Conscious travel. Hmm, a topic I’m having my personal struggles with. I’m very aware of how we travel, how much we fly and where we purchase our things. We try to keep the flights to a minimum and take busses/trains when we can to minimise our carbon footprint. We hardly eat meat, we buy local and have a general conscious approach to travelling. But yet again I’m writing travel guides and travel articles for a living and that way encouraging people to travel more. So I’m in between two chairs here.
I would like to encourage people to travel, because travel opens a whole new world. But I would like everyone to think more about how they travel. Travel less, but better. As it is a topic that spins around my head constantly, I thought it would be appropriate to include here on the blog. So, prepare for some posts dedicated to conscious travel.
In this first post I’ll share my best tips for a more conscious travel routine. Because, if we choose to travel, and especially fly, then doing it with just a bit of extra awareness is a step in the right direction.
Tip 1: Use re-usable water bottles
This is such an easy thing to do and it saves the planet for a huge amount of unnecessary plastic. Years ago, we would always just buy a bottle of water on the go, because “it’s so cheap”. But cheap for me is coming at a huge expense for the planet. My best advice is to invest in a high quality drink bottle (because you’ll use it every single day) and bring it every time you travel.
It’s not just a bottle!
When using them every day, the design matters, right? Click here to see Wallpaper’s guide to the most fashionable and sustainable water bottles if you need some inspo of what bottle to buy.
I use the commuter bottle from Swell, which is big enough to fit ice cubes (very practical when living in a very hot country).
Tip 2: Switch your liquid shampoo to a shampoo bar
Shampoo in a bar? I didn’t know that such thing existed before we were in Oaxaca and by coincidence passed an extraordinary beauty shop with natural products. We were introduced to shampoo bars and haven’t looked back since. It is a really easy way for a conscious travel routine. It saves the planet for a lot unnecessary plastic and takes up less space than ordinary shampoo bottles. Win for the planet and win for my packing routines!
Tips for keeping a shampoo in the right conditions:
Let it dry. Bacteria love humid surroundings, so make sure to keep your shampoo in a soap dish where it can breathe.
Take it out of the shower when not in use. Again, the humid temperature in the shower isn’t doing any good for the shampoo
Tip 3: Re-use food packaging
The amount of long-lasting packaging that is being produced for short term use is massive. Just think of the durable plastic packaging a Philadelphia cream cheese comes in! It can last for years and years, but only serves for the couple of weeks it is on the shelf in the supermarket and then in your fridge.
Re-use those packagings for snacks on the go. It’s super handy as you’ll most likely buy food anyway and have this free packaging by hand. It might not be your favourite storage box, but at least it serves a purpose for a while and you also eliminate the plastic bags you would have used for those snacks on the go anyway.
I use Philadelphia containers, cottage cheese containers etc for the following snacks on travel days:
Carrots, cucumber sticks, red pepper, berries, banana pancakes and nuts.
When we hit our destination and if we’re not in need of containers any longer, I’ll toss them, which I would have anyway.
Tip 4: Switch from liquid hand soap to bar soap
Aren’t bar soaps unhygienic? Aren’t they only for grandmas? No, definitely not! Soap bars are only unhygienic if they don’t get a chance to dry. So it’s crucial to keep the soap in a place where it can breathe. And of course, use the bar till the very end, even the last little piece. A crucial point in a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle is to use everything and not toss the last piece.
Hand soap may not be the fit if you travel for short periods of time, where there’s usually soap at the accommodation. But for a long-term stay somewhere (or at home), it’s great. We have only used hand soap as bars the past 5 months here in Playa del Carmen, and I guess we have saved at least four liquid soap dispensers during that period of time.
Tip 5: Buy local and support local communities
This is a conscious travel tip to enforce the local communities around the world. If you’re in Mexico, then buy locally produced clothes, accessories or souvenirs. Don’t buy ZARA or other global fast fashion brands. Except for the people who are employed in the shop, then those large chains are not really making any good for the local communities. Buy local and buy things you can only buy there.
As sad as it sounds, I’ve seen mass produced souvenirs here in Mexico with a “made in China” stamp below. Really?
Think twice before purchasing souvenirs!
Buy useable and durable things and ask for the origin. These wallets were made by a local NGO in Antigua Guatemala, where all earnings supports families living in trash dumps. See that’s a purchase that makes an impact; both for the local women who makes them and for the families receiving the benefits.
I’ve previously made a guide to buying useful souvenirs here.
Tip 6: Buy multifunctional things
A handmade purse that can be used for toiletries on travel days and as a clutch in the evenings. A camera bag, that also serves as a clutch. A towel that can be used as a skirt. Multifunctional things make us buy less and the less we buy, the better for our planet + the better for our packing routine.
Ideas of multifunctional travel items:
A purse can be used as: A clutch, a toilet bag, a camera bag or even for organising bills.
A thin blanket can be used as: A scarf, a blanket, folded as a pillow or as a shield over the stroller on sunny days.
Tip 7: Be conscious about transportation and travel by train or bus when possible
Next time you are about to purchase a flight ticket, hold for a second and check the train or bus connections instead. You’ll be surprised of where you can go by train.
We’re just about to move to Barcelona and I just discovered that we’ll only be 6 hours by train from Paris! It’s only an hour by plane, but the convenience of departing and arriving right in the city center pretty much outweighs the extra hours. And everyone who has arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, knows it takes a whole new journey to get to the city center from there. We all know that flying is a killer on the environmental account, so eliminating it as much as possible really makes a difference.
Pros of taking the train instead of flying:
No waiting in line in security and arriving 2 hours prior to departure. Just show up 15 minutes before departure and you’re covered
No dry air to suck out all energy of your skin
Less bacteria (okay, I don’t have evidence of this, but an airplane is like a supermarket for viruses, right?)
You have more space to move around during the transportation time
You arrive directly in the city center – Yeah!
Tip 8: Eat local
Eat locally produced food as much as you can. I’m not an angel here, because I love Spanish cheese and I buy it from time to time here in Mexico. But when it comes to fruit, I only buy local fruit (I found apples from South Africa in the supermarket the other day; what?!).
Here in Mexico it’s hard to know what’s local and what’s not, because much food has no tags. In Europe though, there are strict rules about transparency of the origin of the food (well done EU!!). I honestly find it quite nasty to eat food where I’m uncertain of the origin or about how it has been handled, so this is a thing I’m really looking forward too when we return to Europe.
Tips for finding local produce
Search for farmers markets in the area with direct sales to the end-customer (you!)
Ask locals of what to buy and where
Search for vegan stores and restaurants. They’ll often have a focus on local produce as well