Where’s the Beach? How to Travel in Ethical Style

There’s nothing like a beach getaway to an exotic location to excite your senses and soothe body, mind and soul. But what to pack for those sunny, sandy days by the shore besides a beach hat and flip flops? Plenty! Just because you’re heading to the beach doesn’t mean you have to schlep around in moo moos all day, guzzling shrimp cocktails. There are lots of easy ways to be a more conscious traveler.

To refresh and recharge my batteries, I took a much-needed spiritual retreat to Casa Om in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, a small fishing town on the coast of the Mayan Riviera.

Before heading on your next vacation, consider some of my favorite tips for staying stylish and sustainable when you travel:


1. Dress Comfortably. The hardest part about vacationing in exotic locations is getting there. For long flights in cramped seats, sightseeing and hopping on and off scooters, pack easy travel styles, like stretchy, loose fitting clothing that offers extra leg room even if you’re seated in coach. This vintage inspired turquoise V-neck wrap jumpsuit by Les Lunes made from luxuriously soft bamboo is one of my most comfortable travel outfits. The pants are tapered with a skinny leg and belt for extra sophistication, an ideal ensemble for lunch after landing, or a style easy hotel check-in.

2. Go Vegan While You Travel. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American skipped one meal of meat per week and swapped it with a vegetarian dish instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as removing more than 1/2 million cars off the road. Second to animal farming, the travel industry is the #1 contributor to global warming. It takes about eleven times as much fossil fuel to produce a single calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of grain protein, so offset your footprint when you travel by saying no to meat and dairy and adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet. Stay at a vegan-friendly yoga retreat like Casa Om in Puerto Morelos that serves healthy, delicious meals like veggie enchiladas. To experiment with going vegan and boost your immunity before leaving home, try this easy seasonal 10-day detox, which helped me finally eliminate dairy from my diet.

3. Rock Eco-Fashion. After getting settled into our hotel, the first thing I want to do on vacation is dive head first into a pool – or better yet, the ocean. Sadly, most swimwear is made from materials like spandex that once disgarded, eventually end up in landfills (or the ocean itself!) and take forever to biodegrade. That’s why I love this reduced, reused and recycled snakeskin print monokini by fair trade brand Koru Swimwear. I found it and all the swimsuits featured here on conscious e-boutique Ecohabitude. With hundreds of stylish eco-brands to choose from, it’s a great place to shop for all your eco-travel needs.

4. Pack Colorful Accessories. Many fashionistas like to play it safe when they travel: black, grey, and more black. I’m not one of them. It’s vacation after all – not a funeral! Vivid colors help brighten the mood, so when you travel pack bold complimentary colors like purple, turquoise and orange that pair nicely with cool neutrals. When it comes to donning colorful looks on the beach, if you’re shy about bearing too much skin at once, pack a cover-up that doubles as a cozy wrap on breezy tropical nights, like this purple organic cotton shawl from Gaiam. Add statement jewelry to pick up the cool ocean vibes, like this turquoise necklace and ring by Fanta Celah and you’re all set.

5. Indulge in the Local Flavor. Don’t just spend all day at the beach pub hanging with Americans and English-speaking ex-pats. Get out and do some sightseeing! Listen to indigenous street music (don’t forget to tip). Talk to the locals, ideally in their native tongue (with the Pimsleur Method, you can learn any language in just a few short weeks). Keep your street style cool in this upcycled leopard tank top by Animal Instinct on Ecohabitude. I paired it with these bamboo black and salmon two-toned shorts from Les Lunes, perfect for a hot yoga class at Casa Om later that afternoon. Add your favorite mala beads and hoops to finish the look, and you’ll feel like a local!

Here I am on the streets of Puerto Morelos, scouting the town for conscious souvenirs to bring back home. During my outing, I happened upon  Naturalmente, a spa, yoga studio and eco-boutique all in one with everything from fab swimsuits, dresses and jewelry to essential oils and yummy raw/vegan snacks.

Have harp, will travel. I’ve never seen a street busker with such a large instrument!

6. Get Moving. One of the best ways to acclimate yourself into a new time zone is exercise. Get grounded with a walk around town, a relaxing yoga class or a brisk run on the beach. Moving your body every day on vacation will help give you the lay of the land, while burning off extra calories you’re sure to consume at the local taco bar! As a long-time yoga instructor, my exercise of choice is always a power vinyasa class, like this one on the beach wearing Les Lunes shorts and a brightly colored tencel tank from none other than Costco. Yes, as huge as their carbon footprint, the good news is a big box store like Costco sells eco-fashion! It’s a small step in the right direction, but sadly, the top has been discontinued or I’d order it in every color. It’s super soft and wears well with everything.

7. Commune with Nature. There’s something so powerful about the energy in nature, especially by the ocean. Take in all the fresh air and negative ions you can inhale by spending as much time as possible outdoors. If you’re ever in Puerto Morelos, swim or go snorkeling off one of the largest coral reefs in the world, or dive into one of Mexico’s world-famous cenotes, where spiritual seekers have gone for centuries to heal their bodies, minds and spirits. Or, take a short day trip to Isla de las Mujeres – Island of the Goddesses – where indigenous women came to honor nature and pray for loved ones. Today, it’s considered one of the most sacred sites in Mexico, and also happens to be the first place the sun rises in the East.

8. Meditate, and Unplug. Often, we go on vacation to escape whatever’s happening at home. Tempting as it is to pass your days downing organic margaritas, make a more conscious choice to spend quality time going within to unravel why you need to escape in the first place. If you don’t have a regular mindfulness practice, it’s a good time to start. If you do, be sure to maintain it when you travel. When you have downtime, resist the urge to scroll through your instagram or facebook feed just like you do at home. Instead, practice being in the present moment. As you unplug from the usual burdens of work, technology, and social media, you’ll find more time to simply be still. In the silence, or while journaling, you may discover hidden emotions and sacred parts of yourself that are yearning to be expressed.

You may find your quiet place just off the beaten path, like this magical cave by the ocean where I meditated to the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore. Before heading out, toss on some vintage shades and comfy clothes, like this easy cotton skirt and tank I picked up for a swap at Buffalo Exchange. In case you need to cool off with a quick dip, throw on a bikini top underneath like this one by Vesika Pisces, made from organic cotton.

9. Get Your Vitamin D. Most people are afraid of the sun due to a fear of getting skin cancer, which is why vitamin D is the most common blood work deficiency. Scientific research has proven that 20 minutes of unprotected sun each day is actually good for your health and metabolism. It’s also a great way to boost mood, and your spiritual vibration. Unfortunately, Vitamin D supplements don’t absorb into the body as well as the sun’s natural rays do when in direct contact with our skin, so don’t be afraid to sunbathe! But be smart about it. Use healthy sunscreen. Avoid conventional ones like Banana Boat and Bain de Soleil, which contain carcinogenic toxins like oxybenzone, cinnamates, PABA and palm oil (read the ingredient list) that can pollute the environment and cause cancer when combined with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. After your initial 20 minutes, slather on a non-toxic sunblock with high 20+ SPF, like Kinesys or Alba (they’re both great for darker skin and spray on clear with no streaking – though Alba is not palm-oil free). In a pinch, use organic avocado, sesame or coconut oil (natural sun protection up to SPF 8), or make your own from scratch with coconut oil and titanium dioxide.

10. Have Fun with It. There’s nothing wrong with channeling your inner diva and strutting your stuff when you travel, but the reason to go on vacation is to enjoy yourself, not to become your own fashion police. So don’t take what you wear too seriously. While on retreat, practice taking a break from any body issues you may have or strict ideals about how “perfect” or “ethical”  your look has to be before going out in public. We all have body issues, but being beautiful is about so much more than how you think others may see you. Whether you consider yourself “too” pale, fat, thin, tall, or curvy, remember true beauty comes from the inside out. The most stylish – and happy – people are relaxed, confident and comfortable in their own skin, whatever it looks like. So do YOU! Ignore the haters and rock a swimsuit that hugs your curves, like this fair trade cream colored maillot from Leafy Natural Couture with 100% silk crochet sides. Now go ahead, channel your inner Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and have fun on your vacation – dance like no one else is watching!

Photos of Bianca: Michael Alexander, Copyright Conscious Living, LLC

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