11 june 2019
I have a cute little wooden shed on my lawn which I’ve turned into a spare bedroom, which I hire out as Airbnb accommodation. What fun! The kids and I get to meet holidaymakers and travellers from all over the world. We often invite our visitors to have meals with us, even though in reality their cheap fee doesn’t cover anything more than a bed and a cup of coffee. We just love having company at the dinner table - so actually we’re getting much more value from our guests than they realise.
Our latest guest was a lovely man from California, in his early 30s. (I’ll call him Billy because I haven’t asked his permission to use his real name). He stayed for four weeks and was a delight to have around. He told us his story: A couple of years ago he was living in his hometown of Sacramento in the USA. He was overweight, unfit, feeling ill and suffering from anxiety. Breaking up with his fiancée was the final straw and he decided to make some significant changes to his life. Packing his backpack and taking off to travel the world was the first step (that technique has worked for many of us). He got himself a one-year work visa for New Zealand and headed in our direction, stopping in Asia on the way, where he started to read, meet people and think about switching to a plant-based diet. By the time he got to New Zealand he was a committed vegan.
Billy was attracted to my Airbnb listing because I state in the description we’re a vegetarian household. I supply an outdoor barbecue for people who want to cook meat, although so far I’ve only had one guest who’s used the barbecue. All the rest have been more interested in taking the opportunity to immerse themselves in vegetarianism for the duration of their stay. The kids and I joke that our Airbnb has turned into a vegetarian retreat.
By the time Billy arrived at our place, he had been backpacking and living on a plant-based diet for eight months. He was fit, healthy and slim, with a traveller’s tan, sparking eyes and a beautiful set of white teeth. His backstory of obesity and ill health came as a real surprise to us.
The kids and I spent lots of time talking with Billy about plants for medicine and health, the pitfalls of the meat and dairy industries and the benefits of veganism. Many of our conversations ended with me nodding and saying, “one day we’ll all be vegan, through necessity.”
We’re an ovo-lacto vegetarian family. Our eggs are supplied by our own well-loved chickens and I try to buy milk as sustainably as I can. However, I admit to finding it easy to fall back on the convenience of mass-produced milk products, despite being aware of the issues around the dairy industry. I know. I’m working on it.
My 10-year-old son has been talking about going vegan but we can all relate to how difficult it is to make a change when you’re the only one in the family doing it. That’s why it was valuable having Billy stay with our family for a few weeks, discuss his choices, demonstrate his food preparation techniques and simply be a walking, breathing example of the benefits of a plant-based diet. By the time Billy left, the kids and I were discussing ways we could cut down our dairy consumption and increase our intake of nuts. It’s something we’d been meaning to do but perhaps needed that real-life interaction to prompt us.
So thanks Billy. Keep up the good work, keep spreading the word and keep holding out hope that one day we’ll all be vegan.