The Tale of the Traveling Freewaters Sandals… coming soon!

Eli from Freewaters sent me my second ‘installment’ of sandals, from the 2013 line coming out in January, and it was a little ironic to open a box of 5 shiny new flip flops while a windstorm blew outside with -2` temperatures in Reykjavik. I realized I wouldn’t get much use out of them here, at least not now, but I have a trip coming up in December to Morocco and Portugal to look forward to. Although, I am flying with some (dreaded) cheap airlines with all sorts of carry on baggage restrictions, and doubt Ill pack all 5 pairs with me. How to choose which ones to take and which ones to leave? My goal has sort of been to get as much mileage out of each pair in as many sandal-friendly places as possible, letting each pair tell a story from the wear and tear of all my steps.

freewaters sandals

Then, I had this marvelous idea – do you remember the movie ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,’ based on the novel by Ann Brashares? Why not have one pair of sandals travel between travelers and us correspond among eachother about where they went and what happened in them? It could be the backpackhers hood of the traveling sandals… or something like that… Im going to keep a logbook of everyone that wears them, where they go and how far they walk, until the traveler who is unlucky enough to see their last day finally buries them. Then Ill be sure to write a blog about it.


the Marigot harbour, where my Capetowns retired in February

From my first few pairs of sandals, most are still in perfect shape, minus a few scratches here and there, but I buried my only pair of Freewaters in St. Martin in the French West Indies. I was standing in Marigot harbour, rushing to pay for my ferry ticket to St. Barthelemy, and as I ran to board the ferry, my right foot Cape Town sandal tore between the toes. I stood there for a lamenting second, feeling sad and sorry for the perfectly good left shoe I now had to leave behind too, and then slipped them both off and jumped on the ferry bare foot. As we pushed off, I saw the ticket validating guy stroll casually over to the pair of shoes, pick up the right one, and start to try to fix it. He looked up at me and waved at me with my broken shoe, and yelled something in creole french I don’t remember. But I yelled back, ‘Good Luck, you can keep them!’

Eli sent me a new pair of Cape Towns, and they will become the Traveling Freewaters Sandals, since those were the shoes who made it the furthest, and so far, created the best stories. I already have one traveler lined up to break them in; my friend Solveig from Iceland is taking them to Brazil for Carnival in Feburary. She gets back in the beginning of March, and will hand them back over to me. Then I’m thinking of taking them skiing in the Swiss Alps (to wear inside the saunas of course) or wine tasting in Italy, but they’re always up for grabs again between trips. All you need is to have shoe size 37-38, have a trip planned to somewhere flip-flop friendly, and send me your name, mailing address, and promise to return them with an accompanying travel story. So, if you’re going somewhere now or before February, or after March, send me a message!

(… or you can always buy your own pair . Learn their whole story at )


Freewaters Project in Tulwet, Kenya

Leaving Masai Mara turned out not to be as difficult as getting to it, but the only obstacle was meeting up with Jon from Kigali in Kisumu before heading to North-western Kenya. Jon took off a couple weeks from work and decided to join me for the tail-end of my journey, and bring me back safely and sanely to Kampala where I had only just booked my return flight home from.

Barnabus showing me the first well

We both arrived at the chaotic bus station in Kisumu around 8pm, but apparently it’s a hoppin place to be so every hotel but the last we tried was full. We ate some tough chicken and Tusker lager for dinner, and the following day set off for Tulwet. The bus we chose told us they were leaving in 20 minutes and pulled out 50 minutes later, and then took 4 hours instead of the quoted “3,” but this was all very good according to East African terrestrial travel standard.

We were greeted in Kitale, the nearest town to Tulwet, by Maina, a project organizer for Freewaters. He works for a Kenyan company called Love Mercy Drilling, and they helped facilitate the bore-hole drilling.The Freewaters Kenyan team leaders Barnabus and Franco took me and Jon out to the field, into the heart of Tulwet village. We drove along mud-red roads meant for bare-footed people, so the old range rover barely scraped through the narrow trails to each of the 6 wells we would visit.

They were scattered around the rural village, spread out so that no family would have to walk more than a kilometer to fetch fresh water. We also visited one dry well, and at the drop of a rock discovered it was full of water, making the Freewaters project 7 wells strong.

this mother shared her gratitude for the wells with lots of smiles and laughs and a tow of children who may or may not all have belonged to her

The villagers, especially the numerous children, always ran out to greet us, watching intrigued at our examination of every well. They admired silently, but once in a while peeped out a smile or word of thanks. They looked at me as the personification of their Freewaters gift, and wanted to hold my hand and thank me over and over for the clean water they now have, and all the healthy children and seniors who have stopped dying from contaminated water and water-borne diseases. They asked for more wells and more visits, yet had no idea how the shoes I was wearing were the reason behind the project.

my Vezpa shoes on the well, with some usual miniature spectators


Freewaters Sandals and Water in Kenya

What do these two have in common? Freewaters is a footwear company that just launched in California, debuting 10 mens and 7 women’s sandals. Their shoes are innovative sandals and flipflops stylishly designed with ergonomic support, creating a very high-tech, comfy place for your feet. Why do I care? Because I’m one of their women’s product samples and have 4 shiny new pairs of freewaters flipflops that Im going to wear and tear in my upcoming travels.

women's sandals Sola, Vezpa, Capetown and Bossa Nova

I’m pretty excited about this after my recent trip to India, because when I was there I had the perpetual problem of my shoes breaking. The flipflops I wore there were only a few months old (Hawaianas), but since I walk so much when I travel, one broke after the first day on India’s less-than-navigable sidewalks. I then bought a pair of flipflops for 100 rupees ($2.25), which broke the following day on a hike around Hampi’s Hindi temple ruins, and I realized very quickly that Indian-made sandals are far from duarble; throughout the rest of my barefoot walk home, I probably saw 10 odd sided, broken shoes scattered along the trail. Luckily I managed to find one functional right-sided shoe, and a few meters later, the broken left sided one which I fixed and had another pair of sandals… which broke the next day.

I doubt these Freewaters sandals will give me any trouble, and in fact, I may have a hard time even wearing them out since they’re so well made. But, the best part about these shoes isn’t that they look great or are super comfy to wear, but the mission behind the product: Freewaters is trying to design the best sandals while finding solutions to the global drinking water pandemic. Their first humanitarian initiative is a project in Dago, Kenya, where they are digging a series of freshwater wells to provide safe and reliable drinking water in an area of the world where water-borne disease is a serious problem. For every pair of Freewaters sandals one buys, it allows them to provide clean drinking water for one person for one year. Since March 22nd is World Water Day, perhaps now is a good time to get involved.

For more information, to see how you can help, or to buy your own pair of sandals, check out www.

For more information on the grassroots organization implementing the Freewaters direct cause initiative, go to