My husband, David and I just recently returned from our 10-day honeymoon with time spent in Paris, and Rome. It was a really lovely trip, and happened to coincide almost exactly with the STSFxBIPOC10x10 challenge. For those who are new to the challenge, the gist of it includes selecting 10 items of clothing to wear for 10 days. This particular version of the challenge, hosted by @selltradeslowfashion and @buyfromBIPOC invited participants to self-select 10 pieces of clothing, leaving it up to the participant’s discretion whether shoes would be included in those 10 items or not. Happening between March 11th-22nd and giving us the weekends off, we were invited to particularly highlight BIPOC (Black & Indigenous People of Color) makers within our 10 pieces.
I initially joined the challenge because since I’m relatively new to the slow fashion movement, I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice simplicity and mindful consumerism, particularly while traveling. Coming from Western culture, I’ve noticed a temptation to over-consume – be it food, clothing, culture, experiences. American society leads us to believe that the more we see, the more we do, the more we buy, the more we taste — the more interesting, respectable, and content we will be. It all comes down to more. Acknowledging that overconsumption is clearly an issue back home, I thought it would be interesting to see how translating the concept of mindful consumerism while traveling would play out. Participating in the 10×10 was an accountability of sorts, keeping me in check as I was reminded at the beginning of each day that what I have is enough, before even leaving the Airbnb or hotel.
Overall, it was both an extremely challenging, and conclusively gratifying experience. I thought I’d share my main learnings in blogpost form – for myself to remember, and for those that are following along in this personal journey of mine toward holistic health and socially conscious living.
First off, I’d like to say that trying out a “challenge” while crossing cultures is QUITE difficult. I tend to be overly ambitious in nature, but I should’ve known that factoring in cross-cultural dissonance would add a complicated layer to my experience in the challenge. Upon landing, my husband and I felt immediate discomfort in recognizing that we were outsiders in an unfamiliar place and culture. After a few awkward interactions due to our lack of competence in knowing French or understanding Parisian culture – we realized the lack of cultural competence we had going into our international travels.
Now – as someone who cares deeply about cross-cultural competence, engagement in issues of racial and social justice, etc…being in a position of recognizing my absolute LACK of cross-cultural competence to start our trip was humbling to say the least, if not humiliating.
Why hadn’t I done more research prior to this trip? I should’ve brushed up on my French and Italian before coming. I wish I’d better prepared for this.
As an enneagram 3 (The Achiever) it’s safe to say that I literally hate feeling incompetent in anything. If there’s something I sense I won’t do well in, I tend to avoid trying it at all. The fact that I started a blog and pursued yoga teaching is a miracle in and of itself – but also marks a bit of progress in this journey I’m in to take risks despite potential failure.
But this. This was something else. It was our honeymoon, for goodness sake! A honeymoon is supposed to be easy, lavish, and full of nothing but good vibes…right?
In our state of humbling cross-cultural dissonance, David and I realized we had a choice. We could sit there, regretting all that we were lacking as we came into the two weeks to come and grasping for glimpses of comfort and familiarity wherever possible. Or – we could step into the remainder of our trip recognizing the abundance of growth that it had to offer; in diving deep into a new culture, being transformed by our own discomfort, and examining and questioning the character issues that arise when we’re put in an uncomfortable situation.
These aren’t quite the thoughts I’d been led to believe I’d be processing on my “dream honeymoon,” but given that my husband and I are anything but traditional – we recognized that this was simply an incredible opportunity to continue the journey we were already on in personal growth and transformation.
And so, that’s how our honeymoon began – and how my journey on my first 10×10 challenge began. Humbling. Full of discomfort. And open to transformation and growth. It may seem silly to narrow character development down to something as seemingly-superficial as the clothes I chose to wear, but I came to find that it meant a surprising lot to me.
My participation in the challenge itself was mostly fun. I loved the creativity it required in crafting new outfit combinations with pieces I’d already worn 5-6 times that week. I enjoyed stopping to take a quick photo in a quaint, undiscovered corner of a new city. It allowed us to take our trip slowly, and to really take in and observe the sights, scenes, smells, and sounds of the people and places we were surrounded by.
It was also difficult. There were mornings when getting ready that I’d regretted deciding to participate in such a challenge while traveling to a new city. Being unfamiliar with the weather patterns of the cities we were in, I’d wished I’d brought different pieces with me – or more pieces altogether. But part of the challenge itself was recognizing the unpredictability that may arise in the midst of it, and being resourceful in utilizing what I’d pre-selected to rise to the occasion.
I also noticed that in my feelings of regret or discomfort both within the 10×10 challenge, and in our travel; my desire to unnecessarily consume increased. When feeling that I lacked the appropriate clothing to withstand the windy days in Paris, all I wanted to do was step into a boutique and purchase a few cute sweaters. In situations where my lack of knowledge in Parisian or Italian culture began to surface, I wanted to move faster in hopping from attraction to attraction, covering up my personal shame of cultural incompetence with the distraction of over-consuming exciting new experiences.
But beginning each morning recognizing my commitment wearing solely these 10 items of clothing helped to keep my desire to over-consume in check. Keeping up with the stories of joy, creativity, and perseverance of others doing the challenge through the #STSFxBIPOC10x10 hashtag reminded me of the same abundance I had even with the few articles of clothing, and little competence I had to start off each day. And this in no way excuses cultural incompetence – my husband and I truly tried our best to learn what we could as we went, attempting to respect and honor the places and people we came into contact with as best possible. But it encouraged us to continue trying to learn, grow, and move forward; despite the obvious imperfection of our efforts.
And in this, I recognized a very valuable but easily dismissed lesson… engaging in any sort of effort toward socially conscious living – be it something as simple as a closet minimizing challenge, or as complex as dismantling oppressive systems; requires the humility to do so imperfectly. It requires the will to continue taking a posture of teachability as one makes mistakes along the way. It’s not about going through things perfectly the first time, or even the tenth time. It’s about continuing to try, whilst learning from those who are farther along.
Translating this back into the concept of consumption, I’ve narrowed it down to one broader learning. Conscious consumption (for me) is less about cutting off consumption altogether, and more about questioning what I consume, and why.
What do I consume on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis? Where are the pieces of products I’m consuming coming from? Who creates and is impacted by what I consume? How is the personhood of those creating and impacted by what I consume being honored? Why am I consuming said product?
Will it contribute to my holistic well-being — or is it simply perpetuating a cycle of overconsumption and disposal while lacking to address the character issues that create this desire in the first place?
These are the questions I’ll be asking as I move forward in my personal journey toward holistic wellness, and socially conscious living. Of course, the 10×10 Challenge has encouraged me to continue the minimizing of my closet, and the investment in long-lasting, ethically made pieces to build a capsule wardrobe.
But ultimately, it’s encouraged me to holistically question my consumption: of clothing, of food, of everything; and to continue to explore new methods, companies, and people that also seek to build a more just, sustainable, and ethical world. I look forward to continuing to share the ups and downs of my own journey with you – imperfections and mistakes in all.
If you’re at all interested in seeing which pieces I chose for the 10×10 challenge, you can see the looks more closely here.