The Hiking Boots

Day 182

So we are approaching the six month mark for The Simple Year in which our family is buying nothing new.  And, although the six months behind us seem short, the six months ahead of us seem long.  When the next 180 or so days start to freak me out, I remind myself to remember the hiking boots.

I should probably explain.

Many years ago, in a different life, I spent some time traveling alone with a Mini Cooper sized backpack and my US dollars (welcome everywhere, even in remote villages of Cambodia).  I had spent most of the trip throughout the southern hemisphere and Southeast Asia as an American oddity– a tourist sheltered from the day to day lives of those around me. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t unaware of the differences in standards of living, but I just was just an observer.

That trip ended with an eleven day trek to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal.

At the conclusion of that little “walk”, my aching muscles and I spent the evening in town waiting to catch a flight to Katmandu on Buddha Air powered perhaps by karma. I’m not making that up.  Well, I’m making up the karma part, but not the name of the airline.

At this point, I deemed the hiking boots I  had been traipsing around in for the previous few months completely trashed.  They smelled like yak dung and were covered in grime. I had another pair of shoes and the next stop was the good ole’ US of A, so just left them in my hotel room’s rubbish bin.  As I stood waiting for the shuttle, my attention was drawn to a boy, probably in his teens, who was frantically running across the yard waving my smelly boots in the air.   He approached and with great concern tried to hand them to me.   I just waved him off and used my patented, “pointy talky” international language to tell him I didn’t want them.

He stopped—sudden comprehension.

And then, with a look of wonder and awe, he slowly pointed at them and then at himself, almost as if he was afraid to ask the question.

Yeah, sure, knock yourself out.

His face lit up, such joy.  Wide-eyed, he dipped his head in thanks and ran off with his treasure, presumably before I could change my mind.  At first, his happiness, made me feel good.  Wasn’t that nice of me to give him my cast off stinky boots?   But, as I thought, about it another emotion crept in–shame. I mean, over the past week and a half, I had just witnessed many locals walking for miles uphill (yes, sometimes in snow) in plastic flip flops.  And, I had two pair of nice shoes with me and about four dozen more at home.

Note me in the center wearing the boots.

For a period of time after that, I was much more “spare” in my lifestyle. This was probably a cumulative result of the trip rather than specifically because of that one incident.   But, over the years, my consumption has crept back up as I married, had children and went on with my life.

Still the hiking boot episode really was a defining moment in my life.  It is a memory I conjure when I need to regain center or when I am feeling sorry for myself.

The truth is we just don’t need that much. I am hoping that one of the results of The Simple Year is that my kids won’t need “a hiking boot epiphany” to value that as well as recognize our riches.

And when I’m feeling daunted, I remember the hiking boots, and six months doesn’t seem that long.

Typical Nepali footwear


16 Responses to The Hiking Boots

  1. Oh, Kerry, I so know. I have spent time in Nepal (and Cambodia and Laos…and India) and had many, many hiking boots moments. And the flip flops!? What did these people do before flip flops? And weren’t you amazed at how much people can stack on bicycles and scooters. Why have a car? (I once saw a WATER BUFFALO, deceased, on the back of a very small scooter.)

    • I always road traffic in Southeast Asia to a real life game of Frogger (does that date me?). Car beats scooter, truck beats car and everyone swerves to avoid pedestrians. I also saw a man walking along a city street carrying a full size refrigerator on his back secured with a head strap, but I never saw a water buffalo 🙂

  2. I was in Haiti on a mission trip in 1986 and as we were leaving, the missionary requested that we leave our sneakers behind for those without shoes. You eloquently described the range of emotions I too felt. For me it was such a small action but it meant so much to those without even one pair of shoes. Your journey is reminding us all that we don’t really need as much as we have become to believe we do.

      • Toms Shoes ( For every pair that are purchased they donate a pair to a child in need? Maybe someone should start something similar for gently used shoes, buy a pair (anywhere), donate a pair.

  3. This was just the thing I needed to read on this particular day. I will never forget this story and will keep it in my heart. Thank you for your inspiring blog.

  4. Great post as always. I will say though, I was one who was traumatized as a child, not having what others had and spent my childhood coveting… and became a shopaholic once I got my first credit card….

  5. This is the struggle we overwhelming blessed Americans face everyday! Steve and I are literally struggling as too whether or not we “want” iphones, because we certainly don’t ‘need’ them. And I keep looking at the bags of extra clothes and toys lying in my laundry room that should get to a new home soon. Love the truth in your story!

  6. I just finished reading Wild – a story a woman wrote about her decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone one summer. Please please write about your trip! I know it would be awesome and interesting and inspiring. You are an excellent writer and have so many awesome stories to share – I’d be the first one to buy 10 copies!

  7. Hi Kerry, this is a wonderful memory! Thanks for sharing. It’s been three years since your simple year project and all your posts are still relevant and fascinating. I’m hooked and have started reading from the beginning.

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