This January, we were honored to have been selected to participate in the Global Social Impact House the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Social Impact Strategy. Together with 23 other social entrepreneurs, I attended the week-long retreat on behalf of the Unicorn Goods team (I know, how selfless of me) to learn how we can better change the world with this crazy online idea of ours. We stayed at a world-famous ecolodge at the base of an active volcano, on the edge of the country's largest lake, in the middle of the rain forest. While the experience was altogether magical and quite surreal (yoga classes twice per day, disconnection from technology, just being) I realized while there what has been our biggest barrier to date: me.
I've been vegetarian for seven years. This January, for Veganuary I took the plunge and became 100% vegan. This trickled down to every aspect of my life, down to what I wear, too. It even extended down to my favorite leather work bag that I've been clinging to for years. I had bartered for this bag in Florence, Italy while in college and had used it every day to carry my laptop to work since then. Gone. No more. I swapped it out for a handsome vegan bag that I got, luckily, for Christmas. I truly owned our mission, and I'm better for it.
What I realized in Costa Rica is that I'm afraid. Being vegan or vegetarian is really hard in a world that is pretty intolerant of animal activism. We live in a world that doesn't acknowledge the hurt we're doing, to ourselves, to the planet, and to the things we share our space with. But more than that, I'm afraid of being a vegan. When I think about being vegan, I think about the gory, bloody photos of animals suffering at the hands of people, and it's more than I can stomach - these images haunt me. They're with me all the time. And for a long time, I've been running away from them.
I understand first hand why people want to turn away. I understand why people don't want to hear the facts or think about the issues. I get it. It's really hard to acknowledge the need for a vegan world, and in order to do so, you have to absorb and receive information that leaves you with very little will to live.
But if we don't accept this responsibility, who will?
There is no one else.
While in Costa Rica, I read Mohandas Gandhi's autobiography, My Experiments with Truth. I'll leave you with this quote that struck me while there, and that I've since revisited several times. It's clarified for me what it means to do this type of work. It's given me the courage to dedicate myself to this progress. It's giving me the strength I haven't been able to find on my own.
"Service has no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it. When it is done for show or for fear of public opinion, it stunts the man and crushes his spirit. Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy." - Mahatma Gandhi, My Experiments with Truth
And now, those beautiful travel photos you were hoping for.
Pictured top to bottom: Arenal Volcano, Rancho Margot, Ginger at Rancho Margot, leaf cutter ants at Rancho Margot, bungalow at Rancho Margot, La Fortuna waterfall, Playa Espadilla in Manuel Antonio, Whiteface monkey in Manuel Antonio, sloth in Manuel Antonio, quetzal at Parque de Quetzales in the cloud forest.