In this article, Happy Oasis shares on world travel, volunteering and her journey to raw vegan. Happy Oasis is a raw food inspiration, an author and the “Chief Visionary Officer” of the Raw Spirit Festival.
Kevin: Just kind of like a personal question from me, how do you manage to get from place to place if you are volunteering, how does it work out? Because I know there are a lot of people who want to volunteer, who want to travel. How have you done it? What’s the secret?
Happy: That’s a great question. Since I was 12, I was on a panel yesterday at the Vibrant Living Festival, at the age of 12 I became entrepreneur because I decided that I would wish for a pony and to pay for the pony, I started to teach riding lessons. I barely knew how to ride myself, but it’s that entrepreneurial spirit that has landed me in dozens of various entrepreneurial activities. For example, I was up in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was boarding a train in India and I said to this man, “What are these in these crates?” He said, “Oh these are avocados.” But he said it in a different language and I realized it was avocados. I said, “Can I buy all your crates?” He said, “Certainly.” So I bought them all and I took them to Goa, which was the hippy market. I sold them for several times more than I had purchased them. Just little things like that helped as fundraisers. So that raised funds for me for few months then I could go on volunteering.
I taught English in Bangkok for about a year, total, and instead of teaching in schools, I went to the tallest buildings in Bangkok, when I was 19, and I went straight to the CEOs and taught the management staff.. They so appreciated it that they said instead of paying $5 an hour, which is what they would do at a school, that they would pay me for each person. So it ended up being a significant amount of money so I only had to work for an hour or two. Anybody can do these things. It’s just having a slightly different perspective. Then that funded me for a year by doing that for many months. And then I also live at monasteries.
So the main way that I cut down on expenses is that, when I was 16, I received a scholarship to Tasmania, a full scholarship and I worked and traveled and studied and represented America at Hobart Matriculation College. And during my summers off, my weekends, I was a hiking guide, they call it a trekking guide. On one of our first treks, there was a woman who came to our camp in the middle of the night, we were singing around the fire. She approached and she had a big backpack on and she was from Germany and we said, “Come join us.” I started interviewing her. I said, “Tell me about yourself.” She said, “Well, I have been traveling for four years.” I said, “Four years?” I was 16 years old. “How do you travel for four years?” She said, “Well, I was a bank teller,” I think she said, “and I saved up some money for about three years, but this is what I did. I didn’t drink.” She said, “I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t buy ever buy any kind of drinks, even soda pop, juices. I only drink water at restaurants. Secondly, I am vegetarian.” Thirdly, she doesn’t go out dancing. She doesn’t go to bars. She also doesn’t rent movies. She goes to libraries instead of bookshops. So she had all these frugal habits that she taught me at the ripe age of 16 and so I adopted hose habits immediately. Not only that but she said she camps and she doesn’t spend money on hotels. I started sleeping outside and realizing if I can bring a tent or sleep under the stars. She said to me, “What’s the point of having a hotel where you are not enjoying it anyway because you are sleeping?” Those are some of the ways.
I ended up having this sort of monastic lifestyle of sleeping anywhere. I slept around, but not in that traditional way. [laughter] Then I would go to farmers markets and then I thought, what’s the next step of frugality? I would like to pick my own fruit. So I picked fruit everywhere I went. I would ask farmers. I would ask orchardists, “Could I help you, relieve you of all this fruit? They were on the ground and in your trees?” And they would almost always say yes. And there’s all these wild, edible plants. So I became an intuitive wild edible plant person. And then as far as window shopping, I had this rule that if I can’t carry it on my back, I can’t have it. So when I would window shop, I literally would just look at things and then realize the whole world belongs to all of us. All the riches in India and all the riches around the world are everybody’s to enjoy to see, to look at, to perceive and then we walk on to the next adventure. Life has been a seasonal adventure for me. I spent many, many years living out of a backpack with minimal possessions.
Kevin: How does raw food fit into that for you? Do you do it for experience or how does raw food fit?
Happy: Well, the beauty of raw fruit in this lifestyle is that it’s as easy as picking a piece of fruit from the tree. There is no wood stove. There is no camp stove. People go backpacking and I always had this advantage, I always had five less pounds than those people because I didn’t have fuel for a wood stove or cooking stove. Then also the availability and the wild plants. So basically, I’m very comfortable just foraging. But the beauty of it, especially for this disposition and my constitution, is even though I was unusually physically strong for my age, size and gender, I had a weak immune system and I probably still do today if I would go back to the SAD diet, the Standard American Diet.
I was raised, like most of us, on hot dogs and Twinkies and Ho-Hos and PopTarts and Captain Crunch and Coca Cola for breakfast sometimes, basically no fresh fruit or vegetables, very, very rare. Our oranges came out of a can. Our spinach was brown, it came out of the can. I was a survivor. God bless our parents, that whole generation. Who knew? Nobody knew. Everybody was told that this was the way to live. So now a lot of people are coming out of that. So what that did to my immune system is it was a bit tragic. So I became a raw vegetarian after a long research, decades of investigation as to what was wrong with my system.
I discovered vegetarianism when I was a teenager and then became a vegan when I was about 30, so about 15 years ago. The way that happened is I was living in a Buddhist monastery in the jungles of Thailand and my dear friend, who is younger but so wise, she is a PhD now living in Singapore with some tribal people, she said to me that milk is unnatural for human diet and of course we had a great debate back and forth. That night, I went to sleep with the thought of milk is unnatural. How can that be? And I woke up in the middle of the night and I had somehow become attuned to a past life 50,000 years. I was living in a cave and I was sort of Neanderthal like, but post because Neanderthals were before then, and I was coming out on all four legs and I was hungry and maybe a little grumpy. I looked through the shrubbery and there was a wild cow, very much like the wild cows that still remain only in Africa today. I saw the cow and I thought, “Milk.” So I started running after the cow, myself on four legs, the cow on four legs, and then I lunged for her teats. And I started milking her teats, and I realized my goodness, it’s just like a woman, like from our species. And I woke up feeling very strange. And feeling that that is so unnatural. I’ve never had dairy products again.
And then that day I went to the health food store and I started seeing women with those machines. Like, as cows have the metal machines on their six breasts or whatever, I saw the checkout woman with this machine, in my minds eye. And I thought that is so bizarre, it is incredibly unnatural for one species to steal milk from the mother who’s producing milk for her baby. It’s not only unethical, but it is just, it’s just bizarre. And so that kind of cured that aspect for me.
And then with cooked foods I would note that every time I lived with tribal people who tended to eat more fresh food and more wild foods that I never had health problems. And I always thought it’s like that because I feel so loved and I feel so like safe in nature. But then I’d go back to the city and I’d go to a ashram and I’d feel loved or I’d feel safe but I would get sick. And at these ashrams they would serve a lot of cooked foods. And it would be vegetarian, but it was a debilitating vegetarian diet versus a wild edible diet, wild raw, more raw diet, in the hinterlands of these countries. And so then after yoyo-ing, as we tend to ping-pong for a while until we figure it out, I realized just stay with the raw vegan.
And then what happened is, just at the time when I was figuring it out, somebody gave me three books. Viktoras Kulvinskas’ “Survival into the 21st Century,” Gabriel Cousens’ “Rainbow diet,” and David Wolfe’s “Nature’s First Law.” And I read those three books within the same month and I just, their arguments were so colorful, so hilarious, genius, and convincing, that I decided, “That’s it I’m going to try the raw vegan.”