The best way to tour Morocco

We looked into a ton of options on how to visit Morocco with Derek’s parents. We found a great young company to tour with. Eco Desert Morocco was the best option out there for so many reasons.

When Derek’s parents told us they wanted to join us during our long-term trip, we knew exactly where to take them for their holidays.  We wanted to find a place that was out of their comfort zone, but still safe for tourists.  We wanted something off the beaten path, but easy to explore.  And we wanted somewhere that was budget-friendly and awesome.  So we decided to tour Morocco for 2.5 weeks.

When we started looking into it, we had a ton of questions.  Where were the best places to go?  Should we go with a tour group or explore on our own?  Should we go with a private tour, and if so, could we afford it?  So we started researching it all, until we came upon Eco Desert Morocco.  And then, the questions stopped.  We found the best way to tour the country.  We spoke to Atman, one of the owners, and after a few exchanges, we knew we wanted to see their country with them.

Our guide and driver from Eco Desert Morocco
Our guide and driver turned good friends, Ismail and Mustapha, from Eco Desert Morocco

We partnered with Eco Desert Morocco while we were touring Morocco, creating content daily for them, through posts and stories.  This post, however, is in no way sponsored or partnered.  We loved touring with them so much, that we figured that everyone should go with them too.  Simply put, there is no better way to experience this amazing country.  We started our 17-day tour with our guide Mustapha and our driver Ismail as “clients”, but end it as friends.

So here are the reasons you should do a private tour with our friends at Eco Desert Morocco.

No one likes to be crammed in a tour bus

This is probably the most obvious of the reasons and that’s why it’s on here.  NO ONE likes to be stuck on a tour bus.  They treat you like cattle, take you from one crowded tourist spot to the next and feed you the same boring information everyone else does.

There is nothing personal or different about that approach.  Worse of all, you can’t stop when you need to, like when you see a beautiful field of sunflowers or the hanger strikes.

Ismail packing up our jeep for the trip out of the desert
Ismail packing up our jeep for the trip out of the desert

The beauty of touring with Eco Desert Morocco is that you have a comfy vehicle all to yourself, with your group, and you can stop anywhere you want.  Derek’s parents have a strict eating schedule, and we were able to stop whenever we wanted.  Also, the guys were so nice, that they would stop every time we would see a herd of goats, so Carine can go play with them.  She was slightly obsessed!  They had no trouble just pulling over whenever we found a nice spot to take a picture or admire the view.  Thanks guys for helping us with the ‘Gram!

Make your own itinerary and schedule

From the get-go, this is something that we loved about working with Atman.  We were able to work out our own itinerary and schedule, with his guidance.  We wanted to see a lot of the country, from the usual tourist spots to some lesser known places.  He was quickly able to put together an itinerary that answered all our requests.  He also threw in some great spots we never would have found if we had done this on our own.

Flexibility along the way

Not only do you have the freedom to create your own itinerary and schedule, but you get the flexibility to decide what you want to do along the way.  If you don’t want to visit a certain landmark, they’ll skip it.  If you rather have a free day instead of exploring the city, it’s no problem.  If you want to go see the Hassan II Mosque but your parents prefer to get a coffee at Rick’s Cafe, they can arrange that too.

The main prayer room in Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
The main prayer room in Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

We had complete flexibility in what we did each day, the freedom to choose how we spent our time, and that is priceless.

See a side of the country you would never see otherwise

When touring a country, people often end up going to the same spots.  We all check the same blogs and Instagram posts and end up in the same places.  With Eco Desert Morocco, they were able to take us way off the beaten path, just as we wanted.

We saw some things that not many get to see.  The Painted Rocks in Tafraout during an epic sunset, sharing meals with their families,  listening to Gnaoua music in a Gnaoua village, all things we never would have done without them.  These were truly moments that made our trip unforgettable.

Again, these are moments that no other tour company could have offered.

Visiting nomads

Do we really need to say more?  We got to visit not one, but two nomadic families in Morocco.  The first family lived in the desert.  We were able to hang out with the children and have tea with one of the wives as Ismail and Mustapha translated and explained what their daily lives were like as nomads.

Later during our trip, we were able to visit another family who lived in caves in the mountains.  Once again, we were able to sit with the mother and sip some fresh mint tea while she made a traditional rug made of sheep’s wool.  We asked her daughter about her plans for the future, as the youngest, a 5-year old boy, was filming Boomerangs on my phone.

 

A nomadic family playing in the Sahara Desert while their mother prepares us some mint tea
A nomadic family playing in the Sahara Desert while their mother prepares mint tea

These were epic moments that can’t be bought.  Both these tribes are close to the families of the Eco Desert Morocco guys, as they come from nomadic pasts.  This is why we were able to visit them, with no one else around.

Support a young local company

You could opt for a larger, more known company who is run by private investors.  A nameless group, with people who you can’t connect with, or you can go for a local company who wants to show you how locals live here.  Eco Desert Morocco may be a young company run by young guys, but that’s what makes it even more amazing!  To be able to support a family business run by brothers who are following in their father’s footsteps is so rewarding.

The guys are awesome and inspiring

Entrepreneurship is admirable, no matter where it’s done.  When it’s a few young brothers and their cousins, inspired by their father, it’s even more inspiring.  That is what Eco Desert Morocco is.  Four brothers, who took after their father’s love of tourism, to show others a beautiful side of their country.

Our guides, Ismail and Mustapha, looking cool overlooking Agadir
Our guides, Ismail and Mustapha, looking cool overlooking Agadir

They’re young, hard-working, motivated and always in a great mood.  They work tirelessly, as most budding entrepreneurs do, and they love what they do.  You can feel it in their smiles, and in the passion that drives them every day.

See more than you ever thought possible

You know how we mention these guys are hard-working, well we’re not kidding.  The groups that they’re used to taking usually only spend 4-5 days with them and rush through the country doing 6-7 cities in that short time.  Yeah, we’re not exaggerating.  In 17 days, we stopped in 20 different cities.  Some we slept in, some we passed through and quickly explored.

We could have done a lot less, but we wanted to go off the beaten path, and on the winding roads of Morocco, that means a lot of driving.  It also means seeing more than you thought possible, because these guys work tirelessly at making your trip as amazing as possible.

Peace of mind

With Eco Desert Morocco, we never had to worry.  About anything.  Ever.  Seriously, we read long and hard about scams to watch out for, sketchy places and people, but with Ismail and Mustapha, we never saw a bit of that.  We didn’t have to worry about pricing, or getting lost, or making it on time.  It was a stress-free vacation.

Our trusted driver and buddy Ismail
Our trusted driver and buddy Ismail, getting us where we need to go!

Sure, part of the fun of an adventure is getting lost, and having to deal with certain frustrations, but when you take your elderly parents with you, you have an added stress level and inherent worry that is omnipresent.  Not having to worry about everything else was a welcome feeling!

They also knew where to bring us for the best food in the city!  Something often difficult to figure out when you are not from a certain place, we never left a restaurant wishing we found a better place.

Sustainable tourism

This is our favourite thing about Eco Desert Morocco… ok, maybe not favourite, but certainly what sets them apart.  It’s the fact that they promote a eco-friendly and sustainable mode of tourism.  They took us to various cooperatives, helped us meet nomads, took us to a Gnaoua village, and so much more.

Being from the sand dunes of Erg Chebi, it’s of utmost importance to Eco Desert Morocco to keep the fragile balance that exists between their beautiful country and those who wish to visit it.  It is for this reason that they strive to minimize the impact that tourism has on their socio-environmental landscape.


Tour package promotion

If you are looking to tour Morocco in the same amazing way that we did, with Eco Desert Morocco, you can use send us an email at hiwediditourway@gmail.com with your inquiry and we will put you in contact with Atman to ensure that you get 15% off your trip!


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Everything you need to know about the best way to tour Morocco as a private tour with Eco Desert Morocco. It's the best way to discover this beautiful country and help young entrepreneurs. www.wediditourway.com

23 ways to be an eco-traveler

23 tips and tricks to travel in an eco-friendly and environment-conscious way. 23 ways to reduce your footprint when travelling.

We’re all aware of it – traveling is not the most eco-friendly activity to take part in.  But hey, this planet is still too beautiful to not explore it.  However, the sad truth is that a lot of places are drowning in plastic, and are not as beautiful as they used to be.  If we keep going this way, this beautiful planet will not have unspoiled places left to offer us travelers.

In the “western” world, we have been told for years that we need to reuse, reduce and recycle.  We have started to compost in major cities, and overall, we’re fairly aware of the toxic effects of using single-use plastic, plastic in general, and the effects of consumerism.  Of course we aren’t perfect by any means, but we generally understand the consequences of our actions on the environment.  In developing countries, where such infrastructures don’t exist, and there are bigger concerns like daily survival, recycling and keeping our earth clean are just not priorities.

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A trash pick up event we helped with, organized by Babel Guesthouse in Siem Reap

When you travel, it’s easy to “take a break” from being the usual eco-friendly green being that you are at home.  But, the truth is, it’s a lot easier than you think to keep up the good habits.  So here are some simple tips and tricks you can use to stay green and keep the planet clean.  If we all chip in, we’ll make a far bigger impact together.

How you travel

So you want to head out and explore the world?  Cool, this is the first place to start thinking green!

1. Skip the plane… if you can

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Don’t forget that traveling has a big environmental impact

I know!  Easier said than done.  But this is the first place you can cut your carbon footprint.  The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by a plane is incredibly damaging.  So if you can, take a bus, a boat, a train, a bike or your legs to go explore that crazy beautiful place you have in mind.  Whatever way you can to produce less greenhouse emissions is the best way.  This is probably not the easiest rule to put into practice, but if you can do it, please do!  Often, the alternate means of transportation will probably offer more scenic views too, so it’s a double win.

2. Join the daily commute

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We love to take the subway when and where we can.  This one is in Kuala Lumpur.

Once you make it to your destination, travel like a local.  Avoid taking cabs and Ubers.  Instead, take the local bus or subway, trains or ferries to get around.  The more people take public transportation,  the better it is.  Not only will there be less traffic on the road, governments will invest more into these infrastructures, offering better service and reducing the number of cars on the road.  Often, it’s also a cheaper way to get around than to cab it all the time.  Or better yet, pick a central hotel where you can walk to the main attractions.

If you have to take a cab, try to split the fare with others going to the same location.  Ask around your hotel/hostel.  It’s a cheaper, more eco-friendly and fun way of getting around anyway!

During your stay

Finding a place to stay isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but there are a ton of things you can do to make your stay eco-friendly

3. Pick the right type of hotel

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Babel Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia

This is a no-brainer. If you want to splurge and stay in a hotel, pick one that is eco-friendly.  Nowadays, a lot of places around the world are putting in efforts to be more green.  It can be small and simple things like being an eco-building, using recycled materials or not washing towels every day.  Or it can be a truly green place that doesn’t offer anything plastic, that does trash clean-ups, that practices sustainable activities in their community.  All you have to do is some research and you’ll see, these places are easier to find than you think!  Our favorites so far have been Babel Guesthouse in Siem Reap and Hotel Penaga in Penang.

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Another Eco option, Hotel Penaga in Penang, Malaysia

4. Stay with locals

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Great friends made while couchsurfing in Japan

Ok, so I can already hear some people thinking this is crazy but Couchsurfing is an awesome way to travel.  You get to stay with locals, exchange ideas, and connect with people on a whole new level.  We couchsurfed quite a few times when in Asia and we loved it.  We know we have made friends for life.  So obviously, staying with a local is a lot more eco-friendly than staying in a hotel, especially because you don’t take up much more energy in the powering  of the place.  If you’re not comfy with this idea (although we highly encourage you to try it at least once), you can always opt for a shared accommodation in an Airbnb.

5. Skip on the fresh towels every day

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By not having your towels changed daily, you will help save water

Let’s be honest here.  Back home, you don’t wash your towels after every use.  So why would you do it on the road?  Most hotels will offer to wash your towels and bring you new ones each day, but this creates a lot of wasted water.  Not to mention all the detergent that ends up in the waterways.  So just leave your used towel on the rack and usually, they know not to replace it.  If you’re unsure about their policy, just ask at the front desk or leave a note asking that your towel not be switched out.  Easy peasy!

6. Skip on room cleaning too

Here’s another no-brainer.  Again, do you clean your room every day back home?  Nope!  So avoid doing it when you travel… well, unless you’re a super messy person!  Usually, when they clean your room, they spray a whole bunch of chemicals in there, which is not good for your health or the environment.  Then, they give you new trash bags (plastic, of course) and all those tiny plastic bottles of soap and shampoo and lotion (damn, more plastic).  Once you realize that this cleaning is just creating more plastic waste, you’ll want to avoid it.  Many hotels will offer to clean your room only when you need it to, so go for this option.  If not, just hang the “do not disturb” sign on your door, and voilà!

7. Avoid the plastic bottles they offer

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Lifestraw, not only has it paid for itself, but we have saved the world from so many plastic water bottles

Most hotels in South East Asia will give you complimentary water bottles every day during your stay.  Avoid them!  How? Well that’s easy!  Either carry around a reusable water bottle that you can fill at refill stations (usually, your hotel will be able to do this) or get a Lifestraw Go like we have.  We can refill it with tap water anywhere in the world and make the water drinkable!  WIN!

Eating out

If you’re like us, you like to eat.  A LOT!  I mean, we eat insane amounts of food.  Derek is 6 foot 4, so that’s a lot of man to feed.  But when we do, we do these simple things to reduce the amount of waste we create

8. Markets are delicious but so trashy

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The local Ramadan market in Langkawi, Malaysia

We LOVE eating local food.  The best place to do this is at local markets.  Unfortunately, this is a place that creates huge amounts of waste.  They put your food in polystyrene containers.  Don’t get me started on polystyrene/styrofoam.  It’s a killer and should be banned everywhere.  It should not exist… damn, I got started!

Not only is this plastic bad for your health (chemicals steep into your food) but it’s terrible for the environment too.  It always ends up floating into our oceans and killing our marine life.  Avoiding it is easy.  Just bring your own containers to the market.  Mason jars, reusable containers, whatever you have that will help you take your hot food home to enjoy.

9. Ditch the plastic utensils

If you’re already bringing your own container, take it a little step further and bring your own cutlery too.  As travelers, we always have our cutlery with us – it’s perfect when you just feel like having an impromptu picnic or you feel like making yourself a snack with some local groceries.  If you don’t have your own set of travel cutlery, you can always take your meal back to the hotel and ask them for metal cutlery.  This will make you a total environmental champion (and we love champs like you!)

10. Avoid fast food restaurants

This may be another “easier said than done” solution, but if you can avoid it, please do.  We totally get that eating the same type of cuisine day-in and day-out is not the most thrilling part of traveling, and that sometimes, you just want some golden fries that taste like home.  Just know that massive fast food franchises tend to generate a lot of waste and pollution.  Just think about the transport of that frozen food, the tons of plastic and styrofoam used to wrap it all, the single-use plastic utensils… it all adds up.  And really, don’t you prefer eating a local dish to support a local family and economy?  Yes, yes you do!

11. Order your drink without a straw

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Are you a child?  No?  Then, you don’t need a straw!

This is probably the easiest thing you can do.  And it will go a long way as most straws, especially in beachside locations, end up in the ocean and kill our wildlife.  Call us selfish, but since we just started scuba diving, we want to keep the underwater world as clean as possible.  So next time you order a drink, make sure you specify you don’t want a straw.  If you absolutely need a straw for your smoothie, bring a reusable one with you made from bamboo or stainless steel.  See how easy that is?! Don’t you feel better for saving the planet? Yes, you do!

12. Avoid snacks with packaging

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We don’t get local fresh fruits like this in Montreal.  So when we can, we always raid them!  This is was our favorite fruit stand in Langkawi, Malaysia

Who doesn’t love a good snack?  We all need a little sugar pick-me-up once in a while, but instead of heading to the convenience store to get your favorite treat, why don’t you opt for something Mother Nature created for you?  One of the best things about traveling is getting to eat fruits and veggies that you don’t have access to at home.  So skip out on that heavily-packaged, sugar-filled fake-food, and go enjoy a local delicacy.

Set an example for locals

This is one of our favorite things to do, and we really urge others to do this as much as they can.  It can be as easy as refusing the plastic bag and showing that you can put it all in your backpack or it can get a little more complex.  Either way, education is key!

13. Pick up trash

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Doing our part to make Siem Reap a little but cleaner with the help of Babel Guesthouse

Yup!  It’s that easy.  If you see trash, pick it up.  It doesn’t matter that it’s not yours.  If it’s on the ground, chances are, it’s going to end up in waterways, in your food (because your food will eat it.  Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case, we love you!) or it’s just going to make a super beautiful place look like a dump.  People may question what you’re doing, or say it’s useless, but if everyone picks up 3 pieces of trash each day, we’ll have one hell of a clean planet real quick!  This is another example of how every bit helps.  So regardless of where you are (traveling or not), please just pick it up and throw it out in the bin, or recycle it if you can.  Thank you!

14. Educate others

Sometimes, people don’t know any better.  And it’s not their fault.  Not all countries have access to this type of education.  I mean honestly, only a few years ago (ok, like 10-15 years ago), people were littering the streets back home and no one would flinch.  So it’s understandable that people with less means and less education don’t understand the impact of littering or single-use plastic.  So let them know, in a kind and friendly way.  No need to be berating or condescending.  But sometimes, just a quick line about how plastic is bad or useless is enough to get them thinking.  If you have a better relationship with the person, then you can get into the details of explaining why it’s bad.

15. Always BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

One of the best ways we’ve found of educating people is simply by bringing our own bag – to the market, to the grocery store, to the fruit stand, wherever.  These are places where they are always keen on giving you some toxic plastic bag you don’t need.  We always joke (but we’re not actually joking) and tell the cashier we’re out to save the world, and that we don’t need plastic.  It puts a smile on their face and they acknowledge that they don’t need to automatically offer it.  Often, the people behind us in line will end up refusing a bag too, and that’s one domino effect we love to see!

Shopping & Activities

One of the best things to do when you travel is to get gifts (for yourself or others) or live crazy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  We won’t stop you from doing that, but before you do it, just think about this.

16. Shop local

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A local bead merchant in Siem Reap

This is something they tell us back home, and you should also try to do it when you’re traveling.  Shop local.  Get something from a local artist or artisan, handmade with love and craftsmanship. Whatever it is, try and support a local family and the local economy.  At least try to make sure the product is produced in the country, as tons of things are make in China but sold as being local.  And if you haggle the price, which is sometimes half the fun, make sure you are being fair.  If the vendor starts to get upset, you’ve gone too far – that dollar that you are saving may not be much to you, but it’s a fortune to the vendor.

17. Don’t shop at all

This is something that we can do as long-term travelers.  To be honest, we have not bought a single souvenir since we have started this year-long trip (sorry, not sorry friends and family!).  Why?  Well space and weight are big things, but it’s also because we don’t want things.  Before we left, we started living a more minimalist lifestyle, realizing that we prefer to live experiences over having things.  We’ve carried on with this mentality during the trip, and you can do it to.  Sure, people may think you’re selfish for not bringing back a gift, but instead, you can learn how to cook the local cuisine and invite them over for a traditional feast when you’re back.  Or you can make a donation to a local charity in their name.  There are tons of creative ways to offer “travel” gifts without buying things.

18. Animal Tourism

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We contemplated for a long time, but we decided to go support the Elephant Nature Park, in Chiang Mai, Thailand

So you’re half-way around the world and you have a chance to see some pretty awesome animals that you’ve never seen back home.  Yeah, freakin’ cool! But before you do, make sure you look into the company that is offering this.

Are they harming animals? Chances are that if a wild animal will do tricks for you or that you get to ride it, they are harming them.  We opted to go see elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, because they were an ethical sanctuary for these gentle giants and we didn’t ride them.

Are you taking a picture with an animal that would usually bite your head off if you saw it in the wild? Yup, avoid this as well.  For example, in Thailand, we saw many offers to go hang out with tigers.  What people don’t know is that those tigers are drugged to keep them docile.

Is the activity ruining the natural ecosystem or instincts of the animal?  Then avoid that as well!  For example, in the Philippines, you can go swimming with whale sharks.  How awesome, except for the fact that this makes the whale sharks forget their natural hunting instincts and ruins the balance of the ecosystem they live in because they are being fed instead of “hunting”.  Instead, we got to see a whale shark in its natural habitat in Koh Tao, where it took us by surprise.  A much better experience overall for everyone!

19. Eco Tours are the way to go

Whatever tour you decide to do, try to find one that is eco-friendly.  In most places, tour operators now understand that if they don’t start taking care of the environment, they will not have a job in a few years.  So when you’re looking for a way to explore that cool place you’ve been dying to go to, find an operator that has higher environmental standards.  We found Visit.org which does great work offering eco-friendly tours and activities around the world that support the local community.

20. Use a sunscreen that won’t kill corals

Recently, there have been many studies showing that using certain types of sunscreen can kill the corals.  Again, we’re super selfish, and since we started scuba diving, we want to see the corals at their best.  This is why we’ve opted for wearing sunscreen that doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor.  Another way to avoid killing coral is to put your sunscreen on 30 minutes before heading into the water.  Or better yet, cover up with a rash guard or wetsuit if you’ll be in the water for a long time (aka snorkeling or scuba diving).

Health and beauty

This section may be more for women, but we thought it was important to include it. These steps can easily be done at home too, so it’s really a double win.

21. Avoid disposable makeup remover wipes

We all love the convenience of these wipes.  Makeup just magically disappears with one swipe. But the truth is, not only are they full of chemicals, they are often not biodegradable.  Instead of disposable wipes, opt for a reusable one like Face It by Cloth in a box.  Just use water to wipe the makeup off, then rise it and let it dry until you need it tomorrow.  Eco-friendly, and travel-friendly because you’ll never need to carry makeup remover with you.

22. Menstruate better

Ok, ladies, not sure about you, but there are a few days each month when I hate life.  You know what I’m talkin’ about: periods.  Cramps, pain, discomfort, and the only thing I want to do is crawl up and sleep for those 3 days.  Add to that the often uncomfortable and annoying pads or tampons, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I’m not just talking about disaster for our planet with all the plastic waste, but also for our health.  Tampons have harsh chemicals and bleaches, pads have glue and more chemicals, and they’re bulky AF.  So how do you avoid all this?

Meet Thinx.  This US-based company makes a range of comfy and stylish period underwear.  Yeah, you can actually look good as you bleed!  What I love most, is that they care about the environment, people and tell you like it is.  On most days, I can just walk around in their underwear, without any other protection, which is awesome in the hot, hot heat we’ve experienced.  They have been a saviour on this trip!  You can get your own here, with a discount.

23. Kick it old school with bars

We all grew up with soap bars, but one day, it all changed and now we’ve gotten used to cleaning up with liquid soaps and shampoos.  What we forget to consider is that liquids are actually a lot more expensive than bars, you get less washes out of them, and they come in plastic that ends up sticking around longer than we want it to.  Especially when traveling, these bottles are bulky and heavy to carry around.

So what’s the solution?

Going back to the good old days of bars.  They have come a long way themselves – more natural options are available, softer on sensitive skin and longer lasting.  And their packaging is easily biodegradable which is great considering many countries don’t recycle.  We’re loving this bar shampoo by Lush that can give you up to 80 washes, or replace 3 medium bottles of shampoo.

Have you found innovative or easy ways to be a more eco-friendly traveler? Let us know in the comments.  We’re always looking for new ways to be more green!


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Discover 20+ ways of traveling in an eco-friendly way. Tips and tricks on how to reduce your carbon footprint as you travel. www.wediditourway.com

An easy way to stop contributing to plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is a major issue we are struggling with globally.  It doesn’t just touch certain people, but really affects everyone!  Often, we use plastic without even realizing it.  And just like that, BAM, we’re contributing to the problem!  That in itself is a huge issue.  And it’s not just plastic.  It’s single-use ‘garbage’ as a whole.  That coffee cup we will discard, the container your cookies come in, the wrapping around a box of chocolates.  We just don’t realize how all this trash is taking over our lives and our planet.  Did you know that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in our oceans? That’s an insane amount!

When we set out to explore South East Asia, we were oblivious to the fact that pollution and plastic use was so inherent.  Litter is everywhere.  People throw out their trash on the streets without even flinching.  This was a real shock to us Canadians, who are so used to recycling and even composting.  We try to create as little waste as possible and littering is just unthinkable back home!

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The biggest issue here however, has to be the plastic bottles.  Most of the water in Asia is not potable.  So the ‘only’ way to stay hydrated is to buy bottles.  And when you’re out exploring in 40+ degrees (Celsius, of course or like 100 Fahrenheit), the amount of water you need is crazy.  Around the world, nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute.  Think about that!  I’m speechless! Especially knowing that only about 10% of that will be recycled, another 10% will be incinerated, which leaves about 80% that end up in landfills or the environment.  Scary!

Not only is this just creating immense amounts of plastic pollution, but it’s also a huge waste of money.  Just some basic math shows us the problem – Your body needs at least 2 litres of water per day.  You will be spending a good $2-3 a day on bottles.  It may not seem like much when you’re on a 2-week vacation, but after a few months of traveling, that adds up to more than we care to count!

Luckily, we (ok, I) love to do research, and came upon many solutions that offer to clean your water to make it drinkable.  Some sterilize water, others just filter it.  But what we came about seemed to be the Holy Grail of water bottles.  The Lifestraw Go did it all.  It filters and sterilizes water so you can drink it from almost anywhere.  A river, a waterfall, a puddle, that gross-looking river… ok you could, but we didn’t try!

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Basically, this is a bottle that has a straw integrated in the cap.  When you drink the water, it gets pulled up the straw where it is filtered and becomes clean drinking water just like that! Magic!!  The bottle (or rather, the straw) will filter out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoa.  Now that is impressive!

The best thing ever is seeing the looks we get from locals when we ask to fill up our Lifestraw bottle.  They always protest, saying the water is not potable.  But when we explain how our bottle is magic and cleans the water, they are always left in awe!  Now, if only we could tell them how a LifeStraw product can provide up to 8,000 water bottles worth of safe drinking water, that would blow their minds!  Just imagine how much plastic we could save from ending up in landfills and the oceans!  And think about the money we’re saving!  Sure, the bottle was $60CND, but that’s like 20 days of bottle buying.  And because the filter works for so long, we never have to think twice about drinking more water.

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And that’s not all (channeling my best Oprah here).  For every Lifestraw product sold, a school child receives safe water for an entire school year.  At the moment, they are at over 1 million students getting access to clean water thanks to this initiative.  LifeStraw even has a Give Back program to ensure sustainability through comprehensive planning, training, education and follow-up visits.  They take this very seriously!  And we love it!

So if it weren’t clear enough, here’s why we love this Lifestraw Go bottle:

  • You don’t have to buy water bottles ever again! This is a double win because you end up saving money AND, very simply NO MORE FREAKIN’ PLASTIC in the ocean or landfills.  Seriously, that shit will be there long after we’re gone!  How long?  We don’t even know but it’s estimated between 450 years and FOREVER!
  • You can always have drinking water.  Like anywhere, anytime there is water, you can turn it into drinking water. Ok, except ocean water, it doesn’t filter out salt!
  • It’s super easy to transport.  It’s not too big or too small, it’s compact and it has a carabiner so you can attach it to your bag.  Super convenient!

It may seem like we’re in love, and we kind of are, but there are a few drawbacks:

  • You can’t freeze the bottle, so the water is rarely cold.  On super hot days, we miss having ice cold water.  The trick we found is that we fill a different bottle up with water, and leave that in the fridge.  Then we fill our Lifestraw bottle up with that cold water.  So it’s not that bad of a negative point!
  • The next one is a silly one, but worth mentioning.  Sometimes, you just want to chug water.  Like a total savage!  You want to be able to take big gulps to really quench your thirst.  Well, you can’t with this bottle!  It’s always a straw, so you always have to suck.  And it’s always the same rhythm and flow.  So it’s only so much water at a time.  This may not seem like a big issue, but let me tell you, we miss chugging water!

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So there it is.  A simple, cost-effective way of saving our planet, reducing the use of plastic and staying hydrated at the same time.  If this isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.  Ok, to be honest, maybe I actually have no idea what’s cool anymore!

Note:  This is in no way a paid article or partnership with Lifestraw.  These are our honest opinions on a product we have been using for several months now. 

Another note: All the stats provided here were taken from National Geographic’s article on plastic pollution. 


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life

Babel Guesthouse – Paving the way for eco-tourism in Siem Reap

We always look for eco-friendly places to stay when we travel. We found the perfect place in Siem Reap. Babel Guesthouse cares for the environment, their staff, the community and the future. Read how they do it.

Life is all about choices.  We make choices every day without thinking about them.

“I can’t wait to have a nice burger for lunch.”

“It’s cold outside and I’m late, I think I’ll drive in to work”

“That pack of 24 water bottles is only $4.99?  I think I’ll grab a case.”

So many of these decisions have impacts that we don’t think about either.

Did you know that you need 460 gallons of water and over 13 pounds of feed to produce 1 quarter pound hamburger?

Taking your car instead of public transportation emits 65 more pounds of CO² per 100 passenger miles into the atmosphere.

Satisfying the annual global demand for bottled water consumes the energy equivalent of about 160 million barrels of oil.

Cambodia has a real problem with pollution, the lack of recycling, and education in general. They rank 146th out of 180 countries in the global Environmental Performance Index. So, when we decided to visit Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, we wanted to stay somewhere that shared our values in terms of responsible tourism.

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Welcome to Babel Guesthouse

That was our mindset when we stumbled across Babel guesthouse.  We informed ourselves on all the initiatives they are leading and contacted one of the owners, Katrine, right away.  We ended up staying a few nights at their guesthouse, which specializes in responsible tourism, and loved every minute of it.

From the get-go, they were quite accommodating. They offered to pick us up from the airport.  Dara, one of Babel’s many tuk tuk drivers, brought us to the guesthouse.  All their drivers work with Babel on a rotational basis, so that they all get an equal share of  rides.  This ensures that they are all able to better support their loved ones. Because sharing is caring, and Babel cares a lot!

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Babel’s beautiful garden

We won’t harp too long on the comfy beds, amazing shower, or beautiful garden they have where you can chill around, eat at the resto or chat with some of the other guests. We met such friendly and like-minded people in the garden, we would have never left if we had a choice. This was not why we chose to stay at Babel, but all these were extra pluses for us.

All of Babel’s great initiatives were the biggest contributing factors in our decision to stay here. They do so much, not only for the environment in Siem Reap, but also for their always-smiling, hard working staff.

Babel Guesthouse is constantly looking to ensure that they are a sustainable and environmental business.  Litter is a huge problem in Cambodia which is why Babel organizes garbage pick-ups, with the help of their staff, other local businesses and guests. This helps raise local awareness of the issue, helping solve the problem in the long run.  We took part in one of the clean-ups to give back to the community that took us in.  The most rewarding part of this was when a Cambodian mother and little daughter whizzed by on a scooter.  In perfect English, the little girl yelled an enthusiastic Thank You to us for helping make her home a cleaner place.  This put a big smile on our faces.

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Garbage picking in Siem Reap

Babel also pushes to reduce the amount of plastic being used.  They sell reusable water bottles and offer to refill them for free for anyone who participates in their program.  Coupled with the bamboo straws they use and sell at the guesthouse, they are helping reduce plastic waste overall.

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Reusable water bottle and bamboo straws for sale

Then, there is HUSK Cambodia who focuses on providing access to safe water, livelihood opportunities, health, education & environment to families in the Siem Reap area.  Babel works with Husk and delivers used plastic bottles filled with soft plastics that are used to make walls for houses.  They also donate used plastic bags that are repurposed into cushions for the chairs in Babel’s restaurant, as well as other artisanal goods.

From replacing all take-away containers and cutlery with biodegradable versions, to powering their generator with bio-diesel made from their used cooking oil, and selling locally-made jams from a social enterprise called Happytite, Babel has truly become a leader in Siem Reap when it comes to responsible eco-tourism.

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As we mentioned before, they do so much for the environment, but they also pride themselves on what they do for the people of Cambodia.  One of their proudest endeavours is their educational program that allows their staff and tuk tuk drivers to earn their Bachelor degrees at Build Bright University and the University of South East Asia.  Providing their staff with adequate training, good working conditions, fair salaries and flexible working hours enables them to further pursue their education. This is huge, especially knowing that a large portion of Cambodians don’t finish their primary education, due to the fact that families cannot afford it.

Another way that Babel ensures the personal and educational growth of their staff is by organizing their yearly staff trip.  They bring them to other provinces in Cambodia, to learn more about different regions of their country and what they have to offer.  This in itself is something that most Cambodians do not have the luxury to experience.  Traveling like tourists helps the staff understand the needs of their customers at Babel, which is probably why they are all awesome!  It is also a great team-building exercise for the staff and the management.

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This brings me to one of the things that struck me the most at Babel, that is the sense of family that the entire crew emits.  Katrine’s newborn baby, Lina, can often be found in the caring arms of one of the staff.  Likewise, Katrine knows intricate details about each one of her staff’s personal lives, down to babies’ birthdays. Rare is it to find an owner as dedicated to their team than you will find with Katrine and her husband, Simon.

We hope that we will continue to find places like Babel Guesthouse that combine great hospitality with responsible tourism practices.  A big thank you goes out to Katrine, Simon and her staff! We hope to see you again in our future travels!


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Discover the beauty of this eco-hotel in Siem Reap. Babel Guesthouse is doing everything it can to reduce its carbon footprint in the highly polluted city of Siem Reap. www.wediditourway.com