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One Step at a Time

Tom Turcich ’11 takes lifelong learning on foot as he attempts a five-year walk around the world

On April 2, Tom Turcich ‘11 will walk out his front door in Haddon Township, New Jersey, and won’t return for five years. During that time, he will have traveled 22,000 miles, most of those on foot, and touched every continent (including Antarctica!) in order to fulfill a dream he’s had for himself since his senior year of high school.

“When my good friend passed away in a jet ski accident, it really woke me up,” says Turcich. “When the fog lifted, I realized life is incredibly short, and I needed to pack it all in and do everything I could.”

For Turcich, “everything” meant travel the world. He researched others who had attempted a global trek on foot and, like any impulsive teenager, Turcich wanted to take his first step right after high school graduation. But with limited funds and the want of a college degree, Turcich traded his travel plans for a coveted spot on the Moravian College tennis team and a four-year degree in psychology and philosophy.

Turcich, or Tommy T, as he was best known on campus, lead a full life as a student-athlete, philanthropist, and fraternity brother. He held several leadership positions after joining Omicron Gamma Omega, and one was one of the most influential forces in acquiring a new, bigger house to accommodate the fraternity’s growing body of brothers.

But as busy as he was, he still felt a pull toward his dreams of walking around the world. Turcich knew he needed help with organization, promotion, and possible sponsorship, so he took advantage of the uniquely approachable faculty at Moravian College and reached out to Santo D. Marabella, professor of management, for guidance during his sophomore year.

“We never had a class together!” Marabella says with a smile. “But that’s how this school is designed at its core; there’s a strong focus of individualized learning. It’s these kinds of mentoring opportunities with passionate students that keep us all going.” The two met on a bi-weekly basis throughout Turcich’s time as a student, during which Marabella helped write a mission statement, obtain a domain name, and more.

Marabella thought for sure Turcich would start his journey right away. But with many passion projects, says Marabella, it’s easy to get distracted by what he calls “cues” — things like paying student loans, which Turcich did by installing solar panels for his father after graduation. He did that until February 2014. Since then, he’s been focused on making The World Walk happen; he acquired a sponsor, got TheWorldWalk.com up and running, and waited tables and worked for an insurance firm to fund as much of his trip as he can. As of press time, Turcich has enough money to get him across the United States to El Paso, Texas, through Central America, down the western coast of South America, on a boat to Antarctica, and a plane ride to Portugal. From there, he hopes donations and his sponsor, Wildfire Radio, will help him continue his path over the Strait of Gibralter to Morocco, across the southern Mediterranean coast, into Ukraine and Khazikstan, down through China, up the southern tip of Australia, and back across the US from the west.

When he’s not flying or on a boat, Turcich will take bike routes and scenic walking paths wherever he can, equipped with little else than high-quality hiking gear, a tent and sleeping pad, lights, knives, a fire starter, water and food, all stashed in a custom-made aluminum rickshaw. He’ll also be equipped with a GoPro and DSLR camera, sending updates and photos to the Wildfire Radio folks who will keep his website running.

As far as training goes, Turcich is an avid hiker and believes that experience, plus a bit of good luck, will keep him safe and on course. He’ll aim to walk 15 miles a day, but the only deadline that matters to him is his start date — just one day short of his 26th birthday. “I promised myself I would do it by 25. I’m still 25 on April 2!”

Turcich and Marabella met up at a coffee shop in Kutztown, Pa., a few weeks before the big day for one last meeting. “When I heard he was really going to do it, I knew it was a true passion of his,” says Marabella. “Any time is a good time to pursue your dreams, but I think this is the time he’ll have the least amount of negative or distracting cues for him not to do it.” When it comes to following your dreams, it appears Marabella and Turcich are on parallel paths — Marabella is writing plays, producing short films, and penning articles between teaching classes at Moravian College. “We can help them prioritize their dreams and not let their dreams and passions go awry. Not let them get covered in layers and layers of negative or distracting cues,” he says.

You can keep up with Turcich’s journey on his website, TheWorldWalk.com; Moravian College will be posting updates on various social media channels, as well. As this issue hits the stands, Turcich is days away from attempting something only few have achieved. He isn’t as nervous as you’d think: “I have this core belief that people are good. If I didn’t really believe it, then I wouldn’t have the courage or the ability to set out on this journey,” he says.

Marabella offers him, and us all, one last piece of advice: “There is no failure here. The minute he steps out of his house, he did it. When we take that first step to pursue our passion, that’s the success.”