Leaving the Homestead for a Little Travel: Treading Lightly
February 27, 2015
By nature, those who homestead love to be at home. That does not mean that we can’t get out and see a bit of the world from time to time. We should simply keep in mind the same conservative and green practices that we live at home, out in the wide world that is our oyster. Simple things like turn off the lights when they are not in use, save your bath towels for reuse, conserve water (tourists are particularly bad at this one), stay on trails when hiking, research sellers and buy from responsible sellers or direct producers. In addition, packing responsibly and traveling lightly are excellent ways to reduce your carbon impact and be more comfortable on your journey.
I am about to embark on a complete sensory overload, for which I cannot wait. In just a few days, husband and I head for the exotic land of Morocco. In preparation, I have done all kinds of research and packed my bag more than a week in advance. I am really excited.
One of the first things I did in preparation for this trip was to make my own guidebook. Instead of buying new prints of guidebooks, go a little greener and buy used ones, borrow from friends, or check your library for travel books.
Borrowed and homemade travel materials are a fun and eco-friendly way to prepare for a trip.
The day I went to the library, I checked out at least 7 books on Morocco – guidebooks, books on customs, maps, architecture, etc. I poured over these books and ultimately produced my own pocket-sized homemade Morocco guidebook, complete with maps and restaurant suggestions, in addition to useful phrases in Arabic, and the information about sites and shopping, all personalized to our trip. Now, I do not have to lug several guidebooks around and tax transportation systems with my extra paper weight.
Print out or copy scaled down maps, and record useful info about your destinations.
The next thing I did was check which vaccines we needed to get. Turns out there are no required vaccines for US citizens to get before going to Morocco, just ones recommended by the CDC. Accordingly, we each got a vaccine for hepatitis A and for typhoid, and two hours later, we were both complaining about our sore arms. I don’t think we’ll regret it, though. When you travel anywhere, always check the CDC’s website for vaccine requirements and recommendations, as well as the State Department’s website for any travel alerts and suggestions. It doesn’t hurt to be aware and prepared.
"I'm a neutral, can you pack me?"
Then came the other fun, anticipatory part – packing. I LOVE packing. I dream of all of the places we will go and pick clothing accordingly. I dress much better when I am taking a trip because I edit my wardrobe very selectively for the destination. I do not pack anything really slouchy, though it is important to pack comfortable clothing, and pieces you can re-wear. It is also important to pack a little bit of laundry detergent to clean your clothes if you will be out traveling more days than clothes in your suitcase. This is a crucial part of traveling lightly, which is an infinitely better and more comfortable way to travel.
I confess, in the past, I have gone the other route. When I was a kid, I used to visit my cousin in Chicago during the summer, and we both still mock me for packing roller blades for a visit. I do not think I even stuffed anything inside of them, unless it was more toys to play with. Not the most efficient packing by a landslide. As I got older, it took me a little while to pack more lightly, though I maximized space, packing incredibly densely. For a trip abroad during a college summer, I packed a hiker’s back pack bigger than me so full I had trouble lugging it around, particularly after I stuffed it even fuller with souvenirs.
Nowadays, I have got packing nearly down to a science. I can usually fit a several day trip into a little blue Samsonite hard-pack that I bought in a thrift store for $4. For longer trips, like the Morocco trip we are about to take, I have a small soft-pack roller board that is a little more forgiving on space, but I still keep everything to a minimum to lessen the amount of everyone/thing’s work (think physics class: more weight = more Work required to move) to cart that little suitcase around. I almost never check a bag, even when flying overseas.
Small soft-pack roller board, packed efficiently.
Here are some things I find useful when packing as a responsible traveler/tourist, optimizing weight-to-usefulness ratio:
-Empty metal or glass water bottle (to fill on your trip instead of buying plastic bottled water)
-Reusable shopping bag (tuck it in an outer pocket on your suitcase)
-Heavy-duty carabineer(s) (great for clipping added baggage together or your reusable water bottle while you are on the go)
-Pack multi-purpose items (like comfortable flip-flops that you can walk around in and shower in if you need to; clothes you can work into multiple outfits – neutral palette helps; compact 100% cotton Turkish towel as a sarong, towel, blanket, etc.)
-Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen (you will almost always need all three)
-If you have fancy or easily wrinkled clothes, pack them in between a plastic dry-cleaning bag (or big trash bag) to reduce friction
-Small amount of clothing detergent (to wash clothes for re-wearing, lightening your packing list of clothes)
-Cheap pair of nylons (to use as a drying line or to bind up your luggage if it busts)
-Wearing is not packing, so wear your bulkiest items (a waterproof coat or jacket) on the plane
-Wear your heaviest, biggest shoes (hiking boots) and pack those sandals
-Remove and recycle any packaging from materials you bring before you leave, like a toothbrush or travel gear
-Do NOT bring extra paper weight in the form of guide books; save relevant information on a tablet or in a small notebook
-Do NOT pack “just in case” items (under most circumstances, you can find these on your travels)
-DO pack an extra foldable bag and a handheld scale if you plan on buying a lot of souvenirs
When you get back from your trip, take a look at World Land Trust and consider making a donation to offset your carbon production.