About

I grew up in Australian suburbia with little connection to the outside world beyond an early diet of American television sitcoms complete with canned laughter. My diet like everyone else’s around me was a steady supply of meat and three vegetables. My childhood world was of total freedom and few threats. We played in the street, visited friends uninvited and rode our bicycles without any of todays parenting fears. It didn’t register to me that elsewhere in the world others were living a very different life to my utopia.

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The eldest, the tallest with my sister Diane, smirking Peter and Ian awaiting the dentist.

The first time I realised the world might be different was when my school days girlfriend, Irene invited me to her family’s European style delicatessen. A whole other world of meats, gooey smelly cheeses and pickles awaited me. I was brave and sampled everything and was duly rewarded. It left me wondering what sort of people eat this stuff by choice and survive !

I’d just turned 19 when Irene and I travelled to meet her relatives in Germany. I was so green, barely capable of finding my way to the airport.  I learnt the hard way in Europe where the English language diminished with every step you took beyond the first airport. I learnt of different cultures and difference. I couldn’t speak to many of them but I was observant and fascinated. I was hooked on these people living very different lives half a world away from my safe haven.

The cycling bug returned in my early twenties. It was Keith Dunstan the journalist riding with Jeff Hook the cartoonist across America as part of the bi-centennial that whet my appetite. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since school. I borrowed my young brothers school bikes for a cycling tour of Tasmania with a crazy friend. My brothers weren’t impressed either being forced to walk to school. The riding was harder than we thought , using muscles neither of us had used much. Tasmania was much hillier than I had imagined and we arrived each night completely spent.

But for all the new found aches and pains it was oh so satisfying. Importantly it was under our own steam, off into the unknown. I was caught up in the smells, the sounds and the exposure to life beyond my bubble. It was all happening around me without the isolating cocoon of a car.

Crazy….we are still friends today ! Jill Smith.

Into my thirties and work bogged me down like it does most of us. Aspiring to be the best I could in my chosen field eats into your life and stops you lifting your head. Around this time I met Robyn and after what she called an eternity we married. Together we began dreaming of long escapes to foreign lands. These dreams turned to plans and finally become reality at the end of each project. The day I finished a new building we would escape, off to explore another corner of the globe. Our journeys were an elixir, revitalising us and our marriage.

Far too early Robyn was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was determined to beat it and after two traumatic years was back travelling and enjoying life. We thought we had it beaten, fought and won. Unfortunately no, sadly it returned five years later. As resilient as Robyn was it invaded her body and slowly took her away. I felt helpless.

You are numb after such events, adrift with little comprehension and few answers, bitter at the unfairness of it all. They say time heals and we get on but some scars refuse to heal. I still miss her. The fragility of life had been on full display and I realised I had not cherished both my good health, my friends and the opportunities available to me.

I stopped procrastinating over minor issues and started to plan to squeeze as much as I could out of this one life we are given. There are few materials things I yearn for today I have everything I need. Experiences, embracing the new, being truly surprised, visiting the old and putting yourself out there without risking your life or others has become my aim. The world is still a fantastic, uplifting place. Full of caring, loving and imaginative people. This is contrary to what you might read in the daily papers or hear on the television. Get out there, breathe deep and embrace it. You might even catch yourself smiling.

14 thoughts on “About

  1. The site looks fab Mr Barnes… I like the font, it’s clean and easy to read. Will let you know if I find any issues as I dip into it from time to time.
    Hope to speak to you before you leave this week but if not, don’t have too good a time (🤢🤢with envy). Jxx

    • Thanks Janey, I appreciate you running an editors / friendly eye over my take on the world. I was waiting for the cruel but kind reply !

    • Hi Warren, Yes I am. I have 95% convinced myself that the only way I will get to such an isolated region as the Arctic Circle is with his outfit. A greater concern to me will be the biting insects capable of stinging you through clothing and as you know yourself, making you very sick. Who said Australia is a dangerous place. Those insects LOVE my blood type and I shall have to ride at pace to avoid them. I hope you are still getting out on the bike. Jeff

      • Hey Jeff. Yep, I know what you’re saying – Bud’s an interesting cat but at least you know you’ll get there and there will be a hot meal and a cold beer at the end of it. I think the guys at TDA do an Arctic leg on the Nth American Adventure, but I cannot recommend them – pretty expensive and pretty poor value. I reckon you’re right about the bugs. I was shocked at how vicious they were in Canada. I reckon they’d beat me in the Arctic. Heading to Noosa next week – the lads are playing golf but I will be hiring a bike for the week – should be fun. I’ve also signed up for the LeTape thing in Jindabyne at the end of November which will be pretty hard work but it’s an awesome setting. I’m still a ways off my Canada form (which may never be replicated again) but on the improve. All the best and take care. Cheers, Wazza

  2. Love it!! I still have a bike but not that body sadly!!! Great read Jeffrey – you are a legend! 😊. I am going to enjoy these stories … some for the first time some reminding me of your past travels!

    Look at Ian in that first photo .. no surprise!!!!

    • Hi Jill, Im glad you enjoyed reading some of my trips for the first time and some that you’ve read along the journey.Its amazing that my cycling tours started with our ride in Tasmania, half a life time ago. More amazing is that we’ve been able too keep our friendship going strong from a distance with the main link being our love for travel.

  3. I would had paid to see the face of the ‘lean young riders,leader’ as you caught up, stayed with them & eventually passed them, and you on an old style bike, priceless.

    Amazing to think you could leave your bike anywhere for 4 days & it wouldn’t get pinched. Restores your faith. Good on ya Jeff, terrific tales indeed.

    • Hi John welcome home. It was only the fact of staying with the young guns and not letting the alpha rider shake me free that kept me going ! Old bull and the young bull tale. ha…Hope to catch you soon. There is nothing like getting out of your comfort zone to feel alive.

  4. Hi Jeff, it was a great pleasure to cross paths with you on your trip from Grafton to Macksville. People like yourself are an inspiration. I look forward to tracking your progress and reading about your future adventures!

    • Hi Toby,
      It is always good to cross paths with other cyclists. If only to verify that there are others with the same dreams of exploring under their own steam.I hope you are now ready to explore some more you were doing well. I don’t know why I was in such a hurry to reach Sydney and then the last train to the Victorian border ? I’ve been under Covid lockdown 4. ever since I reached home. Once the lockdown and the worst of the Melbourne Winter are gone I shall get my touring bike out again and visit some other country towns not visited for many years. Meanwhile I dream of the day when I can again fly off to visit some far away country and slowly understand their land and people by bike.

    • Hi Bill, Have really enjoyed reading about your trip from the Arctic Circle to Vancouver Island. And your dreams for the future. Inspirational !

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