I hover over a bathroom sink in Thailand scrubbing my shoes with a sponge and cleaner that smells of cherry and disinfectant.
My sneakers were once bright and colorful—they would attract compliments and questions as to where I bought them.
I discovered them on a rainy day in Glasgow, after destroying my first set of shoes hiking Isle of Skye in Scotland. I could barely walk around the clammy, cold town as my heel throbbed in pain from a mud caked pair of low hikers I had bought for my year long trip around the world. They were the classic case of being comfortable in the store and now causing me to hobble and cringe my way through the streets with only one goal, to find new shoes.
I threw practical out the window and bought my floral patterned, Nike Pegasus sneakers with a twinge of happiness. I would be cool again, not trudging around in functional, but with flare. I knew I wouldn’t be hiking again for a while and my two week old pair of hikers went right into a garbage bin on that drizzly street.
A new bounce in my step led me on my way to the rest of my year on the road.
Now these tropical looking trainers with an array of flowers, outlined in black, have been half way around the world. I’ve stood atop cliffs, washed them in sea foam, leaped over lava, tripped over the uneven streets of Rome, and now I wear them zooming around on a motorbike on a small island in southern Thailand. As colorful as they are, they’ve also seen some darker days, as traveling constantly increases your contact with people; it also increases your chances those people will fall to error and jeopardize your sense of safety.
I wore them on a beach dripping wet in Spain and started to put my clothes on over my bathing suit because there was nowhere private to get dressed. My host told me to change on the beach, laughing that I was beautiful and who cares who sees me. “I do!” I replied with a stubborn firmness.
I wanted to shout at him though he’d never understand: Yes, I’m young and beautiful, but I can’t put it on display. I can’t be free.
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