When we left Portland to travel around the world together in November 2012, our whole lives fit into a 41-liter backpack and a really small carry-on.
We were only two or three days when we realized this, so we all started going through our stuff, discarding what we didn’t think we needed. We filled a medium-sized box and shipped it to Jody’s parents house in Salem, Oregon.
We should have been all good then, right? Not quite.
We ended up traveling 60,000 miles on our trip, going to six continents and 24 countries. With that kind of travel, you need to think through space issues thoroughly—which includes packing the right shoes.
I had packed a pair of light flip-flops, a pair of KEENs (because they were on sale), and a pair of Air Jordans. I ended up leaving the KEENs in a hotel in Cambodia (I am sure the staff must have thought a giant had stayed in the hotel when they found them!) because I just didn’t have the space in my bag. My Air Jordans developed a flat tire in Peru, and I went through four pairs of flip-flops.
And with size 14 feet, most places—especially in Asia—didn’t have a great selection for me.
About six weeks into the trip, we said “yes” to climbing a volcano with an ex-pat in Java. Mt. Lawu is a 10,712-foot dormant volcano. We hiked it during the rainy season and got caught in more than one monsoon making our path more like a fast flowing river. I hiked Mt. Lawu in my tennis shoes which is what first got me questioning my shoe choices.
Our guide, Paul, had explained to us before the climb that this climb was a “medium” in difficulty. Paul lied! None of us had trained for this event—well, except Riley, who thought the whole trip was a parkour road course. Riley and Paul would use fallen trees and rocks as shortcuts to the top.
Getting to the top was difficult, but coming down the next day was even harder. Our legs were exhausted, the ground was slippery and with each step, our feet would slip. My tennis shoes were not meant for this kind of terrain.
It should have taken us about two to three hours to get down, but it took us 4 ½ hours to get back to the car. My feet were aching. Jody had blisters on both feet and never complained. Allison twisted her ankles about three times each. And did I mention Riley? He had no issues. Just a big adventure.
It was the hardest physical thing that Jody, Allison, and I had ever undertaken; can’t say that for Riley. He had a great time. Even with the struggles, Paul said we were the most “positive” family he had ever taken to the top of Mt. Lawu! So I guess we hid our pain well.
After that climb, I promised myself that I would buy the best hiking boots I could find when we got home. They had to be comfortable and long-lasting, with great support and traction on any terrain.
I did eventually find a pair of Asolos. I’ve had them for over two years now—they are comfortable and waterproof. They also keep my feet warm when it is cold, and sweat-free when the temperature is hot. I love them.
I learned a lot on our trip, but in this particular instance, I came to the conclusion that, when traveling anywhere in the world (assuming you don’t need nice shoes for business or entertaining), you only need two pairs of really good shoes: a pair of comfortable, well-fitting hiking boot and a really sturdy pair of flip-flops or water shoes. That just about covers every environment or situation you will encounter.
I tested my theory on a recent trip to the Dominican Republic. Our family went down there to “scout out” the country for our upcoming Courage Journeys through The Courage Vibe. I wore my Asolos while traveling and packed my flip-flops, too. Even in the tropics, no one gives you a second glance if you are wearing shorts and hiking boots. Once we would reach the place where we would spend the night, off came the hiking boots and out came the flip-flops!
When traveling, think carefully about your activities, the climate, and the terrain that you will be on. Space is always an issue. When it comes to footwear (and especially when traveling long distances), inadequate or incorrect footwear can be a very painful and expensive choice. Shop quality, comfort, and durability before settling on price. Dependable comfortable shoes are worth the added expense.
Having the wrong shoes, getting blisters, or even worse, spraining your ankle can be a big setback for traveling. We were lucky. Learn from us and other travelers—buy the right equipment! Do the research, ask the experts—I promise you will be glad you did.
Now, go explore this big, wonderful world of ours that is waiting for you to arrive, enjoy, and learn!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,