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.

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?

Seven Ways to Save for a RTW Journey

Yes, you CAN save enough money!

There was a tiRTW save moneyme when I didn’t think I’d ever have enough money to actually travel around the world. I mean, the travel industry sure makes it seem like you need to either be rich or win the lottery to get in any travel of significance. I have traveled quite a bit now, and I have done both the expensive and the budget versions of travel. And since I plan to be on the road for a year this time, you can bet that I’m going to make the trip last that long by having a very small travel budget. Like, miniscule. Itty bitty. Teeeenie tiny. Recently I was telling someone about my trip and she cried out, “WHAT?! You’re not staying in hotels?!!” She simply couldn’t imagine how one travels without the travel-industry-led idea that you must make your trips luxurious and, therefore, expensive. Otherwise, what’s the point? Ah, I wrote that blog here.

I will be writing a blog on how to make an infinitesimal, itsy bitsy traveling budget actually work, but this blog is about how I’m saving and scraping and selling in order to have enough money before I go. I have given myself a mere ten months—just 300 days—to save for this year-long round-the-world journey. While I will be making money working on the road, my goal is to save at least $8,000 before I go. This is a shade over five months of travel at $1,500 a month, equal to $50 a day, which is incredibly generous for world travel.

“Gosh, that’s a LOT!” you might whine observe. I think so, too. But I’m all about the cushion, and it IS an estimate. I’d rather aim high and have enough to last than to have to come home early. And think about it: I only need to save $800 a month for ten months. When you have a dream or a goal or a desire within sight, wouldn’t you do whatever you needed to to get there? It’s that.

Now, I don’t have an extra eight hundred bucks lying around at the end of every month, but I also don’t have a lot of bills. Still, how am I possibly going to accomplish this savings on my fairly small, not-very-consistent freelance income? Well, I have been doing my research, and I’ve come up with a list of seven ways to stuff my green-and-orange-striped sock with plenty of money to get me launched. 

Show me the money!

Here, in no particular order or relevance to success, is my list of seven ways to shove the green stuff into my strisockped sock:

  1. Cut out all discretionary spending. This one is a no-brainer. Stop buying coffee out. Movies are all at home or at friends’ homes. No new lipsticks. (Geez, I’ll never use up all the ones I already have.) No eating out. (Not hard for me. I like my own cooking.)
  2. Actually put the actual money I actually would have spent on the items in (1) into said green-and-orange-striped sock.
  3. Combine auto trips to save gas. Better yet, ride my bike or walk when I can. I live where it’s easy to jump into the car and run to the store, which would take 45 minutes to walk round-trip. But it’s also easy to jump into the car several times a day on short little trips because of this, which adds up in gas. I’m going to plan better in order to consolidate my trips, or heck, even forego a trip to the store altogether. I don’t always have to rush out for coconut aminos if I run out while I’m cooking. Adjust. Adapt.
  4. Sell my stuff. This is a big one for me. I am not young, and I own my house. It’s full of a lifetime of stuff, but not clutter because I’m certainly not a hoarder. However, it is true that your stuff grows to fit the size of your home. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to sell, and I realize that I’m just not attached to much of it at all. That said, I’m going to want the basics when (if) I return, so I’m giving this a lot of thought. But lots of kitchen stuff, much of my furniture, most of my clothing, and all of my books can go. Craigslist, Ebay, and garage sales are what I’m planning.
  5. Do odd jobs. I have lots of little one-off income opportunities that put money in my sock. I teach astronomy to private students. I make Power Point presentations. I coach people in public speaking. These small jobs are not my Paleo bread and butter (that would be book editing), so I can think of the income from them as “extra” money. Again, it goes right into the sock.
  6. Put away something from every single income check I receive. Since I work freelance, my cash flow can be pretty inconsistent. One thing, among many, that my dear departed dad taught me was to put aside some amount from every single paycheck, and do it FIRST, before I pay any bills. This advice has served me well (thanks, Dad). Before I even think about how much I need for living expenses, I put away enough that it hurts a little bit. Sometimes my checks are for a single hour of work. I’ll put away 50 percent of those little checks. Other times, a check is several thousand dollars for several weeks’ work. With paychecks like these, I can put away 25 percent, and the sock gets much fatter much faster.
  7. Take the money I’ve saved out of the sock and put it into an interest-bearing account. This one is also a no-brainer. While savings and checking accounts don’t pay much at all these days, I am looking around at different options. Putting the money in a savings account instead of my sock is not only smarter, it’s safer.

Well, that’s it. Those are my secrets to saving for a dream I have had for years. It’s time to put my words into action and make it happen.

Now I want to hear from you! What dream do you want to save for? A house? College? An RTW? What secret tricks are you implementing to save money? Answer in the comment section below.

Am I Crazy? What Have I Done?

Do I really think I can travel around the world for a year (or more)? Come on, now.

Pretty much every morning I wake up in a tiny panic. Do I really think I can just tuck away my normal, everyday life, pick up my backpack and laptop, and take off around the world on an almost-nothing budget?

At PrimalCon 2014 with fellow primates

At PrimalCon 2014 with fellow primates. Photo by Mike Lin.

As soon as I pass through that odd, sparkly-crystal-fog journey from asleep to awake, I lie in bed, amazed that I would even consider such a thing. Sure, I’ve always said I’d like to travel more. Many of us have that dream. So why don’t I make do with saving some money, picking a country or two, and just going for, like, a month? This is what most sane people do, right? Perhaps. But I’ve never lumped myself in with “most people.” I am special, just like everyone is. 

So why do I think I can just sell most of my possessions, pack away the few things I want to keep, and pare my entire life down to what I can carry on my back? Well, the easy (and honest) answer is, because decisions like this are just that: decisions. If you read my post about how I reach my goals (here), you know that the first step toward anything I do is to simply decide to do it. For me, there is a world contained in a decision: commitment, excitement, the planning to come, the unshakable faith I have in myself to do what I set out to do.

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Apple chicken and cauliflower “faux”tatoes. Author photo.

So now the work has begun. I have started an Evernote notebook (I love that app), I have reached out to people I know who love to travel, and I am keeping notes of the juicy places I want to put on my “places to see” list. I have pared my expenses down to the bare minimum. (I rented out my house in Oregon and am staying with my mom in California for the winter, which is allowing me to save a lot of money.) I am strengthening my job connections so I continue to have work on the road. (I am a freelance book editor.) I am connecting with other world travelers, both seasoned travelers like Nomanic Matt and newbies like myself.

I am also learning how to monetize my blog to support my travel habit. To that end, I’ve been working on developing this blog’s theme. I have several labels I can stick on myself: Paleo/Primal, meditator, humanist, and skeptic, among others. I’ve been playing around with what is most present in my everyday existence, what action I could apply a label to at any given time. At this point, I have decided to focus this blog on maintaining a Primal lifestyle while traveling the world. This means I will focus not only on preparing for world travel and the actual travel experiences I will have, but also how I fare maintaining my Primal eating habits (which I am not going to give up, as I completely changed my health going Primal) and Primal movement (essentially, using the entire world as my playground). 

I hope you will always find something of interest in my sharing. I would love to hear what you are interested in as I share this preparation time with you. What interests you about world travel? Are you planning a RTW? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

~ Jessica

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Top Five Reasons for Traveling Around the World

Finding the “Why” in Your Deepest Desires

You have heard it before, and maybe you have even said it yourself: Some day I am going to travel the world. A few weeks ago, I woke up and realized, that day is here. The time is now. I decided to commit to traveling around the world for a year. You can read about that decision here

If you have ever taken a motivational course, you have probably heard about how important it is to solidify your “why.” Your “why” is your reason for doing anything. It is very easy to decide to do something (did you make any New Year’s resolutions?), but to see a decision reach fruition, you must have a solid, strong, and deeply felt reason that propels you toward that goal.

I seem to have a natural ability to accomplish what I set out to do. Many people ask me how I have made the dramatic life changes I have (this post is about that), but honestly, I had to stop and think about why I achieve my goals. I have realized that I practice not only the three secrets I blEurope trip June 08 114ogged about in my last post, but I also have a deep, strong, unshakable desire to reach my goals. If I am missing that part for a particular goal, it usually drops off the map. And yes, that’s happened plenty of times.

I have been writing down in my RTW notebook all the reasons I have for traveling around the world for a year (Paleo-style, I might add, but that’s a topic for the next post), and I thought it might inspire other wanna-travel-ers to begin planning their trips around the world. So, without further preamble, here they are:

5. I want to expand my adventurous side and be brave.

I had always lived a rich and colorful life. But by the time I hit 50, my life had slowed down dramatically, and I noticed that my world had gotten very small. I live in a gorgeous, artsy little town of 20,713 people (I just checked), and while I love the area, I am feeling closed in and shut off from the rest of the world. I have gotten small and safe. I am ready to step back into my natural, adventurous state of being. I want to eat new foods (Paleo as much as possible!) and smell new smells and feel new air.

4. I have wanderlust.

I have had wanderlust all my life. I went on my first international trip when I was 19. I went alone to Europe and had the time of my life. Ever since then, I have traveled as much as my budget would allow. My income is rather small, enough to support a single woman, but I am making my RTW a priority, so every unspent dollar is going into my travel fund. (More about this in another post, too.)

3. I want to meet people from all over the world.

As I mentioned, I live in a small town. It is very vanilla and safe and dramatically NOT diverse. I love people. (As Ruth Gordon says in Harold and Maude, “they’re my species.”) And there is so very much to learn from other cultures, other lifestyles, other ways of being. I cannot wait to see who I meet.

2. There are so many new experiences to be had.

Some guy I used to know taught me that experiences are far more valuable than stuff. I have taken that attitude to heart. (In fact, my teen-aged great-nephews and great-niece don’t quite appreciate that I give them experiences instead of gifts, but I know in my heart that some day they will.) I treat myself the same way. I am creating my own memories from experiences that feed my very core and will last me a  lifetime.

And my number one reason for traveling the world is:

1. I have only one life. Just one.

Yep. This is it. Just this one precious, unique, special chance I get, in all of eternity, to be consciously alive. I will never have this chance again. We all make choices that impact what our life experiences are by the end. I have chosen to mindfully, consciously, and without fear step into the world and grab whatever yummy, dirty, exciting, scary, sweaty, heart-pounding experiences I can. I relish the boring days. I rejoice in the stimulating, exciting days. And at the end of every single day I say, “I am so deeply grateful to be alive.”

What is your dream? What is your “why”? Please share in the comments below.