Here I am, arriving back in #bvt (Burlington Vermont). I can smell Green Mountain Coffee and there are trees everywhere. Already I’m tired of it all…when can I return to Europe?!
Today I started packing seriously. I’ve got a box the size of two microwaves filled to the top with about 20 kilos of stuff. And I’m not entirely sure I’ll have enough space in the material I’m bringing onto the plane. My Rotary Jacket (you’ve seen pictures) is so heavy and covered in stuff it is going to be ridiculous getting onto the plane with it so the jacket is going home safely in a box. At least this way I won’t loose any pins.
My good friend Francisco is the first good friend here that has left. Francisco taught me many good life lessons, one of them is learning how to dance the right way. Him leaving makes me realize the privilege I’ve been given coming here to Belgium. A chance to explore the world and myself. I’m truly going to miss all the wonderful friendships I have here; I’ve learned lessons about friendships that I’ll take with me and pass onto my children.
I’ve improved on many stages;
- I can work better in groups
- I understand there is more to life than being negative and I attempt to strike negativity from my life
- I’m able to joke about certain things
- My relations to stories and conversations are quicker
- I’m much less tight and open to more opportunities and experiences
- I realize when I talk a lot about myself (for instance, here)
- I talk to my friends about troubling topics
- The organization of my writing has improved
- I know another language
- Extended my connections around the world and in business (fields I might one day want to go into)
- Failing can be the premise for something great
- I know more who I am
There are many more things but I can’t seem to think of any of them at the moment. One thing I would love to talk about briefly is the final point. When I arrived in Belgium, I thought I knew exactly where I was going and what I wanted to do. Here in Belgium, I have been cut down and built up…just to be cut down again. This has allowed me to explore myself as a person and look to friends for assistance. Know, I really feel good about who I am. Many of the annoying and “snobby” traits I used to have I’ve gotten rid of. I see the importance in helping the less fortunate more then I did before and I understand that there isn’t one path set for me; that failing one thing only opens the route to other things which are usually much better. It is these changes in routes that make us who we are. A speech by Conan O’Brien at the 2010-2011 graduating ceremony for Dartmouth College in New Hampshire really summarizes what I’m trying to say about who I am. If you don’t wish to see the entire thing, just watch the last 5 minutes.
I’m one of the most privileged people in the world and I have my entire life ahead of me. Know I think I know just a little bit more about how I’ll live that life.
picture credit to http://www.vibramfivefingers.it/
I wear Vibram 5 Fingers and I get a lot of comments such as:
”How strange!” “Where can I get some?!” “Do you have your train ticket? No? Well you are wearing these awesome shoes so this ride is on me” “You look like you are from the X-Men” “Shoes?!”
But mostly, these comments are majorly negative:
“Weirdo” “What are those creepy things?” “WTF” “Get away from me” “The glass will go right through” “Get some good shoes so you don’t hurt your feet” “Converse are just as minimalist” “Those are hurting your feet”
Now, I can’t address the first comments and the plethora of others that come my way but I would like to talk about the last 3 comments there and the reasons they are wrong.
Walking, running, climbing barefoot is the way we have done it for literally thousands of years. Before we donned the first sandals our ancestors were running through fields, villages, and rocky mountains. Some of the healthiest times in human history were in these ages and we can attribute this, in part, to the fact that they ran with no shoes.
Today we put coffins of rubber and thread on our feet encasing them and ruining our balance and physical health. Here are the reasons. If I forget a reason, I’ll refresh this post and let you know.
1. Modern shoes but your feet at a slant, a position which is not natural and sticks our backs, knees, legs, and hips into awkward positions.
2. Modern shoes encase our feet. During the “Chinese Middle Ages” as I like to call them, the women would bind their feet as small feet were considered lady like and beautiful. Today, we do the same thing although not quite to the extreme. Ever looked down at your feet and seen how close your toes are? Obviously you’ve looked at your hands; notice how open they are? Your feet should look much more like your hands. With toes this close together, we lose balance and stability. Imagine taking a boat, and making it so thin it would almost sink. This is what we do to our feet.
3. Shoes that support our feet are actually destroying us. You know those Nike shoes with massive round shocks in the back? This cushioning is encouraging heel striking or hitting with your heel first. While this may seem perfectly normal to you today, it isn’t natural. Ever notice how after running for a while every step seems to jar you? That is because you are landing on your heel and essentially, bone. Nike shoes like I have described simply make the problem worse as it becomes less painful. With less pain comes more of the wrong procedure and more problems with a person’s back, knees, etc… The correct way to run is on the ball (or the front) of the foot. This allows for a spring like step. When running or walking barefoot the correct way, there is no jarring, no matter how long you run for. Your entire body takes on the path the way it should have.
4. The menace of the flat shoe (converse style shoes) should be pretty obvious by now. They encase your foot and slant you just enough to cause a problem. Your feet can’t get strong and healthy the way they should be in these shoes.
5. The arch of your foot is meant to flatten and then spring back. That is what allows us human’s to walk fully. Shoes take this away from this by keeping that section of our foot from moving.
By now you are saying to yourself either “these are awesome” or “there are no sources” or “you haven’t explained why my feet hurt when trying to go barefoot”. Well, be prepared to be pleased. I will put sources at the bottom of this post all of which are creditable and link to scientific studies on the matter.
As for why it hurts for you? Well, it is simple, you just haven’t gone barefoot for long enough. Just like an addicting drug, weening someone off of supportive shoes or converse shoes is a long and bumpy road. Their feet are usually so weak that most activity barefoot will hurt to the extreme for a few months. After that however, the pain will disappear and you will find yourself happier than before, with a spring in your step (literally).
Going barefoot or minimalist (like VFF) has it’s advantages.
1. Your foot is allowed to flex and absorb shock.
2. You can run faster and farther
3. Your physical form and posture improve.
5. Your ability to balance increases dramatically.
6. The muscles in your legs will tone and begin to form correctly.
7. it goes on
I have a bet with a friend for 30 euro. I say that in 3 years, going barefoot or with simple shoes like Vibram 5 Fingers (see my review here) will catch on all over the world. Right now it is only in the US and that is partially because the people in the United States are early adopters. Here in Europe though, people care much more about style than anything. I bet though, that it will change. At some point, the people of Europe will get fed up of feeling uncomfortable and just switch to being barefoot. Plus, if it started in the US, big corporations will make it popular in Europe.
Some people ask me how I manage to live with all the comments. Well, the more I receive, negative or positive, the more I want to wear these shoes.
To make sure you are all filled in I have cut snippets of different articles with their sources right below. I hope you enjoyed. Here are some quotes from the articles:
“What’s so great about going shoeless? It allows the foot to flex and absorb shock, says Tony Post, president of Vibram USA, which makes FiveFingers. With thick heels, people lengthen their strides, landing heel-first and letting the shoe absorb the impact of each footfall. You can’t do that barefoot (try it sometime), so your body naturally falls into a shorter stride, landing first on the outside middle or ball of your foot. As you advance your foot rolls inward; the arch flattens and helps absorb the impact; it then springs back up as you lift your foot and push off the ground.”
“running barefoot or with minimal footwear is the way to avoid injury.”
If you’re thinking about taking up running to burn off those holiday pounds, you might want to set aside the running shoes. A study published in American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reports that average running shoes mess up your hips, knees and ankles more than running barefoot or even running in high heels!
Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? neuroanthropology view
“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.”
—Leonardo Da Vinci
“OK, dude, what’s up with the goofy shoes?”
“I remained a skeptic but tested them a month later. Now, I have three pairs and find it hard to wear other shoes. Vibram Five Fingers shoes (“VFFs” to the die-hard fans) are worth a closer look.
After two weeks of wearing them, the lower-back pain I’d had for more than 10 years disappeared and hasn’t returned since I started experimentation about 8 weeks ago.”
“Going barefoot is one option, and one that I enjoy, but there are limits. In the concrete jungle, glass and other dangers make going Bushman a roll of the dice at best. Tetanus or a trip to the ER? I’ll pass.
The Vibram Five Fingers shoes, to differing degrees, allow you to both walk without a heel (as would wrestling shoes, the Nike Free, Vivo Barefoot shoes, or thin flip-flops) and condition toe-spread, especially the big toe, for lateral stability.”
“People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different stride,” said Daniel Lieberman, Harvard University researcher, in a statement. “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.”
Barefoot Likely Better Than Shoes If You Step on a Nail
Why running barefoot is better than running with shoes
I don’t like doctors. People who know me well know I hate hospitals and everything to do with the idea of having someone foreign to you, take care of you. I always believe my body can push through whatever it wants. The problem is that here in Belgium, that choice is not up to me resulting in me having seen many doctors offices and taken many medications.
I’ve gotten sick here all of 12 times now and I’m beginning to wonder if it will ever stop! This has shown me doctors here and how the “free” healthcare system works. First off, there is not one big doctors clinic. All the doctors essentially work out of their basements in their normal everyday neighborhoods. The only place where there are a lot of doctors is in a medium sized hospital in Brussels. For me, this is weird to be going sick, to someone’s house, where I am treated on. Weird things such as this do come with advantages though; these doctors do house calls. This past thursday I couldn’t even get out of my bed and the doctor came knocking on the door. Awesome.
Americans, it isn’t free as we all thought. Everyone has health insurance but that is because everyone has to pay taxes. It works like the public school system in the US. But the doctors need money they like to be paid on the spot. So you pay the doctor out of pocket after a check-up, and then you put this information on your tax form and the government reimburses you. Interesting, you still pay, just less and in a way that seems like you don’t pay.
Yesterday I met up with someone I’ve been following for a while on twitter and I thought I would give him a tour of Brussels. Turns out he is a product manager for Tom Tom (the GPS company) and a really nice fellow. Give him a follow @adamjackson
While we were out he told me his story and is it interesting! After blogging through high school he decided it was what he wanted to do for his life so he took a small side job so his focus could remain on his blog and the Mac community. Then Adam got a call from Apple asking him if he would like to be the co-manager for a new Apple Store in Jacksonville Florida. Someone from one of the websites he followed had apparently recommended him. After the Apple store he moved and went solo doing tech support for Windows computers. After a while Adam got tired of it and moved to the Bay Area. When there, Adam started doing complete Twitter support for small startups and managed a small group of assistants. And now, he is working for Tom Tom and is living in the great state of NH, traveling the world for his company and living large!
For those of you who are new here, on my exchange abroad I stay with three different families. With there being only 5 weeks left in my exchange, I have changed to my new and it is rough. My first two families where incredible (much like my own family) and many many things are different in my new family. For instance, it is our choice when to eat and what) and there are cats. Things like that are different and difficult to catch on too. Weirdest thing? I don’t have to do anything here. No jobs, no nothing, and everyone is sleeping a good chunk of the time.
Food here is very strange. The typical food that people eat is in plastic and very processed. Now, I come from Vermont, a state where everything is fresh and in glass. There is very little plastic and even the worst food is excellent. People are aware of the environment and their bodies and buy things like SIGG water bottles. Here plastic is everywhere, all meat and all dairy is processed and becomes something else essentially. People here are aware of the environment but less so their bodies and they will use plastic bottles many many times before throwing in the recycling.
I have found myself getting thinner and thinner in the past 3 months from food that is processed so much my body is striving to find the right amount of good vitamins and proteins it needs. At home I eat so much organic well balanced meals I find myself growing over and needing to exercise to keep my size down. I’m becoming frail and weak over here because of the food.
I keep trying to figure out why they don’t like to have natural ALL NATURAL food. I’m guessing it is because of Mad Cow Disease. IT IS OVER NOW, all this processing is killing the people. It isn’t natural.
Transportation here is SO EXPENSIVE in comparison to at home. Here I spend about 40 euro every month on train tickets. I am on the train for 4 hours a week. At home I pay 176 euro to fill up the car for an entire month. I use that car 4 hours A DAY. So, in reality, transport here is SO EXPENSIVE.