This man and his dog spent seven years walking around the world
Tom Turcich, from New Jersey, became the 10th person on record to achieve this remarkable feat, while his four-legged companion Savannah was the first dog to do so.
The pair were greeted with a huge homecoming celebration attended by many of Turcich’s friends and family, along with well wishers.
The triumphant moment brought about the end of a seven-year, 48,000-kilometer (29,826-mile) journey that he’d spent even longer working toward.
“It was very surreal,” Turcich tells CNN Travel from his parent’s home in Haddon Township. “I had imagined what the ending would be like for a long time. And when it happened, there were people lining the streets and walking with me.
The primary emotion was just relief. This had dominated my life for 15 years, and to finally be able to kind of put it behind me was amazing.”
The inspiration for the trip stemmed from a sad loss in 2006, when his long-time friend Ann Marie died in a jet ski accident at the age of 17.
“It [her death] was very formative for me,” he explains. “She was a much better person than me. And it sunk in that I was going to die [one day] and it could happen at any moment. And I started re-evaluating everything.”
Turcich, who has been compared to Forrest Gump, the character Tom Hanks played in the 1994 movie, decided he needed travel and adventure in his life and began looking into all the different ways he could
After reading about Steven Newman, listed by Guinness World Records as the first person to walk around the world, and walking adventurer Karl Bushby, who has been circumnavigating the globe on foot since 1998, Turcich became set on taking on this challenge himself.
“It [walking] seemed like the best way to understand the world and be forced into new places,” he says. “I didn’t just want to go to Paris and Machu Picchu, I really wanted to understand the world and see how people were living day to day.”
Once he’d committed to the task, Turcich started planning out the route, while also trying to raise funding for his travels.
He managed to save enough to last him around two years on the road by working during the summer while he was at college, and moving back in with his parents after he graduated.
The entire journey ended up taking seven years, mainly due to two significant delays. The first occurred when Turcich fell ill with a bacterial infection, which took him several months to recover from, and the second was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He inevitably experienced various highs and lows along the way, including being invited to local weddings in both Turkey (or Türkiye) and Uzbekistan and being held at knife point while in Panama.
Before he began the walk, Turcich had done very little traveling other than visiting England, Ireland and Wales during a high school exchange trip, and he’d also holidayed in Canada and the Dominican Republic.
He also wasn’t hugely experienced in hiking, although he’d previously completed a 10-day hike with a friend, as well as a few weekend hikes.
The first stage of the trip saw him walk from New Jersey to Panama. Around four months in, Turcich acquired his walking companion, puppy Savannah, from an animal shelter in Austin, Texas.
While he initially had no intention of getting a dog, Turcich struggled to relax, particularly while bedding down at campsites, and would constantly wake up during the night convinced he could “hear something coming.”
He felt that having a furry friend beside him who could “keep watch” at night would make all the difference, and this has proved to be true.
She’s been fantastic,” he says of Savannah. “It’s just nice to have someone to share some moments with.”
Once they reached Panama, the pair flew over the Darien Gap, a treacherous stretch of jungle between Panama and Colombia. After that first year on the road, Turcich set up an account with donation platform Patreon so that his followers had the option to help fund his travels.
Much of year two was spent walking from Bogota, Colombia to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they took a boat to Antarctica.
Around this point, Turcich briefly returned home to acquire the paperwork required to travel to Europe with Savannah.
After arriving in Europe, the pair walked across Ireland and Scotland, but were forced to take an extended break when Turcich became too ill to continue.
“I kind of threw in the towel there [in Scotland] and went to London,” he says, explaining that he was in and out of hospital for weeks while in the UK and eventually returned home to the US to recover.
Turcich, who documented his journey on Instagram and his blog The World Walk, resumed the walk Copenhagen in May 2018, but it would be a while before he was back to his usual self, both mentally and physically.
“When you’re out walking, and you’re spending all this time alone, you really have to be good company [to yourself],” he explains.
“Especially when you’re exposed to the elements all the time. And so it really was not fun for me at all.”
Although Turcich admits that he started to question whether he could keep going, he says he never seriously considered giving up.
“There were definitely times when I was just really not in a good place,” he says. “And I was thinking, ‘what am I doing out here? I could be with my family and my friends, and instead I’m walking through this cold rain in Germany.
“But I don’t think I ever would have stopped. I’d been thinking about the walk for eight years before I even began it. So it just would be insane to give up after a couple of years.”
It wasn’t until he walked the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that encompasses several routes in Spain, France and Portugal, that he started to feel “fully remembered” and ready to immerse himself into the voyage fully again.
He and Savannah then crossed over to North Africa, where they walked through Morocco, Algeria, where he had a police escort, and Tunisia.
From here, they moved through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. After Greece, they headed to Turkey, where Turcich became the first private citizen to be permitted to cross the Bosphorus Bridge on foot.
Then they traveled to Georgia, situated between Russia and Turkey, in the Caucasus Mountains, and onto Azerbaijan, a transcontinental country located at the boundary of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, just as the pandemic hit. This ultimately meant they were forced to remain in Azerbaijan for at least six months.
Source: CNN Travel