He wasn’t the first to complete a human-powered global circumnavigation—that title belongs to Briton Jason Lewis, who completed his 46,000-mile voyage in 2007—but the 51-year-old Turkish-American’s silver-medal effort required a level of mental endurance that was borderline pathological. Last July, after 1,026 days and 37,472 miles of hiking, biking, and boating, Erdun Eruc, a onetime software engineer who now lives in Sydney, returned to his starting place, Bodega Bay, California. He had battled the Pacific in a rowboat for 419 days, biked across Australia, rowed the Indian Ocean (a first), trekked across Africa, and rowed from Namibia to Venezuela to the Gulf Coast. After cycling the final 2,389 miles from Louisiana to California, Eruc quietly returned home and faced the shock of reentering everyday life.
“I felt isolated, like I didn’t belong,” he says. “For years this journey defined my existence.” He also burned through most of his life savings. Still, the prospect of financial ruin hasn’t prevented him from plotting even bigger adventures. “If I can finance it, I won’t hold up the future trying to pay back the past,” he says. His next dream? To climb the six highest peaks on six continents. His initial plan calls for making separate self-powered trips to each summit. Look for a small boat rowing toward Everest soon.