My transition to going vegan
Smoothie, sunshine, yoga, meditate, eat, dance, sleep, repeat…oh! And add in a bunch of hot guys and fit girls! My idea of utopia became a reality when I stumbled across an off-grid community on a remote mountainside in Northern Portugal… And this is where my transition to going vegan all began.
I transitioned to being vegan in July 2015, mid-way through my seven month backpacking trip. Whilst the concept had crossed my mind in the past, being vegan was something I would have scoffed at beforehand. The notion of veganism was something I had previously pushed out of my mind for the sake of convenience. But a chance encounter one evening in my hostel in Lisbon, Portugal, set me on an irreversible path. Following six days spent with an off-grid community, my eyes and heart were opened to a completely different way of living and being. Things would never be the same again.
Rewind a few years…Thanks to a fluffy, little caramel-coloured rabbit I named ‘Sniffles, I turned vegetarian when I was twelve years old. Caring for my first pet encouraged me to realise and acknowledge that he was a living thing. Growing up, I knew only one other vegetarian my age. So upon turning vegetarian, I asked my doctor for his advice. As per usual, iron deficiency talk, eat eggs for protein and drink milk for calcium. From an early age, I showed a keen interest in health and nutrition, so I did a lot of my own research. In my later teens, I introduced seafood back into my diet and remained pescetarian up until I went vegan. I became an avid seafood-lover and cheese addict. My base diet consisted of rice, egg and tuna. Internally, I always felt like a hypocrite being pescetarian. But at this stage of my life, admitting the truth to myself was far too inconvenient. I could not have even fathomed being vegan! Then again, I knew no vegans and did not think of it in terms of compassion. Like most, I thought of it in terms of deprivation. ‘I don’t want to stop eating eggs! I don’t want to get rid of cheese! Milk is in everything!’ The thought of being vegan seemed daunting and tedious.
I wasn’t even ill-informed, I was uninformed! As for most, turning a blind eye was just easier.
Fast-forward and…Well, that changed rather abruptly in July 2015! I was put on the fast-track! At my hostel one evening in Lisbon, Portugal, getting ready to head out on a pub crawl, I got started chatting to an English lad from Manchester. We started talking all things yoga and diet. He was a vegan who had spent some time living in the mountains of northern Portugal with a community of people. A “vegan, yoga farming community” as he put it. I was immediately intrigued. He told me about what most of their days looked like… wake up, have an organic smoothie, do 2-3 hours of yoga out in nature, convene for a healthy and organic lunch, meditate, have more smoothies, massage nights, dancing under the moon, star gazing… This sounded like my idea of paradise! I was sold!
He left the next morning to head back to the mountain, but I decided to stay on in Lisbon for the time being. A few days later, and with only sparse contact via Facebook messenger, some basic directions to an address-less mountainside in Portugal and some slight hesitation, I jumped onto a train to Fundao for three hours. At the train station, I was met by a pre-arranged cab driver, ‘George’, who knew little to no English, and so we conversed in French as much as we could for the thirty-minute car ride. In the middle of nowhere, I was actually a little nervous. I was absolutely going on a whim, entrusting faith in the Universe and humanity, hoping that I hadn’t confused naivety for spontaneity. After waiting at the bottom of this mountain for five minutes, the guys showed up in a Defender to get myself and my backpack up the mountain. They looked good! Phew! All was good…better than good! Over the next six days, I immersed myself in their way of living. I felt nothing but love. I had some breakthrough moments, but I also faced some cold, hard truths within myself. It was definitely a turning point for me. I was inspired by these people who were committed to changing the world by living compassionately, consciously and truthfully.
I didn’t leave with the intention of staying vegan, but, looking back, it’s as if I was unconsciously being more conscious about my choices…as ironic as that sounds! I found myself looking for vegan restaurants to try out, opting for the vegan options, experimenting with vegan recipes at my hostels. I started making time to do more research on the topic. In realising that the transition was in train and if I was truly going to make this transition, I wanted to understand exactly why I was going to and how I was going to. The rest is history. I’ve never looked back. If anything, going vegan has been one of my greatest teachers.
It is so much more than a diet, lifestyle or consumer choice. It is a personal commitment to living as compassionately as I possibly can, on every level.
As humans, we are highly-evolved creatures on this planet. We have the choice to decide what we put on our forks and into our bodies. We are not primitive beings in that respect. So why then do we create, proliferate, allow and turn a blind eye to so much suffering? All for sensory pleasure. Territoriality. Pride. Materialism. All for the impermanent. As humans, what makes us think that our lives are more significant than a cow’s? A pig’s? A chicken’s? A fish’s? Are they, too, not guests on this planet as we are? Loving their life as much as we love ours? If you call yourself an animal lover, then why differentiate? Why discriminate? Is that not what is so wrong with our society and humanity today? Discrimination. Violence. Brutality. Lack of compassion.
Every action has a consequence. Cause and effect. Many of us have the luxury of choice in this society. And unlike billions of others out there, many of us are so overwhelmed with choice that, sadly, convenience has taken the place of conscious decision-making. Whilst choice can be empowering, unfortunately, it can also be detrimental if made unconsciously. Fortunately, I have a choice. And I choose to empower myself by making decisions consciously. By thinking of the consequences. By thinking of the collective. No longer will I base my decisions and choices on convenience, familiarity, society’s norms, or any other form of bullshit that justifies the suffering of another or the degradation of our planet. Sadly for this planet and the souls we knowingly and unknowingly affect, our actions are having dire consequences.
Vegan – because I’m being the change I wish to see in the world.
I have never felt better, thought with such clarity or felt more at peace. For me, it is all about compassion. To live as authentically as I can, my actions must reflect this, and being plant-based is just one way that allows me to align with this truth. I have learnt that being vegan is the complete opposite to deprivation. It is empowerment.