Find out where I moved to….! HINT: It’s a healing place

If you’ve been following my travels and adventures around the world for the last 15+ years, then you know I’ve been to a lot of places! I lived in Thailand for 6 years, traveled all over SE Asia, explored Central and South America for almost a year and most recently, lived in Tel Aviv Israel for the last 2 years. So where do you think I would have moved to next…and how/why did I choose it?

First I have to say that I am sorry for not updating my blog in such a long time! I was super busy in 2015, working at new detox retreats, traveling for work, and being blessed with many new coaching & Iridology clients over Skype. Did I mention that I also left Israel, got married, moved to a new country AND found a house?! Yep, we were beyond busy. And, truth be told, I’m really not a fan of announcing things until they’re a done deal. Luckily, my husband is the same way on this one. We cherish our privacy in making important life decisions, and wanted to stay focused on what was best for us, not getting distracted by other people’s goals or opinions.

More time in nature is cleansing for the soul

More time in nature is cleansing for the soul

Where we ended up

Drumroll please….ok here it is: we are now living near Asheville, NC in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina, USA. We have divinely clean well water to drink, fresh mountain air to breathe and are surrounded by mountains, trees and creeks. It’s the most quiet and peaceful place you can imagine.

The best part is that we plan to have cabins and invite people (like you!) here to do detox programs & retreats. Yes, a real chance to unwind, de-stress and get back to basics with 100% organic smoothies, juices and food. Literally, this is the place to feed your soul. We are so excited and have a lot of work to do, but finally I can offer the best detox and fasting programs that I know work with a focus on spiritual growth and health too.

For the summer of 2016, we may just be open for “glamping” …that’s “glamorous camping” in case you didn’t know! Imagine sleeping in a tent right on the edge of a mountain creek with the sounds of water and birds, and open campfires at night under the stars to discuss healing and health topics, or just to play music and get back to living in the moment. We are waiting for you!

We're about 20 miles outside of Asheville in the mountains, real country living!

We’re about 20 miles outside of Asheville in the mountains, real country living!

Why we chose North Carolina

Lots of people want to know – what’s so special about North Carolina?? It all goes back to 16 years ago when I thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, yep…just like the movie A Walk in the Woods. Except I actually finished the whole 2168-mile trail, but that’s another story! Anyway the trail goes through North Carolina and Tennessee through the Great Smoky Mountains, a beautiful area of lush green mountains and wilderness. While on the trail I had heard about the nearby town of Asheville and what a cool place it was. In fact, a lot of people got off the trail to visit Asheville and wound up staying there for good! I didn’t want to stop hiking so I never visited the town, but it stayed with me as a place I would like to check out someday…

Secret pocket of natural beauty - Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina

Secret pocket of natural beauty – Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina

Fast forward 15 years later and I was living in Tel Aviv with my partner. We decided that we wanted to leave Israel for a few years and started thinking about where to go. Out first thoughts were to stay in the Mediterranean region since we both love the climate and the food (mmm…pomegranates and fresh oranges!). We considered Cyprus and even Spain or Portugal; however things seemed to be getting more tense in Europe with migrants, instability, etc and we decided that maybe now is not the best time to move there.

We've got gorgeous fresh local organic fruit and veggies galore in Asheville

We’ve got gorgeous fresh local organic fruit and veggies galore in Asheville

From there, we did the whole “well, where else can we go?” and it just organically, magically and serendipitously fell into place. We had already traveled a lot, in SE Asia, Central America and even South America…and we were pretty sure we knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want. We were ready to grow our own food so we needed clean farmable land and a good source of water. We wanted to be in nature, in the peace and tranquility of mountains and trees. We wanted to be in a safe place where I could feel comfortable walking or hiking alone. We wanted to be closer to my parents, who live in USA and are in good health but are getting older and may need my help more in the next several years. We wanted good internet since we both work online. And we wanted a nice vibe of a place with some type of interesting art and music scene, good farmer’s markets and nice people.

Fresh local (and organic) food - that's my kind of place!

Fresh local (and organic) food – that’s my kind of place!

After scratching our heads for awhile over that long list, I finally said, “Hey I know this place in North Carolina that I always wanted to check out. Why don’t we go there, rent a house for a month and have a look around?” So that’s what we did. Found a place on airbnb and after 2 weeks in Asheville, we both said YES, we really love it here. From there we started looking at property, and as they say, the rest is history.

How can you know it’s right?

Because it feels right. I’ve followed my instincts my whole life, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet. That’s pretty much how I live. I’ve never been one to talk about doing things; I just do them. And I’m not afraid of trying or making a mistake. How will you ever know what you want if you never get out there and give something new a try?

We wanted nice people and good vibes and a chance to live in nature

We wanted nice people and good vibes and a chance to live in nature

You have to take chances in life if you want to really live. I thought about how I wanted to feel in my next home, and I kept that vision strong. Suddenly the idea of Asheville, NC came to my mind and it felt right. Going there confirmed the feeling. Most people think we are pretty crazy for making such a dramatic move, but it seemed perfectly natural and logical to us.

The Law of Attraction really works if you stay focused on what you want (not on what you don’t want). I even got a book deal just from using the Law of Attraction!

What’s better about North Carolina

I get a lot of emails from people who want to move to Thailand, Ecuador or even Costa Rica, and they ask me questions like “how do you compare this country to that one?” or “where should I move?” These are really impossible questions for me to answer because what’s best for me is probably not what’s most important to you (and that’s perfectly ok!). Thailand was an amazing experience and I cherish the 6 years that I lived there. Having walks on the beach and access to tropical fruits was a dream. Eventually I wanted more challenge with my work and I was also seeking a more balanced life (since my whole life was work!). That led me to my (now) husband and moving to Israel which, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing places on earth. To float in the Dead Sea or to wander through the ancient streets of Jerusalem…it’s just pure magic. We lived 300m from the sea in Tel Aviv and I loved having weekends off, like a normal person finally!

We eventually decided that we were craving more time in nature, and a chance to grow our own food. Even though we had access to a weekly CSA delivery in Tel Aviv, it just wasn’t enough. We wanted to know exactly what was in the soil and we wanted the very best water for our vegetables too.

We have a different Tailgate market (aka farmer's market) every day of the week!

We have a different Tailgate market (aka farmer’s market) every day of the week!

The only solution was to move to a place where we could grow our own. In the meantime, we wanted to be able to buy directly from the farmers. Asheville is literally buzzing with farm-to-table restaurants and there is a different organic farmer’s market every day of the week. I was very impressed to see raw goat’s milk for sale, raw sauerkraut and fresh organic wheatgrass shots in addition to the most amazing organic grapes you will ever taste in your life, truly. Quality of food is a huge priority for us and it was at the top of our list in deciding where to go. Next to that, we wanted to be around genuinely nice people, and we definitely found that in Asheville. It’s a sheer pleasure to meet people who are friendly and actually seem happy!

Our neighbors :)

Our neighbors 🙂

We knew we needed a place with good water and we wanted to be able to afford to buy some land too, not a small lot. Again, Asheville ticked all those things for us. And it still has an urban music scene and enough culture to feed our creative souls. I can own land in NC (unlike Thailand); it’s safe to walk around alone as a woman (unlike Ecuador) and the roads are excellent and it’s a safe area to live (unlike Costa Rica). Not to say that you can’t be happy, healthy and successful living in any of those other places, but North Carolina has more of what we need for where we’re at. Since life is impermanent, all of this can and will change!

By the way, did you know that Obama wants to move to Asheville? We had no idea! It would have never been the reason for us to consider this place as a home, but his interest in the area has definitely put Western North Carolina on the map. Now the New York Times, Washington Post and lots of other national newspapers are writing article on Asheville as the newest, coolest place to visit. Interesting!

We're really excited to explore the area - there are a lot of hidden gems (including us!!)

We’re really excited to explore the area – there are a lot of hidden gems (including us!!)

This is truly a healing place. It’s in my vision to have juice fasting, water fasting and spiritual fasting here for the right guests who are interested in genuine healing. I’ll be offering Iridology, Crystal Healing, workshops and detox retreats in addition to fermentation classes, raw food cooking classes and clean food eating. Stay tuned!

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:

Cilantro Hot Sauce Recipe! For a Spicy Dip or Salad Dressing

Check out this amazing raw hot sauce! If you’re a former tabasco and hot sauce lover but are looking for an upgrade in your ingredients and a 100% raw food version of your hot sauce, then you’ve come to the right place. In this recipe, there is NO added sugar, no monosodium glutamate (MSG), no added colors or preservatives – just an all-natural good-for-you safe food recipe. It takes only a few minutes to make, and this hot sauce will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. We usually make it once a week as a treat to add to a salad or a a topping to a yummy vegan seed cheese or nut cheese.

Delicious recipe for homemade hot sauce using hot peppers, coriander (cilantro) olive oil, salt and fresh garlic.

This is a very popular style of hot sauce in Middle Eastern food. Traditional Middle Eastern food has a lot of raw food dishes, and since I’m living in Tel Aviv, Israel, I get to play around with local, fresh ingredients and share some healthy recipes with you. In Hebrew, this sauce is called “skhug yarok” (green skhug). The Yemen people claim that this dish brings you health and longevity. The ingredients are: 1 whole bulb of garlic, 2 large hot peppers, 1 bunch fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons olive oil + salt.

How To Make Homemade Hot Sauce

Place the following ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth:

– 1 bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
– 1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled (yes, the entire bulb, not just 1 clove)
– 2 large hot peppers (you can use 3 small raw jalapeño peppers)
– dash of Himalayan salt to taste (check your sea salt for no additional additives)

The key to making this hot sauce right is to add the olive oil at the very end, after you blend the other ingredients!

After everything is blended, add:

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

and blend again. Store in a glass container in the fridge.

This sauce is hot! You only need to add 1 teaspoon to a salad to give it a real kick! Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory food and a known anti-cancer food. Cilantro is a fantastic natural chelator of heavy metals and is recommended to eat during a heavy metal detox. Hot peppers help to detox the liver, strengthen blood and boost your immune system. This recipe is vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Can you see how much healing power you can get from your food?

Delicious recipe for homemade hot sauce using hot peppers, coriander (cilantro) olive oil, salt and fresh garlic.

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 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!

More Healthy Recipes:

Loni Jane Anthony pregnant and eating 10 bananas a day: She says “80:10:10 diet saved my life”

A pregnant woman eating 10 bananas a day in Australia is making world-wide news and stirring a lot more than raw cacao and acai bowls… Loni Jane Anthony is a 25-year old pregnant blogger and instagram sensation, famously known as “10-bananas-a-day” Loni Jane.

Loni Jane was recently featured on news.com.au in Australia where she discussed her the details of her “extreme diet,” considered even more extreme to many because she is now 26 weeks pregnant.

“It all started about three years ago. I started getting skin infections, acne and putting on weight which was weird because I’d always been so slim. I wanted to sleep all the time and ended up with a whole range of health problems including candida overgrowth, hormone imbalance, irregular periods and hair loss,” she said.

She says that years of a party-hard lifestyle with excessive partying, drinking and alcohol left her sick and desperate for a solution. She turned to the 80-10-10 diet, a diet created by Dr. Doug Graham consisting of low-fat, whole, fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables after her health hit rock bottom.

“It wasn’t for weight loss or for a quick fix. I was internally really sick; I was killing myself slowly. If I’d kept living that lifestyle I would’ve ended up with a disease like cancer or early ageing. So giving up that food was really quite simple for me,” Loni said.

“I came across the 80:10:10 Diet from an extreme fruitarian. She really taught me that you can live and thrive on this lifestyle by just eating higher carbohydrate vegetables, fruits and juices, and keeping your diet low fat. You even keep good fats low to keep your blood sugar stable. It’s been amazing.”

Loni also tried the Paleo Diet and Gerson Therapy before converting to 80-10-10 or “811,” a low-fat, plant-based diet – which is 80% carbs, 10% fat and 10% protein.

Now 26 weeks pregnant with her first child, Loni Jane says The 80:10:10 Diet ‘saved her life.’

“I usually wake up about 4.30am-5am and have up to two litres of warm water with lemon. I let that go down for two or three hours. In summer I like to eat half a watermelon to get hydrated,” she said.

“If I don’t have watermelon I’ll have a big smoothie with at least five bananas, but usually more than five because organic bananas are smaller, and about a litre of filtered water. I also always have oranges in the morning being pregnant. I’m obsessed with eating oranges.

“At lunch I usually like to have a mono meal, meaning one type of fruit, which is really good for digestion and goes straight through you. At the moment it’s mangoes I’m hooked on so my meal for lunch will be at least five or six mangoes. I might then have a salad later depending on how active I am that day.

“Dinner is always a huge salad with a tahini dressing. If I decide to have something cooked I’ll have it on the side like at the moment my crispy no-fat potatoes are divine.”

“I feel like now I can share who I really am and I’m not trying to hide behind alcohol and partying. I don’t need to alter my state and get drunk to feel like myself or to have fun. I didn’t quit alcohol altogether but it’s no longer five days a week, it’s more like once every five months.”

“If you live your passion people will see that. I’m just living it, and living exactly what you see, and that’s what inspires people I think. Because I’m at an age where most people are out getting super-drunk and taking heaps of drugs and having no self-respect, so I like to inspire girls because I was once in that position as well.”

So, the big question… is this ok? Is it safe for a woman to be eating 10 bananas a day while pregnant? First I should say that I’m happy to hear of any story that gets us talking more about fruits and vegetables! Loni Jane is a very pretty girl. It sounds like she’s feeling great during her pregnancy and I hope she’s getting her iron levels tested and regular health check-ups to make sure the baby is ok.

From my own point of view, I personally think Loni Jane is a bit too thin and she looks very thin in her pregnancy photos, but just that’s my opinion. Of course, some woman can be very thin and healthy while pregnant. The most important thing to do while pregnant is have regular doctor visits and make sure the baby is developing at the right rate, that the heart rate is ok and that the mother is not anemic or mineral deficient.

When I see photos like this, I worry more about the implications of what kind of image this puts out to young girls and women. I’ve worked with many women with eating disorders and I’ve seen the obsession with flat-belly “selfie photos” all too often… I’ve also worked with many women who had drug and alcohol addictions, and went straight from that addiction into a strict and regimented 100% raw food diet. Replacing one addiction for another keeps an obsessive-like behavior, it isolates a person from family and friends, and keeps them locked into a “perfection-seeking” lifestyle. Often these women will binge and purge between raw food and junk food, desperately trying to find a stable middle-ground. Underneath that can be a real lack of self-value, self-worth and self-love. Some women will even combine their 100% fruitarian diet with getting breast implants, cheek fillers, lip fillers and botox but then profess their love of raw food and living a “natural life.” When young girls see an image of a size 0 women with size D silicon gravity-defying breasts drinking a green juice or holding a handful of bananas, it just doesn’t give plant-based diets or raw food a good name. How do we find a balance, when it’s clear that sex and beauty sell? In truth, there is no easy solution.

It’s definitely important for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers to get enough fat, protein and calcium in their diet. If a pregnant women is vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian or raw foodist, she should be extra attentive to her nutritional needs. Eating 10 bananas a day while pregnant is perfectly fine. (How many women eat 2 bagels, a bag of cookies, ice cream and cake while pregnant…and no one bats an eye?) However, in the early stages of pregnancy, it’s especially important to avoid too many high Vitamin C foods. High doses of Vitamin C can stop the body from making progesterone, the main pregnancy hormone. It could be dangerous for young pregnant women to follow Loni’s diet if they eat too many mangoes and oranges thinking they are doing the right thing, when in fact the high amounts of Vitamin C could trigger a miscarriage. It’s also not a good idea to go straight from a SAD or meat-eating diet into a 100% raw food diet at the onset of pregnancy and this can stir up a lot of toxins from the natural detox effect and that’s not good for a growing baby.

In Loni’s case, she seems to be doing well at 26 weeks and I wish her all the best. She’s got a creative eye and her photos of raw food are great! I’m happy that she is bringing a lot of attention to eating a more plant-based diet and she sounds like she’s pretty grounded in her approach to dealing with her new-found fame.

What do you think? I look forward to reading your comments below!

Related Article: Is it safe to detox while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Raw Food Diet Articles:

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: The Raw Food Valley of Longevity… or Just Hype?

Ecuador is known as a top retirement destination for Americans due to the low cost of living and ease of getting residency, but did you know that it’s also a place for raw foodists and young international families interested in a more simple, natural way of living? Some raw food friends of mine recently moved to Vilcabamba, known to many as the “Valley of Longevity,” and after years of hearing about the place (especially after Mike Adams, Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes moved there), I decided to finally go for a visit and check it out for myself.

The main road entering Vilcabamba, Ecuador aka The Valley of Longevity

My boyfriend and I spent 2.5 months in Vilcabamba. We stayed at the Meditation Center in town for the first 2 weeks until we found a furnished house available for short-term rent. We found a place with gorgeous mountain views and a lot of space (2 bedrooms, an office loft, 2 full bathrooms, a large living area and kitchen) for $900 USD per month. It was less than a 10-minute walk from the center of town. This was perfect for us because we didn’t want a car and we could easily walk to town and buy whatever we needed.

Our home for 2 months…a gorgeous mountain retreat!

Shared pool for the small gated community…it was right next to our house

Open doors in the morning for an absolutely fantastic view of the mountains…close doors 4pm to minimize mosquitos!

Most of our time in Vilcabamba was spent preparing and focusing on the 21-day water fast that we did while there. This was our main goal in renting a house for 2 months – to take a break from all the traveling we’d done through Costa Rica, Guatemala and South America, and to have some quiet time surrounded by nature to fast and rest. What better place to do a detox than in the Valley of Longevity itself?

My first meal (pureed cucumber) after water fasting for 21 days…and NO worms! 🙂

Not to start things on the wrong side, but it has to be said: there are a lot of strange expats in Vilcabamba. You will definitely notice a weird vibe when you arrive to town. It’s a small place, everyone knows each other, and clearly you are the newcomer when you get there. We experienced a lot of long uncomfortable stares from the local “gringos”, to the point where we even googled something like “why is everyone so weird in Vilcabamba” and we actually had a good laugh when we read several travel blogs that reported having the same experience as us. There is definitely a lot of conspiracy theory talk going around about…well, just about everything. It’s almost impossible not to overhear at least one major conspiracy theory conversation per day, especially if you go the the Juice Factory, the main hang-out in the town square where all the gringos converge for a juice, smoothie, salad or the ongoing end-of-the-word discussion. I even heard a story about how the Jesus on the cross was fake, and that the real Jesus was hiding under a pyramid in Egypt… Well, who knows? It could be true!

Odd conversations aside, the Juice Factory has an awesome juice, wheatgrass and smoothie menu!

Admittedly we were a bit disappointed over the lack of normalcy in the people we met. It didn’t take us long to start keeping to ourselves, putting our energy into our preparations for fasting and trying to be friendly as much as we could. Over the course of 2.5 months, we slowly started to meet more gringos who lived further outside of town or who simply kept more to themselves as well, and by the time we were ready to leave, we did actually make some really nice and interesting friends. My best advice in experiencing Vilca is to have an open mind and be patient. There are some really cool people living there; it just might take a bit of time to find them.

People aside, there are a few key practical things that bring expats to Vilcabamba to live. One is the cheap cost of living. Most people are renting houses for about $300 per month. Our house was considered to be very expensive, but we wanted to be in a gated community for safety and security. The other main attraction is the ability to grow your own organic food because there is plenty of land and plenty of water. There are also some people looking to live in a healthy and natural healing environment with a strong sense of community, and although it’s not fully there yet, this movement in Vilcabamba is definitely growing. And many people just want to be “away from it all,” living as far away as possible from the television, media, and “Big Brother” feeling in the Western world.

A 5-star view from our veranda, in Vilcabamba Ecuador

That’s the short of it. Here’s my full list of the Pros and Cons of Vilcabamba:

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Pros

1. Affordable Organic Food. This was a main attraction for me. Every Saturday there is a great organic market run by Kitzia Kokopelmana where you can find all kinds of fruits, veggies and greens at fantastic prices. Of course, if you stay longer, you would have the option to grow your own. There are many expats selling non-GMO seeds and swapping crops with each other.

Organic produce from Kitzia’s weekly market in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

2. Affordable Housing. There are many options available. Check the notice board at the Juice Factory for postings. We also really enjoyed staying at the Meditation Center in town; it has a great outdoor kitchen and very clean rooms. Bernie, the owner, is a really nice guy and he also happens to be a real estate agent in case you are looking for a home to buy!

3. Nice locals. The Ecuadorian people are very sweet and we really enjoyed speaking our broken Spanish when we could.

4. International delivery is ok. I met some people who ordered supplements from Vitacost and everything seemed to arrive ok. I had a few packages sent from USA that arrived safely (it does take longer than other places, up to 3 weeks for airmail). This becomes very important when you actually decide to live in a place.

5. Relatively Safe. More on this below, but for the most part when comparing to Central America or Colombia, I would consider Ecuador to be much more politically stable and crime-wise a safer choice.

6. Mountain views, rainbows, peaceful feeling. Aren’t we all hoping for more of that in life?

Nice rainbow view from our house in Vilcabamba Ecuador

7. Good climate. It’s not too hot or too cold year-round. You don’t need air-conditioning or heat and that means more fresh mountain air and negative ions for your health!

8. Easy to Get Residency. If you have $25,000 USD in an Ecuadorian bank or the equivalent value in property in Ecuador, you can apply for a resident visa and stay permanently. There seems to be a lots of hoops and paperwork to make this happen, but many people succeed and it’s certainly a reason why a lot of expats move to Ecuador.

9. Many Interesting Activities. Check the notice boards and ask around; you’ll quickly see that there are a lot of good workshops and activities being offered on everything from energy healing to women’s circles to essential oil lessons and much more.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Cons

1. Slow internet. This is true for all of Vilcabamba and can really be a problem if you work online (like me!).

2. Expensive Internet. We were shocked how much we paid for a few mice to spin us a connection….it was $84 USD per month!

3. Household items are Very Expensive. Things like pillows, sheets, kitchenware, plastic bins, shower curtains, etc. are extremely expensive in Ecuador. We were really shocked to see this because everyone told us how cheap it was! A plastic bucket could easily cost $5 or $6. That really adds up when you are buying for an entire home!

4. Superfoods and Supplements are Extremely Expensive. So much for the cheap cost of living! Once you get outside of the inexpensive rent, things can start to become expensive in Ecuador. While some superfoods and herbal supplements are available at the Juice Factory, they are really expensive, up to 3x the normal price. Your best bargain at the Juice Factory is the green juice shot made from wheatgrass, kale, parsley, fennel, celery and whatever other local organic greens are in season. Dennis, the owner of the Juice Factory, is a super-nice guy and very helpful by the way. It’s simply difficult to find a good source of organic raw nuts, seeds and dried basic raw food essentials.

5. Difficult to Find Work/Make Money. This is really a problem for a lot of gringos that don’t have an outside source of income. We saw many people trying to sell homemade raw food cookies, cakes and chocolates and hippie jewelry as a way to make money. The high cost of raw food ingredients makes the profit margin for food very low. Your best bet is to arrive with money or have a way to make money outside of Ecuador.

The town’s main square in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

6. Isolated. That can be a pro or a con depending on the individual! It’s a 1-hour drive to the nearest town, Loja, where you can find a large supermarket and the bigger shops. In Vilcabamba itself, there is really nothing but a few cafes and small shops selling essential items.

Not much to do in downtown Vilcabamba…it can be good but definitely isolating

7. Weird-vibes from certain Expat Locals can bring you down. As with any small town, there is a lot of gossip, rumors and even jealousy between gringos. This has a lot to do with #6 (isolated). If you’re prepared for this, you will be fine!

8. Increase in local crime, break-ins and robberies. This goes slightly against #5 of the Pros, but there I compare Ecuador to other countries in Central and South America. You are not likely to get robbed at gunpoint in Vilcabamba, and that is re-assuring. But, burglaries are on the rise. We heard of many break-ins while we were there; most occured while the residents were out to dinner and usually laptops, electronics and cash were stolen. Just before we arrived, there were at least 2 Western women who had been raped (in different incidents). It’s important to be careful. This is one of the main reasons why we chose to pay more money to live in a gated community. Definitely look at the security of your house before you decide to rent.

Vilcabamba can still be a great place to live and a positive experience as long as you stay street-smart and take advantage of all the good things it has to offer.

A lot of people ask me what I thought about Vilcabamba. Many young raw food, vegan and vegetarian couples and families consider moving there because of the ability to live relatively cheaply and still have access to organic food (most of the health-oriented people in Vilcabamba grow their own vegetables, fruits and greens). It’s not easy to describe my experience to others because everyone has different expectations when they travel to a new country to start a new life.

The house had a main living area, 2 separate bedrooms and an upstairs office/loft

Quiet bedroom and lots of nature, ideal for a long water fast…this place was really a perfect detox retreat!

This was the upstairs loft which I used as an office. Great place for meditation or yoga as well!

I really liked Vilcabamba for the few months that I was there, but long-term, I don’t think it’s the place for me, at least not at this stage in my life. I feel a very strong need and pull to be in the mainstream still, to help people understand how to read food labels and look for hidden additives in food, to teach more about raw food and detox, and to show that you don’t need to live in the faraway mountains in order to be healthy. Maybe in a few more years this will change, maybe not. Stayed tuned for more updates, because you will know when I know!

One thing I would definitely recommend is to visit a place first and try to live there for at least 6 months before you seriously considering moving there permanently. Not everyone is able to handle the “mañana” approach in Ecuador (also known as the “mai pen rai” style in Thailand). When we take our Western mind with us, even when we want to “get away,” we may still expect the post office to deliver on time or for the store to open when it says it should or for the correct item to be ordered and delivered. Well, things just don’t happen like that in more relaxed places in the world.

If you decide to go, join the Vilcabamba Facebook page to search for houses to rent and ask any questions to the local expat community.

Top Pick for Vilcabamba

Be sure to check out Elena’s Raw Food Lunch in her private home, a monthly event offered directly from Elena and her husband Vladamir, 2 of the nicest people you will meet in all of Ecuador, and even in the world! Elena has a passion for raw food recipes like no other and every month she offers a new and unique raw food menu for lunch. It’s well worth it to enjoy her creations, and a great way to meet other local raw food people too.

Elena’s Raw Food Lunch is amazing!! Here is her raw pizza with cashew “cheese”

Elena’s raw cacao and coconut cake…this cake alone is a reason to visit Vilca!!

So is Vilcabamba a real Valley of Longevity? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. According to the book The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer by Dan Buettner, Vilcabamba did not make the cut for having a high number of centenarians (people who live over 100) because they don’t have the proper documentation to verify birth records for age verification. Personally, I didn’t see that many healthy old Ecuadorians. Sadly, many of the locals appeared to be overweight and more on the unhealthy side of life.

Beautiful mountains and vistas in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

A word of warning about the salt in Vilcabamba and all of Ecuador/South America for that matter: There is a non-caking agent in the salt called Yellow Prussiate of Soda (YPS) or E535 or 535. This chemical additive can cause an allergic reaction in people resulting in an extremely itchy rash, restless sleep, hot flashes and irritability. I saw many expats in Vilcabamba suffering, especially with rashes. Salt is used in all restaurants (including “healthy” restaurants) contains this additive. I found people very unaware and even ran into problems with one local expat who was selling his own “higher quality” salt that caused a terrible reaction for me; still he swore it was clean. Upon further questioning, he revealed that his product has never actually been tested. In short, do not trust homemade expat labels and check the ingredient list on all other salt. Fluoride is also added to salt in South America so most people do try to avoid buying it, but I did not meet one person who knew the dangers associated with YPS, in my opinion, the much more dangerous ingredient. Stick with Himalayan salt or buy the equivalent large pink salt from Bolivia which can be found in supermarkets in La Paz for $2 per kilo.

We have nice memories of Vilcabamba….thank you!!

Vilcabamba is definitely not for everyone, but it’s still be a good place for a raw food community, and I hope to see it thrive!

More on Traveling Raw:

Think your Mediterranean Green Olives are a ‘safe, clean’ food? Think again!

I continue to try to dispel the myth that I hear over and over again when people tell me, “But I don’t eat processed foods” or “I NEVER eat Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)” or “the veggie restaurant I go to doesn’t use any additives in their food.”

What I hope to teach is that we have to be responsible for what we put in our mouths.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Ribonucleotide, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate are all flavor enhancers which add a salty, savory taste to foods. They overstimulate the taste in food, making a bland food taste exceptionally good. They also overstimulate the brain, and are known as “excito-toxins”. They can be listed either by the food additive name or by the food additive number (sometimes called ‘E numbers’): 621, 635, 631 and 627.

Legally, these food additives can also be ‘disguised’ in terms such as spices, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavors, flavoring, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed vegetable oil, torula yeast, autolyzed yeast, sodium caseinate, and monocalcium glutamate.

Of course, these additives can also be listed by their real name, as in the case of the examples below. But would you think that a simple can or jar of olives would contain flavor enhancers to chemically alter the taste? Well, they can!

In this blog post, we look at Mediterranean Green Olives, all exported from Spain. I found these particular items in a supermarket in Bolivia, South America, but you will recognize these brands in any supermarket in the world.

Ybarra Green Olives, a product of Spain, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

In the first example, we look at Ybarra Green Olives stuffed with Jalapeños (or Aceitunas Verdes Rellenas in Spanish). Looking right on the list of ingredients, you will clearly see Monosodium Glutamate (or Glutamato Monosodico in Spanish). Looking on the Ybarra website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. However, I did find the following statement:

“We care about our consumers’ health. That’s why we include nutritional labels on all our products to communicate, in a transparent way, nutritional information and ingredients of each one of them.”

Well, I do thank them for that!

Carbonell Spanish Green Olives with Pepper, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

In the next example, we look at Carbonell Spanish Green Olives with Paprikou, or Pepper. Again, right on the list of ingredients it is easy to see Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). On the Carbonell website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. Interestingly enough, I did find the following 2 statements:

“Carbonell olives with Pimento Pepper paste are allergen-free” and “Carbonell black olives are allergen-free.”

There was no mention of the Green Olive with Pepper, Monosodium Glutamate or any other allergen information on the website.

Fragata Green Olives with Pimento, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Finally, we look at Fragata Spanish Green Olives stuffed with Pimento. On the list of ingredients, we can quickly see Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). On the Fragata website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. (Are we seeing a pattern here?)

What do you want to see on the list of ingredients?

Ripe olives, water, salt.

When buying olives in a jar or can, try to stay away from flavored olives (like lemon, garlic or pimento). Anything flavored is much more likely to contain MSG. Plain is your safest bet.

If you see the word “spices” or “natural flavorings” on the ingredient list of olives, don’t buy it! In the USA, I find that food companies are a bit more savy, and they use other ingredients which already contain MSG and them hide it in the term “spices.” All legal, of course.

What are the best olives to buy?

The best olives to buy are fresh, organic olives cured naturally with fresh lemon, fresh garlic or fresh herbs. My favorite place to buy fresh green or black olives is at the Friday organic market outside of Shuk Hanamal at Tel Aviv Port, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Once you taste a real fresh olive, you will quickly understand the inferior quality and flavor from a jarred or canned olive full of chemical additives.

A “clean diet” must be MSG-free!

All of this information may seem overwhelming at first, but isn’t it time to learn the truth? Especially if on your “clean and safe” diet, you are still experiencing migraines, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, restless leg syndrome, dizziness, vertigo, irritability, moodiness, depression, sensitivity to sound and light and/or a general feeling of malaise and lack of energy?

Even small amounts of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in the diet, as little as 3-4 times per week, can make a person symptomatic for the entire week. Imagine how someone may feel when they are unknowingly eating MSG 3-4 times per day!

Not everyone will experience the same exact symptoms, because flavor enhancers like MSG will over-stimulate the brain in individuals in different ways, depending on their body chemistry and sensitivity. Look at the rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD and autism absolutely sky-rocketing every year and compare that to the amounts of flavor enhancers (or excito-toxins) hidden in foods and in the diet, and it will quickly become apparent that we are facing an epidemic with the chemical additives in our food.

Solution:

Always look at the ingredients before making a decision to buy. It’s takes less than 30 seconds, and over time, you will know what brands are safe and what brands are not. In restaurants, you always have to be careful, because waitstaff and even chefs are simply not trained on the level of food additive allergies and intolerances. In restaurants, I only order salads with no dressing and a side of lemon or lime. If there are canned or jarred olives on the salad, I don’t eat them.

More on Food Additives:

Top 10 Secrets for Good Health and Longevity: How to Create Your Personal ‘Blue Zone’

If you want to know the best way to do something, you find a successful person and ask them how they did it, right?

That’s exactly what researchers have done in search of the healthiest places in the world to live, also known as ‘Blue Zones,’ a term coined by demographers who started mapping out areas of the world where people live measurably longer lives. Two noteworthy books of interest have been written on the subject: The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer by Dan Buettner and Healthy at 100 by John Robbins. I’ve recently found myself drawn more and more to explore what secrets our elders hold in finding the real truth to an anti-aging diet, or a longevity diet or a ‘youthgevity’ diet…probably terms that our elders at 90 years of age and older have never even heard of!

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer

Especially in answering countless questions from workshops and talks around the world, a large portion which involve questions such as ‘what’s the BEST food for (insert dis-ease name here)’ or ‘what’s the BEST supplement I need to take’ or ‘what food will help me (insert goal here: lose weight, be happy, feel great, clear skin, gain energy, cure constipation, improve eyesight, increase fertility, reduce anxiety, etc. etc. etc.),’ I can see from a wider perspective that, well, basically, people are just not getting it! No one food creates disease and no one food cures it either! We have to start looking at the diet and lifestyle as a whole to start getting the results we want.

We all know that no one can eat a handful of watercress and become instantly cured!

I hope you can agree with me there. People don’t want to hear that they may have to make long-term changes to their diet and lifestyle in order to get long-term results, especially in this fast-fix world that’s programmed to appease all instant gratification requests. And, if you try the ‘magic pill method’ by taking every new Dr. Oz must-have supplement, after one year of watching Dr. Oz every day you will need to take 365 supplements per day in order to keep up! Clearly, that doesn’t seem like the best approach to real health!

So, what is it? How do we find the key to Longevity and Happiness?

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

Healthy at 100 discusses several of the more known but perhaps under-documented world Blue Zones such as the Hunza Valley in Pakistan and Vilcabamba, Ecuador (where I am currently staying for 2 months by the way!) and also discusses more well-documented Blue Zones such as Okinawa, Japan. When I say ‘documented,’ that means being able to prove the person’s identity and being able to verify their date of birth with local birth records, so we can say with absolutely certainty that the centenarian (a person who lives over 100) who lives there is really a centenarian.

Blue Zone vs. SAD Diet

The main difference between a Blue Zone diet and a Standard American Diet (SAD) is that the Blue Zone cultures eat no refined sugar and no refined carbohydrates; and instead eat plenty of whole grains and many vegetables grown locally and in season, and they incorporate healing foods and superfoods into their diet naturally. According to John Robbins, the author of Heathy at 100, “Vegetables play a prominent role in the Hunzan diet, particularly greens, including mustard greens, spinach and lettuce, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, potatoes, and radishes, an assortment of beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, and other sprouted legumes. They cultivate many kinds of herbs for both culinary and medicinal purposes, including mint and thyme. They grow flaxseeds, and rare is the meal that does not contain freshly ground flaxmeal in one form or another. In Hunza, a large part of the diet is eaten uncooked.”

He goes on to explain, “In the summer, as much as 80% of the food is eaten in its natural state. Vegetables in season are picked just prior to consumption and almost always eaten raw. Fresh corn on the bob, for example, is never cooked. In the winter, Hunzans soak lentils, beans and peas in water for several days, then lay them out on wet cloths in the sun. They are eaten raw when they begin to sprout.”

The view from my house in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, an ‘unofficial’ Blue Zone

Exercise also plays a huge role in the anti-aging process. Every area that was researched highlighted daily exercise as an integral part of life, and the people know that this is one of their secrets to vibrant health. “So great is the recognition of the healing power of walking to visit a friend that there is a saying in Vilcabamba that each of us has two ‘doctors’ – the left leg and the right leg,” writes John Robbins.

What’s happening in the good ‘ol USA

  • How many of us numb ourselves with cigarettes, tranquilizers, drugs, alcohol, or unhealthful diets in an effort to escape how isolated we feel?
  • How many of us become chronic workaholics or become preoccupied by other unhealthy obsessions in an attempt to avoid the inner barrenness caused by the breakdown of relationships, family and community?

He adds, “Many of the traditional Okinawan proverbs about eating sound like phrases you might find on the wall of a health food stores in the West. One such proverb translates as “Food should nourish life – this is the best medicine.” And another: “One who eats whole food will be strong and healthy.” If North Americans lived more like the elder Okinawans, we would have to close 80% of the coronary care units and 1/3 of the cancer wards in the United States, and a lot of nursing homes would also be out of business.”

Hmmm, that sounds pretty good to me!

Top 5 Secrets for Longevity and Anti-Aging from Healthy at 100

    1. Eat many colors. Foods’ natural colors are not just treats for the eye but also signs of important nutrients such as antioxidants.

    2. When you crave something crunchy, try raw vegetables or nuts instead of salty chips.

    3. Avoid heating oils to the smoking point. For the fat in your diet, eat walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados and other nuts and seeds.

    4. Shun trans-fatty acids. Stay away from margarine, vegetable shortening, commercial pastries, deep-fried food, and most prepared snacks and convenience foods.

    5. Don’t pollute your body. Don’t eat junk food. Go to your kitchen cupboard and get rid of any food products that no longer serve your potential to be radiantly fit and healthy.

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer

Now, let’s look at the Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer, and see what Dan Buettner, the author, discovered after traveling to 5 current and documented world Blue Zones: Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, the Seventh-Day Adventists community in Southern California USA, and Ikaria in Greece.

“Good Years” is a Very Important Concept

In the book, Robert Kane point out that, “there are two issues here. How long can I live? The other is: How well can I live? And those are different questions. Living an extra two years on life support may not necessarily be your goal. Yes, “Good Years” is a very important concept.”

“You’ve got a bunch of people who are professing to be physicians or scientists, who are saying that they can stop or reverse the aging process. I will tell you that real scientists cannot do such a thing, so what makes the public think that these people can?” asks Tom Perls.

Things that Successful Centenarians Don’t Do

They don’t get plastic surgery or botox i.e. get unnecessary surgeries which can weaken their immune system; They don’t watch excessive amounts of television; They don’t complain, gossip or criticize others; They don’t worry or stress about the small things; They don’t overeat. In Japan, they say “Hara hachi bu” before each meal. This is a Confucian-inspired saying that means “Eat until your are 80 percent full.”

Things that Successful Centenarians Do

They eat natural, whole and pure foods high in flavonoids and natural anti-oxidants; They eat simple, non-processed local foods; They exercise as part of their daily routine, usually walking long distances (more than 2 miles and up to 6 miles) every day; They incorporate healing foods like turmeric, ginger and mugwort into their daily diet; They maintain a sense of purpose, keep a sense of humor and they have a positive outlook on life; They keep the family unit together, taking care of elders within the family even at the later stages in life (that’s the power of love!).

Top 5 Secrets for Longevity and Anti-Aging from The Blue Zones Book

    1. Eat more plants (i.e. leafy greens)! While not all centenarians are vegetarians, they all eat a very high vegetable and fruit-based diet with variety in whole nuts, seeds and grains. If they eat meat or fish, it’s only on occasion and not in the daily diet. They also eat simple meals with only whole, natural ingredients.

    2. Stay active. Get outside and walk every day. Work on a small outdoor garden. Getting regular, low-intensity exercise like daily walks appears to help reduce your chances of having heart disease and certain cancers.

    3. Have a sense of purpose and keep hard at work. Successful centenarians feel needed and want to contribute to a greater good. They enjoy physical work all of their lives (i.e. no couch potatoes!!).

    4. Drink fresh herbal teas made from peppermint, oregano, rosemary, chamomile or sage on a daily basis. Add healing foods like fresh turmeric and ginger to your diet. This helps your body detoxify on a regular basis, naturally!

    5. Take time to rest and fast occasionally. The Seventh-Day Adventists practice a weekly Sabbath or day of rest to spend time with the family and re-connect with nature. In Greece, The Ikarians traditionally follow the Greek Orthodox Christian calendar which calls for periodic fasting throughout the year.

Caloric restriction -a type of fasting that cuts about 30 percent of calories out of the normal diet -is the only proven way to slow the aging process in mammals.

How to Create your ‘Personal Blue Zone’

    1. Eat a high-raw food organic and nutrient-dense diet.
    2. Minimize stress. Laugh More. Enjoy each day!
    3. Exercise daily – get out and move.
    4. Form friendships and meaningful relationships.
    5. Have a sense of purpose with your life.

Or, as Michael Pollan said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Your Happiness and Longevity Matters!

So there you have it! Everything this website and my life’s work is all about will help you to lead a healthy happy, long enjoyable disease-free life! Let’s keep supporting each other on our journeys enjoying good health and a happy life!

More on Longevity:

Reconnect with Nature in Guatemala with Fresh Juice, Raw Food, Mayan Ruins & Volcanoes

Guatemala is a country full of culture, colorful handicrafts, Mayan ruins and lots of nature and it’s a great place to visit for a health holiday! I recently spend 1 month in Guatemala and I’m going to share my top-picks, favorite restaurants and must-see things to do.

Central Courtyard in Antigua, Guatemala

Most people fly into Guatemala City when they arrive to Guatemala. Since the quaint, picturesque town of Antigua is only 45 minutes from Guatemala City, it’s a good idea to take a taxi or arrange hotel pickup directly from the airport to Antigua and start your adventures there (it’s about $30 for a private taxi). Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala and is full of Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets and many courtyard gardens behind the ancient walled streets. This is a good place to spend 4-5 days so you have time to take a tour, explore the local market, visit a nearby volcano or Mayan village, soak in natural hot springs, enjoy some of the restaurants and maybe even schedule a massage. Now that sounds like a holiday!

Old and beautiful downtown Antigua

Guatemalan decoration, handicraft, style, love!

Inside Pitaya Juice Bar in Antigua

My favorite morning stop in Antigua was at Pitaya Juice Bar, across from the Antigua Gym. It’s a small but very cute place and they serve fresh juice or superfood smoothies with moringa, ginseng, flax or wheatgrass, for a healthy start to the day (Pitaya Juice Bar: 6ta Calle Poniente, #26). For lunch, I frequented Sabo Rico, an outdoor garden restaurant serving salads, juices and smoothies in a gorgeously romantic courtyard (Sabo Rico: 6a avenida sur #7).

Dinners were typically made at the hostel using fresh raw foods bought at the local market and raw apple cider vinegar or coconut oil from the main health food store in town, Organica (5 calle poniente No. 6, just 1 block from the main square). Organica also has a small range of gluten-free foods for sale. Everything in Antigua is walkable which makes it very nice as a tourist.

My top picks for things to do in Antigua

Walking Tour with Elizabeth Bell

Definitely take Elizabeth Bell’s walking tour which runs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm and meets at the central fountain in the main square. Elizabeth’s knowledge and enthusiasm over all things Antigua and Guatemala is absolutely amazing, impressive and inspiring. This was absolutely a highlight of Antigua form me; the $20 was well spent for the tour.

Santo Domingo Hotel’s restaurant on the hill: Santo Domingo del Cerro

If you plan your day correctly, you can continue on your own at the end of Elizabeth’s tour at the Santo Domingo Hotel in downtown Antigua and from there, take the hotel’s free shuttle up the hill to their restaurant, the Santo Domingo del Cerro. Most likely you’ll be hungry after the tour and in daylight hours, you can enjoy all their unusual outdoor art sculptures and take in the views of surrounding volcanoes while enjoying a nice healthy salad. I had a delicious apple and watercress salad and was very happy to see that on the menu as a reasonable raw food choice. For anyone looking for a nice place to do work online (to write blog posts or update twitter feeds a-hem), the Santo Domingo del Cerro has a very nice terrace with free wifi, so you can spend the rest of your afternoon there and catch up on some work!

Wednesday at the Kawilal Hot Springs

Every Wednesday, the Kawilal Hot Springs and Spa offers a free shuttle that leaves at 9am from the Cathedral (it returns back to Antigua at 3pm). It’s a 1-hour ride to the hot springs so the free Wednesday shuttle is really the best option for tourists. The spa offers different packages with or without massage and it’s a bit expensive ($85 for hot springs and massage) for what it is and for Central American prices. For that reason, I would recommend a cheaper package using only the hot springs. The pools are still great and I fully believe in the healing powers of natural hot springs, so I personally seek them out wherever I go! This is a nice break from Antigua and a good option for a quiet afternoon soaking in the natural healing energy of thermal waters.

Outside Antigua: Tikal, Semuc Champey & Lake Atitlan

Tikal National Park

If you have the time, take an overnight bus to the northern part of Guatemala where you will find the ancient Mayan city and UNESCO World Heritage Site at Tikal National Park. We managed to find an honest tour company to book our bus tickets directly across from Pitaya Juice Bar. I don’t remember the name, but the staff wore Lonely Plant t-shirts and we received the correct price for the bus (not always an easy thing to achieve in Guatemala!). Speaking of which, be sure to book your accommodation before arriving to Flores; otherwise you will be absolutely mobbed by booking agents trying to lure you into other hotels and various park tours. We booked online in advance directly with Los Amigos Hostel, and we arranged our Tikal sunrise tour and onward bus tickets inside the hostel, at the very back, during office hours only. Flores is known for thieves operating as tour guides preying on the weary traveler arriving at 5am; we heard more than a few stories of this during our brief 2 days there. So be careful!

A great option for your first day in Flores is to rent kayaks at the hostel and paddle around the lake. It’s a wonderful feeling to get out on the water and to just glide with every stroke closer to the other side, then power-paddle back. Get to sleep well and truly early, because the the sunrise tours leaves at 4am! The tour takes you into the park to sit atop one of the Mayan temples and experience ‘the jungle waking up’ with sounds of howler monkeys, toucans and other birds. It’s great! A few more hours to explore the park gets you back to the hostel in early afternoon.

Ancient Mayan Civilization at Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park, in the jungles of northern Guatemala

Imagine the sounds of tropical birds and howler monkeys all around you…amazing!

Semuc Champey

The next day, you can head to Semuc Champey, about 6-8 hours by minibus from Flores. It’s not as comfortable to travel by minibus but there is no big bus that goes to Semuc Champey. Once you get there, you will see that it is well worth the effort! Semuc Champey is a gorgeous set of natural limestone bridges that’s located deep in a mountain gorge and covered with crystal blue-green water. You have to see it to really appreciate how magnificent Mother Nature can be. You only need one day to see the park, but many people stay at either one of the hostels for a few days just to relax and well, mainly to party. The backpacker party thing wasn’t my scene so I only stayed 2 days to see the park and do the cave tour, and I continued on my way to Lake Atilan.

Semuc Champey…simply amazing natural wonder!

Reconnecting with nature…is healthy bliss! At Semuc Champey

In awe of Mother Nature’s beauty at Semuc Champey

Save the Best for Last: Lake Atitlan

My best advice is exactly that: Save Lake Atitlan for the end of your Guatemala travels and take some time to rest, relax eat good food, or even rent a house along the lake and plan to do your own juice or water fast while there. Lake Atitlan is a popular destination for yoga, healing, raw food, meditation and spiritual retreats due to its magical energy field. It’s claimed to be one of the worlds’ energy vortexes, alongside the great pyramids and Macchu Picchu. The lake itself is surrounded by volcanoes, and when we were there, San Pedro volcano was visibly active, which was just amazing to see!

Beauty and nature at Lake Atitlan

Local fruit and vegetable market

Many of the health-enthusiast tourists stay in the village of San Marcos on the lake. In my opinion, it was a bit too hippie and we searched for something a bit more scenic and peaceful, with good views of the lake, good internet and decent sense of security. We found exactly that at Sakcari Hotel in San Pedro. While not cheap by Guatemala standards at $40 per night, Sakcari was everything we were looking for – it was quiet and on the lake with incredible views from the room and a real feeling of nature. Nearby in the village, we could get fresh fruit, fresh juice and smoothies every day. There is also a great health food store in San Pedro; it’s small but well-stocked with herbs, supplements, natural body products and some dried organic nuts and seeds. What more in life does one need?

A nice place to contemplate life, on the shores of Lake Atitlan

Fresh air, views of nature…this in and of itself is a cleanse!

Isla Verde Eco-Resort with its famed ‘slow-cooking’

We checked out some other spots and also looked at a few houses and apartments to rent on Lake Atitlan because we considered staying longer, up to 1-2 months. After a good amount of searching, there is only one place I would recommend and that’s the PasaCap property, owned by Pierre, a Frenchman living on the lake for more than 15 years. Pasacap has very modern and clean furnished apartments with perfect lake views on a secure property with a private dock to access the lake. We seriously considered renting an apartment here for 1-2 months so I could do a long water fast, but unfortunately the units were fully booked at the time and I didn’t want to wait a month for availability. I would definitely consider returning at a future date, and securing the booking in advance online. To have the chance to do a water fast on a major world energy vortex….well that’s just ‘Wow!’

There were a few other highlights on the lake for healthy eating and raw food, both in the village of Santa Cruz. The first, Isla Verde Resort, is a beautiful place with a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the lake. They are known for their ‘slow cooking,’ but we found that they may have taken this term a bit too far…by adding ‘slow ordering,’ ‘slow service,’ ‘slow preparation,’ and ‘slow to settle your bill.’ In short, the entire experience was SLOW. But, they did have some nice juices, salads and a great homemade kombucha drink that is worth waiting to order, receive and pay for!

View of Lake Atitlan from Isla Verde Resort

Mayan Cacao Energy Balls at Villa Sumaya

The other place is also in Santa Cruz, but in the opposite direction from the dock. When you exit the boat taxi, walk to the right and follow the maze of planks and boardwalks (which is really fun by the way!); after about 30 minutes you will arrive to Villa Sumaya.

Villa Sumaya is a yoga and meditation retreat center and it’s a great place to consider staying for a few nights if your budget allows. Otherwise, do what we did and visit during the day, enjoy a delicious fruit smoothie, sample their raw cacao superfood snacks and take a few raw energy balls home to nibble on later.

Whatever extra time you have in Guatemala, definitely spend it at Lake Atitlan. The views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes change with each day’s cloud formations and sun, a real-life painting waiting for you to slow down and simply enjoy its natural canvas. It’s a place that really grows on you after awhile.

Quiet time in nature is good for the soul

Safety in Guatemala

This is something worthy of noting and needs to be addressed for your personal travel safety. While absolutely nothing happened to use during our 4 weeks in Guatemala, we did meet a few tourists who had been robbed, mugged or ripped off. Some important things to remember: Do not show your iPhone or smartphone in public areas; Do not wear expensive jewelry; Carry a purse that hangs across the body from shoulder-to-hip and not on one shoulder only; Do not carry valuables at night; Do not carry a lot of cash at any time; Ask around at several travel agents to compare prices before booking anything. Again, we had nothing happen to us, but we heard quite a few stories. Personally, I always lock all valuables in my suitcase in the hotel room at all times. The temptation for a cleaning lady or other hotel staff to look around is just too great, so why take the risk? Once you get into the habit of doing that, it becomes very easy and it’s much ‘safer’ than a front desk safe where other staff may also have a key. You can definitely enjoy Guatemala without any problems if you follow these simple safety tips. With so much to see and enjoy; it’s a country worthy of a visit!

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Panama as a health destination? Warning about pesticides in fruits and vegetables

After 2 amazing weeks in Costa Rica, we decided to head south to Panama to see what it had to offer. With the same Caribbean beaches, mountains and tropical landscape, I expected a cheaper and less touristy version of Costa Rica. I wanted to explore what raw food and/or detox options were available and thought I would get some nice time in nature and sun to boot. It seemed like a good idea…or so I thought.

Ajonjoli, Raw Food in Panama City

Everything started out great when we arrived to Panama City and stayed in an awesome funky little hotel, the Lemon Inn, run by 2 young Panamanian brothers. What a treat to get a modern clean hotel room after paying so much for accommodation in Costa Rica. Thanks to one of my twitter followers, I managed to find Ajonjoli on my first day in the city – a health food store and raw food meal service offering home delivery with a different daily raw food meal. I was very impressed to see such a service in Panama, and the food was great!

More time in the city allowed us to explore the old part of the city, Casco Viejo, which I loved…and as we walked through the streets I could almost feel I was in Paris or Belgium. Well, except for the armed policemen on every corner. At least you feel much safer in Panama than in other Central American countries. In the afternoon, we took a taxi out to see the Panama Canal and were lucky to arrive just as one of the container ships was moving through the docks. It’s definitely an example of some fine engineering.

Organic Raw Food Lunch from Ajonjoli in Panama City, a safe and yummy choice!

Casco Viejo in Panama City

Panama City at night, view from Casco Viejo

Panama Canal, Panama City

After 2 days in the city, we headed out to the mountain town Boquete, famed as one of the top retirement destinations for Americans. We thought it would be an organized town with some nice restaurants and cafes, but were surprised to find what looked like an abandoned town from the Wild West with local Panamanian women in traditional dress and lots of SUVs with grey-haired gringo elders. Lots of SUVs. There seemed to be no interaction between the expat retiree gringo and the locals; in fact we met many Americans who lived there for 5 years or more and spoke no Spanish. We found that to be very strange and I realized that this was not a cohesive community. But our worst discovery by far was in the fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and veggie market in Boquete, Panama

I don’t think I want to know what’s in this truck!

Reaction to Pesticides in Fruit and Vegetables

After buying fresh cabbage, cucumbers, tomato, onion, papaya and banana at the local market we were excited to go back to the hostel to make some yummy raw food creations. That night, I developed a horrible headache (something I never get)…and for days I had headaches, felt tired and even had a burning sensation in my throat, like a chemical burn. It finally occurred to me that it might be a pesticide reaction from the food. It didn’t take me long to make some Google discoveries about pesticide use in Panama and how the local farmers are using carbofuran, a very strong pesticide which is currently banned in Canada and the EU (in addition to many other banned pesticides as well). This was my first ever reaction to a pesticide as such, but it really scared me, especially the burning in my throat. We did not use any olive oil, salt or spice of any kind and still, I had horrible headaches daily. This discovery wound up crossing off Panama from my list of tourist destinations, well at least for anyone who is health-oriented or chemically sensitive. We did our best to make the most of the time we had, but our overall morale and feeling about Panama remained low for the remainder of our stay.

How to clean pesticides out of fruits and vegetables

For anyone who is traveling to Panama, I highly recommend bring Activated Charcoal Powder to pull the chemical pesticides out of your produce. This is how it’s done: Fill a bucket with water and add 2 tsp. of loose “activated charcoal powder” (in Thailand this is sold in health food stores specially as a vegetable cleaner). Soak all fruits and veggies for 10 minutes in the charcoal/water mixture, then rinse. Be sure to peel all vegetables before eating, even tomatoes. This will significantly reduce your exposure to these harmful pesticides and should minimize any reaction.

Please note: I have seen some websites that wrongfully promote Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) as a way to pull pesticides from produce. While GSE is great for killing bugs and harmful bacteria, it does NOT pull pesticides out of fruit and vegetables. Charcoal is an absorbing agent, like a sponge; while GSE is a cleaner of bacteria. Ideally, if you have the time and patience, you should first soak your produce in a Charcoal/Water mixture for 10 minutes, rinse, and then soak in 12-15 drops of GSE/water mixture for 10 minutes to clean any bacteria and eggs.

Boquete and Bocas del Toro

We decided to stay a few days in Boquete and take advantage of the one good thing we found: a 1-week membership to The Haven Spa; for $50 USD per person we had access to the gym, swimming pool and far infrared sauna for the week…so our daily ritual was to leave the backpacker hostel at about 11am each day and spend the whole afternoon relaxing in the quiet nature of the Spa. It was a bit strange that all the other members seemed to be 60 years old or greater and on most days I felt like we were in a re-make of the Ron Howard movie ‘Cocoon,’ but as tired weary travelers, we were most grateful for the tranquility of the place and I really enjoyed my daily far-infrared treatment, know to be a great detoxifier of heavy metals and chemicals (needed even moreso due to the circumstances!).

The Haven Spa, Boquete Panama

Exercise pool at The Haven Spa, Boquete Panama

From Boquete, we ventured north to the Caribbean islands at Bocas del Toro, a famous destination in Panama for beach, sun and nature. A highlight for me was searching for red frogs on the island of Bastimentos and finding them ourselves, without a guide, and in nature…it was a small discovery but it felt so cool to find such a beautiful creature! Overall. I found the availability of raw food to be very bad on the islands. The grocery stores are owned by a Chinese mafia and the vegetables are black with mold and the lettuce and cabbage are wilted (and with heavy pesticides to boot). We initially thought to spend a few weeks in the islands but after a few days, we felt starved for real food and fresh produce so we headed back to Panama City and flew north to Guatemala.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Taking the boat from Bocas to Bastimentos Island

Finding the elusive red frogs on the island of Bastimentos

Bastimentos Island…beautiful, but no decent raw food!

Poor vegetable choice in Bocas del Toro

My suggestion for Panama is this:

Definitely check out Panama City as it is an interesting place and there is plenty of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. From what I read, the villages are using more potent mixtures of pesticides, and most likely, no one is regulating how much or what mixtures should be used. More mass-produced supplies in Panama City should be better (and I did NOT react to any produce in Panama City; only in Boquete and Bocas). That said, I did find a local expat, Kirk Floeck, owner of Organic Harvest, who is currently working on an at-home delivery service of organic fruit and vegetables for Panama City, so if you do live there, contact him for details: kfloeck [at] hotmail [dot] com. Also, sign up for the at-home delivery of vegan, raw food, gluten-free meals with Ajonjoli, another great healthy option for people in Panama City:

Ajonjoli
FB page: http://www.facebook.com/ajonjolinatural
Calle 65, San Francisco, Panama City, Panama.
telephone +507 394-8024

There are better choices for organic raw food, vegan and gluten-free health holidays in Central America in Costa Rica or even Guatemala.

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International Directory of Detox, Juice Fast, Healing Centers and Retreats

From Food Matters

Detox, Juice Fasting Retreat and Healing Center Directory

World Destinations for Detox, Juice Fasting, Healing Clinics

USA and Canada

Gerson Institute – San Diego, California
Gerson Therapy is tailored to treat cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis using natural treatment methods such as organic foods, juicing and detoxification.
www.gerson.org

Hippocrates Health Institute – Florida
The Hippocrates Health Institute provides a tranquil haven for peace and health restoration. Guests are treated with enzyme-rich vegan food, educational classes and exercise facilities.
www.hippocratesinst.org

An Oasis of Healing – Arizona
An Oasis of Healing offers natural options for treating cancer, whilst promoting immune strengthening and health restoration.
www.anoasisofhealing.com

The Kushi Institute – Massachusetts
The Kushi Institute is an international expert authority on the macrobiotic lifestyle for health and well-being, offering residential educational programs.
www.kushiinstitute.org

Creative Health Institute – Michigan
The Creative Health Institute is a learning facility designed to help people reclaim health through raw food nutrition and detoxification.
www.creativehealthinstitute.com

Holistic Medical Clinic of the Carolinas – North Carolina
This holistic medical facility uses combined conventional and natural therapies to provide integrated mind-body-spirit healing for a wide variety of diseases.
www.holisticmedclinic.com

Optimum Health Institute – San Diego; Austin
The Optimum Health Institute aims to rejuvenate physical, emotional and spiritual health through vegetarian raw food, juicing, lymphatic exercise, colon hydrotherapy and prayer.
www.optimumhealth.org

The Issels Foundation – Arizona
The Issels Foundation offers alternative therapies for cancer and chronic illnesses, with the dual aim of treating disease and preventing its recurrence.
www.issels.com

Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center – Arizona
Under the guidance of world-renowned health and spiritual practitioners, The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center is a healing haven for a wide range of diseases. Expert teaching on raw food nutrition, spiritual growth and natural living is also available.
www.treeoflife.nu

Rudolf Steiner Health Center
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
This program is designed for ambulatory individuals with chronic illnesses, or anyone seeking a restorative regimen. The Health Center follows the Anthroposophic medical guidelines of Austrian scientist-philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
www.steinerhealth.org

Weimar Institute – Weimar, California
The Weimer Institute offers nutrition and lifestyle guidance, imbued with a strong spiritual focus, to remedy disease.
www.weimar.org

Oxygen Life Spa – Texas
The Oxygen Life Spa offers a spiritual space for healing through the use of Ozone saunas, Chi Tables and Tesla Coil Photon Generators.
www.oxygenlifespa.com

Rest Of Your Life Health Retreat – Texas
Under doctor guidance, guests may fast and detoxify in a remote country environment. Education about natural hygiene and raw-food healthy living is also provided.
www.roylretreat.com

Yoga Oasis – Hawaii
The Yoga Oasis offers intensive yoga and detoxification programs, with food preparation classes and nature excursions also available.
www.yogaoasis.org

Ann Wigmore Foundation – San Fidel, New Mexico
An educational and healing retreat, the Ann Wigmore foundation prescribes live, organic vegan foods and natural detoxification methods for health and recovery.
www.wigmore.org

Dr Gonzalez – New York
This clinic is headed by medical doctors who offer treatments for cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies and chronic fatigue.
www.dr-gonzalez.com

The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning – Kansas
This clinic founded by Dr Hugh Riordan uses the approach of finding the cause of illness and to correct it rather than just treating the symptoms.
www.brightspot.org

Canada

New Life Retreat – Ontario, Canada
Situated on a lush organic farm, New Life Retreat has an interactive, practical approach to teaching eco-friendly and healthy living. In addition to a fresh, organic vegetarian diet, guests will benefit from meditation, relaxation, juicing, fasting and exercise in nature.
www.newliferetreat.com

Nonpareil Natural Health Retreat – Stirling, Ontario
This natural haven provides a range of services for detoxification and health rejuvenation. Raw-juice cleansing, nutrition counselling, colon therapy, mud baths, yoga, relaxation in nature, reflexology, reiki and meditation are available in their programs.
www3.sympatico.ca/nonpareil/

Europe and the UK

Paracelsus Klinik – Switzerland
Paracelsus Klinik is an integrative conventional/complementary medicine clinic, treating a wide array of diseases.
www.paracelsus.ch

Vortex Vital – Spain
Vortox Vital is a resort-style health retreat providing fasting and numerous other detoxification programs.
www.vortexvital.com

Detox International – Spain, Portugal
Detox International provides 7 day holistic detox retreats supported by a team of nutritionists and therapists.
www.detox-international.com

Australia and New Zealand

The Vita Centre – Edgecliff, New South Wales
The Vita Centre offers a holistic, integrative blend of conventional and complementary therapies for a wide range of diseases.
www.vitacentre.com

Yarra Vallley Living Centre (home of The Gawler Cancer Foundation), Victoria
This clinic has a combined orthodox and mind/body medicine approach to treating disease, utilising treatment advice from medical doctors and natural health practitioners. Set in 40 acres of natural bushland at the foot of rolling hills, they host Wellbeing retreats in a nurturing and peaceful environment.
www.gawler.org

Fountainhead Organic Health Retreat – Maleny, Queensland
100% organic health retreat focusing on stress, detox and fitness programs.
www.fountainhead.com.au

Asia

The Farm – Phillipines
The Farm is a lush eco-friendly resort, with medical doctors that tailor individual detoxification and healing programs. Guests are luxuriously pampered during their program.
www.thefarm.com.ph

The Spa Resorts – Thailand
This Spa Resorts provide detoxification programs, fasting, massage and reflexology in the lush comfort of resort accommodation.
www.thesparesorts.net

Kamalaya – Thailand
Kamalaya is a luxury resort that offers detox and yoga retreats in Thailand. Their Wellness Sanctuary offers colonic irrigation and speciality detoxes including weight loss, sleep enhancement, optimal fitness and stress & burnout.
www.kamalaya.com

Atsumi Detox – Thailand
Atsumi Retreat Healing Center is a natural detox & therapy education facility in Phuket, Thailand where people come to fast and cleanse their systems of toxins.
www.atsumihealing.com

Julia Jus’ Innergetic Health Rejuvenation Retreat – Bali, Indonesia
This 7-day retreat provides a comprehensive detoxification program involving raw-food cuisine, pilates, meditation, colonic irrigation, detox baths, massage, ozone therapy, nutrition/lifestyle counselling and infra-red saunas.
www.juliajus.com

Central and South America

Gerson Plus Therapy – Tijuana, Mexico
Dr Dan Rogers is a trained Medical Doctor and Naturopath. He has been treating patients using integrative medicine since the late 1970’s. Dr Rogers believes in the use of the Gerson Plus therapy which is a nutrition based form of detoxification and healing from within.
www.gersonplus.com

An Oasis of Hope – Playas de Tijuana, Mexico
This is an integrative medical facility specializing in conventional and complementary cancer treatments.
www.oasisofhope.com

Sanoviv Medical Institute – Baja California, Mexico
This is a holistic medical facility offering integrative treatments for numerous chronic or general diseases.
www.sanoviv.com

Health For Humanity – Ecuador
Provides information and services for QHM technology and cancer treatment.
www.cancercuredresearch.com

Farm of Life (Finca de Vida) – Costa Rica
This remote eco-lodge is a natural sanctuary for the exploration of health-fulfilling activities such as yoga, raw food/vegetarian eating, eco-adventures and self-improvement. Farm of Life is a smoke-meat-alcohol-free environment.
www.fincadevida.com Read my article on Finca de Vida!

Pacha Mama – Costa Rica
This retreat offers numerous healing services such as yoga, detoxification, colonic irrigation, reflexology, acupuncture, nutritional consultation, meditation, spiritual teachings, juice fasting, massage and reiki.
www.pachamama.com Read my article on Pachamama!

Ann Wigmore Institute – Puerto Rico
This is an educational health retreat that practices Ann Wigmore’s methods of detoxification and raw-food health restoration.
www.annwigmore.org

Africa

Detox International – South Africa
Detox International provides 7 day holistic detox retreats supported by a team of nutritionists and therapists.
www.detox-international.co.za

Cancure.org
A valuable resource for investigating natural therapy clinics worldwide and considering treatment options.
www.cancure.org

If you know of other reputable spas, fasting retreats or healing centers around the world, please let me know!

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Finding Peace after Honey Boo Boo

Spending the last 2 months in the USA has made me realize how much people need to create peace within the borders of their own country. Being out of the US for 11 years has been a wonderful blessing because I’ve had the fortune to live a simple, clean, healthy life. After just a few weeks here, I felt over-stimulated with drug advertisements, fear mongering news and materialistic reality shows. When ‘Honey Boo Boo’ is the No. 1 show watched in the US and over 5 million iphones are sold in 3 days, we are clearly in need of serious spiritual re-alignment.

According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, peace within the body is the first level of awareness. From the Essene of the Gospel of the Peace, Book 4:

“First Shall the Son of Man seek Peace with his own body,
for his body is a mountain pond that
reflects the sun when it is still and clear;
but when it is full of mud and stones, it reflects nothing.”

Broadcast Mental Waves of Bliss

With the end of 2012 nearing, it is now more important than ever to develop and maintain a spiritual practice, focusing on love, health and peace. Early morning is a good time to take advantage of the stillness of your mind. Say to yourself, “I am healthy. I am happy. I am grateful. I live in a peaceful world full of healthy and happy people. I send joy and spiritual waves of health and peace to every living being on this planet.” Keep your thoughts positive and imagine the world that you want to live in, a world without gossip, bullying, violence or hate.

As much as you possibly can, avoid mindless television. Set a limit for how much tv you will watch every week, and stay committed to it. Try to post only positive, uplifting information on Facebook and Twitter. Go to your local library and get health and spiritual books. Dedicate 30 minutes every day to developing your mental state into that still and clear mountain pond. Use the time to read, listen to a spirtual CD, watch a health DVD, join a Reiki group, or simply spend time watching a sunset or being with your loved ones. Don’t let this time slip away. Every day is a gift and your health is the greatest gift of all.

I’ve been saying this for awhile now: Our role as pioneers of health, raw food and detox is to become a beacon of love, to help the world transition into a new age. Imagine millions of beacons of love around the globe, staying grounded and focused during these turbulent times, using the most powerful force know in this universe- love, to guide the way. The ancient Essenes taught us to seek Peace within ourselves first. Now, more than ever, is the time to do so.

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Organic Raw Food, Vegan & Detox in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is an amazingly clean city and fairly easy to navigate despite the lack of signs in English. We found the Japanese people to be extremely kind in helping with directions, walking us to the correct subway or bus station and even helping to carry our bags. Summer is a great time to visit Japan, especially for enjoying the outdoors, nature, mountains and hot springs. Mt. Fuji is only 1.5 hours from Tokyo and well worth the visit!

Although admittedly everything is very expensive in Japan, it is still possible and relatively easy to eat raw foods in Tokyo. I arrived with bags of raw seeds, goji berries and raisins just to be safe because I did not know what to expect…yet I was pleasantly surprised with the availability of fruits and vegetables and ease of staying raw during my 1-week stay.

I loved these cabbage bags, at every 7-11 and supermarket!

Our first stop in Tokyo was at the b-sangenaya Hotel at the Sangenya Subway Station. This hotel turned out to be very convenient because directly across the street is a supermarket!

I was very happy to buy fresh peaches and cherries for my first raw food meal in Japan! The peaches were very expensive at 400 JY each ($5 USD) but they were well worth it! I was also happy to find bags of pre-cut cabbage and salad (with carrot and onion) for 100 JY each. I bought 3 small bags to make a nice breakfast salad for only 300 JY (about $4 USD).

Raw Food Talk at the Pink Cow in Tokyo

Our second day in Japan took us to the Pink Cow Restaurant where I hosted a Raw Food brunch and workshop on Detox and Raw foods. The turnout was amazing! We had 50 people and more than half of them were Japanese!

I was so happy to see such an interest in raw foods and healthy living in Japan. The Raw Food brunch consisted of a massive buffet thanks to the efforts of Traci from the Pink Cow.

After the talk, we were taken for a walking tour of the area by one of the participants, Katrine of www.rawfoodhomerecipes.com. What luck we had to turn the corner, literally 500m from the Pink Cow, to stumble upon a Farmer’s Market selling organic fruits and vegetables!! I was so happy!! The Farmer’s Market is every Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 6pm and has a fantastic selection of local vegetables such as sweet corn, tomatoes, purple bell peppers, organic cabbage, elephant garlic, fresh kale and lots of variety of greens for Green Smoothies! They also had huge peaches for 100 JY each, a much better price than 400 JY at the supermarket!

Best displays and lots of free tasting ok!

The vendors all generously offered free samples of everything, and just from the walk through the market, we were full!! There was also a nice selection of raw nuts, seeds, goji berries, dried mulberries, cranberries, sun dried raisins and sun dried tomatoes. I bought a local salt which contains natural sulfur…it’s meant to be very good for healing. The salt can be eaten, added to a bath or used as a face scrub. I highly recommend this market for a chance to meet local farmers of Japan friendly and to learn more about the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables – they are very open to talking about their farming practices and their crops.

Just at the end of the market, we found an Organic Restaurant and Shop called Daylesford Organic. Wow, things just kept getting better and better! I would recommend this restaurant as a nice treat in Tokyo…because it’s expensive, it may not appeal to everyone’s budget. But it’s good to know that there are organic restaurants in Japan! They had a lot of nice organic products as well, including organic pear juice and organic tomato and spinach sauce.

Natural House Aoyama in Tokyo, Japan

Continuing just a few hundred meters down the street, we found the Organic Store called Natural House, a very nice store with a large selection of organic product, products, pre-prepared meals and even a salad and juice bar. Tokyo is a place for healthy, vegan raw food! I was very pleasantly surprised after hearing so many bad things before I arrived. I honestly say it much much easier to eat raw food in Japan than I ever imagined! And the peaches in the summer are amazing!

Delicious Japanese peaches

Here are a few other good travel tips for Japan:

You can get a mobile phone for free at the Narita airport when you arrive to Tokyo. Just look for the signs near the Rental Car and Bus counters. There is one place called Mobal at mobalnarita.com when you can get a Japanese cell phone for free, really! All incoming calls and text messages are free; you will only pay if you send an SMS or make an outgoing call. I used this phone a lot and paid nothing! Simply leave a credit card number as a deposit, and as long as you return the phone and charger at the end of your stay, you will pay nothing! Don’t lose the phone though…the fee is about $1,000 if you lose it! As I said, I had no problem and I highly recommend this service for anyone who needs a phone for a short stay in Tokyo.

Definitely get out of the city to Mt. Fuji and Hakone for the hot springs. The buses are easy to take from Tokyo to Fuji, and from Fuji to Hakone. The nature and scenery outside of Tokyo are really fantastic. Mt. Fuji can only be climbed in the summer from late June – August so try to plan your trip to be there during that time. There is more fresh fruit in season during summertime too, an added bonus for a raw foodist in Japan!

Sunrise from Mt. Fuji

Finally, try not to worry too much about radiation during your stay in Japan. I had a few people make comments to me saying ‘bring a geiger counter’ and such, which I felt was unsympathetic and a bit cruel considering how many Japanese people suffered from the earthquakes there. Since I don’t eat fish anyway, I wasn’t too worried about the food. The Japanese people explained to me that the growing of vegetables moved to other islands in the south after the earthquake, and truth be told, we have no idea how much radiation damage exists all over the entire planet so why live in a state of fear? I advise to take chlorella tablets as a precaution but not to worry too much because what can we really do? I enjoyed every minute of my stay in Japan – the Japanese people are absolutely the kindest and most helpful people and I think everyone should go to Japan and experience the Japanese culture at least once in their lives. I hope to visit again, without the geiger counter and full of love!

At Natural House Aoyama Organic Store

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