Wow. It’s all I can really say after recently coming home from a truly inspirational, fun-filled, educational and life-changing event… But since I am writing a post on my trip, I guess I will have to say more than just “wow”. So I will.
As some of you may remember, a few years ago I posted after my parents came home from the 2011 NAVS Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. They had learned so much, and shared with me their enthusiasm upon returning home. At the time, I was busy studying for my second state bar exam in two years (New York and Michigan do not have reciprocity, which means I needed to take the entire thing over — even the multi-state portion of the exam) and did not have the time to take even a small vacation. But I was super jealous of my parents and decided to go the next year.
But the next year came and I had recently moved into a new home and was juggling intensive Lyme disease treatment with increased responsibilities at work and, again, decided not to attend. So when my parents came home from their trip perhaps even more enthusiastic and inspired than they had been the year prior, I knew I couldn’t go on forever putting the experience off. 2013 would be my year.
So, now I am two days removed from the trip and have had some time to reflect on my first Summerfest experience. I still feel renewed, energized, inspired and truly grateful to have attended. What is the Summerfest? Well, it’s a 5-day retreat of sorts in Johnstown, PA, which features lectures, speakers, fitness and eating centered around a plant-based lifestyle and animal activism. One need not be vegan or vegetarian to attend, and there were certainly attendees who were neither. Moreover, as I alluded to, the messages range from health-related to environmental to animal rights, so there are a variety of topics covered at the conference of interest to people on all parts of the vegan spectrum.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip, for me, was having the opportunity to hear Rich Roll speak in what was certainly a moving, motivational and inspirational address. I will admit, I had never heard of him prior to the conference, though he has gained quite a following and certainly made a name for himself as an endurance athlete who not only completed two Ultraman races, but reached the unprecedented feat of completing 5 Iron Mans in 5 days a few years ago. And on top of everything, he is a plant-based athlete — dispelling the myth that veganism is an unsustainable, unhealthy fad (but where does he get his protein? Check out the cover of his book and you probably won’t be worrying about his protein intake anymore). His speech proved to all of us what the human mind, body and spirit are capable of — as he had overcome an alcoholic and sedentary, unhealthy past to reach these milestones well into his 40s, reminding many of us that when have not yet reached out potential in our own lives. His speech reminded me personally of the familiar yogi principle that we are never “finished” — everything in life is a work in progress and a product of our continuous growth and belief in ourselves. Talk about an inspiring message! Needless to say, I bought his book, Finding Ultra, so that I can continue to be inspired by this message.
Other trip highlights include getting a chance to listen to Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts; listening to the latest research from Brenda Davis, RD, who also dispelled many myths about the Paleo diet; learning about fecal matter in retail chicken (hint: it’s in pretty much all of it); understanding how we humans measure animal intelligence (and why doing so is silly) with the help of the amazing Rae Sikora; and participating in the amazing Zumba and yoga classes that were offered. Seriously, I am not sure I have ever had a more challenging yet amazing yoga experience — and Zumba was so fun. I even found a clip of our Zumba instructor on Youtube and have been contemplating just doing that segment over and over until I can go back next year and take her class again.
For anyone looking for a fun-filled yet educational experience — and above all, something that will be sure to inspire passion and change — I highly recommend this trip. Not to mention the food was outstanding! As you can see, there were so many amazing, plant-based options I had a little trouble with “moderation” on this trip – perhaps the only drawback of the entire experience.