Man On Dangerous 25,000-Mile Trek Wouldn’t Have Made It Without His Dog

A lot of starry-eyed high school kids share the same post-education wishes: an incredible career that comes with an executive office and a view, a place in the political conversation, or a calm life with a steady job and a loving family. Tom Turcich just wanted to get his head straight.

After hearing bad news about a close friend, Tom decided the formidable years of his post-grad life would be spent on a multi-year journey fit for film. But even with years of planning, he overlooked one detail in his grand plan. Fixing the oversight was crucial to his survival.

A 17-year-old Tom Turcich was devastated when he heard the news: his close friend Ann Marie had just passed away. They were just high school kids in New Jersey, and the sudden loss weighed heavily on him.

@theworldwalk / Instagram

He wrestled with his mortality through sleepless nights: “I realized life could be over as quickly and arbitrarily as the flick of a switch,” Tom recalled on reddit. He was motivated to honor his friend and make something of this epiphany.

So, he started planning. He went to college, worked, paid off loans, and saved some cash to fund an adventure he’d dreamed up. On April 2nd, 2015, the day before his 26th birthday, he took his first step on what would be a five-year year journey.

Tom Turcich

Tom Turcich pledged to walk a whopping 25,000 miles across all seven continents. That’s a feat that would surely be rough on anyone’s feet, but a few calluses were no match for Tom. He had a specific goal in mind.

Tom Turcich

“I walk the world to become immersed in unknown places and be forced into adventure day after day,” Tom stated on his personal website dedicated to what he calls “The World Walk.” He started by walking from his New Jersey home to Austin, Texas.

Tom Turcich

“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,” Tom detailed on Reddit.

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But meeting all of these wonderful people didn’t leave Tom feeling completely fulfilled. Tom didn’t even make it out of the country before started feeling lonely, and after walking 2,000 miles, Tom realized he needed a companion.

Cherry Hill Courier-Post

Considering this would be a stupendous five-year adventure, it was unlikely that anyone would be willing to commit for that long. The more Tom thought on it, the more he realized adopting a furry companion was the way to go.

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“I slept behind churches or hid in the forest. Each night I’d be startled awake by a snapping twig or rustling leaves. Then I’d sit wide-eyed, waiting to spot someone lurking nearby. I continually thought how I’d sleep better if I had a dog,” Tom wrote in an article for Business Insider.

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Who’s more loyal than a dog? Spoiler: no one. The second he got to Austin, Tom visited an adoption center looking for a four-legged travel buddy. To Tom’s delight, a shelter volunteer brought out a three-month-old puppy for him to meet.

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“I asked if I could hold her and once I did I knew she was the one for me,” Tom told The Dodo. He named the pup Savannah. “I don’t know exactly what it was about Savannah, but she was the only dog I felt a connection with,” he continued.

Tom Turcich

Amazingly, Savannah was a lil’ trooper, as she travelled 18,000 miles across 37 countries alongside her best friend, Tom. “I’ve had to learn Spanish, climb the terrible mountains of Guatemala, sprint through the deserts of Honduras, and sleep in the Costa Rican rain forest,” Tom wrote on Reddit.

Tom Turcich

“My dog, Savannah, has grown from a mange-ridden street pup I pushed in my cart to muscular, walking machine,” Tom wrote. “We walk every mile together, and with the right paperwork, crossing borders with her has been a breeze.”

@Theworldwalk / Reddit

“During our daily walks of about eight hours, she is diligently by my side if we’re on a road with traffic,” Tom told The Dodo. Though she’s a mangey mutt at heart, if some squirrel or rabbit catches her attention, she knows not to chase after it. She always sticks by Tom.

@Theworldwalk / Reddit

Savannah is the sweetest, most gentle dog you’ll ever meet… unless you pose a threat to Tom. She acts as a guard dog at night, protecting the duo’s campsite from potential predators. The caramel-hued mutt is always there for her best bud, even in emergency situations.

@Theworldwalk / Reddit

While trekking across South America’s Andes Mountains from Chile to Argentina, Tom’s body could no longer take the heat and stress, simply collapsing under him. “As I was pushing my cart over the sand my legs simply gave out on me and I dropped to the ground,” Tom explained.

Though it must be deeply frightening to have your body fail you in the blistering heat of a foreign land (with no human company nearby to help you), Savannah offered a helping paw. “She sat down beside me and waited patiently,” Tom began.

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“And with her sitting there I thought how amazing it was to be in the middle of nowhere, at 5,000 meters, having just walked 8,000 miles on an adventure with my best friend,” he continued. Tom, tired and limp, was hit with a wave of gratefulness.

Tom Turcich

The moment was both healing and reassuring, as Tom knew he could count on his pup for the rest of the arduous journey… and he still had about two more years to go! The next leg of his mission would entail walking 4,000 miles from Azerbaijan to Mongolia.

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Next, Tom’s plan is to travel through the continent of Australia before concluding his remarkable walk across the United States from California and back to New Jersey. This route would make Savannah a word record holder.

@theworldwalk / Instagram

Amazingly, when The World Walk is completed, Savannah will be the world’s first doggo to literally walk around the globe! “She’s walked beside me for so long, across so many countries, that the pride and protectiveness I feel for her exceeds anything I thought possible,” Tom warmly stated.

@Theworldwalk / Reddit

Savannah acted as the perfect partner in crime for a man who was determined to walk across the world. Hikers and runners weren’t surprised: they’d heard the story of a legendary dog who made a stunning move during the world’s most grueling marathon.

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Dion Leonard runs, like, a lot. The athlete has competed in numerous marathons throughout the years, and the speedy guy wished to continue his journey toward proving his superhuman abilities in the dreaded 4 Deserts Races in 2016.

The agonizing, annual 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series involves four 250-kilometer (155.3 miles) races that take place at different deserts around the world. While that’s one giant “nope” for us, Leonard was enthusiastic about the challenge. Little did he know, this journey would involve a few unexpected challenges.

GearJunkie

It was when Leonard embarked on the demanding expedition that was The Gobi March that things got a bit strange. This “march” is a seven-day race that spans the Gobi Desert and mountains of China, and throughout that taxing week, somebody vowed to keep him company.

Once the (tortuous) race began, the dedicated athletes noticed a beige, stray dog running beside them from a distance in the blazing desert heat. It was almost comical to see the little rascal join the humans, clearly wanting to discover what all the commotion was about.

While his legs propelled him for a week straight, Leonard would look down to find said sweet, scraggly pup running closely by his side, amazingly keeping up with his impressive pace.

Interestingly, the dog wasn’t keeping every runner company; the canine only had eyes for Leonard. It was eccentric, endearing, and freakin’ adorable all at the same time. And we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t look away.

Leonard soon fell for the mysterious angel, who he named Gobi, after the Gobi Desert. The dog ran with Leonard for an astonishing 25 miles. After that, she understandably got a bit tired, which causes problems in a long race.

The Star

When stages four and five of the race rolled around, little Gobi had to be transported to the race’s finish line, where she patiently waited for her new buddy in the cool shade. She did her best.

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As she saw Leonard approaching the end, Gobi got up, all of her energy gained back, and crossed that infinitely distant finish line alongside her new friend. The little stray seemingly came out of nowhere, and Leonard adored the spunky pooch.

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Leonard was so infatuated with Gobi that he and his wife, Lucja, thought of bringing her back home to Scotland. They soon discovered that getting Gobi medically checked, put in two quarantines, and filling out endless piles of paperwork, would take approximately four months.

Not only would the process take months, but it would be expensive. Though it’s hard to put a price on that sweet face, if you had to, it would be exactly $6,700. But Leonard felt he couldn’t leave China without Gobi, so he started a Crowdfunder page.

Crowdfunder

The page was fully funded within 24 hours. People were just as captivated by Gobi and her love for Leonard as Leonard was himself. The unlikely friendship became a media sensation.

Parade

It was set in stone; Leonard and his wife were to adopt Gobi. She would soon be their very own fur baby. But then, an unexpected bump in the road only extended the tiring process.

The Sun

In the midst of this adoption, Leonard and his wife went back to Scotland, patiently waiting while Gobi was kept in a house in Urumqi, China, before being sent to quarantine. That little scoundrel clearly had too much energy, as she wound up escaping.

The flustered racer immediately booked a flight back to China, insistent on finding Gobi. “I needed to come and do it, just to be sure in my own mind I had done it, but realistically, I was dreading having to go back home next week without her,” Leonard said.

Leonard wasn’t playing games; with a group of dedicated volunteers, he set up a social media campaign to find Gobi, plastered flyers around the city, visited local animal shelters and parks, and chatted up taxi drivers and vendors, pleading that they relay any information regarding a tiny, latte-colored dog.

BBC

Believe it or not, Leonard even went on local television, broadcasting his desperation and urgency for help regarding the mysterious dog. He knew Gobi was out there, likely roaming the streets of Urumqi, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever see her again.

Considering Urumqi holds three million people, Leonard was losing hope. The fact that it was possible Gobi galloped to the Chinese countryside, where the people speak the Uighur language and avoid social media, probably knowing nothing of Leonard’s impressive media campaign, broke his heart.

Things became somber once five days had passed with still no sign of Gobi. “It’s been really difficult to remain positive in front of everyone else. I’ve been going back to my room every night and falling into a bit of a heap,” Leonard told BBC 5 Live.

But lo and behold, Leonard eventually received a phone call from a man who claimed he saw a stray dog. Him and his son brought the dog home, as they thought the lonesome pup could’ve been Gobi. Leonard’s heart was surely racing.

While Leonard was excited, he knew better than to get his hopes up. He went to the man’s home, the anticipation eating at him, praying that the stray was Gobi. When he arrived, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I walked into the room, and I didn’t say a word. There were actually about 10 people in the room at this stage,” he told The Washington Post. His heart sank. It was her.

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“Gobi spotted me as soon as I walked in, and she started running toward me. Literally, she was running up my leg and jumping all over me and squealing with delight,” he continued.

Gobi spent the next 120 days in quarantine in Beijing, and she had protective eyes watching her 24/7. Since Leonard’s Crowdfunder page earned four times as much money necessary to bring Gobi home, he graciously donated the surplus to a local animal shelter.

The Times

The whole ordeal inspired Leonard to write a memoir, appropriately titled Finding Gobi: A Little Dog with a Very Big Heart. He even wrote a children’s version of it, called Finding Gobi for Little Ones. The heartwarming story clearly spoke to so many people.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Gobi proved to be an incredibly special, not to mention weird, little four-legged angel. Now happy in her forever home, she wonders if Leonard is the only athlete willing to make big sacrifices for a small friend.

WordPress / lovely and grateful

Well, in a small town on the Scottish East coast lived Dean Nicholson, a man in his thirties who only ever wanted one thing: to see the world. He had no idea that a peculiar furry friend would also be consumed by this sense of wanderlust…

You see, Dean was sick and tired of his normal life, as living the 9-to-5 grind didn’t suit him. He had no problem with the idea of giving it all up: his house, his job, and his hometown.

Since he didn’t have the means to buy a bunch of plane tickets or book fancy hotels, it wasn’t easy for him to travel to all his desired destinations. But there was another way. Dean was fit and owned a high-quality bicycle…

With a friend, he grabbed a globe and thought about where they wanted to go. They wanted to see France, Greece, Montenegro, Bosnia, and anywhere else in the European mainland where their bikes could take them.

In September of 2018, they headed out, biked through England and took the ferry to France where they immediately ran into trouble: the friends had to run from a pack of wild boars!

This was the breaking point for Dean’s friend, and he abandoned their plans and headed back home. But Dean refused to give up on his adventure and pushed on, now completely alone.

The following days were a bit lonely, but then that all changed. One day, he heard a heartbreaking meow coming from the side of the road. An animal lover, he stopped to pet the cat — and couldn’t believe what he saw.

A beautiful kitten was dumped in the middle of nowhere, and now it looked up at him with pleading eyes. She rubbed against him, showing him love, and he knew he couldn’t leave her behind.

After a quick shuffle with his biking and camping equipment, the cat could ride up front and enjoy the views as they continued the journey together. Dean named her Nala, after the character in his favorite movie, The Lion King.

What made Nala so special was that she was fearless and entirely trusting. She rode on the bike, slept in tents, jumped into canoes, greeted people on the way, and loved her new best friend more than anything in the world.

Everywhere they went, people stopped and pointed at Nala, asking to pet her or take her picture. After all, it’s not every day that a cat rides a bike. Dean even bought her a special bag with a window for when she gets tired of the attention.

Still, it would soon be time to cross the Montenegro border, and Dean was worried they wouldn’t let Nala through. So, he got her dewormed and vaccinated and smuggled her into the country successfully. The clever kitten didn’t even make a peep!

However, trouble came not long after, when Nala began to wheeze and cough. The rain and cold had given her a lung infection that needed immediate attention, so Dean found a vet as fast as he could. He couldn’t lose his new friend now!

Nala’s treatment meant the two had to stay in one place for a while, a place that was dry and warm. Staying still made Dean uneasy, but he booked a hostel where they stayed for a few weeks – anything for his feline friend.

Luckily, Nala completely recovered, and their trip continued. Things really started looking up, and they were making friends wherever they went – friends who even let them stay at their home for free!

Of course, Dean and Nala always shared that same kindness with other people and animals they met on the road. They even shared their food with a group of hungry stray cats on a rainy day; it was nice Nala could play with other cats.

But perhaps the greatest friend they made was a puppy who needed serious medical attention. Dean got him the treatment he needed and even found a wonderful family to adopt him.

While Dean couldn’t keep the puppy, he hoped Nala would always stay with him. He even invested in more equipment to keep her comfortable and safe, like a backpack to carry her and a life jacket to take her on canoes.

To document his love for the little cat, he even got a tattoo of her paw, so she’d be with him forever. Can you blame him? Nala was not only adorable but full of courage and wanderlust – a rare thing for a kitten.

Even though Dean never expected to become a cat-dad on the road, he was so happy that he took the journey and that they found each other in their loneliest moments. Now they could take on the world together, one mile at a time!

Of course, you don’t need to ride a bike or pick up a stray to have an amazing adventure with a cat buddy! While Dean met Nala for the first time, on the other side of the world, another young man was seeing the sights with a furry friend…

Rich East is a twenty-something-year-old, adventurous Australian with a go-getter attitude. In 2013, the young man felt unsatisfied with his typical suburban life in Hobart, Tasmania, an island state off the continent’s south coast.

“I used to have a career,” Rich said, “a house with a garden, lots of stuff, but what I didn’t have was happiness. I had felt over-stressed for a while, kind of stuck in a way, so I decided to make some changes.”

In 2013, sick of being trapped in the city, he began going on small off-roading and hiking trips around Tasmania in the company of a small stuffed lion — and another interesting companion.

He was in the company of his best friend Willow! While most cats wouldn’t make for the easiest travel companions, Willow loved to explore Australia with her human and didn’t mind the long drives at all.

“Willow is very curious and loves to explore,” Rich said. “She spends most of her days snoozing on top of the roof rack, under the van, or sleeping in her cat carrier. On cold days you will find her snuggled up in my blankets.”

“Willow and I have an unspoken agreement,” Rich continued. “She will always come back to the van, and I will always wait for her. She rarely wanders more than 100 meters from the van, but when she does, I can find her with her tracking collar.”

With his company sorted out, he started traveling a bit more on his days off from work; on those trips, he found a new passion: photographing all that Tasmania’s natural beauty had to offer.

“For the first time I felt free,” he said. “Free to design a new life for myself,” (and Willow!) In 2014, Rich quit his job, sold his house, and bought a van. “I threw away everything that didn’t bring me joy. The premise was simple: build a new home in which I could travel.”

Camera the ready, Rich documented the renovation of the van installing a ready-to-go bed in the back, a small kitchen in the middle, and a front seat that could turn around to make the most of his living space. Oh, and of course, a surfboard on the roof.

Once the van was completed a year later, Rich bought a map of Australia, on which he drew the route he planned to take. He would have to take a ferry from Tasmania to the mainland and follow the coast all around the country. With everything packed up and ready to go, it was time to hit the road.

“It was hard to think about all the things that I was leaving behind,” Rich said, “so instead I thought about all I was taking with me and all that I would gain. I left my town and everything I knew for a new life and the unknown.”

The first few weeks he saw as many places as he could, surfed at different beaches, explored a variety of landscapes, and of course, met a kangaroo or two. “People travel for lots of reasons,” he said. “For me it’s simple: go somewhere I’ve never been before.”

As the journey continued, Rich slowed things down, staying in places for longer periods to truly take the time to appreciate his surroundings. He and Willow bonded on the road — and this gave him an idea.

Rich invested in several cameras, tripods, and drones to film their adventures. He dabbled in photography and put together short videos. Perhaps it was his creative skills that earned the adventurers so much online attention.

On the journey, Rich grew as a photographer. Aside from filming everyday tasks like driving, cooking, and hanging out, he captured all the breathtaking scenes that he and Willow stumbled upon almost every single day.

And of course, Rich’s favorite subject to capture was Willow. Every once in a while, he could easily snap a photo of her lounging around, but other times it took a long and careful set-up — and a whole lot of patience.

Once Rich started to post these photos and videos on social media accounts under the name VanCatMeow, the two gained thousands of fans. The public loved the photos so much they wanted to buy prints. Thus VanCatMeow began sustaining itself financially.

Rich’s other hobbies include surfing, reading, and woodworking, the last of which was another way he made a little extra cash for gas and MeowMix.

By 2018, VanCatMeow’s Youtube Channel gained over 2,000 subscribers. People were absolutely in love with Willow and Rich. With his photography skills ever improving, VanCatMeow will surely continue to grow as long as the duo is up for more adventures.

At the end of 2018, after touring the whole coast of Australia, Rich and Willow were driving inland, even going off the grid for a month in the Outback. What the future holds is unclear: will Rich settle down again or continue his travels in other countries?

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