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Food is one of our greatest loves, and one of our worst enemies. It gets us talking and shuts us up. Pulls us together, family. And pulls us apart, homeless and hungry. It has the ability to strengthen us or weaken us. Food is power.

My relationship with food has evolved throughout my years of travel and experiencing different cultures along the way. I began as an orthorexic health fanatic and diehard vegan, obsessing over every ingredient that went into my body.

I was preoccupied with how healthy my meals were, not how they were making me feel. I filled my plates with raw gluten-free salads and cold-pressed juices that left me feeling unsatisfied and craving more. This lifestyle ultimately left me ungrounded and with acne and an absent period for three years. And so my journey of healing and true health began when I stepped out of my boxed way of thinking about food and began living … in Greece.

Greece

I stayed in Greece for seven weeks, and during that time found my way around the city, discovering the best organic markets and health food stores. However, this was also my first exposure to the world of markets … markets filled with fresh produce, huge containers of freshly cured olives, and farm fresh eggs, still with the feathers on them. There were juice places on every corner… that’s when I began to bend my organic and cold-pressed labels.

That’s also when I started to buy what was fresh around me, embracing the Mediterranean lifestyle. Even though I didn’t experience the fresh fish from the sea … it was a step in the right direction when I started to eat fresh feta cheese from the market and in some dishes in restaurants (it was hard to avoid cheese in greek salad … as salad was my go-to).

I even had a (gasp) pastry from the local bakery. I started to become food curious and was tired of the restrictions I was placing on myself and realized that I missed having what my body was craving … and it was craving a lot!

I also worked at the center of social welfare and played and worked with kids all day, teaching them English games, painting and baking cookies. I loved seeing how they shared lunch in community together, and ate whatever the moms prepared that day doused in a healthy dose of olive oil. We usually got to take some of the leftovers home, and eating that food … you could taste the love.

I released the reins a bit on my restrictive way of eating, but still had some binging tendencies that were coming up. I slowly started to connect with my body and listen to its needs, as most meals in Greece were cooked and oh so nourishing for my screaming and starving cells.

Hawaii

Oh, Hawaii. A part of my heart is still at the big island, and will forever be there. Hawaii was my ultimate healing place with my relationship with food and my body image.

Hawaii was a year after Greece, and during those two months, I began to practice yoga and tune into my body and become more conscious of my eating habits. I also started to release my vegan label, and ate more healing foods for my hormones, like bone broth, fish and eggs… all foods that I was utterly terrified of but were necessary for restoring my health.

Hawaii was the ultimate confrontation as I lived in a community and did yoga all day. There was nowhere to hide binging behaviours in a shared kitchen space. The meals were mostly gluten-free and always vegan and prepared by an amazing Japanese chef from New York who put so much love and effort into preparing buffet-style meals.

Eating in community after yoga classes allowed me to slow down, gain gratitude for my plates, and enjoy each and every bite. Hawaii is where I basked in the joy of each day, each meal, and each bite.

I ate fresh fish from the sea, munched on macadamia nuts by the handful, slurped down fresh papaya from the trees, and indulged in fresh chocolate from the cacao pods freshly harvested. I also worked for my food and went out harvesting coconuts. The next time you have any kind of coconut (whether that’s water, shredded, canned or milked) be so grateful … because it is a long and hard process to machete those branches down in the beating sun!

I also hung around people that were more relaxed with their food choices, and who ate sugar… that’s right I ate SUGAR and did have the occasional GLUTEN. And when I ate those foods with a grateful and delighted heart, I didn’t feel guilt or shame … but peace … and so did my body! That’s when I knew I was finally out of my orthorexic lens and saw food from a fresh and wholesome perspective.

Also my periods had returned in Hawaii and came every month, which confirmed to me that I was on the right path of healing and showed me that my environment greatly influenced my health. Hawaii was my happy place, where I had no stress and could express myself … allowing my sacral chakra to shine and giving me the spark I needed to keep my internal period fire burning.

Peru

After graduating university one year later, I realized the lifestyle I wanted to live … and that included one eating healthy, wholesome meals that gave me life and vitality. I had stopped my binging habits and had to become a teach-what-I-preach kind of girl as the yoga thing was becoming official and I was going to Peru to become a teacher. I was ultra mindful and a complete plant-based yogi … even one that ate sustainability caught fish and eggs from time to time.

Peru was a challenging and heavy energy, one of great healing and spiritual awakening … a stark contrast to the lovey-dovey light happy energy of Hawaii. Living in Peru for three months made me look deep inside and unveiled the controlling nature of my being.

Plant medicines including a tobacco purge, rappee, chunga and huachuma opened my eyes to my intuitive and spiritual nature. I released control of my being and that allowed me to enter into deeper states of meditation, into deep reflection, and into a deeper love for myself and for nature and God all around me.

Peru is also the land of potatoes and rice. I have chosen to stay away from rice but I again was confronted with loosening the reins of my grain-free protocol for hormonal balance and go with the flow of my environment. I ate more potatoes and rice in the three months I was in Peru than I have in my whole life. I was again in awe of the culture of Peru and how they were so connected to the land not only on a physical level, but a spiritual one.

I worked and lived on a construction site for building a home and malocha. The workers gathered together and invited us to eat with them at lunchtime… it brought such warmth to my heart. They would share the pounds of potatoes they brought for lunch, and their gallons of chicha (corn beer, sometimes fruit flavoured or made with purple corn) … always with willing and welcoming smiles.

The language barrier allowed me to learn Spanish quickly but also was a way to connect deeper on an emotional level to others. What we show in our faces, our bodies and our hearts through our actions is sometimes more important than words.

Guatemala

Immediately following Peru, I headed to Guatemala for some community and like-minded yogis. Unlike the Peruvian culture, I found that the Guatemalan culture was much more religion based, but also had a love for music and played it all day long!

Nothing beat the fresh corn tortillas off the grill or the pan-fried plantains. Guatemalans takes life at a slow pace, and takes frequent breaks to eat together … family always came first. Late breakfasts and lunches were frequent … the town didn’t come alive until about noon.

In contrast to Peru, I was reintroduced to my love for macadamia nuts and coconuts with a more light, friendly and tropical energy. I finally had my share of health food stores and beautiful cacao to share. Unlike quinoa in Peru, amaranth was a staple there, and was my go-to when it came to eating what was available and in season.

So I’ve learned some common themes about how to eat and what to eat throughout my travels that I want to share with you in hopes for you to take some lessons and implement them into your life for your own healing and vitality.

Here are my five lessons I’ve learned from Europe and North, South and Central America:

1. No diets required … eat how you feel. 

I have found the true connection to my body and learned to listen to its hunger cues as well as its cravings. I eat until I’m satisfied and eat whole foods that nourish and provide me with fuel and with life.

None of the cultures that I experienced used terms like vegan and paleo and gluten-free. They ate what was available and around them when they were hungry without batting an eye. Simple as that. They love their curves and walked up mountains for exercise (no gyms required). 

2. Eating in community. 

Making meals and eating them together is so much better than eating alone. Sharing and spreading the love through conversation makes us slow down and enjoy each bite and each word we hear and say. Community makes meals an event and allows for our bellies to be happy and our hearts to be full.

Community also made me accountable and aware of the amount of food that I was consuming and allowed me to have healthy portions and a healthy perspective towards what was on my plate. It also reminded me to appreciate and give thanks for the food and the Earth and the many hands that prepared it.

3. Munch on what’s seasonal and local. 

Eating what was available at local markets made me ultra aware of how much better things taste as well as how much more healthy I felt when I eat foods that were at their peak. Fruits and veggies that are shipped and put in bags to your nearest grocery store sometimes aren’t the best option, especially when you’re eating berries in the winter (and are usually more expensive).

Supporting the local farmers and exploring the local fruits and veggies with a curious mind can leave you licking your fingers with a smile on you face. When farmers give you a jacote they just picked from the trees around you (Guatemalan fruit delicacy that tastes like a mini mango) you know the farm to table thing is legit.

4. Work for your food.

Working from farm to table can make you appreciate your food more and connect with your plate on a deeper level than if you picked it up off a shelf of a grocery store. Seeing its progress from seed to plate can be super satisfying and rewarding. Picking herbs from the garden and climbing up coconut trees to harvest them were ways I connected with my food on a physical level. We can appreciate Mother Nature even more when we can connect with how the elements come together to create beautiful fuel for our healthy bodies.

5. Put love into your food.

When food is cooked with good intentions and love, you can taste the difference. Those corn tortillas in Guatemala and the fried yucca and guacamole in Peru made by the mamacitas were some of the best things I’ve tasted and were so simple and grounding. I could feel the healing energy of the foods come alive when they were prepared with love and care and were respected by those who prepare them. If we respect our food … it will respect our bodies and give them the love they deserve.

So I hope I have inspired you to travel and experience other cultures but also to take what you learn about the world and integrate it into how and what you choose to eat.

Food has power … how you choose to use that power can positively influence your life and help you to shine your light in this world.

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

Aloha villagers!

I have had quite the adventure the past few months, and wanted to share my experience with you in the hopes that you can add a little Hawaii into your life!

Hawaii

I worked at a yoga wellness retreat called the Hawaiian Sanctuary in Pahoa, Hawaii for just over 2 months, and it changed my life for the better. My Hawaii summer job consisted of ‘glamping’ with the sounds of frogs and peacocks at night and the view of the Milky Way from my room. I felt so incredibly connected to the Earth. I drank and showered in rainwater and chilled at beaches on the weekends, staying grounded as I drew from the healing energies of the sand and sea.

Hawaii

I would walk to our ‘grow’ room for ‘Hawaii yoga’ every morning. The room was filled with tropical plants and had screen walls, so we could feel the mist from the rain, the heat of the sun and hear the chickens and roosters to make sure we were awake in shavasana.

Hawaii
Show off.

 

Yoga in Hawaii consisted of hour and a half classes beginning with a warm up, some pranayama, meditation then went into a vinyasa flow. They were challenging (and hot!) but so much fun. Part of my yoga trade in Hawaii included private sessions and weekend workshops with my yoga instructors and mentors to practice my inversions and perfect my forearm stand. Wednesday mornings we had Kundalini classes after our morning yoga that challenged our endurance, and then a restorative class at night complete with socks filled with tennis balls to soothe our backs and our minds. I gained such a deep appreciation for how to do yoga, on a spiritual, emotional and physical level.

Hawaii
Playing with some acro!

 

Lunch was the highlight of my day! Always vegan and gluten-free, complete with dessert on Fridays! Kimmy, our professional chef with over 10 years of experience, was from New York but originally from Tokyo. I fell in love with Japanese cuisine!!

Hawaii
Kimmy showing us how to roll sushi!

 

She would always make amazing stews, including my favourite, mung bean curry. We would have fresh salads filled with veggies picked from the garden or from the local market and topped with local mac nuts and edible flowers. We also have some type of grain like brown rice or quinoa and a different side dish each day of the week!

Hawaii
Lunch is served to the sound of a conch shell!

 

We had Asian Mondays with spring rolls and veggie stir fries, Taco Tuesdays with guacamole and salsa and the best crackers [in the world], and side dishes like vegan shepherd’s pie, pad thai(!), pizza, purple sweet potato salad and zoodles with mac nut pesto throughout the rest of our week.

Hawaii
Rainbow rollsss!!!

Hawaii
Pad Thai was amazing!!!

Hawaii
Mochi cake. My favourite dessert!

 

Not only was the food amazing, but lunchtime was also a time to relax, sit outside with everyone from the community and chat about our day. We would connect with those who were working on the farm or in the kitchen all day and make plans for our weekends! Oh, how I loved my weekend adventures!!!

Hawaii

The general manager of the Hawaiian Sanctuary was somewhat of a daredevil and rubbed off on me … for the better. He brought me cliff jumping, snorkeling, rock climbing to the top of waterfalls then rappelling down them, climbing coconut trees to harvest coconut goodness, hiking to the summit of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset and swimming through caves.

Hawaii

I saw sea turtles, manta rays, lots of cool fish, more rainbows than I can count, livestock and wild pigs and goats, and every colour of sand you could think of, even green. I am eternally grateful to have seen most of the island in my two months and experience life on the edge [literally – off cliffs and waterfalls]!

Hawaii
Just one of many.

 

We had two different classes each week, both beneficial to my soul and my mind. We went to weekly classes called Non-Violent Communication or Compassionate Communication. We learned how to effectively communicate with others, through listening empathically and connecting our feelings with our universal human needs. It was so applicable to daily life, as we practiced listening to each other and making empathic guesses and truly understanding the other person, without criticism or judgment.

Hawaii

We also had our Ohana circles, meaning ‘family’ where community members came together and discussed problems [utilizing NVC hopefully] and played games. We also had a talent show that was by far my favourite week. Julia and I sang Riptide accompanied by the ukulele – how Hawaiian!

Riptide – We had fun!

Through this whole experience, I have completely transformed my body, mind and soul. Here is what I learned about the Hawaiian way of life through my yoga internship and adventurous weekends:

  1. Community.

    Living in community makes you so much more mindful of your actions and how they can affect others, like leaving your dishes out or staying up all night. While eating lunch in community, I learned to slow down and eat a balanced meal that was so nourishing and satisfying. I learned to find balance and moderation with my favourite foods and enjoy some delicious [healthy-ish] desserts once a week and fresh fish from the sea on the weekends. I loved constantly being around such diverse people and engaging in fun and deep conversations about their experiences, beliefs and lifestyles back home.

    Hawaii
    My Ohana [Family]!
  2. Adventure.

    I loved that such a variety of adventures were only a drive away, with nature surrounding us wherever we went. I learned to become a rebel, jumping over no trespassing or danger signs when exploring waterfalls and valleys. I loved the exhilaration of jumping off cliffs and rappelling down waterfalls. I am grateful for knowing locals that showed me the hidden beauty of Hawaii, even if it was living a little on the wild side.

    Hawaii
    Jump with no thought, just a smile.
  3. Yoga.

    Do yoga, almost everyday. Yoga was so soothing for my body, as it contributed to balancing my hormones, giving me a ton of energy and relieving me of any anxiety or tension I was feeling. My mind was so clear and I was so present in everything I did. My spirit was also fulfilled as I could spend my practice with God, thanking Him for this amazing opportunity and listening to His plans for my life. I mentioned doing yoga almost everyday, because I was taught that we do need to rest for at least one day a week in order to give our bodies a break and let our muscles heal.

    Hawaii
    My yoga mentor and inspiration, Kristen! Incredibly knowledgeable and so much fun!
  4. Freedom.

    The Hawaiian culture is all about being expressive and to truly be who you are, no makeup [or bra] required. People did whatever they wanted [weed was a popular commodity], and were truly accepted for whatever their beliefs were, or what their occupation was. I did not wear makeup during my time there, which was so foreign to me, and wore yoga clothes and a bathing suit 90% of the time. I felt that others accepted me for who I was and were so relationship oriented. I was constantly greeted with an Aloha and a hug and felt such a loving energy from the people of Hawaii. Our NVC classes was also a reminder of how love is the ultimate goal of relationships as we learned how to express our feelings and needs to those around us freely and without judgment.

    Hawaii
    Be you.
  5. Conscious.

    The Hawaiians are so conscious about what they put into their bodies as they wanted to keep everything as natural as possible; everything had to be from the ground! There were ava bars everywhere [usually stocked with kava, kombucha and jun {jun is kombucha except with green tea and honey – I was obsessed}, no alcohol allowed!] People played music about loving others, and health food stores were hopping at lunchtime. Yoga was a part of their daily lives, not just for exercise, as people lingered before and after class and chatted. The locals were so present in deep and meaningful conversations. Most restaurants used local ingredients and there were farmer’s markets everywhere, both during the day and at night!

    Ava Bar Fun!

  6. Slow.

    I have never been so unaware of the time as well as what was going on in the outside world. I had no TVs to watch, radios to listen to, and no constant to do list. Everything went by Hawaiian time, with yoga classes starting and ending 5-10 minutes late, and hours and hours spent at local beaches with friends. Time seems to slow down and go according to your pace of life. You are in control of time – time doesn’t control you in Hawaii. There is a healthy work and play balance, with many people bringing their children with them to dances and yoga classes. No one is in a rush … remember that when you are driving there.

Hawaii
Chill like a cow in the meadows.

 

So I challenge you to incorporate some of the Hawaiian lifestyle into your own. Go makeup free, get to a yoga class, cook a balanced meal and eat it with your friends, go explore a new part of town, disconnect your TV [maybe a little extreme?] and don’t be scared to live on the edge.

Hawaii
Or on the side of a palm tree … go with the breeze.

 

If you aren’t happy, make a change to your lifestyle. With a clear mind, you can have a clear heart – one that is ready to receive and give freely.

Hawaii

Feel free to share some of your changes with me, and let me know how yoga has transformed your mind, body and soul for the better. I would love to connect with those of you whom have had similar yoga retreat work exchange opportunities and hear about how Hawaii yoga has changed them for the better (Comment below!!)

This will not be the last of my Hawaiian adventures or yoga travel, as I was deeply impacted by the energy of the island, and the deep connections I have made. I hope you can experience the beauty in this world and discover a place that embraces the lifestyle you imagine for yourself to ultimately enhance your health and wellbeing.

Hawaii
Sit and bask in the beauty.

 

Mahalo my villagers!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your Hawaiian villager xx

Hey veggies!

This week was my relax, revitalize and reset time to look at the next year and reflect on what my summer has in store! Last summer, I worked hard, paid off my car and started saving for this year because I had big dreams and big plans of going somewhere and making a difference! After experiencing a life-changing internship in Greece for 7 weeks, I have had major wanderlust and wanted another experience, this time, doing a job that was centred around my passion.

goals
Reflecting over a cup of tea.

When I heard I could do an internship course in Kinesiology, I thought it would be the best opportunity to travel and do something I love! So I started my search in September for internships that were in the field of health and wellness. I found a few, but none that really spoke to me. I clearly was not using Google properly (find the right key words and you are golden!)

I found an internship in Panama that looked promising in the field of Health and Wellness Promotion. I applied and got accepted, however, it was out of my price range and wasn’t truly what I was looking for. I prayed and concluded that God wanted me to go somewhere else, so I kept searching.

One night when I was brain dead from studying, I started browsing the web. I knew in my heart that there was only one place I wanted to be and that I knew would heal and grow me – and that place was Hawaii. I stumbled upon this magical place and knew it was where I belonged.

It is called the Hawaiian Sanctuary and they have volunteer internships with different tracks – yoga, horniculture, guest services, and cooking their amazing sustainable and organic foods. I have been looking to deepen my practice in yoga and meditation, as well as learn in the kitchen as that is also a large part of the yoga track.

My love for cooking.

When I had my 45 minute interview and was basically told you are accepted at the end of it – I was giddy and exploding with excitement!!! I am so grateful to be able to share my passions, working for a nonprofit self-sustaining sanctuary on a beautiful and healing island!

I would so appreciate your support financially and with much love!

goals
My future favourite place.

I wanted to share my story to INSPIRE and MOTIVATE you. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your upcoming year and goals to reflect on this week:

  1. Travel: Where do you see yourself a year from now? What place is calling you?! What steps do you plan on taking to get there?
  2. Self-care: How do you plan on enhancing your well-being this year? What activities will you engage in to stay moving, glowing and alive?
  3. Relationships: How are you building sustainable communities around you this year? How are you planning on meeting new people and going out of your way to make people feel special?
  4. Personal Development: How do you plan on being bold this year? How do you plan on growing and stepping out of your comfort zone?
  5. Spirituality: How will you become more connected to your purpose this year? What are you passionate about and how are you going to use your gifts and talents to fulfill your mission?

I would love to hear your answers to these questions! Please share and comment below!

How do you plan on finding your Hawaii? Living out your dreams is possible with a little searching, persistence, effort and positivity! I challenge you to make this your best year yet by loving, growing, serving, teaching and discovering!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

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