Meet the Man Traversing the Seven Continents by Foot
Tom Turcich always wanted to travel the world. When a close friend passed away at 17, living that dream became more urgent. So, Tom began searching for ways to see the world frugally, and — inspired by travelers including Steven M. Newman and Karl Bushby — The World Walk was born. Tom initially took to the idea of traversing all seven continents by foot because, at 17, it seemed like the cheapest way to travel. But the concept eventually grew on Tom as an opportunity to get an immersive experience. He didn’t just want to hit Barcelona and Paris — he wanted to visit all the towns and the countryside in between.
Tom finally left his home in New Jersey on April 2, 2015. Now, 800-plus days of travel and 2.5 continents later, Tom has acquired a walking companion (a dog named Savannah he adopted in Texas), thousands of photos, and plenty of travel wisdom along the way.
We caught up with Tom over the phone to learn about his trip so far and how he’s feeling halfway through his five-year journey.
What’s in your cart?
The cart is just a big backpack, and it’s got everything I need — sleeping bag, tent, tarp, air mattress. I have a box I put my food in, and it’s a writing desk when I need it to be. For clothes, I carry a rain jacket, rain shoes, sandals, six pairs of socks, underwear, a short-sleeve Lululemon shirt, a long-sleeve Lululemon shirt, a Smartwool shirt, and a down jacket. Also my laptop, camera, and journal.
What do you carry that you absolutely could not live without?
Well, there are the obvious things, like a tent and sleeping bag, but beyond the absolute essentials, the tarp has been really important. It’s so versatile. I can put it down on gravel as a cushion for the bottom of the tent to protect it. Of course, it’s a great rain cover, but it’s also a great sun cover. I used it all the time walking through the desert in Peru and Chile. There wouldn’t be any cover, so I’d figure out a way to hang my tarp between a road sign and my cart for some protection from the sun.
Also, I’ve got to have a Leatherman — that’s pretty essential. I don’t use it every day, but can be a lifesaver in an emergency, or if you need a knife or a screwdriver. I use it often for little repairs on the cart. In France, my water filter was jammed, and I was able to shivvie it open and fix it with the Leatherman.
How do you plan your routes?
It’s different in every country, but I often depend on locals. I’m always asking around for the safest and most developed roads. It’s gotten easier the longer I’ve been on the road too. I’m more comfortable traveling, and those judgment calls come more naturally.
It comes down to a balance of scenery and ease of travel. I’m stuck more to roads because of my cart, so I can’t go through the mountains, for example. In the United States, I’d do a lot of state roads. In Spain, I’m walking one-lane country roads. It’s a matter of finding a direct-ish route, but one that’s scenic. If I took the big road it’d be the fastest, but I want to take smaller roads that are peaceful and will take me through some interesting places, as long as it’s not too out of the way.
What do you listen to while you walk?
I listen to just about everything. Sometimes if I just wanna crank out some miles on autopilot, I’ll put on some electronic music and chug them out. Or if it’s a beautiful area and nice weather, I’ll listen to Willie Nelson or John Prine, so I’m just strumming along and enjoying the day. I also do a lot of podcasts because they’re not as repetitive as music can become. I’ve gone deep into many different kinds of podcasts — I’ve listened to everything I can find about the Philadelphia Eagles.
You walk with a dog. Can you tell us about her?
I had been camping for four months, and I kept waking up in the middle of the night full of adrenaline, and it became obvious that I could use a dog for safety and for a walking companion. This shelter in Austin, Texas, found Savannah on the street. When I saw her, I just said, “that’s my girl.” She was only three months old at the time. When we first started walking together, she’d walk a little and then get in the cart when she got tired. But by the time we got to Mexico, we’d walk 24 miles a day, and she’d still be running around in the evening.
What are some of the challenges of traveling with a dog?
Every time you cross an international border, you have to be prepared. There’s actually less trouble than you’d think, though. About every other country cares that you’re bringing a dog in, and for the amount of time I’m spending in each place, an extra day or two getting her vaccines is not a big deal. The longest wait I’ve had to deal with so far was Europe — it took a month. I just have to be prepared and set the time aside.
What else have you learned along the way?
I’ve learned a million frickin’ things. I know how to deal with soreness of my body. I know how to find a campsite. I know where I’m allowed to sleep and what’s going to work or isn’t going to work. I’m even better at buying gear. I’m on my third tent, and because of all my experience, I knew exactly what features I needed when I got it.
But probably the biggest thing is that I’ve just learned to roll with the punches and be self-reliant. Early on, when I was in Virginia, the tire tubes on my cart kept popping. At one point I fixed it, and 20 minutes later, it popped again. At first I was so pissed, but eventually, I realized there’s nothing I can do about it but stop and fix it. When you’re forced to be self-reliant, you realize there’s a way to get through just about anything. You learn to figure it out.