by Taylor Dawn Bernarda
My journey began in the summer of 2014, when I decided to take a trip to Hawaii with my two best friends, through a program called WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms). We made it to our first farm on the Big Island, and things didn’t go quite as we had planned, you might say. My two friends knew this wasn’t the right place for them, so they decided to fly back home. I was so nervous I would actually say I was scared, in a panic that I had nowhere to go, and I started to think maybe I should fly home as well. I can never thank my brother enough for talking to me on the phone and telling me to sleep on my decision, reminding me that if things didn’t work out, I could always buy a plane ticket home.
That night I looked into other farms nearby. A place called Gentle World came up, and I decided to send them an email to see if I could come and stay in two days time. After lots of phone calls to my now lifelong friend Summer, they accepted my request.
“Gentle World,” I thought to myself… “What does that mean?” I told my friends, “I think it’s a vegan place or something. I won’t be eating meat for a whole week… That should be interesting.” On my last night with my friends, I ordered chicken wings because that was one of my favorite meals. I figured I’d better get some good food in before I go to “this vegan place.”
The next morning my friends and I went our separate ways, and I was on the bus to my journey unknown. I arrived at the bus stop where Summer had told me “Sky” would pick me up. Here I was, sitting under a tree in a small farm town in Hawaii, waiting for a random guy in his sixties named Sky to pick me up to take me to a vegan community. Sounds promising.
When I got into the car with Sky, I instantly fell in love. Sky is quirky and high-spirited, with just the right amount of awkwardness. We arrive at Gentle World and I am welcomed as if I am already a part of the family. I am introduced to the whole gang: Summer, Angel, Light, Love and Birds. They show me around their beautiful land and take me to my own personal cabin, tucked away under the most peaceful of trees. We spent the whole day talking, while I learned about their way of life, what it really means to be vegan, and how much more their philosophy is than diet.
I rested my head that first night, taking in as much as possible. My nights there were always restless, and now I know why. I was processing all of the false information I had been told for the past twenty years.
I spent the entire week in Gentle World engaging in the most real conversations I had yet to experience, with beautiful people whom I respected for their wisdom. They take into their home people of all ages and from all walks of life to live and eat free of charge, in order to give people an understanding of their way of life. In exchange, we become a part of the community for a week and help out wherever needed.
Gentle World is not a group of people trying to force veganism on others. They are a beautifully intelligent, awakened family, working together every day to make Planet Earth a better place. In doing so, they are bringing light into their own lives and spreading this light to anyone who gets the chance to meet them.
Even though becoming vegan is the number one change you can make to benefit the animals, the environment and your health, Gentle World doesn’t cut out all animal products and believe that’s enough to benefit the world. The Gentle World members also grow their own food, conserve water like I have never seen before, conserve energy by living off the grid as much as possible, limit their material consumption and shop second-hand, and reuse and recycle fanatically. The list could go on forever, but most important, they spread so much love and peace into this world.
I will always remember a conversation I had with Summer a few days before I left, when she told me that being vegan makes you peaceful inside because you are not harming other living beings. I remember being skeptical, thinking to myself, “you’re just a crazy hippie lady… I can’t imagine feeling like that.”
I went home after that first summer and all my friends said there was no way I would stay vegan. Vegetarian maybe, but vegan would be impossible. A whole year went by, and guess what? I was still vegan.
When people ask me, “why vegan?” I always give the same response: Because I went to a vegan community three years ago, and I saw how this beautiful community not only lived but thrived. I watched the movie Earthlings narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, and something changed in me, as if a light switch in my brain had turned on and could never again be turned off. Instead, that light in my head kept growing, and will continue to grow each day, as I keep walking down this awakened path.
About one year after I first went vegan, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this last year I have felt a happiness I had never felt, a sense of peace inside that was never there before. Not connecting this happy year with my “dietary change,” I was slapped with reality when I remembered the conversation I had with Summer, about veganism bringing peace within. I couldn’t believe it. That crazy hippie lady was right.
The more I learned, the more excited I became, because I now knew I was able to make a difference. I had been fortunate enough to come out of my ignorance. I was able to see other people change before my eyes, not because I forced them to, but because they saw the light in me, and they wanted to be a part of it.
Veganism is not a label or a hip trend that you only follow because it seems like it’s the cool thing to do (even though it totally is). Being vegan is not strictly about what you eat. Being vegan is a way of life. Yes, changing your diet is where veganism generally begins, but it also awakens your soul and makes you more in tune with every aspect of this earth.
Isn’t being vegan hard? What about protein? Where do you get your calcium? What about cage free eggs? Why not dairy, they don’t hurt the cow. How do you eat out? What if you were stranded on an island and had to kill an animal to survive? Doesn’t peanut butter have butter in it? What about fish, you can eat that right? Do you ever miss or crave anything? We have been eating animals since we were cavemen, you know? We’re at the top of the food chain. What about plants, they have feelings too. What does vegan really mean anyway?
The list could go on forever about all of the questions I get in my everyday life. But honestly, when people ask if being vegan is hard, I say no, because nothing feels hard about doing the right thing. The hardest part would be constantly having to explain it to people who don’t care and will never grasp the concept. I feel like a broken record player sometimes.
The way I speak about my lifestyle is never judgmental or targeting another person. Yet almost every time the person becomes aggravated or tries to prove me wrong, obviously feeling as if they are being attacked when nobody is attacking them, except for maybe their own conscience.
We humans like to live in denial and we wonder why so many people suffer and can’t find happiness or peace within. If we keep lying to ourselves, we can never be set free. If we keep putting into our bodies tortured souls who only knew stress, fear and anxiety, we are going to keep feeling stressed, scared and anxious.
I could write hundreds of pages of why veganism is fun, or how the animals are treated or how you can get all of your nutrients from a plant based diet, but that’s not what this paper is about. I wrote this for my vegan family Gentle World. The connection I made with them has allowed me to make so many other beautiful connections in my life.
Gentle World changed my life’s path, and showed me the light that we all have burning inside us. My journey does not stop there; every day I learn something new. Every day I work on something I can do to better myself, so I can better help the people around me. Every day I think about what I can bring to this world to make it a better place. The root of all of these desires is truly from opening my eyes and making the first step in becoming vegan.
Open your eyes and see what is really going on in our world today, not just with animals, but with every lie we have been told. Your light will shine brightly, and you will be radiating that light outward to everyone who may cross your path. I want every person in my life to feel how I do. Truth is not about proving people right or wrong. Truth is about finding out what you believe, and practicing that every single day, hoping the people around you will slowly start to see what you see.
People take different paths in life and I feel so lucky to have crossed paths with Gentle World. Anybody who wants the next leap in life should take a visit to one of their beautiful places, in Hawaii or New Zealand. Light, Love, Angel, Sky, Summer, Birds, Swan, Magic, Golden, Soul, Eden, Flowers, Birds, Butterflies, and the whole Gentle World Community, I thank you for being you.