“The people that say, “your dreams are impossible”
have already quit on theirs”

(Grant Cardon)

First of all, who is the man behind this whole project?

My name is Tom Boerman. I was born and raised in a small village near Rotterdam in Holland, and am 33 years of age.

I never was a couch potato; life was filled with sports. Growing up in a big family, I needed some space at times, and going outdoors and spending time doing sport: road cycling, track and field, hiking and climbing mountains was the best answer. I’ve done it all quite seriously for most of my life which I believe  gives me a solid base for an adventure like this.

Like almost everyones’ life, mine too turned in the  direction of  a career and paying the bills. But the more I  travelled, the stronger my insatiable sense of curiosity about the world and my deep cravings for freedom became.  I studied for years in search of the meaning of life and how to live it in a way I would remember and came to realise it is all about choices.

“I never was a couch potato; life was filled with sports. Growing up in a big family, I needed some space at times”

Can you name a specific choice you made  during that process?

It was a rainy, shitty day, sometime in the autumn of 2016. I was watching  a video on YouTube about people in later life and the experiences they regretted not having. I realised that I will die one day too. I started to make a list of things I really wanted to do before I die. It was such a long list that I automatically thought about putting it off or even saving it for my retirement, until I realized, maybe there is no later.

I started my own business and worked my ass off to save money for all of my plans.

In the spring of 2018 I sold my house, car and most of my belongings, to start travelling. When I came back after more than six months the list was still there, in fact, it had grown considerably.

When did you come up with this, well, rather crazy idea; was it on your list?

It was the summer of 2019. I was on a short backpacking trip through Bulgaria with a Kiwi friend. I had been thinking about doing something big, something life-changing, for a long time. But despite several ideas nothing was quite right, and I just didn’t feel that excitement in my gut, you know…. I loved walking alone in New Zealand and I think talking about those memories triggered something, because, all of a sudden my journey kind of picked me. I vividly remember waking up in the morning, leaping up in bed, and was like “I know what I’m gonna do! I’m going to walk around the world!” Instantly, we both knew, this was it, the trip of a lifetime! The rest of that  trip we discussed the route, ways to raise money for charity and how big of an undertaking it was going to be.

As you say, this is a massive undertaking! Do you have any experience of long journeys  like this? 

I’ve hiked more than 3500KM through the wilderness of New Zealand and Nepal, almost self-sufficient with a tent, my water filter and a few essentials to survive. Besides that, I’ve done some parts of the PCT (pacific crest trail) and the CDT (continental divide trail). I’ve also climbed mountains in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps and the Himalayas. I’m definitely not Bear Grylls, but I know how to tramp and navigate. I’m good at knocking on doors and connecting with people which is a large part of a journey like this. There will be large stretches of isolation, but I know I can handle that too.

“I know what I’m gonna do! I’m going to walk around the world!”

“When you can’t escape yourself, and your thoughts, and you’re depending on yourself for everything, you develop a unique self love.”

Yeah what about the loneliness? Five years is a long time to be alone! 

Well, I’m sure I’ll need to take the occasional break, haha. I have a few pit-stops in mind. I’m not afraid of being alone. While walking in New Zealand I figured out an  interesting thing that happens to your brain after being alone for several days. When you can’t escape yourself, and your thoughts, and you’re depending on yourself for everything, you develop a unique self love, and appreciation; it’s actually pretty mind-blowing. Besides, most of the things we are thinking about during the day are about the past or the future, and have nothing to do with living in the moment. Walking alone is a good way to slow that voice in your head down, and connect with yourself. Though I’m sure I’ll meet tons of people along the way.

But why this particular journey?

After walking the length of New Zealand for 4 months on the Te Araroa trail, I went on to do some hiking in Nepal. That experience made me realise how blessed I am. I feel lucky to have grown up in Holland, a country with so many opportunities. I also realized I no longer wanted to continue doing things purely for my own pleasure, such as buying stuff, and even more stuff and just randomly travelling. I have  a strong feeling to give something back to the world which lead me to  start my own foundation. Besides that, I was still dreaming about being an explorer, leaving everything behind for the chance that something absolutely amazing could happen. Combined with that is my limitless curiosity about other cultures and the world in general. I feel those are the perfect ingredients to combine pleasure with raising money for charity, don’t you think?

Haha, yeah, sounds like a pretty intriguing recipe. But walking, Tom, I mean there are many easier, and more comfortable ways to explore and connect with people, while giving back to the world.

It’s all about the experience. Walking is a completely different way of transportation. I’ll be able to connect with people in ways I can’t when cycling or driving a car. Walking is a fascinating way to explore. It feels as though there’s a whole new world around every corner. You can almost see the grass growing, I mean I’m not that slow, but you get the idea. Walking and living in nature with almost nothing brings the soul back home. It’s such a natural movement and way of living. And to be honest, I like doing crazy things. It’s insane to walk around the world. I mean, 40 thousand KM!

We’re all living in a fast-paced society, and walking helps us slow down to see what is truly going on around us. So why not walk for 5 years? Another reason is, I learned  that more people have stood on the moon than have walked around the world. That means there’s almost no information about it on the internet which in this day and age is rare. I find that fact incredibly appealing.

You mentioned being entirely self-reliant. Will you have any help along the way?

Absolutely, when I was on the trail in NZ it was common to ask to tent on someone’s lawn. Often they would invite you in for a meal, or even offer you a shower and a bed! It’s amazing to connect with families all around the world, by just knocking on a stranger’s door to ask for a place to pitch your tent, not once, not twice but more than a thousand times. I also think that showing up alone, is less intimidating, and makes it far easier for families to feel comfortable about inviting me for dinner or to give me a place to rest or pitch my tent. And of course, I have my friends and family who are helping me even now.