A globe-trotting dream comes true
Alum Eric Giuliani's book details 70,000-mile, three-year trek around the world
Eric Giuliani ’02 has a motto after spending three years making his way around the world.
Anything is possible.
“I started this dream with no camera, no photography experience, no writing experience,” he says. “I didn’t have a travel blog or social media following. I didn’t know how it was going to work financially because I didn’t have enough money for long-term travel.
“The most important thing in life is to figure out what your dream is. It’s the hardest step of all. But once you do that, dreams carry an incredible force of nature that is going to motivate you and pick you up when you’re down.”
Giuliani’s dream was to leave his Miami-based corporate career behind and rediscover his purpose in life through a global odyssey that would take him to each continent. He spent a year learning photography, filmmaking and writing before embarking on an adventure in which he would try to exchange his marketing skills for lodging while using only buses, trains and ships to get from place to place.
The highs and lows of the adventure are documented in a book that Giuliani released in spring 2021: Sky’s the Limit: One Man’s 70,000-Mile Journey Around the World.
“If you would’ve said: ‘Who’s going to write a book?’ I would’ve been everyone’s last choice,” he says with a laugh. “I wanted this [book] to be more about the internal journey than the external journey.”
The journey started on Sept. 3, 2014, in one of Giuliani’s favorite countries: South Africa. The trip got off to a smooth start, as some hotels agreed to Giuliani’s photos-and-videos-for-lodging trade. Giuliani was also taking daily photos and starting a travel blog. But struggles began as Giuliani and his travel companion/girlfriend, Naomi, attempted to make their way through Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. Buses were hot and cramped, passports were missing the proper stamps and money was lost.
Parting ways with Naomi didn’t make matters any easier, as Giuliani then endured more long rides on run-down buses through the desert, took a wild motorcycle ride to pick up a travel visa, and evaded crime and terrorism in places such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. By the time he was interrogated in Sudan for carrying a camera, a reader could easily wonder why Giuliani didn’t start somewhere closer to home.
“I was just hoping hotels would accept my barter offer based on the fact that three in Cape Town (South Africa) did,” he recalls. “I had no route planned. I had no visas prepared. No guidebooks. No idea the buses would be hot and broken down. I don’t know what I was thinking — and that’s what made it so fun!
“Easing into [the trip] would’ve given me a false sense of easy travel. It’s harder to go from starting easy to difficult. Better to grind through it: It makes you stronger in the long run.”
Giuliani opens up emotionally in the book, sharing that he struggled with whether he could continue the journey without Naomi. These struggles played a role in his later travels when he pursued her in places such as Siberia, China and Vietnam.
“My vulnerability in writing maybe makes up for having no background in writing,” he admits. “I could just write about how I felt and not care. Heartbreak is heartbreak in Binghamton or Tanzania. Meeting someone new and falling in love is the same whether you are in Australia or Binghamton. Emotions are the hook of the book.”
Whether it was the desert cities of Africa, riding a train with Syrian refugees, crossing the oceans on cargo ships, walking the streets of London or visiting China, Giuliani stood out — thanks to being 6’10, 260 pounds.
“It’s a factor on those buses because I don’t fit,” the former Binghamton University basketball player says. “It’s a pain to sit in a bus seat for 15 hours because you don’t physically fit. But it’s a bonus when you’re walking around and people gravitate toward you because you are 6’10. It opens doors — being tall is a natural conversation starter — especially in other countries.”
In China, people would often come up to Giuliani and point and laugh. In Uganda, meanwhile, people often appeared scared, unsure and willing to leave him alone.
“I was in some dangerous situations in which I could’ve protected myself better than others,” he says. “Maybe having an intimidating presence wards away the danger. I didn’t have any face-to-face danger and that could be because of my height and size.”
As Giuliani passed through Belarus and entered Siberia aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad on his way to China, the weather patterns were similar to his alma mater: Binghamton University.
Growing up in Coopersburg, Pa. (a small town `between Allentown and Philadelphia), Giuliani was not a star student. But he could play basketball and was recruited by some Division I schools in the late 1990s. He jumped at the opportunity to attend Binghamton after it was the first to offer an athletics scholarship.
“I loved the school,” says Giuliani, who received his degree in human development and later received a master’s degree in education from St. Joseph’s University. “Jim Norris was a great coach and a great guy. He believed in me. I felt comfortable with the support of the athletics department and staff. It was a good fit — minus the freezing cold weather!”
Being part of a sports team and living on campus proved beneficial for someone who considered himself a shy “homebody” when he arrived at the University.
“It was a coming-out-of- my-shell experience to live on campus and meet different people at a multicultural school,” Giuliani says. “Different backgrounds. Different races. I became friends with a great group of people. It carried over to sparking an interest in travel and meeting new people.”
Giuliani, who while discussing Siberia recalled it snowing in Binghamton on graduation day, says he stills follows Bearcats basketball thanks to televised games on ESPN+. He remains in touch with Norris and John Hartrick (associate director of communications and sports information), who Giuliani says has been helpful in supporting the new book.
On the edge of the world
Giuliani’s journey continued to take him to places such as Vietnam, Australia, Indonesia and North and South America. But the travel experiences, while memorable (Giuliani even believes he found new love), were often lonely and alone. The trip came full circle, though, when he received the opportunity to board a small, old ship headed to his final continent: Antarctica.
“I had not planned to go to Antarctica because it seemed so impossible,” he says. “Just the magic of being able to barter my way there was truly a miracle. There were no holes in the story: I went to all seven continents.”
Even more meaningful was the camaraderie that developed with his shipmates. Giuliani says in the book that the journey had “built walls” around him.
“Ever since Naomi left in Africa, I’ve been barreling down nearly every road this world has to offer, and I’ve been barreling down them alone,” he writes.
But when Giuliani set foot on the ice-covered continent, he did it with a group of fellow travel lovers and newfound international friends.
“The stars aligned with this incredible group of human beings,” he says. “The travel is one thing, but to experience it and share it with others was the missing piece — especially in a remote, incredible, pristine place like Antarctica.”
The finish line
The trip came to an end in London in early August 2017. Giuliani spent the next three years compiling his travel blogs, doing additional writing, and, with the help of editors, cutting more than 200,000 words down to 70,000 for the book.
Now running his own photography business in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Giuliani says the pandemic has made him even more appreciative of his decision to pursue his dream.
“Another blessing on my checklist of blessings was the timing of the trip,” he says. “I was able to do it in relative safety — aside from a couple of terrorist attacks. It couldn’t be done in the past 18 months. You can’t cross borders the way I did, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I hate to use the word ‘lucky’ because I’m not a fan of believing in luck. But it’s one of those things in hindsight: I was a little lucky travel-wise.”
While he decides what to do next with the story of his journey (motivational speaking is one option), Giuliani wants Sky’s the Limit readers to understand that it is possible to travel the world without a million dollars.
“You can do it with no money and no experience,” he says. “Determination is what carried me through not having a camera, not being a writer, getting through terrorist attacks, going through 50 border crossings, reaching seven continents, a month on the Pacific and two months on the Atlantic. The dream did for me. Find these deepest dreams.”