Barefeet an Answer to Apathy

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Going barefoot walking is my way of walking away from the consumer driven economy which preaches its message of need to the masses. Needs that you didn’t even know you had are being forced upon us, that we need newer and bigger (or smaller and lighter depending on the product) because it is always going to be better, make our lives immeasurably better, make us happier; consumerism: the new opiate of the masses.

In my short time on this planet, things have changed, the world that I personally know and observe has changed. The cosmic chemistry experiment that is our planet, is starting to spit out results that are detrimental to the continuation of life on this planet. I don’t want to preach and rant, each of us must come to our own conclusions.

The tipping point for me was hearing the addage that; “if we all just changed something little in our lives it would make a big overall difference”. What a load of bullshit, in my opinion we are way past the point that little things will do anything, drastic change is needed. The problem is, everybody is to caught up in their own little worlds of introverted concern. People are concerned about something if it directly effects them, otherwise pfffft, its just something happening on the news. It is this general apathy that I am walking away from.

Like all addictions, sufferers must weane themselves off their vice, going cold turkey is often not possible. I am still a consumer, however I am learning how to do things differently. We are told that we need so many things, when really we don’t. My barefoot walking and change in lifestyle is my way of doing something about it.

I don’t even need shoes.

A Week of Barefeet

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So we found ourselves in Avoca again, a sense of deja vu lingered, everything was the same as last week, but something was different. It was me I felt different, in just one week of eating a completely unprocessed, all natural, localy grown, organic diet and pushing out a few barefoot kilometres, I was feeling incredible. I bounced down the beach with the dog circling and barking impatiently for the ball to be thrown. I had decided I wanted to do the same route as the previous week to compare how I felt.

I set off down the beach, I finally tossed the ball into the ocean to placate the irate dog, the dog quickly analysed the situation, decided the surf was at such a level that a four legged rescue of the ball was possible  and leapt heroically into the crashing waves to rescue the ball. She returned riding a wave into the shore, despetately lunging for traction as the water sucked her back out, until suddenly she is released from the waters grasp and she explodes up the beach with the ball in her mouth.

I hopped and skipped over the rocky outcrop of the headland, last week seemed alot trickier than this week. My feet were more nimble on the uneven surfaces, I even stopped to peer into rock pools, as crabs scurried and oysters clamped their mouths tight. A brilliant flashback of a young me doing exactly this on summer holiday in Port Macquarie suddenly struck me, until the dog barking at the plumes of spray from the water hitting the rocks snapped me into the moment, it was a fair swim back to the beach from where we were and I really didn’t feel like rescuing the dog today so we turned to march up and over the headland to Terrigal.

I had scooped up some dried sea weed on the rocks and now took a small piece and nibbled enquisitively. It tasted like the same stuff as the sushi wraps, I think it was kelp. I tore off a bit more, tossed the bulk of it and nibbled at my seaweed snack as I walked, it was actually pretty nice. I was also looking forward to some mulberries that I had spied last week but they hadn’t been ripe. This week a feast of juicy fruits presented itself for the picking. The dog didn’t know what I was on about as I waxed lyrical about my tasty find.

I covered the distance of the 11km’s this week in 3 hours and my feet were still feeling 100% so I decided “stough it, I’m going to keep going to Copacabana”. This was only going to be another 7km round trip, “piece of piss” I thought. It was fine on the feet, but I am feeling a bit knackered after 5 hours and 18km’s of barefoot walking.

I am going to try and stick to the same regimen this week, I don’t want to push things as I’m enjoying my body feeling good. If your pushing hard your body tells you by getting sore. So far my body hasn’t been saying anything bad so I reckon that means I can keep on doing what I’ve been doing.

Four of the Six Legs – The Dog

A little bit about my best mate the dog.

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The dog started out life as a bag of bones picked up from the RSPCA. She was all arms and legs with a voracious appetite.
I first saw her on the internet, she was exactly the sort of pup I was after, I jumped straight in the car knowing that puppys get picked up straight away. When I got to the RSPCA they let me see her and we hit it off straight instantly. This was the dog, I knew it. I pulled a ball out of my pocket, bounced it once and threw, she leapt straight after it, arms and legs flailing wildly with a grose lack of coordination, she almost tripped over her ears as she lunged eagerly for the ball. With no hesitation she bought it straight back over and dropped it at my feet, ready to go again. She has been doing this ever since.

I have no idea what sort of dog she is, some sort of Kelpie X working dog, I always tell people that she is half Kelpie half Crazy. She is fit, super athlete fit, I have never worn her out so that she has had nothing left in the tank and I have tried. She is now 5 years old but still carries on like a pup. She weighs in at about 25 kilos and is currently on Nutro large breed dog kibble, of which she gets 1 cup for breakfast and 1 cup for dinner, dessert is a nice big lamb bone or a juicy piece of kangaroo tail. Nutro is Australian Made, the kangaroo tails definitely are, so even the dog is eating local.

Working dogs need to have a job, this one has two. Her primary role is chasing balls, the bigger the better. Tennis balls are stock standard, soccer balls are pretty exciting, rugby balls induce palpable squeels of excitement as they bounce at obtuse angles and fitness balls are objects of awe and wonder. If i am the only one around she will play ball with me, as soon as another person appears though she will go off and play with them. She likes sharing her ball with people, not so much other dogs, any dog that gets in the way of her ball game usually gets told off  with a nashing of teeth. Her second job is when we’re in the car, this is when she is on the lookout for those pesky motorbikes, she absolutely hates them, goes absolutely berserk at them, funnily this only happens when she is in the car, if she is just walking along and a motorbike goes past she does not even bat an eyelid at it.

Her other passion in life is hunting. She will bring back rabbits, pursue cats and possums but not engage, birds she chases like a child. Rabbits have definitley been put on the menu, cats she wants to play with and I think she thinks possums are actually dogs that live in trees, she is intensely curious about possums and will climb trees to closely investigate them, much to the disgust of the possums. When she confronts a possum on the ground she goes into play mode and will bounce around or even poke the possum to enduce it to play, it is very bizarre behaviour.

As far as other maintenance goes there is none. I have’nt washed her for four years now and have’nt used flea or tick treatment on her for two years, she doesn’t ever get fleas and I have only ever pulled one tick off her, this is on a dog who is regulsrly tearing through dense bush. The secret I think is that she is always swimming in salt water, it keeps her coat healthy and I think it is keeping the fleas and ticks away, if she needed to be treated I would, why use nasty chemicals though if you don’t have to. I do still regularly give her worming tablets and feel her over at the end of each day just in case she has picked up any nasties.

It was watching the dog that made me realise that you don’t need much in life to be content, I don’t ask her to do anything that I wouldn’t do. She is my best mate, and has the best time in the world every day just by being in it, this is something that humans would do well to learn from.
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The Plan as it Stands on Barefeet

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So whats the plan, the plan is to walk around Australia barefoot with my four legged friend, using my new found planning philosophy of A Tale of Six Legs.

1) Planning/Methodology
2) Finding help and knowledge
3) The barefoot walk
4) Meet people 
5) The book
6) Doggy Wonderland

Steps 4 through 6 will come of themselves, first I have to get to the point of making the first barefooted step on my journey.

Steps 1 and 2 I can get underway now, I’m going to break each section down into its own little Tale of Six Legs.

Planning/Methodology

1) Training
2) Diet
3) Route of walk
4) Brainstorming
5) Lifestyle change
6) Method

Training

I have begun training, which at this point is pretty easy I must admit; I’m taking the dog for walks. Easy I do this all the time anyway, the difference is I’m focusing on doing it barefoot and pushing the distances a little. If it were upto the dog we would be leaving tomorrow, she is more than ready to go.

I am also focused on getting my shoes off as soon as possible, quitting time now means shoes off time.

Diet
Diet was a strong impetu for undertaking this project. I had been following pretty closely the big three diet: Pizza, KFC, McDonalds. For the first time in my life I cracked 80kgs, I’m usually only 70kg and for the first time ever I couldn’t fit into my trusty size 32 Levis which I had been buying for 15 years.

Personal health wasn’t the only reason change was needed, I was appalled at the amount of waste that went into maintaining my existance. This was the waste involved in producing food on an industrial scale and the waste involved in moving all this food around.

So what have I done? Basically I’ve gone vegetarian and along the way i have realised that you really don’t need all that much, I have only eaten meat twice in the last month and that was in social situations. I have embraced the idea that it’s OK to feel hungry, something that people doing the 5 and 2 diet keep on saying. I have been taking the 5 and 2 diet a step further and only been eating when I have felt the need.

Most importantly I have started really listening to what my body is telling me when I have cravings. The other day I had what seemed like an insatiable need for salt, I took note of this; I obviously needed some salt as I hadn’t been eating much. The cure was some tomatoe dipped in salt n pepper, hey presto salt craving was cured, I’d had a healthy meal and the best part I had foraged the tomatoes.

My food bill used to be between $100-$250 per week depending on how much I ate out and how much drinking was involved. I didn’t even give a thought about where or how the food was produced. With the changes I have made, my food bill is now down to $35 per week. All my purchases are now Australian Made and produced.

Sydney University has a food coop that I have investigated. The produce is all organic and locally produced and whats more, I think I will be able to get my weekly food bill down to $20, this is about what the dog is costing each week to feed.

Route of Walk
Tentaive steps using google maps have been undertaken.

Brainstorming
This is just thinking about things, food, shelter, distances I can travel, how will I transport things.

Lifestyle Change
Reduce the need for need.
Big things that I have done is leave my job, my previous area of employment was largely devoted to heavy industry and mining in particular. I felt like I was raping and pillaging the earth….for what? So that I could live in a house that had way more space than I needed, eat more food than I needed and drive a car.

After leaving the job I left the house behind, my station wagon is now my principle form of transportation and residence. You would not believe some of the views I have been enjoying when I wake up in the mornings, think beaches, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and amazing bush vistas.

Method
The method to all this madness goes as follows: Walk Barefoot around Australia, targeting dog parks as destinations to stop at. To sustain the voyage I plan to offer a dog washing service, in exchange for washing the dog all I will ask in payment is for a story about the dog and hopefully some food along the way as well, the story will help feed the project and the food will help feed me. I will not use or accept money and will not accept charity, I will provide a service in exchange for goods.

A Tale of Six Legs

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The phrase originaly came to me when I was in the dog park exchanging some banter with this bloke about how good our two dogs are. He was telling me how before his dog went to bed each night it would check on his 3 kids in their beds, go and get a final pat from the boss and then crash on his mat for the night, job done, thankyou very much. This went on for years, nobody had noticed when it started happening, but this guy and his wife used to share a laugh about it and even started commending the dog for his nightly solemn duty. Of course this went off without a hitch, the kids were young and so they were always there, always in there rooms for when the dog did its rounds.

As children grow up they get invited to events such as sleepovers, as was the case, said child got invited to a slumber party and none of the silly adults even considered what the dog would think about this situation. Well apparently bedlham ensued… the dog had obviously not taken kindly to finding a vacant bed at the end of the night, as suddenly, a cacophony of sound erupted in the house. The dog came storming into the lounge room bouncing off the walls, barking and carrying on like a thing posessed, heckles fully raised. It took a good ten minutes to settle him down and it wasn’t until the dog had shown the boss the empty bed AND that the boss was actually alright with the situation that the dog fully relaxed gave a hmmph and plodded himself off to bed.

I laughed and said “I bet you could go around to every dog owner and they’d be able to give you at least one story about their dog that you could put in a book.”
“Ah you’d have to have a name for it”
“What about “A Tale of Six Legs”

This little phrase stuck with me there after. My four legged friend was always having adventures and generally she took me along with her and it was our six legs that then took us on those adventures.

Since then I have taken the phrase and turned it into a philosophy of planning for a project. The project is to be broken into six different sections, or six different legs. The project is bookended by the Planning Leg and the Goal Leg. All the legs are designed to help build slowly to the ultimate goal.

1) Planning/Methodology
2) Finding help and knowledge
3) The barefoot walk
4) Meet people
5) The book
6) Doggy Wonderland

So the plan as it stands at the moment; walk around Australia , barefoot, with my dog, with no money and minimal resources.

I have started planning and even training, of which I shall tell you more later.

Reflections on Feet

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I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly fresh. Some 20 somethings, behaving exactly as I had at that age, had the audacity to disturb my sleep, outrageous! I had intended to wake up and watch the sun rise, however waking up and seeing the rays of light streaking through the glass obviously negated this well intended plan.

I had a look at my feet, gave them a rub and scrunched my toes, they felt fine and the soles of my feet had cooled down and were no longer radiating heat. I had given them a pretty good flogging the previous day and they were fine. I jumped out of bed with a flurry, my feet landed on the ground and so did the rest of me as my legs crumpled beneath me. My calves were on fire, as I sat dumbfounded on the floor the dog just looked at me in disbelief, then reached out to take advantage of the situation and give my ear a good cleaning.

I have noticed that when walking barefoot I tend to walk on my toes alot more, this activates different muscles in your calves and even around your hips. Yesterdays efforts were no problem for my bare feet, the underutilised calf muscles were obviously a bit more unhappy.

Part of the reason why I am a barefoot afficiando is that I have flat feet. When I was small podiatrists had poked and prodded my feet, “arch support” was the catch cry when buying shoes. I realised when I got older, principly when I had moved out of home and didn’t have my Mum telling me to put on shoes before I went outside, that going barefoot and walking on your toes was the best method to strengthen ones arches. Arch supports are just crutches, they dont do anything to modify the foot and its supporting structures.

This was but one path to enlightenment on the barefoot road. Another moment occurred whilst I was shopping at Castle Towers in Sydneys north west. I was happily gallivanting through said shopping centre when I was approached by security, “excuse me sir you don’t have any shoes on”. I stopped and considered this statement that was predicated by a question.

“No, no I don’t”
“Well you need to have shoes on when your in the centre”
Straight off the bat, I retort “it’s against my religuous beliefs to wear shoes”, boom, case closed. I thought this would be enough to dissuade my interrogator, afterall it’s not worth getting involved in the “cans” and “cants” of what religous nutters can and cant do.
This wiley old security guard had obviously dealtvwith his share of wise guys “Oh yeah, what religion is that?”
“Ummmmmm Aghhhhhhhh”
“Listen mate, if you go and buy a pair of shoes you can stay, otherwise im going to have to ask you to leave.”
This infuriated me, who was this guy with his beurecatic rules, telling me basically that my barefeet were unsafe, but there were store provided products available at a price so that I could continue with my shopping experience. This is society saying I need to consume products ie shoes, but in reality if im happy in barefeet why should anyone else care.

My journey is hopefully going to be more than just rantings about barefeet. The barefeet are just the method of locomotion the real story will be found in my next post, A Tale of Six Legs.

Barefoot Day Zero

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All great tasks start with humble beginings. So with a quite stroll with my four legged friend today, we set out in a small way on what will hopefully be a great adventure, a tale of six legs.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, but today I actually got started, stopped talking and pulled my finger out. My first training day, not a lot of thought was put into it mind you…. I got my dog and headed for Avoca Beach, parked the car got out and went for a walk and in the great Australian tradition I wasn’t wearing shoes.

Not wearing shoes is not unusual for me. I have always hated wearing them and avoided them whenever possible. The difference today was that I was actually going for a proper walk of around 10kms. Piece of cake I thought “its not that far”. So off I trotted, the dog disappeared in a storm of sand as she careened off for the surf. This was all going splendidly, it was a beautiful day, not too hot, some smoke still lingered in the air from the fires that had licked at Sydneys fringes.

Barefoot on the beach I hear you say, thats not very bloody out of the ordinary. My objective however was to walk to Terrigal via the coastal rocks. As a kid I used to clamber all over the jagged volcanic protrubences around Port Macquarie, this should be no different, the difference is however that at some point in my time on this earth a sense of self preservation has kicked in. An alarm bell was ringing as I climbed telling me that the risks far outweighed the rewards and besides the dog was hardly thrilled with proceedings and she does crazy shit all the time.

My first roadblock on the journey, at this point I could have just retreated to the beach and played with the dog, but I decided that Terrigal still beckoned. Traveling the urban roads of North Avoca is not as spectacular as walking the coastal fringe but we were moving and my feet were getting a good workout on the bitumen. This was old school bitumen, nothing smooth about this stuff. It reminded me of my primary school playground, an accident here would see a victim rise with flesh torn from the palms of their hands and their knees, gray slacks torn asunder and to top it all off pieces of gravel would be seen gouged into the wound.

Anyway I digress, we reached Terrigal no problems, feet felt fine. The dog chased some birds and we had a drink. The 4kms there had taken about an hour and a half, the way back up over the hill was 7kms, I hadn’t brought any food with me so I did not linger long in Terrigal. I had set it up so I always had an option, the plan was that if the feet were troubling me I would go back the short and easy way, the feet felt good so I thought stuff it I’m going over the hill.

I’m glad I went the harder way, by the end of the walk my feet were feeling it. Actually pushing myself gave me alot to reflect on. At the end of 11kms I had traversed: sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, gravel roads, bitumen and most pleasant of all cool green grass. The whole route had taken bang on 4 hours. My feet were going to need some hardening up but overall im really looking forward to more barefoot traning with my for legged friend.