BY Debra Amundson
Waiting in line at the airport coffee shop I overheard a man at the counter mentioning how he always traveled in old shoes for comfort. Scoffing as I looked down at the man’s shabby shoes and then at my new shiny shoes, I could not imagine traveling differently. I was headed for Paris the fashion capitol of the world I had to wear the right look. I had seven pairs of shoes in my luggage, four of them new.
One pair of the wrong shoes blister your feet and you have learned the first rule of travel shoes. Do not take new shoes on a trip! On arrival in Paris it took one day and two blisters the size of quarters to painfully remind me of my worst travel shoe experience.
Young, and a recent college grad, I was celebrating with a trip to Mexico, and any place that spoke fun. As I packed for the trip I thought only of discos and beaches. Needless to say, I was not at all prepared for the mountain trails I wound up on in Guatemala.
I was invited to go to Lake Atitla’n in Guatemala. Hiking dirt trails was a given. My wardrobe was unprepared a quick shopping trip was needed. I raced down to the local market where I bargained for a pair of fashionable huaraches – this meant no tire on the bottom, stylish and what seemed comfortable. At 22 appearance came before practicality.
My first blister appeared before returning to Guatemala City. I was bound for Oaxaca Mexico, and in a hurry. I slapped a bandage on my foot and kept right on going. The slap a Band-Aid on the blister and run technique was used until I reached my destination, by then the situation was well beyond a little Neosporin.
Native Indians made up the staff at the clinic. The doctor on duty was the only one that spoke any English. My foot spoke the only language needed, one look and I was rushed back for treatment.
I watched a recycled, yes it was previously used, needle being sharpened on sandpaper before it was used to inject something into my foot. Frightened but desperate I closed my eyes as they began digging into my foot. It was a good thing that no one else understood English as mine was punctuated with colorful American slang.
Several days of bed rest later, antibiotics and some strong pain medication, I was up and limping. After my wound healed I knew that the doctor in the free clinic had saved my foot.
This is not to frighten you away from adventures you may come across, trails, paths, hills and many, many steps. Always bring the right shoes. Even a good pair of tennis shoes would do the trick, a heavy pair of socks and you are ready to explore.
I am now convinced that I need at least one pair of good sturdy shoes. They get broken in at home and then become my travel shoes for that year. It is not easy for a shoe addict to limit her selections. It had taken an intervention to get my shoe count down from 100 pairs to about 50, or so.
Each time I pack for a trip now I bring my sturdy walking shoes good for trails and city streets. I still secretly slip in one pair of gently used pretty shoes something flashy with heels, not at all practical.
I close my suitcase and grimace at the thought of all the pretty shoes left behind. Thinking back on Oaxaca I am grateful that they were at least bought as a pair; I still have two feet to put them on.
While packing my bag I left a little room for a purchase, or two. You never know when you might stumble across a pair of shoes you just can’t resist.
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