Following footsteps

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As you’ve probably heard me say before, I have a barefoot husband. He doesn’t make a big deal of it, or do it for any reason other than it’s more comfortable and practical for him, but it does seem to make most people do a double-take – at least the first time they see or meet him.

Especially on the mountain.

Especially when running on the mountain.

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Everyone seems to think that asking where his shoes are is quite novel and funny. His standard reply, as he passes by with Phoebe the barefoot Fox Terrier at his heels, is that he can’t get her to wear any shoes. At least most people smile as we go by.


His favourite comment so far was from a young boy who looked at his dad as Greg went flying by them on Lion’s Head and asked “Was that the Avatar?”.


It strikes me whenever I go walking with him and Phoebe-dog that his footprints are so much more noticeable because of the bare feet. And also because he often takes me to places I would never dream of going myself, nor would most people I suspect. On untrodden paths footprints are more noticeable.

But no matter how familiar or extreme the path is, when I go walking with the barefoot husband I feel secure. I trust his footsteps implicitly, and I know that he knows the paths and he knows what to do when they run out.

I feel better about the whole thing because I know that he knows, even if I don’t have a clue!

And I guess it’s the same as following or hiring an expert in an area you don’t know – as long as you’ve chosen them well, you can follow their footsteps confidently and trust that they know where they’re going, and they also know what to do if things don’t go entirely according to plan.

So here’s what I’ve learnt about following someone who knows what they’re doing…


  1. Take their lead, follow their footsteps.

It may seem obvious, but it took me a good few walks to figure out that following the barefoot man’s footsteps is actually easier, more efficient and safer than choosing a foot placement for myself every single step of the way.

And in doing so, I’ve learnt more along the way. I’ve learnt to take the high ground and not waste energy walking up and down between rocks.

I’ve learnt to stop and look at the view along the way, not just focus on my feet all the way up the mountain.

And I’ve learnt that sometimes his stride is too long for me, or that jump is out of my league, but that’s ok – I know it’s possible, and I know that if needs be, I can find my own way too.


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  1. Take their advice on the best route forward.

Sometimes when the barefoot man goes ahead of me a little way (he’s always faster and nimbler), he’ll backtrack and point out an easier route up than the one he took. Sometimes I get out my ego and insist on taking the route he took, but eventually it dawned on me that it was easier and more fun to take his advice and actually enjoy the walk than scramble through the bushes the hard way and end up looking like my legs lost a battle with a porcupine!

An expert is defined as “a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area”. They’ve usually learnt it all the hard way and are saving you some trouble, and that is (hopefully) why you’re paying them, so take their advice, they’ve paid the dues for you!



  1. Take your time.

And lastly, learn how to take your time. I often amble along behind the barefoot man, slipping and sliding and grabbing onto feeble plants as he waits up ahead on some rocky outcrop, surveying the view.

And it’s not because he isn’t interested in me, or keeping a beady eye on my safety, he always is.

But he also knows that actually I like to make my own way along sometimes, now that I’ve learnt some things from him. I like to try and figure out some stuff on my own, knowing that he’s right there if I need him.

And I also prefer to slide down the wet rocks and land on my bum without an audience. Some things you still master the hard way, and it’s not always dignified or pretty, and sometimes best done with a little space!

A true expert will show you, teach you, know when to give you a hand, when to have their say, and when to back off and let you slide down on your bum in an ungainly fashion as you start to figure it out yourself.


And if you’ve got the right guide, you’ll learn stuff you never expected to, and feel a whole lot more comfortable on your mountain than you ever thought possible.


After all, sometimes just knowing that a steady hand and experienced feet are nearby is enough to help you get there all on your own.


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