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Nobby Young Wants to Walk Around the World

Nobby Young Wants to Walk Around the World

17 January 1997
Nobby Young, the postal worker who walked solo around Australia in 1993 and 1994, has begun what he hopes will be a 10-year walk around the world.

There was a last-minute scare when a wise-cracking well-wisher suddenly called out: "It's all off - he's changed his mind." But just after 10.30 a.m. on January 17, 1997, Nobby Young checked over a trolley-load of gear, embraced family and friends and, with a final wave, set off on what is planned as a solo, 100,000-kilometre round-the-world walk.

"See you all back here on January 17, 2007," he shouted before pushing out into the George Street pedestrian traffic, heading slowly south. On his first night, he was hoping to camp in the Royal National Park. Today, Wollongong; tomorrow, the world.

At least, that's the plan of the 50-year-old retired postman, who intends doing a quick - well, one year - warm-up walk round Australia, before heading for the United States (every State in three years), Canada, Europe, Fiji and New Zealand. "Ten years, to the day, all being well."

It may not be quite up there with swimming through shark-filled waters from Cuba to Florida, hanging in an upturned yacht in the Southern Ocean or crossing the Andes by toad. But it's still a big ask, especially of a slight man with dicky joints and a sore heel, inexplicably cut while packing the trolley at his home in Gladesville.

So is Nobby nuts? Not a bit of it. Far from being a crackpot, he is an accomplished ultra-marathoner who stopped long-distance running only when arthritis ruined his hips. Yoga got him back on the road and Young has been walking ever since. Ever greater distances.

Through 1993-94, he became the only person to walk around mainland Australia. The 16,000-kilometre journey, which took exactly a year to complete, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

There were good times: a late-night entry into Mt Isa, Queensland, "laid before me like a giant spaceship". There were bad times: Nob Hill, South Australia, "a real depressing place. When I asked a classroom of kids during a school visit, how many would smoke when they grew up, everyone put their hand up! Nothing else to do, I suppose."

Most of all, though, there were hard times as he strove and strode to beat the record for his walk. On this occasion Young - who is funding his walk from his own life savings at an estimated $7.50 a day - intends to have "a lot more fun".

Though he has been in hard training, he intends walking only about seven hours, five or six days a week. But for 10 years? "Well, yes. But I'm no masochist. I want to see things, meet people, enjoy myself," says Young, who is divorced.

There is little room on his purpose-built trolley for luxuries, though. A radio, a Walkman with a classical music tapes, two books (an enviro-guide to the US entitled How to Shit in the Woods and, by chance, the wit and wisdom of 2BL broadcaster Mike Carlton), a palm-top computer through which Young will send reports to a special Nobbywalk Web site, and, er, that's it.

Other items tightly packed into his 60-kilogram load include credit card, emergency supplies of rolled oats, a tent with pole that doubles up as defence-weapon and a first-aid kit containing, among expected things, "miscellaneous items".

Like what? "Well, condoms actually," said Young, who whether or not he arrives, is determined to travel hopefully.

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