It’s no secret that I love to travel. In fact, I think it’s an essential thing to do if you want to grow as a person and learn all the things about yourself that have been hidden for whatever reason.
However, let’s get real here; my feet are literally THE WORST when it comes to shoes. For years, it seemed that almost no matter what I wore, my feet would rub in one place or another, so I would get to the point of switching a pair of shoes that hurt in one spot, for a pair that would hurt me in another – just to give the sore parts of my feet a break!
Despite the obvious problems this causes, I also love to walk. When I’m travelling, I really make a point of taking the time to see and experience all the little details you won’t necessarily notice in a car or taking public transport.
So, how does someone like that get anywhere, explore and take in everything their journey has to offer, whilst managing to evade imminent disaster along the way? Well, with a little hope, a LOT of Compeed (blister plasters), and a damn good pair of shoes.
Unfortunately, it took me quite a while before I discovered my Doc Martens, my T.U.Ks, my HELMS, my Birkenstocks and my TOMS – so, this article is about some of the amazing, lifechanging and utterly cringeworthy travel experiences I’ve had over the years with my troublesome feet.
Why? Just because.
Hope you’ll join me for the ride!
Okay, let’s start this thing at the very beginning. Because I’m originally from Scotland, the first place I started going on walks and exploring was, of course, my own country! (This probably doesn’t technically count as ‘travelling’, but doesn’t everything start at home?)
Oh yes, I’ve spent many, many days walking back home in my bare feet from wearing ridiculous shoes (from Stockbridge to Waverley Station when my heels got too much), and made many Compeed stops whilst exploring new cities and villages, going to gigs, museums, galleries, etc.
And for many years, the shadow of painful feet hung over me. Despite this, Scotland’s hills are usually the absolute best places to stop and gather your thoughts, and they also provides a good hour or two of solid exercise!
As pictured, I’d usually hover between trainers and boots, although I could never really find a happy medium between not enough support (trainers), and too much stiffness to actually be comfortable (boots)! Still, those views are totally worth it – am I right?
Continental Europe Part 1: (Multiple)
I was quite young when I first set off on my first trip to Continental Europe. It was actually a school trip, and involved getting the bus down to Hull, before taking the ferry over to Rotterdam. That night we partied hard, and ate about 5 small tubs of vanilla ice cream each from the ship’s buffet service.
In just a few days, we also managed to squeeze in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany whilst munching on some very questionable packed lunches by the tour bus company. I also spent a good deal of that trip walking around with aching sore feet because of my bad choices in footwear; a pair of ill-fitting mary janes from Clarks, and a pair of new trainers.
However, that didn’t stop me enjoying the sights and sounds of Cologne Cathedral – or the wonders of Efteling Theme Park! I also bought some amazing chocolate in Brussels, so overall it was definitely a worthwhile trip.
The only thing that really spoiled it, even more than my feet? The other children. (I was 13 going on 40 back then)
Unfortunately, this was to be my last European trip until I was about 19, when I took a glorious trip to Amsterdam – and by myself this time! Unfortunately I was still experiencing the same shoe problems.
USA Part 1: New York
When I went to New York for the first time, I was in my mid-teens, and it was on a trip together with my family. The fact that I was in my teens didn’t stop me being hit on by various random men, though (much to my parents’ obvious disdain).
A lot of that trip was spent milling through a plethora of shops, but there was also the obligatory visit to the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, the Twin Towers (which still existed at the time) and more.
Ah, the memories! I remember it was in the autumn, and the air had this slightly sweet smell about it; I’ve not really experienced anything quite like it ever since. Then there was the disappointment of trying a pretzel for the first time and discovering it really wasn’t all that nice – even the squirrels weren’t having any of that nonsense!
There was also that time I had to stop and buy a new pair of shoes at Macy’s, which I could change into right there and then – and explaining to the puzzled shop assistant about my Frankenstein feet which were patched up with so many blister plasters they literally looked like patchwork bits of skin.
I wish I could have spent more time enjoying the sights and sounds, rather than complaining about my near-constantly aching feet by the end of it. Yes, as a teenager, I was such a joy.
Next up, Japan! I decided to go on this month-long trip of a lifetime having just suffered a pretty epic break-up with my boyfriend of about four years (at the time). It was a real turning point in my life, as that particular break-up also prompted me to get laser eye surgery, quit my job and go back into higher education! Wow.
Anyway, the journey to Japan started out fairly eventful. The plane was huge – so big that someone actually lost their grandmother. I was travelling alone, and arriving and finding my way around was a strange experience. I mean, I sometimes got lost in my home town, so what was I going to do in a massive city with hardly anything in English?!
It was summer, and incredibly hot, but that wasn’t stopping me spending most of my time exploring Tokyo on-foot. Needless to say, I got lost A LOT. I think I once spent about an hour trying to find my way out of Tokyo station, it was really that bad.
My choice of footwear for the trip was an attempt at being sensible; a regular pair of Sketchers that *looked* comfortable enough. How wrong was I?! Firstly, I made the amateur mistake of not wearing them at first. Secondly, the shoes themselves had quite hard soles, and with all the walking on hard pavements, it led to major foot ache.
I remember once I spent hours upon hours trying to find my way around Shinjuku and Ginza, and when I finally got on the subway to get back, I was so hungry and so achey I ended up sitting right down on the floor, trainers off, stuffing my face with noodles – I got some looks and the feeling that people don’t really do that in Japan. Cringe!
Another time, I had to sit down on a park bench to rest my feet for a while, and saw an employee of the city doing his usual cat-feeding rounds. I wasn’t aware at the time that people were actually paid to feed the strays in the parks, but it was really quite a lovely sight.
Then, there was the time I decided to visit Mount Fuji…
There it is: it really is that beautiful in real life. However, climbing it is another matter. I didn’t get to the top, and didn’t really have the budget to stay overnight.
However, just walking around for a few hours was enough for my protesting feet! (It was a good thing that there was a nice traditional Japanese sauna when I got back to the hotel!)
One day I’d love to go back with someone and do the entire thing, right to the top.
USA Part 2: Los Angeles
Los Angeles was a big trip for me; it happened for a couple of different reasons, but one of them was to try and promote my first ever TV pilot to some producers and industry folk who seemed to be into it.
I also went to a bunch of movie screenings and events, and spent time with someone I was just starting to develop a relationship with (it didn’t work out).
However, the locals thought I was insane, because apparently NO-ONE walks in LaLaLand – and I happened to make a point of walking almost everywhere I went. Reactions generally went along the lines of:
“You walked HOW far?!”
“Aren’t you concerned for your safety?”
“Excuse me, miss, where are you going?”
And, of course, on the rare occasions I took public transport to get to a screening or visit the beach:
“Wait… you took the BUS?!” – (people seem to think LA buses are a myth; they’re actually very efficient, don’t smell, and are better value than Edinburgh buses!).
One of the main downsides of this was that my cheap H&M flats got overly sweaty and disintegrated in the heat. Also, catcallers – they’re EVERYWHERE in Los Angeles, and they like to bother lone women walking.
However, the good thing about me walking in LA is that this is where I first discovered HELM Boots! Hurrah – the tables had started to turn, and I was saved! And considering I got there in a brand new pair of New Rocks (security was fun that day), boy was I happy to find a pair of boots that didn’t seem to be trying to kill me!
I walked to LACMA, I walked back from film studios, I walked to meetings, and to shops, and to find the best burgers in town. I walked down Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, and once I walked all the way down La Cienega Boulevard to interview two of the stars from Mad Men!
Overall, my stay in Los Angeles, California was an unbelievable experience, and I got to meet so many interesting and wonderful people along the way. I’ll always remember it, and I’m sure I’ll be back (if only to visit the pretty dresses at nearby PinupGirlClothing).
Continental Europe Part 2: Italian Alps
I’ve made a couple of trips to the Italian Alps now. The first time was my first trip away with my current partner, in a little village surrounded by beautiful hills.
The weather was lovely, but unfortunately that prompted me to break out the Miss L Fire pink flamingo sandals and my Irregular Choice parrot shoes. After all, what else can you wear with pretty dresses, am I right?
Good thing I brought my Helms as backup, because I was breaking out the blister plasters by the third day.
(There was also my partner’s face when he realised how many shoes I had actually packed. I guess there’s just some things that will never change…).
My trusty boots were the perfect companion for climbing up at least one long and rocky path to explore an old church buried way up the side of the hill, but it was also really fun to just wander around the town and down various little paths and secluded areas, where we’d see tiny lizards darting out from behind the rocks.
We took a few boat rides over Lake Como on our visit, and spent some time exploring other villages and looking in the small and interesting shops dotted around all over. And of course, it goes without saying that the pizza was amazing!
I was terrified of the massive waves, and being driven through the rain and busy streets in a tiny tuk-tuk (because who wouldn’t be?) but one thing I didn’t have to worry about anymore were my sodding feet.
Think I’d learned my lesson by then.
And there were plenty of other, fun things to see and do in Sri Lanka. I ate barracuda (OOOOHHH BARRACUUUDAAAA) and relaxed on beautiful beaches, saw sea turtles, met lovely people and did some shopping.
Held a giant snake! Saw the smallest-looking lizard in the world. Was I hot and sweaty? Yes. Did I have fabulous massages and smell of oil and beach? Also yes.
Do I regret any of the above? Nope. Absolutely not.
One final thought…
With age, either I’m choosing better footwear, better footwear is being made for me, or the third option… my feet are getting hardened along with my soul.
Just like me, you’re probably going to have to find your own way when setting out to see the world – whether you’re in sandals, flats, heels or mary janes, may the odds be ever in your favour!