For the last ten days of my one-month raw experiment, which ended last month, I was on vacation in California. So, there were the obstacles of traveling by air, staying in hotels, and staying in an ashram!
Traveling by Air
On the plane, I took a bag of baby carrots, apples, zucchini chips, raw mock tuna dip, and spinach. It all fit in my backpack. The trip from Nashville to Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines was 4 hours 40 minutes, and we were delayed before takeoff for 45 minutes by none other than the President! He was in town very briefly and left at the same time our flight was supposed to leave, so of course, all flights were grounded.
I didn’t figure I would need a lot of food for the plane, and I didn’t. Eating raw all the time is so filling and satisfying that even when it is time to eat, I’m not super hungry. Just an apple or a few carrots will tide me over for an hour or two.
Staying in Hotels
Once I got my rental car, the first stop was Westlake Village for the Raw Living Expo!! I arrived Thursday night for the weekend event. It took about an hour to drive from LAX to this area. All I wanted was sleep, not food, when I finally arrived at the hotel.
First thing Friday morning, I got the best massage ever at Ahhhmmm Massage in Thousand Oaks. It was the best way to start my vacation. The massage therapist, Heather, uses hot towels at the end of the massage, which was just perfect!
Back to raw food, I went shopping at Whole Foods before heading back to the hotel. There was not a refrigerator in the room like I expected, so I called the front desk and requested one. They told me that they were all out and asked if an ice chest would be okay, so I said sure. They were going to bring it right up. Well when they arrived maybe 5 minutes later, they had a mini-fridge available after all!
I put the basil, spinach, blueberries, grapes, coconut, and raw dessert in the fridge. There was a raw cafe at the event, so I ate there a couple of times. Mostly, I made my own food. I also went back to Whole Foods for their cold-pressed juices.
Staying in an Ashram
I made sure to bring an insulated bag for times that I was traveling from one place to another. After the Expo, I stayed in Calabasas for a day. Then, I made my way down the coast to Encinitas, where I stayed at an ashram retreat for a week, from Tuesday through Sunday. The SRF Encinitas Hermitage retreat has both general retreats and retreats for kriyabans, or initiated students. So my length of stay spanned both types of retreats.
The ashram was more challenging than I thought it would be as a raw vegan! I stayed there last year, but I ate the vegetarian meals that they provided. I recall that there was a retreatant there who had her own snacks to keep her sugar regulated, and she would eat those in the common dining room, since food is not allowed in our personal rooms. As far as I know, she did not experience any issues.
I made reservations to stay at the ashram retreat back in October, and if there are any special food requests, they have to be made a month before arrival. So, I submitted the following request a month in advance:
Regarding diet, I am following a low-fat, raw vegan eating program, which is plenty of fresh, ripe raw fruit ( bananas, papayas, pineapple, dates, limes, etc), some uncooked greens (lettuce, spinach, etc), and a few raw nuts/seeds (cashews, walnuts, etc). It would be great if some raw, non-dairy, uncooked snacks/meals could be included at meal time. Thank you in advance if you are willing and able to accommodate!!
The retreat supervisor called me and said that they could not accommodate, which was fine. I was prepared to bring my own food, which she said was also fine. She said that it would be best if I could stay in an apartment, as opposed to the retreat center, which is right across the street. BUT there were no apartments available, as those were already booked up, so close to retreat time. So, she said I could just use the employee refrigerator when I got there.
When I got there, I was shown a mini-fridge in the laundry room that is shared by at least 4 or 5 people. But it was okay because a lot of my food can just sit out at room temp, like bananas, tomatoes, dates, limes, etc. I put the perishables in the fridge. There was a long counter where I could keep my food.
My first meal there was dinner on Tuesday, and I ate a mini-watermelon in the dining room with the other retreatants. So I thought things would work out great!
For breakfast the next morning, I went to the laundry room to retrieve my food, then took it in the dining room to prepare before the other retreatants arrived. However, they did not want me preparing or eating the food in the dining room. The supervisor’s explanation was that other people would want some of what I’m having! She even came to my room to say the same, yet, she said it wasn’t a big deal…I just couldn’t eat in the dining room. I was perplexed to say the least.
So my options were to prepare it in the laundry room and eat there or eat at a picnic table near the restroom outside. I typically opted to just walk out to the car and eat there. Sometimes I stayed in the laundry room, which would seem to be as ideal as it could be, for them and for me, but it wasn’t! The supervisor and one of the volunteers were constantly suggesting I go somewhere else or try something else. Why, when this is the spot that was designated for me? They claimed they were just trying to be helpful, but I felt very bothered.
The laundry room is apparently an all-purpose room, because one day about 3 or 4 volunteers were preparing flower arrangements in there, and it is not a large room. There were stems and petals everywhere! There was no room for me to prepare my food in there. I made it to the dining room, way before anyone else was there, but one of the volunteers called the retreat supervisor. The supervisor kept trying to run me out of there. I told her I would leave as soon as I was done making my food and that I couldn’t make it in the Laundry Room due to the flowers. She said she knew, but she wanted me to come to her so she could find another place. She literally stood over me, constantly urging me to leave. I didn’t leave until I finished preparing my food, which was still way before meal time began. This was on Thursday. I’d been there two days, and what was supposed to “not be a big deal” was a big deal. I felt constantly watched. She even came up to my room a second time and said she smelled bananas. I didn’t smell bananas. I told her that she’d already seen all of my food in the laundry room. There wasn’t any food in my room. I thought it was all very ridiculous especially since we talked about all of this on the phone a few weeks before I came out. She said she misunderstood, she didn’t realize all of my meals would be raw. I felt like I was talking to a different person all together.
Another “obstacle” was that the kriyaban retreat began Friday evening, and the retreat supervisor didn’t want me eating my food during this part of the retreat at all! She said that I needed to eat with the group and that I had to participate in the whole program. Her advice was that I “eat what I could” with the group. Again she tried to move me to an apartment. I mentioned our previous conversation when she said there weren’t any apartments left. And she agreed, as if she had forgotten that fact. And so, I would start out eating with the group. There was typically a salad or fruit on the side that I could eat. One of the days when there was a lot of fruit for dinner, I was able to eat enough not to have to go make a separate dish. But with the salads, it wasn’t enough. I would eat a little then go make my own food.
One evening after I ate with the group, I went to the laundry room to get started on my own meal. One of the volunteers came back and made the comment that it was probably too late for a cutting board. I asked her what she meant. She said “Well, I could bring you a board, but it’s just really late.” I told her I already had a cutting board, which I was literally using at the moment. Clearly, she just wanted something to say. I was doing just fine, and it was no later than 7:30 pm. I tried my best to not let their intrusiveness mar my trip. I love Encinitas Hermitage and will be back some day. If I’m raw again while I’m there, I will find somewhere else to stay to avoid the hassle.
Most of the volunteers that prepare the meals were supportive. They thought it was great and had heard of the raw vegan lifestyle before. They would bring a knife and cutting board to my counter space and have it ready for me between preparations. They even offered to chop it for me! They would ask what I was making and say that it looked really good. There’s always some angels in the midst. ❤