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The Benefits of Traveling Plastic Free

A plastic free bagel.

A plastic-free bagel.

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite games.

I open up Google Maps, look at where I live (London) and then examine at all the countries within close proximity. Then, I pick where I'd like to travel to.

Not that they're always tangible travel plans – sometimes it's pure speculation.

Either way, living in Europe makes me feel a bit like a kid in a candy store.

I'm writing this post as I decided to take advantage of my current situation and do a bit of traveling over the summer. For four consecutive weeks, I want to travel through a handful of countries in Europe, with one goal in mind.

I want this experience to be entirely plastic free.


Making perfume.

Attempting to live plastic free

I've worked hard to cut as much plastic as possible from my day-to-day life as an expat in London.

I discovered early on that I'd have a greater chance at success if I broke the process down into sections.

It was easy to say: “Right! I'm going plastic free, from this day forth!” Then someone would stick a straw in my drink, or I'd go shopping, forget to take a reusable bag and feel like a failure.

Instead, I broke my everyday life down into sections.

I'd look at my beauty regimen and wonder how I could swap plastic encased products for those sold in reusable jars. I'd try making products. I'd experiment.

I took note of what did and didn't work. I had some small successes. There were failures too, of course. I tried not to feel disheartened anytime I was forced to go back to the drawing board.

You can't change your lifestyle in one day. You are, after all, breaking down and reworking many little habits and routines. This is a process that above all, takes time.

Plastic ruining an otherwise nice shot in Aix en Provence.

A plastic bag is ruining an otherwise nice shot in Aix en Provence, France

Attempting to travel plastic free

There's no doubt that travel opens your eyes up to the world around you.

The more of the world I saw, the more two particular facts became apparent.

The world is beautiful. There's no doubt about it. However, the beauty of this planet is slowly getting ruined by our over-consumption of disposable items.

Once you see it, the more you notice it.

There was the time I went swimming in Miami Beach and felt something hit my leg. I figured it was just seaweed and pulled it out of the water. It was a plastic bag.

I've seen people go to the effort of stuffing rubbish into places like the slats of benches… when there are trash cans only a couple of feet away.

Even the streets of cities like London are covered in discarded chip packets, scraps of plastic and candy wrappers. This, in a country like Britain that has more parks and green spaces than anywhere else I've ever been.

This is reason enough to take up the challenge. However, I believe that even as individuals, we can each benefit from traveling plastic free.

Here's why.

Rubbish accumulated from a few hours out and about.

Rubbish accumulated from a few hours out and about.

Savings in money

I never understand why people drop countless dollars on items such as plastic water bottles when traveling – particularly when they're in a country where you can drink water straight from the tap!

Buy a reusable bottle and fill it up everywhere you go. Easy.

What about places where the water is either unsafe or brackish?

A simple investment at the start of your travels will end up saving you money in the long run and reduce your plastic consumption.

Here's a helpful comparison of the merits of a SteriPen against a filtered water bottle, if you're struggling to make a decision.

The opportunity to eat well and stay in good health

Traveling plastic free all but eliminates fast food from your life.

Local produce will become your friend. You'll make a beeline for farmer's markets. You'll experiment with all kinds of different foods, not necessarily ones that will have a harmful effect on your health.

If you've got a massive sweet tooth like me, there's nothing stopping you from walking into a bakery and getting a delicious pastry to go – in your own, re-washable cotton bag.


Forgot your reusable cup? Don't despair!

Savoring the moment

We are all a bit rush in every aspect of our lives, let alone travel.

Traveling plastic free gives you the opportunity to slow down and take note of the world around you.

Dying for coffee, but have no cup on you? Stop at the nearest café, order a latte and indulge in one of travel's greatest pleasures – people watching.

Growth in self-confidence

Entering a shop with your own containers and bags isn't exactly a normal thing to do. People will give you funny looks, ask questions and in some cases, ignore your requests.

You have to speak up and make yourself heard. I found this cripplingly difficult at the start. I worried what people would think of me. I didn't want to put anyone out, cause too much of a disturbance.

However, I soon realized that it just wasn't that big of a deal. It doesn't take someone any longer to put a brownie in your bag, rather than a plastic or paper one.

Be friendly and polite and you'll almost always see the same in return.

Giving back

There are so many opportunities to give back when traveling.

You can volunteer your time to a worthy cause, stay in eco-hotels and hostels, give rescue animals some TLC and lend farmers a hand around the world.

I support all these methods and means of travel whole-heartedly! However, going plastic free is just another way you can give back to the planet, on a personal level.

I'll be writing more about my quest over the weeks to come. Feel free to follow me on my journey – on Go Backpacking and my blog, through social media or, make it a mission of your own!

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