Life in the limelight:
Adapting to the 'backpacker' life didn't come easy. My life in the UK consisted of modelling for a career, performing, socialising and shopping! I was in the limelight; whether it be in front of a camera, on a stage, at an event or out for dinner. I was always conscious about my appearance. I straightened my hair every day and submerged myself in fashion and styling; accumulating a huge amount of clothing to the degree of an overwhelming wardrobe of choice. This meant more decisions had to be made, which, according to research, causes more stress to your daily routine and life! American psychologist Barry Schwartz in his book The Paradox of choice, says: "choice shifts from having a positive relationship with happiness to an inverse one. The secret to happiness is low expectations." Too much choice pains me and I have high expectiaitons for myself and my achievements!
Although I was a model, I was never into expensive brands (unless I was given them for free) I always preferred to get more for my money. This resulted in me buying from cheap fast fashion stores such an Primark, H&M and supermarket clothing brands such as George in Asda/Walmart. I also shopped in charity shops to find my unique bargains because I never wanted to wear where everyone else was wearing! I was a holder; I kept clothes for years, just in case I would wear them again one day. To be fare to myself, I did wear some of those clothes again over the past 10 years...
At the time, I thought I was the smart one; buying cheap fast fashion clothing, buying more for less. I guess for me it was all about quantity over quality, and there was certainly a lot to chose from. But I was wrong! Not to say high street brands such as Zara, La Senza, Forever21 were any better. They too absorb the fast fashion track and exploit third world countries by making their garments in sweatshops. You can click here and here for great blog posts that focus on this subject matter. As a positive alternative this is a list of ethical brands to support!
Becoming a backpacker:
When I decided to go backpacking for a lifetime, this had to change drastically. I couldn't carry my wardrobe on my back! With all that weight on my shoulders there would be some serious injuries! Having options was suddenly not an option and neither was fashion or style, to a certain extent! I had to think about what I needed, not what I wanted, or what society wanted! And what was essential, was sensible attire that aligned with the weather and culture I was experiencing.
This took time: My first travel experience was for three months in South East Asia and India, and I certainly learnt the hard way, carrying an unnecessary amount weight of clothes, and appliances on my shoulders, such as my hairdryer!? When I left to travel again for the long run, I found it even more challenging to pack because I didn't know when I would be returning home, or where I might explore. I could only prepare for where I knew I was going and that was back to south east Asia, and to Australia. I traveled for months with a pair of heels in my backpack, that I was hoping to wear at some point in my journey. A good chunk of my travel was on a motorbike or by the beach, so I can't quite comprehend what I was thinking. It was actually quite ridiculous and certainly not necessary! I used to wear heels everyday of my life and I guess they were somehow sentimental... or at least that's my excuse! ;)
There was often moments when I was traveling that I felt like I needed (in other words wanted) something else, something different, something new! I was frustrated if it was something I already had at home, but what use was it to me there anymore!? Waiting patiently in my wardrobe for the next moment I might want it! It was eventually time to let go. I started to understand that I didn't need so much stuff! I observed the happiness and simplicity of peoples lives who had next to nothing, and I grew to appreciate and admire their way of life; their freedom and their joy! The cost of a smile was zero Pounds, Dollars, Rupiah or Baht! I watched children playing outside in the sand, the mud, open fields of lush greenery, in the ocean, or in contrast over rubble, in the mud, or standing on piles of landfill... But they were smiling, laughing, having fun, and they didn't have anything but their imagination, friendships and love! I also visited various family homes in villages that sometimes consisted of slices of trees pinned together- a simple hut, the size of a shed or garage. Yet their hospitality was sublime and they offered their heart and souls! I ended up in some tricky situations during my travels and I am eternally grateful for all the help and support I received. They never wanted anything in return apart from your company and your time! I could talk about many travel experiences for hours, but my reason for bringing this up is the fact that I gradually came to the realisation that simplicity = more! And having money and stuff is not the pursuit of happiness!
Becoming Eco conscious
In my first week in South East Asia, during my second trip, my well-equipped brand new and expensive backpack got caught in the wheels of a motorbike! Luckily this did not cause an accident and we managed to savor it. But instead of buying a new one, a handy-man friend of mine repaired the strap for me using a belt and zap straps that we had managed to find in a random mechanical garage in Thailand! I've used the same backpack for the past three years! #upcycled!
Rather than buying things I needed or wanted when travelling, I suppressed my pathetic consumer cravings by numerous ways: I clothes swapped with other backpackers who were also tired of there backpack wardrobe; I donated any unwanted items to families I met and local charities. When my parents came to visit me in Australia, I asked my mother to bring some of my clothes from home and revamped my backpack by exchanging my own clothes! When the weather changed, I was lucky enough to find local stalls and second hand clothing carts! Or if I needed to, I bought directly from families in Asia, where the money was going to feed them and their family. When it was time to settle for a while in Australia and Canada, I shopped in Op and Thrift shops only! Canada also had awesome free second hand clothing and items at the rubbish dump centres! I also ditched the heels, the straighteners, any chemical products such as hairsprays, perfumes and carried only mascara and sun-cream! My life and style took a drastic turn, but more importantly, so did my mind set!
Even today I still can't justify some of the belongings I was bearing, but at least I can be satisfied in knowing that the majority of my purchases towards the end of my journey were ethically chosen, with a conscious decision, and for a purpose. Click here or here to purchase an eco friendly backpack or rucksack. You can find some great advice on what to pack in your backpack from Charlie on Travel and holiday ethical preparations at Ethical Consumer and at Braintree clothing's blog post.
I have learnt so many incredible life skills whilst travelling and I have come a long way after leaving the UK. Since returning home I have put all that awareness, understanding and experience into practice. I have made a conscious choice to live life as a minimalist: I have cut down my belongings drastically: Anything that hadn't be used and therefore wasn't needed in the three years of my life that I was away, surely wasn't necessary anymore! I now try to only buy something if I find a valid reason, and will try my best to source it second hand. I now follow this inspiring blog BecomingMinimalist and I used a beautiful book that my friend recommended to me called "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up." to help me achieve this. I am a very sentimental person, so this was very challenging, but the book made my decisions so simple! Rest assured I have lifted the weight off my shoulders!