Because everyone loves travel packing tips!

So… If what I’ve read is anything to go by, there is an endless number of posts on travel websites and blogs telling you how to pack light, how to fit all your stuff in a carry-on bag, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, an endless number of these posts are really helpful and have aided me in sorting out what I want to pack for my upcoming travels. However, many of these list a number of speciality items, that I don’t particularly want to spend my travel money on, or don’t align with my like for minimising waste. I also have some other strategies that I’ve been using for a while, which I haven’t found written anywhere else.

Some of these tips may only be relevant to some people. Some of them do involve some lifestyle changes or skills to acquire, but in my opinion, they’re not too difficult or drastic, and will help simplify your needs, waste, spending, and of course, luggage! Some things that help me and may help you, in no particular order, are…

  • One Bar of Soap
  • Coconut Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Threading
  • Bicarb
  • ebay
  • Packing Cube Alternatives
  • Make Friends!

Now here they are in more detail…

  • One Bar of Soap

Shampoo, Body Wash, Hand Wash, Laundry Soap, Shaving Cream, Dish Soap, Toothpaste*. What do these things have in common? They can all be replaced with one product – a bar of soap.

Like the aforementioned bar of soap, coconut oil has a number of uses, and can replace many toiletries. See my post on coconut oil for a few ideas. Think moisturiser, hair styler, conditioner, shaving cream… And many more. If you’re planning on taking just hand luggage, coconut oil is your saviour. One 100ml jar will last ages! And no need for those annoying tiny travel bottles.

  • Vinegar

Another strategy to make your toiletries go further is vinegar. It can be diluted and used to condition the hair, instead of your standard shop-bought conditioner. So, a small bottle of something like Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar will go far. Just a teaspoon or two in a cup of water can be used instead of loads of conditioner.

Now, vinegar is great if you’re transitioning from full-blown products to using nothing. But not using anything to wash your hair is even better! Here’s what I did.

  • Threading

Ever had your eyebrows threaded? It’s pretty quick, not too painful and tends to be cheap. Well, it’s even cheaper now. A few years ago, my cousin taught me how to thread my own eyebrows! No more tweezers, all my luggage in the cabin with me, no paying people to do my eyebrows for me (not that I’ve ever really done that except in India). Threading will also work for other hairy areas in a pinch, but doing a whole leg may test your patience! Think of it as an alternative to plucking!

It’s actually pretty simple. Cut a length of cotton thread, about as long as your arm, and tie it so it forms a circle. Hold the loop taut, then twist one hand around, so the thread forms a figure of 8, with around 5 twists in the middle. The aim of threading is to catch the hairs in the twisted thread, which will pull the hairs out. Instead of typing it out, here’s a link to a video of someone doing it (she starts threading at 6:39). Go ahead and try it!

  • Bicarb

Again, useful for haircare instead of shampoo. Either mix with water and massage into the scalp, or just sprinkle some straight onto your head and dampen it a bit.

Also, bicarb is great for the occasional tooth scrub! It’s very abrasive, so don’t use it too often, but it does give you a great clean feeling, either when you brush it straight on or mix with a bit of coconut oil.  A bit of a change if you’re used to highly frothing, flavoured toothpaste, but nothing too alarming!

  • ebay

Buying new stuff is rubbish. Or generates rubbish. Well, both, actually! If, like me, you’re not a fan of spending loads of money and contributing to the world’s ever growing waste problem, give ebay a try. I find shops quite overwhelming – so many things all over the place, screaming, “Buy me! Buy me!” and looking through everything to find what I want can be exhausting. By shopping on ebay, I just type in exactly what I want, and it will be cheaper than it will be in the shops! Win, win.

Ebay is also great if you want a bit of extra cash. Have a look around and find clothes you no longer feel good wearing, or haven’t even looked at for months. Sell them! You get rid of junk and get money, and someone else gets to buy something without contributing to mass over-production and consumerism. Hooray!

  • Packing Cube Alternatives

Quite a few travellers on the internet are raving about packing cubes. They do look really useful and helpful to keep all your stuff in order. I, for one, am terrible when it comes to stuffing things wherever I can in my bag and then not being able to find anything when I need it! Packing cubes, though. Buying stuff, spending money – not things I like to do! So I found an alternative. The things people like about packing cubes – they have see-through parts, so you can see where your stuff is, they smush all your clothes into a small space, different sizes, etc. I went around my house, looking for good candidates. I found a couple of pencil cases, make-up bags, and a few miscellaneous, transparent things. I folded up some clothes and squished them inside, and hey presto! Packing cubes!


In the above photo, there’s 5 t-shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 1 pair of shorts, a maxi dress, A flowery shirt, a crochet waistcoat, a tank top and a lacy t-shirt. I’ve since switched some stuff around, after changing my mind about what to pack, but look how little space they take up! I’ve managed to fit 2 bras in the middle one, and a pair of leggings and a t-shirt in the first one in exchange for one pair of trousers (and there’s room for more!)

So, if you like the idea of packing cubes but don’t want to fall into the trap of buying loads of stuff and spending money unnecessarily, just look around your home for things you could use. There’s always charity shops as well, and if that fails – Zip-loc bags!

  • Make Friends!

Obviously, making friends has many more benefits than making packing easier, but it does that too! Staying with people means you don’t have to bring everything you might ever need, because if you’re in someone’s home, they probably have it. Things like soap, toothpaste, towels, extra jumpers, niche equipment/clothing, etc will very likely be available at your friend’s home. So, no need for you to pack loads of bulky stuff that you won’t necessarily need in every place you go.

If you’re ok not using specific toiletries/clothes, etc, then staying with people in homes is a great way to save money, packing space, and to have a generally wonderful travel experience!


Simplify… Skincare

I’ve ranted before about capitalists who steal all our money by selling us the solutions to the problems they have created. This time I’m on the skincare offensive!

Cleverly, shower gels, body washes, bath soaks, etc are displayed separately to creams, lotions and moisturisers. If items were arranged by brand, we would see every ‘softening’, ‘moisturising’ shower gel next to the matching softening, moisturising cream, made by the same people. This would make it too obvious to us that we are being sold products that don’t work. If I use a moisturising cleansing product, why do I need to use a cream as well? If I’m using this lovely softening gel everyday, why do I find myself needing ever more moisturiser?

Of course, there are external factors that affect how dry your skin gets, like air conditioning, pollution, diet, hydration (hint: drink loads of water, it pretty much heals everything). However, it’s no accident that cleansing products dry out your skin, so that you need… Moisturiser! And handily, our lovely toiletry companies sell moisturisers that will match the scent of your body wash/shampoo/perfume, so you can make every inch of your body smell like a strawberry/mango/lemon/chocolate bar/baby (delete as appropriate).

Now. Everyone has a different lifestyle. Some people are active and sweaty, others are sedentary, others get covered in blood/soil/shit. In my opinion, most people are showering too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love a warm shower after a long day. By all means, go for it. But you don’t need to use a cleanser every time. I get covered in soil and manure pretty often, but I find some hot water and a good scrub will get rid of pretty much everything. Sometimes, if I’m significantly more soiled than usual, I’ll get out my trusty bar of soap and lather up a bit. But most of the time, I don’t use it, nor do I need it. And guess what else I don’t need – moisturiser.

I’ve had problems with dry skin for a long time. I then started using coconut oil after a shower, and things got a bit better… However, since I stopped using body wash, my skin stays soft without ever using moisturiser. If I want to feel extra pampered, I’ll massage some coconut oil in, but I never feel that I need it. This is because I’m not stripping the natural oils from my skin, that keep it in good condition, by scrubbing cleanser all over myself.

Coconut oil can also be used as a cleanser. It’s great for wiping off make-up, and gentle enough to be used around the eyes. You can also try oil cleansing, which involves massaging the oil into your face and then placing a hot flannel or towel over it, until it cools. The hot flannel will open up the follicles (tiny holes in your face) and the oil will dissolve some of the sebum in the pores. You can then use the flannel to gently scrub your face, hopefully getting rid of some of the sebum that’s been lurking. If you are prone to more aggressive acne, then it’s advisable to steer clear of coconut oil, as it can be comedogenic (encourages comedones* to form). In general, washing your face too much with cleansers will cause the skin to secret more sebum, as cleansers get rid of it. The more sebum the skin produces, the more likely it is that it will mix with dead skin cells and form comedones*.

So – simplify! Go ahead and use up the rest of your products, or give them to someone who’ll appreciate them… I mean, you’ve bought them, so you don’t have to throw them away.

But then, revel in the simplicity of your shelves, no longer bulging with bright coloured bottles, claiming miracles. Watch your bank balance steady itself, caress your smooth, supple skin, and don’t forget to laugh in the face of skincare adverts!

*Comedo (pl. comedones) is a fancy term for a spot, or follicle blockage! ‘Blackheads’ and ‘Whiteheads’ are both types of comedo – blackheads occur when the follicle blockage is open to the surface of the skin, and the substance blocking the follicle is oxidised, turning it black. A whitehead occurs when the blockage is close to the skin’s surface, but not open. The blockage is made up of sebum and dead skin cells. Yummy! Sebum is the oily stuff that the skin secrets, to keep our skin and hair waterproof, and to act as a barrier to bacteria, fungal infections, etc. Thanks, sebum!

Simplify… One Bar of Soap

Shampoo, Body Wash, Hand Wash, Shaving Cream, Toothpaste*, Laundry Soap, Dish Soap. What do these things have in common? They can all be replaced with one product – the humble bar of soap.

Now, there are many more uses for simple soap, but I’m just listing a few to get started with. I’ll start with some instructions on how to use one bar of soap for all these uses. Then, I’ll go into more detail, anecdotes and such. Think – rants on capitalism, waste, consumerism, you get my point. So… Instructions…

Shampoo – Rinse hair with water, get your hands all soapy, and massage soap into your hair, but not too much into the scalp. Rinse. No need to repeat unless your hair is ridiculously grimy.

Body Wash – I’m guessing you know how to wash your body with soap. But, you never know! Rinse yourself with water, get yourself all soapy, rinse off. 

Hand Wash – As above, except you only need to get your hands all soapy.

Shaving Cream – Shaving cream does give you a good lather, but soap can be just as good. You just need to take slightly more time to work up a good lather to make a good layer between your razor and your delicate self, but then you’re good to go!

Toothpaste* – Now this can take some getting used to, but all you need to do is get some wet soap on your brush and go to town. You could break a piece off your soap, to use just for your teeth, so you’re not rubbing your toothbrush on soap that’s been elsewhere… I have some reservations about using just soap for your teeth though…

Laundry Soap – If hand-washing, rinse clothes with water (hot, warm, cold, whatever’s available) and either dissolve the soap in the water by rubbing between your hands (easier in warmer water), or rub the bar of soap directly on clothes. If you have heavier stains, you can rub some extra on them. Knead and rub your clothes to distribute the soap and leave to soak for a while (longer if using cold water). Then rinse away and leave to dry. If you have the luxury of a machine, or very hot water, you can grate or scrape off some soap into the drawer/straight in the water and it will do the job! If you have access to vinegar, like white or apple cider, you can add that in when you rinse the clothes, to remove potential residue from the soap. To be honest, though, I don’t particularly find this to be a problem.

Dish Soap – Rub soap under water til the water is soapy and foamy, and wash those dishes as normal!

Now for some ranting! Did you ever notice how all those bottles you have around the house have so many of the same ingredients written on them? Or how many companies make shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion? As in, shampoo that strips your hair of moisture, conditioner that restores the moisture, body wash that dries out your skin, and a lotion that makes it soft again? Hmm… Anyone else suspicious? Here’s my experience with simplifying my haircare…

In terms of using soap for cleaning things other than your body…

When I was in India, in a village called Vashisht, I used to bathe myself and wash my clothes in the hot spring, along with the local women (I could write a whole post about those springs.. maybe I will…). I was travelling light and cheap in India too, and I had run out of the Tide laundry bar soap that I had been using. I saw a lot of other people using soap bars to wash their clothes, so although my ‘special’ laundry bar had finished, I thought I’d use my regular old bar of soap. Which was actually an organic, ayurvedic, vegetarian, super cheapo bar I bought in Mumbai.

And guess what. My clothes were all dirty and brown and itchy? No. They were just as clean as they are when I’m at home using your run-of-the-mill laundry detergent. Lesson Learned.

IMAG4153If you want to find more uses for a bar of soap, check out this cheat sheet from Lisa Bronner about soap dilutions. She refers to liquid soap, but dissolving bar soap makes liquid soap, so you can still do everything she suggests. Liquid soap is also great, but I prefer bars, as they are smaller, more concentrated, and easier for travelling! Also, simpler soaps are better, and more universal. I like Faith in Nature and Dr Bronner’s, for the flavours, the feel, and their eco-credentials.

Let me know if you try any of my suggestions!

* Now, I may be lambasted by the anti-fluoride community for saying this, but… I like fluoride. Now, I am lucky that I live in the UK, so the amount of fluoride in our water is well regulated and safe. I sometimes like to think of myself and my peers as Generation-F, where the F stands for fluoride. Thanks to the fluoride in our water, our teeth are roughly a million times better and stronger than those of our parents’ generation (this is my own claim and is not backed by scientific research. That I know of.) If you use just soap, or just sodium bicarbonate instead of fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth, you will not get additional fluoride to protect them. I think my ideal situation would be to use a combination of all three. This means your toothpaste and other supplies will last longer (less waste, cheaper) and you can reap the benefits from all the methods of teeth-cleaning!

Simplify… Haircare!

Now, my hair has not been the easiest to look after over the years. I’ve tried countless products ‘designed’ for curly, frizzy, dry, tangled hair. All of which come in ‘ranges’. On each bottle, is the recommendation to use the other products. Now, if the conditioner truly was good for dry hair, why would you need to use special shampoo, cream and serum as well? Each product ruins your hair in such a way that will be solved by using another product. It’s a classic money-making scam. Create a problem and then sell people the solution! And we all constantly fall for it!

Last year, I looked into the ‘no-poo’ method for haircare. It suggests using Sodium Bicarbonate to clean your hair, and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to condition it. I liked the idea – it would be cheap, there wouldn’t be piles of plastic to throw away, and I wouldn’t be giving in to the evils of capitalism! Hooray! As I already had both things at home, I decided to try it out. It went well. It was good for travelling – all I needed was a small bottle of ACV, to be diluted and used as conditioner (1 cup water, 1-3 teaspoons vinegar – test different amounts to see what works best), and some bicarb to scrub. I would then use coconut oil afterwards to keep my hair soft.

As my hair is pretty dry and thick, it doesn’t get visibly greasy for a LONG time. This means I only need to wash it once or twice a week, under normal circumstances. I also save water this way! Also, as we all know, the less you wash your hair, the less you need to. Following this thought, and having read many times about how the hair and skin clean themselves, I wondered what would happen if I started washing my hair, just with water. I was skeptical, as my hair had always been difficult to manage… But I had also always been using so many things to try and manage it.

It has now been months since I switched to just rinsing my hair, and it’s in great condition! I sometimes run about a teaspoon of coconut oil through it (and there’s a lot of it) and massage it into the ends, just so it looks more curly than, well, poofey. Also, if my hair is covered in stronger stuff than a bit of sweat or dirt, I’ll use a bit of soap on it, but that’s it. It’s amazing. I save time, money, packaging, space… the list goes on.

If you have thinner or more greasy hair, you could first of all try washing it slightly less frequently, then switch out what you use to wash it. I recommend the soda and vinegar combination as a good transition from regular products to nothing at all, but then you can enjoy the freedom and laugh in the face of shampoo ads! Trust me, it’s great fun.

Let me know if you try it!

Was it a dream?

As I sit here, in the beginning of September, my 5-month-long trip to India seems like a bizarre dream…

But then I see the black cotton thread tied round my ankle by my cheeky best friend, on a suffocatingly humid evening in her flat in south Mumbai;

I feel the weight of the watch on my wrist that I bought in the duty free shop in Heathrow airport, after tinkling on the piano for an hour, having arrived obscenely early for my flight;

I twirl a dreadlock between my fingers, tangled and rolled by the cook in a restaurant in the foothills of the Himalayas, who would become my roommate and close friend.

I have such vivid dreams, that sometimes I can’t tell which of my memories are from dreams or from my waking life. So, sometimes it helps to have these tangible reminders that make me stop for a second and think – I actually did that. It happened.



I am a massive hypocrite. I try to live my life in a way that doesn’t have a drastic impact on the planet. I eat only plant-based food, grow what I can in the garden, shop locally, use public transport and walk or cycle shorter distances, conserve water, compost food waste, buy second hand clothes and books, limit the use of non-recyclable packaging, use my own cup for takeaway coffees, etc…IMAG3519

But I fly 😦

I hadn’t thought about flying so much until the last couple of years, and every time I do it, even though I find it incredible and fascinating and still don’t really understand how planes work and think it’s basically magic, I feel horribly guilty when I think about how many tonnes of carbon I’ve paid to be extracted from the earth and shot up into the atmosphere. I’m not exactly flying everyday, but flying has such a massive impact on the world’s fossil fuel resources, and the people in this world that have the smallest carbon-footprints are the ones that suffer the consequences of those with the biggest. When I fly I feel personally responsible for all the natural disasters that ravage developing countries, caused of course, by climate change.

Due to the rate of technology growth recently and the gradual trickle-down effect, I am lucky enough to live in a world in which I can travel from my home to the home of my friend in Germany in just a few hours, and for not a lot of money. I fly to Germany on Tuesday and I will sit in a seat that cost me £10. To fly. In a plane. I really felt powerless to resist that deal. I could get a series of trains and travel for a day to get there, but it would cost me about 5 times the cost of flying. Is that a good enough excuse? In this situation, I didn’t have a lot of time to get there, otherwise perhaps I could have hitchhiked or taken another form of public transport. Listing these options just makes me feel like I’m trying to think of excuses to justify my flying such a short distance. Just because the offer is there, it doesn’t mean I have to take it. Cheap flights are like McDonalds and salty, fatty ready meals from Iceland. There is plenty of other food available, but it seems harder and more expensive to prepare and eat them. So we pick the easy, unhealthy option. For us and the planet in fact.

So now I have a flight booked to Germany. And one to Sicily. And one back to London. Mother Earth, forgive me. I know I can assuage some of the guilt by thinking of all the private jet-flying, meat-eating, hummer-driving, mass-producing folk out there, who probably have a larger ‘footprint’ than I do… But this doesn’t make what I’m doing ok. Just because other people are doing it, does not make it acceptable for me to do it. Someone has to be the one who stops behaving in such harmful ways and speaks up to others about why. So maybe after I fly to all these places, I can be that person. I am learning the error of my ways. I can reform myself. After all, we’re not all born vegan freegan off-grid environmentalists. We’re not perfect.

We can try, though. We can look at our lives and look at what matters to us and try to live our lives according to our values. It may not seem easy or doable for whatever reason, but if we feel strongly enough about something, we will find a way. Although we, as humans, are the main culprits for the f**king up of the world, we need to have compassion for ourselves and our peers, as well as for the world we live in. It’s good to care about the planet and to live your life in a way that reflects this. Not everyone is aware of the issues the earth faces and the way their actions affect the world around them. We can educate them, and if they see value in protecting the earth, we can help them do so. Some people may have been brought up living a lifestyle that cared and nurtured the earth as well as themselves, but not everyone is so lucky. Anyone who has ‘become’ an environmentalist or who lives a sustainable lifestyle, was not always this way. We need to remember this. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s no use berating those whose lifestyle doesn’t align with our views. People don’t learn this way. We can only share our views and values with those around us, and work together to live more harmoniously side by side.

Happy New Year!


So it’s been a long time since I last posted here. I have since officially graduated from Cultivate London, and am an Intern at Global Generation. I love it there. The Skip Garden really is one of the most beautiful spots in London. I want everyone to be able to experience it, so I’ve been telling anyone and everyone about it.

My role as an intern has no particular title, so I get to do a bit of everything. One day gardening, another in the kitchen, another helping out with workshops, and doing general admin work and learning about how to run a charity.

I think this Internship is such a great opportunity. I’ve volunteered, doing various things for various organisations, and I love it. I love being around people and being on the ‘front line’ as it were. However, there is so much more to charities and volunteering than the actual act of volunteering. There are always people behind the scenes, making sure everything goes to plan. It’s like a garden. Sure, you plant your seeds and water them and they grow into plants and they are beautiful. However, there is so much going on beneath the surface – worms breaking up the soil, bees pollinating, bacteria transforming dead organic matter into compost, animals and birds eating fruits and transporting seeds… There is so much going on that we can’t see, without which none of what we can see would exist. I love helping kids make jam and raising money by crawling around city centres, but now I want to know how I can help other people to do those things, and interning at Global Generation is going to show me how.

In the week before our Christmas break, I had the opportunity to help Paul in the Skip Garden. Guess what I did…

That’s right, weeding! And I loved it. I’m always so impressed by weeds… How well they manage to do against all odds. The way they have evolved to be able to survive in all kinds of conditions and how they creep up on you and end up in the most bizarre places. I find weeding so therapeutic. It’s the type of task that allows you to think about other things if you want to, or to just get absorbed in it, and be at peace. It’s not stressful. You do have to concentrate, and be careful, making sure you get rid of the right things, and don’t end up ripping out the crop, but it’s the type of concentration that doesn’t make you tense and anxious. Instead, you’re concentrating just enough that you can’t worry about everything bad in the world or think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life… Just the weeds.

Weeding also offers pretty instant gratification. It’s one of those tasks, where you can actually see what you’ve achieved during it, and not have to wait for the end result. Every patch you clear motivates you toward tackling the next. It’s also a great opportunity to learn to identify some species, provided you have a knowledgable horticulturist or botanist nearby. Alternatively, you can consult an encyclopedia with pictures (or google ‘spiky green leaves yellow stripes’). Weeding provides a great opportunity to be by yourself, to enjoy the sounds and the silence of the natural world and immerse yourself in green. Alternatively, you can rope in a friend and weeding can be a fantastically sociable activity!

Despite not being in the mood to teach, Paul inevitably ended up imparting his knowledge on me. From succession to grafting fruit trees, Paul knows his stuff. He’s a great person to learn from, because not only does he know a lot, but he loves talking about it, and wants other people to know it and be excited about it. He appreciates and is fascinated by every cog in the machine that is the natural world, and after hearing about worms or crop rotation or ice sheets from him, I defy you not to feel the same.


In other news, Myself and Padre have been working on our back garden. A couple of weekends were spent clearing out the beds along the side of the garden and digging in bags of manure. I have to admit, I loved clearing the soil of unwanted roots and plants. Not only was it satisfying to be preparing the bed for planting, but I found so many worms to add to the compost and I dug down to the layer of proper clay beneath the couple of feet of soil. It makes me want to make something!


After leaving the manure to get to know the soil, we did some planting, with the aim of overwintering some crops and getting an early harvest in the spring. We planted Vicia faba (broad beans) ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, Pisum Sativum (peas) ‘Meteor’ and two types of onion sets, the names of which I have no clue, but after some online research, I reckon they could be Allium cepa ‘Red Cross’ and Allium cepa ‘Shakespeare’ (or ‘Radar’ or ‘Tornado’ or another brown skinned white onion…). We’ll have to taste them and see.

They all seem to be doing well. The broad beans are looking particularly strong. It has been pretty mild though, up until recently. Padre made some Coke bottle cloches to put over the peas and beans, and lucky he did, as pretty soon after came the frosts. Our shoots have fared pretty well against the freezing nights, and are looking strapping and green. Their growth should start slowing down soon, but once it gets warmer again, they’ll have a head start and we can feast on our crops in Spring, as we plant for the autumn harvest.

We’ve also been putting some treats out for the birds, and inevitably squirrels. Visitors to our garden will discover (to be read in a Masterchef voice…) a delightful range of peanut butter coated pine cones, smothered in a nutritious blend of nuts and seeds, as well as various scraps of bread and randomly scattered nuts. They will also find shallow pools of water, with which they can quench their thirst, or perhaps take a refreshing, mid-winter dip.

Last but not least, we have a Hedgehog Hotel, aka a pile of logs, twigs and leaves at the back of the garden. The UK’s hedgehog population has been decreasing at an alarming rate recently. In the last 20 years alone, it’s down by 50%. In case any wander over to our neck of the woods, they’ve got a cosy spot. I haven’t actually checked at night to see if there are any there, but I suppose that preserves the hopeful notion that it’s being used.

Hotel Hedgehog

I had definitely meant to mention the various projects I’ve discovered in London, to do with gardening, food, etc. but I seem to have got carried away with other things. Next time. Until then…

Happy Weeding!