MY NEXT holiday may be a little emotional as I will have to leave something special behind.

It has been a constant travel companion for the last seven years, but now the time has come for us to go our separate ways.

No it's not my wife, or my wallet, but a pair of shoes I have worn on travels across three continents.

I bought them from a shop in Cardiff called, strangely 'Up and Under' which didn't sell anything really connected with rugby, but all manner of outdoor and survival gear.

This meant it had rucksacks, hiking boots and fleeces, but also excitingly, mosquito nets, canoes and Indiana Jones-style hats.

It felt fitting to be there, as, I was about to embark on what I thought then would be the trip of a lifetime. I was to travel by train from Istanbul across Turkey to Aleppo in northern Syria - with my then partner (now wife) and one and a half-year-old daughter.

I had visions of travelling across deserts - and I needed shoes that would stand up to walking (and running) in arid, hostile lands. And they did the job. Whether pounding the markets of Aleppo and Damascus (before they were levelled in a vicious war) or running through the Syrian desert during a lightning storm in the ruined city of Palmyra, they gathered sand and dust from distant places.

They carried me as I ran along the route taken by Alexander the Great's armies as he entered Halikarnassus (now Bodrum in Turkey) and trod on the stones of its mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

When I went to the southern uplands of Ethiopia two years later, I stained them with red mud as I tramped to watch a service at an Ethiopian Orthodox church, sat high on a hill above the coffee town of Yirgacheffe. I ran in the shoes through its wild-west like streets and past its plantations.

Later they would take me across the beaches of Normandy, still littered with relics of the Mullberry harbours from the Second World War. Then in Berlin I walked on them along the Unter-den-Linden to the Reichstag, the place where the conflict effectively began and was ended.

Later still I walked in them, stupefied by jet-lag as I emerged from Shibuya station in Tokyo to be confronted by a bewildering futuristic city of fly-overs and flickering hoardings.

I like to think of them still holding fragments of dust from the Aleppo souk, mud from Ethiopia, sand from Normandy and a smear of tar from a Tokyo street - too precious to throw away, but sadly too knackered to wear any more.