that place within you // that place within me. home is in here.
It's been a full year since my two month, solo backpacking trip through Cambodia and Vietnam, and it's only now, twelve months later, that I have the words to accompany the experience. I left for Cambodia in late December, on a whim, and without any plan. I've always had the feeling that there was some answer hidden in the uncertainty and solitude of traveling alone, so I set out to find it.
We live in a culture that's constantly encouraging us to distract ourselves. "iPhones! Jobs! The Interwebz! Friends! Shopping! Shows! Read more! Work harder! Don't stop! Feeling a bit unsettled? Beginning to ponder the nature of your existence and impending mortality? JUST BUY SOMETHING!"
I don't mean to say that any of these activities are negative. They're all fun, beautiful, and necessary aspects of our lives. But I'm curious as to the intention behind *why* I participate in the majority of them. Do I even know why? I think in many ways "travel" can be an extension of this "never enough, distraction based" paradigm. "Unsatisfied with your life? Feeling a little restless? Bored? Just leave! Try a new place! Adventure! But whatever you do, make sure you don't slow down *too* much... make sure you don't look *too* deeply within." Got it! So I boarded a plane, and off I went.
Travel is incredible. It's been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and has catalyzed some of the most brilliant, awe-inspiring experiences. It's propelled huge leaps forward in my consciousness, it's brought me to the most beautiful, brave, radiant humans, introduced me to new cultures, new ways of life, new schools of thought, brutally forced me out of my comfort zone, and brought about appreciation and empathy on levels I could never have dreamed of. The list of positives are endless. But along with the magic, there's always been this underlying feeling that I'm running from something. Distracting myself from something. It of course, was myself, and this SE Asia trip shown an industrial sized spotlight on that truth. Being so far away, and so very alone lit up the aspects of myself that needed work. Big work, and I was forced to look at them. Here's what I learned:
I learned that I could travel thousands of miles, and that my neurotic tenancies would pack up their bags and accompany me. Wherever I went, there I'd be.
I fought hard against this at first. But then I learned to accept it, and to sit with it. What other choice did I have?
I learned how to be truly alone.
I learned how to self soothe, and how to start digging into the parts of myself that I was disgusted with, or ashamed of, or mad at. I learned to forgive them.
I learned that my own heart is a safe place to hang out in.
This last one was the biggest for me. That my own heart is a safe place to hang out in. I realized I was constantly running from ever just being with myself, because it felt too scary. It still feels scary at times. But this new, much safer space has given a whole new meaning to the saying "home is where the heart is." Home is wherever MY heart is. Whether I'm cuddled up in my bed in Portland, or on a motor bike riding down a dusty road in rural Cambodia -- I am home.
Endlessly thankful for these two amazingly beautiful countries, who's people opened up their hearts and homes to me, and extended grace beyond necessity.
I claim to care about the Earth. I claim to hold reverence for the environment, and feel outrage at the state of its global destruction. I consider myself a loving activist, a vegan (on most days), and a guardian of the planet. And yet, when I take a honest look at how I live and consume on a daily basis, the ethics don't align. I need to make a change. So for the month of November, I saved all of my trash and recycling. All single use utensils, cups, straws, bags, wrappers, boxes, batteries, food packaging, bottles, junk mail, tin foil, receipts, toothpicks, EVERYTHING. I wanted to get a visual representation of how my daily and often mindless actions were effecting the planet in terms of sheer volume. I wanted it to smack me in the face. To have to literally sit with it. So here it is; one month of consuming like I normally do.
Ah... horrifying. To think that this pile is from ONE human, from ONE month makes me feel weak. To put the magnitude of our plastic problem into perspective, a substance that will NEVER biodegrade, let's take a look at straws. 500 million straws are used and thrown away EVERY DAY in the United States alone. 500 million. And thats just straws, an object so small you have to squint to even see them in this photo. We've got to change the way we view our consumption, our need for immediacy and our denial that when we throw something "away" it just goes away. It doesn't.
I need to be more mindful. For me, that's the first step to making a lasting change. And this is where the hope comes in. In the image below, I sorted out all the single-use trash and recyclable items that I could easily replace with re-usable alternatives, or that I can simply say NO to in stores.
This accounts for a huge percentage of the pile, which means that by switching out single use straws for stainless steel alternatives, brining my own bags and bulk containers when shopping, by not buying food and other daily items that come in excessive packaging, by committing to only using reusable utensils, cups and napkins when I eat out, by requesting no wrappers, tissue paper or bags for take away food and clothing items, saying no to receipts, using re-chargeable batteries, and just saying NO to purchasing quick and easy "feel good" items that I don't really need, I can eliminate a huge portion of my daily waste. I can simply just buying less.
So that's what I plan to do. Throughout November, while saving all my trash, I was also researching and purchasing the most badass, eco friendly items that I could find to replace the single use garbage. Here's what I found!
Below is the setup that I now carry in my purse with me at all times, ready for use when I get take away, sit down to a meal at a food card, New Seasons, a picnic, pretty much any situation outside my home.
Since I work from home, I like to go out to coffee every morning. I'll often drink it at the shop, but for when I do take away, I have marked where the 12oz and 16oz lines are on the jar. Also shown here is my favorite stainless steel lunchbox! It opens up into four spacious sections which doubles perfectly for little plates when I'm out as well.
Below are three examples of "starter" packs that I put together if you guys are interested in quick and easy system for moving towards creating less trash. I've put links to the information on everything shown in this post, along with where you can buy each item at the end:) Feel free to e-mail me (email@example.com) with any questions at all, and if you'd like me to put together a starter pack for you and send it pre-made, please reach out I would be thrilled to do so!
I know this is just scratching the surface when it comes to the massive, large scale changes that need to be made on a daily basis, but this is a start. Ultimately, this experience has taught me to slow down, think critically, and be more mindful. We live in a society that's set up to make us feel like we always need MORE. More things, more experiences, more knowledge, more efficiently, more beauty, more credentials. Moremoremore, and *then* we'll be happy. But the "more-ness" is a bottomless, insatiable pit. It means that NOW is never quite enough. Lately I've been realizing just how engrained this way of being is into my psyche. "More" isn't going to make me more happy. The task at hand is to keep coming back to the remembrance that I am, in this moment, already whole and enough. And to stop using so many damn plastic straws along the way.
Ill be collecting my trash and recycling again this month, and checking back in at the end of December with another photo and some words about what I learned while actively, mindfully TRYING to create less waste :) If you're interested, please join in!! Commit to saving all of your trash and recycling for one month, and share your experience using the hashtag #GaiaGuardiansUnite so we can all follow along too!
Below are a few tips on how to make less trash, outlined in a beautiful poster created by THE ULTIMATE Zero Waste legend @bezerowastegirl. I've found it super helpful, and a good visual reminder of the steps we can take daily to decrease our trash footprint. She has heaps of incredible information, tips, tricks, blog posts, as well as links to sustainable companies and environmental organizations on her website at www.bezero.org -- definitely check it out if you're wanting to learn more about cultivating a zero waste lifestyle.
Ambatalia Linen Utensil Holder and Kitchen Towel: http://ambatalia.green
All Organic Reusable Bags Shown: (except sandwich bags): http://www.ecobags.com
Hemp and Organic Cotton Sandwich Bags: https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com
Bare Ware Stainless Steel Lunchbox: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015RR4T66/?tag=tlunchbox-20
Mudder 10.5in Stainless Steel Straws + Cleaning Brushes: https://www.amazon.com/Mudder-Stainless-Cleaning-Brushes-Portable/dp/B01FZ6QRXM
8.5 in Stainless Steel Straws + Cleaning Brush: https://www.amazon.com/Stainless-X-Chef-Drinking-Reusable-Cleaning/dp/B0146J1W3Y
Utensils and Reusable Napkin: https://www.newseasonsmarket.com/
How To Make Less Trash PDF: www.bezero.org