As my travel blog moves only by land it’s a good example of eco-conscious travel. However, the world we are born into, especially in Europe and North America can be a whole world away from eco-conscious. Especially when you consider the polluting cheap flights and cruises we like to take. That’s not to mention the one time use plastics and cheaply produced clothing we use. On the subject of sustainability in 2019 and beyond I recently asked the thoughts of Wazelige who grew up with African influences.
Over the past ten years I have made several changes to my lifestyle, to live in a more eco-conscious way. As with many people, these changes are definitely influenced by global awareness as well as media networks. However, there are also other reasons that bring me to the changes I made in my daily life that I want to address.
I grew up in Paris, surrounded by buildings and cars. But I have the privilege of belonging to two cultures. My parents are Moroccan, they came to settle in France to offer us a better life. So every summer we spent in Morocco was our only vacation for the year. In Morocco we mainly went to two small towns and their surroundings:
The town of Missour is surrounded by a douar (A douar in North Africa is a group of dwellings bringing together individuals linked by a kinship based on a common ancestry in paternal line), from where all my family originates. Missour is a small town located in the province of Boulemane which resembles the Wild West. It’s a rocky desert featuring magnificent shades of pale pink and crossed by the Moulouya river around which life and agriculture are concentrated.
The city where I was born, located in the province of Ifrane. Azrou is a town in the Middle Atlas, surrounded by mountains and a forest of Atlas Cedars inhabited by many animals. One of the most famous is the Barbary macaque. Azrou means in Berber “The Rock” because a big rock is located in the heart of the city as its symbol.
Life in Morocco
Every summer spent in Morocco for me was like moving to another world with different rules and notions of time. I discovered the joy of African childhood. These are the sources of my global awareness and also of the importance of our planet. Here are some examples:
The Importance of Water
The indispensable element to any form of life. Some members of my family did not have electricity or running water. We had to go and get water outside. It was both a time consuming as well as tiring job, so you would not waste it. Even among those who had running water, we were often scolded because we let it flow too much or for no reason. There were also catch basins for rainwater that would be used for cleaning or for animals.
But if water were to be saved, it must also be shared. For me it is one of the most beautiful examples of solidarity. When we went on an adventure with my brothers, cousins and friends. Sometimes we were thirsty and a bit far from home. So we just knocked on the first door and the person who opened us brought us water, enough for everyone and very fresh. If we wanted a supplement we were refilled. I have never seen anyone deny us water. It was amazing for the Parisian child I was.
Savings in Energy, Gas or Electricity
For example, bread was prepared at home, but often one of the children was sent to the neighborhood oven to bake bread. The smell that emanated throughout the area was like paradise. All breads, biscuits, cakes from the surroundings were cooked in this area. I loved having a piece of hot bread drizzled with olive oil!
In one of the douar without electricity, there was a television which operated with a battery. I remember very young that the whole village met once a week to watch the 1977 series “Roots” (but everyone called it “Kounta Kinte” who became a legendary hero in the little douar). The rest of the week instead of using the battery each night, people gathered around a fire, drinking mint tea and telling each other stories. The older ones liked to tell us scary tales which made the kids afraid. Even more so, when we went back home in the dark with only our fragile oil lamps!
The Food was Mostly Vegetarian
When the family was meeting in the summer house, we were 16 people: 8 adults and 8 children. Additionally, there were also a lot of people passing through. Mostly, at the start of the holidays, my grandfather, his two sons, my father and my uncle would sacrificed a sheep. The meat would last for the duration of the summer and everything would be consumed. The skin was also preserved for leather and wool.
At meals there were two tables. The adults table and the children’s table which was accompanied with one adult of course. Often it was my grandfather who ate with us. He took care of cutting the piece of meat and dishing it out. The portion of meat was not very big, in fact it was just one or two bites. The meat was mostly used for seasoning therefore we learned to love vegetables. Finally, the snacks were not mass produced cookies wrapped in plastic or fruit juices in cartons. They were all natural such as mint tea, olives, bread or even a tomato cut in half and sprinkled with a little salt.
For purchases, everything was done at the local corner shop or at the souk. Spices, seeds, sugar blocks or black soap. Moreover, we’d buy products by weight therefore not wasting any plastic or packaging.
It’s also while playing out that I became aware of the beauty of our planet. For years there was only one TV channel, also games consoles or smartphones didn’t exist back then so we were playing outside. At Missour we enjoyed swimming in the river or running in the orchards whilst catching fresh fruits. In Azrou we went on an adventure to the mountains where we hoped to see monkeys. My grandfather often took us because he spent a lot of time there. He made us observe ants, hedgehogs and trees… even if he hadn’t been to school he still understood and loved this majestic land. With such beauty in the mountains, plants and animals, he believed they were a manifestation of the Divine.
Working and Studying in Paris
One of the other highlights of my life that allowed me to make lifestyle changes was having to work young to finance my studies. Indeed I got my first job at 16 years old. I funded my own school trips, public transport, doctor and also bought my own books. I was proud to be funding my own life. But I could see that I did not earn enough to have fashionable clothes or to go to the most chic places in Paris. This frustrated me for a while especially during my graduate studies. However, slowly slowly, this period really helped me give little importance to the material things. I did not let this define me and I was able to initiate changes to my way of life.
Reducing Environmental Impact and Becoming More Cost Effective in Paris
Here are examples of the concrete changes I made in my life:
- Buying only second-hand clothes, except shoes because it’s hard to find ones that fit me. But I usually buy two pairs at a time every 2 years.
- I do the same thing with homewares, I even found most of my furniture outside.
- Looking after my things, I take care of them.
- For cosmetics, I have an organic moisturizer which wasn’t tested on animals. As for soaps and shampoos, I use products traditionally from Morocco. Ghassoul (clay) or henna mask with egg and olive oil for my hair. Black soap and also Marseille soap to wash my body. Rose and orange blossom water which are also beneficial for the skin.
- For the maintenance of the house I use mostly baking soda and white vinegar for cleaning and descaling. Again, black soap or Marseille soap for my laundry.
- I do not leave the water running without good reason. I developed a simple method for washing dishes using as little water as possible. Plus, I only do laundry once a week and I only take showers. As a matter of fact, I never take a bath even though I have a bathtub!
- When traveling within Paris, I only take the metro, tramway or walk. Never by taxi or uber.
Becoming a Vegetarian
It’s been about 6 years since I started a change in my diet. I almost do not eat meat anymore and stopped consuming products from cows milk. Moreover, I eat organic and if I can not, I consume local products. I do not buy precooked dishes or palm oil. I save money here as well as feeling better physically. It’s also morally rewarding to eat what you have prepared and to taste real organic food. I’m even going to take cooking classes from my mother who likes to make fun of my dishes.
I’m not trying to impose my diet on my family. But maybe because I’m not looking for the changes, I found that they are also consuming a lot less meat. Nowadays, my mother often cooks exclusively vegetarian. And when there’s meat at the table nobody tries to convince me to eat it. Not even my mother who is very proud of her cooking!
The Way of Saint James
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I love walking so much. To the point that in June / July 2018 I went walking on the Way of Saint James. I took the French Way from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and onto Fisterra and Muxia. That’s a little more than 1100 km of walking over a period of 5 weeks. I really enjoyed this trip so I did another one in April / May 2019. This time I took the Portuguese Way from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela before Fisterra again. This walk was a little over 800 km and 5 weeks again. During this trip I met UK Travel Blogger and photographer James Smith. We got on well and decided to walk together on a third path. James and I went on an adventure through both the Northern and Primitive routes from Saint Jean de Luz to Muxia via Oviedo. This route was about 1080 km of walking and a lot was through mountains and beside the coast!
Examples of Human Destruction on the Way of Saint James
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These three great walks gave me a very realistic vision of this world. There were many beautiful landscapes, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, majestic mountains and sublime beaches. There were also all kinds of birds, butterflies, centenary trees … yes I was really happy to see so much beauty.
But I have also seen daily the impact of humans on our planet. Cattle breeding in sometimes difficult conditions, agricultural fields as far as the eye can see. The dirty beaches, large industrial areas, devastated mountains or reforestation with Eucalyptus, an endemic Australian species that in Spain is a danger for local flora and fauna and an increased risk of fires.
Seeing this often I found myself thinking about various issues such as pollution of the oceans, the extension of urban areas or the plight of refugees who travel by thousands and without any protection… Whether it is war refugees, economic or ecological.
In any case, these trips made me want to make more changes to my lifestyle.
Reducing my Environmental Impact in the Future
I am a gardener by profession and my long term project is to leave the city of Paris for a simpler way of life. Ideally I would have a small piece of land to grow my vegetables. Meanwhile I’m planning to join a shared garden within Paris. In this type of garden, people from all walks of life can grow their own vegetables but they can also create positive social links. I am also thinking about joining an association focused on agroecology in Africa. I attended one years ago whose actions are carried out in Senegal.
Environmentally Friendly Travel in the Future
I wish to continue traveling in an ecological way. Walking as I did, consuming daily simple dishes which I cooked in small hostels. Consuming water only in case of real need. This way of living brought me a lot of peace. I think about another adventure of this type but on another continent. Perhaps I’ll walk the Kumano Kodo in Japan.
Finally, in a more concrete way, I am going to apply the minimalist lifestyle. Traveling weeks with the bare necessities really convinced me that I need to declutter. I have many old clothes, books that I do not read anymore, kitchen utensils that I do not use. It will not be easy because we’ve grown up in a materialist society therefore it can be a slow process. So I’m planning to sort out and give to associations all that I do not need and that can surely be used by someone else. I still have a way to go and a lot of changes to make but that’s definitely what I’m aiming for.
Thank you for your attention and wish you a smooth transition into the world of eco-conscious living!