Learning to travel without single use plastic

25 November 2013
I am going to start this post with a little anecdote to show how I didn't think far enough ahead when it came to travelling in Myanmar without using any single use plastic.

I had planned to not buy any plastic water bottles on the trip. My reusable drinks bottles were ready, sitting next to my beat up backpack. The day I was due to set off I found myself in Paddy Pallin purchasing an item for my mum (who was my awesome travel buddy and was super patient with the whole no plastic thing). 

As I stood in line getting ready to pay, I started to think about dinner. This thought then that led to plane food and all plastic cutlery that is given to you...wrapped in plastic. I had a flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by a connection to Yangon. That would be two sets of cutlery. Plus I had internal flights. That was a lot of plastic to consume. I only had metal cutlery from home, which I knew any airline would not allow in my carry on. As I looked at the selection of metal and plastic travel cutlery at Paddy Pallin, a wave of guilt flooded over me. I either had the option of buying something here or eat with my hands. 

I hurriedly bought a plastic contraption that was a spoon/fork/knife combo. Yep it was plastic and went against the aim of not buying plastic. But having one item that was bought for the purpose of reusing was ok. At least that was what I told myself. 

I am pleased to say that it was used ALOT. And still does. A part of me does wish I had bought something biodegradable, like wood. I also think next time i will take my own food on the flight.

travel without plastic

I was reminded of the biggest rule for avoiding plastic and any waste in general – be prepared. Sit down, write a list of every possible scenario and get yourself prepared. Since I have come back, I have found the perfect items to take when you travel to avoid plastic. 

travel without plastic

Water was easy. I found boiling to be the best option. I boiled the water twice, let it cool and poured into my two litre water bottles. You must let it cool as the hot water will heat up the steel or aluminium of the reusable bottle and you won't be able to carry it. 

I am, in a geeky way, proud that I did the full two weeks without buying one plastic water bottle and turning down free ones offered to us in the hotel rooms. Every room that I stayed in had a kettle. So the process was super easy. I did not get any upset stomachs (my biggest fear) and still don't have any signs I bought back a bug. 

However, the kettles were made of plastic and I began to wonder if the plastic was leaking into my water after being boiled to death. 

travel without plastic

We had a eight hour boat trip down the Ayarwaddy from Mandalay to Bagan. We were advised to take our own food and ventured to the local market to get snacks. I love checking out local food markets and supermarkets when I travel. This is where taking your own fold up bag comes in handy. I have had this bag for years time and I take it everywhere. So bringing it along felt like second nature. We were able to buy snacks and pop them into the reusable fold up bag. It also came in handy when I did my souvenir shopping. 

Some plastic did make its way into the trip in the form of food packaging that we shared. I did feel guilty about this (ahh this guilt!). I was doing pretty good avoiding packaged food but temptation got to me and we went halves on local treats.  There was also the first internal plane trip and I had a roll and cake, that were wrapped in cling film. I didn't open the cutlery. There is my confession and below is the evidence.

Ugh, the guilt! I did bring back the cling film from the rolls and cakes to wash and reuse at home. 

While I succeeded with my aim to not purchase or use a single plastic bottle, I feel I could have done a better job with my overall plastic use. So if you are about to embark on a trip, whether it be two weeks or two days, sit down and plan every bit. I am now seeing this as the way to be best prepared for tackling single use plastic use. 

I was happy to see glimpses of environmental awareness throughout the country. It was uplifting and made me hopeful. I hope they do for you too.

travel without plastic

travel without plastic

travel without plastic

Myanmar, the golden land

18 November 2013

‘How was Burma?”
‘You mean Myanmar.’
‘Yeah that’s what I meant, Myanmar.’
‘It was fabulous.’
‘Where is it again?’

This has been the casual exchange since I have returned from my jaunt to Myanmar (or to be technical the Republic of the Union of Myanmar).

I can understand why people ask where it is. Myanmar has not been included on the holiday packages that take travellers on the South-East Asia ring road of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. It has sat in the shadow of its neighbours. I won’t get into the politics of the country’s forced isolation. But I was happy to hear from locals that they wanted people to visit their country, see the rich and varied culture. Aung San Suu Kyi’s face is immortalised on calendars, framed in photos and splashed across t-shirts. People are not afraid to show or talk about politics. A sign of a peoples hope for their future.

Before jumping aboard my plane, I had conjured up ideas that it is backwards and behind its south eastern Asian brothers and sisters due to it unpopularity. Especially since the travel sanctions have lifted and the travel supplements of newspapers advised that you must get there before everything changes.

How wrong. Myanmar is an organised and efficient country that is catering to the growing swell of interested people. I don’t know if it was travellers luck, but I did not encounter anything that would warrant this country as backwards or slow in the context of its history. I visited Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. Each place is so uniquely different with history in every nook and cranny. The food is like nothing I had ever tried. There are small overlapping elements from the neighbouring countries cuisine and English colonial influence. The stand out dish was mohinga soup that made for a robust way to start the day.

The easiest and probably fastest way to get around is by plane. The trains are slow and we were advised to avoid buses. I don’t mind a slow train and have been on many (hello Serbia and Cambodia!). But this trip I decided it was better to maximise my time. Instead we enjoyed an 8 hour boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan. Our hotels had advice on what to do in the area and can team you up with local guides. There are places like Bagan and Inle Lake where a local guide is needed to explain the history of the area and help you get about.

If you want a place bursting with kind, humble people and exotic surroundings put Myanmar on your ever growing list of places to visit. I’d say get there before the tourists do, but I have seen they already have.

How I found a fabulous hat and avoided fashion waste at the races

12 November 2013
I grew up in a country town and one of the big social events was the local races. It was never about the horses. It was about an excuse to dress up and put on a fancy hat.

The months of October and November is the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne. The Builder and I were fortunate to receive tickets for Stakes Day.

Due to the last minute surprise of the tickets, I did not get organised to buy a second hand hat. So I found myself at a department store trying on one hat after the other. I stood in a mirror admiring the assortment of ribbons and tulle atop my head, when I suddenly realised buying a hat that I probably will not wear again was wasteful. It went against my second hand style ethos too.

Last year I bought a vintage hat to go with my second hand dress. But that took a few weekends to find. With my vintage dress featuring a loud pop of lime green, I know trying to find a hat that matched would be hard to do in less than a week, especially with the vintage stores not so close to my work. And even though I love the hat I bought last year, it does take up precious room and I am not sure where I will wear it again.

I had read about websites that rented out designer handbags, so surely there would be something for hats…especially in Melbourne. So I put the tulle down, stepped away from the feathers and sinamay, then had a search on the internet.

Designer Hat Hire came up, within 5 minutes I found the perfect hat to match my 1950s vintage cocktail dress. The name of the business does what it says – lets discerning hat lovers rent a hat.

There were many options and you could see clearly if your hat was available or not. I placed my order and it showed up the day before the event. The service was professional and the hat was just what I was looking for. They also cater for weddings.

A few days after the event, the hat was picked up by the crew at Designer Hat Hire, ready for a new head. I was quite chuffed to discover this service and thought it was a fun solution and minimised waste. Plus I would not have to worry about storing a hat away. I was also delighted to here that the brains and beauty behind this cleaver business, Kerrie Stanley, favoured up-cycled materials to make the gorgeous creations on offer.

As for the races – it was an anti-plastic nightmare. It seemed my mind must have stopped working after attaining my pleated green treasure of a hat. I felt really annoyed at myself that I didn't think to take my own cup. It would have been an easy fix. I have a wine glass sitting in my picnic basket at home. But I just plain old forgot. So there is my confession, I used one plastic cup and recycled it. I am not perfect. I know there will be times I will fall off the horse, so to say. But with practice, I know that I will fall less and less. Everything takes practice and to me, practice is perfect.

Tell me, what ideas or tips do you have to make your race day experience more sustainable?
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