Detox: the first 14 days [part 2]

In my last post, I covered why Adam and I are doing this 28 day detox. I also talked a bit about our breakfasts and lunches, but left the main meal, dinners, for this post.

Before I get there, we feel there’s a few things we should update you on as we continue to detox. First, if you’ve never done it before (and even if you have) please know that detoxing will make you feel sick for at least some period of time. Adam and I both got sick this week, partially because it’s winter and going around, and partially because our bodies are shoving toxins out of them and that makes you feel just oh-so-terrible. While detoxing overall has been a good experience, I don’t want to hold out on anyone and make it seem like its all rainbows and sunshine. I’ve felt horrible the last few days, but, thankfully, that seems to be passing now.

Also, one more thing we wanted to share, since we’re in the habit of not sugar coating things, the meals involved with this detox take a bit of prep time. We’re use to doing meal prep on a daily basis; as I said before, we try to buy ingredients, not prepackaged foods. That means meal prep. We’ve had to spend some extra time for this detox planning out all our meals and deciding what we wanted to do while keeping in mind what is cost efficient (because we’re on a budget and already spend a pretty chunk of change on our food each month). Needless to say, that leads us into dinners, where I hoped we could make up some time and money by making large batches of meals to provide leftovers for later days. Here’s a few dinners we’ve had the last two weeks.

20170206_185331

Stuffed Peppers:

This was one of the first meals, and it was delicious. We’re trying to maintain our seasonal and local buying habits while doing this detox, so root veggies are a reoccurring theme for us. I mean what else do you eat in Wisconsin in February? So, we roasted up some potatoes and rutabagas-seasoned lightly with salt, pepper, and cumin. Then I made stuffed peppers. I didn’t measure anything because I was mostly using up random odds and ends but here’s what we put in this time: brown rice, frozen spinach, cut up bison brat, and homemade tomato sauce. Bake it all together for an hour or so, and bam, dinner is ready! *Note, we baked the peppers for a while first and then added to root vegetables so as to not over cook them.

20170213_171519

Potato & Leek Soup:

We make a lot of soup at our house. I love soup; it’s easy, makes a lot of leftovers, and it’s yummy-especially in winter. This recipe became a favorite after I wanted to make a meal for a vegan friend of mine. Basically, I cut up 3-4 potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 large leek (or 2 small ones), and saute them all in a pan (using oil) for a few minutes. Then, add stock to cover the vegetables, add some salt, pepper, and herbs, and simmer away. My original recipe has a part to add some flour to thicken the soup a bit, but since we’re gluten free for these 28 days, we skipped that part this time around. It was still really good.

20170215_184721

Fried Cabbage:

Adam says I should call this dish fried cabbage, and so I am. We made up this recipe after we looked at a few different cabbage ones online. We love cabbage-it’s such an underrated vegetable. We also got everything for this meal locally, and it tasted that much more amazing because of it.

For this, I chopped up an entire head of green cabbage, 3 small onions, 3 nice carrots (both orange and yellow ones), and 3 cloves of garlic. Add some oil to a pan, and put the garlic and onions on first-let them cook for a while. Add the carrots and cook a bit longer, and then add cabbage last. Put the lid on and steam it all through. Add salt and pepper-this night I was feeling a little daring and so I added some cumin too. All said and done, you have a nice one pot meal that’s tasty and healthy.

20170218_175618Butternut Squash Soup:

This is one of my favorite soup recipes-I make it anytime we have extra squash in the house. It’s so ridiculously easy, and it makes a ton of soup!

Peel and chop in chunks 1 large onion, 1 large butternut squash, 2-3 potatoes (we leave the skins on ours), and 2 stalks of celery. We didn’t have any celery handy  this time so I used celeriac (commonly known as celery root-a root vegetable that looks nothing like celery, but smells and tastes similar) instead. Anyway, put some oil in a pot and add the chopped vegetables; saute for around 5 minutes or so. Then add stock to cover all the vegetables and cook until tender. After the vegetables are cooked, let cool slightly and then blend half the soup in a blender and add back to the rest of the soup. This gives the soup a thick, creamy texture while retaining some nice pieces of vegetables. I season the soup with some salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and parsley leaves.

You’re probably wondering what the little pancake thing at the bottom corner of the picture is. Well, that is my first attempt at making flat bread with quinoa and amaranth. Adam and I gave it a good try, and they didn’t turn out too bad. However, I will happily give the link to the original blog post I used here, as there is a much better description of how to make this gluten free bread than I could describe. Adam and I are just testing the waters for making our own flat bread, and to tell you the truth, I just miss bread in general.

These four recipes are our favorites over the last two weeks, and I’ve made both of the soups before. It’s really not that hard to eat dairy, gluten, and sugar free if there’s a little thought and creativity behind the meal planning and prep; plus, Adam and I make it a point to try new foods because who knows-the next meal might just become a new favorite.

We’re going to try and be a little more creative over the next couple weeks as we round out our detox. Hopefully some of these meals will stick around and become family favorites that we cook again and again.

Stay hungry, local, and seasonal friends!

 

 

Advertisements

Detox: the first 14 days

Hello folks. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Adam and I are passionate about food. Potentially annoyingly so, but well, it’s who we are. Lately, we’ve been reflecting about our relationship with food (because everyone has a relationship with food-think about that for a bit), and we’ve been thinking about the health of our bodies.

Adam, who is as healthy as a horse, doesn’t seem to encounter too many food-related issues. I on the other hand, developed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) in high school. Basically, IBS is a chronic condition in which your gut hurts, but doctors can’t figure out why. I went through a ridiculous amount of tests in high school and then later again in college. It was terrible. I took pills that were supposed to help my digestive system, I consumed miralax on a daily basis (not fun), and I avoided entire food groups out of fear. 3 years passed without me eating one of my favorite foods: tomatoes. Imagine eating nothing tomato related for 3 years. No pizza, no pasta sauce, zip. Not fun.

And then one day, Adam tells me he doesn’t buy into the idea that my condition is incurable. So we accidentally order pizza with tomato on it, and he makes me eat it. And I didn’t die, which was nice all things considered. From there, we’ve had quite the food journey and have been slowly modifying our diet ever since. To make a long story short, we’ve almost entirely cut out processed foods, which means we buy ingredients and not pre-assembled food products. I’ve also done a few colon cleanses which have helped a lot, but my main point is that what we put into our bodies matter, intensely.

What you eat is the fuel that your run on. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

Now, let me add another piece to this puzzle. Adam and I, ok mostly me actually, read this magazine called Acres USA. It’s a pretty fantastic source of alternative/sustainable farming and food information. Anyway, I read an article in one issue (I believe this is the one, but I read it in a hard copy and not online), that talks about how we gather toxins in our bodies and how a mothers’ body can use a fetus as a way to purge toxins from herself. And that hit me as crazy. Like, why would you do that, body? That’s a baby-you’re suppose to be giving it life, not nasty toxins! But, taking a step back, it makes sense because if your body is full of toxins, then it wants to purge those harmful things before they get too stored up and hurt you-even if that means passing it on to another life.

So, in culmination of my history of having issues eating food and this thought that if (even if it’s just a tiny bit true) my body will potentially use the baby I carry someday as a dumping ground for toxins, Adam and I agreed it’d be a great idea to do a detox and get rid of the nasty things in our bodies.

Enter our 28 day detox. Just to get a few things cleared up, here are the goals for this detoxification: 1). Hopefully it helps me safely identify which foods are the target for my IBS symptoms, which I’ve been trying to do unsuccessfully for years, and 2). Rid our bodies of harmful toxins before we begin having children. Also, we have set up this detox through our chiropractor so we’re following special guidelines and rules. We don’t do this sort of thing willy-nilly. Also, we chose a rather expensive detox, and that means that I am following it strictly while Adam is following some amended food guidelines. I have protein powder and special pills that encourage my liver’s detoxification efforts, and as Adam isn’t taking these things, he’s supplementing his diet with some extra protein from select sources.

We’d like to share what we’ve been eating, so I’m going to run through a few breakfasts and lunches in this post. Next time, I’ll share our dinners, which have been far more varied and interesting than our other meals.

But onto breakfast!

img_20170207_062904_026 We’ve basically had two types of breakfast these past 14 days: oatmeal and hash browns. For our oatmeal, we eat two variations. The first is to mix in some kind of nut butter and eat it that way. The second one, pictured here, is to mix the oatmeal with homemade apple sauce and cinnamon. Let me tell you-it’s amazing!

Our hash browns are pretty much the normal type, with the exception that we’re strictly using oils for these 28 days because we’ve eliminated all dairy products from our diet. We also include fresh fruit for breakfast every morning, and that ranges from a banana and nut butter (pictured), to homemade smoothies that include two types of fruit and a juice.

Lunches are a little bit more varied, but I’ve only included two different days here.

Before I describe my actual lunch, I must make a tiny plug for my lunch container. I have a Planet Box stainless steel lunch container, and I LOVE it. It’s totally worth the price-I use mine 5 days a week at least- so you should check it out. 20170210_061108

Lunches have always been hard for Adam and I. We’re typically sandwich people, and extremely boring sandwiches at that. So this detox has really pushed us to expand our horizons because we’re not eating any dairy, gluten, or sugar basically.

One of the first lunches I made for us is pictured here. We’re eating a lot of raw foods including raw carrots, tomatoes, (broccoli not pictured), sometimes avocado, and apples as another serving of fruit. For the main course, I made up a simple potato and green bean salad. Basically, I cooked potatoes and added beans and peas (but you could do anything) and tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings.  It was actually quite an amazing lunch.

To keep things interesting, we’ve been switching out parts of the lunch here and there. Another variation we’ve done quite a bit is using rice as our staple instead of potatoes. 20170215_214317

This particular photo is of brown rice, broccoli, and peas tossed in the olive oil, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and lemon juice for a little extra kick. We’ve also added tuna to these main courses, but days  7-13 of the detox required us not to eat meat, so these photos don’t have the meat included. We also add apple sauce sometimes to shake things up a bit.

Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how tasty all the meals have been. I’ve complained a tiny bit to Adam about the repetition of certain foods ( I definitely do not enjoy eating carrots every day for lunch), but we’re both finding we like trying these different meals out. Who knows, maybe after this detox is over we’ll continue to incorporate these simple but wholesome meals for breakfast and lunch.

Until next time friends, eat simply, eat deliciously.

A Zen-filled Bathroom

Adam and I started this year with some relatively lofty goals. As per usual, we finished our chalkboard of goals (which we’re doing excellent on, by the way. The student loan number is already shrinking-hurrah!), and then I add something along the lines of “BUT what if we also do *enter such and such crazy idea here*.” Luckily Adam’s a really tolerant person, and he finds most of my crazy ideas amusing.

Let me backtrack a tad bit. This year, we’re planning on buying a house and land so at some point we can farm. I spend a lot of my time thinking about our future house and what I hope for it, and what I kind of impressions I want to give my children for what makes a home, etc. etc. For some reason, I love hypothetical thoughts and conversations; I feel it helps me prepare for when events start happening. So, bright and early in January, I’m looking around our house thinking about what it means to live a simplified life.

Enter idea.

“Adam!” I say excitedly, “we should go through every room in our house again de-cluttering and reviewing our possessions! We’ll do one room a week, and it will be amazing!”

Needless to say, Adam gave me an amused grin and agrees to my new found task. We decided to begin in the bathroom because it’s one of the smallest rooms in our home, and I thought we wouldn’t find that much to part with. We use everything in there on a daily basis, right?

Wrong.

I pulled everything off the shelves, cleaning and rearranging as I went. Now, mind you, we only have one skinny corner shelf with seven square foot ledges to put our belongs on. And yet, there was a plethora of items hiding in plain site. I even made a pile of them, and snapped a photo because I was surprised at what I’d found.

20170116_193231-2

Foot powder, old Lysol (gross), old perfume (gross), a host of personal care products, and some old make-up. Perhaps this doesn’t seem like a lot, but for us, it’s quite a bit compared to what we have now. We sent these aging products off to the best disposal places we could find, which unfortunately means some ended up in the dumpster. We’re holding onto a few things to take to our hazardous waste facility once it reopens in the spring.

That being said, now that our bathroom has been cleaned and de-cluttered for a second intensive time, it has this wonderful zen feeling to it. A year ago, I would have told you the same thing the first time we went through our bathroom, but this time, I feel even more so. It’s a wonderful feeling to not have to sift through things I never use looking for what I will use.

Our bathroom has become this easy to clean, easy to navigate, nothing-ever-gets-cluttered-here zen place because we’ve intentionally made it that way. As I marveled at the simplicity this little room now holds, I am reminded of Bea Johnson’s book called Zero Waste Home. This book was responsible for a large part of Adam’s and my’s journey toward simplicity, and I think another round of reading may be in order as we move to other rooms of our house.

Now, one caveat-we definitely are not reaching my goal of finishing one room a week for this intensive cleaning process. But, we are moving forward one space at a time, and that’s good enough for now. I suppose we’ll be able to master our 700 square feet of space long before we move to something larger, and in the end, that’s all I’m really looking for anyway.

Because, once we’ve mastered the little things, much bigger things will be waiting for us.

Stay simplified, stay humbled, my friends.

goals of a new year

Goal setting. Sigh, I know, it’s cliche. Everyone talks about resolutions, goals, their dreams, and they especially talk about it at the start of a new year. So perhaps this isn’t my most original post, but I find it important nonetheless.

I’ve always found the new year a thrilling fresh start on life. Is it in the dead of winter? Yes. Is it horribly cold outside? Yes. Is this the time of year when I’m typically the least motivated to do anything? Yes.

How convenient of you, New Year, to sneak up on me at a time like that.

In all seriousness though, I’m glad the New Year comes in the dead of winter when I’m the least motivated. It reminds me that spring is on the way, and that though my perception of the outside world is one of deep sleep, what I don’t always see is the one of anticipation.

Buds holding tight on trees, ready to burst when the warmth returns.

Thousands, if not millions of tiny lives below my feet, waiting out the chill.

A blank canvas of white that will soon spread into a painting of new life.

Adam and I begin each year by making goals. We write these goals down and hang them up in our kitchen/dining room so that we see them every day. This way, we’re less likely to forget them a month or two in. The goals also happen to make a handy conversation piece when friends come over, because we certainly aren’t hiding them from anyone. Talk about accountability.

And we always start with a blank slate.

20161231_115648

 

This is our lovely chalkboard that holds our goals, our hopes, our dreams. You can see the faint lines of 2016 that have been wiped away to make room for 2017. Adam was especially eager this year, and he was already cleaning the board on the 31st of December.

We did pretty good in 2016; I estimate that we reached 90% of our goals. Adam, who’s a little less sure, thinks we got to 75% of our goals. They included:

  • Putting several thousand dollars extra into student debt: check.
  • Reading 2 books on farming and alternative lifestyles: check -Jenn only, Adam doesn’t devour books as quickly, and made it through 1 instead of 2
  • donating 2 bags of groceries each month: check
  • visiting 3 farms related to our passions and farm plan: partial check -we only made it to 1
  • no more plastic consumption in our lives: partial check-we reduced but we can’t seem to rid ourselves of the horrible stuff

Overall, I’m proud of how far we’ve come. 2017 is sizing up to be a big year for us. Our goals now include:

  • Paying off the rest of our student debt
  • Buying a house and some land to start our farm
  • Read 2 books on farming
  • Visit 2 farms/orchards
  • Donate 2 bags of groceries each month
  • Make something beautiful

Yes, there is a sense of repetition to our yearly goals. We believe it’s important to pay off our debts so we can move on to the next stage of life. Have we sacrificed in the last couple years? Yes. But it will be well worth it once we buy our small plot of land in the countryside.

Also, for those of you wondering why we have a goal of reading several books each year, please let me elaborate. I recently came across a startling, and somewhat sad statistic. Apparently 25% of individuals have not read a book last year. Also, apparently if an individual reads for 1 hour each day in their chosen field, they will become an international expert in 7 years. Don’t believe me? Google it. Or better yet, check out this link that has some interesting thoughts on reading. Basically, if we put time into reading about farming, we’ll become much better farmers much quicker than if we were doing it blind. And that seems about right to me.

The visiting of farms/orchards fits right into to our pursuit of becoming very good at our dream profession, so I won’t talk about that anymore.

Hopefully by now it’s clear we are passionate about food. And that is why we make it a goal to donate a certain amount of good food to those in need.

And as for making something beautiful? Well, that’s up for interpretation. It could mean me finishing and publishing my book. For Adam it might mean finishing the remodeling of our current living situation. Perhaps it means we finally start keeping a better blog. Or, it could mean something else entirely. As Adam says, to make something beautiful means trying new things and seeing what happens.

So go forward, and make beautiful things happen with this new year.

 

 

(late) Blueberry Season

I know. This post is so late. It’s mid-September already, and I’m over here like, wait what? How did September arrive so quickly? And how can it be almost half-way done? Wasn’t it August a moment ago? What happened to summer?

In my defense, I will put the blame for not writing sooner on my family. I was the matron (because I’m married, apparently I can’t be a maid) of honor in my mother’s wedding. And then I helped plan my sister-in-law’s baby shower. Not to mention working full time in the busiest season of the year for my job. Which is environmental/garden education. So, no, I haven’t been busy at all over the last three months.

The sad part is, I’ve taken so many pictures with the intent to blog, but alas, time just slips away. Well today begins day one of the resurrection of the blog, and I’m starting it off with how we preserved blueberries back in mid-August with hopes that someone, somewhere might find this useful this year. The rest of you can bookmark it for next July/August blueberry season.

Blueberries are one Adam and my’s favorite fruits. We preserve them like crazy because we eat them like crazy. Smoothies every other week all winter long, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, you get the idea. We try very hard not to buy fruit in the winter as our goal is to eat as local as possible, so we need to preserve alot of blueberries.

This year, I think we have 20 lbs in our freezer. 10 for me and 10 for Adam-just kidding folks. 10 of those pounds did come from our CSA (we buy bulk fruit from them). The other 10 pounds we self-picked at a local blueberry farm.

It’s a great time, picking blueberries. If you’ve never harvested your own food, you really should. It’s a-maz-ing!

But onto preservation.

So 20 pounds of blueberries. Sounds overwhelming right?

NOPE. Freezing blueberries is just about the easiest way to preserve any kind of fruit. Seriously.

First, take the blueberries out of the bag. Sort out any squished, moldy, or otherwise not-nice-looking blueberries. The yucky ones can get composted. Otherwise, there is such a thing as a garbage can. I guess.

20160806_131659

Then take your good blueberries and put them into a colander. Rinse them really good with running water. Note the change in colander. We use two at a time because it goes faster that way.

20160806_131709

Aren’t they so pretty?!

Anyway, after you rinse them, let the berries sit a minute or two to drain off the excess water (this is the part where two colanders comes in handy).

20160806_131758

Next, get out a couple of sheet pans (Adam wants you to know it’s not a full sheet pan, but you know what I mean). Lay a kitchen towel over the sheet pan and pour your blueberries onto it. Shift the pan back and forth until the berries are a single layer, and then gently place another towel over top. This is to soak up any excess moisture that didn’t drain off.

As we found out last year, this is a rather important step. Unless you like having your frozen fruit stuck together in one giant heap. Then, by all means, skip this step.

After you’re done with the towels, gently pull them both off and from under the berries. The result should look like this:

20160806_131725

Your pan should have a snug amount of single layer blueberries, ready to go into the freezer. (Ignore the tomatoes, I’ll get to those next week). All you need to do is pop the tray(s) into the freezer on a flat surface and leave until all the berries are frozen. We usually leave ours overnight. Or a couple days if we forget.

After the berries are frozen, just shake them off into your freezer container of choice. Last year we used gallon size ziploc bags that worked great. As we’re moving away from plastic, we’ve mostly switched to pint and a half size mason jars as they are the largest size glass jar that can be put in a freezer.

20160912_201150

It’s a very nice sized container, and it stacks pretty good. Not quite as well as plastic bags, but good enough for us.

All said and done, we processed our blueberries in less than an hour for each set of 10 pounds. Rinse, dry, freeze, contain. That’s it. I think it took longer for us to pick the berries than to freeze them.

Did I mention that it’s way cheaper to make your own freezer fruit? It is. So much tastier too. Not to mention the benefit of buying local produce and investing in a small farmer’s life. All the benefits add up just like berries in a jar.

Stay simple, stay local friends.

Strawberry Season

The craziness of spring has finally settled, and Adam and I are able to consider sitting down long enough to write a blog post again. This last weekend was the first time we’ve been able to relax for quite a while, and it was a special weekend indeed. We celebrated 2 years of marriage via camping and eating as much local and organic food as we could find/make.

Part of that eating led us to do some strawberry picking as June marks the beginning of the preservation season. Wisconsin has glorious summers filled with so many different kinds of wonderful foods, and last year we adopted the perspective that part of being better stewards of our world meant buying as much of our food as close to home as possible. That said, we needed to prepare for the long Wisconsin winter where hardly a thing grows unless it’s in a greenhouse.

So we preserved. We froze strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, plums, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, and peas to name a few. We also made applesauce and pearsauce, and canned beets, relish, pickles, peaches, and dilly beans. It was quite the adventure in food preservation as we didn’t know quite how much we would need. So this summer, we’re hoping to refine that technique a bit and plan a little better about our purchases and such.

But back to strawberries.

The most cost-effective way to preserve your own food is to take advantage of the pick-your-own seasons. Not only is it a fun way to get outside and meet your farmer, but it’s a great way to save a little bit of money by doing the labor yourself. And for individuals on a budget (which is us), it helps us support our local farmer and not break the bank. Keeping that in mind, we went and picked 17 lbs of strawberries this morning in under an hour. For a little bit of sweat, it cost us just under $25 for our efforts. I should also mention that we got ~10 lbs of strawberries from watching someone’s house while they were out of town. In total, we’ve gotten close to 27 lbs of berries this season to work with. We’ll probably get some more, but this is a great place to start.

We freeze our strawberries, and though it’s not a long process, it is a bit tedious until you get use to it.20160619_183631 First we washed our berries. The quickest and most effective way to do this is to fill the sink and pour the berries in. Then we swish them around a little bit before rubbing each one and transferring it to a colander. Depending on where the berries come from, they may be really easy to wash, or if they’re dirty, it takes a little bit. The important thing is to switch the water between each set of berries that get poured into the sink.

Next comes the cutting up and packaging. As Adam and I do this in a team effort, we have 20160619_183645quite a few bowls going. We switch off colanders as one of us washes while the other one quarters and cuts the tops off. From the colander, the strawberries get their tops and any bad spots cut off (which will go into our compost), and then depending on size they are halved or quartered. And so on so forth, we do this until the all the berries are processed, usually switching off jobs to keep things interesting.

For today, we processed about 19 lbs of our total 27. To wash and cut took about 1 1/2 hours, and that includes packaging time. We package our berries like this:

Plastic isn’t our favorite or even first choice of container, and we’re working on finding a cost effective replacement. We’re hoping to use more mason jars, but just didn’t have them ready for today’s need. Instead, we use quart freezer bags with 3 cups in each bag. 3 and 4 cups both fit comfortably in these bags, but as we use our strawberries primarily for smoothies throughout the winter, 3 cups works best for what we go through in a week.

All said and done, we processed ~19 pounds of produce into twelve 3 cup freezer bags and one 4 cup freezer bag. Each bag weighs roughly 1 lb and will give us a week of strawberries to add to our smoothies in the winter. Not too shabby when you consider that it took us ~2.5 hours between picking and processing (~5 hours total if you combine mine and Adam’s times).

So for 13 weeks this coming winter, we’ll get to enjoy the great taste of Wisconsin strawberries that we preserved ourselves. And I don’t have any hard evidence, though I know it’s out there, but I’m thinking these berries will retain a lot more of their original nutrients than the ones I could get from the store in the middle of winter. And they just taste better too because they’re not shipped from who-knows-where. They’re from my home state, and I got to meet the person who grew them, which is pretty cool. It’s a pretty simple thing, doing a little bit of you own food preservation, and Adam and I enjoy the time spent talking to each other while we’re doing it.

Stay simple and stay local friends!

the necessity of travel

About a month and a half ago, Adam and I made the great leap across the border, to Canada that is. On our way there, I thought about how odd it is that though a different country is only a half a day’s drive away from me, rarely do I think about it. Even lesser so, I would wager, is the amount of people who cross the border, Americans to Canada, that is.

And yet, Adam and I drove there in less time than I normally spend at work (we took the long route through Michigan), and honestly crossing wasn’t too hard. After all, it’s Canada. I didn’t actually feel like I’d left the Midwest of the US. Ontario still looked like the rolling hills and farms of Wisconsin. The only difference is that they do everything in by the metric system, which in hind sight was the best practice I’ve ever had to actually use that system. But I digress.

It was a lovely vacation. Toronto and Niagara Falls, pretty much all of Canada is beautiful. As Adam and I were both veterans of leaving the country before (he’s been to Ghana, and I’ve been to Belize, Costa Rica, and Germany), it wasn’t too bad of an adjustment, adapting to a different country’s way of life.

Because even though it’s Canada, and they’re not that far away from my home, their way of life is different. It’s a subtle difference, not a loud cry that a third world country is, but still, it’s there. In their advertisements. The way people drive their cars. The politeness of the strangers around you. Their laws. How they treat their citizens. How they treat the environment. All of the subtext of another place that’s different from your home.

So what does any of this travel-stuff have to do about being Simple World Stewards?

Well, it helps us to know. To know and understand another culture is fundamental to becoming a person that cares about the world enough to make simple changes in every day tasks. Because when you make connections with a place that you’re not familiar with, you begin to see the world, the whole world, as your home instead of the tiny blot on the map that is your physical place of residence.

And I’m not saying you have to cross continents here, though if you have the chance to, go. Absolutely go. But when you do, don’t exclude yourself to the typcial ‘touristy’ stuff. Live as a local. Go to a local hang out, talk with some locals, learn to live as they do. Remember people’s names. Mark their faces in your memory so that you can count your friends and aquaintences in countries. That will help make the decision to live more lightly on the earth easier, because you understand that the actions you take affect them in a very real way.

I know Mulito, Chester, and Kimo in Belize. I know Roy and Louisa in Germany. I know the meaning of Costa Rican’s phrase pura vida, and I know Ron and Trish in Canada. These are people that I care about, because I had the chance to know them. They’ve all welcomed me into their homes and countries when I didn’t know another person within a hundred, or in some cases, thousands of miles.

But maybe you don’t have the means to go to a different country; traveling is expensive. That’s a very real reality. So go to a different state, go two hours away, or even go to a restaurant or coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Meet someone new. Remember their name. Understand that their life is significantly different from yours even if it’s the next door neighbor that you’ve finally met for the first time.

The largest part of becoming a Simple World Steward is simply caring about other people. Yes, Adam and my’s aim is to help heal and protect the environment, but as humans reside in that environment, they also fall under our desire to help heal and protect. And we do those actions better when we know, or at least have some idea of, those people. Because

 

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” ~Baba Dioum

We must teach ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone and to experience new places and people, because if we don’t, we have no basis for why we want to live simply on the earth. How can I take the first step to living my life differently, if I haven’t learned to care about someone else’s?

Traveling is a necessity to growing as a person, not only to learn about someone else, but to learn about yourself as well.

“If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, cureler than a mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” ~Patrick Rothfuss