Dutch veteran walks barefoot 3,000 kilometers to raise awareness on men's mental health
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Dutch Afghanistan veteran Anton Nooteboom completed a 3,000-kilometer monster trek through Australia on Sunday. The “Barefoot Dutchman” from Goes in Zeeland who emigrated to Australia in 2015, walked an average of 25 kilometers a day for five months and raise 75 Australian dollars (48 thousand euros) for men’s mental health.
“It has been quite a walk,” Nooteboom said. “It was unbelievably heavy, especially because of all the stones that stick to your feet. Although people were a bit disappointed when they saw the soles of my feet because they actually still look very good. But inside everything is broken and bruised.”
Nooteboom had been employed by the Ministry of Defense for ten years and was deployed to Afghanistan three times. He faced psychological problems and found relief in walking barefoot.
“But also, by talking about it. You notice that there is a taboo among veterans on discussing feeling depressed and suicidal. I made the trip attention to draw attention to this.”
Nooteboom walked barefoot to increase publicity. “A normal 3,000-kilometer trip much less publicity. I didn’t practice for it. Nothing can prepare you for such a trip. I wanted to show that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.”
The journey took him from Cairns in the north of Australia to right outside his front door in Sydney and earned him two Guinness World Records, including one for the longest barefoot journey. A few hundred people walked the last kilometers with him.
“I am incredibly wrecked, I will not do anything for the next two or three weeks but rest and recover,” Nooteboom said.
Reporting by ANP