How This Man and His Dog Spent Seven Years Walking Around the World

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

A man named Tom Turcich has walked enough to travel around the world. Although that sounds like hyperbole, Turcich really did it. He completed the on-foot circumnavigation, which Guinness World Records defines as walking 18,000 miles and crossing four continents. Doing this made Turcich only the 10th person to do so, but he didn't do it alone; his dog, Savannah, was the first pup to finish the challenge.

The seven-year journey, which started and ended at his home in New Jersey, began in 2006. When Turcich was 17 years old, his close friend, Annemarie Lynch, died in a jet ski accident at the age of 16. The tragedy—seeing how someone “better and kinder than me could be snuffed out suddenly and indifferently”—woke Turcich to the reality of his own inevitable death, something he says he struggled with for months. “It was only when someone played a few clips of Dead Poet's Society in class that I found the answer I was looking for; Carpe Diem! Seize the day! I latched on to that phrase and it's been a guiding principle for me ever since.”

Fueled by this urgency, Turcich began looking for ways to make the most of life and discovered the story of Steven Newman, the first person to walk around the world between 1983 and 1987. Turcich also came across the story of Karl Bushby, who has been circumnavigating the globe on foot, attempting since 1998 to be the first person to completely walk an unbroken path around the world. Inspired by these men, Turcich decided to take on the challenge himself.

Part of his decision to walk around the world, rather than exploring it by other (quicker) means, was that “it seemed like the best way to understand the world and be forced into new places,” he explains. “I didn't want to go to Paris and Machu Picchu, I really wanted to understand the world and see how people were living from day to day.”

Turcich spent years preparing for his trip. By working summers while in college and living with his parents after graduation, he was able to save enough money to last him around two years. Shortly before Turcich was due to leave, the owner of a local company, Philadelphia Sign, found out about his plans. Drawn to Turcich's “sense of the possible,” and because his own children had been close to Lynch and Shannon Newell (another young friend who had unexpectedly passed away), he offered to sponsor the trip.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

Finally, after nine years of dreaming, saving, and planning, Turcich set off from his home on April 2, 2015, just before his 26th birthday. He left alone, pushing a baby stroller containing only the essentials: hiking gear, a sleeping bag, a laptop, a DSLR camera, and a plastic crate in which he stored food. His route was devised to allow him to “hit every continent and travel with as little bureaucratic trouble” as possible.

The first stage of his trip took Turcich from New Jersey to Panama. Around four months in, he adopted his walking companion from an animal shelter in Austin, Texas: a lively puppy named Savannah. Adopting a dog wasn't in his original plan. But, after months of struggling to sleep at campsites, he decided a dog that could “keep a watch” would help him relax. It did—and Savannah turned out to be great company, too. “She's been fantastic,” he says. “It's just nice to have someone to share moments with.”

Turcich began documenting his day-to-day experiences and insights through both photography and writing, compiling them on his blog, The World Walk, and his Instagram. Once he and Savannah reached Panama, they flew over Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle between Panama and Columbia. Much of year two was spent walking from Bogota, Colombia to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they took a boat to Antarctica. At this point, the pair paused, returning home to complete the required paperwork for Savannah to be able to travel to Europe. They were then able to walk across both Ireland and Scotland before Turcich fell ill with a bacterial infection, and was in and out of the hospital in London for a month. In September 2017, he returned home to the U.S. to fully recover.

Though he resumed his walk in May of 2018, the lingering mental toll of his illness and the constant exposure to the elements began to wear on him. “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 friends, and instead I'm walking through this cold rain in Germany.”

Still, Turcich's dedication to his dream matched his dedication to action, and he never seriously considered stopping. “I'd been thinking about the walk for eight years before I even began it,” he explains. “So it just would be insane to give up after a couple of years.” After walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that encompasses routes through Spain, France, and Portugal, Turcich says he finally started to feel “fully remembered,” and was again ready to seize the day.

Turcich then continued through North Africa, where his route included Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. He later trekked through Italy, spending his 30th birthday in Tuscany; then Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, and Turkey.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

Turcich had planned for his walk to take at least five years; it ended up taking seven, due mainly to two significant delays: his illness in late 2017, and the coronavirus pandemic, during which many countries closed their borders to international visitors. He reached Azerbaijan through Georgia just as the pandemic hit, and was forced to remain there for six months. The strict travel restrictions ultimately meant Turcich had to abandon plans to visit Australia and Mongolia. Instead, he and Savannah crossed the stunning mountains of Kyrgyzstan and, finally, flew to Seattle in August 2021, where they began their last leg toward home.

Throughout the journey, Savannah's enthusiasm for the walking life had remained a constant source of encouragement for Turcich.“The thing about Savannah,” he explains, “was that she had so much more energy that I did, always. This [walking from country to country] is all she’s ever known.”

As for his homecoming, “It was very surreal,” Turcich says. Friends, family, and supporters lined the streets to cheer him on as he reached his home in Haddon Township, New Jersey. “Notes were written in chalk on the sidewalk. Coolers of water and beer were waiting. As were hugs from loved ones.” He says that, strangely enough, his dominant emotion at crossing the finish line was a relief. “It's been seven long years. In truth, they felt like 20. I've had wonderful adventures and have grown beyond recognition, but I've missed my friends and family. I've longed to wake in a bed and not need to expose myself to the elements each day. Those days are finally here. I couldn't imagine a better ending to The World Walk.”

“The walk was a dream,” Turcich says, reflecting now on how the experience has grown him. “There are places out there bustling with wonder […] But after seven years of traveling, even those wondrous places begin to lose their luster. By the end I longed not for discovery, but familiarity. The homecoming, though overwhelming, was the flood of friends and family I ached for. Four hours passed by in a blink.”

With his world walk complete, it's time for Turcich and Savannah to move on to other great things. “I have no doubt there will still be traveling, but the next seven years will be far less solitary than the previous seven. It's important to leave, but it's just as important to return. Love, growth, and life are all meant to be shared.”

Tom Turcich of  Haddon Township, New Jersey, celebrated his homecoming with family and friends after completing a seven-year-long, 28,000-mile walk around the world.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

The inspiration for the trip stemmed from the sudden death of Annemarie Lynch, one of Turcich's close friends, when they were both teenagers.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

“I owe every bit of this adventure to my friend Annemarie,” he says. Her death woke Turcich to the reality of his own, and he became driven to make the most of life.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

By completing the on-foot circumnavigation, which Guinness World Records defines as walking 18,000 miles and crossing four continents, Turcich became only the 10th person to do so.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

His best friend and walking companion, Savannah, also became the first dog to complete an on-foot circumnavigation.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

Turcich's trip was sponsored by local company Philadelphia Sign. The business' owner was drawn to Turcich's “sense of the possible,” and his own children had been close to Lynch and Shannon Newell, another young friend who had unexpectedly passed away.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

Turcich walked pushing a baby stroller carrying his gear and camped most nights.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

So, what's next for Turcich and Savannah? “I have no doubt there will still be traveling, but the next seven years will be far less solitary than the previous seven. It's important to leave, but it's just as important to return. Love, growth, and life are all meant to be shared.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tom Turcich (@theworldwalk)

Tom Turcich: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [CNN]

Related Articles:

Meet the 5-Year-Old Boy Who Hiked the 2,100-Mile Appalachian Trail in 209 Days

83-Year-Old Japanese Man Becomes the Oldest Person To Sail Solo Across the Pacific Ocean

Interview: Man Turns Passion for Hiking into Career as Landscape Photographer

Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]