Flying across the world and finding yourself (or just drinking a lot of alcohol and eating your weight in croque monsieurs) is seen by many as a kiwi rite of passage.
We live on a small, isolated island, and there’s a lot out there to see in the world; of course we want to go and have a look (at the outside of churches that cost 20 euros to get into and the inside of clubs with a 5 for the price of 1 deal on shots that are an almost poisonous shade of green).
I was privileged enough to be able to go traveling around America and Europe for three months last year, and while doing so I became acutely aware of how environmentally unfriendly traveling is.
Other than the planes, which, if you want to go travelling and you live in New Zealand, there’s not much you can do about, the amount of waste you produce as a tourist is immense.
To tourists, everything is temporary. Every city they see for only three days, every landmark they see only once, every bed they sleep in they never sleep in again, so you live a disposable life, and it can be hard to break those habits, but it is very much possible.
Here a few things that I picked up on during my three months of overseas travel:
1. Take a backpack that you can carry around with you every day
This one seems fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many tourists I ran into who only had a tiny handbag that was quite fashionable but quite useless. Take a good backpack, then you can take sunblock, water and snacks everywhere you go and you can put the things you buy in there instead of in plastic bags.
2. Invest in a reusable drink bottle
This one is, I think, the most important. You’re always going to want water, and the guilt of buying a new plastic water bottle every day was too much for me. You can take these through customs empty and fill them up at water fountains in the airports so you have water on the plane, and during your trip fill them up every morning to have throughout the day. You can buy a metal drink bottle that keeps the water cold, or a collapsible one that takes up no space or weight in your bag when it’s empty.
3. Choose to walk or take public transport over a taxi or an Uber
I found that this one just seems to happen accidentally. At home, I would never be bothered to walk the distance from Waterview to Pt Chev, but for some reason when you’re across the world, double that distance seems just fine. Other than helping to save the planet by reducing the cars on the roads, it’s a great way to see the place you’re exploring and happen upon some things you would never have seen otherwise.
4. Take travel cutlery
A metal or bamboo straw, knife and fork would have gone a long way when I was traveling. You reduce the amount of single-use plastics you’re chucking in the bin, for a start, but I also found that a lot of times we’d end up with food from the supermarket that we had no way of getting into other than ripping it apart with our hands. Which is also fine, but a lot messier.
5. Say “no straw” when ordering drinks at bars and restaurants
This is one that just takes a little time to drum into your head and remember, but it makes a huge difference. In the three months I was traveling, I probably was only given about five plastic straws. Sometimes the language barrier got in the way, and people couldn’t understand what I meant, but usually it worked! (You’ll need this particularly in Europe, where they put about five straws in every Aperol Spritz).
6. Invest in bars of soap (for shampoo and conditioner too)
Not only do they reduce plastic pollution, but they last way longer and take up way less space in your bag. When I was traveling, we used one bar of soap between two of us for over a month. When it ran out, we bought a bottle of body wash that only lasted two weeks. Lesson learnt.
7. Buy locally
We have H&M and Zara at home, try and find markets and shops that you wouldn’t be able to find in New Zealand, because their products are sourced and made locally. It’s better for the environment, and much more of a cultural experience than standing around in a mall all day.Support Villainesse