The month of May is has a distinct vibrancy to it. As we say goodbye to spring and start to enter our summer travel season, we reflect and gear up for adventure. We fist pump the air in excitement with the possibilities that summer holds!
At Green Suitcase Travel, we are all about finding people and places who fuel the desire to get out there and travel mindfully. We especially love hearing from women who are doing this. This month, we are going to be featuring game-changing, fierce females who are walking the walk.
And she travels is a 4-part series, where we will be talking to women who are industry leaders in the conscious travel movement.
Our first interview is with Cait Bagby or World Threads Traveler. Cait empowers travelers to shop consciously and show us that eco-fashion is where it’s at.
Tell us about yourself! When did you start traveling and when did you decide to create your blog?
I guess you could say I have been traveling my whole life. Ever since I was little my parents made it a priority to get their children acquainted with the world. Family trips included driving cross country, Hawaii, Mexico and a lot of overnight hikes. It wasn’t until the age of 16 that I got my first real adventure when I traveled to Europe with a choir. After that is was all I could think about and so started my love affair with overseas travel. World Threads Traveler came much later, almost 11 years later. I finished my Master’s Degree in War Studies with a focus on human rights and genocide. I love academia, but think sometimes it is not relatable to everyday application. I have had a love of fashion for as long as I can remember. Ever since my mom gave me a trunk full of old dresses and other items she acquired over the years. So it seemed natural, to me, to bridge the two disciplines and look at how the fashion world was having an effect on human rights and the environment. I started off solely with high fashion, more along the lines of typical fashion blogs. Amazing outfits, great locations, and where to buy but after I dug a little more into the machinery of the fashion industry I learned just how toxic it has become. From that point on I vowed to only wear, review and suggest shopping sites that were centered on sustainable fashion. To compliment my already travel heavy schedule I have also made the switch, as much as possible, to supporting and staying in eco hotels. It has been quite a discovery process but the more important thing I have learned and try to instill in others on World Threads Traveler, is that eco doesn’t have to be boring, or hippy. It is just as fashionable while sending a positive message and helping to support local communities, worker’s rights, the environment, and ultimately your wallet.
World Threads Traveler is about working with local designers and charities to give back, specifically while traveling. Why fashion and how do you see it making an impact for good?
World Threads Traveler is a lot more than just local designers and charities. It is about paying attention to our impact on society and the environment on a whole. Two things that have always been an important part of my life are travel and fashion, so it was only natural to bring those two together. Fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry with $250 billion spent annually in the United States. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of money on clothing making it one of our biggest industries. Fashion is something we can all relate to but it is also something we all have a say in. By supporting local artisans, ethically made clothing, and environmentally responsible companies we as consumers have a direct say in how we treat each other as individuals and the planet. I can’t think of a better industry to pave a way forward for a more sustainable lifestyle.
What are some of your favorite travel shopping tips for those who want to be conscious of what they are buying when they travel?
Get off the tourist path! My rule of thumb is to stay away from street vendors that tend to hover around monuments or other popular tourist destinations. While some are genuine in their sales most have imported these souvenirs from overseas. That pashmina scarf you might consider while in Rome is probably made in Indonesia. The snow globe with the Statue of David inside, probably made in China. Get lost, take a side street or two. Not only will you find amazing boutiques but in my experience, you meet some of the most genuine and real people who will show you what all the guidebooks won’t have. Shop small and you’ll come away with more stories than you can ever retell. This to me is the reason to travel, aside from the monument dotted landscapes.
Tell us more about the work you did in Belize!
In Belize I was really fortunate, under the guidance of the staff at Blancaneaux Lodge, to spend the day at the San Antonio Women’s Group which helps provide funding for girl’s education. Their primary way of earning money is to show travelers, like myself, how to cook, sew, and make pottery. Honestly, it was a once in a lifetime experience I wouldn’t have traded for everything. This is not a touristy activity, it wasn’t in the guidebooks and yet, it exactly the type of activity that will leave a lasting impression. For starters, I learned how to grind corn using a metate which has been passed down through the generations. From there I made tamales and tortillas which were better than any you would find at a restaurant. Maybe because they were cooked on an open flame in the middle of the Belizean jungle? After lunch, I learned about traditional Mayan pottery and got to put my hands on the same clay that has been used for centuries to create some of the most sought after archeological artifacts. Finally, I learned how to embroider in the typical flower pattern that is used to adorn blankets, table clothes, and clothing of the Mayan women in the region. In the end, I walked away with much more than souvenirs from their small shop. I learned some unique skills all while helping to provide a future for the children of San Antonio.
I’m a big thrift shopper myself. Where are some of your favorite places in the world to pick up clothes or souvenirs that were made sustainably?
I actually just wrote about thrift shopping: it’s not for me. It isn’t that I think thrifting doesn’t have its merits. I do, but I also think it helps to support the fast fashion business by saying it’s okay to buy massive amounts of non-biodegradable, forced human labor clothing: when you’re done with it someone else will wear it. I don’t think one justifies the other. Instead, I choose to buy limited items from eco designers that are guaranteed to help society and the planet. I don’t really have any favorite stores I can think of off the top of my head. I’m not generally a repeat customer when I visit the same place twice. Mostly because there is always something new to discover. I used to collect postcards wherever I travel but after a while found that they were just getting shoved in a box at home, not really proving themselves as a keepsake in the long run. In recent years, I have turned to purchasing items that will fill my house. Everything from waste bins, to dishes (my favorite coffee set is from a little artisan in Rome), a painting, or even something as small as a pen. All were locally made and help to support these small mom and pop shops. Plus, now whatever I touch in my home it is an instant reminder of the places I have been. I can’t think of a better way to remember the things I have done.
I love that and totally that response and agree that choosing clothes made from local businesses is always better!
This series is all about women, making a positive impact in travel. Who are some ladies in your life that have given you the push to live your life in this way?
My mom is a major influence in who I am today. To be honest we didn’t get along much until I was living on my own. I think we are just too similar. But, the one thing she has always been is respectful of the person I am and supports my growth no matter how outlandish it may seem. She has encouraged me to travel and take leaps of faith while keeping her outward worries to a minimum. What can be difficult with travel and living abroad, something that is not talked about often, is the loneliness when you return. It is hard to relate, hard to talk about your experiences without feeling like you are bragging. My mom does a remarkable job in making this transition possible. She wants to know about everything, wants to hear about the ups and downs (let’s face it there can be a lot of downs when you’re traveling), and ensures no tale is out of place. Aside from my mom the Girls Vs Globe Group has provided me with a lot of support and encouragement to keep doing more. It is an amazing group of female travelers that share their experiences, help one another out, and provide insights on where to get the best food, picture, hotels etc. no matter where on the globe you may find yourself. This group of amazing women has made traveling feel secure and more importantly perfectly normal for the solo female traveler.
Picture this, it’s 5 years from now, where do you see World Threads Traveler? Sky’s the limit….Go!
Yikes! Five years seems so far away and yet so close that I’ll never get everything accomplished! Ideally, I would love for World Threads Traveler to become the hub for all things Eco Fashion and Travel. A place where readers can explore the educational side of fashion, what is sustainable fashion, learn where the best sustainable shops are, find amazing eco accommodations across the globe, learn where the best shoes are made in Florence, find a local charity to volunteer some of their time and so much more. It would be great to see sustainable fashion becoming more mainstream. To see if on the cover of Vogue and others. Whatever I can do to help bring a more positive light the sustainable fashion and travel industry that what I would like to do. I have just started entering into the world of public speaking about the dangers of the fashion industry and this is something I would like to continue to cultivate and incorporate into the larger WTT theme.
And now for a few of your travel favorites…..
Meeting new people and discover hidden locations are generally my favorite thing about travel. Although my most recent favorite was my mission to hold a lamb in Iceland. It did not go well and I ended up being trapped inside my car with a very unhappy mom sheep out to get me. I also really loved trekking through the Belize jungle. That was something completely new to me and while I may be comfortable around people the thought of snakes and spiders lurking at every corner really took a lot for me to overcome.
I know it’s hard to choose, but do you have a favorite destination that you’ve been to?
This is a really tough question. Basically everywhere! Each location has its own hidden beauty that I like to cull out and I haven’t been one place yet that has disappointed. To narrow it down I would have to say Iceland and Rome. Iceland was a bit of a spur of the moment trip. For ten days my husband and I drove the entire country and just explored. We stayed in people’s homes, people we did not know, got lost on roads that had no signs, and tried to pet a baby sheep (this did not go well). The entire experience was breathtaking. I have never met nicer people nor seen such jaw-dropping natural beauty. Rome is always on the top of my list. It was home for three years and will always feel like so. In fact, it is really strange to visit now because I don’t feel like a tourist yet I return to a hotel every night. It is one of those locations that you have to take it for what it is. Rome is dirty,crowded, hot, and visually overwhelming but it is also home to the most amazing food, artisans, history, and much much more. My recommendation for any traveling to Rome is to truly enjoy the café culture. If you run from site to site it will feel like a chaotic city but sit for a while. Sit at a local café, in front of the Pantheon or in Piazza Navona and just watch. Watch the locals, the tourists, the monuments. Soaking up Rome is the best way to experience it. Try not to make a travel itinerary. Get lost in the streets, trust me you will stumble upon everything you wanted to see, but you will also experience everyday life and what makes the city so enduring.
Name one thing you’ve done in your travels that changed your life or world view.
I learned to trust people. Unfortunately, I think I grew up in a time when talking to strangers was becoming a big no-no. The news was starting to play over and over again all the bad things that could happen in the world. It took a lot of time for me to trust locals no matter where I was. One night I was driving from Rome to Ravello and got lost in the middle of the night, on some no name street. Two men pulled over and asked if they could help. Now, based on my childhood and all that I had been taught, I should have said no. Instead, being so lost,tired, and frustrated I said yes. I followed in my car down a maze of dirt roads for about 45 minutes. I thought for sure this couldn’t be right. But, in the end, it was! Not only did they help me navigate to Ravello in much quicker time but they also took 45 minutes out of their day to help someone they didn’t know. This left a lasting impression and since then I have become much more trusting. I will now stop and ask for direction instead of using my phone, I will enter someone’s home for coffee or wine, I will sit with a stranger and talk about whatever. This has helped shape not only my travel experiences but also my view on humanity on a whole. You really can’t believe everything the news tells you. Of course, I always exercise caution and still always send messages to friends or family about where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing. But on a whole, I have learned we as humans are pretty great overall. P.S. Talking to locals is also a great way to find the best hidden travel gems. Want real Italian cooking? Go make friends with a local shop keeper they will probably invite you to their home for the best dinner you’ve ever had!
Where’s your next dream destination?
Throw a pin at a map and I would tell you that is my next dream location. I want to travel everywhere and see everything. In reality, I know that will be a slow process and I have to choose only one at a time. Currently, I have been obsessing over Argentina and specifically Patagonia. There is something about the raw beauty of the earth paired with lifestyles that seem to shun technology that really draw me in. I first want to learn how to do the Tango in Buenos Aires and from there ride on down to Patagonia and experience the simplicity of the local lifestyles. Bangladesh has also been high on my list for a while to get a better understanding and see firsthand the devastating effect the fashion industry is having on the world and local communities. I’m also hoping to find some innovation there. Companies that are starting to change the industry model and adhere to a supportive, fair way of doing business.
Want to know the best places to buy those sustainably made goods? Follow Cait Bagby and World Threads Traveler for the latest content.