True Sustainability Hits the StagePosted on by Sarah Lafontaine
Rock Star. Writer. Humanitarian. The three words that appear largely and proudly across Bif Naked’s website are only a few that describe the individual many of us know and love. A proud Canadian, a survivor of breast cancer, an animal lover and an inspiration to all that cross her path, Bif has a strong belief in doing her part to live healthfully, sustainably and peacefully.
On April 19th, Bif released her first memoir, titled “I, Bificus” and we were fortunate to speak with her during this busy time to discuss responsible travel, and finding balance both at home and on the road.
What 3 words describe how you like to travel?
Happy, easy, sleepy.
Do you think travellers should be conscious or aware of their impacts?
Oh definitely, I don’t know how it is today, but before, when we’d go to a place [in] America and perform in certain venues and they’d have no recycling for all the water bottles, there was so much waste. That may have changed for some of those establishments, but I’m not comfortable with wasting anything at all, whether that’s food, plastics, etc., I don’t like garbage or littering, and I think that as travellers especially, if you are going to sensitive places, whether they’re economically compromised, or maybe places that don’t have a great city programs to clean up after you, and if they’re environmentally sensitive areas, you really need to be very, very careful of what you’re doing.
Clean up after yourself, watch your garbage, watch how much you make. We can consciously make a difference in our own home, but it’s even easier to be conscious when we’re travelling because we have less [items] on us.
Where have you travelled in the past that’s given you the greatest personal gain?
Probably India, I would have to say at this point. Even though I keep returning to Europe, and I love Mexico – I love the Caribbean side. India for me was the most impacting and as a kid who was born there. We grew up romanticizing the culture and romanticizing society in India. I was an avid reader about all things social justice and as one of those “Gandhi-an” thinkers. So Arundhati Roy, more specifically, formed a lot of my ideas about Indian society, and I was going there for the first time as an adult, about 15 or 16 years ago, thinking “This is the largest middle-class in the world…” and really being proud of that.
I landed in Mumbai, my first destination on that particular trip. It hadn’t occurred to me that the middle class was a shanty-town. So, it was very eye-opening for me and it was a huge culture shock. It broke down all of the romantic little walls I had built, from childhood, onwards. It was probably the most important travel I had ever done.
Was there a specific impact that this trip had on your later travels, or when you returned home?
Going from a tour, or a sojourn in India, to the hotel in Frankfurt and arriving jet-lagged and seeing a man being chased by paparazzi through the lobby – it was just terrifying, I was terrified for him. It was such an opposite piece of humanity than I had just been with. That really summed up the world for me at that time. It’s really incredible how many people there are in the world and how many [different] lives are being simultaneously led.
What is the most vegan friendly city you’ve been?
Now it’s so different. If you have money, anywhere is easy. For me, I was a raw-vegan for a decade and a half. It was extremely easy for me to eat anywhere in the world. I could just have an apple or a banana and a cucumber in a day. Or, seven zucchinis. It was a very easy way to live.
The most vegan friendly, as far as restaurants and vegan specific product and cooked things, I would say Los Angeles, California was the mecca of vegan friendly dining, and lifestyle. For me that was the first time I’d seen anything like it.
Where and how do you find solace when you’re home?
I’m just busy all the time, and I’m busy at home all the time. If I’m not cooking – which is my favourite thing in the whole world to do – [I’m] getting things to cook, or I’m going to the gym, or [I] volunteer a lot, [and] drop off donations to the food bank or animal shelter, and that’s pretty much my routine if I have downtime, you know, if I’m not physically required to be in a place. I love that routine.
Is there one thing that you do when you’re travelling to find balance?
I think everyone has an arrival routine for when they get to their destination. I love travelling alone and I love going days without speaking at all. Sometimes my routine is just as simple as unpacking mindfully and slowly and placing it on a chair. [It] is usually just my pyjamas and my toiletries [as] I’ve lost my luggage before, many times and now I can survive on just a carry-on.
What advice would you give to a traveller that wanted to travel responsibly?
Less is more. With everything. That goes for restaurants, packing and for the things you might leave behind. I believe in travelling with empty bags. If you know you’re going to do touristy things, don’t take too much. Bring home things you bought from local artisans and things that support that community rather than having to buy another duffel bag to bring home stuff from your trip. Take less, do less, buy local, don’t buy stuff with packaging.
I like taking my own empty coffee containers – that used to be out of necessity because I’d like to make hotel room coffee and the cups were never big enough or they’d get wilted because I wanted to keep reusing them. I just like taking my own stuff. I take one big tupperware bowl and I use that every day. I put food in it, from local markets, then I take it back to my hotel and that’s what I eat out of.
Take Dr. Bronner soap. You can wash your face, dishes, fruit, [everything] with it. It’s so easy to do this stuff and even though it’s a little more “hippy” way of thinking, it’s important. Also it will make you feel good, it’s things that you’re doing for yourself and for the communities you’re visiting.
Where’s your next travel destination?
I’m leaving for Ottawa, which I love. I love the [Rideau Canal]. I used to take disposable cameras with me everywhere because our camera gear had gotten stolen so many times touring in a punk-rock band. I’d get triplicate copies of 4X6 prints every time I got back from tour. In my storage space, I probably have four or five thousand photographs and some of my favourite ones are of the Rideau houseboats on that little canal in the winter.
I’m a huge patriot, I just love being Canadian and Canada. That’s why I always love going to the capital, I just feel very proud to be there. So, I look forward to my next trip.
If you could travel with just one thing, what would that be?
Dental Floss! Hands down, it’s an easy answer. I have dental floss everywhere. My father was a dentist and if you’re a salad eater like me, so I floss after everything I eat, every day of my life, I always have. I can’t stand not having dental floss.
Check out Bif’s website for book tour dates, news and more!