Jul 26th 2017 by AcesOverPacific • 15 Questions • 63 Points
UPDATE: I'll be going through this on an ongoing basis to make sure I answer as many questions as I can -- Feel free to post, and I'll get a response to you as soon as I can
UPDATE: Alright everyone, I need to get to bed, so I'm signing off for the night-- I'll be back on tomorrow to continue answering questions
Here is my proof: http://www.speaktogether.org/blog/my-reddit-username-is-mfworks
Here's the main page: https://www.congresswebhistory.com
Here's a little bit about the project: https://igg.me/at/browserhistory/x/16494183
And here is our other project for fighting the ISP law-- we've built a tool to opt your data out of collection by ISPs, and are building a legal fund to bankroll civil cases when those ISPs abuse your data:
Louise Matsakis also covers it really well here:
twitter: @mfeldspeak facebook: https://www.facebook.com/speaktogethernow
Some background about me: I'm a 24 year old software developer in Research Triangle Park, NC. I founded Speak Together a year ago to build software to change the models citizens can use to reach out to their govt.
last year I got involved in the fight to repeal NC HB2 (the notorious anti-transgender bathroom law that was passed here in North Carolina) and quickly became jaded by how difficult and inefficient it was to learn about the activities of the state legislature and communicate at all with my representatives.
I found a few friends who had felt the same way as me, and we've been building software to try to make that process easier. One of them, violetnekos, is also on the ama.
Ask Me Anything!
Hello! I do quality control in a plastics extrusion plant in Kansas. Do you think we use the same kind of materials?
What was it like to go from college humor to working on tv? Was the environment different did it feel strange?
Hi Tom! I think it's really cool that you are walking all around the world. What's the coolest piece of nature you've seen, and what's the coolest human-made structure you've seen so far? Do you have any plans related to this walk once you are done with it? Thanks!
What are the most interesting insights you've uncovered by tracking our government official's browsing activities?
Some of the materials are the same. Some plastic grades are designed specifically for extrusion, some specifically for injection, and some can be used for both. As a general rule of thumb, extrusion grades can always be used in injection molding, but molding grades typically cannot be used in extrusion. We do some extrusion molding here too, but I'm not really involved in it myself.
The main difference is that it is BIGGER and FASTER and MORE PRESSURE and oh yeah I guess it's just different in every way? But I am still working with all my friends from CH to make the show, which is really wonderful and a true gift.
The Paramo in Colombia between La Plata Huila and Popayan was gob-smacking. I felt like I was walking through the spirit realm for three days.
Then a few weeks later I came to Las Lajas Sanctuary which is like something out of LOTR. A river-spanning church which they light up at night. Just insane.
No plans just yet. Hopes sure, but trying to see this walk through first!
It needs to be robust enough that it can't easily be disabled. This actually conflicts with our client-side only goals, because the more we allow for server-side implementation, the more it can circumvent methods to disable it.
It needs to leave as minimal a privacy footprint as possible. We want to avoid sucking in any non-government data, and that means putting a lot of code in the tool that makes it bulkier and more vulnerable to disabling.
How did Savannah fare in the desert? What was the greatest overall difficulty of the desert for you?
Man these are fascinating problems to account for in designing your solution. Thanks much for your time in answering my questions.
The last big hurdle I can imagine you needing to overcome, which I think you've touched on a little, is how to deal with pairing down everyone's data into just the population your seeking to collect on. I imagine first you'll need to gather all data for everyone, which sounds scary if exploitable
Savannah did well in the desert. In north Peru it actually wasn't too hot, then in Lima I had her hair trimmed so she wasn't holding in too much heat.
The greatest difficulty of the desert was probably the solitude. There were times where I felt like I was going insane. My mind was as blank as the landscape. It seemed I thought every thought.
But at other times the solitude was magical. Like throwing my tarp under the stars at night and everything being perfectly quiet. Those were nice nights.
Yeah we are basically parsing the data through a series of filters(which I won't go into too much detail on in specifics) but they basically go like this:
Only federal ips(will link to them in a sec)
Some low-tech solutions that we found to easily filter out non-gov data
Some slightly-higher-tech solutions that identify data that definitely belongs to Congress/FCC/White House Administration
Some classifiers that will be able to further segment the data the more we receive.
Hey Tom been following for almost two years now, since you got savannah, really enjoyed your story so far. Will you come to the city of Nuremberg, bavaria, when in Germany? If so hit me up 😊 save travels!
Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?
I don't think I'm going to make it to Germany unfortunately. I will absolutely get there one day though!
And thanks for following so long! Glad you're enjoying it!
I'm not really in a position to talk about the data we've collected so far, we're actually treading carefully around what/how we release the data we collect (1/?)
Would you be so kind as to elaborate about the time a man woke you up with a machete in Honduras?
Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?
So I was only in Honduras for five days. Every night but the last I slept in a hotel room. The last night there was nothing around, but I found this two story watchtower-type structure and decided that would be a good place to hide.
I hid my cart then climbed to the second story. All was well and the view of the valley below was incredible. As I started dozing off lights of a truck turned onto the watchtower. Then there were voices and someone coming up the ladder.
I stood. A second later there was a silhouette across from me of a man with a machete. A moment of quiet felt like a very long time, then the silhouette laughed and yelled down to his friend, "It's just a gringo!"
He stepped forward and I saw it was an older man. After rattling off the fastest Spanish I've ever spoken, he said I was fine, but that someone had stolen some cows the night before so he was on high alert. He unfurled this hidden bed and said he was going to stay the night.
I offered him oreos and went to bed figuring have a guy with a machete on my side meant I was safe for the night.
- The more data we release earlier, obviously, the more Congress will be able to react to those releases and mitigate their exposure. Similar to how investigate journalists frequently operate-- if they find a potentially interesting story, they don't publish immediately. They'll keep pulling threads while staying low key to try to get as complete a picture as possible.
If we find an interesting trend in the data, and then release it immediately, we could be tipping our hand to Congress, early, and they can react and change their browsing patterns accordingly. So we're erring on the side of keeping our info quiet for the time being to try to gather as much unfiltered behavior as possible.
For Europe, do you intend to go through every country/how long do you expect this leg to take?
Been following along on Instagram!
Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?
I actually still not 100% certain on my route through Europe yet. Right now it looks like the UK, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. I think that should be a little under a year. Unless I find a quiet beach town to stay at for a few months...
"3." The issue with having raw data, and with releasing raw data, is that one we hit a critical mass, it gets frighteningly easy to "de-anonymize" the data. That is-- use it in conjunction with public domain info to start to build browsing profile, and attach those profiles to public figures.
Jessica Su, a computer scientist at Stanford actually did this with some sample data, and showed how easy it is to do-- http://randomwalker.info/publications/browsing-history-deanonymization.pdf
We don't want to release this data and then have the internet collectively weaponize this data against our representatives. So we need to be really careful with how we use it.
Just a heads up, look like the Algeria-Morocco border is closed: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algeria%E2%80%93Morocco_relations
What kind of porn are they watching?
Thanks for the heads up! I had a friend tell me the same a few months back. The plan is ferry to Spain then ferry to the other country.
While the types of porn our representatives are watching is definitely entertaining, the real value from getting our plugin on porn sites(and we have it currently tracking on a few) is seeing if Congress or the White House is accessing porn while on the job at all.
Also, our goal isn't to "out" anyone for their sexual preferences-- however it would be interesting to see if their are distinct trends between Congress vs. The White House vs. FCC vs. the public at large, the last comparison of which is something really only the sites that are currently using our plugin can answer.
Do you walk in silence or listen to music/podcasts/books on tape/etc?
Isn't this mostly just tracking what underpaid interns are doing while they're supposed to be running to Starbucks?
I walk in silence a lot. I like walking in silence for about an hour in the morning. By then I've usually woken up even for music or a podcast. Then I'll probably listen to something for a few hours and stop when the sound gets annoying.
Also, just because interns exist doesn't mean reps are immune from tracking. The irony here is that the ISP privacy law was based on the legal argument that ISPs are not utilities, and so are exempt from regulations that apply to utility companies.
If that's so, then congress should be able to work around having to use the internet (and being tracked on it) in the same way they expect us to, and not have it impact their job.
If they can't, then it's a pretty clear indication that ISPs are providing a public utility, and should have to safeguard our data in the same way utilities do.
I've made a few molds. I don't really know much about them though. It's not my expertise... I've just done a bit of everything machining wise and was just generally curious about the scope of work you do. The second question is because I thought China was destroying the mold making industry in america.
Have you ever had any backlash from an episode?
Tom! I'm an avid follower on Facebook, and you've inspired me to do some long-distance walking myself - I want to walk across each of the 50 states before I turn 50 years old (my latest being Connecticut).
Have there been times during The World Walk where you've felt stuck uncertain, or in trouble? How did you cope?
I was an underpaid intern on the hill, can you please delete by browser history.
Interns need some help, they are the ones opening up the Hustler magazine every month.
I've heard that issue as well. In my experience, you pay for what you get and the China mold quality isn't typically as good. However, I've also heard they are getting much better. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if it is becoming more and more problematic for American-based mold makers.
We've had a few! Our piece on electric cars in "Adam Ruins Going Green" got some backlash from a writer at The Verge. We felt that the writer had misunderstood our argument in a number of ways, and wrote a response.
Our point was not that "electric cars are always bad" - it's that the amount you reduce your carbon footprint by buying one is extremely variable and often overstated, as is true of all "green products". Even though EVs are a good trend, we can't shop our way out of the climate crisis -- we need to take collective action at the national level.
That said, if people misunderstood the piece, that's partially our fault for not making our point clearly enough! Our research was solid, but our communication could have perhaps used some work. We talk about this further in an upcoming "corrections" episode we have comin' up this season. Look out for it!
Dude. That's an amazing journey! Mad respect. I'm 100% certain you'll reach you'll goal far earlier than 50.
The worst of my doubt came in South Peru and Chile. The desert was really wearing on me and I missed the hell out of my family. Every conversation I had with the locals just felt so pointless. There was never any thought of giving in though. I knew with enough time my mood would turn for the better, just a rough patch.
Yes, we actually created a tool for just this purpose. email me at [email protected] and I can get rid of all your tracked data for you.
In a broader sense, this kind of participation from non-reps in Washington is incredibly helpful. One of the easiest way to improve the accuracy of our data is just to opt out all the interns that work there. If you are intern, hit me up at [email protected] and we can auto-filter out any of your browsing history.
Would like to do something similar, but I'm still young (16) How much has it cost you so far?
Also, do you miss home
Edit: Cheers for the reply, I guess I could do a smaller version, Thanks for your time talking about this, It has inspired me :D
Will we track what interns are doing on their way to Starbucks? Yes, we will probably catch some of that. We have filters and can analyze the data to parse some of that out.
You have time. :) I'd guess minus the Antarctica trip I've spent 12-14k a year. Sometimes I miss home, but when I get into wifi a good conversation is only a skype call away.
step 1: you send a request to a web page that has one of these tracking scripts on it
Step 2: the server responds, and your browser then downloads the web page you are trying to view (including the plugin)
Step 3: the script then runs on your machine (within your web browser), and sends data about your browser (and cookies, and some other info) to another server that stores that info
I've been following you for the last year, very inspiring!!! What's the biggest challenge in having Savannah with you? Also, what's HER biggest challenge? Thanks for doing this AMA! :)
Will we track what interns are doing on their way to Starbucks? Yes, we will probably catch some of that. We have filters and can analyze the data to parse some of that out.
There aren't very many. Paperwork for crossing borders just takes a little consideration. And every once and a while it'll be hard to find a hotel to accept her, but in South and Central America I was always able to convince someone to let her in.
Her biggest challenge was Honduras I think. It was super hot and her paws cracked. I put antibiotics in the cracks and kept her paws in the booties for a few days. Since then though her paws have been like stones.
In the same vein, our tracking tool has the ability to utilize unique info about each persons user-agent(among other techniques) to help weed out the interns from the administration
Beyond that, there are a suite of data analysis techniques that can further narrow the scope of who we are looking at.
Ah, maybe my question was unclear. I don't doubt that you can see that e.g. 1000 different people are behind one IP address, but how can you tell which are interns and which are members of Congress? Google analytics doesn't really know the answer to that either.
Cookies and browser fingerprinting can help you tie two different web requests to the same browser, but they don't tell you who is using the browser, right?
Yes-- which brings me to point 2:
- In aggregate, members of Congress are going to have different patterns of internet use than interns. As our data grows, this disparity should become more clear.
There are numerous techniques to be able to capture this trend, but I'll mention a few here, as well as some links to good descriptions of them
Decision trees: these would work insofar as we choose some function of the data(or metadata ) that correlates well with whether or not the user is a representative, and minimizing the entropy of that function. The tricky part is figuring out a function that would be an effective differentiator.
These are both techniques that can operate using only unlabeled data, meaning that we don't have any browsing history that we know comes from either an intern or a congressperson. Which segues into part 3
- If a representative (unlikely) or an intern(more likely) is willing to let us tag their history, we can use that data to greatly inform how we differentiate between interns and reps.
Ultimately, there is no surefire way to completely eliminate intern data. However there are a number of techniques we can is to narrow the scope of our data and ensure that our analytics are as targeted as possible.
You're designing your code to be portable so that other groups can also use it to increase transparency in regards their governments.
Have you had any conversations in regards how non-American implementations might differ? I'd imagine Germans, French, let alone Turkish, Chinese or Saudi Arabian implementations of this would provide different – uhh – insights.
Is what you're doing portable enough to work in more repressive nations? Not that the US is all that now (sadly), but I'd imagine Turkey would present very different challenges.
Are you planning on having some kind of starter pack for non-profits in foreign locales, both to run the analytics and also basics on how to reach out to their local journalists so news can get out for their findings?
PM me if you'd like some suggested articles on how journalists might protect themselves when they're in a hostile environment while they're doing their important work. The EFF, Privacy International and the Freedom of the Press Foundation are excellent sites with many resources, FWIW.
I know, it's incredible stuff. I would love to do an episode on it sometime; but like I said, we just need make SURE we got it right, and with such a massive topic, that's timeconsuming.
Matter of opinion I suppose. For me it's a photo of an overturned humpback in Antarctica. It was grazing against our zodiac. I could have reached down and touched it.
Really, really cool question.
The code would be super easy to implement for any world government, and one of our hopes when we make it open source is that people can take it and modify it to those ends.
The key in our case(and govtrack's, and CongressEdit's) is that the WHOIS records of the IPs that belong to the House, Senate, FCC, and White House are in the public domain. I'm not sure if the same is true for other countries.
Hey Adam! I'd like to ask, how much has your life changed since the show started? Are there things you've had to give up or cut back on or do you still have a pretty "normal" life so far?
How does your sister feel about her TV counterpart?
Do your feet hurt?
Are these people on "interesting" (cutting edge, hip, avant garde, risqué) sites a lot or are they checking AOL or CNN/FOX/MSNBC.
Are any of them (what ~%) researching policy positions in a meaningful way?
I would not say my life is normal, no. The biggest change has been the schedule. We work on the show year round - even when I'm traveling out of the country, I'm working. The busiest I get, I'm shooting the show 13 hours a day, AND working on scripts, AND reviewing cuts of the show. It's pretty gruelling, and way different than being a sketch writer / cast member at CollegeHumor! It's worth it, though, I love making the show and I especially love being able to share all this information with everyone at home.
Getting our tool on major news sites is a long process that we are currently working through.
However, govtrack.us has some very informative policy and bill information, and publicly releases(some) of the real time data of what Congress is visiting on their site. Very cool way to see what bills congress is interested in on a given day--
Hey Adam! I wanted to say that I was a big fan of Olde English back in the day. "Arthur got a haircut" would play and be quoted constantly in my dorm room, and I loved Badminton and many others as well.
As for a question, do you ever work with the Olde English team anymore, and would you ever again?
Thanks for doing this AMA, Adam Ruins everything is wonderful.
What are the best shoes you've found so far?
I have a lot of questions but I'll limit myself to two lol
What advice do you have for an aspiring data scientist? And what projects would provide proof to an employer that I can do the job? Thanks
Thank you! Always happy when people mention Olde English. I work with the other OE guys on their projects (like Bojack), and they work on mine! Unlikely that we will ever do another project as Olde English, though. Have you checked out our movie?
Hi, Adam. I love your show and I'd like to ask:
Where do you and your production team get your ideas for your shows?
Do you yourself know some of the information or do you just read it off the script?
What are some ideas you have for other shows?
Coke or Pepsi?
Do you aim to grow a Forrest Gump beard?
I will continue to answer this question, but need to refresh the page real quick and make sure I'm answering other q's as well :)
Have you ever decided not to feature a topic for the show or include a specific fact because it conflicted with your personal beliefs or those of the executives?
Wow. This is incredible! Do you have a smart phone or are you using maps?
No. Our executives' personal beliefs don't interfere with the show; they generally let us do whatever topics we want. As for my own personal beliefs: My goal in the show AND in life is to challenge my own beliefs as much as I can. So when a topic challenges what I believe, those are the best topics of all! That feeling of "What you think you know isn't true" is what the whole show is based on; so when I get that feeling strongly, then I know the topic is going to be great.
Smart phone baby. And thankfully GPS works even without cell service.
Do you remember hosting Zombieville II at the Knitting Factory in 2007? I keep going back to look at the ticket stub because it looks like nearly everyone who played it eventually became successful. (Anamanaguchi, Reggie Watts, you, etc.)
How much of a language barrier have you faced while traveling? Has that ever caused much difficulty for you?
This is fascinating, I barely remember it!! Amazing that you have the stub. I'm gonna go search through my email archive and see if I can find more about it. I was just a little baby comedian back then!! I do love Anamanaguchi and Nullsleep and Reggie still!
In Central America it was a little difficult. I was never completely useless in Spanish, but it was isolating not being able to connect on a deeper level with people. It'll be interesting in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia where I won't have the time in each country to pick up much of the language.
Your recent pregnancy episode saved me. My girl and I are approaching our 30's and there's been a lot of pressure lately from many sides about "running out of time."
Thanks again. What was your favorite episode/topic to ruin?
Has doing the walk impacted any of your relationships in any serious way at all? Can't imagine it'd be easy sometimes, being away from everyone for so long.
Love your page, cheers :)
I am so happy to hear that. Honestly, my favorite topics are the ones that bring people relief, and maybe change their lives a little for the better. So I think I can count this among my favorites!
The Walk has been almost nothing but positive. I'm walking and turning over thoughts all day. I have a lot of time to appreciate everything my family and friends have done for me. Also, being away from everyone for two years made me appreciate them that much more.
And thanks! Cheers :)
I've been refreshing this page for a while now trying to catch you here haha
You recently did a piece about how breastfeeding is a same as formula. I just had a follow up on this that isn't breastmilk better because it transfers antibodies and so builds up the immune system of the baby?
Do you put milk first or cereal first?
Hey Tom, been a fan since your last one of these!
Anyway, how well do you think you get to know a country and its people and culture by walking through it? Is it more in ways you wouldn't have expected? Less in any way than what you expect?
Based on the research we've surveyed, the benefits of breast milk vs. formula are very small. You can check our sources for the segment here.
Glad to have you following!
I'd say much more than flying into a place then going to more touristy destinations. I'm forced to pass through all tiny one-horse towns. I eat at the typical restaurants all the other locals are eating at. In that way I think I get to know a country very well.
At the same time I don't think I get to know a country as well as if I were staying with a family. There is a lot to be learned from wikipedia, but I thinking having a local as a guide explaining the details would be ideal.
Who is the most overrated person in history?
My picks are Freud, Columbus, and Nostrodamus
This AMA is the first I've heard of you, but I'll be following your journey now:)
Do you believe that what you're doing would be safe for a female? Have you ever encountered a situation that has made you fearful?
You're going to really enjoy an episode we have coming up called "Adam Ruins What We Learned In School." Covers one of these three dudes. I won't spoil which!
I've been asked this a few times and really I'm not sure. I think being a female is a very different experience than being a male. I know women have walked around the world before though. Polly Letofsky would be the one to ask!
I've had a few scary encounters, but less than you'd imagine. Most people are good.
What place has the best bathrooms?
You know, I'd be lying if I called myself a knowledgable Wu Tang fan but, hey, this is Ask Me ANYTHING, so I'll hazard an opinion. RZA.
Machu Picchu. At least they did. I overheard a guide talking about the bathrooms and holy cow did those things have a view.
What is the most beautiful place you've been?
Also, your Instagram is the most amazing page on the internet.
We have a writer's room full of writers and researchers who are very, very smart and have absorbed a ton of information. We all ask them to pitch things they've learned that have blown their minds. After that, we run them down and research them, make sure they hold up, then put them in the show. That's about it!
Yeesh. There are a lot of beautiful places. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is breathtaking. The paramos in the Andes are surreal. The deserts of Perú and Chile were powerful and harsh. Antarctica was like being on another planet. Each has their own aspects of beauty.
Gun to your head, you have to tell a joke to save your life, what do you go with?
Edit- Yay first question! Been mashing refresh like crazy waiting for this!
Has your adventure given you any perspective or clarity as to what you would like to do once you move onto the next step of your life?
My legit favorite joke:
ME: Oh crap, did you hear about that actress who just stabbed herself? I forget her name. Reese something... Reese... VICTIM: Witherspoon? ME: No, with her knife!!
Legitimately terrible but I love telling it.
In a certain way yes. I know I want traveling to be a part of my life. But I'm still not certain where I'll wind up after all this. I enjoy photography, I think it comes somewhat naturally to me. But I also enjoy writing, and I don't think it comes naturally to me at all so I really enjoy the challenge.
Haha Yea I love it. I have heard this one before. I feel like they would spare you out of pity most likely. Thank you for answering my question, I tried to be a little different then the whole (I love your show, blah blah blah) even tho I do, and was on pins waiting for season two to start.
I would like to hear about Savannah - specifically how would you describe your relationship with your canine friend after spending every hour of every day together? Is there some type of deep understanding or bond formed, do you communicate well? When Trek is over will you keep him/her?
Sav and I are totally synched up. She listens to my slightest command. She is exactly the dog she needs to be. When we're walking she is a trooper and sees each day through without complaint. When I rest, she rests. When I stand, she stands. At night she doesn't like sleeping in the tent (unless it's raining). She patrols the ground immediately surrounding me and barks if she sees something. When I wake up she's there to greet me outside the tent shaking with excitement. I'm protective of her, but also trust her. She could do all the walking without a leash, she'd stay right beside me if off it. I like to have her on the leash in case something startles her though. I'll have Savannah forever. Couldn't imagine it otherwise.
Do you correct people when misconceptions that you've discussed off air?
What do your meals consist of? Do you keep a cooler of any sort on your cart? Did you ever have any problems in certain countries getting dog food for Savannah?
You know, after I've said something on TV, I feel like it's rude to go around repeating it in real life! Now that I'm interrupting people on TV so much, I'm a little more inclined to bite my tongue in IRL, ironically! :)
If I don't come across any restaurants or small stores, a typical day would be a pbj or some sort of bar for breakfast, lots of nuts and snacks during the day, then two pbjs for dinner. I had my stove stolen in Guatemala and didn't get another until Argentina. In Argentina I started making a good amount of soup and pasta.
I don't have any cooler. And dog food has been incredibly easy to get a hold of. Even in the most remote towns there are dogs and dog food. Sometimes it was just a guy with a massive bag of dog food selling it in smaller bags.
Are you going to walk the Camino de Santiago? If you do I suggest walking the Camino del Norte along the northern coast - absolutely breathtaking views!
Thanks for the tip! The plan now is to follow the Eurovelos. This would mean walking along the south coast of Spain so I'd likely miss the Camino de Santiago.
Adam, what does Jon Wolf smell like?
Also, when did you decide that it was more important to correct people's misconceptions instead of just trying to be another Ryan Seacrest type?
Among all the questions mentioned here, there's one that needs to be known by all: is Savannah a good girl? Do help me tell her that she's a good girl. 🐶
Honestly, it came out of trying to figure out how to engage an audience. It's HARD to be a Ryan Seacrest type, because it's hard to tell people why they should care about you rather than just any other dude on stage / screen. Once I realized that surprising the audience with information was really entertaining and engaging, I went with it! And of course, it helped that I've always been a super-curious person who's interested in this kind of knowledge!
Who's a good girl?!
Hey Tom. I've been traveling vicariously through you for years. Love your photography.
Just saw the infographic, awesome. You have so many insane sounding moments - "woken by machete", "stop robbery", "knife to the neck". Any chance of a book when you're done? And any chance you'd elaborate on one of those here?
I'd love to do a book when I'm finished. Frankly I've been through so much I don't know how I'd fit it into a single book.
The "stop robbery" is in quotation marks for a reason. I asked a guy in Nicaragua if I could sleep at his brick foundry (basically he had a big outdoor oven and bricks lined up drying in the sun). He said yes. So I laid my tarp there and fell asleep. Around 4a.m. I was woken by a locked being banged around. I sat up and saw three men with a flashlight working on the storage shed lock. After some consideration, I decided I had to do something. The owner was nice enough to let me sleep there, I couldn't stand by while he got robbed. So stood, stuck forward a bit, then lit the three guys with my headlamp beam. My Spanish wasn't that great and they were far away so I couldn't understand them. Savannah kept by my side. I stood in silence, staring at them, knowing my poor Spanish wouldn't give me away as a gringo. They approached slowly and soon we could make out each other. We got talking and they said they were workers (coming to turn the bricks? I can't remember exactly). But a minute later I watched the lock open as a guy finally found the correct key. They thanked me for attempting to stop their "robbery" then I went back to sleep.
hey, i'm 18 and just failed at this in europe after 3 weeks. Although i met cool people and learnt a lot, not eating and sleeping rough in cities destroyed me. How the hell did you eat and sleep well enough?
Yeah it isn't easy. After two years I'm pretty well trained. Just a matter of finding a good hiding spot and never sleeping in cities unless it's in a room.
Been following you for years now! Journey looks incredible! Thanks for sharing it.
Question: what's been your worst or craziest encounter with wildlife while on your World Walk?
Thanks for following!
I haven't had any encounters too insane. The most memorable was probably in Costa Rica. I woke in my tent in a palm forest and when I sat up there was a tarantula on the other side of my bug net, literally an inch from my eye. In an instant I punched that thing as hard as I could and it went flying out of sight.
Hi Tom! You're very inspiring. I love following you and Savannah and seeing all of your wonderful pictures. What kind of camera do you use to take your shots? Stay safe out there :)
Thanks! Doing my best.
I use my Pixel when I'm lazy, and my Nikon D610 when I'm not.
Hey Tom, incredible story and your walk truly is inspiring!
Honest question though: why walking? I mean, you could do a similar trip by biking or driving and seemingly achieve similiar goals of living life to the fullest, so what made you choose walking?
Initially it was actually just because I was in high school and had no money. I was looking for cheap ways to travel. Then the idea stuck in my head and I rationalized it, I suppose. I think it's a brilliant way to see the world though. You really get to know yourself and the places you pass through.
What was the most boring section of the walk so far? The most captivating?
What advice or wisdom would you give to someone who wants to do something similar?
Can you sign my comment?
- South Peru. So much desert. It was still incredible, just tough. And the paramos in Colombia. I was walking through there in perpetual awe.
- You can't walk around the world in a day. You can't plan a walk around the world in a day. It took me nearly twice as long to start this trip as the trip itself will take.
- Tom "the tall gringo with a dog pushing the baby carriage" Turcich
How has the gear you're carrying with you changed over time? Anything you really needed but then realised you can do without?
I had two goal zero solar panels for all of North America. They worked great because I was walking with the sun in front of me. Once I was in the southern hemisphere and walking south the sun was at my back so my shadow blocked the sunlight from the solar panels. I wound up giving the panels to a Colombian family then realizing I never really needed them, I could charge my battery when I stopped at restaurants or a hotel.
Ooo baby. 60 pairs of shoes maybe?
How are you going to go from England to France, ferry or channel tunnel?
What's your favorite and least favourite local delicacy you have tried so far?
Have a great trip :)
Ferry. The ferry accepts dogs so it should work well enough.
Most favorite: Papusas. Bar none. 25 cents and delicious.
Least: A particular Cuy I bought from an indigenous woman in Ecuador. Staring at that guinea pig's face messed with me for bit.
When you visit U.K. will you visit York? If so you have a room for the night
I should be walking very near it at least! That'd be great, thanks! Stay in touch!
What places that you haven't visited yet are you most excited to see? And which places have so far been able to take your breath away?
Croatia is top of the list right now. I have lots of family there and have heard it's a spectacular place.
When I first saw Lake Atitilan in Guatemala I literally screamed and whooped. Guards from a national park entrance came out and laughed at me.
Tom, this is fantastic and I wish you all the best. I walked the coast of California in 1995 (in a pair of Timberland sandals) and found, for lack of a better word, 'magic' happening after about my second week of walking. I'm extremely curious if you have had any meaningful experiences that just bear no explanation other than that "magical"?
I know, probably a subjective term, but an example: as I was approaching Big Sur I came across a book lying on the side of the road, wrapped in a plastic bag: a biography of Mildred Norman Ryder (Peace Pilgrim). If you've never heard of her, she walked the later years of her life in the name of peace. I still have that book today and the encounter was one of several on my walk which opened my eyes to the mere fact that there is indeed much more to this world than meets the eye.
Best to you, and keep on treading!
By far the most magical thing that's happened on my walk was in Perú. I was mentally destroyed after being in the desert so long. I come to this middle of the nowhere restaurant and find on the wall an article of my hero, Karl Bushby. Then I get brought to the back by the owner and shown and note from Bushby nearly twenty years old. Our paths had crossed twenty years apart at this little nowhere restaurant. That certainly gave me the motivation I needed.
What has been your favorite experience so far throughout the whole trip?
When my legs gave out on me at 15,000 ft in the Chilean Andes. I spent four days at 15,000 feet then had a terrible night of maybe two hours of sleep. The next morning I pushed my cart for about 10 minutes, then just collapsed into the sand. I laid there and laughed. I was only six hours from a town so I knew I'd make it. But I loved how great of an adventure I was having, how challenged I was by the walk.
Of the many places you have walked to. Which town or city outside the US could you see yourself living out the rest of your life and why?????
I could easily move back to Colombia. Such wonderful people. Such beautiful landscapes. There's a sort of magic about the entire country which I would love to live in for a little while.
So many stars at once they felt like a weight on my chest.
Good question. It varies a lot depending on mood. I swing between Tiesto's Clublife to Willie Nelson. My go-tos are Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey, and Van Morrison. Lately I've been listening to A Bridge over Troubled Waters on repeat. Sooooo good.
Been following you for about a year now. Your pictures from South America and Antarctica were beautiful. Just one question:
Did you have to get a certain visa for walking in Europe? I know you can only spend 90 days in the EU within a 180-day span, so I'm curious if you found a work-around to that. Thanks!
To the best of my knowledge there's a visa for mainland Europe, then separate ones for Ireland, the UK, and some other countries. I should be able to pass through France, Switzerland, and Italy fairly quickly. Then I'll have to walk from Spain to Croatia on what I have left of the 90 days. The countries are small, but I'll be cutting in close. Once I get to Croatia I'll receive a different visa.