Amazing Nomads: Lucy Barnard - Making History

20 thousand miles, 15 countries, 1825 days and countless pairs of underpants, Lucy is on a mission to walk the entire length of the world from Argentina to Alaska with her cattle dog Wombat in tow.


Photo © Lucy Barnard

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World Nomads Podcast: Lucy Barnard

In this Amazing Nomads episode, we feature Australian Lucy Barnard who is on a mission to walk the entire length of the world, from Ushuaia Argentina to Barrow Alaska. If she completes it, she will become the first women to have done it.

What’s in the Episode

00:28 Mammoth effort

01:50 “…and then what happened?

03:00 “…It's just really lucky I was wearing a helmet because there is no doubt that I'd be dead if I wasn't wearing that helmet.”

04:30 Phil has a moment

06:54 Why people quit the walk

08:06 Putting the pooches through their paces

10:00 The challenges

11:50 “…I get to one town and I'm looked after by a bunch of life loving people. Then, I'm handed to the next community. I never thought that, that would be the most important part of this walk.”

14:50 Mum’s worried

15:35 “My sister got mugged twice…”

18:04 Footwear advice

21:39 Would Lucy do it again?

24:15 Another World Nomads scholarship opportunity

24:35 The end

Who is in the Episode

Lucy Barnard is an Australian adventurer on a mission to walk the entire length of the world.

“There is a moment between having an idea and acting on it, where you choose to do something. or you won’t…I decided to become the first woman to walk the length of the earth.

“It’s a 30 000 km trek from the southernmost point of South America to the highest point of Alaska. When I finish I will be the first woman, and one of only a handful to have ever completed it.

“I travel only by foot, or where the terrain is impassable, I swim or kayak.”

What makes Lucy’s story all that more remarkable is her recovery from an accident in which she had to learn to talk and walk again.

“…a ute pulled up to an intersection I was approaching. They saw me and stopped… waited for me to pass… waited… waited… and then made an error.”

Every step (and there will be 4 million of them) is documented in her blog Tangles and Tail.

Apparently this is all you need to walk the entire length of the earth
Wombat as a puppy
Lucy and Flor have a special bond

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

The 2019 Travel Writing Scholarship to Portugal is now open and applications close on March 13th – for all the details and to enter go to

Get information on ArmaSkin, the blister-preventing socks Lucy wears.

Learn more about the Great Cycle Challenge, aiming to beat kids’ cancer.

Want to Republish This Episode

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Next Episode: Malaysia

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing

Phil: The World Nomads Podcast bonus episode. Hear amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories and experience of world travel.

Speaker 2: Hi. In this Amazing Nomads episode, we are featuring Australian Lucy Barnard. She's on a mission to walk the entire length of the world, exhausted just saying that, from Ushuaia, Argentina to Barrow in Alaska. If she completes it, Phil, she'll become the first woman to have done it.

Phil: That's easy for you to say. By the way, Ushuaia. Yes. Look, it's a tough effort. It's 30,000 kilometers. It's the equivalent of about the sixth of the average distance a person walks in their lifetime and it can take Lucy as long as five years. The number of steps she's going to be taking is a staggering 40 million.

Speaker 2: Get your head around that. All these without any on road support team other than her blue heeler Wombat, but what makes this team even more amazing is Lucy's story and a year into the planning. This is not the reason she did this walk. She was planning it, but it may never have happened because she was taking part in an endurance cycling fundraiser and the aim is to ride as far as you can over a month. I think we'll let Lucy pick up the story.

Lucy Barnard: I was going really well. The fundraiser is raising money for children's cancer through an organization called "The Great Cycle Challenge." There are two ways that you can get onto a leaderboard in that challenge. One is to raise lots of money, which I had done, but not nearly as much as the person that was leading or you could get on the leaderboard for having done the most kilometers. There were three of us who were competing to get on the top of that leaderboard. It was between me and two other gentlemen. One who's a good friend of mine. Well, both of them are friends now actually but ultimately, it's really unusual in these cycling events for women to be at the top of the leaderboard. A group of my friends and I were just really committed to trying to get me to be number one.

Speaker 2: Then, what happened?

Lucy Barnard: We found a loophole in the rules where you didn't have to record all of your kilometers until the end of the race if you didn't want to. We were doing that and I was ahead and then three days before the end of the race, I was trying to maintain those kilometers and keep my lead when I pulled up to a T intersection and I'd seen this car before and they had actually cut me off previously. I began to slow down, which is what you do, but they stopped. I sped up and thought, "Great. I can pass them," but as they waited for me, they just made a really bad judgment decision and pulled out at the last minute and then panicked and stopped. At that moment, there was just no possibility for me to go one way or the other. I ended up slamming on the brakes and flying right across the top of their ute and landing on my head on the other side. It's just really lucky I was wearing a helmet because there is no doubt that I'd be dead if I wasn't wearing that helmet.

Speaker 2: Yeah. You weren't dead but you did some damage. Take us through that.

Lucy Barnard: Yes. Well, at first, I just thought I was fine and I was going to get back on my bike and go home and get back onto wind trainer but then I noticed as I lowered myself back onto the road that I couldn't really move my legs at all and I got into the ambulance and the ambulance driver offered me some morphine, but I was like, "No, I'm fine. I'm fine." Within 10 minutes, I just became overwhelmed with this incredible, incredible pain. I had two days of really intense pain and that was only because it turns out I'm resistant to morphine. In that time, I also wasn't able to move my legs.

What had happened is I could feel when people touched my toes, but it turns out that isn't necessarily a sign that you're going to be able to walk again. There was a real worry that I'd been partially paralyzed. As I was waiting for my legs to come back online, some of my words began to leave me as well, and I became partially aphasic. Not only did I have to learn how to walk and deal with all of the muscle tone loss, I also had to practice speaking again and get past a startup.

Phil: Can I say just having a bit of a moment here, a bit of hard time because coming up three years ago, I commute to work by my bicycle. I got cleaned up at a roundabout three years ago. I was a lot luckier than you. I broke a couple of ribs, and bones in my foot and my Scapula, the shoulder blade. Fortunately, I'm not resistant to morphine but it's just such a haze breath away from it being totally catastrophic. I got off lighter than you and you've got off lighter than other people.

Lucy Barnard: Absolutely.

Phil: It's just paper thin, isn't it?

Lucy Barnard: It is. It is.

Speaker 2: Well, at the moment you are attempting to be the first woman to walk from the southern most point of South America to the northern most point of Alaska. You were planning this before the accident though, weren't you?

Lucy Barnard: Yes, I was. About one year before the accident, I went on a holiday to Patagonia and I just really wanted to spend the time hiking and taking some time out because I really hadn't had a break in between high school and university. Off I trotted, and around that time I was reading a book about George Megan, who was the first man to walk the length of the earth from Ushuaia to Alaska where I'm heading and he originally completed that walk in a little town called Pluto Bay, which is right at the top. He finished that in 1982, which just happens to be the year that I was born.

I guess for me, that time alignment helps for me to really appreciate the story. Then, I just wondered that's a really long time ago. I wonder who else in my lifetime has been going on to complete this walk. I learned about quite a few men who have gone on to do the walk and why most people quit within their first year, but then I really quickly began to realize that no woman had done it and I was like, "What is with that? Come on. Someone's got to try this." I started planning just like that.

Phil: Why did I quit within the first year and why have you not?

Lucy Barnard: Love, so boring. Falling in love.

Phil: Really?

Lucy Barnard: Then, I'm a little bit skeptic of that because sometimes it's so hard that I could just fall in love with the closest person, just so that I have a reason to stop. Yeah. About 10 people start this journey every year, something like that. Somewhere between five and 10 people attempt it and the majority of them will quit within their first year.

Phil: Yeah. You can either get up and walk on top of those blisters or stay snuggled under the duvet where you are right now.

Speaker 2: I haven't seen a bloke in any of your videos, Lucy.

Lucy Barnard: Exactly because I'm like, "Stay away. You're a liability."

Speaker 2: I have seen a dog though. Tell us about Wombat.

Lucy Barnard: Wombat is a total drain. Originally, I was going to try and find just a street dog that I could rescue and have come and join me for my work but the primary motive of getting a dog is to help improve my security and safety. I also need to find a dog that is capable of walking the distances. It's pretty tough, all of that sort of thing. I was really struggling to find that in street dogs, not because then they don't have the capability but more so they have injuries or little personality quirks that wouldn't be helpful in high stress situations. In the end, I did a lot of research into breeds and decided that it just happens that it's an Australian breed, but that an Australian cattle dog would be the most suitable breed to join me.

Sometimes you just put it out to the world that that's what you're looking for and then all of a sudden, you have a choice of 12 and a litter. I got to choose him and I did some little tests on each of the puppies to make sure that I got the one that was most resilient to change and he's fabulous. Cattle dogs are really great for picking you up when you're feeling a bit miserable. They've got a great sense of humor. They are really, really tough. He is six months old and can walk 30 kilometers in a day, which is crazy.

Speaker 2: Yes, but I've also seen sitting in the cart that you pull as well.

Lucy Barnard: Well, that's the interesting part of his personality. Cattle dogs are meant to be fine in the heat, but he hates direct sunlight. Come middle of the day in the middle of the desert and he was just like total meltdown tantrums and sleeping in the back of the car.

Speaker 2: Going through the desert, the Atacama Desert. Has that been one of the biggest challenges so far in the two years that you've been walking?

Lucy Barnard: Man, every section has its different challenges for sure. I had a real romance about going through the desert and how wonderful it would be, but certainly, the last two weeks when it got really, really hot, I got really, really miserable but not for long because I just realized that I had to start sleeping during the day and walking through the night. By sheer luck, I started following a road and every day that I wanted to stop walking, they just happen to be a random bus stop that no one ever uses. I spent the last week sleeping from bus stop to bus stop.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I'm a bit worried about you because you're doing this on your own. Now, you've got Wombat, but all these truckies are stopping to see if you want to leave. You're sleeping in abandoned huts with dead lambs outside the doorway. You're taking some risks, girl.

Lucy Barnard: Yeah. It's really glamorous. I have a lot of friends who just think that I'm going from one view to the next with my hair waving in the wind and how delightful. Recently, I had a girlfriend come over who walked a stretch in the desert with me and she really now has a completely different view of what it is that I do but I will say while I was walking in the desert, I didn't see many people at all. Sleeping by the road wasn't really an issue but anywhere else where there are lots of people, I really spend a lot of time and I'm very careful about where I set my tent so that people can't see me and I take a lot of measures to make sure that my security is the first thing that I take care of.

Phil: Look, I'm just looking through your website at the moment. I really love the section here with the people who've walked with you, all these fantastic smiling faces in these pictures here. You've met some amazing people.

Lucy Barnard: I was just thinking today about how this walk is more like a relay where I get to one town and I'm looked after by a bunch of life loving people. Then, I'm handed to the next community. I never thought that, that would be the most important part of this work. I thought that the thing I would love the most are the views, just like some of my friends do who think my hair is sailing in the winds but in actual fact, and don't get me wrong, the views and the animals I have seen have been remarkable, but the people that I have met are really what's made this journey what it is today.

Phil: Well, tell us about some of them. I hate some of the surprising ones. I can imagine somebody would stop and approach you. You're obviously very conscious of your safety and God must be up at first, but then that must melt away when they start talking.

Lucy Barnard: Yes, it really does or I'll meet other travelers who will then give me a reference to somebody that I should stay within an upcoming town. Certainly, that's what happened when I reached El Chalten. I have to say reaching that town, I was at an absolute low. I had been water poisoned. I had been sick for several days, run out of water, run out of food. I've had boils on the back of my feet because I ruined my socks and just made a bunch of errors that just had my whole life in a state of misery. I huddled in to this lady at the recommendation of a friend who then just took me in for entire month. Got me seeing the doctors, got my body fixed. I told her I'd quit. She just did that whole annoying, knowing, muddling nod that mothers give you and then within a month sent me off again, "Off you go, keep going. You can do it."

Leaving the last night, staying with her, we had this beautiful dinner and did all the appropriate farewells. Then, I got an email from my mother to read to Flor and it went something along the lines of, "From one mother to another, I want to thank you for taking my daughter and knowing how to look after her as any mother would want to." It was just the two of us. I couldn't get through the whole letter because the two of us were just in tears, unable to take a full breath because this letter was so touching from my mother and essentially that's the treatment that I've had from so many mothers along this walk who have just really taken me and nurtured me and tried to give me all the love that they can to get me to the next town.

Speaker 2: Beautiful.

Phil: I've got something in my eye [inaudible 00:14:41].

Speaker 2: I know.

Phil: No. I really did. That's so touching.

Speaker 2: It's beautiful and as a mother who has a child overseas at the moment, your mother must be absolutely crapping herself given what you're doing.

Phil: Has she gotten used to it yet?

Speaker 2: Yeah. On top of your injuries that you had.

Phil: Has she come to [inaudible 00:14:57]?

Lucy Barnard: She had. Actually, I just put mom on a plane two days ago to go back home to Australia. We decided to meet for Christmas and New Year and my sister joined us who lives in New York and I had one very, very simple goal for this trip apart from having a good time and family and blah, blah blah. Underneath it all, I wanted to make her a lot more confident about what I'm doing and see how safe it is and give her that confidence to get through another year so that she could be worry free. Then, my sister got mugged twice and then my sister's phone got stolen and then my mom got mugged and then I got mugged and mom's passport got stolen and basically I failed spectacularly.

It couldn't have been a less safe, horrible trip than it was. It was great seeing each other and mom and I had some wonderful highlights in the last week, but she was here for five weeks and the first couple were a complete drop out. It's really hard on all of family and all I can do is just check in with them and take the precautions that I need to and the advice from a security company that I work with back in Australia who are experts in high stress, high risk environments.

Speaker 2: Well, you said you were sending your mom off, so that she would be calm for another year but I listened to you in a recent interview and you were thinking that this walk may take you five years.

Lucy Barnard: Yeah. That's a good thing, I think because at first, I want it to be done in three and walk 30 kilometers minimum every day for five days out of a seven-day a week and just like a checklist, get it done. To do that, it's just absolutely miserable because you're just putting your body under a lot of stress. One man recently did walk the entire stretch in two years, but he didn't stop. He just went. For him, that's great. That's amazing. I think the worst outcome would be that I finish and have no enjoyment or fun memories for myself. I think I would rather quit and have a collection of ... If I run out of money or something like that and I had to stop, having the collection of experiences that I have and meeting all the people that I've met and being able to spend time with them and get to know them and have this growing family following me, means more to me than finishing it as quickly as I can just to have my name put into a record book.

Phil: I've got a couple of questions. You must be a bit of an expert now on shoes and socks.

Lucy Barnard: Oh, yeah.

Phil: Not that many people are going to attempt to walk the length of the earth, but people like trekking and hiking.

Lucy Barnard: Step one.

Phil: While trekking and hiking is very popular and people breaking new boots and all that sort of stuff, but what's your advice on walking shoes and socks? What should we do?

Lucy Barnard: I think the absolute most important thing to do is get a shoe. If you have problems with toe blisters, get a shoe that has a really big toe box where you can really move your toes around. None of that snug business. I felt that and it took a long time for me to learn, but what I do now is I buy a shoe that's really broad at the toe and I buy one size up.

Speaker 2: Oh, okay. Do you wear thicker socks to compensate or ...?

Lucy Barnard: Yes. Well, typically there's like thousands of ways to tie up your shoe lace as well. I tie my shoe laces differently to keep my heel down. It's a little trick that you can do to get your foot more secure in the shoe and I leave the front bit loose. If I'm in a boot, I like to get a boot that has like a snap lock at the ankle, so that you can have the front part loose and the upper tight.

Speaker 2: It grips around your ankle. Right? Okay.

Lucy Barnard: Yeah. Then Ian, who's the guy who makes socks, they're like a neoprene sock. They cool down the skin if you want to look them up. He sent me a bunch of these socks which when I first saw them, I'm like, "What is this weird thing that I meant to wear underneath?" Essentially, you have to roll them on and they're quite sickening and they act as like a second skin and then you put your other stuff on top and that prevents any surface blisters. Not necessarily blisters between your toes, but it certainly does help with all of the others.

Phil: All right. My other question. Now, I reckon you probably an expert and you probably love them. Do you like shortcuts?

Lucy Barnard: Oh, man. I don't think I've ever taken a shortcut that's turned shorter, but I do love them. I don't know what it is with my psychology. I'm worried that I'm always going to get stuck in a tree or end up having to walk through miles and miles of river crossings, blah, blah, blah, but I always take the shortcut and/or is it about halfway, I think to myself, "Yeah. No. You'd gone the other way, you'd be there by now."

Speaker 2: Lucy, it's been awesome talking to you.

Phil: Can I ask one more question before we end. Sorry.

Speaker 2: What is it all about? [crosstalk 00:20:18].

Phil: I know. Yeah. No. Well, speaking of underpants. There's a fellow I know, he's worked with us at World Nomads, Gregg Bleakney. He's a filmmaker and still works with World Nomads. He's American and he was cycling. He was doing it basically from America or around South America, got to Columbia and loved it so much that he still lives there but he was ...

Lucy Barnard: Wow.

Phil: Yeah. He was doing it. He did it with two pairs of underpants. He only had two sets of underpants and I forget the name of the brand and I'll put it in the show notes because it's what made him famous because he did it for this company where he only had these two pants.

Lucy Barnard: That's awesome.

Phil: They sound a lot like your neoprene socks and they have a special undies that he did.

Lucy Barnard: Captain underpants, so what was your question?

Phil: Well, my question is when you get to the end ... Yeah. [inaudible 00:21:13] undies. When you get to the end ...

Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:21:16].

Phil: Neoprene undies. I'm sorry. I'm running off there. When you get to the end after five years you've completed this, we're totally confident you're going to complete it, so I'm saying when. Would you do it again or would you do bits of it again, or are you done with it?

Speaker 2: Would you do it again? Five years? Why don't we start with undies?

Phil: Yeah. Now, would you do it again or would you do parts of it again, or have you thought about being in an expedition leader in taking other people on bits of it. Would you go back?

Lucy Barnard: What I'd really like to do is get a camera, like a video camera and go back to the beginning in a car and visit all the people who've helped me and meet them again and say thank you to them and have proper conversations because I still am struggling with Spanish and I know that there are some people down south who really have just no idea about what this girl was doing walking through their property and I would love to just do the whole thing, but in a year and a car.

Speaker 2: Okay. That's a great idea actually. It's a good question, Phil.

Phil: There you go. All right.

Speaker 2: That was awesome.

Lucy Barnard: You know what? Talking about undies, I've got one little [crosstalk 00:22:29].

Phil: We're back with undies. Oh, okay.

Speaker 2: We'll talk more about the film. Great.

Lucy Barnard: In winter, I really struggled and I wrote a silly compelling story about how difficult it had been and a friend of mine who is now a friend started writing to me. I have this pen friend and we have our own battles. We started writing to each other almost as like a support team situation. As part of being my pen friend, she has pretty much sent me all of my undies since I've been walking. I haven't bought a set of undies since I got here because she faced some ...

Speaker 2: Hang on. Random gift? If I was going to send you things that would be maybe a packet of Tim Tams from Australia. Pair of undies?

Lucy Barnard: Let me tell you, you can not buy underwear that stay together here. If you send me just a bikini set, a bond undies, I know that they're going to last me whereas if I work for a month in a set that I bought here, they just end up ... I will basically ended up not wearing any at all. It's a disaster.

Speaker 2: We should get some branded World Nomads ones.

Phil: The Great being Centure's logo on your ass.

Speaker 2: We did hear Wombat in the background. Give him a pat from us. Lucy, thank you. Best of luck.

Lucy Barnard: I will.

Speaker 2: She is such a fun person and to get an idea of that, you can follow her blog, "TANGLES + TAIL" to see what really is a serious effort. Now next week, I know we promised it after the episode on the Baltics, but we're going to deliver on that promise to explore Malaysia.

Phil: Absolutely. A bit of change around just to match up with everything here, but there you go. Also, the 2019 travel writing scholarship, which goes to Portugal, as I've heard in some of the promos is now ... Well, should be open very shortly if it's not already open. Applications close on March the 13th. For all the details and to enter into it, go to

Speaker 2: Good one. Now, please drop us a line if you know an amazing nomad that we should be speaking to, and a lot of info, but it's all in show notes. You can download the episodes from iTunes or the Google podcast app or ask Alexa in Google Home to play the World Nomads podcast. Bye.

Phil: See you later on Amazing Nomads. Be inspired.





Sam’s story

1 Comment

  • Kylie Lumsden said

    You're an inspiration, keep walking & smiling x

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