Almost Fearless

New Year: Healthy, Active, Adventurous

I love the New Year because despite knowing it’s coming, it always feels like a surprise and an unexpected fresh start. This year, I’m seeing three big trends emerge:

Healthy eating, healthy planet

Years ago, I was a strict vegan, but then I traveled, moved to Spain and caved. I think I failed to continue in my veganism because I didn’t know how to cook without my crutch ingredients like faux meats, nutritional yeast, non-dairy milks and access to a wide variety of spices and condiments. I just had a knife and single burner stove top, how could I make that work?

Fast forward years later and while I had heard of the Forks Over Knives documentary (available on Netflix), I kept skipping it not wanting to feel bad about my lapsed veganism, but I ran into it again after researching dietary ways to cure my chronic lower back pain. I’ve suffered with a host of mildly annoying discomforts this year after giving birth to my third child. So I watched it! Since then, I have deep dived into the emerging whole food, plant-based communities that focus on no oil, sugar or excessive salt. It’s a big leap from vegan mac cheese (a recipe that’s almost all oil) and refreshing for a mom looking to make clean, healthy food for her kids.

My kids are very excited about it as well, because they will be helping the animals and saving the planet. I can make my daughter chocolate cake (mostly with sweet potatoes and cacao powder) and I don’t have to worry about or edit recipes with agave, honey or other sugars that are not much better than refined sugar or cringe at massive amounts of oil. (For example, a quinoa patty pan-fried in oil is vegan but it’s still fried food). To me it’s just healthy veganism. And because Forks Over Knives has been such a huge success, there’s a massive up-swell in healthy vegan recipes and whole food, plant-based cookbooks. Here are some of my favorites:

How Not to Die Cookbook
The No Meat Athlete Cookbook
Plant-Powered Families
Oh She Glows Everyday
The First Mess Cookbook

And if you like an app, the Forks Over Knives Recipe App lets you pick your recipes and sends the ingredients you need to your shopping list.

By the way, the LA Times just reported on a study that showed eating a salad a day can improve brain function by 11 years, over not eating vegetables at all. Every little bit helps.

Active kids, it’s a process

I’ve started pushing my kids to walk longer distances and my seven-year old is up to 5K and very proud of himself. My four-year old can do about half as much and the baby, well she’s enjoying the stroller or the carrier.

How far can kids hike? I used to think not much, but increasingly I’ve heard of families bringing their young children on the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail for multi-month thru hikes. I’ve been experimenting with increasing my kid’s tolerance for distance and here’s what I’ve found:

1. My kids recover much better than me. They never report fatigue or soreness the next day, although I’m sometimes wiped out (often carrying the four-year old and pushing the stroller with the baby, so that might explain it). I was worried about going to fast or hard but my children push back and slow down when it gets to be too much.

2. Even in a week of daily walking, there can be big improvements. We started walking every day for about an hour and by the end the kids were breezing through it with no complaints.

3. Walk towards something that the kids will love. If that’s hiking to a waterfall or dashing across town to the children’s museum, having an end goal that is a reward makes the child-parent negotiations that much easier.

State parks across the US are hosting First Day Hikes to encourage people to kick off the New Year outdoors. Find a location near you here.

Adventures start with time and money freedom

A reader of the magazine recently contacted me and asked how families managed all this travel. How do they afford it? How do they get the time off to do it? Are we all rich? (Checking my bank account… not quite!)

I’ve traveled for years with my kids on a budget of $50-$100 a day. However, I also remember being in my twenties, well before I ever left the country, and planning my honeymoon in Europe… if the hotel cost less than $100 a night, I assumed it would be terrible. I had no idea how to rent apartments or find cheap deals or even evaluate quality verses price. I just threw money at it, and while I had a lovely honeymoon in Barcelona, I could have done it for 1/4th of the price.

So how do you save money for travel? How do you take time off? How do you get good deals? It’s a complete lifestyle change, kind of like giving up meat or training for a marathon. You can’t keep your life exactly the same and just add in travel, there has to be a compromise. You need to live beneath your means and find ways to transition your career into one with more flexibility.

To that end, I put together a seven-day Traveling Family Lifestyle Reboot that’s free for the New Year. It’s going to walk you through the principles most non-super-wealthy families use to make travel happen for them.

My word for 2018: JOY

For myself and everyone else. I have a good feeling about this year. What are your new year themes and goals?

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Christine Gilbert

Christine Gilbert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Almost Fearless. She's a long time traveler, expat and adventurer who is finding her way home after nine years on the road. She's one of National Geographic's Travelers of the Year (2014) and author of the book MOTHER TONGUE (2016, Penguin Random House). She has three children: Cole, Stella + Tallulah.

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