On May 21, 2022, a man and his dog officially ended the journey of a lifetime after spending seven years walking 48,000 kilometers around the world.
Tom Turcich, from New Jersey, and his four-legged companion, Savannah, were greeted with a huge homecoming celebration attended by several friends, family, and well-wishers.
“It was very surreal,” he told CNN. “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.”
Tom was inspired to take this trip after losing his close friend, Ann Marie, who died in a jet ski accident in 2006 when she was 17.
“It [her death] was very formative for me,” Tom told CNN. “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.”
Tom decided the best way to make the most of his time was to travel and go on adventures, so he began looking for ways he could.
After reading about walking adventurers like Steven Newman and Karl Bushby, Tom became set on following in their footsteps.
“It [walking] seemed like the best way to understand the world and be forced into new places. 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,” he explained.
Tom started planning his route and saving money for his travels. He saved enough funds to last him around two years on the road by working during the summer while he was in college. He also moved back in with his parents after he graduated.
Before he was due to leave, the owner of a local company named Philadelphia Sign heard about his plans and offered to sponsor his trip.
Apparently, the entrepreneur knew Ann Marie and her family and wanted to support him however he could.
Almost nine years after he first thought of traveling the world, Tom finally began his expedition on April 2, 2015, just before he turned 26.
He pushed a baby stroller containing his DSLR camera, laptop, sleeping bag, hiking gear, and a plastic crate he used to store his food.
“I thought it would be about five and a half years,” he said. “And that proved pretty accurate for the actual walking.”
Tom’s entire journey ended up taking seven years because of two major delays. The first was when he fell ill with a bacterial infection and had to recover for several months, and the second was because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along the way, Tom experienced all kinds of highs and lows, like being invited to local weddings in Turkey and Uzbekistan and being held at knifepoint in Panama.
Before starting the walk, Tom had done very little traveling. He visited England, Ireland, and Wales during a high school exchange trip. He also spent the holidays in Canada and the Dominican Republic.
He wasn’t an experienced hiker, although he had previously completed a 10-day hiking trip with a friend and had done a few weekend hikes.
The first stage of his journey involved walking from New Jersey to Panama. Around four months in, Tom got Savannah from an animal shelter in Austin, Texas.
Tom initially didn’t intend to get a dog, but he struggled to relax when preparing to sleep at a campsite because he would constantly awaken during the middle of the night, convinced that he could hear something coming.
Savannah keeping watch at night helped him feel more secure.
“She’s been fantastic,” he said of having the dog. “It’s just nice to have someone to share some moments with.”
After a year on the road, Tom set up a Patreon account so his followers had the option to support his travels. He also documented his and Savannah’s trip on Instagram and on his blog, The World Walk.
Tom came to a point when he started to question whether he could keep going, but he never seriously considered throwing in the towel.
“There were definitely times when I was just really not in a good place,” he admitted.
“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,” he added. “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.”
During their walk, the dedicated pair traveled across six continents and 38 countries, with most of their night spent camping. On an average day, they walked between 18 to 24 miles.
And during their return, among those who greeted them were Ann Marie’s family.
“Her death really inspired me to live. And once I finished it [the walk] and I was there with her family, it felt like they had a little bit of closure too,” he said.
Now that he’s back in the US, Tom is reconnecting with friends, spending time with his family, and bonding with his girlfriend, whom he met during his trip’s last leg.
Tom is also writing a memoir about his voyage, while Savannah is still adjusting to being stationary.
To help get some of her energy out, his dad would take her for a four-mile walk around the river every morning. Upon their return, she would jump on the sofa and take a nap. Her owner said she seems “pretty content.”
Learn more about Tom and Savannah’s grand adventure in the video below.
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