(CNN) — Very few people attempt to walk around the world, and even fewer manage to complete the journey. On May 21, 2022, Tom Turcich of New Jersey became the 10th person on record to accomplish this remarkable feat, while his four-legged companion Savannah was the first dog to do so.
The couple were greeted with a grand homecoming celebration attended by many of Turcich’s friends and family, along with well-wishers.
The triumphant moment marked the end of a seven-year, 48,000-kilometre (29,826-mile) journey for which he had worked even longer.
“It was very surreal,” Turcich tells CNN Travel from his parents’ home in Haddon Township. “I had imagined what the ending would be like for a long time. And when it happened, there were people out on the streets and walking with me. The main emotion was just relief. This had dominated my life for 15 years, and to finally be able to put it behind me was amazing.”
The inspiration for the trip came from a sad loss in 2006, when her friend Ann Marie was killed in a jet ski accident at the age of 17.
“[Su muerte] it was very formative for me,” he explains. “She was a much better person than me. And I realized that she was going to die [un día] and it could happen at any time. And I started to reassess everything.”
Turcich, who has been compared to Forrest Gump, the character played by Tom Hanks in the 1994 film, decided he needed to travel and adventure in his life and began looking for all the ways he could do it.
After reading about Steven Newman, listed by Guinness World Records as the first person to walk around the world, and itinerant adventurer Karl Bushby, who has been walking around the world since 1998, Turcich decided to take on this challenge himself.
“[Caminar] It seemed like the best way to understand the world and to be able to get to 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 lived from day to day.”
Once committed to the task, Turcich began planning the route, while also trying to raise funds for his travels.
He managed to save enough to last about two years on the road by working the summer while he was in college and moving back in with his parents after graduation.
Shortly before his departure, however, the owner of a local business, Philadelphia Sign, learned of his plans and decided to sponsor his trip.
“The [el hombre de negocios] I knew Ann Marie and her family,” she says. “And he just wanted to support me however he could.”
Almost nine years after the idea occurred to him, Turcich took the first step of his walk around the world.
He set out on April 2, 2015, just before his 26th birthday, pushing a baby stroller containing walking gear, a sleeping bag, a laptop, a DSLR camera and a plastic box he used to store his food.
Turcich says he devised his route with two main factors in mind: He wanted to “reach every continent and travel with as little bureaucratic hassle” as possible.
“I thought it would be about five and a half years,” he says. “And that turned out pretty accurate for the actual walk.”
your loyal companion
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, from which he took several months to recover, and the second was due to the covid-19 pandemic.
He inevitably experienced several ups and downs along the way, including being invited to local weddings in both Turkey (or Türkiye) and Uzbekistan and being threatened with a knife while in Panama.
Before beginning the trek, Turcich had traveled very little aside from visiting England, Ireland and Wales during a high school exchange trip, and had also vacationed in Canada and the Dominican Republic.
I also didn’t have much hiking experience, although I had previously completed a 10-day hike with a friend, as well as a few weekend hikes.
On the first leg of the journey he walked from New Jersey to Panama. About four months later, Turcich acquired his walking partner, the pup Savannah, from an animal shelter in Austin, Texas.
While he initially had no intention of getting a dog, Turcich was having trouble resting, particularly while sleeping at camps, constantly waking up during the night convinced he could “hear something coming.”
He felt that having a furry friend by his side that he could “watch over” at night would make a difference, and this has proven to be true.
“She’s been fantastic,” he says of Savannah. “It’s nice to have someone to share a few moments with.”
Once they arrived in Panama, the man and his cub flew over the Darién Gap, a treacherous stretch of jungle between Panama and Colombia. After that first year of travel, Turcich opened an account on the donation platform Patreon so that his followers would have the option to help finance his trips.
Much of the second year was spent walking from Bogotá, Colombia to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they took a ship to Antarctica.
It was then that Turcich briefly returned home to acquire the necessary documentation to travel to Europe with Savannah.
After reaching Europe, the two traversed Ireland and Scotland, but were forced to take an extended break when Turcich became too ill to continue.
“I threw in the towel there [en Escocia] and I 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 walking in Copenhagen in May 2018, but it would be a while before he was back to his old self, both mentally and physically.
“When you go for a walk and you spend all this time alone, you really have to be a good company [para ti mismo]”, Explain.
“Especially when you’re out in the elements all the time. So it really wasn’t fun at all for me.”
Although Turcich admits he began to wonder if he could move on, he says he never seriously considered giving up.
“There were definitely times when I really wasn’t in a good place,” he says. “And I was thinking, ‘what am I doing here? I could be with my family and friends, and instead I’m walking in this cold rain in Germany.’
“But I don’t think I would have ever stopped. I had been thinking about the walk for eight years before I started it. So it would be crazy to give up after a couple of years.”
It wasn’t until he walked the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that spans various routes in Spain, France and Portugal, that he began to feel good again and ready to fully immerse himself in the journey again.
He and Savannah then crossed over to North Africa, where they trekked through Morocco, Algeria, where he had a police escort, and Tunisia.
From here they traveled through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. After Greece, they headed to Turkey, where Turcich became the first private citizen allowed to cross the Bosphorus Bridge on foot.
They then traveled to Georgia, situated between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus Mountains, and to Azerbaijan, a transcontinental country located on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, just as the pandemic hit. Ultimately, this meant that they were forced to stay in Azerbaijan for at least six months.
the way back home
“So we had to wait until we could get into Central Asia,” says Turcich, who originally intended to travel through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, before flying to Australia and then back to the US.
Unfortunately, the strict travel restrictions in place at the time meant that Turcich had to abandon plans to visit Australia and Mongolia (both destinations were closed to international visitors for about two years), along with Kazakhstan.
After trekking through Kyrgyzstan, a small Central Asian country that borders China, he and Savannah flew to Seattle in August 2021 and began making their way back to New Jersey.
Of all the places he passed through during the trip, Turcich says that Wyoming, the least populous state in the US, was the most difficult.
“It’s lonely out there,” he says, recalling how he and Savannah walked for an entire weekend without seeing a store or even a person, before finally coming across a small gas station.
“That totally took me by surprise. I came back to the US thinking, ‘I’m back home. It’s so developed. This is a piece of cake.'” But it might as well have been in the deserts of Chile or Peru.”
During their world walk, the pair traversed six continents and 38 countries together, spending most nights camping.
Guinness World Records set the requirements for a circumnavigation on foot as traveling 18,000 miles (about 30,000 kilometers) and crossing four continents, a goal surpassed by Turcich.
On an average day, he and Savannah walked 18 to 24 miles (about 29 to 38 kilometers).
“The thing about Savannah was that she had so much more energy than me, always,” he says. “This [caminar de un país a otro] It’s all he’s ever known.”
“There were times when we would go out into the desert and I would collapse at the end of the day and she would come in with a stick and want to play.”
Once they were firmly back on American soil, Turcich was more eager than ever to complete the long journey and return to normal life.
“Seven years is a long time,” he says. “Once the end was in sight, I couldn’t wait to get back. I was ready to go out with my friends and family again, and not have to pack my tent every morning.”
Stay in one place
The family of his late friend Ann Marie were among those who greeted him in celebration of his homecoming, and while Turcich stresses he doesn’t want to speak for them, he would like to think his trip and the attention it brought could help in some way. small.
“I wasn’t necessarily doing it for Ann Marie,” he says. “But she was the catalyst and the inspiration behind it. Her death really inspired me to live. And once I was done [la caminata] And I was there with his family, I felt like they had a little bit of closure too.”
Now that he’s back in his hometown, Turcich enjoys reconnecting with his friends, spending time with his family, and together with his girlfriend, whom he met during the last part of the trip.
Although he would love to go to Mongolia, one of the places he was unable to travel due to covid-19 restrictions, at some point, Turcich has no intention of taking Savannah with him.
“The flight is incredibly long, and she is not interested in Mongolia,” he says. “Maybe we’ll get there one day, maybe we won’t.”
For now, she focuses on writing down her memories of her trip, while Savannah adjusts to being in one place all the time.
“My dad takes her for a four-mile walk around the river every morning,” she says.
“So that helps get some of her energy out. She comes back, jumps on the couch and takes a nap. She seems pretty happy here.”
When asked if he’s looking forward to getting back on the road, Turcich says it’s the furthest thing from his mind. In fact, he has no plans to go anywhere for a long time.
“I want to enjoy life without walking and even traveling,” he says. “I’m over it at this point. I just want to be in one place and get into a groove.”