Barefoot vacation

 by Jonathan Y

Some years ago I had the chance to meet and spend some time with a fellow barefooter from New Zealand whom I got acquainted with on "a.l.b." (the barefoot newsgroup). We had been corresponding via email and it was a pleasure to finally meet each other in person. He and his family stopped over in Hawaii for 3 days on their way back to New Zealand from visiting other countries. He is the only avid barefooter in the family, although his wife and 2 children have also gone out barefoot on occasion in New Zealand where the prevalence of barefooters is quite high.

The first day we met I went to his hotel, from where we went out to walk around in Waikiki (where most of the tourists on Oahu stay). He and I were of course, barefoot; his 11 year old daughter started out barefoot as well but later on she decided to wear sandals. We went into several stores and the "International Market Place" where we had lunch at the food court. We saw a few other barefooters but it's hard to get one's soles dirty walking in Waikiki.

Later I drove them around the island a little bit and stopped by the "Pali Lookout" where you can see a gorgeous view of the windward side of the island; on the parking lot there were lots of small pieces of broken glasses which made me cringe but to my own surprise, my feet didn't get hurt at all walking on them. The many years of going barefoot has toughened my soles. Then we went to "Safeway" since they needed to buy some groceries. In there we saw 2 little kids and a girl in her 20's barefoot as well.

A side note: the Safeway stores here are all barefoot friendly (no signs posted, and no hassles); and as some of you probably know, their employees are required to be extra helpful and friendly to the customers (this was brought up on "20/20"). In my early days of barefooting in public, I would get really nervous when a Safeway employee approached me to ask if I needed help with anything. I wished they would just leave me alone. But now I've gotten used to it and in fact appreciate it 'cos they're still helpful and friendly despite the fact that I'm barefoot :)

My friend commented that he was surprised that "Denny's" and "Pizza Hut" in Hawaii don't have "the sign" posted at the door, 'cos the ones in New Zealand have it!

The following day they went on a tour to the "Polynesian Culture Center" (a popular tourist attraction on the island) which took pretty much the whole day (including meals and shows). My friend carried his thongs in his backpack, just in case. He said there was a sign saying "shirt and shoes required" posted there but he ignored it and never got hassled even once. One person asked him if he lost his shoes, and he just said: "No, I just don't like wearing them!". He also saw another person barefoot there. Jokingly he said to me that "the sign" was posted to distinguish the visitors from the performers (who are all barefoot).

The third day (new year's day) I went to church (where I have to wear shoes) in the morning. As soon as service was over, I changed into T-shirt and shorts and put my shoes in the trunk of my car and drove barefoot to Waikiki where my friend invited me to join them at the pool, since they just wanted to relax before flying back to New Zealand in the evening. He bought me a little souvenir: a brazen bookmark with a little bare foot at the tip and the words: "Barefoot in Hawaii Feels Good" inscribed on it. :)

Below are excerpts of my friend's email sent to me after he left, relating his observation and experience on barefooting in Hawaii and on his trip back:

[written in Hawaii]
From a barefooting perspective, thanks to having conversed with you, you were right--barefooters are more prevalent in NZ than it is here, but rubber slippers (flip flops) are more prevalent here. However, out of the places we've been to here, I've seen a few barefooters; and not much resistance or stares about it; which I would still consider barefoot friendly.

[continued on the flight on the way back home...]
We had to re-pack our suitcases in order to fit my running shoes in. Otherwise, I would have had no choice but to wear them. Thank goodness I didn't have to. I left the hotel barefooted into the six-windowed limousine, which had trouble turning around corners (not bad for US$20 + tips). I got to the airport, went to pick up my stored luggage, checked in the stuff; went through security, boarded the plane--not a single problem, not a single stare.

Somehow, we ended up in an Air Pacific flight (Fiji Airline). It's some joint service with Canadian Airlines. Our boarding pass says flight FJ861 "sold as CP6121". I don't know whether it being a Fijian airline has anything to do with it, but I did not anticipate too much problems even on a real Canadian Airline flight from Honolulu to Auckland, both barefoot friendly destinations. I had my flip flops in my carry-on, just in case nonetheless. Going through the gates, that was the first time in the whole trip that they asked me to open my carry-on to turn on my notebook PC to see though.

I don't anticipate any problems landing barefoot in Auckland as well. I've done that before. So, basically as soon as I landed in Honolulu, I've been barefoot full-time again. Too bad it rained when we went to Polynesian Culture Center. My feet would have been nice and black otherwise.

Surprise, my wife put her sandals in the bag and landed in the Auckland airport barefoot along with me.