Friday, November 4, 2011

Living Ideals (and Compromise) on the Road

Eug and I have never traveled for an extended period before, and while 6 weeks still really isn't very long, it's long enough when one is without an apartment or house, without a car or a permanent address. I wrote earlier about how I have to balance competing ideals at different stages in our lives, and I wanted to share how this balance is working on the road.

The carbon footprint of air travel (I haven't included Noah as he doesn't take his own seat just yet)
  • Boston-Myrtle Beach-Boston 1,328lbs for two people (family trip with Eug's mom and brother)
  • Boston-Phoenix one way 1,300lbs for two people (trip to visit Eug's dad)
  • Boston-Atlanta one way 1,028lbs for two people (on the way home to SA)
  • Atlanta-Milano one way 2,474lbs for two people (on the way home to SA)
  • As compared to about 15,000lbs driving our car for year
The carbon footprint of air travel is huge- it equals about 7 months of using our car. My sense on this is that I would prefer to give up a car- perhaps permanently- and continue to see friends and family occasionally- than the reverse. So that's what we're trying. I sense that navigating the complexities of living across several continents must mean air travel, at least for us.

I'd go so far as to say that God will cover the carbon- which may sound cooky to those of you in a different spiritual place- but what I mean is that, in a world where we are already using way, way too many resources, change has to be both by action (reducing our footprint and learning to be radical) and by grace. We'll try to balance visits and other types of communication.

The ideal of family and friends lands higher that our ideal of total sustainability.

Whew, with that out of the way, I'll move on to some other things we're trying to do on the road to stay true to some of our ideals.

We're driving a hired compact car here in Sedona, and the fuel efficiency is pretty good. The main uses for the car were driving from Phoenix, driving to and from the Grand Canyon, and driving back to Phoenix this coming Sunday.

We brought Noah's car seat along, which is inconvenient but saves money and resources. We'll be using our car seat all the way to South Africa, and then it'll hopefully have a good few years left in it there. We have the stroller and Ergo and are walking around where we can.

Food & Accommodation
Here in Sedona, we're staying in a timeshare unit that has a small kitchen. I'm going to look at costs below, but here I'm going to say that staying at a place with a kitchen is great, particularly if you have a small child. We're able to prepare food here, and we don't have to get crazy baby single serving stuff, as we might have to if we were in a hotel.

When we left Boston, we brought a bunch of fruit and snacks for us and Noah, and I made a real effort to make sure we ate them (apples and oranges and pears and avocados need to be eaten pretty quickly if they're being banged around a lot). This helped us last until we could make it to the grocery store.

There are two kinds of food related waste when we're staying in a place a very short time: packaging waste (it's also much harder to recycle) and food waste. After some missteps on previous trips, I've discovered that planning really simple meals and having a plan for each fruit or vegetable really stops both food waste and packaging waste. If the grocery is accessible, it's easier just to keep going back. Even pasta is usually too complicated, because you end up with leftovers that quickly get crusty in the fridge. So we're doing panini, yoghurt and fruit this week for all the meals we're not eating with family.

We don't use the tiny little bottles of toiletries, but we do use the soap bars.

All these things are really tiny, but in the same way that I hope for grace to cover some of the impact of our air travel, I hope that grace can expand the really tiny things we're doing to reduce our waste on the road.

Traveling is not really frugal, but there are ways to make it a lot more so.

Our flights are all bought with points from getting credit cards, which we cancel before they charge the annual fee. We make sure we comply with whatever they need us to do to get the full number of points.

Our hotel in Boston was also paid for with points (breakfast included), our hotel in Phoenix cost about $40 (breakfast included), and our current hotel costs about $80/night with tax, and no breakfast. In Milan, we'll be staying with friends.

The boat costs about $58/night for Eug and I, with food included. That said, the cost of the boat ride is actually less than flying one way to South Africa, and much less than paying for rent  and food somewhere and a one-way ticket to South Africa. So if you're immigrating to South Africa, do it in November and travel by boat. All things considered, I consider our boat trip totally free.

We also have a daily food/other budget of between $15 and $50/day, depending on where we're staying. 

Both Eug and I are working on the road, which means we could actually stay right here, where we're staying in a hotel and getting food rather hapharzardly, indefinitely. Theoretically we each need to work between 1 and 2 hours a day (my rate is about half of Eug's) to just stay in this hotel forever with a hired car. Which we don't want to do, but it shows that even a little work can go a long way for long term travel, as we're staying in an expensive place in an expensive country.

Another major source of waste on the road is diapering, because it's harder to cloth diaper without a washing machine. Our friends gave us their supply of G-Diapers, and we're using cloth inserts at the moment, meaning that there is very little waste. They're working well for us now, but we also have disposable inserts to use (and theoretically flush) when we don't have access to a bathtub or sun to dry the inserts.

I'm not sure if the post really has a cohesive point, but I guess I'm excited that we can travel for 6 weeks, see family and friends, and end up in South Africa, all without dipping into savings or creating massive amounts of waste. It takes quite a lot of planning, but it can be done.


EC said...

Awesome planning! :)

Linda said...

Aw well, my comment got lost :(

Basically, I said cruise ships = awesome, been on a few myself to Mozambique. Really great price for a hotel-like cabin, great food and entertainment all included.

Which ship are you on??

Concrete Gardener said...

Sorry about comment :(

This will be our first boat trip- we're going on the Melody which I think sails out of Durban a lot (to Mauritius and stuff). It's an older ship and a repositioning cruise, hence the very good price.

Your March plans sound really exciting!