Boerman passes through Sauk Centre while walking around the world



Tom Boerman’s mission is to walk around the world, and that mission saw him stopping to chat with people as he took the Wobegon Trail through Sauk Centre. Indeed, Boerman welcomes these moments to get to know people; instead of setting a record or making a name for himself, his odyssey is meant to demonstrate that the world is a better place than it is often shown to be.

“There’s so much negativity in the media already for years, but I try to show the world that humanity still exists,” Boerman said. “That’s the most important reason for me to walk around the world.”

Boerman, a freelance journalist from Holland, had everything he could want in life: a large house, two cars, a boat and a lot of money. However, he noticed that none of it was making him happy or helping him live in the moment.

“I was busy all the time with thinking about what I’m going to buy next,” Boerman said. “When I was talking to friends, we were never living in the now; we were always talking about the things we did and things we wanted to do, but it was not about actually living and doing. It was about earning more money, working really hard – not to pay the bills but to have more stuff, which is unhealthy.”

In the summer of 2019, Boerman went backpacking through Bulgaria with a friend. He had been thinking about doing something big and life-changing for a long time, but none of the ideas he had come up with until that point had felt quite right. Then, through the backpacking trip – as well as sharing stories about walking alone in New Zealand – Boerman realized what he wanted to do: walk around the world.

According to Boerman, it is rather unusual in Holland for anyone to do something so extraordinary, so he got a lot of confused comments when he sold everything and gave away all of his money for the venture.

“People called me crazy,” Boerman said. “They said, ‘Why did you do that?’ I said, ‘Then, I really have to rely on other people.’ That’s what I do right now. I need their help; I have no choice because I gave away all of my money. I could go back to Holland and live the same life, but it was not something that made me really happy.”

Boerman’s journey started May 8, 2021, in southern Holland, and it proceeded through about 20 European countries. Boerman initially planned on crossing into Asia but was prevented from doing so due to COVID-19 restrictions. By Christmas, he was traveling through the Middle East.

“I walked through Iran, and so many people told me, ‘Don’t go there,’” Boerman said. “I said, ‘Have you been there?’ They said, ‘No, but I’ve seen it on the news,’ and I said, ‘I will show you the opposite.’ I went there, and it was so friendly; they gave me their own bed and slept on the couch, can you imagine?”

Next, Boerman had to leave the ground for a little while as he flew to Nepal, setting up a charity project to raise money for the rebuilding of four Nepal schools. From there, he flew to the United States, landing on the East Coast and proceeding westward.

Boerman arrived in Melrose June 14, where his host family served him grilled bison – the first time Boerman had ever had bison. The next day, on his way to Alexandria, he passed through Sauk Centre and stopped to talk to Alice Sterling who lives next to the Wobegon Trail. The conversation was not an interruption to Boerman’s travels; in fact, it is part of the reason he is walking in the first place.

“This is the easiest way to explore a country and a culture,” Boerman said. “First, I was thinking of taking my bike, but I was like, if I take my bike, I’ll be down the street before you’ve decided to start talking to me, so that’s why I walk. I go really slow; you can almost see the grass growing.”

Not only do the conversations give Boerman a feel for the genuine culture of an area, but they are often how he ends up with somewhere to pitch his tent for the night. However, sometimes – as was the case with his Alexandria destination – some people who follow Boerman on social media will see they are in his path and will offer him a place to stay.

Boerman plans to cover all of the continents in his journey, a feat that he estimates will take about four more years. He even plans to make it to Antarctica by traveling to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, and then taking a boat. That is all uncertain at this point, though; Boerman’s plans are flexible.

“I don’t even know where I’m going to sleep tomorrow,” Boerman said. “I live by the day. To be honest, I do not even know what day it is today.”

When choosing his route, Boerman prefers to avoid the more touristy and well-known areas; there, he feels like people are nice to you mostly because they have to be. Instead, he aims for backroads and the places few people have heard of; he has found that the people in these areas are generally friendlier, laid-back and more open. In fact, Boerman plans to go through North Dakota on his way through the Midwest – mostly because people did not recommend going there.

“They said, ‘It’s going to be boring,’” Boerman said. “I said, ‘Yeah, but maybe the people will be nice.’ I do this walk to get to know society and not to escape from society. I prefer to make a connection with people all over the world and get to know them.”

Boerman travels light, carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, a water filter, a water container and a few other essentials with him; he does not need medication, a factor that further simplifies his luggage. In America and other areas where there are more roads and trails, he can cover more distance more easily and therefore walks with a backpack and a hiking cart strapped to his waist, but in Europe and places that have more wilderness trails, he only carries a backpack. As for food and money, he relies on donations whether they be in-person or through his website, https://www.iwalkaroundtheworld.com.

Although it has been over 400 days since he has started his expedition, Boerman says he has only had two negative experiences; everything else has been positive. He enjoys sharing this often-overlooked bright side of the world through his columns for newspapers in Belgium and Holland, as well as through his social media.

“For me, it’s about humanity,” Boerman said, “and humanity has proven itself once again each and every day.”