Tag: Sustainability

Is the American Dream really a nightmare?

Uh oh.

The fun and games are almost over. My year on the road is officially coming to a close.

This year has given me a lot of time to contemplate the kind of life I want to live and I delved into many living situations to find out which best suits me.

I’ve surfed couches, beds, blow-up mattresses and tents. I’ve lived in cities, jungles and just about everywhere in between.

As far as what’s best, no place is “better” than any other. But I think there are certain ways of living that reflect more mainstream America ideals, such as life in the suburbs.

I just came from the land of aloha and my heart and mind is open to tolerating all walks of life, all professions and all sorts of different people. But one thing I can’t stand is the mindless ideal of the “American Dream.”

Talking with my friend Monica from Colombia, an au pair in Virginia, she was kind enough to give me an honest assessment of her time in America, especially in comparison to life in Colombia.

She expressed that many things in America are plastic, both literally and figuratively: that our happiness is fabricated. Our beds are bigger, our portions are bigger, our opportunities endless. Yet, somehow people are still unfulfilled. Why is that?

Is it because are arrogant enough to believe that we are “owed” the creature comforts of Wi-fi, satellite TV, Starbucks lattes made with skim milk (nevermind what farm that milk came from, or even bothering to learn your barista’s name…)? With freedom should come a certain amount of self-education and responsibility.

What do I mean by that?

How many of you know how to farm? I learned the basics, and I mean the bare essentials, of farming only 2 years ago when I started a small vegetable and herb garden in my Philadelphia urban dwelling. I lived in the city, but everyday for breakfast I managed to collect almost all of my ingredients from my garden: chives, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro. I worked in restaurants where everything was supplied from Lancaster County, PA and everything was sourced locally and home made. I became aware of where my dairy and meat came from. I learned to appreciate what it means to grow your own food instead of relying on a grocery store all the time to provide it.

I learned sustainable and organic farming in Hawaii. I helped harvest and collect pineapple, papaya, mint, mamaki, spinach, holy basil, avocado, Hawaiian bird peppers, eggs, bananas, macadamia nuts, and a myriad of other items. I know growing patterns and basic mulching techniques. I know how to weed and supplement my diet off the land. Is there anything more satisfying than a meal made from things plucked off of your own trees? Hardly.

Bounty, Hawaiian Style

Living this lifestyle helped me appreciate food as precious sustenance rather than a commodity owed to me by grocery stores and nameless/faceless farmers.

Another thing I see on the mainland is mindless consumption.

People complain about how much money they DON’T have, but continuously frequent drive thrus for iced coffees, can’t bear to quit their mani/pedi habits and buy thread after expensive thread at Victoria’s Secret. They run their AC on days when windows would be just fine. They eat out twice or more a week instead of cooking their own food. They spend money getting drunk as sin on weekends in bars where prices are notoriously high. They mindlessly consume television advertisements, sit by idly with eyes glazed watching commercial after commerical about whitening their already impeccable smile (thanks to their expensive health insurance and religious whitening regime). They throw away perfectly recyclable materials. They throw garbage in the streets. They litter.

Is this the American Dream? It sounds like a nightmare. 

Are you guilty of these things? I was at one time, only because I didn’t know any better. I spent my money on expensive restaurant meals and cigarettes. I believe I deserved a good job because I was educated, American. I scoffed at bruised produce in the grocery store. I littered. I’m not proud of these things. But travel changed me for the better.

I’m now a conscious consumer. I farm or at least try to grow some of my own things. I NEVER litter and I actively recycle. I turn off the water when washing dishes, using this Earth’s precious resource sparingly and wisely. I sign petitions again developing natural farmlands and protecting our oceans. I volunteered at an eco-hostel for the better part of a year.

Love yourself enough to love your environment

I urge everyone to look at their lives and decide, honestly, whether or not they are living the best version of themselves. Take responsibility for your life rather than expecting someone else to do it for you.

Instead of taking advantage of your liberties, earn your liberties.  WORK FOR the respect that so many people around the world give Americans. Self-start. Farm. Know what the hell you’re doing and why. Pick up a book, turn off the television and learn to do something you’d ordinarily pay for. There’s enormous satisfaction in self-awareness that money just can’t buy.

Enjoying the fruits of my labor

Well, I became…ahem, distracted from my round the world trip.

I originally started this year with stars in my eyes about seeing the entire world. I had this vision of my mind of showing up on my parents’ doorstep with a suitcase slapped with stickers from other worlds, proudly proclaiming, “Well, I’ve seen everything!”

That didn’t exactly happen, but I’ve done a HELL of a lot this year, including focusing on my true path.

What do I mean by that? I mean I quit a life that was no longer serving my true desires. When I envisioned myself happy, I saw myself living the island lifestyle and freelance writing to pay the bills.

And now, months later, that’s EXACTLY what I’m doing. It’s been a learning curve: How do you come to grips that you’re actually happy beyond measure? That you’re truly living your bliss?

By enjoying it! That’s how.

Sunrise to my new life!

I’ve been “sidetracked” (can you even call it that? This is my path!) from my world conquest by the Big Island of Hawaii. The magic of this place constantly reminds me that I’m in the right place at the right time. I’m learning to travel slower and live richer. Instead of seeing the world in one year, I decided to work on a fascilitating a lifestyle of choice and intention.

I’d rather move forward intentionally, albeit slowly, than run through and miss something.

I’m currently an apprentice manager of an eco-retreat in the rainforest. I walk barefoot, I rock a sarong, I hone true hobbies (learning to hula hoop and playing wooden flute, among many), I live amongst and converse with artists, travelers, writers, musicians and free-thinkers from all over the world. I find myself in an environment that satiates the cravings of my wildest dreams.

I read this quote today and felt it to be very fitting:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t have to escape from.” -Seth Godin

Some people look at my life and say that I’m lucky. Maybe I’m lucky that I have the wherewithal to look within, discover what I truly want and go after it. I mean, it feels good. It makes me wonder why I waited to find my bliss.

My time in Hawaii is special and ornamental. Here I am learning about ecology, sustainability, community living, tribal living, living off the land, and about overall humanity. I am studying to facilitate a life a travel through my work. I’ve even been asked to co-author the owner’s book about sustainable community living. I guess you can say it all fell into my lap. But it wasn’t that easy.

I looked deep within and discovered that I was the only one holding me back from living the life I always imagined.

These are good times.

Now on Monday mornings, instead of relishing in my one day off from the restaurant biz or dragging myself to the office for a gruelling 8-hour day, I bask in the Hawaiian sun, enjoying the fruits of avocado season. I treat myself to a moisturising, refreshing mask made by myself, from the avocados that dropped this morning right next to my tent. Because this my paradise, why not? 

The Freedom of Choice

I’m taking  a mini-sabbatical from my life in paradise where all the perspective of how I want to live my life was bestowed upon me.

What’s the difference between me pre-Hawaii and post-Hawaii? I found my paradise, my happy spot, my garden of eden. I realized how powerful my choice is.

Freedom is riding in the back of a stranger’s truck. Humbling and fun!

What exactly do I mean by that? My first overseas trip to Australia was the first time my eyes open to cast a critical eye on my own country. I love the United States of America, but I never thought of my country as a constant producer of 9-5 drones and profit. I knew this to be true, but it wasn’t until I delved into an “alternative” lifestyle that I even realized what I was “missing out on.”

Australia was very kind to me and about Americans in general. We do tend to get teased quite a bit, but luckily we have a great sense of humor.

Hawaii is a special place, though. One that gave me a unique perspective about “home.” The reason why my time in Hawaii was so special is that it’s almost like another country with a different culture, an island attitude where people move a bit slower but with more intention.

I stayed for seven weeks at Hedonisia Eco Hostel in Puna district on the Big Island of Hawaii. Among many other things, I learned how to live as a member in a community of travelers, I began to learn and embrace living sustainably and I developed a large connection with Mother Earth.

Replanting banana trees, whose fruit we’d later consume!

At the risk of sounding like a New Age hippie, lost to run amuck in paradise, living in an intentional community had the following imprints on me:

1. I have choice as to how I want to live my life.

2. I can facilitate those choices with like-minded individuals to reach a common goal.

3. I can reach a sort of existential bliss by living out a life I manifested for myself.

The aspect of Hawaii that is the most unique, to me, is that although it’s owned by the United States, it hardly feels like the United States at all. The Big Island is essentially a baby, unspoiled Polynesian Island where certain fundamentals of human existence are still alive in well. Namely:

1. Tribal living

2. Living off the land

3. Entrepreneurship 

When you live with less, as I did at an ec0-hostel, where we used recycled materials to build shelter, bartered for goods and services and thrived as a community of individuals, life becomes simpler, easier. Suddenly, without all the riftraff of paying bills, owning cars, expensive property and material things, your options open up. Suddenly you don’t have to wake up everyday to drive to a job you hate to pay for the car to drive you there. Suddenly your life is filled with choice.

Oh, hey there home.

A simple life not be for everyone. But it is for me. The recognition and affirmation that I have a choice as to how I want my future to play out is a powerful realization. When I sat down to examine my life before embarking on my travels, I imagined my happy spot. That place was somewhere simple, easy, living in an RV off the land. Suddenly, months later, I’m ducking underneath a tarp held up by hand-crafted wooden rods from local trees to enter my pop-up camper. I look around, and all at once, I’m living the life I imagined.

We’re told growing up that more is more. If you have more stuff, fancy cars, nice clothes, you will be domesticated and people will like you. Not only is that not true, because I’ve met tons of assholes with lots of nice things, but the exact opposite is true. Less is more, because without all the clutter, you have freedom. And with that freedom, you get the all-elusive, much-sought after choice. I promise you it’s out there.

This is a sort of existential breakthrough I’ve had recently. Although this is typically a travel blog about place and people, my realizations through my travels are just as important. Now that I’ve gotten this breathtaking (and admittedly often coveted) expanded world view, I could say without a doubt that quitting my job to travel and learn more about how people live has been the best thing I’ve ever done.