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So you see a few poor people running around with no shoes on, any rational person would feel sympathy but what do my favourite backpackers do? Mimic then. In the seemingly endless quest to be a ‘real’ traveller, these hard core vagabonds feel the need to go barefoot as they travel around South East Asia. You’re officially my hero, is that what you needed to hear? Ok, then please put your bloody flip-flops back on.

Barefoot backpackers

Now, please don’t misconstrue this rant – I’m all for not wearing footwear when it’s feasible, around a guesthost? Ok maybe. In your condo, sure knock yourself out. Walking up the high street in Vang Vieng, Chiang Mai or Ho Chi Minh – what are you doing bro?! It’s not big and it’s not clever.


Furthermore, this contrived effort at seemingly saying “ I’m such a real traveler duuuude” just doesn’t fly with me at all when the only times I come across these people is when I’m in the most touristy places at all. I spy them at a full moon party or in Angkor Wat, amongst all the other backpacking hordes. If you’re such a real traveler dude, how come I’ve never stumbled across any of you shoeless wanderers in East Timor, Bangladesh, Sudan or Lebanon?


In a desperate plea to finally put an end to this ridiculous trait I’ll say this – you’re on the road, and living your dream, and that’s great. But there’s no need to go native bro, you just look like a try-hard idiot. Peace

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26 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Travel Rant: Barefoot backpackers

  1. never had a problem in Aus or NZ , both places aren’t worried about it unlike others . Well used to it here , do it all the time . Works for me anyway , also i cycle barefoot heaps no probs , each to their own i suppose .

  2. Hi! I’m a 90%-of-the-time barefooter and I don’t see anything wrong in what they do.
    Besides, who knows if they only do it there do show off?
    I also think that many people are incredibly curious about how being barefoot all the time feels, yet they are too shy to try it in their home countries, so they only dare when they are so far from home that they can’t be seen by anyone they know.
    And since I’m a big advocate for the barefoot lifestyle, I’m only happy if people find a way to experiment with it!

  3. Why get upset about this? I’m living barefoot, I love feeling the ground and it’s a way of self-empowerment: My feet are conditioned to take any surface I’m walking on. Of course also when I’m travelling. And if the locals can do it, of course I can do it as well!

  4. Hahaha, although I am a barefoot wonder of the world, I do enjoy your article!

    I don’t take offense because my reason has nothing to do with these people that frustrate you. I’ve been going on-again, off-again barefoot for over 10 years now and when I started this particular SE Asia travel, I decided shoes were the way to go. Well, my shoes have decided otherwise. I have now purchased 3 pairs of “slippers” and the longest any of them has stayed with me (and not popped or disappeared at a dorm room door) has been a record breaking 1.5 weeks! So I have decided that if they don’t want me, I don’t want them! We have a pretty hate-hate relationship.

    Anyway, having said all this, I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone (well maybe to my long-lost shoes) and I just love the feeling of being barefoot anywhere I’ve ever been! (From Djibouti to Iceland and soon you WILL be seeing me in East Timor too!) I do agree, the people trying to prove something and be “hard-core” backpackers should realize it may not really come across that way. But for those barefoot lovers out there, rock out and enjoy the feel of whatever it is under your feet. If you don’t, then please, for the sake of yourself and all the others out there – GO PUT ON SOME FREAKIN’ SHOES!!!!!

    Thanks for writing!

    1. hey chris,

      cheers for reading mate. This article doesn’t actually apply to ppl like u tho, you’re a real barefoot backpacker, not doing it for show. This is about fakers, trying to be too cool for school! 😛

  5. some people buy the whole package when they get off the plane. ive seen bare footers in calcutta. these people come on emirates jets for fucks sake! good post. totally agree mate.

    1. hahaha a man after my own heart rob! can fork out $2k for a ticket, but the flip-flops are a stretch too far 😛

  6. I was actually in complete awe when I saw (for the first time) two young Canadian boys walking barefoot in Dumaguete (Philippines). If I weren’t being timid, I would have asked them if they’re out of their mind. The ground was scorching and I was dying to find out if they had some magic, not getting their feet burnt. Oh well, I found it cool anyway. ;p

  7. LOL I think I saw one in Bangkok last weekend. It doesn’t really look nice especially if it is along Khao San Road

  8. Are you sure it’s not that they’re Aussies? We don’t like to wear shoes and are often seen without them in Oz. 😉

  9. What’s the big deal? Are these people affecting your life in anyway? I don’t know what their reasoning is for going barefoot, but I’m sure is reasonable. Did you know there is a movement for a barefoot living lifestyle, it’s still small but gaining many members each month. Our website is There’s very little danger in going barefoot practically anywhere, as long as your feet are conditioned to do so. Humans went barefoot for millions of years before shoes where invented, it’s innate in all of us.

    1. hey matt,

      i’m sure there are plenty of barefoot purists, but i’m not referring to them. I’m talking about the clearly contrived attempt at trying to look like a ‘real traveler’, brushing off their accountancy degrees for a month to get in touch with themselves (on khao san road)

      1. I’m french and offently go barefoot in streets & public places, even when I travel in Germany, Spain, Holland, etc.; it looks strange, some people probably think it’s “ridiculous” or “idiot”, as you says; it’s my choice & I never mind.
        … But I never go barefoot in North Africa or in any poor country. That’s the point: “why this rich go barefoot? is he mad?” would local people think.

  10. haha I never thought of these shoeless wonders as trying to impress, I just figured they didn’t have any footwear! I traveled with a shoeless Aussie from Koh Phangan to Phuket…but he was shoeless because he lost them at the full moon party. He did get new flip flops when we got to Phuket! And my friend somehow lost his shoes between the bar and our hostel in Bolivia one night. Maybe at least some of these people you’re seeing have an excuse?

    1. hey Jesse =) absolutely. I’ve wandered around shoeless in Kathmandu and Bangkok amongst a few other through losing my flipflops, that’s understandable. I’m talking about the long-term shoeless wanderers 😛

  11. Love this article Johnny; I wish I’d written it! Each to their own I suppose, but who are these barefoot-heroes trying to impress? The locals in places like Chiang Mai are amused and bemused in equal measure by the strange behaviour of the barefoot brigade.

    1. hey roy, thanks mate! i think they’re trying to impress their fellow wannabes to be honest! *loving your site too, great run down about thailand 🙂

  12. Well, they do look pretty cool, and the few dollars they saved on foot ware and socks would help cover the cost of treating Tetanus or Meningitis.

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