Seeing the world is a gran's adventure
By Tamar Kahn
At first glance, she's certainly not your average backpacker. No golden tan and grubby flip-flops; in fact, there's not a trace of sun on her milky-white skin and her shoes are new and almost clinically clean. At 74 years of age, Barbara Harrison is just about as far away from the stereotype as you can get.
But her looks are deceiving; she's familiar with even the most extreme of travels. "Trekking the Inca Trail with an adventure tour was by far the toughest thing I've endured, but I came out of it somewhat better than the young ones did," she says. "From previous travels, I knew what to expect but these kids weren't emotionally ready and the altitude totally drained us all; you can't even think straight by the end of it."
Barbara, recently voted by Get Up & Go magazine as Australia's most adventurous senior for 2007, was 26 when she took her first trip overseas. It was to Europe on a six-week ferry ride and her early globe-trotting memories are from a world very different to today. "You would stay overseas for about 18 months to two years because it wouldn't be worth your while coming back any sooner," she says. "My return trip was during the very early days of overland travel and as you can imagine, a trip from Europe to Australia was pretty rugged compared to what it is now."
Once she had settled in back home, she worked as a nurse in Melbourne for several years but those itchy feet weren't letting up and before long she was off again. Barbara hitchhiked through England and camped through Iceland but these holidays weren't enough for Barbara and after becoming fairly bored with her so-called "conventional" travel, she began to seek out even more adventurous methods.