Veganism is magic

“Hippie vegan shit,” is a phrase you may well have heard me use to describe food. Tongue in cheek, but certainly meant to poke fun at a way of life that I, for the most part, have failed to understand. My religion forbids it; the animals are treated badly; the environment. The first two reasons simply don’t resonate with me, but the third gives me pause. The environment, what does that mean?

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Highland Park street art, LA life.

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Backpacking my balls off

A year ago I was restless. I woke up each morning, I took a shower, I fed the cat, I made breakfast, I drove to work, and I sat in a chair all day. Some days I worked out, some days I ate out, and some nights were spent cooking. Life felt mundane, the daily grind of my routine leaving me unfulfilled with a yearning for more. I was bored with my life as I knew it, and I wanted to see the world.

Working the real life.

Working the real life.

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Lollipop moments

Welcome to 2015. I’d like to kick the year off by sharing a story, a Lollipop moment of mine. A Lollipop moment is a moment where someone said something, or did something, that fundamentally made your life better. If this is the first you’re hearing of this, I would encourage you to watch the 6 minute TEDx video below.

It feels like a long time ago since my last trip to Southeast Asia, I guess a lot has happened in the year gone by. I remember strolling through the ruins of Angkor Wat; trekking the rice paddy ridden plains of Sapa, and sailing the beautiful vistas of Halong Bay, pondering what to do with my life. At the time I was thinking about smaller, more trivial things, like whether or not to sell my house or switch jobs. It wasn’t until an unlikely day in Malaysia that I started to think beyond the mundane.

Monkeys on the steps at Batu Caves, KL

Monkeys on the steps at Batu Caves, KL

On a one-day stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the tail end of my SE Asia trip I found myself at KL Sentral, waiting on the platform for the train to take me to Batu caves. It’s quite easy to spot other travellers in an Asian-dominated city, and as such I found myself chatting to a friendly American by the name of Jared. We  boarded the train and quickly realised that we were headed to the same place, so I was introduced to the 5 other friends he had made in his dorm room that morning. So there we were: three Americans, a Chinese girl, an Irishman, an Aussie and a Kiwi; instant travel buddies, exchanging stories and ideas about life. We had a fun day touring the caves and lunching in Chinatown, floating around the plentiful KL malls, with equally plentiful Air Conditioning. We were all quite keen to see the Petronas towers at night, so we headed to KLCC via the underground mall complexes. 

It was on one of the lower levels of a mall, waiting for the girls to finish their toilet stop that a life-changing conversation was struck. Astounded at the idea that these people were travelling for months and years on end, and confronted with the harsh reality that I was mere days away from being back in my comfortable office job in Wellington, I remarked at how jealous I was that I couldn’t do the same. Jared didn’t blink, and responded.

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My job, my house, my cat, my life. Duh, Jared, come on. How can I leave all of that? At the time this genuinely was how I felt, for some reason I didn’t see my life as something fluid, that I could change and mould. Perhaps in a way I even saw it as giving up on all the things that I’d worked hard to achieve.

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Jared continued, “You’re still young, and if you want them later, they will all be there when you’re done living your life.” It was as if someone had just lifted the shades off my eyes, and I could see everything clearly. Those things I’d worked so hard to acquire, the things in my life that I considered high value, they didn’t make me happy at all.

Petronas Towers, KL

Petronas Towers, KL

There’s something about travelling that makes you more honest. Perhaps it’s the lack of familiar surroundings, or the extension of comfort zone, or being on a break from normal life, I’m not exactly sure. But I noticed it, a lot, and not just with myself. Everyone I met would tell me their entire life stories, and share their deepest hopes and dreams with me. I feel like I formed stronger relationships than I have back home with people I spent a day with, people I’m still in touch with and will continue to be into the future. I was more honest with myself and with others than I have been in the last 10 years of my life.

Those words, “Do they make you happy?” Continued to stick with me after I got home from my trip. A few weeks back into real life I decided that enough was enough. I made a pact with myself to finish doing up my house, and to sell it. To walk away from my wonderful job and to leave Wellington, at least for a while. The world was calling to me, and I had to respond. I set myself a goal of September, 2014. I achieved this on November 21, as I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane bound for LAX with nothing but a suitcase to my name. On Monday I’m heading to Thailand, and beyond the first couple of hostel nights I’ve booked – who knows. I wonder if I will ever be as free as I am in this period of my life. I have no responsibilities, and although I don’t have fleshed-out plan for the future, I feel very much in control of my life.

Jared has spent a lot of time travelling the world, and recently spent 2 months in India, one of which was spent training as a Yoga instructor before heading home to California. It wasn’t until two weeks after he got back to California that he was in a bad traffic accident, and unable to walk for 8 weeks. My brother Rick has a fitting saying for this type of thing, “If you’re born to be shot, you won’t drown.” It really makes me appreciate how short our lives can be, never fully in control of what happens next. So living for the now is something that I need to do, at least for a while. I told Jared how much what he said had impacted on my decision to leave New Zealand. Just like Drew Dudley, he had almost no recollection of the conversation, and encouraged me to document it for him. I hope to one day inspire somebody else to do something that makes them so happy.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, DC

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, DC

One windy week in Wellington

It was a hectic last week before departure. Dinner invitations were abundant, as were coffee dates and lunches, trying to find the time to fit people in was a bit of a task. It’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve actively kept a personal calendar, and planned my days out by the hour. Between the family parties, work parties and friend parties, I managed to eat some fish and chips, and drink some nice coffee.

Family goodbyes

Family goodbyes

Since I moved out of my house, I’d been living at my sister Beth’s house. It’s been super fun living with two teenage girls, and gaining an insight into what it is like to be a teenager these days. I can spot the differences to when I was their age; mostly I think this is based around social media. I overheard one specific kitchen conversation between Abbie and Bekah which tickled me greatly.

Bekah: I’m going to change my profile pic this Saturday afternoon.

Abbie: Why this Saturday?

Bekah: I think that’s when a lot of people are on, so I can get the most likes.

Me: ???

Abbie: Oh, right. I changed my picture one weekday morning and only got 60 likes.

Bekah: Ha, shame.

I thought this was super funny. Esepcially given that none of my facebook posts get even 60 likes.

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Abbie also likes to take selfies on my phone

A few weekends ago, I went on a boys trip with my brother, brother-in-laws, and their respective sons. We had an awesome time at the bach in Foxton – eating, cruising around the sand dunes and throwing the rugby ball around. For some reason it’s not something that we ever thought to organise before now, so I’m really glad it was brought about by my leaving. It was a super fun weekend.

Beautiful New Zealand

Beautiful New Zealand

 

Burying George and Ethan in the sand

Burying George and Ethan in the sand

It was so lovely to spend my last week in Wellington catching up with people that are important to me. Sorry if I didn’t make it to you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means that I’m forgetful and reactive 😉 I’ll miss you all greatly, don’t forget to bug me for Skype calls!

I’m finding it really interesting not having a job at the moment. It’s a freedom that I’ve never really felt before, as the last time I was unemployed I had no money and wanted a job. I can’t wait to see how I feel about that in a few months, or a year from now. But for the moment I’ll just continue to enjoy my first Thanksgiving in sunny California with Alexa, and explore the freezing NYC until I head to Asia in January. Stay tuned for what will hopefully be some mouth watering updates.

Growing down

10 days ago I moved out of my house. It was exciting and exhilarating, with undertones of sadness; I guess it’s never as easy as you think to let go of something you worked so hard to achieve. After spending the past month getting rid of virtually everything that I own, moving was kind of a breeze this time around. I’ve rid myself of a mortgage, a home, and all the things required to fill it. A lot was donated to charity, friends and family, with some bigger ticket items being sold at rock bottom prices. All in all, I feel a lot lighter than I did one month ago. There’s been something very liberating about cleansing my life of material possessions, I’m so interested to see how I feel about that a year from now.

There was of course one thing that was very hard to let go of, my cat, Boots. I never actually liked ginger cats until I picked him up in the SPCA and he started purring and licking my nose. It was the start of a special relationship which saw him sleeping in my bed every night (with his head on the pillow, thinking he was a human), running up to greet me every day after work, and randomly attacking me when it was raining outside. He’s quite the character, and I was fortunate enough to have a few offers to house him.

He’s also incredibly photogenic, let me prove it.

Boots

A number of people have asked me about whether or not I thought I’d done well out of owning a house, and whether or not I would do it again. I myself was skeptical around whether or not I would have been better to have rented a place and saved money instead of paying a mortgage. A quick tally of numbers suggests that renting would have been a much more cost efficient option, but it wasn’t until I delved a little deeper that I found it wasn’t really the case.

When I take the mortgage, rates, insurance, upgrades and income received (from renting a room) over the past three years, it’s double what I guesstimate that I would have spent if I were renting a place for the same period. Simple math would suggest that renting would have been better, but with the improvements to the house and capital gain, I actually walked away with about 80% of what I put in. Would I have saved this much money without the house? Possibly, but probably not. Having the mortgage meant I spent a lot less money on clothes, takeaways and going out. And I generally didn’t buy random things that I didn’t need (like a new car). As for whether or not I’d do it again… Time will tell. At this point I would say ‘maybe’. If I were to do it again, I would put more thought into how much I could rent the house for if I did not want to live in it.

So now that I’ve sold my house, quit my job and let go of my possessions, I’m in a sort of limbo period between old life and new. I still go to work every day, drive my car around, drink nice coffee and go to the Sunday market with my mum. But really I only have 25 days left of work, and 32 days before I get on a plane to LAX, to see a certain someone. The current chapter of my life will soon be coming to an end, and my new chapter book is only a month away. I’m crazy excited, but I’m going to enjoy my last few weeks living in Wellington; I’m especially looking forward to eating a lot of fish and chips, and drinking a lot of nice coffees.

Here’s a photo of Boots and I pretending to be cats.

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You are what you eat

Addiction is something that every single person I know suffers from. But I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol, I’m talking about food. When was the last time you met someone that was 100% happy with what they ate? A few Paleo/Vegan extremists exist, sure, but for the majority of us, bad eating is just a way of life. In 2012 I weighed 76kg, not a huge number but certainly overweight for someone of my stature. I now average around 60kg (depending on which leg I’m wearing), so I thought I’d share some thoughts on weight loss and healthy eating.

People often ask me how to lose weight, or what kind of foods I eat that keep me so trim. Put simply, I don’t eat a shit tonne of carbohydrates. I don’t drink sugar drinks, or consume alcohol. I’ve swapped potatoes for pumpkin, rice for broccoli and bread for vegetables. In actual fact, I probably eat more food than I once did, but it’s the right food. I wasn’t however able to make these changes overnight, it was a gradual process where I incrementally removed bad things from my diet. Sugar and alcohol were the first to go – easy, who actually needs those? I then switched to eating kumara, brown rice and whole grains; these are known as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates stick around in your system and keep you full for longer. As a general rule of thumb, any brown carbohydrate will be considered complex.

Orange kumara is delicious, it’s also freakishly expensive. One night I found myself with no kumara to cook, and instead I replaced it with a head of broccoli and extra carrots. It wasn’t until this meal that I realised that my body functioned fine without these traditional staple foods I’d been brought up to expect with every meal. It was around this time that the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) type diets were fadding, and a guy at my work was losing 2kg per week eating as much food as he wanted. The idea is that the traditional source of energy (carbs) are replaced with fat, the concept of this interested me greatly. I, like the rest of the world, had been led to believe that fat was bad, it made you fat and caused heart disease. Well, fat in-fact does not make you fat. I now regularly use butter for everything, have a high intake of nuts, and devour roasted chicken skin whenever I get the chance.

Occasionally I go cold turkey on caffeine for 21 days, to prove to myself that I’m mentally strong enough to stop consuming it if I choose to. The first week of this involves headaches, restlessness and a dry throat. This is the exact same response I get if I go for 2-3 days with no carbs, my body is totally addicted. This is the biggest problem I see when people try to give up bad foods. They don’t realise that they’re dealing with an actual addiction, and try to go cold turkey. This is generally combined with an attempt to attend the gym 5 days per week. In my experience most people give up after two days, they miss that can of coke, or that hearty subway sandwich just a little bit too much. In this situation, less really is more. In the same way that 4 minutes of exercise per day is worthwhile, making one of many small changes to your diet can have a huge impact on your health and well being. Here are some examples of individual changes that have a huge impact:

  • Lower your portion sizes. Most people eat far more food than they actually need.
  • Snack on nuts. Nuts contain protein and healthy fats, and a couple of handfuls can easily get you through an afternoon.
  • Whatever you are currently eating for breakfast, switch it for eggs or meat.
  • Drop dessert.
  • Drink more water.
  • Opt for brown carbs (complex) over white.
  • Get to a farmers market. Vegetables are actually super affordable.
  • Read labels! People mock me for this, but seriously, you’d be surprised at what you are actually eating.

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Roasted Hazelnuts taste just as good as Nutella!

Roasted Hazelnuts taste just as good as Nutella!

I would say that two thirds of weight loss is attributed to a healthy diet, the final third being exercise. I’m not that into cardio, so my prefered form is lifting weights. I workout about 3 times per week, and that is enough. By manipulating the variables you can certainly lose weight with diet or exercise alone, but the two thirds approach feels like a nice balance to me. Besides the many health benefits, regular exercise feels good and provides a fantastic mental release from your work day.

So let’s recap. No potatoes, bread, rice, sugar or alcohol. Smaller meals, good snacks and read labels. Cool, lucky we’re all robots. In reality I don’t actually adhere to all of this advice. Fish and chips is still my favourite meal (consumed weekly), I also regularly eat chocolate, noodle soup and chicken rice. Do I consider myself a hypocrite? No, I’m a human being. I believe it’s about finding a good balance, and enjoying all the things that you want to in life. I tend to eat around one meal a day that has a decent sized carbohydrate component, this keeps my energy levels up without making me feel too lethargic. I also genuinely love to eat vegetables, enjoy drinking water, and get off on working out, which helps a lot.

Ultimately the best thing you can do is commit to some sort of lifestyle change with the purpose of making you feel good. All I do now is listen to my body and give it the fuel that it needs to perform the tasks I set it, the rest just takes care of itself.

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2011

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2014