South Jersey man has been around the world and he’s almost home

Tom Turcich just wants to be sheltered from the weather.

“A big part of my life is dictated by the weather,” he admitted. “I can’t wait to have a roof over my head and not be setting up and taking down camp every day.”

After years on the road, walking six to eight hours a day with his dog Savannah by his side and a modified stroller with minimal supplies in front of him, he’s ready to return home to Haddon Township – and he’s almost there.

Speaking to the Courier-Post by telephone as he drove through western Pennsylvania, Turcich drove in and out, ultimately deciding to wait until the next day, when he arrived in a town with better cellphone reception.

He and Savannah are on the final leg of a journey that began in 2015, just after he turned 26. He expects to walk along Haddon Avenue on May 21, and some of his township neighbors plan to welcome the couple home. .

After:Camden County Announces $100 Million for Parks Improvements

“It will be a fun thing,” said Gwenne Baile, a Haddon Township resident and friend of the Turcich family. “We would like the streets to be lined with people to welcome them back, and we hope people will bring their dogs with them as well.”

Later in the day, a party is planned at the Taproom for Turcich, and on June 1, Haddon Township High School will welcome Turcich as he shows photos from his trip and describes his experiences.

Tom Turcich's dog Savannah admires the view as the two travel the world.

After graduating from Moravian College, Turcich lived with his parents and worked in solar installations, restaurants, insurance – anything that would help him pay off his student loans and save money for the trek. long planned, inspired by the loss of a beloved friend, like As Fast As We Can.

Before he left, Bob Mehmet, CEO of the Philadelphia Sign Company, who lives in Haddon Township, pledged $1 per mile to help fund the trip. His savings and Mehmet’s financial support helped Turcich cross the Americas; he launched a Patreon, an online fundraising tool, to help him cross Europe and beyond.

“It was never about getting rich,” laughed Turcich, who sleeps most nights in a tent.

So what been it’s about? Why walk thousands of miles with just a dog, a tent, and minimal supplies?

After:The Roebling Museum finds a new way to tell stories of black immigrant workers

“My friend Anne Marie died when I was 17, and I realized I could die at any time,” he explained. “I’ve always wanted to see the world; I always wanted adventure. That was all: to see the world and to live an adventure and to understand the world, apart from a tourist sense, to have a very good understanding of the world. »

The odyssey began with Turcich stepping down from his porch and walking south.

For two years, he traveled the southern United States, Mexico and Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

He then flew from Panama City to Bogotá, his first stop on a South American leg that took him to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.

Tom Turcich lived (mostly) in a tent, carrying his supplies in a modified stroller.

He went to Antarctica and Iceland; to Africa (Morocco and Nigeria) and Europe (UK, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, France and Spain), as well as Turkey, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan .

He lingered in some places longer than others, staying with friends and family when he could and soaking up as much of the local culture as possible, taking in breathtaking vistas from Switzerland to Wyoming. , from Chile to Kyrgyzstan.

After:A family of first responders in Camden talks about faith, service

The journey, of course, was not without difficulties.

Perhaps the biggest challenge came when Turcich fell ill, catching a bacterial infection in South America which sent him to a London hospital. He lost about 45 pounds and “thought I might die; I was miserable.”

He returned home to recuperate for six months, then left again.

“My body came back pretty quickly,” he recalls. “Europe has a great walking infrastructure; everything there is built with pedestrians in mind. But mentally, I had been in pain for so long, my mind kept going to the negative.”

Loneliness, he discovered, could be both a blessing and a burden.

“When I’m alone here, it’s just me and my thoughts,” he said. He traveled the European continent but “could not shake the negative inclination from my thoughts”.

Tom Turcich and his dog Savannah cross Sicily.

But by the time he reached Santiago, Spain, he found a community of walkers and hikers and felt less alone.

“I exorcised that darkness and finally felt like myself,” he recalls.

Turcich maps out his routes in advance, planning where he can camp, where he can rest, where he can eat. It carries about 80 pounds of supplies: food and water, camping gear, laptop, camera, batteries, clothing, tools, and personal items.

He was delayed or sidetracked by travel visas in some countries and tried to get to places where they were easier to get or the bureaucracy was easier to navigate. He’s been kept out of conflict zones, but that doesn’t mean he’s never faced danger or worried about his safety.

El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries, although not conflict zones, are nevertheless among the most dangerous places in the world.

“It was one of the first ‘foreign’ places I went to,” he recalls, “and I was still learning a lot, like how to tell a dangerous place from a very poor place.”

Tom Turcich took this selfie in Antarctica.

How did he protect himself?

“I would camp long before sunset; hide,” he said. “And I tried not to be an idiot.”

Covid-19 has taken him away from countries like Australia and Mongolia he had hoped to visit, but Turcich, who plans to write a travel memoir, has no shortage of stories to share from the dozens of places he he visited.

He saw stark differences in countries that share borders: freer societies that clash with authoritarian regimes; nations whose people live in abject poverty alongside more affluent societies; places where he could move freely and countries where he was subject to surveillance and police escorts.

“You see how much more relaxed people are in a democracy,” he observed. “You really learn how much your life is dictated by your circumstances, where you were born and where you live.”

MORE INFORMATION

Tom Turcich plans to return to Haddon Township the afternoon of May 21; for updates visit www.facebook.com/TheWorldWalk/

To hear Tom Turcich talk about his trip around the world on June 1, go to https://tinyurl.com/2p8bybwc

To learn more about his journey, visit http://theworldwalk.com or www.facebook.com/TheWorldWalk/

Phaedra Trethan has been a journalist and editor in South Jersey since 2007 and has covered Camden and surrounding areas since 2015, focusing on quality of life and social justice issues for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and the Daily Journal. She has been called South Jersey at home since 1971. Reach her with comments, topical tips or questions at [email protected], on Twitter @By_Phaedra or by phone at 856.486-2417.

Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.