The AdverBarbie World Tour: Part 2 Buying Less, Buying Local & Buying Re-usable Bags

Photo: Alicia Benz & Michelle Pokorny
The tale of how 2 young advertising talents made the journey to being green through traveling

On Friday we introduced your to our favorite blond duo (click here if you missed it!), here they go off on their World Tour


AdverBarbie began the ‘World Tour” in Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands.  Even 300 years after the Dutch Golden Age, the Netherlands still has an aristocratic elegance about it.  We were instantly charmed by this picturesque city of ancient brick row houses, lining the dark reflective waters and canals. Behind these old facades are living quarters where decades of people have come and gone.

Our apartment even came with a feeling of immense heaviness, enveloped in a presence of over 435 years!  At first it was almost too much to take in.  After only about a week of being immersed in the “Euro” lifestyle; biking to and from work, going to the tiny corner market once a day, paying almost double for everything, we were at our wits end.

Amsterdam hit us hard in the face with culture shock. Our American ways left us wanting everything as easily and conveniently as possible. When we asked our landlord where the nearest 24hour convenience store was she laughed in our faces and asked: “How would you need anything that badly?”

One afternoon, while visiting Antwerp, Belgium we decided to have lunch at a quaint café. A large robust, red faced Belgian man took our order for vegetable soup, promising it would be the perfect remedy to warm us up, on a cold autumn’s day.  When the soup arrived, we took one look into the bowls, and saw the biggest hunks of sausage we’ve ever seen.  

“We’re so sorry sir,” we said “But we’re vegetarian, and we can’t eat the soup because there’s a bunch of meat in it.”
“Vell, vust eat avound ze sausage. It von’t bite!”
“Thanks but no thanks, we will just order something else.”
“Avsolutely not.  You pay me now, and zen, get out of my café!”

Pay for soup that we didn’t even take one bite of, and then kick us out? I don’t think so!  We demanded to speak to the manager, and of course, he was the manager. The man grew even redder, and started waving his butcher knife at us, while cursing in Flemish.  We protested back just as loud, furious for being taken advantage of. It was only until he came from around the other side of the counter, knife still in hand, that we decided it was time to high-tail it out of there. That taught us to never order vegetable soup unless we were 100% sure there was no mystery meat involved.  

After several weeks of kicking and screaming about things like the absence of a laundry dryer, lack of reliable pizza delivery, and minimal TV channels, we began to slowly integrate. It was one morning when we successfully completed an average week in the life of a European that we broke down and realized that many aspects of our former American lifestyles were actually flawed if not outright awful.

We realized that stopping off at the fresh market with your reusable bag on the way home from work was actually really beneficial, rather than the monotonous chore we dreaded at first. We ended up getting the best deals on the freshest, highest quality produce, using it right away and never having any food go bad or become stale. There is no need for tons of harsh preservatives at the market, where local farmers and vendors sold their goods. We started to get used to fresh organic food that wasn’t being transported hundreds of miles to make it to our plate. After a month and a half, we were feeling healthier and had a noticeable amount of increased energy.

Biking to the office instead of driving meant more exercise and less pent up stress from the long day’s work.  Not to mention the obvious money saver of no gas bills! The Europeans probably spend similar amounts of money on living expenses, but their priorities are completely different. They pay unheard of amounts of money on food, but almost zero on transportation. 

We thought about this foreign concept, and it dawned on us that we would rather pay more money towards food items that taste better and provide more nourishment.  It was an awful realization to make, that in our previous lives we were paying more to feed our cars than to feed ourselves! To Europeans, it is worth it to pay more to live close to where you work, thus cutting on transportation costs and time. The money one would have spent on transport, goes directly to higher quality foods. Then, eating higher quality foods means better health, which eliminates costly medical bills incurred from a lifetime of consuming cheap and poor nutrition.

All in all, it was a very difficult situation for us to adapt to. To look yourself in the mirror and make a major realization that you’ve fallen short of your potential, takes a lot out of you, especially when you are thousands of miles away. We had to take it day by day, and often in tears, to finally get to a place of acceptance and strive towards change. It felt as if suddenly someone had built a massive brick wall in front of us, and we would never break through with all of our bad habits still in tact. With our “tails between our legs,” we watched the Amsterdamers lead by example, and took plenty of notes! 

After our initial bouts of stubbornness wore off, we began to remove one brick at a time from our wall. By the end of the trip we realized that with effort and willingness, we had actually removed enough bricks that we had a small hole; a window into a better life that we could now picture with clarity. We wanted to live on the other side, to be leaders for a greater cause.

Now that we had defined our future lifestyle goals, we could take it one day at a time, doing our best to change for the better.  If Amsterdam gave us a hard look in the mirror, we looked back with determination. From now on we would prove to others that it was possible to change. We began collecting reusable bags, stopped complaining about all the extra walking and biking, making it through each obstacle outside of our comfort zone. Each day we survived, and each day we were able to focus a little more on the positive side effects. 

With only a week to spare, we found out our next stop on the world tour was Sydney, Australia!  Could we put our new found ideas to the test, while we traveled to the complete opposite side of the world? 


Read more:

The AdverBarbie World Tour Part 1: Meet the Girls