Environmental Resolutions in Less-developed Countries

This week we celebrated Earth Day 2016, and with each year that passes awareness of the damage that our lifestyles, markets, and consumerism behaviours cause to the environment grows. My passion for this area remains relatively young, it’s all too easy to ignore until you are faced with the plausible possibility that one day we might simply destroy it all. I do in fact want my children, and their children to be able to play in the forest, to see incredible wildlife and marine life, to sit on a beach not a pile of trash, and that’s when you realise that we are all in this together, a shared responsibility to do what we can.

The reality of deforestation, increasing carbon emissions, non-renewable energy sources, increasing waste and improper disposal thereof creates a nasty picture of what our world might look like without change in even 10 or 20 more years.

Living overseas, particularly in less developed areas, makes it increasingly hard to do your bit for the environment however. Here, where I live in Cambodia, for example, everything comes in a plastic bag, you buy a can of coke, it gets bagged, vegetables get a bag each in a bigger bag, coffee is in a plastic cup or bag in another bag, and with tap-water that is unsafe for drinking, you are forced to resort to other sources, which often means plastic bottles. Not to mention that the flights between here and home do enough damage without adding anything more.

So what are a few resolutions that expats living in less developed areas can take to reduce their impact on the environment and contribute to preserving the world for future generations – here are my ideas:

  1. Re-usable water bottles and bulk stocks. Obviously, if you can’t fill your bottle at a tap, you still need to buy a larger source to fill from, unfortunately that often means larger plastic bottles. Look for something re-usable, here the 20litre bottles are returned and re-used by the central distribution centre, not ideal but better when coupled with a re-usable drinking bottle as well.
  2. Buy drinks in containers that can be recycled and avoid plastic. I always try to buy soda’s in cans, which can be recycled and reduce plastic waste.
  3. Re-usable carrier bags – and pack your own items so that the shopkeeper does not try to put a plastic bag inside your tote.
  4. Turn things off – you can only be in one place at a time – so only use the lights, fans, AC in the room you are in to save energy and money!
  5. Tupperware for take-out, when you go out to dinner, pop a Tupperware in your bag and bring home any leftovers in that rather than a polystyrene, plastic bag, rubber band combo that the restaurant will create. Equally if your order food, take your own container when you go to collect it.
  6. Go paperless and encourage your office to do the same – if you can’t, try printing double-sided or on just half a page, or try evaluating how many people need a printout of different articles – can they be shared or centrally displayed?
  7. Leave your vehicles at home – when you can choose public transportation, or better still walk and cycles as much as possible.

What is key however, is that even though for most of us, removing plastic from our lives for example is an unattainable goal, reducing our consumption of it is far more achievable. As such, if we all strive to simply reduce where we can, together we will make an impact. If you are willing to go further than the points above, other things you could try include taking your own cup to get take-away coffee, planting trees, eating less meat, limiting fish consumption to only sustainable options and much much more.

As cliched as it sounds, I truly believe that if everyone made a few small changes, together we can make a huge impact. For me, it’s time to really drive my efforts to making these easy resolves part of everyday life!

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4 Things you learn about Friendship when you live abroad

The best friendships last, regardless of distance.

When I first moved overseas I kept in touch with everyone regularly, but this inevitably dwindles with time, and sometimes even the people you have known the longest become estranged from your life. Often it’s simply down to a lack of effort on both sides, sometimes your lives become too different. That said, best friends will last regardless of how much time passes, these are the people that will message you after 3 months like they chatted to you yesterday, divert their flight route to visit you for 2 days, and generally always strive to be part of your life.

It’s not all about how long you’ve known each other.

Sometimes the best kind of friends come into your life in a moment. These are the people that understand you in an instant, it just clicks and it’s like you have known them forever even if it’s only been two weeks.

Physical presence is irrelevant.

In the age of so much social media, there is no need to be lonely. Video calls, messenger apps, photo sharing platforms, there are so many ways to stay up to date on each others lives regardless of where you are in the world.

It’s not always easy to put yourself out there.

Making new friends tends to get harder with age, we become more inhibited and simply don’t have the opportunities to interact with new people that we have at school and university. That said, everyone is in the same boat, so putting yourself out there is definitely the way forward, most people will be relieved by your offerings and excited to meet you, let loose!

 

Why I won’t ‘settle down’

“The journey is the destination”

Dan Eldon

After months, maybe years of searching I have finally awoken to this realisation. There is no destination, at least not for me. I will not conform, I will not ‘settle down’, and here’s why…

I do not wish to choose only one ending for my story.

Approaching my 27th birthday faster than I would really like, I begin to think about how the next chapter of my book will read. In reality, the next chapter should be the long chapter, the one where I choose a place to live, a job, maybe get married, even start a family, and live the routine for 40 years, until I am old enough to retire and start the ‘sunset years’, or the way the story ends.

But this is not what I will do. I do not plan on changing jobs once a year until I am 60. I do not plan on moving every 18 months. But I do plan on doing many things in that time. I do not wish to have one destiny when I can have many.

And I’m OK with that. I don’t need to conform to societal ‘expectation’. I just need to be happy. Happy every day in the little things, like my iced coffee on the way to work, like the smiles on the children’s faces when I walk into their classroom, like the sunset as I cycle home.

“Life is a journey, not a destination” (Ralph Waldo Emerson), and for me, the destination is the journey. I no longer need to look for the thing that will settle me, because I have accepted that I wont be settled.

10 important lessons I’ve learned on the road

So here goes, a new blog with a new look, a new start, a chance to talk about my love of travel. To kick things off, I am 26, closing in on 27 at a daunting rate. I currently live in Cambodia, where I have been managing projects for an NGO for 4 months. Previously I worked in volunteer travel and development programmes in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Mexico. My career-based passion is education and international development. I have now been on the road for 5 years, have visited 26 countries and experienced the highs and lows that encompass that journey.

I have learned so much from my travels, so much more than I could have ever learned if I had followed a more traditional path, so here are a few of the most important lessons for life on the road (at least according to me):

  1. You will always regret not trying something much more than you will regret giving it a go and not enjoying it. This lesson was employed very strictly when I bungee jumped at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, as much as I wanted to run away, I knew it was something I had to try whilst I had the chance, if not, I would always have wondered ‘what if…’.
  2. Not everything you eat is trying to kill you. I was cautious at first, as every sensible first-time traveller is, washing fruit in drinking water, not eating street-food. But my first really adventurous trip took me to a small island called Mafia in Tanzania, and there wasn’t much on offer if you didn’t try the street food. I did and yes I did get the one dicky-tummy in a month, but overall I learned to be more of a risk-taker when it comes to food. Some of the best foods I have had have been from street vendors, but yes it may occasionally end in the bathroom!
  3. You will need home comforts. I love to throw myself into a new country and a new culture, trying new foods, activities, exploring. But I also know that some days I will need to stay home all day watching movies, or go and eat the most homely dish I can find (in Battambang this is crispy chicken strips and fries…) for the sake of my sanity!
  4. Sometimes you must be frivolous. I have witnessed so many travellers missing out on simple pleasures and memorable activities for the want of saving cash. If it means your trip is a week or two shorter but you got to sand-board in Namibia, or simply drank a few beers with new friends every night, be sure not to inadvertently limit your enjoyment by limiting you cash.
  5. Whatever your age, there will always be times when you miss home. I still have plenty of days when I need to call my Mum, chat things over and move on. I might not be able to see her every time, but skype makes a decent alternative.
  6. You will eat a lot of rice. If you leave the west to South or Central America, Africa or Asia, to name some serious land-masses, you must accept that you will eat rice, almost every day, sometimes every single meal. Just accept and embrace it.
  7. People are the most interesting resources. You will see so many things in your life, do so many amazing activities, experience great wonders. But the most interesting experiences will involve other people, people you would never otherwise have met, people with a story to tell and an ear to listen to yours as well. Make time for people, whether it is your taxi driver, a guide or just someone you meet on the street, be patient and friendly, be open to their conversation.
  8. Sometimes you will be lonely. That’s true as well, as well as being homesick, you may simply be lonely. You might spend weeks moving from place to place, not spending more than a day or two with the same person. Technology is a great cure for loneliness and I often use this chance to connect with a familiar voice, or of course, just go out and find someone to share a beer with and move on.
  9. Trinkets are great memories, but don’t overload. I love to take home a souvenir, a memory of a happy time and a beautiful place. Just remember that there will be plenty of opportunities to shop, and plenty of amazing treats to buy, so limit yourself and be real about what you will use when you get back home. Often, I actually find that buying clothes, bags and jewellery to wear along the way is one of the best things as they get plenty of use and carry even more memories with them.
  10. Be yourself. There will be times when you land in a place and everyone is doing X, but you came to do Y. You will find yourself travelling with people and suddenly having different plans. Be yourself, go your own way and beat your own path. The journey is yours and only yours. That being said, be flexible and differ from your plans when something truly attractive becomes an option.