~• travels •~
~• minimal-waste travel •~
As much as I love travelling, I am aware of the negative impact it has on our planet, and carbon offsetting transport only slightly eases that guilt. Another small thing we can do, is be prepared with minimal-waste products, to reduce or avoid single-use items along the way.
Here are my favourites and their producers...
Reusable razor - lasts a lifetime, just replace the blades occasionally. Am so in love with this! ~•from•~ Naked Necessities, comes with lovely shaving soap. Bought through the wonderful Naked Pantry in Wells, a tirelessly-hardworking travelling zero-waste shop
Reusable face scrubbies - gently exfoliating, perfect for ridding your face from dust and dirt, dries much quicker than a facecloth and saves space ~•from•~ HookAway4Crochet, bought through Naked Pantry
Moisturiser - coconut and shea-based, really rich and smells delicious, a little goes a long, long way! Comes in a reusable glass jar ~•from•~ New Haven Project, an incredibly kind lady who founded an animal rescue sanctuary in Somerset, creates a beautiful range of natural, homemade items and all proceeds are for the non-profit
Shampoo bars - I’ve tried a few and these ones are my favourite! Eucalyptus and spearmint, lime and rosemary, and other deliciously-smelling options. Last for ages and super easy to travel with ~•from•~ The Natural Spa, Devon-based brilliant lady who makes really unique and gorgeous soaps, shampoo bars and other yummy things
Metal tin - perfect for storing soaps and shampoo bars whilst on the move ~•from•~ Naked Pantry
Soap nuts and drawstring bag - for when you can access a washing machine (cheaper than laundry services) or boil in water to make a travel handwash liquid ~•from•~ available online or shops, look for sustainable/fairtrade producers. Bring along a glass bottle of lavender or eucalyptus to scent your clothes
Toothbrush - eco alternative, lightweight and biodegradable ~•from•~ lots of excellent brands out there, my current is F.E.T.E (from earth to earth) bought through the beautiful Chi Wholefoods in Bristol
Mooncup - for a zero-waste period, just use bottled water to wash it out ~•from•~ Mooncup brand bought through No More Taboo, a fantastic social enterprise tackling period poverty...well worth supporting
Metal and bamboo straws, cleaning brushes - saves countless plastic ones, just remember to tell them you have one when you order ~•from•~ BaBo bamboo straws, a wonderfully ethical and responsible Chiang Mai-based company, and you’ll also get a recycled-fabric carry bag with carabiner! Metal straw from Waste Not Want Not in Bridport, a fantastic bulk-buy shop
Bamboo spork - great for eating leftovers ~•from•~ Zero Green in Bristol, an absolutely awesome minimal waste shop
Stainless steel chopsticks - eating out, especially street food and takeaway where you are given single-use ones ~•from•~ Free Bird Cafe in Chiang Mai
‘Trash Hero’ water bottle ~•from•~ a company in Chiang Mai, also allows you to top up for free at various cafes and shops. Hostels and some cafes always have RO treated water. You can save so, so many plastic bottles!
I have also picked up along the way... a stainless steel cup, from Jai Thep festival, which proves to be incredibly useful! My “live life with passion” plastic tub, from an Indian market, super useful for not wasting the dinner you can’t eat, and keeping it for lunch the next day
There are so many amazing items out there, and the producers that create them really deserve our support. Look for local businesses, ask questions, and use your purchasing power for good!
~• beautiful kerala •~
If, like me, it’s your first time in India, I feel that Kerala may be the perfect place to start. It’s green and lush, welcoming and friendly...
Fort Kochi is super laid back - you can spend ages wandering the beautiful tree-lined streets, popping into local cafes for a chaaya (tea) or fresh lime soda. The little beaches aren’t too pretty, but are full of life; tourists, mostly Indian at this time of year, wander the waterfront walkway perusing the hundreds of tiny stalls.
Tuk tuks and helpful local people will ask you daily if they can be of assistance with ‘sightseeing’, and the main spots are really informative. There’s the Maritime Museum (which has a brilliant display of the historical flow of trade, people and religions to south India), the Synagogue in ‘Jew Town’ (with a little information room explaining the Jewish history of the area), and many many Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious sites.
There are wonderful shops full of spices, tea, wooden carvings, clothes, local pure oils and perfumes, incense, scarves and fabrics from all over India, and plenty of antiques. The main shopping streets are Princess Street and ‘Jew Town’, though I have to say, even in quieter season it was too busy and touristy for me. We preferred to find shops away from the main footfall, helping to support these smaller businesses. A local tailor explained to us that the building rent was literally 10 times more on the tourist drags!
Saying that, there is one incredible shop I would advise everyone to visit on Princess St. Its name is ‘Indian Industries’ and it’s run by John and his mother Masie, now in her 90’s. It was opened in 1945 when John’s father came to Kochi from up north, and for 47 years it was the only shop on the street! With the arrival of the hippies in the 60s and a new wave of tourism, came an influx of new shops - the basis of today’s popular shopping street.
One of our favourite pastimes in the evening in Kochi, was to see some entertainment at the Kathakali Centre, and then pop by ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’ for the best samosa chat I have ever tasted (also do a bloody good masala dosa). There is the traditional kathakali, or ‘story play’, a mesmerising mix of dance, unique sign language and music, and also performances of classic dance and instruments. They run yoga and meditation on the roof too, although my favourite yoga was with Joseph from Veda Wellness.
Munnar is a 4 or 5 hour drive into the hills, and is 100% worth it. It is a tea-lovers heaven - there’s even a constant smell of brewing tea leaves on the wind, from the cutting and drying of the leaves.
There’s Mattupetty Dam, very popular with Indian tourists, also called ‘echo point’, as when you shout across the lake, your voice hits the trees and is thrown back to you..a highly amusing pastime in an otherwise peaceful spot. Visit the Tea Museum, a couple km walk from Munnar, for a really informative film and factory demo run by the KDHP plantation, formerly Tata teas.
The Eravikulam nature reserve was sadly closed for 2 months, due to calving season of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr mountain goat. This is obviously very positive and therefore hard to be annoyed about, plus on our drive we were lucky enough to spot wild elephants in the tea plantations!! It was such an incredible experience to see these animals, undisturbed, in their natural habitat.
A 5km walk through stunning jungle, (surrounded by cardamom, coffee beans and peppercorns) then rolling hills of intensely green tea plantations, brought us to the Viripara waterfall in Mankulam forest nature reserve. In monsoon season it is a huge, thundering fall, but is always beautiful and gave a gorgeous view through the valleys. Also fun to bathe in its freezing waters.
Alappuzha (Alleppey) is well worth a visit to see the amazing backwaters. There are different options to suit your budget, but we opted for a sunrise tour on a small boat, which drifted through the calm morning waters, surrounded by bird life and the awakening backwater villages.
There are hundreds of languages spoken in India, but in Kerala, it’s Malayalam. Greet people with “Namaskaram” (I bow the divine in you), say thank you with “nanni”, and see you again with “veendum kanaam”. Ask locals to check your pronunciation!! Luckily for us, English is widely spoken.
In this beautiful part of the world, it is the people we met that will leave a lasting impression - our wonderful host family at Homested Homestay, who welcomed us with open arms and warm hearts, and all the friends we made in so many different places.
Thank you India, I’ll be back!!
~• mindfulness and empathy •~
I find travelling conducive to mindfulness in so many ways.
Dragging yourself through loud, chaotic, crowded streets, the air thick with traffic noise, horns blaring, music on loudspeakers, traders calling out...it’s easy to keep your mind in the present moment. When everything is so new and exciting, all you have space to think of is right here, right now.
There’s a beautiful clarity in that - the awareness that nothing else matters in this present moment.
I’m discovering the beauty of travelling without purpose, except to experience.
If your aim is not to particularly achieve anything, but just to learn, to immerse, to meet people and to watch the world go by, you can feel incredibly free. I don’t know if it’s something I could do all the time without fail, but even to touch on it is so liberating. The aim is to have a general idea of where I am going and what I would like to see, but simultaneously trying not to attach too much expectation. Allowing the future to unfold as naturally as possible, and allowing my own headspace to be mostly, and comfortably, in the present. Being aware more of emotion than of thought. The feeling inside my self, rather than my brain’s analysis of that feeling.
The strongest, most prevalent emotion that I’ve had so far, is that I am so so so lucky, and so grateful for my place upon this earth. The life that I have led so far, the possibilities that are before me, I am so very thankful for.
It’s easy to forget our privileges when we are at home, at work, caught up in our own lives...and of course, I am not saying that everything is easy. It is not. But nothing is more humbling than comparing yourself to others.
Seeing a homeless person sleeping on our streets, being in a country surrounded by malnourished street dogs and people far less fortunate than yourself, gives you a visual reminder of your place in the world. Everything is relative; I am in no way meaning to say that my lifestyle is better than anyone else’s, or that wealth can only come from money (I actually think that’s a common misconception, but also that without it I wouldn’t be able to travel so easily), only that I am more fortunate in a lot of ways. I have always had a home, food, education, and have never had to fear for my wellbeing. When I see suffering or pain, I used to feel negative emotions: something like guilt or shame, I wanted to look away. But there is enough negativity in the world, we don’t need any more. My response is now a blend of empathy and sadness for the pain of another living creature, wanting to reach out and help, but also one of a humble gratefulness. Because I know that I am not any more deserving of the life I was born into, than any other person would be. An Indian street dog does not deserve his difficult life any more than my own happy, healthy and loved dogs at home deserve theirs. Does it come down to luck? Or is there some other power in play? Regardless, with the realisation that I am more fortunate, comes a desire, or even responsibility, to create some goodness in the world. To share what I have, to help others, to spread love and compassion. If we all did this, the world would be a much more equal, harmonious place.
There’s enough wealth in the world, we just need the humanity to spread it.