These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

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But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a café or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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coconut oil

Whenever I’m heading out of town, I have this little competition with myself to see how little I can take. I live for the challenge. For some reason I get this kick out of taking a tiny bag away and wowing the person I’m visiting (or boyfriend, who can’t seem to understand the concept of packing light and takes a giant duffle bag with him even for an overnighter. I know, right?)

One of the areas I’ve focused hardest on is my cosmetics bag. Multi-use products are your friend when it comes to keeping weight down and streamlining your stash. And nothing does quite as incredible a job as coconut oil.

I know, it’s oh-so-trendy and you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but coconut oil really can’t have its praises sung enough. It’s the ultimate multi-tasker and has so many great health benefits. I opt for raw, cold-pressed, organic and human harvested. Yes, I point out that last one because unfortunately the world is a cruel place and not all coconut oil is created equal. Some producers enslave monkeys to perform the harvesting. I know – don’t even. Check out this informative piece for more information. It’ll help you avoid funding animal cruelty all in the name of coconutty goodness.

So why coconut oil? What makes it so special? It contains three medium-chain fatty acids. These are: lauric, caprylic and capric acids. They are anti-microbial, making coconut oil an excellent skincare aid. They’re also easily-absorbed, which means coconut oil gets to work quickly. The real place it comes to shine is when consumed. I highly recommend incorporating coconut oil into your daily diet for benefits such as reducing blood pressure and stabilising hormone levels, boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation. And that’s just a tiny sprinkling of all the perks.

But today we’re specially talking topical, so here are all the uses I get from one little pot when I travel:

  1. Make-up remover – Just as good as any fancy concoction, massage a small amount of coconut oil all over your face (including over eye makeup) and be amazed at how easily it’s all broken down without the slightest irritation or stinging. I remove with a warm wash cloth and then second cleanse with something to clean the skin directly. I’m currently using Organic Surge, but you could use something like Dr. Bronner’s which could double up as a body wash, hand wash, shampoo, make-up brush cleanser…the list goes on.
  2. Body moisturiser – Coconut oil makes one of the best body moisturisers. It smells incredible (if you use the raw, cold-pressed kind) and absorbs very easily. This means there’s no awkward wait before you feel dry enough to get dressed. It’s great for psoriasis, eczema and cracked heels too.
  3. Hand cream – I keep the coconut oil on me for dry hands throughout the day. It’s got the same perks as those mentioned for the body above, but will also nourish the nails and cuticles.
  4. Hair oil – Tame flyaways post-styling, or rub through the ends of damp hair before drying to give nourishment back to your locks. Coconut oil can also be used as a deep-conditioning treatment if your hair is particularly parched.
  5. Lip balm – Coconut oil does wonders as a lip balm when in a pinch.
  6. Highlighter – If you don’t want to carry a seperate highlighting product, coconut oil is perfect swiped across the cheekbones to give back some glow.
  7. Irritation soother – Whether it’s a mosquito bite or a stinging nettle rash, coconut oil is an excellent resource for soothing angry, itchy skin. This makes it ideal for taking on holiday with you. Be aware though that coconut oil will melt at around 24°C, so keep it in the fridge if you’d rather keep it in solid form when staying somewhere hot!
  8. Shave oil – Yes, it can be used for this too. Rub onto damp skin, shave as normal and enjoy how soothed it feels afterwards.

So that’s eight uses before we even get into how I use it combined with a few other simple ingredients to make an array of other cosmetics such as deodorant, massage oil and toothpaste! It’s a truly remarkable, natural multi-tasker that is worth investing in.

Photo via Unsplash

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Tenerife

When I think of the word holiday, I kind of associate a lazy energy with it. I suppose that’s what a holiday should be really: a time to unwind, de-stress and relax. But I also feel like it means placing emphasis on the sunbed more so than the adventure.

When I think of the word trip, there’s a little fire that ignites in my belly. It feels like I’ll be pioneering, exploring and intertwined with the beautiful. Oh, and the epic – never forgetting the epic.

So a week off work to go on a ‘holiday’ I guess I did. Only, the way we did things was more trip than holiday. We flew across to the beautiful Canarian island of Tenerife and ventured far and wide.

Tenerife has always intrigued me. It’s got volcanic soil, it’s got the mighty Teide that can be seen from almost everywhere on the island it seems, great food and lots of outdoor pursuits. It is also incredibly relaxed once you get away from the swarms of tourists in the southwest.

I never did the whole package/all-inclusive thing growing up and I still don’t really understand the appeal. But hey, that’s probably just me being judgemental. If you like that kinda thing, go for it. I just never understood why people fly all over the world only to sit in a hotel and eat the same food they would at home, surrounded by people who probably don’t live very far away from them! But perhaps I’ve missed the point?

No, not my style. If I travel somewhere, I want to understand the way people do things there – in that part of the world. I want to eat what they eat. I want to live how they live. I want to at least try to understand what makes the people tick. Travel has taught me that it’s the best way to learn, about the world obviously but also yourself. There’s nothing that’ll make you feel grateful about being able to drink your tap water quicker than going somewhere where the only choice is bottled. There’s nothing that will make you more grateful for tarmac and pavement than shitty dirt roads with mega pot holes.

But it’s not really about going somewhere to suffer and thus look forward to going home (though, granted that’s one benefit). It’s about opening your eyes to how differently humans live around the planet. You might just learn a thing or two about life in the process.

For this trip, we Air BnB’d it up in Icod de los Vinos. Totally away from the tourists, our gracious host Andrés was a delight at the Finca de Bebedero. High on the clifftops overlooking the town and ocean below, we awoke each morning to orange trees, bird-of-paradise flowers and a happy purring resident kitty. It was truly paradise on earth.

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From there, with our trusty little hire car we had the perfect base to explore the entire island as we pleased. This included the lost villages of the northeast: El Benijo and Taganana, Teide, Masca, Los Gigantes, Puerto de la Cruz and Garachico.

The Northeast

The drive across the island from Icod to Anaga National Park is ridiculous. In a good way. As you whiz past Puerto de la Cruz you start heading up the mountains and into lush greenery. An island with 11 microclimates, Tenerife continues to surprise you as you explore further. Mirador Cruz del Carmen should not be missed for an incredible view of the towns below and right across the island to the mighty Teide in the distance. From there, the drive continues north east to the laid-back surf villages of Taganana and El Benijo. Think: long windy roads and Indiana Jones vibes. We’re talking off-grid terrain that screams to be photographed.

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From there we crossed to the south-coast where San Andrés meets you with its playfulness and Playa de las Teresitas wows with its imported white sand. Further down the coast Santa Cruz appears with its unexpected metropolitan sprawl as if out of nowhere.

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Teide

One cannot go to Tenerife and not either climb or cable-car up Mt. Teide. The highest point in Spain at 3,700 metres, this volcano truly is majestic. The drive through the national park up to either the starting route of the walk at Montaña Blanca or the lower cable-car station starts to look more and more like one would imagine Mars might look. Oh, and your ears will tell you you’re increasing in altitude, even if your eyes don’t.

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The cable-car takes you just shy of the top by a couple hundred metres. A permit is required to hike to the very summit during the hours the cable-car runs. These aren’t well advertised and a lot of people arrive disappointed that they can’t do this. You can apply here to avoid disappointment. They’re free but limited and often all reserved well in advance.

I was informed of this valuable piece of information too late for me to get my hands on one, however there was a way around it. The Refugio de Altavista is a hostel at 3,200 m where you can book yourself a night and get to the summit before the permits are required. So yes, at dawn.

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One can hike or cable-car it to the top, taking all food and water needed for a night there (though they do have vending machines that sell bottled water, coffee and a few snacks if you’re mega desperate). You’re plonked in the hostel with a bunch of other mountaineering enthusiasts (capacity is 54 people) and left to cook your dinner, chat with whoever speaks your language and watch the best sunset you’ve ever seen in your life. This is followed by the clearest night sky you’ve ever seen too.

After broken sleep, you’ll force yourself awake around 4:30 or 5:00am and prepare for the 500m hike in the dark to the summit, making sure to be there in time for the sunrise. You’ll be exhausted and struggle a bit due to the altitude and lack of sleep, but you’ll have never felt so happy as you reach the warm and smelly sulphur vents of the top. You’ll perch to watch the night sky be replaced by bands of red, orange and pink as the sun rises over the island. Slowly all the islands of the Canaries will be visible and you’ll warm up a bit and feel utterly high on life. It’ll be one of those moments you know you’ll always remember – ‘nowstalgia‘ if you like.

Masca & Los Gigantes

My friend Matt recommended Masca as a must for our trip. I did some research and it seemed that many people rated this as their favourite part of Tenerife travels. We got there and it wasn’t difficult to see why.

Masca

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Masca is an almost tropical park in the north-west of the island. It is rich in biological diversity, mesmerising and boats an awesome hike through the river canyon down to a private beach that can only be accessed by said hike or a water taxi from nearby town Los Gigantes.

Jonny and I parked our car in Los Gigantes after reading that the roads were pretty gnarly up to Masca. Boy were we glad we did. I thoroughly recommend doing this! We parked up and got a taxi to the start of the hiking trail for about 25 euros. Los Gigantes is pretty touristy and there’s a taxi rank right outside the main hotel, so you’ll have no problem reserving one. I would also recommend parking further up in the more residential area rather than trying to battle with the busy harbour.

We hiked the 2-3 hour trail down the canyon. It’s a really varied, picturesque hike that I can describe quite simply as fun. Teide was endurance, this one was fun. You get to do some river-crossing, rock climbing, scrambling through bamboo tunnels and eventually end up on a secluded beach with a perfect pier to cannon-ball off of.

We decided to kayak back along the coast to Los Gigantes rather than taxi boat it. I would recommend Teno Activo if you’re fairly confident with your Spanish. The guide speaks a few words of English though, so as long as you know how to operate a paddle, I can’t see it going too wrong. We spent a couple hours kayaking the coast, stopping for a snorkel along the way and it was sublime.

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Puerto de la Cruz

Puerto de la Cruz was our nearest major town, so we used it for the supermarkets and some good local food. Upon our host’s recommendation for great tapas, we ate as La Tasquita de Min and were blown away. Go there, please. Do yourself a favour and try the hot peppers!

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Icod de los Vinos & Garachico

This was home for the week and despite getting lost on the side roads of Icod numerous times, the place still captured our hearts with  its laid-back vibes and great views. Garachico was the choice for our last night. It’s a small town just along the coast to the west. It’s really scenic, has a great sea-front where you can wander all along the rocks amongst the crashing waves and has probably the best seafood restaurant I’ve ever been to: Casa Gaspar. It serves great local catches from the harbour and the service was exceptional.

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Tenerife is an island that has captured my heart and one that I cannot wait to return to. If you’re hesitant that its simply a resort-island, I encourage you to challenge that opinion and venture over there. You’ll be blown away.

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I’m currently sat on the grounds of the beautiful Finca Bebedero in North Tenerife, taking a break from one of the many adventures Jonny and I have been pursuing while we’ve been on this island. More to come on those very soon. Today I wanted to give mention to my reading choice for this trip.

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (known for the world-famous Eat, Pray, Love) has captured so much of my appreciation. This book discusses the life of the creative. It captures perfectly the torment and the turbulence and the terror or dedicating yourself to a life of making things. Whether you’re a writer or a painter or like knitting, Gilbert challenges the inner turmoil of artists that we’ve grown to revere.

There is this well known idealogy that one must know suffering in order to produce authentic, raw and well, good, material. But where has this thinking come from? I questioned my own approach and I too have this idea that I do my best writing when I’m either heart-broken or depressed or anxious or disappointed. Why do we maintain that we can’t be feeling the love and the joy to create our best?

I thoroughly enjoyed the read and cannot recommend it enough. Gilbert presents the idea that creative inspiration floats around waiting for the person with the right mind in the right place and time to bring the idea to life. I like that. I like that all we have to do is be ready for it. That, and follow our curiosities.

As I’ve wandered around this island, discovering numerous microclimates, pockets of culture, and tradition, I’ve felt alive for one, but also exceptionally happy. It hasnt been a struggle, I haven’t faced any drama and I certainly haven’t been suffering. Yet, I’ve captured some of my best photos ever. I’ve had ideas for pieces that I had never dreamed would come to me before.

When we’re open to lightness and love, marvellous things can happen. We can be creative and not need to hold on to our suffering. We need not attach such seriousness to our work.

Unlike a medical professional or a plumber or a roofer, the beauty of the creative life is that one can make or do or capture whatever they feel like. There is no set standard for what must be achieved. There is no direction which must be followed. You must simply give the mind something to occupy it so that it does not pursue something you may not want it to. I say it all the time, but dog-chewing-on-furniture syndrome.

This trip and Big Magic have fitted together beautifully, hand in hand. I can bask in beauty and the good life and still create. If you are feeling frustrated with a creative pursuit, I recommend this read for a refreshing change in perspective.

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Vegan-cake

As with any special dietary requirements or restrictions, preparation is key in making sure you don’t get caught out in a hungry spot. I’m not deathly allergic to anything – thank God – but I do have a dietary regime that I try to stick to. It is in line with my values and my preferences.

In my home environment, I’ve got a store cupboard and freezer full of foods with the green light. These are the delicious, nutritious ingredients needed to create healthy vegan meals. I also live in a part of the world that caters to this lifestyle and so there’s always something edible that I can grab while out and about in town.

The problem I face again and again, however, is how to keep up my veganism when I’m out of town. There are two problems that repeat:

  1. How to do my thing when I’m around non-vegans (in particular when staying with family and friends)
  2. How to immerse myself fully in a place and culture if I feel restricted

When you’re being hosted

This is an awkward one for me. If someone is kindly putting me up for a night, week, or however long I feel pretentious for even thinking that I should request a vegan meal just for me. If my host is cooking a big batch of dinner for us all (including animal products), surely I’m being more wasteful by creating an entire separate dish just for the sake of not consuming those animal products? Surely if I persue veganism from an environmental standpoint, I would be better off to use what’s there rather than be all Princess with her Pea (or Pork Chop as the case may be)?

Perhaps what works for me is assessing each situation independently and seeing what the most ethical and logical choice is in any particular situation? Maybe that’s where I am right now with things.

How to do travel

As I mentioned at the beginning, when you’re at home amongst the comfort of the familiar, you can tailor your eating to suit you. But what about travelling vegans? I don’t want to restrict my choices in travel location solely to vegan-friendly towns and people. What about the opportunity to stay with a tribe in the rainforest, catch my own dinner and watch the tribe use every single part of that dead animal for their survival? I mean obviously this is totally on one end of the spectrum of extremes here, but I hope you get my point. Do I let this disciplined eating habit dictate where I may roam?

Perhaps again it is about being loose enough to assess each travel spot and scenario and determine what would make me happiest then and there. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? I make particular eating choices because feeling like I’m making a difference empowers me and makes me feel happier about who I am becomming in this life. But if in any given scenario there is something that would make me happier than sticking to these vegetable guns, shouldn’t that be the obvious choice?

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I definitely feel a certain kind of pressure by calling myself vegan to maintain standards of perfection. But I must shout to the world that “I EAT MEAT FROM TIME TO TIME! I BUY LEATHER AND I CONSUME GOAT’S CHEESE ON OCCASION!!!” almost as though I need to lift a weight off my shoulders and just keep on flying along like a fart in the wind.

I’m doing what I can. I really am. And I think perhaps I need to give myself a bit of a pat on the back and say, “It’s OK. You’re trying and that’s what counts.” One thing I know for sure is that if I want to do this, I have got to get myself a decent food processor. So that’s a step in the right direction, hey? I’ll prepare an array of snacks next time I’ll be away from the fort, so at least I’ve got that department covered. Small successes.