Hey there, I’m Robert ‘Panda’ Barker and I would like to tell you about my yearlong (or more), worldwide backpacking trip I’m about to start, called Panda’s Odyssey. Starting in November I’ll be on the road traveling and training and meeting all sorts of cool people along the way. Before I get into the details on the journey let me first tell you more about me. I’ve been training martial arts on and off for most of my life, since I was 13, and in the last 5 years I really fell in love with BJJ. 3 years ago I made some life changes (quitting drinking mostly), and decided to put more energy and focus into my training, and with that the beginning plans on what would become Panda’s Odyssey were made.
What is Panda’s Odyssey? Let me explain this whole concept I’ve been working on for almost 3 years now (well, almost 3 years of research but a good solid year of planning). The original idea was to travel the world for year training in martial arts in an attempt to find myself and where I belong. As it ends up over the time of researching and training Jiu-Jitsu I found exactly where I belong, on the mats with all the other martial arts obsessed people. During my research I found out about BJJ Globetrotters and the network they have built to do exactly what I was planning: traveling and training. As I continued to look into this dream of mine it became more BJJ focused (although I will still try to attempt other martial arts where ever I go) and evolved and grew more and more. I started a blog to write down all my experiences traveling and training and updates for my planning and research. Check it out and let me know what you think: http://pandasodyssey.blogspot.ca/
Just recently I added interviews to the blog and created a YouTube channel. The idea behind the interviews is to sit down chat with all the interesting people I meet on my travels. Everyone on the mats has a story of how and why they got there, and I would like to record and share all those stories with everyone. Everyplace I go I’d like to get at least one interview, be it the instructor running the gym, the top athlete at the club, or the person hosting me for time I’m visiting. My hopes are that the videos catch on and maybe make some money (maybe even get me some sponsors) to help on the travels. The more help I can get the longer I can travel and the more of the world and Jiu-Jitsu community I can see, and in turn, the more of the community I can share with you all. Cutting down costs is the key to making this trip successful and so a lot of my planning has been on first asking clubs if I’m welcome to come train (always a sound practice for good etiquette) and then asking around for help finding a place to stay, be it the couch or floor of a host or a cheap hostel in the area. I have also started a crowdfunding page to help where people can make monthly pledges for really low amounts to help me and the blog out, here’s the link if you’re interested: https://www.patreon.com/pandasodyssey
Let’s get back to the trip itself. It all starts in Victoria BC Canada, where I live, and from there I’ll spend 4 months traveling across Canada training at approximately 35 different gyms until I get to St John’s Newfoundland. From there, on March 1, I’ll fly over to London England and start my journey across and Europe and Asia. From this point on once I leave Canada it’s all a rough draft. I have some details I’m working on at the moment, like spending the entire month of March traveling a loop across Ireland and the UK before heading over to Paris. Right now I have plans for Morocco in May and Russia in July, and need to fill the gaps between them and afterwards. There is also the obstacle of splitting visiting Europe in to 2 parts since I can only stay within the Schengen Zone for 90 days out of 180. Of course along this epic trip I plan on traveling to Australia and hitting up cities like Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Maybe I can convince or find an Aussie crazy enough to go on one of those epic across the outback road trips you see in movies. There are still a lot of details to sort out, like visa paperwork for some countries, but it’s all coming slowly into place.
So that’s me and my quest, to follow my dream of traveling and training around the world and meet all sorts of cool people on the way and share all these experiences with everyone. I hope you like it and I get to meet you on the mats someday.