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I. Did. Awful. Staying sustainable on my trip.
I started the beginning of the trip off in great spirits: I had my reusable straws, my Life Straw Go that I would fill with water and had high hopes of never buying a bottle of water my entire trip, I had made my toiletries as eco-friendly and packing friendly as possible. I had already switched to bamboo toothbrushes and was excited to use them on our trip! (now a staple in our home). I was ready. Except when I got there.
I was excited to use all of my sustainable products on my trip, never reaching for a plastic bottle or straw! But then, we got to Morocco. And we were handed bottles of water. And we couldn’t refill our life straw go fast enough (the husband’s broke on our second day!) And we needed water. Boy, did we need water. It was hot and sticky and I was constantly thirsty. I couldn’t imagine going in the hotter months and doing anything else but laying down all day. So, we drank bottles of water. And I felt horrible every time. We went to McDonald’s and ended up with straws and millions of packets. Because even when we had simple conversations, everyone always seemed confused. Asking for no straw? It felt impossible. We sneakily put the straws back and I saved the packets for later, which actually came in handy one not-so-great meal later on.
The garbage we were quickly accumulating, and that was found all around us, was heart-breaking to me. I had been doing so well at home and thought, rather naively, how easy it would be to do the same while abroad.
Yes, we didn’t use as many straws as we normally would have only a few months ago (I’m now horrified that anyone would supply you with one – such a huge change in so little time!), but often our drinks would come with them already in it. It was like plastic roulette any time we would order a beverage. Because so many restaurants, cafes and bars have already nixed the straw at home, you would end up forgetting people still served them outside of fast food. Those metal straws I had such high hopes for when I packed them happily into my carry on? I only used them once on a three-week journey.
While the bottles of water that we guzzled down bothered me, the plastic slowly turned to glass as we hit Spain and I felt a little better. Once we were able to drink the tap water, filling up an extra bottle (even if it was plastic or glass) to take with us made it so much easier to cut down on our daily waste. And, I know that we didn’t drink nearly as many bottles of water that we would have since we used the Lifestraw Go a good amount of the time, even in Spain.
While I was disappointed in myself, it taught me that reducing the waste you take with you on your travels is so important (like changing out your plastic containers for bars. Also, pro tip: it doesn’t have to be done just for traveling!) because communicating that you don’t want yet another straw, or 50 bags, is fucking hard in a foreign language. You also may just end up with them in the end. Sure, we could have easily cut out the McDonald’s from our trip (but, honestly, it’s strangely exciting to go to McDonald’s while abroad. And, I promise, it’s okay to eat it even if you’re in Cannes) and we could have found other ways to avoid waste when traveling. The thing is, a lot of the other ways to avoid waste isn’t practical for me, and it isn’t practical for the average traveler. Cutting down on the waste you bring with you, never littering, and buying products like the LifeStraw (I swear they haven’t sponsored this post) so you can cut down on the bottled water that is necessary to service in certain countries is key to starting a sustainable travel lifestyle.
Garbage happens. But the more we raise awareness on it, the less there will be. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Next trip I’ll be way more prepared and will stay away from places that only serve in containers. Except for those two-storey fancy-ass McDonald’s. A girl’s gotta live, right?