Conscious travel tips..

I love to travel. I love to learn about other cultures, to step in another’s shoes and have it expand my heart and mind.. I also love to relax, treat myself and explore! From roughing it to lush living, enjoying yourself but still giving back… Here is a little list of tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that support a more conscious travel journey, no matter how you travel.

Starting with…

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

This one goes first because I believe it encompasses ALL of the below. When you travel, depending on where you are from and where you are going, there are endless opportunities of privilege and exploitation.. Believe me I know - Australian’s pretty much have the worst wrap for being able to be spotted for being the loudest, rowdiest people at any location or given time. While I completely encourage enjoying yourself and making the most of your time away, holidays should be no exception of striving being the best version of yourself..

General Do’s:

  • Respect

  • Empathy

  • Compassion

  • Consideration

General Don’ts:

  • Avoid animal interaction activities. You don’t need to ride an elephant or ostrich to appreciate them

  • Tagging secret/local locations on social media or going somewhere just to get a photo and immediately leaving..

  • Be an asshole.. Holiday shouldn’t be a time to forget how to be a pleasant person..

Research the culture

Depending on where you’re going, some places can be very different or very similar to your own. Understanding the cultural dynamics of where you are headed will help to avoid any uncomfortable situations or offence.

Opportunities:

  • Learn simple phrases in the local language.

    • “please”, “thank you”, “no plastic”, “vegetarian/vegan”, “I don’t speak *insert language*, I speak *insert language*” and obviously “hello” and “goodbye” are great places to start. You can easily google apps to help you with this or record triggers in the notes on your phone.

  • Note how they dress and address each other

  • Are there any important historical events that have taken place? Maybe you could learn more about them when you’re there?

Travel light 

I love to travel with a backpack or carry on luggage.. However that can change depending on what work or activities I have planned. For this trip Tom and I shared a 20kg suitcase and a small back pack.

Benefits:

  • Reduce carbon emissions by carrying less weight on flights

  • Mobility

  • Minimise risks of losing important things

Reusable items

This ones a no brainer. Reuse your items, take responsibility for your own waste, leave no trace, bring what you’ve learned at home with you.

Opportunities:

  • Keep cup and/or bottle. Depending on the type of trip I’m on, I generally just bring a small water bottle to carry most liquids. I’m not a ‘coffee’ on the go person, so if you are - you might want to bring your keep cup or think about eating in..

  • Sanitary products. Bringing your own shampoo/conditioner and minimising the use of hotel/plane products go a long way!

  • Extra tote bags: I always pack a couple of these in my suitcase incase I buy something extra or just need the extra space. Draw string bags like the ones you can get shoes in can also be great to seperate intimates/swimwear, electronics, dirty washing, toiletries etc.

  • Little jars to bring portions of your favourite home beauty products/tonics etc. E.g. I bring a small jar of coconut oil everywhere I go as a ‘all in one’ treatment for just about everything when I’m away and fill it from my larger jar at home.

  • Wooden cutlery + metal straws: Especially for planes.

  • Headphones: Again, avoid having to unwrap plastic, single use ones on the plane.

  • A soft jumper: Even if it’s hot where you’re going, at the very least you’ll avoid unwrapping that plastic blanket on the plane.

Support local

It’s so important to support authentic local industries wherever you go - I think of it as a way of saying ‘thank you for having me’. 

Opportunities:

  • Eating local! Through eating local food you are investing in tradition and can generally assume that it is locally sourced.

  • Reducing meat consumption. Australia has many opportunities and circus hoops to jump through to ensure local industries are supported, therefore reducing negative environmental effects of transport and unregulated (sometimes off-shore) farming. It’s very hard to be sure of this when travelling overseas, especially when everything is in another language! The easiest way to eat ethically is to avoid meat while travelling (as this is the most harmful sector of agriculture).

  • Not buying crappy plastic souvenirs from tourist traps & opting for locally made and sourced traditional items instead (they have more sentimental value anyway!)

Clothing essentials

  • Scarf/sarong/light towel: To cover up whether it’s for cultural reasons, comfortability or use as a blanket if you’re desperate haha.. This is something I found ESPECIALLY useful in countries like India, Cambodia, Philipines etc

  • Hat: I’m a big believer in covering up rather than using sunscreen (to avoid toxins on my body and in the environment)

  • Bamboo undies/clothing: Something magic happens with bamboo (and hemp too!) where it has a natural antibacterial and reduces smell, allowing you to re wear multiple times/not requiring intensive washes.

  • Back pack or side carry bag: This depends on the safety of the place you’re going to. I always bring a back pack for bigger items as I find this is more supportive for my back.. But I also bring a small hand size bag for valuables to keep safe when walking through crowds etc.

  • Sometimes it’s not what you pack but how. Rolling is the best way I have found to fit everything in.

What was in my suitcase for Spain..

  • Flowy light weight maxi dresses (not only for pregnant ladies, good for post-paella bloat too haha)

  • 1 set of activewear

  • 2-3 pairs of bikinis

  • supportive/comfy closed in shoes (sneakers)

  • Sandals

  • Sunglasses

  • 1 big scrunchy and 2 hair-ties

  • Lightweight towel

  • Snorkel

  • Film camera (3 rolls of film for 3 weeks should be HEAPS!)

Beauty/cosmetic essentials

  • Body balm (the great state)

  • Cruelty free/natural skincare and makeup (eyeofhorus, endosa spa, fluff cosmetics, ren, esmi skin

  • Natural zinc

  • Compostable wipes (These are great for when you have limited water - camping, caught out etc) I save these and compost them when I get home.

  • Tee tree oil (bites, minor infections)

  • Coconut oil (e v e r y t h I n g)

  • A big scrunchy (so hard to lose!) ** pictured

  • Natural hand sanitiser

Ways to avoid plastic water bottles?

  • Bring your own bottle and fill up at airports/safe fountains/table water ordered at lunch

  • Buy water in bulk and fill up your smaller bottle as you go

  • In Spain and a lot of Europe you should be able to boil the water & use

  • I’ve used a bottle that cleaned the water with a UV light when travelling Sri Lanka.. It worked for most of the time but in the middle we got a pretty bad belly bug so lost confidence in it (though apparently it’s infallible!). I’ll be looking into this again when I’m not pregnant..

  • For other ways to avoid plastic while travelling, my friend Plastic Free mermaid has a blog here.

Accomodation

Where you stay can make a big difference on your foot print and authentic experience of the place. 

  • Air Bnb: Is my favourite by far. Either renting an entire house or a room in a house to interact with local people and other travellers. Because they are generally ‘homes’, they also have their own waste practices in place that allow you to manage your own waste (recycle, only washing when you need to etc). You can use my link to explore this here.

  • Anywhere with a kitchen: I’ve been more sensitive to this on my Spain trip than ever because of wanting to be as healthy as possible for my pregnancy and also having body sensitivities. Having our own kitchen meant we could not only reduce our cost on food (and stay and experience the country for longer), but also interact with local markets and feel our best on holiday.

  • Camping/glamping options (again, easy to find on Air Bnb)

  • Putting the word ‘Eco stays’ next to your google accomodation searches

  • Tips for staying in standard hotels:

    • Ask to not have your towels washed every day/hang them up to show this

    • Avoid getting your washing done by them as they wash & dry everyones separately and you have no control of chemicals

- If you have the opportunity for extended stays, I definitely recommend volunteering.. I’m working on a blog of how to do this the most respectful way compiled from my own and your experiences!

Eating

  • Eating the local food is so important as taste has so much to share about the culture. When you eat local you can infer that products are locally sourced and authentically prepared.

  • Obviously different cultures have different cuisines.. Doing a bit of research into what this is and how to make it work for your dietary requirements

  • Be more FLEXIBLE. Travel is about embracing cultural differences. I remember one time I was staying in a rural village in Cambodia of about 40 people and I was trying to communicate that I needed a vegetarian breakfast.. So, they took away the eggs (from the local chickens), and brought me back a pig lard porridge.. Hahahah. I went hungry, but that’s not always an option.

Transport

The way you get around a new place can really impact your experience and what you’re exposed to culturally.

Opportunities:

  • Walk: This will always be the greenest option and provide you with many twists, turns and unexpected surprises.

  • Quantity time is quality time: the longer you can stay and explore at a leisurely/realistic pace, the more authentic and sustainable your travel will be. Going to Europe for two weeks and flying between 7 countries in that time not only takes its toll on you - but the planet also (transport emissions!). If you can, sticking to one country or even neighbouring countries can be a great option if you’re time poor.

  • Public transport: this obviously depends where you are and how long you’re there for. A really easy way to nail this is getting a local sim and using google maps, it has all the public transport options available. (use maps.me for an offline version!).

  • Hop on hop off busses: This trip was actually the first time I got on one of these haha and I have to say it was actually pretty good. It was essentially a massive ‘car pool’ where we got a map, audio guide and was perfect for seeing a big place in a small amount of time.

  • Road trip: We looked into renting a van while we were away but because of the small roads, peak summer (and nearing third trimester) we decided against it. But this is definitely something I’d love to do! Regardless, we grabbed a car and slowly covered the trek from Barcelona to San Sebastian, and saw a lot of magic along the way! Choosing an efficient and practical car is key here ;)

  • For private rides like Uber, use the ‘uber pool’ option! For $10 off your first ride, click here or enter the code montanal1

  • Invest in carbon offsets

Other handy tips

  • Snacks. I bring my own bag of nuts on the plane/for travel to fill in for any desperate cravings. On my recent trip I also brought a bunch of plant based protein bars from Macro which I found super handy for long haul flights & adventure days.

  • Try not to bring anything you’d be upset to lose. I lose everything, so maybe this is just for me.. haha.

  • Travel insurance. Bit boring, but travel insurance has gotten me out of some pretty sticky situations (including an emergency surgery in Japan for over 20k!). I do a lot of travel, so I just get mine annually and know I’m responsible for my own health and safety.

  • Taking a multi-purpose soap is great for reducing space & being able to wash your clothes. Pack a rope and make your own clothes line anywhere you go.

  • Taking photos of receipts rather than asking for copies.. Maybe this ones just my nerdy self because I do a lot of work while travelling (which is important for tax time), but can also be great if you buy anything of value while you're away. I use an app called Expensify for this (all year round).

I hope this helps you on your conscious travels and as always, would love to hear any tips or feedback below!

Love, M

A film photo from our time in the Pyrenees Mountains..

A film photo from our time in the Pyrenees Mountains..