Travel plastic free, because it does matter, it is a big deal and it does make a difference.
There was a time I didn't think my actions made a difference or even thought a lot about them. I was naive and simply didn't know better. I wouldn't say I was careless, in Australia and in our homes we are taught better, taught to recycle and to never litter. But what are we taught of reducing our consumption?
Before making the conscious effort to be completely aware of my consumption and travel plastic free I had been travelling almost full time for 3 years. I was so busy creating incredible memories and friendships I had never taken so much time to consider where waste goes and the issues our planet is facing.
Of course I still travelled with a reusable bottle and filled up whenever I could. However this was out of economics and practicality more than my consumption and I still bought plastic bottles when refilling wasn't convenient.
I had seen a lot though, hillsides scattered in trash from the towns living above and dry creek beds of plastic instead of rocks in Morocco. Rubbish throughout the cities around Europe, Canada, the United States, Central America and even at home in Australia.
It was a year ago when I visited Morocco for the second time that I opened my eyes to how the influx of tourism can drastically increase plastic consumption in places that don't have the waste management in place to handle it. Suddenly a small town is put on the map and tourism booms much quicker than its development can keep up. Surfing in smelly water and trash is certainly a good eye opener for anyone yet to experience the damage we are causing to our planet.
Soon after this trip Carla and I arrived to Bangkok from Europe and were immediately hit with the realisation that plastic was about to completely overtake our lives. We bought a couple 1.5L water bottles in a single day, ate street food out of Styrofoam containers with plastic cutlery. Our rooms had complementary water bottles, single use sachets of soap and shampoo, even toothbrushes.
Those first days Carla decided this wasn't going to be our path and we would stay aware of our consumption here. She's a strong minded gal and I didn't have much of a say to what would end up being my biggest step forward in life.
We started moving after a few days in Bangkok, itching to explore a new country. Soon we were meeting friendly locals on long train rides up Thailand, going to nightly food markets with plastic take out containers and chopsticks we had kept from our earlier nights in the trip. Reusing the same 1.5l plastic bottles we had bought as we weren’t prepared and only brought 1 reusable bottle each. I can't say in the start I really thought we were making any difference in countries with millions of people consuming these products every day. But it wasn't very difficult refilling our bottles, reusing our cutlery and refusing plastic in general when I knew it made Carla feel more comfortable travelling.
Asia had been amazing, we loved the people, the food and the diversity throughout their cultures. Three months in and back in Thailand after doing a big loop around Laos and Cambodia to meet family back in Bangkok.
We had seen the small actions we had been making every day to refuse single use plastic adding up to approximately over 330 plastic bottles, 180 plastic bags, 50 pieces of single use cutlery, 150 straws and it brought us a lot of comfort to know we hadn’t created a further burden in the lives of anyone to clean up our trail. We weren’t perfect and had sometimes forgotten to order our drink without the straw but actually we kind of ended up on autopilot and it wasn’t something we had to be so aware of as our brains just knew to say ‘no’.
I had really found the importance of what we were doing. The history of plastic was now a passionate interest of ours, how countries were dealing with a product that essentially lasts forever and how it is effecting the health of this entire planet. We had been witnessing its effects every day since landing in Asia, from every tributary that seemed to be pumping more and more plastic into the Mekong, to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand that acted somewhat as nets collecting windblown debris.
It was our chance to leave cleaner footprints in the places we were gaining so much life experience from, yet rarely getting the opportunity to give back. This was only the half way point of our trip in Asia and we still had so much to learn.
Constantly throughout our lives we are faced with choices that will impact others. Do we typically think of this impact as the daily choices we make travelling? I certainly didn't and it’s something I regret not having opened my eyes to earlier and taken action against.
My hope from sharing this journey to witnessing how my actions whilst travelling had only been contributing to what has become a global crisis helps another see this issue in a different light. That every piece does count and we are all that somebody who can make a difference.
I promise it’s a journey worth taking