Everyday Adventures New Zealand Talking Point The Big Trip

Are you a shoes on or shoes off person?

Kids playing in a puddle - the simple joys
Written by Kirstie Pelling

From:      Kirstie and Stuart
Date:       4th January 2005
Subject:  Are you a shoes on or shoes off person?
Place:      Pidgeon Bay, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand

Are you shoes on or shoes off?

Are you a shoes-on or shoes-off person? Ruth Shaw has a theory about bare feet and adventure. Ruth and her partner, Lance, run Fiordland Ecology Holidays in Manapouri in New Zealand and have been taking families out on their charter yacht for years.

A theory of shoes

“The families we’ve had on board….. the type that take their children around the world, they just have a totally different attitude to life. My own daughter in law, there is no way she’d have done that with my grandchildren, much as I’d have liked her to, there is no way. She lives in Wellington and they wear shoes all the time. Whereas the families we’ve had on board have that wonderful outlook on life, they are so different, we just have to nurture them.”

Ruth says helping shoes-on families get their shoes off is a challenging business, “The parents haven’t walked in the grass with bare feet so why would their children? We need to encourage these parents to get their children and themselves back to nature.”

Kids wait by river with cycle trailer. Shoes on and shoes off.

Are you a shoes on or shoes off person?

We are so shoes off

The Family on a Bike has definitely got shoes-off kids. It was only after speaking to Ruth that we noticed our own children rarely have them on. Once a playground is spotted, even before buggy wheels stop turning, Matthew and Cameron cry out with excitement as they slip off their shoes and tug on their socks. As they run from the buggies they fling their footwear down and never look back. Some days we barely manage to get boys matched up with shoes at all. Climbing like monkeys, each rung of the slide is negotiated with expert toes; puddles and waves are jumped in with abandon, feet squelching through sand and mud.

Matthew with his shoes off

Matthew with his shoes off – “I like to feel the ground”

Shoes are stupid and filthy…

Interested in the connection between shoes and attitude to life, we asked Matthew why he likes to take off his shoes, “Because I like to feel the ground there and see if it’s hard or not hard. When it’s soft inside houses and soft inside tents it makes my feet feel very squashy and I squash down like a squishy thermarest rolling up. It’s fun, I like to take my shoes off.”

As usual Cameron had his own firm opinion on why he likes to go barefoot, “Because I didn’t like shoes on. They stupid and filthy.”

Cameron with his shoes off

Cameron with his shoes off – “I didn’t like shoes on”

Liberate the feet

The boys’ shoe freedom looks so liberating that we’ve taken to kicking our own sweaty boots off more often. But we fear bare feet will eventually cause us problems. We’re not worried about the children catching a cold or hurting themselves but that shoes will get left behind. Just yesterday we cycled away from a campsite without a final shoe check. Fortunately Stuart glanced back at the trampoline on the way out to see four dirty socks leading the way to four abandoned shoes. We picked them up and stored them in the buggy for a rainy day.

What will you do with your shoes today?

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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