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Everyday, the kids walked barefoot amongst the broken glass and shrapnel covering the garbage dump where they lived, until one man intervened.

Rick gritted his teeth as the doctor began to lance his toes apart, one by one.

That old farmer on the side of the road had warned him. He’d taken one look at Rick’s bare feet crisping up in the summer sun and said, “Boy, I don’t let my donkey get out on the road in this heat ‘cause it’ll cripple him. I guess that makes you dumber than a jackass.”

It was Day One of ‘The Walk’. Rick was 32 miles in, with 308 miles left to go.

He managed a second glance at his feet, torn to shreds by the sun-scorched earth on which he had spent the last thirteen hours walking barefoot. It was the kind of burnt tarmac that would melt your thongs if you stood on it too long. Not only had his toes fused together, but his feet were all shades of red and blistered.

The worn-out preacher closed his eyes and sat back to let the doctor finish his work, thinking again about the promise he had made…

“Hey mister,” had come a small voice in Spanish, and a hand pulling on his sleeve. “Can I swap my toy for a pair of shoes?”

The source of the voice, a little boy maybe seven or eight years old, was barefoot amongst the broken glass and scraps of rusted tin that blanketed the garbage dump where they stood.

It was Christmas Day, and Rick and his elves had driven overnight with a carload of toys to reach the northern slums of Mexico. Following a vulture rather than a bright star, they had stumbled upon a dump filled with mountains of garbage that at first glance seemed to move.

But as they got closer, they realised the moving parts were actually people, dozens if not hundreds of ‘garbage pickers’ – men, women and children who rummaged through the trash for something to eat, wear or sell.

The boy stared intently up at him, a shiny green toy truck clutched in his outstretched hands, and at first Rick was surprised – why would any child give up a toy for some shoes? Especially at Christmas! But as he caught a glimpse of the boy’s feet, it made a lot of sense – cut to pieces by the unforgiving terrain, his little feet were bleeding, blistered, swollen and red.

But there had been no shoes left to give him, no money either. So with a broken heart, Rick gave him the only thing he could, “I give you my word – I’ll come back this summer and I’ll bring you some shoes.”

As a high school teacher and a minister, he and his wife could put together the money to buy those shoes, he thought. But fortune seemed to smile on him just a couple of short weeks later as he drove up to a church where he was booked to speak.

“There were so many Jaguars in the parking lot, you could have filmed a Tarzan movie,” Rick recalls. 

Wealthy though they were, the congregation was unmoved by his request for funding – just a few pairs of shoes for the boy and his family.

Finally he managed to convince them to sponsor him 10 pairs of shoes for every mile he walked across his home state of Alabama. There was just one catch – he’d have to do it without any shoes on.

That summer, on the 4th of July, Rick began what he calls his “pilgrimage of a promise” – 547km from east to west, the equivalent of walking across the entire state of Victoria, and he was going to walk it barefoot in the middle of summer, just like his friend down in the dumps in Mexico.

“I zigzagged here and there across the blazing hot ground and I remember burning my feet up, thinking what a dumb idea this is.” He laughs. “This was a dumb idea.”

It was at the end of that first day when Rick had to get his doctor to lance his toes apart after they had welded together in the scorching summer heat. They looked every bit as cut up as the feet of his little Mexican friend.

The next morning, Rick awoke to a nation stirred by the amazing story of a preacher walking barefoot across his home state. The story had been picked up by CNN, ESPN, ABC, NBC – pretty much every major news station in the country.

“My goal was to get 3,400 pairs of shoes for 340 miles,” Rick said. “I ended up that year with 60,000 pairs of shoes, and we went back to Mexico.”

After finding “the little rascal” and his family, they gave shoes to every person in that garbage dump, young and old.

Later, Rick’s organisation bought the dump and converted it into an orphanage, which has since been voted the top orphanage in Mexico.

Since that first year, Rick – often accompanied by his beautiful wife, Kim, and now with his shoes on – has diligently walked across one state every year, sometimes more than one if they’re small enough.

With the help of charitable organisations like Soles4Souls and Roma Boots, they have raised over one million pairs of shoes in the last three decades, and the 60-year-old preacher isn’t stopping anytime soon.

“There’s still one more kid that needs a pair of shoes. There’s still one more mother crying because she can’t put shoes on her children’s feet.”

This year he will walk across his 39th and 40th US states.

“I always ask people, how far will you go to keep your word? So far I’ve walked roughly 25,000 kilometres to keep mine.”

For reference, that’s like walking the entire coastline of Australia almost twice! However, as Rick likes to tell people, you don’t need to walk across the country or even the state to make a difference in your community.

“Just take a step and see where it takes you. You may take a step across the lunchroom and sit down next to the new kid at school. You may take a step at work and talk to somebody that you can tell is going through a tough time.”

He and his wife Kim instil this philosophy of compassion-in-action in their four children, RC, Winchester, Elliot and Dreamer, who regularly join them on the walk as well as their biannual trip to Mexico.

Rick encourages people to keep their donations local, to give to those that are doing good in their own backyard. However, if you would like to learn more about the ‘The Walk’ or make a contribution to their amazing work, you can do so here or on their website.

Los Cabos is an ideal travel destination for families, offering excellent food, accommodation and service, great weather, plenty to do and exceptional value.

Los Cabos, situated between the sea and the desert on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, is a fantastic choice for families with cultural intrigue, delectable food, year-round sunny weather (it only rains six days a year!), oodles of adventure and a great conversion rate with the Aussie dollar.

Los Cabos is not over-touristed, overdone or overly commercial. It offers great value for holidays and a fun, authentic Mexican experience.

A short plane ride from Los Angeles airport in California,

Los Cabos is the fastest growing resort area in Mexico and is well-catered to the family market with top-quality hotels and adventure activities and delicious, authentic Mexican food.

A highlight for my 6-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter was swimming with dolphins while I loved the Outback and Camel Ride Safari,

which involved a walking tour through the desert where we learnt about the beneficial and toxic properties of various cacti, followed by a camel ride by the sea and a yummy Mexican buffet. We also had fun testing various types of tequila in our jovial group!

These tours were run by Cabo Adventures www.cabo-adventures and were extremely well organised and operated. We also enjoyed a ride out to the famous Arch in Cabo atop, and below the water, in a yellow submarine tour which was a worthwhile experience.

The restaurants were exquisite. We sampled delicious tacos – the fish and prawn tacos were my favourite – at La Lupita www.lalupitatym.com, renowned as being the “best tacos in Los Cabos”, which hosted live music and a very cool, upbeat vibe in a rustic evening hangout.

We spent a lovely afternoon by the sparkling blue ocean at Sur Beach House www.bahiacabo.com/sur, a trendy restaurant set literally on the soft, white sands of Medano beach, which is part of Bahia, a well-recognised hotel in Cabo San Lucas.

This was a very cool place to hang out, relax and eat – gorgeous beach house-inspired décor and a chic but easy feel. I enjoyed a Corona and we dined on seafood and salads, in between taking a dip in the sea, metres in front of the restaurant. Sur Beach House also offered an array of water activities including jet skis, boat rides and stand up paddle board right from its beach front.

Flora Farms www.flora-farms.com was a special experience for the taste buds – all the food is organically grown on their 25-acre farm and the meats come from their 150-acre ranch where animals are raised humanely and sustainably without hormones or antibiotics. [They don’t include beef as there is not enough water in the region.]

They serve only what they make, raise and grow, all handmade on the farm. As a result, it is all exceptionally fresh and tasty. Their Virgin Mary sets a whole new bar!

We saved a yummy pizza for our personal driver, Luis, from Transcabo, who claimed Flora Farms had the best food in Los Cabos.

In addition to the sensational restaurant, Flora Farms facilitates a spa, art classes, cooking classes, events including weddings and has accommodation.

Heralded by The New York Times as the 5th Coolest Restaurant in the World, Sunset Monalisa offers a spectacular dining experience.

Touting the best views Cabo San Lucas sea, Sunset Monalisa masters fine dining, its candlelit, alfresco ambience, imbued with live opera, is difficult to outshine. The restaurant is set on a clifftop, with perfect aspect to watch the magnificent orange sun set over the Mexican horizon, was the Sunset Monalisa www.sunsetmonalisa.com.

Under the orchestration of a Michelin Star-trained chef, the menu offers Mediterranean cuisine, impeccable presentation and romance under the stars.

Los Cabos is definitely a favourite destination for my family and offers exceptional value and fun; for more information visit www.visitloscabos.trave/

 

 

 

Resorts (or villages, as they like to be called) are located all over the world, ranging from the ski slopes in Europe, to the cultural richness of Mexico, so there really is something for everyone.

Club Med is one of the original “All Inclusive” holiday specialists on the market, which means they include as much as they can in their price.

Out of all the 80 resorts that Club Med has around the world, a whopping 57 of them are family friendly – that’s a lot of holidays to choose from!

The resorts (or villages, as they like to be called) are located all over the world, ranging from the ski slopes in Europe, to the cultural richness of Mexico, so there really is something for everyone.

Major Inclusions:

  • Accommodation
  • All meals (great for budgeting)
  • Sporting activities
  • Shows
  • Evening entertainment

The beauty of this type of holiday is that children are catered for in just about every age group. Club Med have dedicated “Kids Clubs”, ranging from the bubs to the teenagers. If the adults want to have some “grown up” time and take advantage of the Kids Clubs, they may find that their children want to stay all day!

Some villages offer the following care for children:

  • Baby Club Med   – 4 to 23 months
  • Petit Club Med   – 2 to 3 years
  • Mini Club Med   – 4 to 10 years
  • Junior Club Med – 10 to 17 years (some clubs offer 11-13 and 14-17 years)

 Some activities on offer (for everyone, not just the kids!)

  • Tennis
  • Archery
  • Swimming
  • Trapeze
  • Arts and crafts
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Sailing
  • Cooking
  • Snorkelling
  • Bush Walking

If parents want to stay out for the evening, babysitting is also offered for an additional fee.

One of the villages close to home is the Cherating Beach Resort in Malaysia. It has been voted into the top 10 family resorts in Asia by Trip Advisor for 2013.

Highlights include:

  • Baby gym
  • Circus school
  • Petit Chef Program – a fantastic experience! Children learn to cook local dishes and parents come and taste them…yum!
  • Clean Art Planet – children use objects from the sea to create, tell stories, photograph…the list is endless
  • Hiking
  • Dance

Additional highlights:

  • Baby corner in the main restaurant
  • Spare prams (limited supply)
  • Playground

Top tip: If you have young children, ask for a ‘Club Med Baby Welcome Service.’

It includes:

  • Personal Welcome
  • Cot
  • Change mat
  • Bottle Warmer
  • Baby bath
  • High chair if available

For more information visit

www.clubmed.com.au

Getting there

Club Med can even arrange your flights and transfers to your village of choice if you so desire. Alternatively, you can arrange this yourself through your travel agent or online.

When travelling with children I recommend a direct flight where possible. Both Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia fly directly from Perth.

For more information visit

www.malaysianairlines.com

www.airasia.com

** Please be aware that not all the villages offer all the activities**