Have you ever tried it barefoot?

topic posted Fri, August 18, 2006 - 9:28 AM by  Andy
“Some people (often calling themselves "barefooters") enjoy the sensation of their feet in direct contact with the ground and make an effort to go barefoot whenever possible. People who self-identify as "barefooters" tend to be those living in developed countries where going barefoot becomes a symbol of freedom and health among other things. In developing countries, going barefoot is not regarded as status symbol as it is in the west. (From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I’m used to a life on bare soles: I haven’t worn shoes since December 2000 (with a few exceptions!) and I don’t think I’ll EVER imprison my feet again! I’ve been walking barefoot since my schooldays, but not every day, not everywhere… It was a winter morning back in 2000, just after Christmas: I was ready to board my flight to India. My feet were already bare while I was waiting for the train which would take me to the airport. The air was a bit chilly, and I noticed a couple of people staring at my feet, obviously unable to believe what they saw: A pair of bare feet, decorated with a leather-anklet and a shiny little toering… I didn’t know that I was about to leave Europe for good, returning only occasionally for short visits. But I was ready for the big adventure: Spending many month on the road, exploring almost every nook and corner of India on my bare soles – from Kanyakumari to Gangtok and from Gujarat to West Bengal… It was SO much fun! I didn’t even carry any shoes in my backpack, and soon, my soles were tough as leather! Finally, the unexpected happened: I managed to settle down in India! I’ve been able to live my life barefoot ever since…

Summertime in India means: HEAT! Scorching heat… Come in April, May or June and you’ll realize what it means if the mercury crosses the 45° C mark! But if you’re visiting Delhi and North India in December or January, you’ll be surprised how chilly it gets: 0° C aren’t really exceptional! These are the conditions my bare feet have to cope with! Hot tarmac in June, chilly mornings in January… Plus: Sharp-edged gravel, thorny weed, little pieces of glass… Rock-climbing, day-long hikes in the Himalayas (I’m travelling A LOT!)… But no matter what: I’m ALWAYS barefoot. All-year-round, wherever I go, whatever I do. Most of my friends have never seen me wearing shoes…

I know: It sounds strange, at least if you’re new to the whole idea! Living barefoot - the mere thought might actually scare you… Maybe you’ll even think: That guy is weird! But giving it a second thought you might get inspired! Inspiring you to give it a try, to experience the joys and the freedom of travelling - and living - barefoot - that’s why I’m sharing my experience with you!

First of all: Don’t worry about my feet! My soles got tough over the years – VERY tough! Even I’m sometimes surprised HOW tough they got! It’s the natural result of a barefoot life in India… For those of you being concerned about health issues: I’m living barefoot for more than six years now, and I didn’t face ANY problem – except having to remove a little thorn from time to time, but even that happens rarely!

But the question remains: WHY? A question I’ve heard a thousand times. Well, it’s not a kind of “fashion statement”… Yes: There are quite a few “barefoot celebrities! Model Travis Fimmel not only does most of his modeling in bare feet, but says he goes barefoot almost exclusively. Singer Henry Rollins often performs barefoot on stage. Lenny Kravitz has said he feels no need to wear shoes or socks. Richard Ashcroft appeared barefoot on stage at Live8. Actor Sean Astin arrived at a film premiere in bare feet. Julia Roberts is known as a person who loves to be barefoot. She has appeared barefoot in several of her movies. Liv Tyler, Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz have walked barefoot on the red carpet at their own movie-premieres. Pamela Anderson is often seen in magazines, walking around barefoot in her hometown. Shakira is often barefoot on stage, as well as in her music videos. Deana Carter performs barefoot. Same with Joss Stone, Kelly Clarkson, Mandy Moore… Britney Spears gained some notoriety by going barefoot into a public restroom. She has since frequently been seen going barefoot. Designer Genevieve Gorder almost always went barefoot during the series “Trading Spaces” on TLC. Zola Budd often ran barefoot in competition… No doubt: Barefoot is “in”! But if it comes to ME: It’s not important that wearing no shoes is fashionable! I’ve different reasons for “keeping ‘em bare”…

Walking barefoot is AMAZING!!! If you’re barefoot you’re able to FEEL the ground! Would you wear gloves all-year-round? Nopes! So: Why shoes? Being in touch with Mother Earth, letting the energy flow freely isn’t that bad, after all… Right? Plus: It’s very refreshing and stimulating (ever heard about the reflex zones in our feet?)! Join me for a rather longish hike, preferably in the mountains, and let’s see who gets tired first! Walking barefoot is stimulating: In every sense! There’s more: The ecological impact is far less dramatic (erosion!) if you’re hiking in a natural environment (ever thought about what your heavy hiking boots do to the ecosystem?). It’s also communicative to a degree you wouldn’t expect: Travelling a lot I’ve made more than one friend explaining WHY I’m roaming around barefoot! Somehow you’re more defensive, less aggressive if barefoot… There are many aspects, but what really counts is the sensual factor: The “barefoot feeling”! It’s not only about feeling the ground beneath our soles, every change in texture or temperature, the difference between lawn and concrete, tar and marble, but also about feeling free – in many ways! If you don’t know what I mean: Leave your shoes at home and experience the freedom, the freshness, the air touching every inch of your feet… Try it once and you’ll never want to wear those “little prisons” again!

INDIA – it still means: Bare feet EVERYWHERE, especially in rural areas and the South, but also in cities and parts of the North! And I don’t think that will change within a lifetime! Half of the people in my neighbourhood (a typical “mixed area” with modern houses and traditional enclaves side-by-side) are barefoot throughout the year! Dusty bare feet, immune to the heat of summer, to sharp gravel and other hazards are a common sight, so common that you’ll hardly notice them anymore after a month or so. It’s true: I’m still getting attention for my lack of footwear, but not because I’m barefoot but because I’m a FOREIGNER (“ferengi”) who is barefoot! And reactions are almost always positive…

I’ve met people (online, not on the road!!!) trying to convince me that my barefoot lifestyle is actually “offensive” IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT. My habit of walking barefoot is “a sign of disrespect” considering that I’m obviously able to “afford shoes” – that’s how they argue… Well, I feel: THAT’S CRAP! I don’t think my Indian neighbours are walking barefoot ‘cause they can’t AFFORD shoes: Flip flops are available for less than 1 Euro, means buying a pair isn’t a big deal, except for someone who’s virtually penniless. If those 50 Rupees would really matter - well, in that case you wouldn’t see people riding their bicycle barefoot! But there are many… My impression: It’s not about poverty, many Indians feel it’s UNNECESSARY to imprison their feet! It’s their CHOICE to live without shoes! They opt for a barefoot life ‘cause they feel more comfortable, consider the therapeutical aspects (high blood pressure, reflex zones…) or simply don’t see a point in using a few straps of leather or plastic to confine their feet. And some have spiritual reasons too… Let me remind you what M.F. Hussain, India’s celebrated modern painter (a multimillionaire – crorepati!) says about his OWN habit of going barefoot EVERYWHERE: “It started for purely health reasons. As acupressure is great for the feet I opted out of footwear. And as a result even today I can sit for long hours on the floor .It is almost 40 years now that I am barefoot. Earlier people laughed. Now they have accepted me as I am. I even go to Parliament without shoes. In fact in our country removing your footwear is a mark of respect. Be it at home or a place of worship we go in barefoot.”. I mentioned it before: In India itself I’m hardly encountering ANY negative reaction! People are only curious if they see a foreigner strolling around barefoot. Some ARE concerned, but only because they think I’m not experienced enough! It’s not that difficult to convince them…

Living barefoot 24/7/365 I’m spending lot’s of time travelling, and I’m ALWAYS travelling barefoot. It’s an exciting experience to roam around without any footwear in my backpack, trusting in my leather-like soles toughened over many years. Let me share my latest experience…

Four weeks ago: It’s time for my annual trip to Europe! I’m leaving Bangalore early in the morning (at 6 am), happy to escape the South Indian monsoon – which wasn’t really impressive so far, but things might change! My flight with Gulf Air involves a 24 hours stopover in Muscat, Oman. I’m boarding the flight barefoot – as usual and without the slightest problem. Arriving in Muscat, I’m told that passengers are entitled to stay at the Holiday Inn for free (transfer and meals included!). Leaving my luggage in the room, I’m spending the whole day (from 9:30 am to 8 pm) in Muscat. Exploring Old Muscat with the palace and several forts is interesting, but the real fun starts in Muthra: The harbour and bazaar are waiting for me, a maze of alleys and shops, bustling with vendors, locals and a few foreign tourists. It’s a hot day with temperatures well above 40° C, but I’m used to the South Indian summer – and so are my tough soles! Many shops in Muthra are owned by Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. They’re a friendly bunch, well-versed in English and always curious to know why I’m wearing no shoes – and how I can possibly stand the hot tarmac! Passing by a cyber-café, I’m invited to rest a while, enjoying the – quite effective – AC. The next 10 minutes or so I’m busy to explain the young owner from North India why it is so much fun to walk barefoot in the streets of Muscat. Soon, the whole staff gathers around us, listening to his translation and asking additional questions… Only 20 minutes later: A fruit- and vegetable vendor from Bangladesh asks me: “How do you manage to be barefoot? It is SO HOT outside! He serves me a Mountain Dew while I’m convincing him that neither the heat nor little pieces of glass etc. are a serious threat for me – not after having spent more than six years on bare soles! He smiles, replying “you’re a tough man” – and wishes me all the best. Some people I meet are so curious that they ask me to show them my ultra-tough soles, and a young lad (chatting with a group of guys in their late teens) even pinches the leather-like skin …

Roaming around barefoot, living, hiking and travelling barefoot is an all-round experience. It’s VERY communicative – and a good way to make new friends! Try it yourself! Free your feet and keep ‘em bare!

If you want to read more about me and my life on bare soles or if you’re looking for other like-minded souls, check my Yahoo-Group “The Barefoot Traveller’s Tepee”! More than 800 members from different corners of the world, the largest online-collection of barefoot-links and a huge photo-section are waiting for you!

Keep ‘em bare!

Barefoot Traveller
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  • Re: Have you ever tried it barefoot?

    Fri, August 18, 2006 - 9:52 AM
    Hey nice cross post! I love seeing the same post in umpteen tribes, yay useless clicking. Oh well, guess you are working on commission, huh?

    Barefoot is fun, but so are soft sensual feet. I have feet like someone 20 years younger, my gf loves them. No leathery calloused stumps for me, hee. To each their own, I'm a tenderfoot and I love how sensitive my feet are, I'd hate to dull the delicious feeling of my post-hippie tootsies. Anyway, despite teasing you, it was interesting to hear that it's a movement. (hmm, is that a transportation related foot pun?)