A few months back during my travels I began to encounter some foot issues. Well, the issues occurred less directly to my actual feet and more specifically to protection covering my little wandering soles. In one month’s time, I began breaking and losing more shoes than I ever had in my life.
My favorite pair of Havaianas – purchased 2 years prior in South Africa – had seen more of the world than most humans dream of seeing in their lifetime. They had taken me to exotic destinations, supported me through struggles, and survived the best and worst weathering. Their death was far less exciting than I suppose I would have hoped… if I had hoped at all that my shoes would die any particular way. They met their untimely expiration on a visa run to Koh Samui, where their straps just couldn’t hold on any longer and the rubber ripped, clean in two – more commonly known as a “blow out” or “flat tire.” I was desperate to have my sole travel companions mended by posting photos and pleading for help, reluctant to toss them just yet.
But help never came, suggestions never surfaced, and in a country where string is probably the best and only solution, I finally decided to lay my sandals to rest.
Things went downhill from there. Working at a hostel where shoes had to be left at the door, mistakes were always made and a pair couldn’t be kept longer than a week if you were lucky. Finally, after losing a leftie while walking through high tide on the beach in India, I angrily tossed the right into the sea and gave up hope on footwear. Which actually goes to show, karma is a b***h because the left one washed up on the beach after the tide went back out, but I digress.
I decided to go shoeless.
Now in India this is not uncommon, however it is highly frowned upon. In the Indian culture the feet are the dirtiest part of the body and it is absolutely disgraceful to touch or bring your feet anywhere near another person, especially their head. You can imagine the glowers of disgust that fell upon me as I’d climb to the top bunk of the over-night train.
Regardless, I carried on barefoot and my feet carried me with nothing to support them.
At first, I was cautious of every step and winced when treading on something rough or hot. But after a couple weeks, my feet became callused and strong. Hot pavement littered with glass shards – piece of cake. Hiking up steep, rocky mountains – what are hiking shoes? Sure, I got some baffled looks and the occasional “aren’t you forgetting something?” but I loved my free feet. It seems absurd that such an inconvenient and potentially painful choice could bring me such joy… but it did. I began to notice that activities became easier and even more enjoyable when my feet were naturally acclimated to the earth. It was exhilarating to strengthen them, a little bit more, every day. It was random, freeing, potentially stupid in some not-so-hygienic situations, but it was me in the moment.
After 2.5 long months, my bare tootsies trudged through India, back into Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, and Indonesia. I eventually decided it was time to prep my pads for shoes when I booked a ticket to Austria. I figured trotting barefoot in a restaurant would be slightly less accepted there. A few days before my departure, I gifted my deserving dogs with a full pedicure and massage to get them squeaky clean. Let’s just say… one pedicure was not enough after nearly 3 months of callus building.
Did I learn anything? Well, it takes several weeks for a good hard callus to grow, and many more to remove it! I loved my time without wearing any shoes. It was eye opening to learn how to get along without something that once seemed like a basic necessity.
We travel with so much clothing and make-up and STUFF – which yes, can be so fun to play with at times. But to train my mind to break the dependance on a material possession (coincidentally leading to other unnecessary material possessions) was a great feat for my feet.
Have you ever given up something that you thought was impossible to live or travel without?
This is a guest post by Alyssa Edelen.
Alyssa lives for exploring, nature, diving, food, photography, music, tattoos, and most of all travel. Her biggest passion is inspiring and helping others to get out, see more than the ordinary, travel off the beaten path, and truly experience all the world has to offer – so much so that she turned her love into a career as a travel planner and blogger. Having travelled with her family from a very young age, she should have known her one true love right off the bat, and yet it took her a few years of wandering and over 60 countries later to learn the direction she was meant for. Check out her instagram @alyssaallday and travel blog www.alyssaallday.com.Tweet