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Disclaimer: Yes, I am sponsored by Luna Sandals. But it should be noted that:
A) I bought the review sandals for this review at full price;
B) I have been wearing them for nearly 18 months;
C) I approached Luna for the sponsorship BECAUSE of what I wrote in this review;
D) I had formed my opinion of these sandals well and truly before I was offered the sponsorship (an opinion which, as I mention in point C, pushed me to seek the relationship with Luna that I now enjoy and appreciate).
Okay, that said, let’s get on with it!!

Many readers of this blog will know that my minimalist tendencies also cross over into my sport – distance running. For the long story read the first few paragraphs on my review for Xero Shoes or read the long story short which goes a little something like this…

I have always had an off again/on again love with running – more often off again. This was due to two key factors:
A. Just plain lazy, and
B. Put off because of the injuries that would always come upon me.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalist running in 2006 after reading an article by Christopher McDougall in Men’s Health Magazine about the Tarahumara/Raramuri running people of Mexico. I began running barefoot and in Nike Free, the only other minimalist shoe of the time. The in again/off again continued (due to laziness alone now as the injuries were gone!) until the start if 2012 when I decided to get off the couch and change my life.

By this time, there was a plethora of new minimalist options and Luna Sandals were one of these. Luna were the company started by Barefoot Ted McDonald. Barefoot Ted was one of the “gurus” of the Barefoot/Minimalist movement who was further brought to notoriety via McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Ted famously had a pair of huarache running sandals made for him from car tyres by Raramuri runner Manuel Luna. When Ted began making sandals, he called them Luna’s in honour of the man who showed him how.

I bought my first Luna’s back in September 2012. I bought the Leadville Pacer: a 9mm trail sandal with Monkey a Grip Technology footbed and the All Terrain System laces. It must be made clear that the Leadville pacer is designed as a trail sandal. My intention was to begin getting out on the trails in sandals – I had been wearing another huarache on the road but needed something that could provide a little more protection. The plan did not quite happen at first. If I am honest, I tried a number of other minimalist shoes for running with the Luna’s being relegated to my casual wear.

So let’s start there – as a casual huarache, the Pacer is excellent. It is comfortable and although when new ground feel was there but a little limited, now after much use there is plenty of feel. Set the ATS laces and you can slip on/slip off the sandal every day and never give the laces another thought. It also looks like a casual sandal as opposed to the traditional huarache lacing that gets people staring. So for everyday lifestyle wear, exceptional.

However all that time, I was wearing and experimenting with a whole heap of other shoes. The Pacers got relegated to shopping, caf├ęs and BBQ’s. Then one day in September of 2013, I out them on for a run. Don’t know why – all I know is that my training log shows that morning of the 23rd, I put on the Pacers and hit the street and came home 11.05km later. And after that, almost every run on road and a few on trail have been run in the Pacers.

The Leadville Pacer is a 9mm thick but light sandal made for trails. It has an aggressive Vibram rubber tread on bottom; and on top a thin footbed of what Luna calls it’s “Monkey Grip Technology”. It comes with Luna’s ATS (All Terrain System) laces which are smooth, flattened tubular nylon straps with a buckle slide for secure fastening. The heel part is made of an elasticised vegan material which allows for a very easy slide on/off once the laces are secured. There is really not much more to say about them because that is all there is of them!

So how have they fared nearly 6 months later of almost daily use? Brilliant!! The Leadville Pacer is currently my go-to running shoe. It is comfortable, reliable and offers great ground feel for it’s 9mm sole. I have worn the tread away under the ball of my feet where my foot falls, but to be fair, Luna make it clear on their website that, “The aggressive tread will wear out quickly on pavement though, so stick to trails with these sandals!” That tread has done me well in wet and dry on trail and (way much more) pavement. And despite the wear, it continues to perform and will continue to, although I think my use has jeopardised the trail life of the sandal. But remember, that is my fault, not the sandals.

I was concerned that the buckle would cause me issues. It hasn’t. On the one occasion it did, it wasn’t the buckle, but the fine sand that got stuck under it (I was running down the beach) that I left there. A quick finger swipe would have fixed it, but I was too proud to stoop down for a quick second and didn’t fix it. I have run along the beach and on trails many times since with no problems (and certainly no need to finger swipe under the buckle every time).

As someone who travels a lot, I must say travel with running gear is a breeze – they take up less room than my tech shirt and shorts in the bag. And they don’t smell!

As I said in the disclaimer, this review was well underway before I began a conversation with Luna about sponsorship. But the performance of these sandals was enough to prompt me to approach them for support of my upcoming running event. I am so glad they came to the party – this is a product I am proud to wear and promote because I believe in it wholeheartedly. So much so, I would have bought at full price the sandals for my event and training for it had Luna needed to decline official involvement.

Some have complained about the price (the Pacers are $85USD plus shipping), but I believe their value for money is excellent. As more and more people get on the Luna bandwagon, Luna Monkey’s the world over are wearing Luna’s in everything from 5k’s to 100mile Ultra’s. And at some of those you will find Luna’s on the podium.

Of course, Luna’s may not suit all as a running “shoe”. If you are a barefooter or used to running in minimalist shoes you will find a transition to a huarache like the Luna easy. But don’t let that stop you – Luna’s are the ideal Lifestyle shoe and it is well worth a visit to the Luna Sandals website to check out their styles.

Running NoXS Minimal for me is about carefree running. No hi-tech, flashy latest doo-dad stuff here. If you are into that, great. But what I love about Luna is it’s down to earth “let’s let running be about running for the sake of running” vibe. Each day, I pull them on and off I go – bit of protection for the soles of my feet with a strap to hold them on. Nothing more, nothing less. And off a I go with a smile on my face.

I love them and look forward to wearing them for years to come.

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Lots has already been written about the problems with digital music. As a musician, while digitalisation has made many things easy, it has also made other things lame. Digital means low cost, high quality recording with no loss of quality as you over dub, redub and reproduce tracks. It means you can very quickly bring your music to the finished product with very little equipment in your bedroom. (An iPhone app called StudioMini gives you a 4-track recording studio that fits in your pocket!) It also means that artists can very quickly sell and publish their music via digital music stores. And via social media it’s possible for an artist to develop a following very quickly without leaving home.

Of course there are issues – no soul, loss of feel and the over “machined” vibe of digital music gets some musicians and fans cranky. But there is one big problem which I think defies the simplicity of a NoXS Minimal lifestyle by making music more complicated than it should.

Digital allows you to pick which songs you buy from an album and which you don’t.

“But what is wrong with that?” I hear you ask? Well, on the surface the idea of choosing our tracks and deciding to not buy the songs we don’t like seems good on the surface. But yesterday I had a revelation which made me think that perhaps digital has made listening to music less the experience it once was…

Over the weekend, I had to drive for some time and threw a few CD’s into my car which has (shock horror) no iPod port or dock. It was to be the first time in a long time that I had listened to a non-“Best Of” album from beginning to end. (For the record, if was Def Leppard’s Hysteria one way; Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge coming back). What I noted was that the album had a story. Neither of these is concept albums, but stories began to emerge that obviously resonated with things that were going on at the time in the world and the lives of the artists; and the producers had spent time placing the songs in an order that takes you on a journey and in fact gives more meaning and insight to the songs you are listening to.

When you buy the CD (or the LP or the cassette), you get this. (That said, with the CD you miss the A-Side/B-Side that vinyl and tapes provide which also adds to this). But with digital, you have options to mix it up and leave bits out and in doing so lose a part of the story that is a complete set of work (hence the name “album”) as opposed to individual sound bites stuck together.

And in some ways, listening to music like this is very much out of sync with a minimalist view. The minimalist ideal would just put the work as it is provided by the artist on and enjoy it for what it is as opposed to the complex and narcissistic idea of taking the sound bites (songs) I like and rejecting those I don’t as if they have no value at all.

Doesn’t mean we reject digital distribution. Just that instead of pick and choose we just click “Buy Album” and keep the tracks in order and listen to them in that order in one sitting and take in the full complexities of the artists work.

I have learned from experience this weekend that the old way – the minimalist way – really does give one much more listening pleasure. Methinks that in moving to “NoXS Minimal listening” of music, some of my complete albums are going to get quite a bit more of a run from now on in.

Live Simply, Simply Live,

Mark G

You may remember the old joke:

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

Confession seems to be the starting point for most endeavours of change. People who want to defeat alcoholism must first face up to the fact that they are alcoholics. Getting things right can only come after realising something is wrong. Which ipso facto means that if change is not happening, one possible cause is that the confessional, realisation point either has been missed or had little meaning.

In terms of conforming to a minimalist lifestyle, it made me wonder if the areas of change I am struggling with in my own journey are hard because deep down I have not yet made the decision to change; and that this is because deeper down, in that area at least, I don’t actually want to change… At least not yet!

Let me give you a few examples:

– Do I really want to spend less on stuff? Or am I really only happy to spend less on stuff I don’t like, need or enjoy? Not buying the latest model car or shunning the next generation iThing isn’t that hard for me because, to be frank, I don’t care. But how many pairs of minimalist running shoes do I need; how many books on the “to be read” back burner is too many; and how many guitars can one guy really play at once?!

– Back on books, am I really serious about saving space and money by converting totally to eBooks?

– Do I really believe stuff you don’t use should be moved on? For example, is it okay to let some of my Dad’s old stuff go? Or am I actually scared my memories will fade if I give away the quilt-lined sleeping bag I have had sitting in the bottom the camping trunk for 20yrs?

– While the idea of having less leading to needing less money leading to not having to work as long or able to do what I love and earn less and not having it matter is great; do I deep down really believe that scaling back financially is the best thing for me and my family at this point? If not, why?

Nothing wrong with these things. After all – as I posted two weeks ago, the NoXS Minimal journey is yours and yours alone. So in reality, you could live with all the above if that’s the type of minimalism you want. But me – I’d like to think that less stuff and/or having it more space and money consciously (like eBooks); letting go of things I have never used and scaling back financially could become parts of the way I live.

Just that first I guess I have to *really* believe it… :o)

What are some areas you would like to happen but realise you have to believe more first?

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G

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When you have been living in a world of “much” for so long, the idea of scaling back to a NoXS Minimal existence can be daunting. So many questions begin to emerge.

Where do I start?
How little is too little?
How much is too much?

And as you start there is the nagging uncertainty that raises other questions like, “Well what if I need that some day?” or “I don’t need it or want it, but my mother gave it to me! What If she asks about it…?!?!”

The best piece if advice I can give you is this:

Your minimal journey is two things: YOURS and A JOURNEY. The rules can be set by you. Only you can say what level of minimalism is right or wrong for you. And being a journey, you can travel at your own speed. It is a process not a destination. Enjoy it.

Many people, myself included, began their journey in the wardrobe. I think most people would agree we love with far more clothing that we need. But in the spirit of YOUR and JOURNEY, here is a great resource I found which is very similar to the approach I took on my first day of going minimal.

PROJECT 333 is a great idea that allows you to ease into minimalism. The idea is that you live for 3 months using only 33 items of clothing. There are some things that are “free” and don’t count, like pyjamas, around the house wear and workout clothes (the restriction being you cannot wear these items for anything else). But the project forces you to look at what you have – clothes, jewellery, shoes etc (yes these count!) – and see if you can live without some of them.

Here is what is cool about Project 333 though – first, nothing bets thrown away (yet)! You are practicing what it might be like to live with this many clothes in the wardrobe. And here’s the other thing – if you find that 33 is realistically too few (which initially you might say it is but give it three I this and you might be taking differently!) because a Project 333 is completely adaptable, you can switch it up to a Project 344 (or 322 if you prefer!) next month and see if that is better for you.

At the end of the three months you can debrief yourself asking questions like:
What was it hard to live without? Why? Is it realistically something I should keep?
Does my lifestyle work with this many items, or should I switch up/down? Or adapt my lifestyle instead?
Was there anything in the 33 items I seldom sore? Do I actually need it/like it as I think I do?

And then, go another round.

All of the “rules” can be found at their website, along with ideas for adaptations and so on. If you give it a try, let me know how you get on… http://theproject333.com/getting-started/

Remember though, your minimal, your journey. Be yourself and enjoy the ride.

Live Simply, Simply Live,

Mark G

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This is our simple table.

Our simple table was built by hand. It’s wood was first used to build the grandstand at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds in Queensland, Australia in 1905. The craftsman rescued the wood when it was pulled down in the early 90’s and made furniture with it. Our table was built in 1994.

Our table was the first major furniture purchase we made as a married couple. We bought it not long after it was made. We loved it’s size, it’s history and it’s simplicity. We loved that it was strong and robust and built to last – like we hoped our love would. It had to last because we bought it never intending to part with it. And we knew that over the years our simple table would develop marks and chips and scratches because with all good, loving use comes accidents. Funny enough, when we bought our simple table, the salesman asked us if we wanted him to send the table back to the craftsman to create the “rustic look” by beating it with a heavy chain. We said no, we would take it as it was. While many in an “instant age” might have done so, we wanted our rustic look to come from authentic wear and tear. We wanted our simple table to develop a character in its own right over time. We wanted to be able to look at the dents and scratches and remember the wonderful times we have had around our simple table.

Our simple table seats four most nights, but is just as comfortable seating twelve. It’s simple bench style seats means you can squeeze room for one more when you need it. That said, our simple table can just as comfortably seat one. And when you sit alone, it doesn’t feel like the scenes you often see in movies of the one person sitting at the long, big, empty table. Our simple table somehow feels just right no matter how many are seated there.

Our simple table is extremely versatile. Of course, we eat at it. Every day. We never wanted to be an “eat in front of the TV” family. But it does much more than that. Out table has served as an office desk, a sewing table and an operating table for more than one scratched knee. Every year at various times, it becomes the resource creation station for creating teaching resources and then an assessment collation area both for my teacher wife. It has been the place at which businesses were launched, ideas were birthed, songs and books were written and assignments hammered out long into the night.

Our simple table has been host to a wonderful array of events. It has been the venue for our children’s parties, for the planning of weddings and for celebratory dinners and board games evenings with family and friends. But it has also been the place for tears, for sadness and for pain. Heated and hard conversations have taken place here, and across it’s breadth hands have been held. Tightly.

This past week, our simple table has been the venue for some very special moments. Within the last five days, twice we have gathered around it with friends – you know, the type who are more than friends – who we do not get to see very often and ate together. One of those families have lived overseas for many years now and to share food, fellowship and colouring in over our table with them and with their children that we had never met was a great joy.

And as I write this, I sit at our simple table surrounded by party things because tomorrow our simple table will host our daughter’s 14th birthday party. What I love about that is that our simple table was also the place at which she ate her first solid foods, the place where she did her first homework and, if Dad is honest, was the place for more than one quick nappy change…

I love our simple table not because it is a thing, but because it is not a thing. It is not minimal in terms of its size, but in terms of its simple design, its materials, how it was built, its longevity and for the amazing memories it holds, our simple table is very much a symbol of everything being NoXS Minimal stands for.

Simple, stable, built to last. Somehow I think our simple table will be a beautiful anomaly in a throw away world. And I hope that it’s message and encouragement to me in pursuing a simple, NoXS lifestyle will be loud and clear every time I look at it.

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G

In various ways, I have now spent just over 3 years embracing a NoXS Minimal lifestyle. I will be open – I am still not anywhere I think I should be in terms of living minimal; and am expecting getting to that stage will take some time still. Being an impatient person, (even with myself), I have pondered why it is the transition has been so difficult. Today, I think I have figured it out.

The thing that sparked this epiphany came from an unlikely source. As I write this, one of our Australian States is in a tussle with indigenous people over the rights to use land; land which is under traditional ownership which means the legal rights have been transferred to the indigenous tribal group that “belongs to the land”. (I love that term!) Anyway, discussion on the comments for the news post pretty much did what they usually do when we talk in Australia about our indigenous peoples – one argument lamented the contempt indigenous peoples (supposedly) treat what the government gives them. This then cascaded to suggestions that if they could bring themselves out of their primitive state, perhaps they could make a positive way for themselves in modern Australia.

In answer to a question that asked where might Australian Indigenous peoples be today had Europeans not settled here, I replied as follows:
I’m not an “expert”, but could I suggest that our indigenous peoples, had Europeans not invaded their space, would be living a contented, simple and, yes, primitive life. But one of the dodgy words that fly around these types of forums is “civilised”. I for one think the kinds of societies and communities the few remaining primitive and untouched (by “modern life”) peoples of our world actually are is civilised; and that our “modern” and “progressive” ways are anything but. I think part of the problem is that when we assist our indigenous peoples we still do so with an air of authority and assume our way should be theirs. When that happens things always go sour…

Back in 2011, footage was taken of a non-contacted tribe in South America. There was some discussion at that time about what should be done with these people – whether contact should be made or not? It sparked a discussion then that I was reminded of today about what is deemed “normal” and what is not. Some are of the opinion that progress should be for all and that in coming along for the ride, all the benefits of progress will make us all better people.

And I think this is at the core of why it has been so hard to go NoXS Minimal.

In 2008, after 15 years of marriage, we bought our first home. Our kids turned 8 and 6 that year. The house has three bedrooms, an open living space, one bathroom, one toilet, a small laundry, a quite spacious kitchen, and a beautiful back deck and yard. And people thought we were nuts!!

I had comments like:
– “It’s beautiful, but isn’t it a bit small for a young family?”
– “You are going to regret this when the kids reach high school!”
– “No ensuite bathroom? You’ll never sell it!”
– “I give you 6 months before you end up killing each other because you are living in each other’s pockets all the time!”

What I (apparently) failed to understand – and what was communicated to me in no uncertain terms on a number of occasions – was that the average house these days was a 4 bed, a bathroom and an ensuite for the master bedroom at a minimum!, at least two living areas, a double garage connected to the house, a kitchen, separate dining and a laundry. Extra kudos for a study, porch/deck and for a rumpus/recreation room. Backyard was an optional extra – I was told more internal living space was more sought after than outdoor space.

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house...

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house…

We loved (and still love – although we live elsewhere now, we still own the house) the place and we loved it’s feel and we loved the way it forced us to interact as a family and we especially love that buying it was manageable and did not break us financially. But buying it was seen as an extremely counter-cultural move.

When I was in high school, I remember a conversation we had in class with our Film & Television teacher, Miss Barker. We were having a discussion about our school uniform (probably in an attempt to get her off topic) and Katrina Stead shared all our sentiments she she said, “We should be able to dress as we like in order to express our own individual personality.” Miss Barker came out with a check mate: “If the rules were changed so that you could wear whatever you wanted, you would all come dressed the same anyway.”

And nothing seems very different 23 years later. We do because everyone else is doing. Or because the mass media told us so. And any attempt to do any different is seen as counter-cultural particularly when it threatens the status that has come from conforming to the perceived norm.

So when I refuse to kowtow and go out and buy this seasons fashion, or when I buy a small house, or when I refuse to spend for spendings sake, or when I decide to grow my own food, or forsake the next generation of iProduct, or seek sustainable methods for things I use or do, or choose not to eat packaged food, or go barefoot or wear minimal footwear most of the time, or make my own clothes, or make my own Christmas cards and gifts, or decide not to store 10 years worth of useless crap in my garage and sell or give it away instead (because it hasn’t been used in 10 years why keep it?), or bring my lunch instead of buy, or choose to only have one TV in the house I am not just making personal choices. I am actually rebelling against a whole culture that says doing these things is strange, and being out of debt is abnormal, and not spending is ruining our economy, and more and bigger is better.

Progress, you see, should be followed by everyone, because it is best. Apparently. So our indigenous people should live like us. And the untouched tribes should be given the things they (obviously?!?!) need (read “what I want them to need”). And I should stop being a hippy and get back in touch with the rest of the modern world.

Because it is better. More civilised. More hygienic. Maybe…

Actually there is no evidence of that, but what we do know is that it is more busy, more stressful, more addictive and more expensive than ever. Going NoXS Minimal is hard because you are bucking against a whole culture. I have been misconstrued. I have been misunderstood. I have been thought of as weird and abnormal. But if you are prepared to put on your wry grin, not take yourself too seriously and dream big (minimal big, that is!), I think you will agree as hard as it is, it is also fun, fulfilling and content.

What has been or do you think will be your biggest challenge in your minimal journey?

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G