Although eco-travel is a bit of an oxymoron, given flying is one of the biggest carbon emitters, I spent months learning how to travel more consciously. I spoke with other travelers, splurged on reusable ware, and carefully selected items that would sustain me through all types of weather. This was supposed to be a low carbon footprint adventure and I've done anything but that. I'm volunteering in Ecuador and Chile for 4 months so I came prepared with a variety of medicine, first aid remedies, waterproof electronics as well as a solar charger and SteriPen (not pictured) to clean my water. Yes, I'm a rookie and had to buy plastics still, but like they say here, "poco a poco". My primary goals consisted of surfing, learning Spanish, and living fairly minimally.
Within 3 days I got the dreaded parasite of underdeveloped countries. Fever, chills, aches, vomit and the big D. After 4 days I was so dehydrated I had to go to the hospital to get an IV and gobs of Pedialyte. Although it happens to around 70% of westerners, it probably didn't help that I binged on Ceviche, Sushi, fresh salads and fruits my first week. I knew not to drink the water, but I wasn't aware of the cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it rule. On top of that it was shark week, my SteriPen broke and I had no where to boil my Diva Cup. Oh, and there's no sun in the winter so my solar panel charged at a glacial pace.
I was stuck buying plastic and charging my electronics on the grid.
After some time I had to remind myself that this journey was about learning. I know a lot of people have succeeded in traveling very minimally at a low cost and some day I will learn their secrets. But what I've learned so far is that travel is so unique to each individual, that there's only so much research you can do. Nothing can replace experience.
And although the environmental aspect of my travels has been a struggle, I've been mindful in eating local, learning the language, being respectful with photography and taking time to understand their culture & customs.
I've learned that health and happiness comes first. Because without taking care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of others. I've learned not to dwell on expectations. In today's digital world, it's easy to get lost in a Utopia where the grass is always greener. When I get lost, I've learned to redirect my thoughts towards all my blessings. Each situation is temporary and with time, either things will get better or you will adapt. I've learned the importance of smiles and remembering names. Such a small gesture makes a world of a difference. And I've learned not to give up. Because the best things never come easy. And although I have heaps of guilt about the amount of air mileage and plastic food containers I've racked up over the years, I can learn from my mistakes.
"You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures." -Elizabeth Gilbert