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How I became a zero waste digital nomad

Living in Bali.July 13, 2018
By Sitraka Ratsimanohatra
Sitraka is an avid traveler and salsa dancer who grew up in Madagascar. She is a zero waste “aficionada”, blogs and talks about zero waste traveling, while building her digital nomad life and discovering the beauty of the world and its dwellers.

Sitraka is one of the lovely members of our global community. She recently gave a skillshare at Hubud on how to travel zero waste. She reminded all of us that we can be “nomads,” while traveling in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. So, I asked her to write her story for our blog and here she is, telling us how her life changed. How she was a “left-brained” person working in IT. Then “she got lost” – she says – and found her purpose that now guides her through her blissful, yet at times challenging life journey. Thank you for sharing Sissi.

I’m writing these lines while sitting on my terrace in Ubud, Bali, sipping my cup of tea, being grateful and happy for where I am in my life today, as well as the experiences I’ve lived and the person I’ve become. I have a strong feeling that this is just the beginning.

Three years ago, I was lost.

I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want what I had anymore, but I had no clue of what I wanted next. It was very confusing because until then, I knew exactly what I wanted in life: I had plans and almost everything went the way I desired. As an IT person, I was very “left-brained.”

Not knowing what I wanted was a totally new concept for me and I thought that things would get better – that the lostness will just go away and that life would go back to normal.

I read lots of personal development books, hoping to find an answer – they definitely gave me some food for thought but not the aha! moment I was hoping for. I was still as lost as before and didn’t quite understand what was happening to me.

I was feeling guilty for being frustrated because my life wasn’t that bad – I was living the Canadian Working Holiday Visa adventure that I’d been longing for years, I had a job, a roof over my head and food on my plate, and most importantly a loving family and wonderful friends… so why on Earth was I feeling so bad? There are people out there who have bigger problems!

I decided to do something that would make me happy: traveling. I traveled solo for the first time in South East Asia and I was stoked! But the same lost feeling came back a couple of months later; although,

one big milestone occurred during that trip: my passion for Zero Waste was ignited at that time after witnessing devastating marine pollution and waste dumping.

Then, life still went on and meanwhile, I continued to think that the confusion and the unhappiness would go away until I was forced to stop working because of an intense back pain. It forced me to reflect on my life and to ask for help – an external help because I was done trying to find the answers by myself. I had full support from my family and friends but at that point, I had the strong feeling that I needed insights from a third-party person with a neutral outlook. I hopped on a life-coaching journey that helped me to get to know myself better and discovered that I needed to do something with a purpose. IT wasn’t the issue because my assumption was that I didn’t like IT anymore. What’s driving me is to give back to the community. I then started volunteering for green events and organizations in Vancouver, and also during my travels. Volunteering helped me realize that the environmental field was and still is a big part of my life: it’s a true passion!

In the meantime, I felt the urge to get a change of air – I moved to Bangkok and continued working as an IT consultant. I was happy being in Southeast Asia but overwhelmed by the plastic consumption in Bangkok. I wish I’d known earlier and I also didn’t know where to find sustainable products. And with that the LeaveNotrash idea was born – a blog that gives my readers practical information on how to reduce their footprints when {moving to}/ {travelling to}/ {being from} a specific destination.

I realized soon enough that I wasn’t in the right place and I was miserable: the corporate life wasn’t a good fit for me anymore and I was ready to embark on a freelance journey. It’s a project that I’ve been putting off for years. I wanted to launch LeaveNoTrash and develop a social enterprise project for Madagascar but never found the time to do so. I wasn’t giving back.

It took me a couple of months before taking the leap. I was struggling between the dissatisfaction and the status that the society was expecting me to have – a well-paid corporate job, a house and eventually a family. And I worked really hard to get here, to get my Master’s Degree in Business Computing back in Paris. I didn’t have any sort of scholarship so I was working and studying at the same time, sleeping 2 to 4 hours per night while dealing with the immigration paperwork as I wasn’t a French citizen back then. But my college and corporate time shaped me – it gave me resilience and determination. I saw my IT experiences as an investment for my freelance project and it opened me the doors to my current internship with IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) in Bangkok.

Quitting the corporate world was scary and exciting at the same time, but I’ve never felt this free and happy. LeaveNotrash has been live since March – it’s a combination of my passion for traveling and for Zero Waste. I also see LeaveNotrash as a way of giving back by building a community that protects our planet, and us in the process.

Transitions aren’t easy! If I may give you some advice:

  • Don’t beat yourself up: it’s OK to be “lost”
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help
  • Have a strong support network
  • Keep an open mind
  • Find your tribe – surround yourself with like-minded people
  • Don’t forget to “play” – for me it’s spending time with my friends and loved ones, dancing salsa, reading, meditating and exploring the world
  • And most importantly, learn to follow your heart

I strongly believe that when you follow your heart, everything else will fall into place. And I’m still learning. It just so happens that I didn’t listen to my heart and things went south, but this is all part of the process. And my last piece of advice would be to trust the process (I can’t believe I’m writing this being the “left-brained” person that I was haha) because unexpected events will unfold. In my case, it was my environmental internship, giving Zero Waste conferences and skill shares, and being back in Bali. These were all things that I hadn’t envision at all 4 months ago.

I know the adventure and its ups and downs don’t end here, but I’m excited to discover what life has in store for me.

I will leave you with this:

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” – Erol Ozan


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