You cannot imagine how happy I am right now.
I have just done my first load of laundry at my new home: the first home I’ve rented in Costa Rica with a washing machine. I cannot describe to you how good it felt to hang up those fresh clean clothes on my balcony. They’re probably going to dry by the time I write a couple of paragraphs of this piece, given the strength of the afternoon sun.
That said, I am unlikely to change my habit of only doing a wash every 3-4 weeks: despite only having one backpack’s worth of clothes, and even less that I actually wear regularly. I reuse the same outfits over and over. I find that airing my clothes on the balcony, in the fresh air and sun, is good enough to last… a while.
Before you accuse me of poor hygiene, know that somehow I’ve managed to avoid contracting a type of skin fungus that most girls I know in the area have had. The only rash I’ve suffered in the last twelve months was on my face, and that was when I visited my parents in Italy and had to start religiously wearing a mask even in the open air, so I put it down to that. I do have a fungal infection on the toenails of my right foot: but that’s something I’ve been battling with for nearly two decades. It’s finally starting to clear up after all these months walking barefoot on the beach, or the improvement could be down to a new formula of ylang ylang, frankincense, coconut oil and propolis that I’ve started rubbing over it nightly.
Now that I’m finally settled in a permanent home, my self-care rituals are being taken to the next level. I’ve just made myself an ice latté with fresh coconut milk (buying a machete is the next thing on my to-do list, so I can crack open coconuts with style instead of throwing them against the stone path outside my bungalow). With it, I’ve also blended in some astragalus root powder (generally amazing for the immune system, and used in Chinese medicine to treat coronaviruses), cacao and cinnamon.
But I digress. Why, you ask, would I unnecessarily restrict my clothes washing?
I guess I’m noticing more and more just what it really is that I need, and trying to live as basic as possible to reduce my environmental impact. Water is precious, something I’m appreciating more acutely now that it’s dry season, and I also want to keep my use of laundry detergent to a minimum. I buy an ecological one of course: but there’s still the impact of its production, transportation, and the plastic bottle it’s packaged in. And where I live, the drains go directly into the earth. Even though it’s ecological, I ask myself the question – is this product really part of the local ecosystem, the ecosystem into which I am imposing? How might it affect the soil, or the water of the river that’s gushing downhill from me? It’s important to be conscious and cautious, in my view. I take the Precautionary Principle to the extreme.
One thing that I haven’t been so good with is my toilet paper consumption: something that my Italian ex-boyfriend, who was habituated to using a bidet, always pointed out to me. I’d fire back at him with a comment related to our on-going debate over how best to treat the termites destroying our wooden rancho. I’d be close to tears every time he got out the chemical spray, and would beg for him to make use of a homemade tobacco leaf mixture instead.
Anyhow, I guess some habits are hard to break. But that’s no excuse. I’m somehow living in a beautiful bungalow with ocean views, on a huge property with private waterfall access. In exchange for this, it’s time to up my game. I may not have a bidet, but do you even need to wash after only a piss? Plus I have acres of jungle at my doorstep: as long as I watch for scorpions lurking in the leaves, I may as well go outside. That’s what my craniosacral therapist, who helped me nurse a broken body back to health during my recent visit to the Caribbean, did.
Living in a place where toilet paper needs to be thrown in the garbage as opposed to flushed down the drain, has made me very aware of the volumes of waste that we must be producing globally just from this single thing alone. And toilet paper is hardly that essential, yet was somehow making meme headlines at the beginning of this pandemic, from all the stockpiling hysteria.
Not ready to change wiping habits? I don’t judge: we all have our things and can help save the planet in different ways. But I am here to prod you and make you question habits and what you really need. I haven’t used deodorant all year and can’t remember when I actually bought the bottle I still have with me. It’s been a pretty useless addition to my luggage, but it would be wasteful to throw it. Equally, I can’t remember the last time I used shampoo. I appreciate that dispensing with hair-washing rituals, when you’re in the city as opposed to the jungle, may be more challenging. But then, is it? Professionalism is kind of no longer a thing when we’re all working from home.
Perhaps I’ve said enough provocative things for one day, so I’ll leave it at that. Maybe I’ll head to town. I’m thinking of buying some new flip-flops: they’ve got quite a few punctures in them, which rip open wider and wider each day from the gravel of the road. But on the other hand, I think I’ll stretch them out a little longer. I’ve started taking them off and walking barefoot for the length of the private road between where I live, and the main road that is properly sealed and better for the soles. For more than 1km, I tread slowly and mindfully to find the soft patches of dirt between the gravel. It’s become my favourite part of the journey, as it’s a time of connecting to the earth and the nature around. When I walk barefoot it’s so quiet, and I see even more animals and birds. The baby howler monkeys are a particularly delightful sight gifted by the jungle, as if to reward me for my efforts.
And so I shall continue my campaign…