THE onslaught of highway traffic does little to faze John Cadoret.
It’s Sunday afternoon on the New England Highway and cattle trucks pass in the dozens the man who’s called the open road home for 40 years.
But the 62-year-old Victorian stops walking, takes a seat on the side of the road on the outskirts of Nemingha and shares his story of banker-turned-swagman, as countless cars and road trains send the honks of horns his way.
John has been walking since 1978, and has eschewed the trappings of modern life – no home, no car, no bank account, no mobile phone, no Medicare card.
He was born in 1954 in the Western Victorian town of Minyip.
It was in his early twenties that he decided to leave his shared flat and party life behind for a three-month hitch-hiking holiday around Australia.
“I just decided to keep doing it,” he said.
“I’m just happy doing what I do.”
For the first five years, he caught lifts. But for the 35 years since, he’s walked everywhere carrying nothing but a change of clothes, his swag and a tarp.
John lives off the grid, surviving on his own bushcraft and the kindness of passing motorists.
“I used to dangle a line in (fishing), but turns out I was feeding them,” he laughs, flashing a near-toothless grin.
“People sometimes pull over and give me something.”
John works to no time frame and hasn’t opened a map for years.
“I used to,” he said.
“But now the maps are in my head.
“I’m pretty calm. I don’t get worked up about anything, I don’t have highs or lows.”
John, known as the highway man, has become a social media identity, with Facebook pages dedicated to following his travels.
John was last in Tamworth on his way from Toowoomba to Ballarat in 2014. Back then he was walking up to 25km a day. Now, it’s about 10km.
“I’m in no rush,” he said.
“I’ll keep going, at least while the body holds up.”