The name is Tom Turcich. On April 2nd, the day before my 26th birthday, I left my home in New Jersey to embark on a five year, seven continent walk around the world. So far I’ve been on the road for 160 days and walked over 2500 miles. A month ago I adopted Savannah, a burgeoning protector, and now I’m enjoying a coffee and letting my legs rest at a friend’s place in Corpus Christi.
As to why I’m walking around the world, at seventeen a close friend passed away and I realized life could be over as quickly and arbitrarily as the flick of a switch. A few months later, after coming to terms with this new truth, I decided I wanted adventure and to see the world. I then discovered a few people who had walked around the world before and decided that’s what I wanted to do. So from seventeen until twenty-six I’ve kept The World Walk my aim. I went to college, worked, paid off loans, saved, then finally decided it was time to leave before I carried too much responsibility.
So now, a hundred and sixty days into living my dream, I’ve seen great things. I’ve been tired and hot and filthy. I ran into a twisted sort of guy in rural Georgia, but I’ve also met dozens of phenomenal people who have brought me into their home. I’ve walked through no stop-light towns and spent time in Savannah, New Orleans, Austin. Everyday I’m in a new part of the world meeting new people.
In a few weeks I’ll be in Mexico, headed towards Argentina, so I figured while I have the connectivity I should do an AMA. Looking forward to answering whatever questions you have!
And here’s proof!
What is the physical toll like? Have you lost or gained weight? I imagine you have a system for your meals as far as paying for some here and there, but you cant possibly be paying for every meal right?
At the beginning it was brutal. I walk with a cart so I don’t have to carry a heavy backpack, but going from walking five miles a day to twenty really hurt. For a while my legs were sore to the touch and my hamstrings were always cramping. But after a month my legs were strong enough, and now my legs feel like tree trunks and I can walk all down without a thought.
And I’ve lost weight, about ten pounds. It’s just near impossible to always be eating enough. I burn around 5000 calories a day and sometimes I’m in rural areas where there’s no McDonalds to get 2000 cheap calories. Day to day I mostly eat trail mix, crackers, pop-tarts, bagels with peanut butter and nutella.
Is there any non-vegetarian and vegetarian food item that you had while walking which made you feel stronger and helped you a lot in reaching miles a day.
Trail mix and peanut butter, absolutely. Also, when I’m in town chocolate milk is the best thing ever, it tastes incredible and has sugar, fat, and protein.
Where are you most looking forward to visiting?
Croatia! I have loads of family there and my Father’s counsin’s cousin (who we consider close family) owns a hotel on the island Krk.
Tom, it’s Rob from high school. It’s great, seeing your AMA on my Front Page. Your trip and motivation are truly awesome. I know that a running company bought you a pair of shoes recently, but how long will they last? I would expect that your shoes are your most important gear. I’m surprised you don’t have a shoe sponsor. What are you currently walking in? How do/will they handle the elements (rain, mud, snow in antarctica, etc)?
Yo dude! Thanks for reaching out. I don’t have an official shoe sponsor, but luckily a good friend is a Brooks rep and he is able to send me shoes whenever I need them (and thank god for that since there’s no way I’d be able to for $100 shoes every month). I can get 500-600 miles out of a pair before they’re completely flat. I get send Brooks Cascadia, they’re phenomenal and airy, great for the heat. For water-proof shoes I have a pair of La Sportiva. I only wear them when I’m walking in the rain so they’re still fairly new.
So far in your journey, who’s the person who’s made the biggest impact on you? There have to be a lot of interesting people you’ve met so far.
The biggest impact was necessarily a good one. I met this guy in rural Georgia who insisted I come over so he could cook me dinner. I was reluctant to go over but it’s really hard to turn down a meal when I hadn’t eaten since twelve and he was being so persistent. So I went over to his house then got in his car to pick up his son, and the more time I spent with him the creepier he got, telling me he was molested as a kid, that when he saw me walking alone he thought “what’s a good-looking boy like that doing out here,” and that he “used” to be a drug-addict. We never picked up his son, we drove in one direction then drove back. Once we got back to his house I got out of there as quickly as possible and ran three miles to a church. I had bad vibes from the guy since he pulled up next to me but I didn’t trust my gut. Nothing happened but it was super creepy and from now on I’m a little more leery.
EDIT: If you want to read the full story it’s on my site here: http://theworldwalk.com/walk/2015/07/04/trust-your-gut/
It’s such a long time, was wondering if you’ve thought of life after the walk at all?
It is, that was the idea, five-years is enough for it to become a lifestyle, not just a vacation. I’ve put some thought into it, but who knows who and where I’ll be by then…
Any reason you are just barely scratching all of Africa? I assume for safety reasons, yes?
Pretty much. I’m not a Navy Seal or survivalist so don’t think I’m ready for a place as expansive and undeveloped.
You’re going to be going through some not safe places. What precautions are you taking to protect yourself in dangerous countries?
I carry and knife and mace, then once Savannah is bigger she should turn away most muggers, but there are certain things I just wouldn’t be able to do anything about. If a van pulls up and points an AK at me well I’m probably getting in the van. The best thing I can do is talk to locals and get their advice on where to avoid and what roads to take. An El Salvadorian man I was talking to outside of Houston told me not to be out in Mexico after 6pm, so until I see a reason to do otherwise, I’ll be heeding that advice.
The Darien Gap is one of the most dangerous places in the Western Hemishpere.. I recently read an article that said: “The Darien gap is an extremely dangerous place to go, probably the most dangerous place in the west hemisphere” and “It’s a conduit for drugs. There are no police, no military, and no marked trails” and “Unless you have a lot of experience in Colombia I wouldn’t suggest it”. What makes you think you are trained enough to attempt it? How will you maneuver your cart through this area? How will you navigate as this area is generally uncharted?
Yea, not going through there. I’m not remotely qualified to attempt that. Maybe if I have a team of people I’ll go with them, but even then you’re tramping through crime-infested swamp. I’ll be taking a ferry from Panama to Colombia sipping on a Coca-Cola. I want adventure, but know my limits.
Did you face any trouble at the borders? Do you do anything to earn money on your travels? I can’t imagine that it’ll be cheap.
Haven’t even made it to any borders yet, I’m in Corpus Christi right now so should be down to the Mexican border in a few weeks though. The only real worry there is getting some paperwork for the pup.
I have a sponsor, Philadelphia Sign, the owner/CEO knew the girl who passed away so they give me a little money, enough for food.
What’s the greatest act of generosity someone has shown you so far?
Oh man, there have been so many. I’ll give two different ones.
In New Orleans, the family of a friend took me in for three nights. I never met them before but they welcomed me and gave me a home base that let me explore the city.
Then just the other day, walking on eighteen miles of hot, barren, Texas road, a young woman pulled over to see if I needed anything. Said if she had any cool water that’d be great. She didn’t, but she drove into town then back out to me to give me two liters of cold water. Out on the road, hot and exposed like that, cold water is incredible.
Do you have a firm rule of not accepting rides (since you are walking)? Or are you kinda just winging everything and walking most of the time? I can see how in certain situations a ride might be the most amazing thing ever.
I’m pretty strict about taking rides, but a few miles outside Corpus yesterday the cops pulled up and told me they weren’t gonna let me walk on the highway cause I’d get killed. So accepted that ride, seemed acceptable.
How do you pick out routes that are safe to walk on so that you avoid major highways?
Luckily the US has great cell service, so for the past 160 days it’s been Google Earth.
Have you had sex on your journey? If so, how did it come about?
In a tent, among the dunes, on Sandbridge Island in VA.
Tell us more about the route you are planning, have you already made concrete plans or will you just let it happen? Where and how are you planning to change continents, what about really dangerous bottlenecks, will you try to get through there at all costs or be careful and bypass those somehow?
The route is rough. It’s really impossible to map the exact route, some roads end up being bad walking, others end up being good. But there are certain points that I want to hit, like Bogota, Lima, Madrid, and other points like the Darien Gap that I’m trained not enough to attempt to walk through (won’t insist on walking at all costs, taking enough chances as it is).
From Argentina to Antarctica I’ll be taking a boat, then a few other times I’ll fly over to the other continents.
What kind of gear are you bringing with you? I doubt you’ll finish with any of the same things you started with. But what did you start with?
The biggest piece of gear is my cart. I started with what was basically a massive aluminum cart with a steel bottom. Was far far too heavy though and the axle broke so I switched it out for a Thule baby stroller (which Philadelphia Sign bought for me since I couldn’t afford it). Otherwise it’s the typical camping things, isobutane stove, water filter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad. But one other major thing I switched out was an REI tent because it was a bit too heavy and impossible to set it up in the rain without rain getting into the tent.
Where do you sleep? How do you have enough water/food on you? Are you walking on backroads because highways are illegal to walk on? Is there enough gas stations to get water when you run out?
Thanks, GA was really rough, I didn’t realize it at the time but took just about the least developed path possible.
It really isn’t that bad once you’re on the road, you should do it. It ends up being just something you do, you get up and walk, that simple. The days flow by, it’s a nice way to live.
I sleep in patches of woods but in the south I can usually rely on finding a church to set up my tent behind too.
Water and food is easy with the cart I push. Water is a bigger concern because it’s more important and when it’s hot out I can drink seemingly endless amounts of it. When I’m in town and I know it’ll be a while to the next town I try and drink a gallon of water before heading out, just good practice. And state roads are legal to walk on, just not interstates. Yea gas stations are everywhere, and if not gas stations I could usually find a spigot somewhere.
Will you be visiting India? If so, what places? Which place are you most excited about visiting? You said seven continents, so are you visiting Antarctica too? What do you plan to do there?
Don’t think I’ll be hitting India unfortunately. Would really love to, seems like an amazing country, but I’d have to go through the Middle East to get there and that’s a little too tumultuous right now.
I’ll be planting my feet on Antarctica at the very least. An expedition to the south pole is for an entirely separate adventure, maybe after The World Walk is finished.
Where do you poop?
Stores. The woods if it comes to that. Avoid cheese.
How many pairs of shoes have you gone through so far? Any specific brands or types?
Five thus far, they tend to last around 500 miles. I have a friend who’s a Brooks rep and he’s been sending me their Cascadia which have been great.
Do you listen to any kind of music while you’re walking? How easy is it to find places to charge your electronics/phone?
I’m mostly listening to podcasts, RadioLab, This American Life, JRE.
Charging is super easy, have some solar panels and a battery which gives me more than enough juice.
Do you have a phone that is going to work (at least voice and data-wise) outside the US? Though I guess semi-consistently having WiFi at night might cover that mostly.
I have an unlocked iPhone which I’m told works on all the frequencies other countries would use, so should just be able to swap sim cards. I’d love to get in on the Google Fi program, hoping for a response soon.
Have you pre-planned all of your visa applications? Also, how much money will this adventure cost?
I haven’t, Central and South America should be relatively painless to get visas as a US citizen, it won’t be until Europe/Africa/Asia that I’ll have to start really planning for that.
I’m not sure, it should only get cheaper out of the US, maybe twelve grand a year…
What’s your favorite walking song?
Django got me into Jim Croce, specifically I Got a Name. Willie Nelson provides some solid strumming to stroll along too as well.
I saw your answer about figuring out what to do with Savannah, but I have to ask what you’re feeding her and how she’s adjusting to all the excersise? I can’t help but think she’ll be awfully tired!
Feeding her some yummy grain-free dog food. She’s still only a pup so a six pound bag lasts a little while. She’s doing well with the exercise. She’s really energetic in the morning so I’ve been able to get her to walk two straight hours but after that she gets tired and starts sitting down and refusing to get up. Luckily the basket fits her perfectly so she can lay in there and sleep most of the day. She’s only been out a little bit and is still growing so I’d say she’s doing very well.
How much have you spent so far on this trip? It doesn’t sound like it could be that cheap…
Not sure exactly, I don’t spend much though, always camp out and pretty much live on peanut butter and bagels.
What is the greatest/most beautiful thing you’ve seen so far?
Greatest/most beautiful thing is probably whenever I’ve had a chance to meet up with some family members. Always great to see a familiar face.
Where do you camp? Do you plan out where you’re going to camp before you head out or do you just wing it? If so, have you had issues camping on private property? Has anybody fucked with you while you were camping?
Just wing it mostly. In the south there are churches everywhere. I usually start look for a place to sleep a few hours before sunset so I have some time/miles to find a good nook.
I’ve only had one problem and that was because I was an idiot and slept on the property edge of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Cops came in the morning and said to move along, that was all.
And no problems, I try to hide as well as I can.
How have your family reacted to your journey? Do you miss them?
My dad lived under a tarp in Hawaii for five years so he’s all for it. My mom was worried at first but always supportive and as I’ve walked further she’s adjusted better to the idea. I do miss them, but I’m living my dream and I know this is what I’m suppose to be doing. I can’t wait to see them again, but that won’t slow me down.
Are they planning on visiting you somewhere along your journey?
Definitely. Recession did a number on the family though so it might be a while.
Where is the most interesting place that you have stumbled upon, without having ever heard of it?
Good question, one of the best places was in no man’s land Alabama, there was a super well run, delicious restaurant, the Rt 80 Barn. It was such a great surprise. I got talking to the owner and she put me up for the night in her Airstream trailer and paid for my meal. Was great.
What’s the most beautiful sight of your walk thus far?
Walking through windless Alabama in July then cresting a hill and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, nearly cried, definitely threw my fist in the air. Terrible thing though was that there ended up being basically no wind for two days and I couldn’t swim in the gulf cause of flesh-eating bacteria. Still, was a beautiful sight.
Do you tend to do most of your walking during the early hours of the day, or do you adjust as the weather permits? Or maybe you just walk all day?
In July and parts of August it was really brutal, for a little I was waking at five and getting in as much as I could then resting through the middle of the day then picking up when it cooled down a little. It was tough though cause it’s really hard to nap in the middle of the day when it’s 100+ degrees. A schedule like that messes with your sleep and if I don’t get a lot of sleep I end up really dragging.
Could you give an idea of what goods you consider essential to your trip? Beyond food, what gadgets and supplies are you using and consider absolutely necessary? And how will these change in different environments, countries, etc? An easy example would be Google Maps not working where there is no cell data, but expand if you can.
Water filter – absolute necessity. Don’t really need it in the US since this country is so developed, but once I’m below the border I’ll be relying on it whenever I can’t get bottled water.
Solar panels – this is the 21st century. Just because I’m hiking all day doesn’t mean I don’t want my phone charged so I can listen to podcasts and post to insta.
Leatherman – so versatile. It’s heavy, but endlessly useful. I use it to to fix tires, get splinters out, hammer things, open things, cut things.
How do you plan on walking to other continents?
I’ll fly from South America to Europe, then Asia to Australia, the Australia to the US. Between then though it’ll be walking.
Where do you connect to the Internet?
Cell service in the US has been good. But if I need to download podcasts I’ll either stop in fast food chains or a library (libraries have faster WiFi)
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to one day do something similar to you? I mean something that’s not commonly thought of, like how challenging it is and/or what you can do to prepare for it aside from the obvious stuff?
When I was writing my unpublished novels I used to listen to this motivational speech by Eric Church before going in the library. He’d say, “When you want something as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.” Now that can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people on the planet, but for me (especially now that I’m walking and can look back on things), it means I was willing to give up everything to walk. I stayed at home after college to save money, I left a girl was deeply in love with, and now that I’m on the road I face heat and exhaustion daily. But I want the walk more than anything in the world, if I’m not walking around the world I’m not who I am. So when it comes to giving up certain things and facing obstacles I don’t really have a choice. It’s all for the walk.
So I’d say, set whatever your goal is like a flag in the distance then always be walking towards it. If you want to get to that flag, you’ll get there.
When you’re in Mexico, which is the route?
I’ll be staying towards the East coast until the continent thins out then cut over to the West coast where I’ll enter Guatemala. Still trying to decide if I’ll cut over earlier to make it to Mexico City.
What is the most difficult for you in this adventure?
It varies at different times. For the first month it was the physical aspect, my body wasn’t ready and I wasn’t eating enough. Then after a month I took two weeks off to get Lasik and attend a friend’s wedding, after coming back I wasn’t motivated at all, took me a bit to get back into it. Then after seeing my family in Savannah, GA, I went through a bit of withdrawal for a few days afterwards. But everything passes, if I give it a few days then I’m always feeling back to it.
I love The World Walk on Insta, but is there any chance we could see daily blog posts?
Oh man, I write in my journal daily but daily blog posts would be a lot. I try for weekly posts because I have time to revise and edit what I write.
What is your trail path? Do you have it mapped (generally) as to where you are going to go? It would be cool to see and to publish your route, (if you have not already) I’m sure a lot of people could offer suggestions on what to do, who to meet, where to avoid if you did that as well.
I have a rough map on my site; http://theworldwalk.com/walk/about-me/
But the details I figure out as I go, I’m always being bumped from one road to another depending on conditions and where I want to go.
You think the Eagles can salvage the season after their disappointing start?
Best question of the day. Yes, of course. I don’t know how, but if the o-line starts blocking that’d be a start.
Where has been your favorite place to be? Have you seen any once in a lifetime sights on your journey?
There are a few favorites. Savannah, GA was gorgeous and lush; parks every other block. And Austin was a great place too; young, friendly, athletic.
Think I’ve seen a lot of once in a lifetime sights, there are hundreds of tiny towns I passed through that I’m certain I’ll never pass through again. Amazes me everyday how much of this country is actually just single stop-light or no stop-light towns.
Did you ever get an middle-upper back pain from walking? How did you deal with it?
My back has never felt better. I’m 6’2″ and since sitting in those brutal high school chairs I’ve had pretty terrible posture, but all this walking has me feeling great.
Curious if you have read the book Worldwalk before trying this?
I did! Multiple times! He got attacked in Morocco but his external frame backpack stopped the machete. Crazy.
How long do you estimate the journey will take?
I’m thinking it’s about 25,000 miles, and I should be able to walk 5,000 miles a year relatively easily, so around five years.
What has been your most interesting experience so far on the trip?
Lots and lots of interesting experiences. It’s great seeing all these cities that I’ve never been to before. Each one has its own personality and appeal. Charleston was really cool, I remember walking downtown around ten at night and everything was quiet, not even cars. Have never been in a part of Philly like that, especially not at 10.
Did you have any previous experience in hiking or backpacking before this? I would imagine walking around the world takes some serious stamina.
Before this I had done a few extended trips on the AT, but nothing over ten days. I figured I had the basics down and that by walking through the US first I’d be able to gain some experience and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. It took me about a month of walking to handle a full day everyday.
If some of us want to join you in parts of your walk, can we?
Sure, always nice to have conversation, makes the miles go by easier.
How did you prepare for your trip?
I thought about it nearly everyday for eight years before actually leaving so that took care of the mental prep. As far as gear, I’ve done enough hiking in the past to have an idea of what I’d need. Then vaccinations and stuff like that I got before leaving (though I did have to return home for Lasik cause my first surgery was a dud).
Where do you shower?
Two ways. Either I’m lucky and someone brings me in or I’m lucky and find a church that’s hidden and I can take a shower with a hose (have had some very cold showers).
What steps do you take to hide/secure your most valuable possessions (passport, cash, cards, electronics, etc)?
Strapped to my back. Also, I’ve always got an eye on my cart.
How much would you say you need to save to afford a trip like this? Also, are you travelling light, with just the clothes on you and buying new ones at the new places you discover or are you going around with a back pack?
It’ll cost a lot. The total cost of the journey will be more than I ever had at one time, but I saved for years and thought I had enough to get me through two years to Antarctica. Then once I started putting it out there that I was going to walk around the world, I was able to get a sponsor and have some of the pressure taken off.
I have a cart I push and a daypack, so I carry a good amount actually. The cart works cause I’m on roads and it saves my back from miles and miles of being under awkward weight.