Inspiration

7 Ways to Travel Sustainably

Happy (almost) Earth Day lovelies! On this awesome occasion, I just wanted to do a little post about how to give back to this beautiful Earth of ours to lessen our negative impact especially while traveling. This Earth belongs to all of us and it's a group effort to keep it better than how we came into it! It's our daily responsibility to be seriously cautious of our own action. As much as it is amazing to travel and explore the world, it is not always sustainable and sometimes we contribute to really negative problems without even thinking about it fully. 

"Whoever brings dead land to life, that is, cultivates wasteland, for him is a reward therein." Prophet Mohammad
7 Ways to Travel Sustainably - Green Travel

Before I start telling you about the ways to be sustainable, let's define the word:  

Sustainability is "the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance"

In this post I will be sharing seven ways that help me travel more sustainably. In all honesty, I do not always follow all of these ways, but I do try my best to do so and to contribute positively to this planet. Additionally, sustainable travel is really good for budgets too! 

#1 Travel on land

I am guilty of taking a few planes a year when travelling and the fuel of those planes is the worst thing ever and I wish I could travel more by trains and buses. To relieve my conscious, I do two things: I pay a tiny amount to offset my journey's carbon footprints even Ryanair offers this option now and take public transports when I arrive to my destination. I know sometimes public transports takes a little longer, but it has its benefits; it's better for the environment, it's much cheaper than private transportation and it also helps you get to know the destination you are travelling to differently.   

“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” Erol Ozan
The train in Sri Lanka 

The train in Sri Lanka 

#2 Group your destinations

If you can, plan your travels in groups. If you know that you will be in Europe in a specific time, maybe you can go to more than one destination at once. For example, on my last trip to Algarve in Portugal, I decided to prolong my trip to explore the whole area fully before returning back home instead of going to the same place more than once. I know this is a subject to flexible times, but it is worth the consideration. 

#3 Live your life like plastic does not exit

Have you seen all the very sad photo from the plastic filled Indonesian beaches? Or have you seen the story abut the whale that died from eating 30 plastic bags? As you can see plastic is a gigantic problem and it makes me so mad. My life still includes plastic, but I am slowly trying to rid my life or minimise the usage of plastic. It is VERY difficult. Grocery shopping alone causes like a half bin of plastic wastage. There are a few little things to consider while travelling to use less plastic: 

  • Take a glass water bottle with you and refill it if the water tap is safe to drink instead of buying bottled water. You can add a slice of lemon, mint leave or cucumber pieces for the taste. 
  • Take your travel mug/flask with you for your tea/coffee. I only recently thought of this when I saw another traveller do it and I LOVE the idea especially if you want a tea on the go. 
  • Make sure to tell your waiter that you don't want a straw for your drink. It is the most useless piece of plastic and it's not even reusable. If you must, pack a straw with you to reuse. 
  • Pack an extra cloth bag for all your gift shopping so you don't get any plastic bags with your goodies. 
  • If you plan to making your own lunch sandwiches, you can buy some of the Bee Wax food wrappings, which I LOVE and actually use them to cover all my food at home too! 

By the way if you do see plastic thrown on the beach or the road, try to take it to a recycling bin!

Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah).” (Prophet Mohammad - Authenticated by Al-Albani) 

Bonus: Be aware of regular wastage

Adding to waste lands is something we all should consider and as women we have one monthly wastage, which is period products. Using pads and tampons is not only semi harmful to you, but it adds to the mountain of wastage in this world. I switched to using menstrual cups and yes it was very weird when I started and it took about three periods for my body to fully get used to it and I feel like it's the best thing I have done! Plus it makes my travels easier during my period times because I don't have to pack so many products and only my cup and reusable bottle of water to wash up!  

#4 Choose Eco-friendly accommodation

This is still difficult to find in some countries, but it is a great option when applicable. It takes a little bit longer to search for the right eco friendly lodge or hotel, but they do exist. Having the word eco in the title is not enough, you have to look at how they are environmentally friendly and the efforts they are making for that claim to be true. Some options can be found on booking.com but with some more vigorous search. 

Booking.com

#5 Give back to the locals

I don't mean money or goods. I mean valuable business. Research your accommodation and your tour operators and make sure you are supporting small local businesses and local charities that work with communities. G adventures work with local businesses and organise home stays so that is a good option to start with if you had no idea where to start. 

You can also purchase gifts from local artists and crafters to support their traditional craft or their artistic vision. This might be a little pricey, but it will make a difference to them and you. I was very pleased when I got a handmade brooch from Vilnius

#6 Be aware of your food

When you are travelling to a new destination, eat the locally grown seasonal produce because that encourages the country to grow its own produce and it supports local farmers. Additionally, it is usually cheaper and fresher and has much more nutritional values to eat based on seasons. 

Eat The Seasons is a good website that tells you what grows when

Another cool way is to make use of lunch offers in different countries such as the Czech Republic. Most restaurants have a lunch offer, where they cook one special and serve it for a very affordable price. It's usually a good choice to go for since it has already been cooked and it will save you some money too! 

Tropical Fruit of Madeira

Tropical Fruit of Madeira

#7 Leave the animals be

Sustainability is not only about using less plastic, it is a wholesome way of living and caring for the planet. One thing some people forget is the beautiful animals we have on this Earth. I know some countries are known for some amazing animals. When I went to Sri Lanka, I really wanted to see the elephants for example, but you have to be extremely careful when it comes to seeing animals. Going to a nature reserve in the wild is your best bet. Zoos and other places where they hold animals in captivity are usually horrible for the poor animals. Even whale and dolphin watching can be dangerous for them so research a lot before you go ahead with this. 

Another thing to consider when it comes to animals is buying them as trophies or being products that come from wild life. No one in this life needs an alligator bag, a fox fur scarf or ivory. If you want more infromation about wild animal products or news, the national geographic wild watch is a good source for it. 

Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.” Prophet Mohammad. Ps. "Just cause" in reference to food.
Photo from Unawatuna to Ude Wale National Park - Sri Lanka

Photo from Unawatuna to Ude Wale National Park - Sri Lanka

I hope you find ways useful and I hope we all can implement them. If you have any more ideas please share them in the comments below! 

More Travel Tips:

Travel inspiration for your instagram

How to document your travels like a pro?

How to document your travels like a pro?

Documenting my travels is one of my favourite things of all times. It is the reason I started my blog in the first place! There are so many ways to document and record your trips. It is a good way to remind yourself of your precious memories and to share it with others to keep your family up to date if you are travelling for a long while. This post will give you a little insight on how I personally document my travels from writing to using other types of technology! I mainly use four ways to document my travel: writing, photography, videography and social media. Although I find the documenting and sharing a little overwhelming, it is really fun! Let tell me tell you more about each method. 

Travel Documentation: Writing Travel Notes

Let's start with the oldest way of documentation: writing! Travel writing is about details and valuable infromation. You can write about your trip after it is over, or you can write an entry every night of your trip. I prefer the latter otherwise I wouldn't remember a lot of the small precious things that happened. You can list the activities you have done chronologically from the moment you woke up or you can start with your least favourite activities. I usually have a lot to say about my least favourite things and writing helps me blow out steam especially if I was angry about spending half a day in a museum I hated. When you are writing, it is not only about the information of the activity, it is about fully describing the situation to create a vibrant mental image. I often enjoy reading novels because I can imagine things with rich details the way I want. Unlike movies, where they just give you all the visuals on a platter. 

After every place I visit, I make a few quick notes on my phone or notepad of highlights and add sentences that would remind me of full stories. I usually don't have time to write fully at night because I am likely exhausted from my full day out. So, I write it all with the help of my notes on the plane on my way back home. I love three hour plane journeys. I get so much done during that time! I type it all up on my little keyboard that I connect to my iPad because I don't love packing my laptop with me. Often, my written travel notes make it into a blog post, where I can refer my friends and family to my experience and advice if they want to find out more. 

ARTECK

Travel Documentation: Taking photos

The most obvious thing to do when travelling is taking photos and it is a great fun. You know what is not fun? Editing over 5000 photos after a two-week trip. I have learnt my lesson after taking million photos in Iran. Yes I loved looking at everything, but that doesn't mean I had to take that many photos. I am much more selective with the photos I take right now. I usually like to take one photo showing the whole thing, a photo of small details I really liked and a photo of me with that monument. I got really upset after realising I had hardly any photos of me in those 5000 Iranian pictures. I love having a light camera with me on my travels that has a wifi connection within it, so I can share the photos instantly like the canon cameras below: 

Read: How to take pictures of yourself when travelling solo

Travel Documentation: Making Travel Films

I was not always big on video. I actually refused to even take short clips of any of my trips until 2015! All my videos of that year either had dust marks in them or just a shaky unusable clips, but now that I got the hang of it. I love taking videos. I try to enjoy my trip as well, so I don't take a video of everything. I like to take an establishing shot of the place from the outside showing the scale and the surroundings then I take detail shots and close ups of what I feel is important. Editing video is even harder than photos and having over 200 clips from one day only is a complete pain to put together. It also helps to think of how you attend to put the video together that usually determines the amount I film. For example, if I only want to do a highlight video, like the one I did in Morocco, I would film much less than a daily travel vlog style like the ones I did in Sri Lanka. I put both below to give you some ideas: 

Travel Documentation: Sharing it on social media

A great way to document travels is to share it on social media and that actually helped me remember locations that I forgot to make a note of. When I am on a trip with a good wifi, I share two photos a day, one in the morning and another one in the evening. That way I can either share thoughts I am having about the destination or some useful facts. I like numbering the photos as well. Like Day 1 in Morocco etc. Ps. Don't share the hotel's location where you are staying until after you leave!

Read: How to stay safe when travelling

Sharing doesn't have to be only during the trip time, it can be after like Throw Back Thursday and Flashback Friday or even referred to a Lategram. It's your life and photos and you are free to do whatever you please really!

Over to you: how do you document your travels? 


Some Travel Inspiration for your Instagram

Beautiful People of Sri Lanka

Here are some of the beautiful people I met during my solo trip to Sri Lanka. Each person on here made my stay in Sri Lanka special. 

It was such a pleasure meeting the locals and speaking to them. I wish I spoke to them more and asked for their stories. They all showed me kindness and added to the experience.

What was one of the memorable conversations you had with a local on a trip? 

"Creativity For A Cause" Mentoring Session

Hi everyone! 

If you have been following the blog, then you know that I was invited to be one of the mentors for the "Creativity for a Cause" campaign with Philadelphia. I also gave a motivational talk to some of the students in Dar Al Hekma University in April 2016 to encourage them to put their ideas forward for the campaign. The campaign received many entries. In May 2016, eight ideas were shortlisted and qualified for the semi finals. The mentors and I gave presentations and support to the participants and their ideas. Afterwards, the participants filmed their ideas to be available for public votes. It was a fun day with everyone. Here's the feature aired on MBC1 and the presentation I gave below! :) 

Full Episode (88) is available on Shahid.net

Here is the presentation I gave & the slides. Hope you find it useful! There is so much to be said on the subject, but here's a glimpse from my personal experience.  

Over to you: What are your favourite business start up tips?

LoudArt Finale in Bahrain 2016

Happy Saturday everyone! :) 

December last year, my work was chosen for the Loud Art collaborative exhibition in Khobar. I was very pleased to exhibit for the first time with a number of very talented artists in the Gulf and the Middle East. Since then, the exhibition has travelled to Jeddah/West of Saudi, Muscat/Oman and Bahrain. I couldn't make it to the first three since I was in London, but I made it to the last one in Bahrain. I really liked the gallery space and how the work was displayed. Here are some snaps of the gallery, my work and other beautiful art. Enjoy! :)

Sculpture by Faisal Ahmed

Sculpture by Faisal Ahmed

Malja Art Gallery in Bahrain - Loud Art 2016
Islamic Pattern in Malja Art Gallery

Islamic Pattern in Malja Art Gallery

my work mashallah! :D Islamic Patterns and Illuminations by Esra Alhamal

my work mashallah! :D Islamic Patterns and Illuminations by Esra Alhamal

Islamic Patterns and Tattoos

Islamic Patterns and Tattoos

Illustrations by Momad.ink

Illustrations by Momad.ink

Emtethal Al Awami

Emtethal Al Awami

Ali Al Sharji, Brilliant Mindz Photography 

Ali Al Sharji, Brilliant Mindz Photography 

Doors and Islamic Patterns by Khadija Kareem

Doors and Islamic Patterns by Khadija Kareem

Photos by Sara Foryame aka Frozenvanity

Photos by Sara Foryame aka Frozenvanity

Motivational Talk for Creativity for a Cause

March has been a great month and this year I got to have an active roll in International Women's Day. I was chosen to be a mentor for the Philadelphia "Creativity for a Cause" campaign to empower women in the Arabia Gulf region along with three talented ladies (read more in my previous post). The campaign gives the emotional and financial support to two creative winners. One female from the public and another from Dar Al Hekma University. So, I went to the university to give a motivational talk to the students. It was really good going there and speaking to them. I remember being in their seat not so long ago and I could see the thirst for inspiration.

The last date to submit a creative idea that benefits the GCC societies is on the 12th of April! 

DesignerEsra in Jeddah
Creative ideas from university students

You can listen to the talk and see the presentation I shared below. May you all be inspired and motivated. #JustDoIt ;) 

PS. The Islamic pattern trips I referred were with the  Art of Islamic Pattern website. My artist friend I referred to is Morgan from re-source designs

Picasso & Miro in Dubai

I am in LOVE with the art scene in Dubai and the interest they have generated in the past few years. In my last visit, I was lucky to find the Picasso & Moir exhibition in the Annex One in Burj Khalifah. I really enjoyed it! I stayed there for a little over an hour, but I was doing it all slow in purpose because I wanted to take it all in and fully enjoy the art. I also rented the audio guide, which made my visit richer. Photography was allowed and that’s always a major plus for me.

 

Picasso & Moir exhibition in the Annex One in Burj Khalifah

There were works from the early years of Picasso when he did his natural history studies and then moved to various styles and expressions. As he grew, his art grew with him. It was interesting to see a range of his work.

Sketches from Picasso
Sketches from Picasso
Sketches from Picasso
portrait from Picasso

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction " Picasso. 

Blue Period, Picasso
illustrations by Picasso

 Alongside the work of Picasso, there were pieces from Joan Miro, where he aimed to unite text and illustrations because he believed there is no distinction between painting and poetry. 

Picasso & Miro in Dubai
Joan Miro
Painting by Joan Miro

"The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executes with clinical coolness" JoanMiro. 

Colourful Illustrations by Joan Miro

"I try to apply colour like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music" Joan Miro. 

Art Gallery in Burj Khalifah in Dubai
Poetry in Painting by Joan Miro

Dinner under the stars in Fes, Morocco

I have loved looking at the stars for the longest time. When I was a child, my family and I went to Meddina. It is located in the West of Saudi and we used to take the bus to go there. The bus passed through the desert for hours taking us from the East to the West of the country.  One of the strongest memories I have from those trips was the stars and how they filled the dark desert skies with sparkles.

When I was in Fes, I was happy to repeat that memory and dine under the changing colours of the sky & the stars. I didn't have to go far for this experience, I just asked my hotel, Riad Fes Aicha, if I can have dinner in the terrace and they arranged an elaborate delicious one for 200 Moroccan Dirhams per person, which equals 14 GBP. It was one of my favourite nights in Fes and from that point on I was hooked on the terrace and went there for breakfast, tea and star gazing.