Tips for traveling on your period

For the past three years, I've spent a month every summer in Greece with my boyfriend's family. It's taught me many things: Firstly, how to communicate with 2 memorised phrases and elaborate hand gestures. Secondly, that ouzo is never a good idea. And, thirdly, how to deal with my period whilst on holiday. In fact, I like to consider myself a bit of an expert on that last one.

I have a relatively regular cycle of around 30 days (trust me, I track it religiously!), so it's inevitable that at some point on a four week adventure I will get my period. Sure, it's a pain in the uterus, but it's something a lot of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives. If you know that you're due on whilst away and you don't like the idea of delaying it with a pill, it's not the end of the world. Don't stress, my period-having friends. I've got your back. After my fair share of swimming costume leakages and grumpily sitting by the pool whilst everyone else had fun, I think I've cracked it. All you need is a bit of forward planning and to make sure that your suitcase is fully stocked with the essentials.

Why it's okay that I failed at Plastic Free July

When I first started Plastic Free July, I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. Anyone taking a walk through a supermarket can see that we have a serious reliance on single use plastics. As a society we value convenience above almost everything else, including our beautiful planet. So, I fully understood that I was going to have to make some serious habit shifts to be able to get through the whole of the month. In fact, I was even prepared for some slip ups along the way.

However, what I wasn't prepared for was just how many times I would slip up. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I certainly didn't expect it to be so hard. 

Technically, I completely failed. As hard as I tried and as much I learnt throughout the month, I definitely wasn't completely "plastic free". Or even nearly plastic free, for that matter. I bought more items than I can count wrapped in the stuff and I felt horribly guilty every single time. I found it all pretty disheartening. For a minute there I felt like I needed to be stripped of my eco warrior card. 

However, after reflecting on the whole experience - successes, failures and all - I've decided that I did a pretty bloody good job. I think it's easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in being the perfect zero-waster when you see people online who can literally fit a year's rubbish into a mason jar. But it's a process. Yes, I failed at being plastic free in July, but that's okay. Here's why.

7 ways that I'm not an ethical shopper

Sometimes I feel like writing about my ethical journey online is a promise of perfection. Like every time I talk about how I'm trying to to be a better human, I'm signing a contract that says I will never use or do anything that causes any level of harm to the planet, animals or other people. Obviously that's pretty much impossible and it's only reasonable to expect yourself to try your best. So, I'm determined not to pretend to be perfect on my little corner of the internet. I'm not here to make people feel guilty for not having it all figured out yet. Especially not when I haven't either!

I'm consuming more ethically than I did a year ago (or even three months ago!), but I'm certainly not the beacon of zero-waste, conscious living.

With that in mind, I decided to put all of my (recycled) cards on the table. Let's put some radical honesty out there, in a time when the internet will jump on you the second they see you sipping through a single plastic straw. Here are 7 ways that I'm not all that ethical, to remind you that it's okay to be on a journey.

Plastic Free July: My truly essential "essentials"

When you first dip your toe into the online world of zero waste living, it can feel like you'll need to remortgage a house you don't even have to be able to buy all of its so called "essentials". It's all stainless steel straws, basket bags and a tonne of matching mason jars pictured against white backgrounds. It's enough to make anyone scrubbing the sticky label off a jam jar frustrated. However, the reality is that living in a more plastic-free way doesn't require a strong "aesthetic", a tonne of money or lighting equipment. In fact, there aren't many things that I would consider an absolute "essential" in reducing your waste, but instead just nice, photogenic additions.

Yes, those coordinated mason jars look good on your shelves, but the jam jar does the same job.

That's not to say that I haven't fallen into the trap myself. I certainly could've found cheaper, if slightly less pretty, alternatives to a lot of the plastic-free lifestyle purchases I've made over the past year. Plastic Free July really has illuminated the fact that there are only a few items that I reach for on a daily basis. So, I thought I would share 4 items that I've used enough throughout this month to make them worth the money.

On graduating

When I was 11 years old, I created a page dedicated to people that inspired me in my journal. Whilst I was clearing out my uni room, I found it. Stuck in the bottom left hand corner is a picture of Jacqueline Wilson, my favourite author at the time and one of the main reasons that I grew to love reading so much. Yesterday, I got to shake her hand as I accepted my degree in English Literature. Ain't life funny?

For those of you that don't know, I've spent the last three years studying for my BA in English Lit at the University of Roehampon, in London. When I started my studies, the idea of graduation felt like a distant, intangible event. It was always in my mind as the end goal, but I still didn't feel like I would ever get there. Then, suddenly, in what felt like the blink of an eye, I was robbed up and ready to step on stage.

4 books I want to read this summer

Since finishing my English Literature degree, I've been in a bit of a reading rut. As someone who is used to powering through three books a week for my course, suddenly not having my reading habits dictated to me left me more than a little bit lost. I thought the freedom would be inspiring; that I would go wild and delve into all of the genres and authors that I haven't had the chance to enjoy over the past three years. In reality, it was ridiculously overwhelming. I didn't know where to start. And, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure what types of books I enjoy anymore.

Whilst I know exactly which texts I enjoy studying and writing about, and which literary topics I find stimulating, I'm not so sure what to pick up when it comes to reading purely for pleasure. I don't know whether I actually like Young Adult literature as a genre, or whether I just liked writing about it. I don't know if I dislike classic American literature, or whether I simply disliked the few examples of it that I read at university. It's like I'm having a bookish mid-life crisis.

However, I do know what topics are interesting me at the moment: Spirituality, incredible women and self-improvement. So, in attempt to pull myself out of this reading rut, I decided to seek out books about those topics, instead of picking texts based on their era, genre or author. Trust me, that's a type of reading that is conditioned out of you when you study a literature degree! Now I have a small but glorious TBR for the summer ahead of me that's full of books I'm actually excited to open up.

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Plastic Free July Update: 10 mistakes I've made

When I started Plastic Free July, I felt pretty prepared. I had my bamboo toothbrush, stainless steel razor and, most importantly, a shit load of mason jars at the ready. I researched where my nearest farm shops and bakeries were so that I could buy fruits, veggies and bread that wasn't wrapped in plastic. And, of course, I followed about a thousand zero wasters on Instagram and Youtube to help me soak up all of their wisdom. I learnt a lot.

As July 1st rolled around I felt like I knew exactly what I was avoiding for the next 31 days: Mainly disposable food, drink and cosmetics packaging. What I didn't (and probably couldn't) prepare myself for though was all of the hidden plastics that I would encounter. More than once now I've bought something that I thought was completely innocent and haven't realised until I've got home that I actually purchased plastic unintentionally. It's everywhere and it can be a sneaky little bastard!

However, I'm trying not to beat myself up about these slips. It's all a learning curve.