A Paleo Girl at a Vegan Retreat

Nothing but vegetables AGAIN?!

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Hanuman Buddhist Temple, Mount Madonna

Oats, rice, wheat, corn. Again. Yogurt and oats. Peanut sauce. I knew it would be a challenge to keep myself fed for a three-day vegan meditation retreat, but I was tired of trying to get full on veggies alone. Now, there’s not much to complain about when I’20150228_141852m spending glorious silent time among soaring redwood trees and stunning Buddhist temples. I thought of it as a good test run for being in a foreign culture, and it was.

I practice meditation, so I was excited to learn that my meditation teacher was holding this retreat in California while I was staying within an hour and a half of its location. It was a no-brainer to go and a nice opportunity to quiet my busy mind, get out of the concrete of Silicon Valley, and connect with the familiar damp greens and browns of the redwood forest. I ate a big meat-based breakfast before I left on Friday, because I knew the only meat I’d see for the next three days would be walking around on legs or flying on wings. 

So I wasn’t all that surprised when I was greeted at the gate to the mountaintop retreat’s 373 acres by a huge flock of enormous, colorful turkeys. Yes, colorful! You ever seen those suckers up close? H-U-G-E. Colorful. And every single male had a full-on spread of tail feathers. What a greeting! These guys had seen several Thanksgivings come and go. I didn’t get a pic because I was driving, but I did see this flock several times throughout the weekend. Those males are very, very proud of their tail feathers.

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I remember these from camping during my childhood.

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Baby redwoods

What can I say about what I ate? Stewed pears with blackberries for breakfast, lettuce leaves and carrots and a banana for lunch (oh, and nuts), and vegetables in hot water for dinner. I’m not kidding. Wasn’t even seasoned. And you know what? I didn’t mind.

I felt . . . lighter. I had forgotten that I don’t mind that little-bit-hungry feeling. I decided to just enjoy the experience. Oh, but you knew that was coming, didn’t you? Well, did you see the banana slug coming? 

I ventured on several meditative walks through the redwood forests surrounding the retreat center, soaking in the damp green air, the soft-as-down moss on giant grey boulders, the majestically soaring redwoods. I reconnected with my breath, my quiet, the stillness of now. I imagined that I was in India, among a culture I know very little about. 

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See the baby salamander?

This last one was easy, as there were twice-a-day ceremonies at the temple, where dozens of locals, most of them from India, came to do whatever it is they do at a temple. I sat with them as they rang bells and clanged instruments a20150228_140343nd sang in a language I didn’t understand. I had my forehead marked and smoke waved over my head and was handed a tiny bowl of . . . something white and grainy. Crap. I knew it was probably something very un-Paleo. What to do, what to do. I was . . . so . . . hungry. I decided to eat, then ask. I picked up a little bit with my fingers and brought the moist, fluffy  white stuff to my mouth. Ohmydog, it was sweet. I mean SWEET. I ate the rest.

The priest (what are they called at a Hindu temple?) with the floor-length dreads piled on his head said “Oh, that’s made of chickpea.”  I smiled in thanks. Chickpea, chickpea. Pretty sure that is a legume, right? I ate a tiny bowl of sugar-filled beans, completely the opposite of Paleo. Dang it. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any gastric repercussions like I do if I eat a grain, but it did make my heart beat faster. Guilt?

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Me and my bi-color bindi

I got a lot of meditation in, too, by the way. I am glad I was reminded that I don’t mind feeling hungry. I am appreciative to have done a test-run for what it might feel like in a country that is mostly vegetarian, because I remembered that I will not starve. I feel deep gratitude for this one precious life, this reminder to slow down, to see the moss and the salamanders and the stunningly colorful Indian fabrics and the tiny purple flowers, to hear the wind and children’s laughter and a bird rustling in the dead leaves. As my meditation teacher reminded us, This is your life. Don’t miss it.

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I’m Packing My Laptop and Hitting the Road

Working as a vagabond traveling the worldearth

Three and a half years ago, in late 2011, I took the first hard steps toward liberating myself from a job that would tie me down. I deliberately chose a new career that would be portable, knowing that some day I would move from the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, where I have lived for nearly 22 years. Much has changed in those years, myself included. The life I thought I was going to live in Oregon, after living for 17 long years in southern California, didn’t last. I changed careers more than once, reinventing myself each time. I broke hearts, including my own. Once someone broke my heart. (Isn’t that odd, to use the term “broken” for the heart, which must continue to function for us to even exist?)

All of that is in the distant past. I am happy, healthy, and ready to hit the road. I am a freelance editor by trade (my business site is http://www.redletterediting.com/), although, like many entrepreneurs, I also do things like coach public speaking, teach astronomy, and create PowerPoint presentations for clients. The best part of what I do, to my mind, is having the freedom to take my work on the road.

There are many, many ways to make money on the road. Blogging is huge, if you’re ready for a learning curve. And here’s the thing: it is learnable. Some people shell out a bunch of bucks to learn how to monetize a blog. Others put Google to good use and patch together enough free information to figure it out. (That’s my style.) Blogs and other websites can also be monetized by creating relationships with affiliates, whereby your website makes money on any sales that happen as a result of someone clicking on a link from your website. (Expect that to happen on this blog eventually.) It is no longer necessary, or desirable, to have megawatt ads screaming from every corner of every web page. Many working people have jobs that automatically translate to travel, such as that of my friend Bobby, whose company sends him literally all over the world for weeks on end. His girlfriend even gets to go most of the time. That’s different from being a vagabond traveler, of course, but I do think he’s got an amazing setup.

People become travel writers, photographers, day traders, and English teachers. Many freelance careers are already portable, suchas website designers, graphic artists, business consultants, and even administrators. Heck, when I was a young little hippie chick, I made money miming on the streets of Santa Cruz, California. Busking is fun and easy for musicians and other talented folks. I’ve even heard of hairstylists setting up shop in hostels and making enough money in a couple of days to travel for another few weeks. (Something for me to think about, too! I was a hairstylist for 28 years before my first major reinvention to chemist.)

If you are thinking of traveling the world while working, start planning now. Explore opportunities. Consider your current skill set. How could you translate your talents and abilities to a portable career? If it’s just not possible, then what else might you be interested in learning? It took me a IMG_0643year to develop my skills and another year to build a solid editing business. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, knowing what it is going to allow me to do: travel the world for as long as I like, doing what I love to do.

What do you think? Do you have a portable career or job already? Can you make it be so? Your subscription to this blog, your likes, shares, and your comments support my blog’s visibility. Please take a moment to share and to let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment. (Usually the comments link is at the top of this post.) Thanks for reading. Come back soon!

It Could All End Today

As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.

Last week I got the dreadful news that someone I deeply respect and admire, a woman who was a very active member of our community, died while scuba diving off the island of Bonaire, a tiny little island deep in the southern Caribbean near the coast of Venezuela. She was with her wife, the love of her life, doing things she enjoyed most: relaxing, basking in the sunshine, scuba diving, meeting people, enjoying life to the fullest with the one she loved best. I didn’t know Jolie well, but I had spent timeIMG_0559 at a couple of small, intimate parties at their home.

Her death has shaken my little community to its core. Why does this happen? How? While I don’t know the details of her passing, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jolie was living life to its fullest, holding nothing back. And it got me to thinking about my upcoming world travel. What if something happens to me when I’m far, far away from friends, family, and those who love me? Do I really want to risk my life the way I am setting myself up to do?

The short answer is yes. Yes, I am willing to risk my life doing something I have always dreamed of doing. Oh, not by making bad decisions and doing stupid things and getting drunk with strangers. No, I’m way past that. (I just had my 58th birthday, for Pete’s sake.) But I’m willing to risk being in foreign countries where I don’t know the language or my way around or where to go or what food is safe to eat. I’m willing to be comfortable in my discomfort, to remind myself that the world is not the big, bad, scary place we are told it is.

It’s true that my 83-year-old mom tries hard not to panic when she thinks about me “gallivanting around the world.” She won’t even discuss my plans with me. She pretends it’s not really going to happen. It’s also true that my darling great-niece and great-nephews, who are 17, 14, and 11 and who I am very close to (along with their parents), will miss me, especially since we’ve grown much closer as I’ve spent the last several months in California to escape the Oregon winter, staying at my mom’s just two miles up the road from the kids. And while I certainly don’t want to hurt my family, I can’t live my life for them.

It sounds so terribly cliche to say my friend died doing what she loved, but it is true. Since we all will die, wouldn’t we rather die knowing we are doing what we truly want to do, the things we do so we can say, at the end, “I have no regrets”? Planning this trip around the world, making traveling a lifestyle, is hugely scary for me. It’s also thrilling and adventurous and exciting, the very emotions that make me feel alive. Not for me just sitting on my porch, quiet, safe, comfortable, aging gracefully with everyone around me doing the same as we watch each other grow old. No. I’m not done fully experiencing all that life has to offer, not by a long shot.

Bad things can happen anywhere. People can die in uncountable ways at the most unexpected times. It’s part of the deal we get with this thing we call life. We just don’t get the choice of when or how. So this is my reminder to myself: should I die on the road in some far-off land, I will be doing something I want to be doing with every fiber of my being. Should I make it back in one piece, I will be able to say “I have no regrets.”

What dreams do you have? What makes you feel alive? I would really love to hear from you. Please leave a comment by clicking the “Comments” link just below the title of this post. Then go live life to its fullest, whatever that means for you.

What is Paleo Again?

I might as well explain . . .

2012 I am fat

Fat in 2012

Once upon a time a couple of years ago, I felt old, overweight, constantly fatigued, and had given in to the idea that I would never again be healthy and vibrant. Then my gut (and I) got really sick, and I couldn’t ignore it any more. Something had to be done. I did what most of us do when we want information: I Googled it.

What I found truly and forever changed my life. After weeks of research, I came across Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog about the Primal/Paleo way of eating and fitness. (The Primal Blueprint is the version of Paleo that I use and one that has really worked for me.) I had always tried to eat well, so it wasn’t a stretch to eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, and processed foods from my diet.

2014 I am fit

Fit in 2014

In three weeks my brain fog lifted and my energy returned in full force. I had forgotten what it was like to feel so good. Within a few months I was hiking three to four miles 5 days a week, had lost 25 pounds, and felt more fit and healthy than I had in at least twenty years. People were asking me what I’d done. I started a Primal potluck group. I attended PrimalCon. I adopted Darryl Edwards’ ideas in his book Paleo Fitness. In short, I changed my lifestyle and changed my life.

So now my plan is to maintain my Paleo lifestyle while traveling RTW, using the world as my fitness playground and seeing what Paleo foods are like in other countries. Will I be climbing trees in the jungles of Thailand and running across logs over rivers in Venezuela? Will I be eating fried insects in Brazil, chicken feet in Malaysia, and fish eyes in China? I have no idea, but I am open to all of these possibilities and more. I just read about saying yes to eating unidentifiable foods, and that is the idea of world travel, right? To be open to all the new experiences that other countries have to offer, to be adventurous in ways I never imagined, can’t now imagine. I’m excited to expand my horizons, to be brave and bold, and to maintain the health that the Paleo lifestyle has provided me. I’m never going back to old, sick, fat, and tired.

What strange foods have you eaten? What fun and different ways have you used the world as your playground?