Discovering Sandals Made of Gold and the Link Between Frugality and Gratefulness

Sandals Made of Gold

It was my first day in Gokarna, a small beach town on the west coast of India. Getting here had been an all-day adventure of trains, buses with flat tires, and a sketchy taxi driver who had us switch cars halfway to the hotel (he told me his driver was picking us up... I thought he was the driver!). However, after spending several months away from any large bodies of water, I was looking forward to enjoying the beach.

I decided to venture out from the hotel barefoot, as my only other option was to wear the heavy hiking boots that had spent the previous 24 hours on my feet. A quick glance outside confirmed that walking barefoot was not only acceptable but common.

It was already mid-morning and the sun had been up for some time. The pavement was searing hot. My feet, apparently too pampered by socks and shoes, were unable to withstand the pain from the heat and I quickly had to find a shaded area of the road.

I wasn't sure where I was going, only that the direction I was walking was towards the ocean. I knew this because I had checked my compass before leaving the hotel to ensure my sense of direction was correct.

The street was small, often only wide enough for a single car to pass through. People moved about slowly, entering temples, carrying flowers, chatting on their cellphones. Cars and bikes blared their horns while dodging cows, dogs, and people.

I looked at the ground as I walked, dodging piles of cow dung and trying my best to hide the pain my feet were feeling. The air smelled of strong incense and burning sandalwood. The chanting of prayers filled the street. If there was an ocean around, it seemed quite far away.

After about ten minutes, the street opened up and the ocean presented itself. Good, I thought to myself, at least I'm not in the wrong town. After stopping at one of the cafes to buy a bottle of water, I headed down to the beach.

Stepping onto the sand, my feet once again screamed in agony: the sand was too hot to walk on! This whole not wearing shoes thing was beginning to look like a really bad decision.

If could just make it to the ocean, I thought, I would be able to cool my burning feet off in the water. I took ten steps before my feet rudely told me that it was just too hot.

This was silly. I shouldn't need to walk all the way back to the hotel to get my shoes just so that I can cross this patch of sand! There must be some other way.

Then I remembered I was carrying a bottle of water. I thought maybe if I doused my feet with water before walking onto the sand, that would give me just enough time to reach the ocean.

It worked. The ocean water was a lot warmer than I expected, so it didn't relieve my painful feet as much as I was hoping, but I made it.

The beach didn't look much different than any of the other beaches I've seen in the United States: Lots of sand, an ocean with waves, people relaxing, and -- wait, are those cows? Yes, there were cows lounging on the beach right next to the people. OK, so maybe it's not exactly like the beaches in the States.

I spent the next six hours walking along the ocean, stubbornly determined to discover just how far the beach went (turns out it's 9 miles). I passed rows of wooden fishing boats, the carcass of a dolphin half buried in the sand, dogs cooling off in the ocean, and more trashed sandals than I could count.

Wait, sandals? My feet could really use a pair of sandals! Up to that point, my plan was to keep walking along the ocean until the sun went down and the sand cooled off enough for me to cross it again. If I could find a pair of sandals, I could not only avoid burning my feet, but I could also avoid spending money on a new pair and save some of my quickly shrinking budget.

I started sifting through the sand, pulling up sandal after sandal, periodically running back to the ocean when my feet couldn't take the searing heat any longer. Most of the sandals were not even wearable, but after about five minutes I discovered a pair that fit. They didn't match, but they fit. As I walked on, I felt pleased with myself that I just obtained a pair of free, wearable sandals. How's that for frugality?

Later that evening, I walked through town exploring the area around my hotel. I felt a little funny wearing sandals that didn't match and that were barely holding themselves together, but hey, I already look strange and out of place.

As I rounded the next corner, I noticed a man sitting on the ground. He caught my attention because he was positioned precariously close to the cars driving by. That's when I noticed something: He had no feet; both his legs were amputated from the knees down.

Only a few seconds earlier, I was worrying about what other people might be thinking about my funny sandals while this man was sitting on the street with no feet. My junk sandals suddenly seemed worth their weight in gold as I began to realize just how lucky I was that I even had feet to wear sandals on.

Walking back to the hotel, I thought about how frugality and gratefulness are intimately tied together. If we're constantly grateful and aware of everything we already have, our desire for the things we don't have is greatly diminished. When you live grateful, frugality becomes a way of life.

"I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." -Indian proverb

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  1. Good reminder. For me being grateful is really empowering… it’s a part of positive thinking. Concentrating on what I lack historically gets me NOWHERE.

    Everyone has something to be grateful for. At times I don’t think so, It means I need to check myself and the way I’m looking at the world.

    • Hey Ali,

      Concentrating on what we lack only amplifies the scarcity mentality, whereas seeing what we have and being grateful for it amplifies the abundance mentality. As you said, every single person has something to be grateful for — if we don’t see it, then we’re probably focusing too much on our ego and not looking at the abundance all around us.

  2. Whenever I get down and think of how much I lack, I go watch a Nick Vujicic video. 100% guaranteed to make you grateful – as well as make you wonder, “Why don’t you smile that much?”

    Here’s a link: youtube link

    • Wow, that was very inspirational! Thank you for introducing me to him, Brett! No matter what our circumstances, we have absolutely no reason to be negative or feel sorry for ourselves. Stories like Nick’s just go to show what we can accomplish with a positive attitude and unwavering determination!

  3. I loved this post, I know how hot sand can be, its impossible to walk on! Glad you found some sandals to wear 🙂 Theyre called ‘slip slops’ in South Africa, ‘flip flops’ in the UK, ‘thongs’ in Australia and ‘jandals’ in New Zealand.

    I definately think, the less you have, the more grateful you learn to be.

    • Thank you, Lisa! 😀 Those are some awesome names for sandals, haha. I’ve heard “flip flops” used quite a bit in the United States.

      That reminds me of what they call WiFi here in India: “WeeFee”. The Urban Dictionary has a quite a different definition for that term however.

      • That’s funny!

        In Winnipeg, Manitoba where I grew up we called them thongs. When I moved to Vancouver, BC people looked at me oddly when I spoke of my thongs.

        One day, a kind soul took pity on me – thongs were the sexy undergarment, and had nothing to do with what was on my feet 😉

        • Haha Sandi, I also know “thongs” to be the sexy undergarment. 🙂 It’s funny how certain words can have entirely different meanings depending on your location! Open-mindedness to the rescue!

  4. For a minute me thoughts this was gonna be like a life of djt………. post or something with hot fiery hot sand.

    “Raam steps onto the nice cool smooth sand only to find me’s yelling in agony as me feets is now on fire. The sand was not kewl as me thoughts but was teasing me for underneath the sand must have been a bed of hot coals. This hole non-shoe trip to the beach was more like a life of djt………. story at every step me took.”

    Then the post took a turn and became inspiring.

    Me was hoping to see some gold sandals worth millions tho…. 🙁

  5. Wow Raam, this is probably my favourite post I read this week! Great story, great message. I feel like as if I’m there following you in the journey. My feet are thin and easily hurt, so I can feel the pain. But I’m lucky I can feel the pain in my feet, because it means I have my feet!

    Talking about barefootness, I was surprised to see many barefooter in New Zealand. Not only in beaches, but in the city, grocery, restaurant, side walks, even forest! Their feet must be trained and thick. If you want to read about it, check it out in here:

    • Thank you, Dina!

      I love walking barefoot! Growing up in the States, I became so used to the policy of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” and it has taken me a little while to adjust to the fact that being barefoot is practically expected in many other places around the world.

      New Zealand looks exactly like the kind of barefoot place I’d want to live! I can’t wait to visit there. 🙂

      • I’m going to NZ again! Just in a couple of days! But it’s late autumn/winter, so I don’t expect to see barefoot people this time, might be too cold. But I’ll ket you know if I still spot them!
        Oh btw, I love this article a lot, so I submitted this in Suzy Guese weekly stumble program (have you heard about it?)

        • Hey Dina!

          Thank you so much for submitting the article! Yes, I do know about Suzy Guese’s weekly stumble! I love reading the stories. 🙂

          I hope you have an awesome time in NZ (I’m sure you will!).

  6. Beautifully written post with an even more gorgeous message. I can’t wait to head out on the road soon for these moments of gratefulness and frugality. I know they can occur at home, but for some reason when I travel they are magnified. They cause me to face the music so to speak on just how lucky I am.

    • Thank you, Suzy!

      I think those moments of frugality and gratefulness are amplified on the road because we’re reminded how, despite how big our world is, we’re all in this together. I think traveling helps remind us of our humanity!

      • Yup! Wanting to help others and just feeling for them reminds us that we are compassionate beings. Doing something about it is like a cyclone in our soul tearing up years of safe-zone me-ism.

        • “A cyclone in our soul tearing up years of safe-zone me-ism”

          I love the way you put that, Ali. 🙂 Selfless action is the only type of action we should take! Even when we’re improving ourselves, we shouldn’t do so selfishly, but rather do so humbly and matter-of-factly.


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