Why I left Koh Samui, Thailand and Why I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel

This is a question I get asked A LOT, and I’m excited to share the answer with you! Read on to find out why!

When I first left my engineering job at Merck to cycle around the world more than 13 years ago, people told me I was crazy. They said I was committing “career suicide.” They said no one would ever hire me again and after traveling for so long. Luckily, I didn’t care what people thought and I did what I wanted to do. I traveled and cycled my way around SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia for 3 years and eventually settled in Koh Samui, Thailand after battling with my own illness and deciding to dedicate my life’s work to helping other people reverse disease and heal themselves naturally. It didn’t take long for people to change their tune and start to say, “How did you do it?” and “I want to live your life!”

The beaches of Tel Aviv are clean and quiet, especially during the week!

In Samui, I worked relentlessly day and night, learning and offering Iridology analyses, helping clients on their detox programs, teaching health and nutrition class, building a website from scratch all on my own and developing contacts all over SE Asia to present workshops and work in various countries. In 6 years, I don’t remember even having 1 day off. Clients came to my house at every hour of the day and night asking for detox support and health coaching services. Because I cared so much about each and every client’s health and success, I had a hard time learning how to say “No.”

The southern end of Tel Aviv beach looks over to historic Jaffa

Why I left Koh Samui, Thailand

I learned so much in the time that I was in Samui and I am forever grateful to all of my clients and colleagues for co-creating a fantastic destination for fasting, detox, yoga and health and wellness. And I LOVED living in Thailand. But eventually, it was simply time for a change. Not only did I feel like I wanted and needed new challenges in my life, but I was also craving a “regular” environment where people worked hard all week and then had time to enjoy their life on the weekends, just like everyone else. I realized that I wasn’t really helping my clients if I left nothing for myself. I knew that I needed to have time fill my “cup” too and also to make time for a loving relationship. And ok, I imagined a world where I could simply eat a meal in a restaurant where no one would approach me to show me a picture of their shit (yes, that happened a lot!) and then I realized, I think it might be time to leave Koh Samui!

In Tel Aviv, you can find fresh juice and smoothie bars everywhere, year-round

Why I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel

In the 2 years before leaving Samui, I traveled a lot and I visited many places, including Dubai and Israel. I knew I wanted a warm climate and plenty of fresh, organic foods available year-round as well as a place that was near the beach. I first went to Israel to attend the Gabriel Cousens green juice fast, and I can honestly say that I fell in love with the place! The climate was just perfect and the desert foods were such a welcomed and exciting change to my diet. For a raw foodie, Israel is a really easy place to live. I went on to visit Israel another 3 times and on my last trip, I met my boyfriend, an Israeli. Suddenly, I had a lot more interest in the idea of moving to Israel!

A delicious Acai Bowl from the juice stand at Ben Gurion and Dizengoff, Tel Aviv

My boyfriend wound up coming back to Thailand with me and we stayed there together for a few months before I finally packed up my bags and left. It was a very silent tip-toe departure mainly because I didn’t want to answer the questions, “Why?” and “Where will you go?” before I even knew the answers myself. We decided to take our time traveling and exploring some areas of the world that I considered moving to including Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador. After more than 1 year of traveling, we just didn’t find exactly what we were looking for: beach, organic food, nice people, good friends, high speed internet and enough safety to go for a run or walk on my own.

You can find organic produce at farmer’s markets in Tel Aviv or better yet, get it delivered to your door!

We arrived to Israel in July 2013 and since then, we’ve been slowly settling into life here. We live in Tel Aviv, 300m from the beach and a 3-minute walk from an organic market. We receive an organic CSA food delivery every week to our door, we have friends, and every day I can walk or run for miles right along the Mediterranean Sea.

The Yin and Yang

It’s definitely a unique cultural experience to live in Israel. Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you live in Israel if you are not Jewish?” or “How could you choose to live in such a dangerous place?” (In the same way that you don’t have to be Hindu to live in Bali and you don’t have to be Buddhist to live in Thailand, you also don’t have to be Jewish to live in Israel.)

The port of Tel Aviv is lined with cafes all along the Mediterranean Sea

I can say that in general, the city of Tel Aviv is very safe and not reflective of what you see on the news. There is a very large gay community in Tel Aviv. Recently, the city itself was voted #1 for nightlife by Lonely Planet. In the last 2 years, there has been a huge vegan movement that has swept over the city and most restaurants now offer a regular Meatless Monday dish on the menu. There are a lot of young people living here, it’s right on the beach and you can walk or ride a bike anywhere you need to go.

In short, I think the citizens here just want peace but the government leaders can’t seem to agree. Isn’t that the case pretty much everywhere in the world?

You can walk or cycle for miles along the footpath next to Tel Aviv beach

As much as there is conflict in certain areas of Israel, in other areas you can experience such amazing waves of transformation, spirituality, light, consciousness, and love. Next to the dark there is always light. Next to yang, you must have yin. If you come to Israel and focus on the yin, you can feel a deep spiritual awareness like something you have never felt before.

Favorite Foods

If you love healthy food, then you already have the best reason ever to visit Israel. Everywhere here you can find large vegan salads and fresh juices. You can even order green smoothies at some juice bars too! There is plenty of organic food and also great Middle Eastern food like tahini, hummus, grilled eggplant (baladi), parsley salad (tabouleh), lentils and rice (mujadara) and tons of other vegan and vegetarian options.

Fresh olives alone are a reason to visit Israel!

Did I mention the dates? Yes, truly raw food heaven! And you can taste them for free!

A warm climate means many restaurants are outdoor in Israel – this one is just opening for the day

Nothing is Permanent!

I’m now enjoying set working hours and designated days off every week and feeling much more balance between my work and private life than I did while living in Koh Samui, Thailand. I enjoy living near the beach and I am proud to say that we now eat 100% organic food at home. They always say that when we trust and let go of fear, the universe falls into place and that’s exactly what happened to me when I got a new book deal within 1 week of arriving to Israel last year! So, will I stay in Israel forever? Or will I be off to a new destination and another adventure? Well, you’re going to have to stay tuned because I have no idea! One thing I do know is nothing is permanent in life; you just have to enjoy every day as it comes!

More on Traveling Raw:

Do you need to eat 100% raw food for success? How much raw food is best?

Recently the New York Times ran an article in their online blog section entitled “Growing Up on Raw Foods” where the author discussed whether or not it is safe to raise children on a 100% raw food diet. I found this article to be very interesting for a number of reasons and I am so happy that it highlights some important factors to consider when transitioning to a raw food or vegan diet.

How much raw food do you need to eat for success?

Getting Iron and B12 on Vegan or Raw Foods

First, the author points out that children who eat a vegan or raw food diet have higher risk of anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of eating dark leafy green vegetables, which in my opinion, are the most important food to add to any diet, whether it be a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleo, diabetic, heart healthy or weight loss diet. In fact, I wrote an article called My Boyfriend Followed my Raw Food Diet and Got Anemia to try and get people thinking about eating more leafy greens for a good vegan source of iron. B12 is also a valid concern (and actually meat eaters are often deficient in B12 too due to low absorption); for that I always recommend a high quality B12 supplement. Note: I do not recommend liquid B12 supplements because many people develop gum sensitivity and/or nerve pain in the teeth from B12 in liquid form.

Accepting your % of raw food

But, the highlight of this article for me was to read about how some well-known raw foodists are changing their 100% raw food status and are eating more cooked food in their diet:

“Some longtime raw-food evangelists are rethinking their devotion. Jinjee Talifero, who runs a raw-food education company with her husband, Storm, in Santa Barbara, Calif., was 100 percent raw for most of the last 20 years, until about a year ago, when financial and other considerations made it difficult to continue feeding their five children, ages 6 to 19, that way. “It was always like a borderline thing to keep enough weight on them,” she said, and getting proteins from cashews and almonds was proving too expensive.

Her children also ran up against social problems. “They were socially isolated, ostracized and simply left out,” said Ms. Talifero, who now incorporates cooked food in the family’s diet.

Sergei Boutenko, 29, a filmmaker in Ashland, Ore., ate only raw from 9 to 26, and for years his family preached the virtues of the diet. But, he said, “there was this constant hunger,” and the raw children he met seemed “underdeveloped and stunted.”

He now eats about 80 percent raw, with occasional meat and dairy. “When it takes 15 hours to make a raw food lasagna that wipes out two days of your life, it’s better to just make a vegan or vegetarian lasagna and move on with your day,” he said.”

The Daily Mail UK website had an article on raw food recently where Australian raw food advocate and follower of a fruitarian or 80-10-10 diet Freelee the Banana Girl explained that she remains ‘raw until four’ – meaning she eats no cooked or heated food until 4pm.

These articles make me so happy because finally, the raw food world seems to be letting go of the 100% perfect raw food pedestal. Even Gabriel Cousens (author of Conscious Eating) says that you can get the same results with eating an 80% raw food diet as you can with 100% raw food, but it will just take you a little longer to get there.

A high raw food diet is usually more than 2/3 or 66% raw food, and 80% is excellent

The conclusion: It’s ok to eat a high raw food diet, as long as you focus on quality of food and:

  • Choose organic fruit and veggies wherever possible
  • Prepare your food with loving intention
  • Avoiding processed foods and chemical food additives
  • Eat cooked food without guilt (because you are 100% human!)
  • Cook your food in healthy ways without heated oils, frying or charring the food

Remember, balance is the key to success. As Dr. Bernard Jensen says, “One cup of coffee won’t kill you, but one glass of orange juice won’t cure you either.”

What’s my % of RAW?

I was 100% for 2 years until I started traveling more and then I dropped down to 90% raw to accommodate my schedule, eating plain steamed veggies, an occasional plain baked potato or organic brown rice. After 8 years on the raw food path, I now sit comfortably at a high raw food diet which means I eat 85-100% raw food. My daily diet consists of green smoothies, green juices, huge salads, sprouts, nuts, seeds, fresh wheatgrass shots, homemade sauerkraut, kombucha and occasionally some organic cooked black beans, chickpeas, steamed vegetables, veggie soup with homemade broth, organic brown rice or red quinoa. I mostly follow the Hippocrates Diet or Ann Wigmore style of eating. Technically speaking, I am not a vegan because I do eat raw organic honey and other bee products like royal jelly on occasion. I made some mistakes with my raw food diet nutritionally along the way, and I’m going to reveal all my lessons learned in a new ebook, so stay tuned!

If you’re going to keep your new diet habits as a healthy way of living for life, it has to be a sustainable for life. Many experts agree that you have to eat at least 50% raw food to start seeing and feeling results (more energy, improved skin, better digestion, anti-aging & cellular repair, reversal of disease). Whether you’re eating 60 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent raw food, the most important thing to allow yourself to be is 100% human. As you go through the years of your life, your percentage of raw food may increase or decrease, and that’s okay! No matter what, the percentage of raw food that you are eating should feel right for you.

> Are you trying to transition to a raw food, vegan or vegetarian diet and feeling overwhelmed with all of the different opinions out there?

> Are you struggling emotionally and socially with changing your diet and feeling isolated or confused?

> Are you eating a healthy raw food or vegan diet and still feel tired, have trouble sleeping, or suffer from skin problems, hair loss, brittle nails, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, infertility, or dental problems?

> Do you want to change your diet but simply don’t know where or how to begin?

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

To read the New York Times article in its entirety, go here: Growing Up on Raw Foods

To read the Daily Mail UK article in its entirety, go here: ‘I lost 3st eating vast “mono meals”: Controversial diet guru who consumes 5lb of potatoes in one go says single-food feasts are key to weight loss and health

More on Raw Food:

Green Juice Fast with Gabriel Cousens at Tree of Life

Recently I went to Israel to participate in a 7-day Green Juice Fast with Gabriel Cousens. His program involves: 4 green juices per day, supplements recommended by Tree of Life (optional), 1 enema daily, guided meditation twice daily, yoga by Shanti and a daily morning and evening Kabbalah talk with Gabriel. The fast was hosted in a kibbutz in the north of Israel called Yehiam. All of the classes were taught in English.

Shanti and Gabriel Cousens

Gabriel has some interesting theories on fat metabolism vs. sugar (carbohydrate) metabolism. If you are drinking a lot of fruit, coconut, carrot, or beetroot juice during your fast and you are not losing weight, it is very possible that your body is still in a sugar metabolism. According to Gabriel, you need to get into the fat metabolism for the fast to really kick in.

He would recommend grapefruit juice and greens juices instead. ‘If you want your juices sweeter, you are compromsing your own progress. Too much sugar in juice will trigger a craving for more sugar.’

Sugar levels are also connected to one’s ability to meditate according to Gabriel. ‘If your sugar levels go up and down, the mind also goes up and down and it becomes difficult to stay focused,’ he says.

Gabriel has one secret for success when coming off the fast: Do not eat too much!! He says, ‘Drink your food and chew your juices.’ He also recommends to eat in silece so you are conscious and connected to the food. ‘Eat your food first, them sit around, digest and talk.’

Inspired with lots of great info!

Especially after fasting, Gabriel recommended 2 Tbsp. of ground flax seed in every meal to keep the fiber content high. I tried it for one week after the fast and all I can say is wow, epic!!

This detox program is usually hosted twice yearly in Israel, every May and November. Fasting programs are available year-round at the Tree of Life Center in Arizona.

If you can’t away to join his guided detox, then you can learn from Gabriel’s wisdom through some great books – Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens and Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine by Gabriel Cousens. Great additions to any health library!

For more about this green juice fast program, watch my daily updates, interviews with other fasters and interview with Gabriel and Shanti on my youtube channel at www.youtube.com/findyourhealthybliss.

More on Traveling Raw:

Interview with Gabriel Cousens on Raw Food & Fasting – Video

Video interview with Gabriel Cousens, author of Conscious Eating, Reversing Diabetes in 30 days, Spiritual Nutrition, raw food educator, and fasting expert. Jennifer is with Gabriel at the Tree of Life Israel fasting retreat. She asks him about fasting metabolism, blood sugars, diet, radiation from traveling and the Tree of Life philosophy. With over 20 years of experience in the cleansing and meditation world, Gabriel is truly a wealth of knowledge and inspiration! See part 2 of the interview below:

Jennifer attended a 7-day fasting retreat in Yehiam, Northern Israel with Gabriel and Shanti Cousens for their Green Juice Cleanse. The Tree of Life offers fasting retreats in Israel every year. As part of the retreat, there are daily yoga classes, meditation sessions, group discussions, live music and so much more. It is an experience not to be missed!

Jennifer Thompson & Gabriel Cousens

Jennifer Thompson & Gabriel Cousens

More on Traveling Raw: