When most of us think about traveling the world, we picture ourselves racking up airline miles and bouncing from city to city. Few, if any of us, however, would ever imagine walking across the entire length of the Earth.
After reading a book about a man who had walked the length of the Earth, Lucy Barnard decided to do just that: walk from Ushuaia in the southern tip of Argentina all the way to Barrow on the northern slope of Alaska. Lucy started her journey in 2017 in the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, and has since walked through Argentina and Chile, making it all the way to Peru in just a couple of years.
By the time she makes it to the Arctic Ocean, Lucy will have walked, kayaked, or swam some 20,000 miles (32,000km) through fifteen countries over the course of five years. But what inspired Lucy to take up this challenge in the first place, and how does she get the motivation to keep going?
The Birth of an Adventure
Lucy Barnard didn’t always dream of walking the length of the Earth. In fact, it all started during a period of extended travel at the age of 33, when she read a book about a man that had completed the same challenge in 1983. While a number of other people had managed to walk the length of the Earth since that first thru-hike, not a single woman had finished the trek - a point that stuck out at Lucy as a major problem.
Some time passed, and Lucy finally returned home to Australia, where she hatched her plan to be the first woman to walk the length of the Earth. Disgruntled with her job and her life at home, Lucy started saving up for her adventure, committing herself more and more to the challenge every single day. Lucy quickly started training for the physical demands of the journey, preparing herself to carry a heavy backpack for such a long period of time.
At the same time, Lucy began planning her route and her eventual departure from home. Despite some initial negative reactions to her plans from friends and colleagues, Lucy’s family was right behind her and supported her dreams. Soon enough, however, it was time to leave the comforts of home behind and set out into the unknown.
Starting the Journey
Lucy started her journey in February of 2019 in the city of Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. Right off the bat, she had to deal with challenge after challenge along her route. Although Lucy’s goal is to walk the length of the Earth, it turns out that’s not entirely possible.
Due to the geography of the Americas, there are a few water crossings that any would-be ‘length of the Earth hiker’ would have to cross. Since Lucy was determined to make her journey solely under human power, she decided to swim or kayak each water crossing.
Not long after leaving Ushuaia, Lucy came to her first major water crossing: The Strait of Magellan. At 250km across, the Strait of Magellan is no joke and would be nearly impossible to swim in one self-supported go, so Lucy opted to kayak across instead. Once across the Strait and into Chile, Lucy continued on with her hike, continuing northward toward her goal.
As you might expect, however, Lucy’s five-year hike from the southern tip of Argentina to the northernmost part of Alaska wouldn’t be without its challenges. Throughout her hike, Lucy has had to deal with nearly every obstacle you could think of, from not really speaking any Spanish, to losing an entire bag of food in a river to navigating tricky customs and visa requirements in Chile and Peru.
Lucy’s solution to all of these difficulties? She just rolls with it. When border patrol in Peru gives her a hard time for wanting six months to walk 3500 kilometres instead of the normal three months given to visitors, Lucy decided to completely alter her route, searching for the option that balanced her physical, mental, and emotional needs with her desire to spend time in the mountains and her visa restrictions.
Beyond logistical nightmares and complete route overhauls, though, perhaps the most difficult part of walking the length of the Earth is learning to be comfortable with discomfort. Over the course of the last two years, Lucy has learned to push herself far beyond what she ever thought possible, coming to realise that “no matter how exhausted you are, you can always take one more step.”
Continuing the Journey
Through the challenge of walking an unimaginable distance, Lucy has experienced some of the most surreal parts of life, from kayaking with dolphins and having up-close encounters with endangered species, to walking amongst stunning snow capped peaks. What’s perhaps most beautiful, though, is the generosity and kindness of the innumerable strangers Lucy has met along the way.
Over the course of the last two years, Lucy has walked further than many humans will hope to walk in a couple of decades. From epic wild swims across huge bodies of water to travels in some of the world’s most remote places, Lucy’s length of the Earth walk is perhaps the ultimate adventure.
Although she still has tens of thousands of kilometres of walking, a dozen countries, and hundreds of nights under the stars left to get to the Arctic Ocean, Lucy's journey reminds us that even the most seemingly impossible challenges can be accomplished if we keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As Lucy continues on her journey, she is an inspiration to anyone looking to overcome a major obstacle and to everyone who has ever dared to dream. To learn more about Lucy’s mission to walk the length of the Earth, hear funny stories about life on the trail, and for a brief cameo by a rooster, check out her interview on the Tough Girl podcast!
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Listen to Lucy on Sparta Chicks
#054: Lucy Barnard on Walking the Length of the World
18th March 2018
#094: Lucy Barnard on Year 2 of Walking the Length of the World
17th Feb 2019
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