The True Cost: Why what you buy (and where you buy it from) really matters

Every morning, I open up my inbox to see at least 10 new messages. Unsurprisingly, each of those messages is from a different store- J. Crew, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor- promoting their newest sale or latest "it" dress. From the moment I wake up, I'm flooded with information about what to buy next. While I did enjoy (and still do enjoy) browsing these sites in anticipation of my next purchase, I've begun to look at shopping a bit differently. That is, once I watched The True Cost.  

The True Cost is a documentary which sheds light on the world of "fast-fashion," the subsequent consumerism of said fashion, and the affect it has on both people and our environment. Fast-fashion can be defined as fashion which moves swiftly from catwalk to catalogue, often advertising a dirt-cheap price for the newest trends. You can watch the trailer here for a bit of a primer on the topic, or check it out on Netflix for the full movie. 

This documentary primarily highlights the problematic nature of our globalized economy, and our ignorance to the consequences of our purchases. In a perfect world, this system would work such that "consumers in the rich world would get cheaper goods, and people in the poorer parts would get jobs, and that would allow them the opportunity to move up in the world."

But, spoiler alert: this isn't a perfect world. 

Sure, globalization isn't going anywhere. And it can sometimes even be a good thing. But this process is being exploited such that our desire as consumers to have the cheapest possible product is being favored over the safety and livelihood of others. Not only are workers being paid barely enough to live, but they can suffer the devastating consequences of factories in disrepair collapsing in on them due to poor management (and, inevitably, lack of money). As the price of clothing decreases for us serial shoppers, the costs are being felt elsewhere.  

But we aren't seeing that. Or, maybe we are, but we don't care enough. Because these people live on the other side of the world, in a country and culture which we don't relate to. We are so blinded by ourselves, and at the sheer prospect of looking better for less, that we disconnect our actions from the effect that it has on others.  

Of course, this business model of "fast fashion" in a globalized world is completely broken- and it is up to the large fashion companies and the governments involved to collaborate to improve their standards. But this isn't going to happen without the consumers: the ones who encourage, better yet, demand, that their clothes be available at cheaper prices. 

As a lifestyle blogger myself, and one who reads "fashion" blogs on a regular basis, I often see this active encouragement of mass consumerism, where bloggers try to keep up appearances by buying a disposable wardrobe, and market this lifestyle of materialism to their readers. In fact, it is hardly ever that I see these young women re-wearing an item of clothing more than twice (or, shockingly, even more than once).

But the blogging world is only one part of the equation which perpetuates this toxic cycle. It is the everyday shopper at fast-fashion stores (think: Forever 21, H&M, Topshop among many others) that encourage, even enable, this exploitation of humans to go on.     

One of the more interesting points that the documentary made was that these stores made consumers "feel" wealthy by being able to offer them more clothes for less money. Thus, those of us who are struggling fiscally are able to psychologically have that feeling of satisfaction knowing that we can at least look like we have the next best thing. And the next. And the next, and so on until we end up with piles of clothes from seasons past that we don't plan on wearing anymore because that old trend is now a fad. 

It makes me angry furious to see that my peers buy clothes that they literally categorize as "throwaway" for going on nights out. It makes me frustrated to see that many people would rather buy six poorly constructed shirts at a cheap price rather than one well-made shirt, just because "more" is seen as "better". 

I realize that it's incredibly difficult to find stores and brands which pay their workers a proper wage. Often, their code of ethics is laden with language which skews any faults on their part. But, what you can do is simple: buy less. Do buy, do enjoy shopping, do follow fashion- but invest in higher quality items that will last you years and years so you won't have to replace it in a few months. 

And if you're feeling really socially responsible, there are a few brands that the documentary mentioned that are ethical all and all: People Tree and the more well-known Patagonia

While it may be hard to kick your shopping habit once and for all, it's important to think about what your dollar translates into in the long-run and make more informed choices rather than purely selfish ones. 

Just remember, everything- even the cheapest of dresses- has a cost. You just might not be seeing it.  



Twenty is a strange age. It's an age where you're no longer a teenager, and not quite yet an adult. There isn't a word for that, but I guess turning twenty means I can officially consider myself a "twenty-something" and be the subject of the unsolicited advice that lifestyle magazines just love to throw at us.

And according to such magazines and websites, all of us twenty-somethings are lost. We're trying to find our way in life, and doing it all so much slower than the generation before us. We need life-hacks, 5-year-plans, and tips on how to "survive."

But why are we an age-group that is portrayed as so bumbling, confused, and inexperienced? Why can't we be trusted to navigate the big, scary "adult" world on our own, without being dismissed as not knowing anything?

I feel like I'm supposed to feel scared terrified as I now enter my twenties. The real world is coming, and maybe I'm not ready.

But I think what these (usually well-intentioned) advice pieces fail to realize is that the scary thing about your twenties is not that we don't have any life skills (spoiler alert: we do), but that we're not given any time to transition between these stages of life. We're either too dumb to know how to hack life, or we are perfectly capable full-grown adults.  

But the truth is, us twenty-somethings have everything going for us- except, maybe, an astronomic amount of student debt that our parents generation didn't have to deal with.

There isn't anything wrong with admitting that you need help in life, but we also need to stop categorizing ourselves as a generation that needs help in every facet of life. I mean, come on, we can all learn to cook and stop relying on Seamless for every meal. We can do the laundry once a week without even considering buying new underwear to put it off for a few more days. We can interview for a job and nail it because we prepared well and put on a killer (yet appropriate) outfit.

Today, I'm twenty. And I have ten more years of putting up with the likes of Cosmo and Buzzfeed trying to tell me that I'm struggling at life and need their help to do basic tasks. I have a lot of learning to do (and I mean a lot), but I know that I can handle life, bar a few missteps along the way.

So I'm not afraid to be a twenty-something. In fact, I'm excited to be the kind of twenty-something who's killing it at life.

At least, most of the time.




You're Never Too Old for the Circus: A Night at Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios."

Forget what you know about the circus; Cirque de Soleil is in town.

The days of elephants, clowns, and tightrope walkers are long gone. Theatrical performances like Cirque de Soleil's Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities will make you rethink what it means to enjoy the circus.

You don't have to be a kid anymore to justify a day (or night) at the circus. As I approach my twenties (yikes) I realize that circuses aren't on the radar of most twenty-somethings as a viable evening activity. But the pure spectacle and sophisticated sensuality of Kurios makes this show adult-friendly as much as it is kid-appropriate.

Upon entering the big top at Suffolk Down's in East Boston you'll be greeted with a friendly ,yet eccentric, set of characters who interact with the audience, giving you a taste of the unique show to come. Marvel at the fantastic sets- a collection of unexpected objects, from futuristic mechanical structures to vintage gramophones- before you delve into a world of distorted reality.

It isn't often that we get a chance to put our phones on silent and truly take-in the sights of what's going on around us. But with Kurios, I found myself immersed in a visual feast that couldn't be matched by anything I could find on a screen.

At approximately 11:11, the production began to rousing applause, at the request of the personable man who would end up being the show's comic-relief. The audience is transported to the 19th century, as a locomotive pulls into the station at the center of the stage, introducing a peculiar crowd of energetic passengers who don't cease to entertain with their acrobatics and choreography.

What struck me the most about this show from the beginning, however, was its live musicians. With a crooning vocalist carrying along each and every act, the instrumental background was impressive enough on its own.

Image credit: Cirque du Soleil

Throughout the evening, various performers will leave you awestruck (or perhaps even speechless) with their demonstrations of strength and skill. Traditional circus acts are twisted and turned into fresh, modern interpretations. From "siamese twin" airborne acrobats to a "theater of hands" in which a story is told through an artist's hands in real-time, Kurios seamlessly oscillates between the familiar and the unexpected.

But Kurios is surprising in more than just it's ability to wow its audience with spectacular feats of daring. It is remarkable in how it bends the rules of traditional circuses, making it attractive to students and young adults who probably wouldn't normally choose the big top for their Saturday night out.  And with ticket prices starting at a reasonable $35, it's entirely worth it to indulge in this breathtaking celebration of joy, exuberance, and oddities.

If you think you've outgrown the circus, then think again- Kurios, will certainly not disappoint!

You can buy your tickets for the Boston show here, but be sure to check out Cirque's other fabulous shows around North America and the rest of the world on their website here

Thank you to the PR team at Cirque de Soleil for a wonderful night at the circus. I am so lucky to be able to share experiences that I truly enjoy here on this blog with my readers. 



What To Do, See, and Eat On Your First Visit To Boston

I love showing off the city of Boston to visitors. Not only do I love it, but I live for it. There's no happier time for me than when I'm given the chance to proudly flaunt the best sites, experiences, and tastes of my favorite city.

Much like Edinburgh, Boston is a highly underrated city that often gets outshined by larger US cities. While Boston may always live in the shadow of it's bigger, badder (but decidedly younger) brother, New York City, that doesn't mean we can't quietly surpass them as the greatest city on earth. I'm not biased here, I'm just speaking the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to show one of my good friends just how extraordinary Boston can be. My Scottish blogging pal Hayley decided to include a visit to Boston as part of her big North American summer holiday, which meant she was stuck with me as her tour guide for a three-day whirlwind tour around the city.

But, you see, this isn't my first time at the rodeo. Last summer, I had one of my running buddies from Edinburgh join me in Boston for an impromptu round of sightseeing. And this past winter my boyfriend endured the freezing temps to tour the city as a part of the full Boston experience. And with my mom being a published Boston travel-writer, well let's just say I've walked the Freedom Trail approximately 17 times.

So I thought I would share this "expert" knowledge of this city with you by compiling the best things to do, places to go, and things to eat while on your first visit to Boston. This is by no-means an encompassing list, nor is it one that goes super off-the-beaten-track. But, if you've never been to Boston before this list will definitely serve as a helpful guide for the "must-dos" on your first trip.

To Do: 

To get your bearings when you first arrive in Boston, take a tour of the Freedom Trail. This way, you'll have a general idea of where the big sites are, as well as the history of the city. Boston is steeped in history- from it's beginnings as a puritan colony to it's involvement in the American Revolution, the city was (and continues to be) pivotal in shaping history. If you don't mind spending a few extra bucks, take the fun-for-all-ages guided tour with a costumed character with the Freedom Trail Foundation (book in advance for a discount). And if you'd rather save your pennies you can always book a free tour with the National Park Service.

Once you've had your fill of American history, head over to the New England Aquarium to have a photo-op with penguins, and marvel over Myrtle the sea turtle, all while supporting one of the world's leaders in marine conservation. You can't miss the Giant Ocean Tank (seriously, you actually can't miss it because it's the centerpiece of the building!) which boasts hundreds of fish, as well as eels, sharks, and reefs. Don't leave without stopping by the touch tanks where you can get up close and personal with starfish, horseshoe crabs, and even stingrays.

Take a detour from your run-of-the-mill art museum and pay a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This gem of a museum sits just around the corner from the expansive Museum of Fine Arts, but paints a much more intimate picture of how art can be viewed. You'll feel just like the aristocratic lady of the house, Miss Gardner herself, traipsing around her ornate home, which hasn't been touched since her death (bar a few stolen paintings). The museum provides a sensory explosion from the moment you walk in, where you're greeted by an tropical indoor garden in the courtyard, to the moment you leave, awestruck by Titian's Europa.

To See: 

A trip to Boston definitely isn't complete without appreciating our beautiful public spaces. While the Boston Common may be the most comfortable spot for an afternoon picnic, The Boston Public Gardens can't be outdone in terms of it's floral splendor and neatly manicured lawns. You can always stroll through the gardens by foot, but the Swan Boats, which run from April to September, provide a new way of seeing the gardens by water. And at only $3.50 per person, how could you possibly resist?

Boston is irrevocably academic. It's safe to say that we pride ourselves in being a hub for higher education, with some of the most prestigious universities sitting just in our backyard. Even though it's technically not in Boston, it's worth it to pay a visit to Harvard and the Cambridge area in general if you're looking for a change of pace from the city center. Of course, Cambridge is always bustling with students, street-performers, and tourists, but you'll find it has more of a hipster vibe. You can walk the Harvard campus in all it's red-brick glory, or even stop by the MIT campus if you're feeling a bit science-y.

Whether you're in search of a book or not, The Boston Public Library is a must-see when visiting Boston. They offer art tours once a day at varying times, but if you just can't fit a tour into your schedule, just wander into the beautiful rooms of this stunning space on your own time. Make sure to have a quick peek in the reading room, with its rows of iconic green lamps.

To Eat:

There's no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Boston. But if you can't decide on what type of cuisine you're in the mood for, head over to Trident Booksellers and Cafe for anything from burritos to burgers to all day breakfast all in the comfort of a bookstore.

If you're hanging out in Back Bay and want a quick lunch on the go, stop by Flour Bakery and Cafe. With it's award-winning sticky buns and creative sandwich combinations, you're sure to find something tasty (and instagram-able).

You can't leave Boston without having some proper seafood. I'm actually ashamed to admit that I didn't get Hayley to try a lobster roll when she was here (I guess she'll just have to come back!). Every Bostonian has their opinion on lobster rolls and where to get the best one. For me, my favorite lobster roll comes from Legal's Harborside (the best restaurant of the Legal Seafoods family). Perfectly sweet lobster, with just the right amount of mayo, all served on a toasty bun- it's everything I love about New England all wrapped into one.

If you're in the Cambridge looking for some truly student-friendly fare, then check out Border Cafe which serves up hefty portions of tex-mex food to the "starving student" population. Border has been an old standby in my family for years (seriously, my parents went on date nights there when they were in college at Northeastern), so trust me when I say that it's worth seeing beyond the kitschy decor. I mean, unlimited warm tortilla chips? It really doesn't get much better.

Any proper night in Boston is topped up with a little something sweet- namely, cannoli from the North End. Once again, Bostonians are deeply divided on the issue of where to get the best cannoli on Hanover Street. But let me tell you, the argument ends here. While Mike's Pastry may be the favorite of naive tourists, Modern Pastry is where you can experience the best, and freshest cannoli. Let me explain: While Mike's pre-fills their cannoli with ricotta, causing the crunchy pastry to go soggy, Modern fills their cannoli to-order, resulting in the perfect bite of Italian goodness. The jig is up everyone, Modern is 100% better than Mikes.*

There you have it, my definitive list of everything you need to do on your first visit to Boston. Of course, there's so much more to do and eat beyond what I've written here, but I hope this gives any first-time visitors a jumping off point from which to plan their trip.

And Bostonians- if I did miss anything crucial, please let me know!

*If you'd like to skip the enormous lines that often plague the storefronts of both Mike's and Modern, and not take a side in this heated debate, then head over to Maria's where you can get incredible cannoli without all the fuss.    

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