sister in a New Jersey suburb. He shared some photos (of the Western hemisphere mostly) from his travels as well.
“I was held up at knifepoint in Panama City, and gunpoint in Turkey, where they thought I was a terrorist,” he said. “But my dealings with people have almost all been good. I’ve been helped a lot, been given food and water on the side of the road, and brought in for dinner, or at night for shelter.”
Turcich’s sojourn began the day before his 26th birthday. From home he walked to Texas, and kept on walking, all the way to Panama City in the first year. While it may sound like something of a spontaneous decision, it took eight years of working, saving, and paying off student loans before he could finally set off.
The motivation for his long journey came when he was still a teenager. After a close friend passed away suddenly in an abrupt accident when he was 17 and she 16, it changed Turcich’s outlook.
“I realized I could go just as quickly and that I needed to make the most out of my life,” he said. “I wanted adventure, I wanted to see the world, and walking around the world seemed to solve that.”
Later securing sponsorship from a company called Philadelphia Sign — whose owner Turcich has known since high school — he was able to make it happen. After Panama City, he walked to Colombia and Uruguay, and then continued to pass the years walking through Europe and North Africa. From Tunisia he went to Italy, along the Adriatic into Turkey, and then across Turkey into Georgia and Azerbaijan.
When the pandemic hit, he got stuck in Azerbaijan for a period, later returning home to get the COVID vaccine. He also went home on two other occasions: once for Christmas in 2016, and once to recover from a nasty bacterial infection he picked up in Europe.
Being back in Jersey also allowed him to sort out travel paperwork for the beloved companion he found on his route that first year. Savannah, a retriever, was just a scruffy young pup when he adopted her on his way through Texas and he had to push her along in a cart. Now, he estimates she has walked some 25,000 miles by his side.
Traveling approximately 28,000 himself on foot has infinitely expanded his understanding of the world.
“Before leaving, I had been to a couple of countries, but I’d mostly just grown up in the suburbs of New Jersey,” said Turcich. “Now, after having traveled for so long, I have a much better sense of how history and culture can impact a place, and how geography can impact a country and set it on a certain course. Also, it doesn’t matter the country; people are people everywhere. And most people are good.”
The meditative nature of walking has also given Turcich an abundance of time to reflect.
“It brought me a lot of peace and self-knowledge,” he said.
On the last stretch, with under 1,000 miles to go, Turcich anticipated he had around two more months of walking left. He’s happy to have been donating $1 a mile into the scholarship fund of a friend, and he himself receives donations from supporters via Patreon.
Having spent years sleeping in a tent he carried along with him and Savannah, was he looking forward to his very own bed? Would he miss life on the road?
“Oh, no, no, I’m done,” he said. “I’m ready to finish this — I’ve been out here a long time. And it’s great. There’s this enormous satisfaction to my days, because I’m outside, I’m exercising, and I have this very immediate purpose of just walking this far. And so the days, in a certain way, are very gratifying.
“But at the same time, I had just been doing this for long enough. I’m ready to see my friends and family and sleep with a roof over my head every night.”
The first thing he’ll do when he lands home, he said, is sit down and have a beer. His family have a beach house, so he plans to spend the summer there to decompress. Some point soon, he intends to pen a book about his extraordinary journeys, having claimed the title of being the 10th person on record to walk around the world.
“I’m gonna write a memoir for sure,” he added. “You know, I just wanted to see the world to understand it a little better.
“Of course, I was bummed I couldn’t get into Kazakhstan, Mongolia, or Australia because of the COVID restrictions — they were on my original route. But I feel I’ve done pretty well and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.”
As for Savannah, the “mange-ridden street pup” he found in Texas, she was never to know she’d become the first dog ever to officially walk around the world.