Published in Freezine's 'Free Country' issue, December 2019.

We drove on a moped to the day’s first waterfall.

Three weeks into our trip and I was finally feeling relaxed when we drove.

Wind would be through my hair but we wore helmets, which nobody else seemed to but I worried what my parents would say if we didn’t.

We arrived at rice paddy fields and parked the bike, walked down to a group of young men who sold us a ticket. 


They told us to take off our shoes. Our guide wore flip flops, we were both in trainers. I hadn’t considered that the waterfall would be wet.


We climbed down a rotten wooden ladder into a shallow stream. I shoved my trainers into my bag and we climbed over wet rocks with bare feet. They were sharp and slippery and I clumsily clung onto our guide as I clambered over.  


I wonder if it’s the weather?


In the UK we wear shoes all year round, it’s too cold not to. We buy them thoughtlessly, wardrobes of them, piled up on dusty shoe racks at our front doors. There are people who are disgusted by bare feet. And if we’re not, we pretend to be because we don’t want people to think we’re disgusting. 


I start to use my toes to grip the rocks. I feel the muscles in my feet tense and release and I concentrate hard on how I’m using my feet for the first time in my life. I feel so lucky to have them. I wish I had noticed them sooner.


Outside a corner shop is a handwritten sign.

“Take out shoes please” and rows of kicked off flip flops.

I unstrap my sandals and enter the shop with bare feet and the floor feels cold and shiny and novel and public.

Written by Zoe Oswin