Doubt and What to Think About What Other People Think

It’s been almost two weeks since we moved from the tiny flat to the palace. I’ve found these last few weeks quite difficult. After we made the decision to move, the initial feelings of excitement and elation were suddenly swapped with feelings of doubt and panic.

“What am I doing?!!!”

Our old flat was comfortable, familiar, well maintained…and our home. We liked it. The new flat is new territory. It’s unfamiliar, and not particularly well maintained. People would ask us excitedly in the weeks before we moved: is the new flat better? We’d shift about uncomfortably, look at our feet and say…well, no.

Why does it have to be better? We have more space (which we wanted), we have an outside balcony, the new flat has a sunnier disposition and is warmer, and without the mold or damp problems of our old flat. However, it really needs repainting. And possibly rewiring. The bathroom and kitchen are the originals – so they are decades old. It looks tatty. Being a rental, there’s not much we can do about these cosmetic things, but these are the things that other people see.

What will people think?!

The thought kept going round and round in my mind. Would I feel embarrassed inviting people round? What would people think? Would they judge us?

What didn’t help is that right after the move (probably as a result of the stress that change causes) I got sick. When I get sick, I feel really sorry for myself. The sorry-for-myself thoughts compounded the doubtfulness I already felt. When we’re ill, we want to be comforted, and I found the unfamiliarity of the new place a little unsettling. Being sick also meant we didn’t get everything unpacked and into place straightaway, which delayed the feeling of homely-ness.

Over the last three weeks I questioned myself a lot. I questioned my journey, my motivations, and the way I was choosing to live. I felt really confused, and I struggled to write. I just couldn’t put into words what I was thinking.

Now, two weeks later and (finally) with a clear head, I’ve gotten over myself. No more self-pity for me; no doubts and no regrets either! I want to share some wisdom with you: words I really needed to hear three weeks ago!

What other people think of us is none of our business.

Who cares what other people think of our home? It only matters what we think; and we like it. I thought I gave up caring what other people thought a long time ago. Obviously I didn’t. I try not to care, but sometimes it can be hard. Change can be confronting and lead to doubt. The truth is, if this is the way I want to live, and I’m happy, and it doesn’t impact on anyone else, then it doesn’t matter what other people think. We don’t need the approval of others to validate our decisions.

Of course people will have their own opinions. We all have opinions! I just don’t need to know what they are, because they don’t affect me. I’m out to please myself, not someone else.

Don’t compare your life with others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

For me, the move caused a huge case of comparison-itis. What will people think also translated as would other people do what we’re doing? No? Why wouldn’t they? What are they doing instead? Should I be aspiring to what they’re doing?

I’m not living their lives, I’m living mine. Whatever they are doing is their own journey, and one I know nothing about. I only know about my own journey. I know my own values, my own circumstances, and my own plans and dreams and schemes… and the choices I make reflect this. In the same way that I mustn’t care what other people think, I mustn’t compare with what other people do. My life is about me, not them.

Looking back now this all seems so obvious. Yet at the time those doubts were very real. I think it was a good experience though…to question everything, and find the answers. Change is what makes us grow. Ultimately it’s made me more sure that I’m on the path I want to be on.

As for the flat, whilst it’s not exactly like home yet, it’s getting there, and we love it. On Mothers’ Day we invited both Glen’s parents and his sister and her family over; something that couldn’t have happened in the last place as it was just too small.

And check out the new view from my desk:

View from office window

I get to look out of this window every day! How could I not fall in love with a view like this?!

What about you? Do you ever worry about what others might think? Do you suffer from self-doubt? Do you find change a little unsettling? Or have you learned to just do what makes you happy and not worry about anyone else’s opinions? I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!

Cardboard Castles, Celebrity Coffee and Social Contracts

I had a busy, productive and inspiring weekend. Don’t you just love those weekends? It nearly didn’t happen – I’d been brewing a cold/virus for the previous few days – but in the end the sun was shining and it all worked out perfectly.

Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

The Celebrity Photo Shoot

Well, not exactly “celebrity”, but my boyfriend has been asked to be one of the faces for the new Plastic Free July campaign, which meant a photoshoot at 9.30am on Saturday morning along the main shopping strip where we live. So Glen spent 30 minutes pacing up and down past the shops, whilst a guy with the longest camera lens I’ve ever seen snapped pictures, and Rebecca (from the Plastic Free July campaign) and I looked on. As did a few other Saturday morning shoppers; it’s interesting how people are drawn to the camera.

No-one asked for his autograph though, which I found disappointing.

Annoyingly, I forgot to take my camera, so I’m going to have to wait for the official ones to be ready before I can share them. Hopefully not too long to wait!

The Mosman Park Eco Fair

The Mosman Park Eco Fair is a glorious day out; set in the beautiful community gardens at St Luke’s Church in Mosman Park, featuring all things green, including sustainability workshops, ethical and environmental stalls and with a real focus on reducing waste.

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, but after organising the Less is More Festival not too long before, it’s nice to go to an event as a punter and be able to enjoy everything that’s on offer.

The Earth Carers have a big presence as always. In addition to running their Washing Up Station to reduce disposable cups at the event, they also ran a children’s activity – make cardboard castles!

CardboardBoxes

EcoFair2

I wrote about the Washing Up Station at last year’s event (and why I think it’s so important here), but the castle-building was a new activity and a very popular one!

It was really great to catch up with so many people I know, as well as learn about all of the interesting projects that people are involved in, and hear about their latest achievements. Personally, I find it really inspiring and motivating reconnect with people from my community, and I always feel like my passion is re-ignited afterwards.

Permaculture Day

Sunday was International Permaculture Day, and there were some workshops at one of the local Farmer’s markets. I’ve been wanting to learn about beekeeping for ages, and made the effort to trek across town on a rather chilly morning for the 8.30am workshop. It was so interesting! Something to save for another blog post, but I felt a real sense of achievement in having taken a step closer.

My Glass Jar Trade

A few weeks ago I nearly put some of my glass jars into the recycling. In fact I did put them in, but then I took them out again. Most glass in Perth isn’t actually recycled (it’s trucked to Adelaide, turned into road base or landfilled) and I was sure that someone could use those jars. Just after I retrieved them, a friend requested jars for bottling her honey. I exchanged several of my finest jars in exchange for one jar of her finest honey. An awesome trade! I wouldn’t have got that from the recycling peeps!

Honey

Even better, once home I turned the honey into a delicious cake. Yum!

CakeThe cake is a chocolate pear rosemary cake that’s gluten- and dairy-free. You can find the recipe here; I used honey rather than sugar and it was perfect!

The Social Contract

In my last blog post I mentioned that I didn’t have a “no junk mail” sticker on my mail box. I know I needed one, I’ve been talking about it for months, but I could never quite get round to getting one. In fact, I didn’t just mention it once, I mentioned it 3 times. I didn’t want anyone to miss it.

Why? Because if you have an intention, there is nothing better than to tell EVERYONE your intention. Comments were made to me both on the blog and on Facebook about how should get a “junk mail” sticker. People taking an interest not only reinforces what I already know (that I need to get a sticker), but also makes me feel guilt and shame for not getting on with it. I don’t want to be asked by these same people over the next few months whether I’ve got one and have to say no – so this is a great way to force yourself into action!

I’m pleased to say I’ve been and got a new sticker. No more junk mail for me! Except, it still needs to be stuck on. A minor detail!

JunkMail

So that was my weekend. How was yours?!

How to Get Less Busy

We’re all busy. We all pack our days and our lives with things to do, places to be, tasks to tick off, people to meet, and then lament the lack of time for all the other things we want to do, the things we didn’t get round to. We curse ourselves for not having got half of what we wanted done. Does this situation sound familiar to you?

I recently got the chance to do some extra hours at work, and I took the opportunity, thinking the extra money would be useful. So, for the last few weeks I’ve been working full time. But outside of work, I didn’t want to change anything. I still wanted to write blog posts, and read what everyone else has been up to. I still wanted to cook everything from scratch, take my own lunch to work every day, and make sure we were eating proper meals at night. I still wanted to keep things plastic- and convenience-free. I still wanted to take photos to post on instagram. I’m also doing a short course, so I need to make some time for studying. Did I mention that my job has a killer commute? 2+ hours daily. Oh, and outside all of that, life was going on. Friends were having birthdays, I had friends to catch up with who were coming back from travelling, others who are imminently leaving to go travelling. There were interesting events happening in the community. Family commitments. My boyfriend (completely reasonably) wanted us to spend some time together.

Of course, I tried to do everything. On one level, I was relatively successful. I juggled a million things and micro managed my time so any spare second was filled with something productive. But I felt stressed out, tired, and fed up. My boyfriend and I seemed to have endless conversations about chores; who should be doing them, why they weren’t being done, whether the world would really end if we didn’t wash the tea towels for another few days, whether it was acceptable to eat the same thing for dinner five days in a row. I knew I was making less healthy choices, and that made me frustrated. How on earth does everyone else manage to cope, when I don’t?

Then it struck me (or more accurately, my boyfriend pointed out) that other people aren’t coping so much as compromising. When people are busy, they’ll go out for dinner, or get takeaway. They’ll buy convenience foods. They’ll put friends and family on hold, maybe. Or they’ll continue to try to manage everything until they compromise their health, or their relationships, or just burn out.

My problem was, I wasn’t willing to compromise. On anything. I still wanted to do all the things I did when I had more time, except with far less time.

As I wasn’t getting any more hours in the day, and I clearly didn’t have enough time to do everything, I either had to compromise, or drop something. They were my only choices. It may seem like a daunting choice, but you know what? Deciding what to do wasn’t nearly as hard as I imagined.

Here’s what I did.

Step 1: Figure out what is important to you

This was easy for me. My relationships, my family and my friends. My commitment to living as sustainably as possible (no nasty plastic packaging or convenience foods). My desire to eat proper, healthy, balanced meals. My need to see things through that I start. Your priorities may be the same or they may be completely different to mine. Either way, map them out.

Step 2: Figure out how your spending most of your time

I was spending 40 hours at work, as well as 10+ hours commuting. Out of my week, that is a lot of hours… but working didn’t feature in my first (priorities) list. Neither did money. That’s not to say I don’t need to work at all, or that the extra money isn’t useful, but right now, neither of these are a priority for me. The part-time hours I was working before were enough to pay the bills, and we aren’t saving for anything specific, so those extra hours I was working weren’t doing much to improve my life. In fact, they were taking time away from all the other things that I wanted to do, and making me feel stressed.

Step 3: If they don’t match up already, take some steps to get them aligned

Are you spending the majority of time doing the things that you want (or need) to be doing – the things that you prioritised in Step 1? We should be spending more time on the things that are important to us. Once I realised this, I found it a whole lot easier to figure out what needed to be dropped, and where I needed to concentrate my time. Starting next week, I’m going back to my part time hours, which should give me an extra 10 hours to focus on what is important to me. Maybe in the future my priorities will change, but for now, this is how I’m creating space in my life for the things I want to do.

Your priorities and commitments will no doubt be different from mine, but the process is the same. If your situation is such that you can’t drop things completely, think about compromising. Devote more time to the things that matter, and let the rest take the hit.

Our time is precious. We can’t get any more hours in the day, so we need to use our time wisely.

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.” ~Brian Andreas

I’m moving! (Although hopefully I’m not going anywhere…)

I’ve been blogging for almost a year now, and it’s something I’ve come to love. There’s things I’d love to do and share, and the wordpress.com site I currently use doesn’t offer me the kind of flexibility that I’d like. So I’ve decided to move to wordpress.org.

I’ve spent the morning doing my research, watching online videos and reading helpful blog posts until my brain nearly exploded. I nearly gave up, except I couldn’t face having to go through it all again another day. What I’ve discovered is that it should be simple and seamless and take a couple of magic clicks, and you’d never even know it has happened.

Except I have no idea what I’m doing. 

Not being one to let that kind of thing deter me, I’ve decided to plough on anyway. The more I read the more daunting it seems (downloading file splitters? That sounds scary), and I’m not feeling super confident that everything will transfer in the way I’d hoped. In fact, I think I might lose my images. As long as I don’t lose everything : / I’m just hopeful that if it all goes terribly wrong, I can pay one of the tech experts to make it all better for me.

So I wanted to say goodbye, and hopefully see you on the other side! My website address will remain the same (www.treadingmyownpath.com) so you should be able to find me.

Fingers crossed…

…and see you soon!

 

Success Is Not A Number

The last post I published was my 100th post. I did not realise this until I actually published the post – and when I pressed that button I almost had a heart attack because I hadn’t actually meant to publish it at all. I’d meant to hit the preview button. I still felt that the post was a jumbled collection of thoughts that was littered with typos, it was far too long; plus I hadn’t actually decided if I even wanted to publish it.

That’s never happened to me before – the accidental publishing – and I found it quite ironic that just as WordPress sends me a notification that I’ve published 100 posts I’m scrambling to delete that 100th post, or at least block it so I have a chance to actually tidy it up.

I decided that these things happen for a reason (and it was definitely an interesting learning experience for me!), so I decided to leave it published – once I’d checked the spelling and straightened it out a bit.

But it got me thinking about creating milestones and targets for ourselves, and how they don’t always serve us.

Let me explain.

When I first started blogging, I had targets. Well, I thought they were targets. I wanted to reach 100 followers in the first three months. After that, I decided I wanted to reach a new  x number in the next x months. But then I began thinking – is that actually something I can actually decide?

I have no way to control who comes to my blog, and likes what they read and decides to sign up. The only thing that I have control over is my writing. I can control what I write about, how I write and how often I publish posts.

I can’t make people follow me, so why was I setting myself targets for followers? I also realised that I love it when every single new person follows the blog, because it feels great to know that I’ve connected with a previous stranger. I love making friends here! As I write this post, I have 497 followers. I’m getting really close to 500, but the number doesn’t matter.

I want readers who like what I write about, who want to engage with me, and feel inspired as a result of reading what I have to say. That is what success feels like to me; the numbers aren’t important. Of course I love getting more readers, and being able to interact with a wider audience, but the 500th reader will be no more exciting than the 498th, and 499th, or the 501st.

The same applies for post numbers. When I started blogging, I decided to commit to writing 3 posts a week. I was unemployed at the time and I felt this was useful to provide structure, keep my mind occupied and give me a creative outlet. Once I got a job I managed to keep this up for a time, but during the month when my parents came to stay I found it too hard.

The way I saw it, I had two options – either keep up the target and write shorter, less thought out posts; or reduce the number, but keep up the quality.

It was an easy decision. I want people to enjoy what I have to say. I don’t want to be writing posts telling my readers that I don’t have time to write posts. Or telling people that I’m having such a great time that I don’t have time to tell them about it.

People are busy, they have inboxes that get bombarded with all kinds of information (and often far too much) and the least I can do is have enough respect for my readers to only write when I have something worth saying. There is no point in publishing posts just for the sake of numbers.

So now I don’t have number targets.

Instead I focus on what I do have control over – which is the content. If I have lots to say, then I will publish three posts a week, maybe more. If I don’t have anything to say… then I don’t publish empty space. I wait until I have the time and content to actually write something worth reading. Which is why my 100th post wasn’t any more significant than the others.

So I thought it was fitting that I made a mess of my 100th post. It was as if the universe was testing me, saying well you said it didn’t matter – so let’s shake things up and see if it does matter!

And no, it didn’t.

But imagine if I had attached some kind of meaning to it? I would have been disappointed, or angry, or upset – over something that was actually quite trivial and insignificant.

We can’t measure our success by plucking numbers out of the air. By doing so we create unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and then we feel bad when things don’t pan out the way we’d hoped they might. Success is about doing the best that we can with the time we have and the knowledge we have. It’s about making connections. How many isn’t important, what matters is how good they are.

Every trial we face is an opportunity

Do you ever have those days – or even weeks or months – when you feel like nothing is going your way, it’s all just a bit too hard and your dreams and aspirations for the future just seem to remain distant glimmers on the horizon?

Just over a year ago, I lost my job. I was actually made redundant in the previous October, but management made the decision to keep me on part-time on a casual basis until they no longer needed me… and at the end of January last year, I wasn’t called back.

It wasn’t my dream job by any means, and I was feeling pretty optimistic about getting a new job that I’d enjoy far more. I’d been in Australia just over a year at that point and felt a lot more informed about what was out there, what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do to get that job that I wanted.

Fast-forward six months, and I was still unemployed.

My initial optimism was long gone, and my confidence in myself and my abilities was lowering day by day. I felt like I’d explored countless avenues and each one had led to nothing. I’d dread the Skype chats where my parents would inevitably ask if I had a job yet. I was sick of being asked at events and parties what it was that I did. I’d look at my feet and mumble, or look to someone else to fill in the awkward silence.

At the time, I was beginning to feel like it was all a bit hopeless. And right then, when I just didn’t know where to turn next, I found a job. It wasn’t my absolute dream job, but it fitted with what I believed in and what I wanted to do, working with the community on a sustainability-related project. It was an possible opening to something better. I took it. And you know what? It was far more enjoyable than I expected. The team I got to work with were fantastic, the work was rewarding – and then an opportunity came up at the same place for work that was even more rewarding and even more along the lines of where I wanted to be. Right now, I’m loving what I do.

Reflecting on last year with the feeling of positivity that comes from doing a job I believe in, it’s much easier to look back in a positive light. Back then I felt like I’d wasted six months of my life. Now I can see that I learned some valuable lessons during that time. It may not have felt like much fun then, but now I realise that I learned a lot about myself during those six months, and I feel grateful that I had those experiences.

I wanted to share some of these lessons with you. You may not have the same experiences as me but I think the lessons are the same. Whatever crises we face in our lives, they are always opportunities to learn and grow stronger.

Lessons I’ve Learned

1. Don’t waste time on things you don’t believe in.

I wanted to work in the area of sustainability. I was interested in behaviour change, waste and education, working at a community level. Thing was, there weren’t a lot of those types of jobs around. So I decided to apply to all the low level admin jobs that I saw too, figuring that as I had experience in office management it would do for now.

So I applied for admin job after admin job, and did not get a single interview. Job applications in Australia can be incredibly laborious (no simple CV-sending with a hastily drafted cover letter here) so these took up a lot of my time, and it was very annoying to hear nothing back. I’m sure there were tears and tantrums. And then I caught myself saying “I’m pissed off that I didn’t get a job I didn’t even want.” I don’t need to tell you what is wrong with that sentence! Why was I applying for jobs I didn’t want, only to get upset when I didn’t get them? What a total waste of energy, emotions and effort. So I stopped that right away. It is so much better to focus on the things you do want to do. If your heart’s not in it, people see through you right away.

2. Make the most of the time you’ve been given.

Let’s face it, most of us spend our work days dreaming of holidays, what we’ll be doing at the weekend and the evenings when we’re not working and generally we feel like we don’t have enough time in our busy lives to do all the things we want.

So why is it, when we don’t have a job, we spend all our time trying to find a job and not taking advantage of the benefits that come with not being chained to a desk all day?

I know it’s not easy. Not having work makes us feel anxious, and the uncertainty of where the money is going to come from means we’re not always inclined to enjoy the free time we suddenly have. But I’m not talking about spending the time lunching or shopping. There’s so much we can do that will ultimately help us find work, through developing skills and gaining experience, volunteering or taking time to train in new areas, and this also gives us focus, a reason to leave the house and meet other people and generally stay sane. I had the chance to volunteer for some great organisations, to meet people doing fantastic things in the fields I am interested in and explore what I really wanted to do. Plus… I started this blog. I figured that if I wanted to educate people about sustainability and I couldn’t do that as a paid job, then I’d do it as a hobby and as a creative outlet.

3. We get new skills from everything we do.

Everything we do, every experience, is a lesson that we learn. Even when things seem pointless and frustrating, we will have gotten something from them. Even if the lesson was that this is something that we will never ever want to experience ever again! Everything we read, everything we hear, everyone we meet, helps to shape us into who will be in the future.

Each job application I sent off meant that the next one was that little bit better. Each rejection was a lesson in perseverance. Each new introduction to an organisation was an insight into the possibilities out there. This blog taught me the wonders of the internet, and connected me with like-minded people both in Perth and across the oceans. It gave me a creative outlet and a routine, and kept me focused.

4. If you need to push too hard, maybe it’s better to let it go.

There was an organisation that I really really wanted to volunteer for. I’d discussed it with them a few times; it was definitely on the agenda but a date was never set. They wouldn’t call, so I’d follow up… only for the same thing to happen again. That last time I called, I remember wondering if I should bother. But I did, and I did end up doing some work for them.

I quickly realised that the disorganisation of arranging the placement reflected a disorganisation that ran through the whole place. The work I did took a lot of my time, but I wondered whether it was actually going to be of any use to the organisation. There was too much chaos and disorder; too many ideas but no real structure. I finished what I’d been working on and chose not to continue with them.

They were grateful of the work I’d done…but I still wonder whether it was just shelved never to be seen again.

I did learn some valuable lessons, though. Including – if you have to push too hard at something, maybe it isn’t the right thing or the right time for you. Things should come naturally. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

5. Rejection means that the right thing hasn’t found you yet.

I find rejection hard. When I apply for a job I invest so much time and emotion into the application, and I really set my heart on it. I imagine what it will be like to have the job. So when I get the rejection letter (or deafening silence that follows the application), I feel disappointed. Initially it was difficult not to take it personally. That was something I had to learn to deal with. Now I’ve found the best way to look at it is to accept that it wasn’t the right thing for me, and a much better thing is right around the corner.

My six months of unemployment took this to extremes. I seemed to be waiting for that corner for an awfully long time. It was hard to keep thinking that something better was going to come along. But you know what? It did.

We can’t dwell on things that don’t happen for us. When I imagine how great it will be when I get all those jobs, those thoughts that I create aren’t real. I have no way of knowing what it would actually be like. Whilst it may seem devastating at the time to be rejected, when we look back with the benefit of time it’s much easier to see that the job wouldn’t have been perfect, that there were things that we didn’t really like about it – and that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it hadn’t been for the benefit of not getting that very job we were dreaming about.

The benefit of hindsight

With the benefit of having a job that I’m loving, I can look back at my experiences of the last year and actually feel grateful for everything that happened. That initial redundancy was the trigger for my involvement with the Less is More Festival, which I have now organised for two successive years. I’ve met so many amazing people through the Festival, I love being able to give something back to my community, and the Festival even won an award as the result of my efforts. I got involved with Living Smart, I started writing this blog and found a whole online community out there that I never knew existed before. I’ve learned things about myself that I never knew, developed countless new skills and feel like I’ve really grown as a person.

My contract for my current position finishes in April, so then I’ll be back to job-hunting. I spent last week updating my CV and I realised that despite that period of unemployment my CV looks stronger than ever, thanks to all the opportunities I was able to take up. If I’d stayed in that old job, it’s unlikely most of this would have happened.

Every trial we face is an opportunity to learn and to grow, and every cloud has a silver lining.

We’re all on different journeys

Last week I wrote a blog post about toilet paper. Eco-friendly, ethical toilet paper. Toilet paper that’s even more eco-friendly and ethical than the previous eco-friendly and ethical toilet paper I used to buy. It feels kind of absurd, really – writing blog posts about toilet paper. I pondered what friends I’ve not been in contact with recently might think if they stumbled across the post. I wonder what Lindsay’s up to these days? I’ll check her blog. Oh. She’s writing about toilet paper. Is that really how she spends her time these days? Does she have nothing bigger to worry about? Read more

One last look at 2013…

We’re now into the third week of 2014, and so far on the blog all I’ve talked about is 2013. I need to get with the times, so this will be the final post I write that dwells on what is now behind us. Enough of living in the past, I say!

Holidays and the start of a New Year are great times to start making plans for how we want the next part of our lives to be. All the things we want to do, to see, to learn, to experience, to feel. I love to plan, and in previous years I would go charging ahead into dreaming and scheming. This year though (or last year, technically), I slowed down. I decided to spend some time reflecting on the year that just passed before I started thinking about what’s next. Specifically, I thought about all the things that I did that I was proud of in 2013. My achievements. Read more

Twenty-four trees

So we’re off to Thailand in just over a week for a long-overdue rest and holiday. We’re flying there. You don’t need to tell me that flying is not a very sustainable form of transport. When I lived in England I was very disapproving of flying. Then I met my partner, an Australian, and moved out here, and it changed my perspective a little.

The first thing I had to reconsider was that wherever in the world we lived, one half of our family would be the other side of the world. Neither of us are prepared to never see our families again in order to try to combat climate change. Have you heard of food miles? Well there’s another concept, called “love miles”, which is the distance that we need to travel in order to see our friends and family and loved ones.

Before flying existed, or until it became affordable for the masses, most people would marry and remain within their communities and wouldn’t need to travel very far. I’m sure in the future, indeed I hope in the future, that flying will become so unaffordable or undesirable that this becomes the case once again, as people re-embrace their local communities. In the meantime, it is very cheap and easy to fly anywhere in the world and for most people, our love miles are pretty high.

The other thing I discovered when I moved here is that Australia is very far away from everything (and everyone) else. Even the other side of the same country is a few hours by flying, or a few days by driving. Having lived all my life in Europe, I have been spoiled. I could travel by boat or by train, or even drive, and reach numerous different countries in a matter of hours. I didn’t need to fly to see ancient ruins, buzzing modern cities, and beautiful rural landscapes, or to visit snow-capped mountains or golden beaches. I love experiencing different cultures; it makes me feel more connected to the world and travelling inspires me. In Europe it’s at your fingertips; here in Australia, it is not.

So I’ve come to accept that, living in Australia, I will probably need flying in my life, at least in the short-term.

What does this mean for the environment?

I was wondering, how much carbon will I be generating by flying to Thailand? And what can I do about it? I plugged all the info into a carbon calculator. My flight will generate 1 tonne of C02. Each way. And I’m going with my partner. So we’re generating 4 tonnes of C02, according to the calculator.

The website suggests that to offset this amount of carbon, I can pay $90, which will plant 24 trees.

I’m not really a fan of carbon offsetting. I feel like it’s a capitalist response to an environmental problem – paying money to alleviate guilt, or buying your way out of a situation. I feel like it benefits the wealthy, who can afford to pay to offset their travel more than others. I’m not completely convinced that it is the best way to help the environment. It seems so…detached. I have heard stories and worked at places that are involved with tree planting and investigated carbon trading, and my experience is that these organisations are committed to plant trees irrespective of whether they get funding by these schemes, although of course the money helps. But does it actually mean more trees get planted? Or does it mean that organisations can free up other funds to spend elsewhere? These carbon trading schemes are often run as businesses, too – so not all the money is going straight to tree-planting. I don’t like that aspect, either.

I may feel like these schemes are a little flawed, but that’s not to say that they aren’t still worthwhile. For people who are cash-rich, or time-poor, they offer a solution. And they’re making the concept of offsetting your flights easy and available to the general public. But I’m not going to be paying $90. I am, however, thinking about these 24 trees. I want to do something which I feel more accountable to. Ideally I’d like to plant my own trees. I’m wondering if there’s a local tree-planting scheme that I can get involved with (either when I’m in Thailand or back home). If that’s not possible, I hope to find a not-for-profit group to donate to where the money will go directly to local tree planting – trees that I can see.

Of course, not flying is still the best option, and I don’t intend to to be flying regularly. We don’t intend to go back to the UK every year, for example. I’ve also made a commitment not to use budget airlines, because I think that they are even more unsustainable than the bigger airlines. I don’t think flying should be cheap, and if governments didn’t allow airlines to avoid paying tax and fuel duty, it wouldn’t be. But as I now realise that I will be taking more flights over the coming years than I have in the past, I need to come up with some way of mitigating my cost to the environment in the best way that I can.

Starting with twenty-four trees.

Blogging, not blogging and holidays

You may remember that I wrote a post in September about how my life was going to be ridiculously busy over the coming three months? And how I was hoping that I’d be able to juggle everything successfully? Well, it hasn’t quite been the plain sailing that I’d hoped. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and whilst I was hopeful that I could manage everything, I knew it was a long shot. In fact it’s been super hectic and stressful, and of course some things have had to give. One of those things has been the blog. I haven’t been posting as frequently as usual because I’ve been so busy.

Fortunately, the end is in sight and we are due to go on a long (four week) holiday in just under two weeks. Bliss. Of course it would probably be a little less stressful if we’d actually done something in the way of preparations other than make sure our passports were valid and book flights, but no matter. Next Friday night we will be off, and leaving all this busy whirring spinning busy-ness behind us. Read more