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7 May, 2021

Barefoot walk to get men talking

Anton Nootenboom, known as ‘The Barefoot Dutchman,’ will set off from Cairns Esplanade tomorrow morning, on a Guinness World Record attempt to walk 2600 kilometres barefoot.

By Tanya Murphy

Anton Nootenboom during his time serving in Afghanistan

The Dutch-born Sydney resident, who also hiked to Everest Base Camp barefoot in 2019, will now walk unshod from Cairns to Sydney, to raise funds and awareness for men’s mental health, and he is inviting the community to join him for the first few steps.

“I served in the Dutch army for ten years, including three missions to Afghanistan, and have spent the last five years working in construction, both of which are seen as very ‘masculine’ environments,” said Mr Nootenboom.

“Throughout my time in these industries, I have seen and experienced men’s mental health issues firsthand.

“On average, eight suicides happen each day in Australia. Last year 3,328 people died by suicide, of which 75 per cent were men.

“I want to help prevent this from happening. There is a dangerously wrong perception of what ‘masculinity’ means, which causes men to struggle to be openly vulnerable.

“I want to help by showing it’s okay to talk about these issues and to be vulnerable when you are feeling like you need support.”

Anton Nootenboom: Trekking in Nepal
Anton Nootenboom: Trekking in Nepal

Mr Nootenboom will aim to walk around 25 kilometres a day for more than 100 days with no rest days, but hasn’t set a specific time limit, and he hopes people will join him for sections of the walk in each town he passes through.

He said he wanted to show more men the benefits of ‘walking and talking’ with a mate, since both physical activity and long conversations were beneficial to mental health.

“It’s important to open up and talk with a friend, but if you go to a bar, as soon as you have a few drinks you’re already distracted from what’s going on inside you because it numbs those feelings,” he said.

“And sometimes if you sit at a table it can feel awkward and harder to open up about things that are deeper within you.

“But if you go out for a walk in the fresh air, your body starts to create endorphins to make you feel better, and you have a view and a goal to walk towards, which can make it easier to get to talking about heavier stuff.”

A documentary film is being made about the walk, and the main beneficiaries will be mental health charities ‘Gotcha 4 Life’ and ‘Tomorrow Man.’

Mr Nootenboom encouraged Cairns locals, both men and women, to join him for the first part of the walk which will commence tomorrow, Saturday May 8, meeting at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon at 12 to start walking at 1pm.

Details can be found by following him on Instagram @thebarefoot_dutchman and donations can be made by visiting his website

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