Once upon a time in what seems another lifetime ago, I used to spend almost every weekend at Melbourne's fashion capital — Chadstone shopping centre, spending a lot of money buying lots of clothes and shoes. Almost every weekend. Seriously. I didn’t even really like shopping but still I went every weekend and spent a lot of money that I often felt guilty about.
What I didn’t consciously understand at the time was that I was trying to fix everything that was wrong in my inner world by making it look all shiny and perfect on the outside.
The truth was that I was desperately unhappy – in my relationship with my long-term boyfriend, in my career and within myself. And instead of facing what was really going on, I distracted myself by shopping for clothes to mask my loneliness, depression and misery with all things shiny and new.
In the middle of my spiritual crisis/awakening, I found the courage to walk away from what was no longer serving me – my relationship, my career and even my shopping – to follow my heart out into the world on a twelve month adventure that became a way of life. While I was overseas, I lived out of one bag of clothes and a bag of scuba diving gear, a laptop and a camera. This was all that I needed. As I couldn’t carry anything else, I stopped shopping for clothes and instead made the most of what I had and spent my time doing what I loved – scuba diving, swimming in the sea, watching the sun die a vibrant death day after day after day. I wasn't unhappy anymore and when I returned to Melbourne, I no longer needed to shop for clothes.
When we embark on an adventure, we are never sure of what the ending will be as one step leads to another. My steps led me to discover walking, hiking, pilgrimage.
The last two months I have spent most Sundays at a hiking/outdoor shop searching for the right boots for my feet. And if I haven’t been at a shop trying them on, I’ve been researching boots online for hours and hours.
When I purchased boots to walk the Via Francigena, I was put off by how ugly they are. I mean, seriously, what woman really wants to wear ugly brown or grey boots? In the end, I found a great pair of bright red, Italian-designed boots, however, they weren't quite the right boots for the load I was carrying and I suffered foot pain most of the way.
This time colour isn't even been a consideration. My priorities are an appropriately cushioned sole for the load I am carrying, they must feel great on my feet like I never want to take them off and be waterproof as walking for days with wet feet really is unenjoyable. However, I'm even prepared to sacrifice them being waterproof for the right sole and comfort.
Buying the perfect boots for my size 41, narrow heeled, sensitive feet has been extremely challenging once again. They don’t make large sizes in most women’s boots. Men’s boots are too wide. Some are rigid and make my feet ache. Some have stiff tongues or other chunky bits that rub into my leg and ankle and just hurt. Some aren't cushioned enough.
Throughout this process, I can’t help but smile and even laugh at the contrast between the old me and the now me.
Not so long ago, I was shopping till I dropped for corporate clothes, an outfit to wear out bar-hopping, a cute pair of high heels. These days, I’m hunting for the perfect fitting boots, hiking pack and warm jacket. I haven’t bought a pair of high heels in almost two years.
The old me shopped to buy happiness. Today's me shops with happiness for what is needed to see me through the next adventure.
The old me and the now me are poles apart and I couldn’t be happier.
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