Meet The Women Walking The World
Hey Lucy, thanks so much for agreeing to share some thoughts with us today. To start things off, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? When did you have the thought to walk the world and… why?
My name is Lucy Barnard. I was born into an active family and inherited a love of adventure from my Dad who ensured outdoor culture became an important part of my day to day life.
The expedition came from a passion of hiking; inspiration from historic figures; and (if I’m honest) a hint feminism.
The defining moment occurred in Patagonia. I wasn’t ready to return home, had just bailed on my final multi-day hike, only to find myself caught with an incompatible traveller who opposed women adventuring on their own. All the while I was reading two books, one about female trail blazer, Gertrude Bell, and the other about George Meegan who became the first person to walk the length of the world.
In the midst of my ore inspired frustration, I began to wonder if a woman had achieved the same feat.
How long? How far?
It is estimated I will cover 30 000 km over three years.
In 1977 George Meegan began the journey from Tierra Del Fuego, South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In 2000 he completed an additional 500km to reach Barrow, Alaska which marked him as the first person to walk the length of the world. How is your journey different?
The start and end points are the same. Like George, my route will be influenced by weather, safety, opportunities to cross difficult terrain, and areas of interest.
George primarily followed roads using a cart to haul his gear, whereas I will be weaving my way through backcountry with a pack. When my passage becomes too disconnected from towns, or the climate increases my gear load, I will adopt a similar method to George.
Your expedition has been over two years in the making. Where did you start with the planning process and what else needs to be done before you go?
Early on I was connected with Elemental Projects, a company that specialises in project management training. This was critical. They set me up with a project plan to keep on track and accountable.
Then I was put in touch with safety strategists, Phase Zero, who have literally transformed my expedition into something my Mum is comfortable talking about.
In the meantime, I have been building my survival skills and fitness, learning about navigation and First Aid, and talking to anyone who might offer good advice or insight.
The last thing I need to do is finalise my pack list and buy some gear. I’ve had some unaccounted costs pop up (for example I underestimated how many shoes I’ll go through - about 40 pairs), so I’m now on the lookout for sponsors to help reduce my gear costs or donations to bolster safety measures such as guides, insurance and communications.
Twelve months ago you were hit by a car during an endurance cycling event and were temporarily paralysed. This obviously had a huge impact on you physically and mentally. How have you worked to regain a level of physical and mental wellbeing in time for 30,000km of walking around the world? Seriously, you’re amazing.
There have definitely been low points.
The pain I experienced in hospital is indescribable, yet so was the moment my legs came back online – a humbling reminder of how much of an asset my bodies is!
I have done everything I can to retrain included: a balanced diet, low alcohol intake, and participating in a mixed sport training programs that focuses on restrengthening my entire body. The most challenging aspect has been addressing my head injury: allowing my body more time to sleep, slowing down, being patient about recovery and the delay in performing at the standard I use to.
In terms of rehab more broadly, my family and friends were critical and so were some people from more surprising areas in my life.
A great example is my Manager Cath and the Team I worked with who got on board right away. I had used all my sick leave so Cath set me up on flexible work arrangements to ensure I could attend daily rehab. In the beginning these appointments were brutal. When I couldn’t face going, the team were always ready to push me out the door.
Gradually Cath had me working longer days to earn time off in flex. This meant I could have regular three day weekends to allow enough time to rest and focus on preparing for the expedition. There is no doubt that I would be in the position I am in today, if it had not been for the support I received from my team at work – it is a wild shame that not everyone shares the same approach to workplace culture.
At the time of your expedition, is there competition to complete the same journey?
YES! Well sort of.
There are two American girls already a year into their journey – however their aim is slightly different. They’re counting longitudinal gain, skipping latitudinal traverses and using alternative vehicles such as bikes and ferries in some areas.
I have also heard word from a Ushuaia resident that another solo hiker left last month with the aim of completing her walk in six years. This really excited me because 30 000 km offers a lot of opportunity for company!
As much as I love playful rivalry, I’m keen for camaraderie and encourage anyone to have a go at pursuing their goals – even if that means racing mine.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Mid–last year my Dad passed away. He was by far the greatest supporter of my expedition and it will be tough not having him to wave me off at the airport.
When I asked Dad if he thought I should go on my walk he said: Of course you bloody well should, just look after your health, take a rabbit trap, and if anybody gives your trouble – shoot them in the foot, then they’ll know your serious.
Obviously I’ll be selective about which pieces of advice I carry with me!
Lets talk safety. There are countries where you will face cultural diversity and customs. How have you been planning to ensure you are safe everywhere you go? Or is this almost impossible?
This is a considerable component of my preparation.
In November I teamed up with Phase Zero who specialise in safety, security and risk management for high-risk activities. The insight they have offered is insurmountable. Together we have been preparing strategies to not only stay safe in day to day settings but also consider international law, food and water security, and risks from exposure to environmental conditions.
They form a critical part of my support crew throughout the length of my journey.
Will there be anyone joining you on lengths of the trip? If so, who?
Yes – friends, family and all the people I meet along the way.
I am under no illusion about the lonely nature of an expedition like this and look forward to friends and experienced hikers joining me on stretches, and for anyone interested in sharing a meal or a drink when I’m in town.
What’s an item in your backpack most people wouldn’t expect?
A sketch pad and watercolour set.
… and for ladies wondering about feminine hygiene, the Australian version of a keeper cup (best you Google if you don’t know what it is).
You’re walking in some high altitude locations. What changes to your gear have you made to make sure you withstand unpredictable weather?
The most important items in my pack provide me with shelter adequate for these conditions.
I’ve spend most of my weight allowance (20kg) on a larger tent, wind proofing alterations, mats and a rather delightful sleeping bag.
For climate changes – I have a network of friends willing to mail care packages to swap gear in and out.
What sections of the trip will you have to kayak or catch a boat/plane? Is this seen as “cheating”? We couldn’t see it fair if you had to swim!
That and watching me swim isn’t fun for anyone!
The opening leg of my journey starts in Ushuaia which is among an archipelago at the southernmost tip of Argentina. This forces me to paddle 170km to the mainland between Caleta Mario and San Isidro. My forerunners have used a ferries to cross sections like these however my objective is to avoid mechanical assistance entirely, other than using a kayak where the land is not connected or impassable.
When you’re not planning to walk around the world you’re a Scientist. Are you going to incorporate your research skills or conduct any projects while you walk?
YES – great question.
I’ve been engaged as an Adventure Scientist (how cool is it that that’s a thing) collecting data from remote regions for the Harvard Medical School working on the global microbe project.
In English, I’m collecting and categorising small samples of scat to help medical researchers find the origins of antibiotic resistance!
What advice would you give aspiring adventures planning a larger expedition?
Go for it!
Talk about your plans with anyone who will listen – you’ll be surprised by who gets behind you.
Be open to criticism, it could be game changing.
Be careful navigating the line between adventurousness and recklessness – but don’t shy away from it.
How can companies and communities jump on board to support you?
The most helpful forms of contributions are moral and commercial support.
If you are a part of a company or know someone who should get on board – give them a nudge for me. Offering something as simple as a free night's accommodation, a pair of shoes, or some spare cash mightn't sound like much in the scheme of an expedition - but money I save on gear and on-road costs goes towards improving safety contingencies and could become the defining point of success!
Communities can help by engaging with social media posts to encourage me and companies considering sponsorship.
And finally, for the hard core adventurer lovers out there, I have a go fund me page you can contribute to, and I’m really fond of letters and jokes (that I’ll get) I can read while I’m out on the trail!
Where can we connect with you?