089: Evelina Utterdahl, part 1: Traveling the world without flying (transcript)

September 24, 2018 by Dani Mihaleva
in Podcast

Evelina Utterdahl

If you’ve heard me talk about not flying in this podcast a lot and you think it’s impossible, allow this conversation to blow your mind. Evelina Utterdahl is a world traveler and writer who has chosen to stop flying. You’ll hear why. There are more of us all the time. You’ll get to hear us indulging and talking to someone who understands us. Nearly everyone I talked to says flying is impossible for them. I know they’re just confusing the system that they’ve accepted with reality. But, man, people argue so much that something that is not impossible is impossible it’s not impossible. More than not impossible, it’s fun, adventurous, it’s culture, it’s cuisine, it’s meeting other people, it’s all the things that people look for from travel more. Now I get to hear someone experiencing the joy that I do, the discovery, finding out that what you get out of travel you can create. All those things they’re not out there, they’re in here. So I hope we blow your mind. What do you think is impossible? What are your limiting beliefs?


Joshua: Welcome to the Leadership and the Environment podcast. I’m Joshua Spodek. I’m here with Evelina Utterdahl. Can you say that again? Can you get it right for me?

Evelina: Evelina Utterdahl.

Joshua: Whom you might know as the Earth Wanderess. You are traveling the world without flying. And someone said, “Josh, you should check this woman out because she’s got this really cool stuff and she’s also flying like you.” Now people don’t know but you and I spoke a couple of days ago and it was a fantastic conversation. You were the first person I’ve spoken to who’s also not flying. And I’ve read a few articles of people not flying so this is a growing thing but well, OK, everybody I talk to when I talk to them about not flying say, “I have to fly. Flying is amazing. Flying is a great thing.” So Evelina, tell me you are living a miserable life right now, right? It’s horrible. It’s this disaster that you can’t travel. Am I right?

Evelina: Yeah. I mean I’m stuck in this house and there’s no way to get around at all. No, honestly, I enjoy my traveling a lot more now that I don’t fly.

Joshua: How can that be. Because I know but what prompted you to do that?

Evelina: I’ve always cared about the environment because Sweden is very progressed in that way so things like recycling comes very natural to us. So I always knew it was bad to fly but I didn’t know exactly how bad it was. And my conscience just was very weighed down by this but I would justify it with like being environmentally friendly in general and being vegan and all of this stuff. But then I saw in numbers. I saw… There was this woman who wrote about her going in January from Sweden to Bali and back and then seeing how big of an impact that was that really made me realize how bad it is and that it doesn’t matter how good I do with you know everything else because just by flying my impact is so much worse than the average person and someone who cares about the environment, I want to have a smaller impact than the average person. I want to have a good effect.

Joshua: Leave the world better than you found it?

Evelin: Exactly.

Joshua: Everyone says that and then they kind of…It’s almost as if they encapsulate flying as like this thing that that’s just part of how life is and it doesn’t count or something like that. I certainly felt that way. I mean when we spoke before there was so much you said. I was like, yeah, I had that experience too because for me I was on a flight and I saw this video and a guy said that flying New York – L.A. roundtrip was roughly a year’s worth flying in terms of its greenhouse effects, to say nothing of extraction and displacing people from the land and all it happens like it’s not many countries where there’s lots of oil where people are like treated fairly. And I thought, “Living in Manhattan, I don’t have a car. I don’t drive.” I felt so good. I felt so much like yeah, I’m like not harming the environment that much. And then I see this information and I think, “Whoa, that’s not how I thought of myself.” And then did you have the same thing? I felt like I just suppressed that information. I was like, “I don’t want to know that. I don’t think of myself as someone who pollutes a lot. Therefore, like forget that.” What was it like for you?

Evelina: Oh, yeah, it was the same but it’s like growing up. I’m only 26 years old. There are so many of these things that I take for granted because that’s just how things have always been for me. You know during my lifetime we’ve had all these single use plastics and when we buy bread in the bags we throw away the bags when we finish the bread and then when I was like just like a few months ago I started saving them. I would wash them out and put them in like to dry in the kitchen. And my mom was like, “Oh, yeah, we used to do that when I was a kid.” I was like, “Why did you stop?” So I didn’t even know that was a thing before because for me that’s normal. Flying for me was normal because all my life people have been flying and not question it. It was just about the money issue.

Joshua: If I can afford to travel, I will travel.

Evelina: Exactly. But there’s so many things in the world that we’re used to and we don’t question things enough. You know we just do things by default because we’re used to it and we think that’s the way it is. Instead of questioning and seeing how can we do it better.

Joshua: So let me play devil’s advocate here because I know what my answer is but I want to hear yours. So why bother questioning? I mean why question? We can travel. What’s wrong with doing things we’ve been doing?

Evelina: Well, I mean we’re destroying the environment and… I mean yeah, we can say we’re destroying the environment but the earth was here long before us and it will always be able to adapt and come back. What we’re doing is making life for us as humans and the generations to come, we’re making things difficult for them. So I guess it’s a selfish thing that we want to keep the earth livable for us. And also, I want people to be able to see the beautiful landscapes that I’ve seen to see beautiful beaches that are not filled with garbage. So I don’t know. It’s a difficult question because to me it’s so obvious that of course we want to do good for nature.

Joshua: Well, let me also make it a little more personal. How would you describe your life now as compared to before with the not flying? And also, since you mentioned the plastic garbage on the beach, the garbage on the beach, this is not just not flying. This is part of more, it sounds like. So I don’t think we cover that so for listeners it’s… Everyone should go to your page and the link will be below this on the podcast, on the page. But you’re vegan. What other things that we can put together in this in how are you living your life?

Evelina: Ok so I’m vegan and I try to avoid plastic as much as I can. And I also try to just avoid packaging and waste as much as possible which is kind of my biggest, what I focus on now because it’s difficult and it’s not something that comes naturally to me. So that’s like what I’m working on right now to improve and to learn. And then I also don’t shop fast fashion. I only buy from ethical and sustainable brands. I also only work with brands that care about the environment and that are ethical. So if I work with a company that makes some sort of product, they have to be able to prove that all of their employees like in all parts of the process are paid well and have rights, parental leave and a safe environment to work.

Joshua: OK. So you know I talk to my mom and, let’s see, the last time I was out there I was talking about some stuff I wouldn’t eat, she said, “Just eat it. Your mom’s giving it to you.” She’s like, “What’s wrong with this? What’s wrong with that?” I think she sees it as some burden or some hard thing or like I’m depriving myself. I don’t feel like it’s… To me it’s the opposite of deprivation. It’s like I find that flying produces more pollution than I expected. And then I think, “Suppress that.” And then I’m like I can’t keep suppressing this. I’m losing sleep over this. I’m internally… My values and my behavior are in conflict. And I don’t like that. And I don’t see how it can change my values to enjoy polluting the world. So that leads my behavior so I go to change my behavior. So now it’s… I go through this challenge of like the first six months of not flying was like, “I feel like I’m missing out a lot of things.” Like right after this I decided not to fly. My sister comes and she’s like, “Hey, I am bringing the kids (my nieces and nephews) to Tokyo. We got roundtrip tickets. Eight hundred dollars.” And I am like, “Eight hundred dollars to Tokyo? That’s really cheap.” I was like, “Oh, darn, I can’t go.” And I have to turn down this invitation to speak in Poland and to speak in Italy. I’m like, “Ah, all these things I’m not doing!”

But then you get through that transition it’s like you know the heroine leaves your system and you start craving and you start finding all these things around. So I’m just kind of hinting at things. Is it deprivation and sacrifice for you? Is it challenge? How does it feel for you? Are you working hard? Are you hating what you’re doing or are you like… Sorry [unintelligible]. I was reading this conservative website the other day because I like to get lots of different views and they’re pulling about something and they’re like, “Oh, look at all those people that are suffering to not pollute. Now they are suffering for no reason.” And I’m like, “Suffering for no reason? I’m eating the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten in my life. That’s not suffering. I was suffering before.” How is it for you?

Evelina: No, I’m not suffering at all. And I mean it’s different with different things like actually I would say one of the easiest transitions when it comes to like big changes that I’ve been in my life not flying has been the easiest one.

Joshua: Mind boggling for most people. How can you explain that? It was hard for me but then got really easy.

Evelina: Yeah, because I mean there are so many buses and trains everywhere so it’s really not that hard. I mean I thought it would be more difficult, definitely, but it’s not. I mean it’s not difficult at all. And also, I don’t get jet-lagged anymore because I don’t move between different time zones that much or that fast. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that actually but that was definitely the easiest transition.

Joshua: So how does it feel now? I mean when you’re not flying…I think people anticipate that they’d be sitting there moping about how all the places in the world that they’re not seeing and all the things that they’re not doing. How does it feel for you?

Evelina: Oh, yeah. This is a common question. People they really think that I feel deprived or that I’m losing things and people ask me, “Oh, so how do you feel about that you can no longer go to all of these places around the world?” I’m like, “What places are you talking about?” They are like, “I don’t know. Like New Zealand.” I’m like, “I can just sail there. That’s not even an issue.” And she was like, “Oh, so do you sail alone or would you go with…” I’m like, “I have no idea how to sail. I’ll just figure it out. I’ll learn.” People have been travelling long before there were airplanes.

Joshua: Yes, it’s not like they got in an airplane, flew to New Zealand and found an empty place. Like people were there. They didn’t get there by airplane.

Evelina: Yeah.

Joshua: And they are like, “I want to travel because I want adventure.” And then you’re like, “Okay. I’ll learn how to sail.” And they’re like, “How do you do that?” And I’m like, “Well, I thought you liked adventure.”

Evelina: Yeah. I honestly enjoy traveling a lot more now because I guess it’s kind of the same like with when you’re on top of the mountain and you have this amazing view. If you took a gondola up there, you’re not going to enjoy the view as much as if you hiked up there.

Joshua: Yeah. It’s just handed to you.

Evelina: Yeah. It’s so easy that it’s also easier for you to take it for granted. You know people who can travel everywhere all the time they come to a place and I think most people don’t appreciate it as much as those who have had to fight to get there even if it’s having to save a lot of money for a really long time or that you know it took a long time to get there or something but if you fight for something, the reward is just worth more.

Joshua: Yeah, exactly. Like I look at people doing this stuff and and I think like, “All you’re doing is…Why don’t you just look at the pictures online?” Because let’s see I haven’t been to Machu Picchu but I have a feeling that the pictures of it are spectacular but I have a feeling that actually going there like that particular scene you get for a split second but most of the time you’re walking through crowds of people. I think I told you when we spoke before when I was… This was years and years ago that I was with my family when I was still flying and we’re in Rome and we went to Vatican City. Did I tell you about this?

Evelina: Yeah.

Joshua: I think I told you but I am going to say it anyway. That we’re coming up and there’s like a wall around the place and we’re not religious or anything like that. But my sister she points at… There’s all these people selling tourist stuff and there’s like almost…It’s one of the world’s big tourist traps. And they’re selling us junk and all these trinkets and these fortune tellers and there’s all these people who are like faith healing stuff. And she points at them and says, “This is exactly what Jesus said was the problem. It’s exactly the issue and people are just doing it more.” And I’m like this is not… Like if you actually look at the experience you have, there’s a time when the airplane is getting patted down, you are getting fingerprinted if you come to the United States and I’m sure other places and you walk through all the slogs of people and meanwhile you spent all this time in your life to save up for it by actually depriving yourself having to work extra hours and things like that. You get there and you get a split second like, “Oh, what a beautiful view.” But you’re in a big crowd of people and everyone’s taking their pictures and stuff. And now it just doesn’t seem like that particularly special. And then you post online and I guess now you are like, “Now people can see this amazing thing that I saw” but you are following other people who are like, “Look at this amazing thing I saw.” And then you’re like, “Oh I got to see this other thing.” And so you’re craving that. And the actual experience is really not what the pictures show.

Evelin: But sometimes it is though. That happened to me several times. I get to this place where I’ve seen pictures and my bet is really hyped and I get there and I’m like, “Yeah, it looks exactly like all the tens of thousands of pictures I’ve seen of it.” It’s really the same. Of course, there are places that pictures can’t really grasp the beauty of the landscape or the feeling of it. But especially with a lot of the touristic places I get there and I feel I have already been there.

Joshua: Yeah. You’re like, “Why did I come here?” Like you want to see the Eiffel Tower but OK now that you’ve seen it, what? And if the point is well, I want to experience the culture, what happened to the people near you? Are they so horrible that you have to meet these other people? Is it so bad where you live? In which case, why don’t you move? And if you don’t have to move, I mean the friend who told me he was like, “Check out this eco tourist thing that my friend is doing in the Amazon.” I go to the site and it’s like eco-tourism. OK, so how putting eco in front of tourism undoes the flying? I have no idea how they profess to like, “Oh, we just encapsulate that and that doesn’t count.” I guess somehow if you buy that. So the [unintelligible] pictures these like I don’t know how to describe it but they’re obese Midwesterners on this boat on the Amazon and all I can think is well there goes that neighborhood because now the people there are going to realize, “Well, if we put up a cafe and with a Wi-Fi connection, then the people will come in and spend money here” and then the Amazon ceases to be what we think now of the Amazon. Now it’s a new tourist trap and meanwhile I plant these trees in my window and I feel like that’s more of an experience of nature. What’s it like for you? Because you’re the only other person I’ve talked to like this.

Evelin: Yeah. Well, actually another thing that I forgot to mention when I was like talking about all of my things is one of the things that I tried to focus a lot on and that I tried to learn more about so I can share that knowledge with others is how does your traveling affect the people, the community and nature where you are. So that’s definitely part of it. Some places you’re only allowed to go with a specific tour because if everyone could just go there, it would ruin the nature. I’ve been to places where it’s completely untouched in a country where there’s a lot of litter, then I will not say where that is because I want to leave that place unspoiled.

Joshua: Pure, clean.

Evelin: Yeah, exactly. But I think most people travel to get something like they want to see something new, maybe gets sunshine, vitamin D, relax, drinks but they don’t think about how that affects the place that they visit. They travel only for themselves without considering staying in this big resort owned by an international big hotel chain or something and then they also have these restaurants so they don’t have to leave the resort, they just stay in there and then all of this money that this place gets, this resort, goes to someone that is not part of the community in the area where this resort is. So they are using up the land and the resources and those money should go to the locals. That’s why I try to tell people to stay in the locally owned hotels, go to restaurants owned by locals and to make sure that when you go to a place you leave it not worse than before you got there. If you go to a place and make it better and then before you came, that’s good. But at least don’t make it worse for the local communities and the environment in that area.

Joshua: Does that make it harder for you, easy for you, different for you? Because a lot of people are like, “Oh, let’s buy the ticket. It’s easy. And then I get to go to this place and I don’t have to worry about all that stuff.” Is that stuff you worry about?

Evelin: I mean I understand that it can be difficult. And I think that’s the thing about a lot of these things when it comes to the environment is convenience. People are lazy, people don’t have time because a lot of people are very stressed in life and that’s why they get vacations so they can rest for a week or two. So I understand that it’s time consuming and difficult to find these places. So I don’t know. I just want to make it… We should make it easy for people to make good decisions. I understand that it can be difficult for people and that you know you just want to book something and then not really think about it but that’ just very selfish.


Joshua: You don’t sound like you describe trouble for yourself. It’s difficult though.

Evelin: No.

Joshua: So why is it difficult for them and not you? I mean were you that way before? Would you have looked at what you’re doing now as difficult?

Evelin: Probably.

Joshua: And so how’s it now if it’s not difficult now? Because I’m trying to make other people… I’m trying to think from the listener’s perspective “If it’s difficult, I don’t want to do that.” But I don’t think it’s difficult. I did think it was difficult, now I don’t. And you don’t sound like it’s difficult either. So what do they have to look forward to?

Evelin: Well, it’s just because it’s something new, something that you don’t know about. But if you just spend a few hours researching, you learn so much about this. You can choose to learn how your tourism affects places and that’s a good thing about internet. You can find all the information you need about anything. So it was just simply about not knowing because I hadn’t taken the time to learn.

Joshua: You know the Buddhists always talk about like waking up, like you’re sleepwalking through life and then you learn and you wake up and you become more attuned to things around you. And it’s a split of both. Yes, it requires more attention but it’s your attention, your way. You’re actively doing things as opposed to just blowing in the breeze or sleepwalking. There’s no going back. I can’t imagine doing what I used to do. It’s almost like three flights for your life, you can go wherever you want whenever you want. I feel like… Did I tell you before? I feel like the longer I go, and this will get me in trouble with people probably, travel, it’s not flying, so the longer I go without flying… And by the way, if someone came up with a solar powered airplane, I’d fly it.

Evelin: Oh, yeah. Me too.

Joshua: Well, there’s still issues of like it’s not only the emissions so it’s other stuff also, but that would make a major difference. So it’s how I affect others and how I affect the cleanliness of the world and purity. So the longer I go without flying, the more people talking about flying sounds like people talking about heroin. Does that ring true for you?

Evelin: Yeah. I mean maybe is not the word I would use but I totally understand what you mean because the way they see it they cannot imagine being without it. It’s just yeah, the way they talk about is definitely like an addiction.

Joshua: They don’t realize it, right?

Evelin: No. I mean it used to be like that for me. I was addicted to traveling. And like well, like I still am but I was addicted in a way that I would always book fights.

Joshua: So OK. So you travel, you still travel. Why is it different now?

Evelin: You mean in what way?

Joshua: You said you were addicted before. You’re still addicted. But I think there is some sort of connotation you didn’t like in your life and the addiction before but now I don’t think it’s… I read you needed to travel and now you want to travel. Something like that. How do you view it differently?

Evelin: Before I didn’t know that I would have the possibility to travel full time, to have a job where I can work remotely, that this could actually be a lifestyle and not just going on trips. So I used to be addicted to going on trips to get away from the Monday to Friday work and all that stuff. So now I mean it’s not an escape anymore. Now it’s just my lifestyle now and I don’t feel as stressed or I don’t feel stressed anymore about traveling because before I would be like there all of these places all over the world and I want to go to them and you know it’s more about the money like I want to go there and I want to go there. Traveling between continents quite quickly and feeling stressed about how am I going to see all of these places, how am I going to afford to see all these places all over the world. And now I’m just more in the now and I feel like I’m here, what’s in this area, and to appreciate what is around me so I don’t feel… I mean I still want to go to other places but I no longer feel stressed about going to other continents. So I know it’s going to take time and it will take the time that it takes. Does that make sense?

Joshua: It does to me. The way I put it is that it used to be someone would come back from someplace, or I find some place and I think, “Man, I got to check that place out.” And then I think, “Well, how do I fit that on the list? And how do I fit that in with all the other things I’m doing?” and so forth and it’s like… So there’s all these places and the longer that list got, it’s a big world, there’s a lot of places, then the more that I’m like, “Missing out, missing out, missing out, missing, how am I going to catch up, how am I going to do all these things?” And instead of thinking about what I had, I was thinking about what I didn’t have, what I was missing, what I was lacking, what I was craving. Now I think well, I take it as a given that I can’t see everything. It’s too big of a world. Life is not long enough and you know I could see everything. Every time I see one thing I’m not seeing something else so I can’t live for a year in 50 different places because I don’t have that much life left and even if I could live it for a year in all these places, now I have to leave all these places each time.

So my starting point is I can’t see everything and if I can’t see everything, my best strategy as best I can tell is to enjoy what I can see as much as I possibly can. And as long as I’m enjoying what I can as much as I can, why don’t I start where I am right here, right now, this second, this place, this time and suddenly my life is full of joy and this discovery of things all around me. My next-door neighbor is as interesting a person as anyone in the world and their background is… Well, living in New York is certainly the case that people from all over the place and I have as much [unintelligible] cultural experience. OK, I want to take that I live in Manhattan out of it because that’s incidental because I could be living anywhere and if I’ve chosen to live in a place that is somewhere where I want to live, then what is around me is what I like. So I happen to like the diversity. But if you don’t like the diversity, then you live in a place without diversity. So what do you like, you will have that in this place. And if you don’t have what you value in where you live, that’s a problem. And then all the traveling in the world is not going to fix that you live, that you’ve created a place for yourself that you don’t like. And now you’re putting the band aids on it by travelling all the time and you’re not fixing the problem.

So for me like there are definitely things I wasn’t appreciating as much about where I live and I mean the big thing for me over the past couple of years has been the food and learning to get the food around me. Oh, I bet I didn’t talk to you about the mangoes. People want to travel the world because they want all this exotic food. That’s something that people really like, exotic food. All right. In Manhattan you can go to virtually any grocery store, any day of the year and get a mango. Most people discover mangoes exotic. Now turnips grow in this area and rutabagas and kohlrabi. They grow locally. Most people have never bought a turnip including myself up until a couple of years ago. So in actual practice a turnip is more exotic than a mango for a New Yorker because it’s hard to get. I mean it’s easy to get if you just go to the farmers market and get one but most people don’t get them and so flying over there to get stuff that they can get at home because everyone knows the market response the demand and provides it for them. It’s not really exotic anymore. I mean there’s things like you can’t get durians here so you can get them in other places but then you’re just kind of sampling it. I find that when I look nearby there’s just as much as…You know there’s the universe in a glass of wine. Everything is here if you want it and to create adventure, to get cultural exchange, to sample cuisines that results more from… You can get more results from practicing your skills. So yeah, I feel like if you develop the skills to create adventure, you can get more adventure than you can by buying a plane ticket.

Evelin: Yeah, but I mean I don’t have a home though so I do travel all the time but the difference is it’s no longer in a way that it’s like a bucket list that I’m ticking places off. It’s not that I have all these destinations and once I’ve seen it I’ve ticked it off. Now just the traveling is an adventure in itself no matter where it is and it doesn’t matter if it’s in Sweden or if it’s in France or if it’s in Iran or Australia. Because the adventure…. When I travel or when people travel you meet all these people and you get into these situations that you could never have imagined would come and you get those and it doesn’t matter where you are. For me it’s about being flexible and taking on new things that, I don’t know, being spontaneous and being challenged and seeing new things, learning new things. But yeah, before it was definitely more of a bucket list ticking places off but now it’s just the actual… I don’t know. I guess I choose to make my life an adventure no matter where I am. I always try to find places to hike or cool people to meet or places with good food to try. So I do still travel but I’m not longing to just tick it off and then go to the next place.

Joshua: So what happened to the bucket… I presume you had a bucket list before you decided to stop flying.

Evelin: Yep.

Joshua: So what happened to the places… Like what happened with that list? Is it still in your head or is it just like… Have you let go of it or what happened?

Evelin: Yeah, I mean there are still some places that I do want to go to but basically before I would have 3 places on my list that were just my dream places where, I don’t know, I’ve just always felt this longing for and that was New Zealand that I went to a few years ago and then Georgia that I visited now just a few months ago.

Joshua: Georgia, like part of Russia Georgia?

Evelin: Well, it’s its own country.

Joshua: OK. Sorry. Because it’s also a state in the United States and probably most of the listeners are American.

Evelin: Oh, right, yeah. So, yeah. Georgia, the country.

Joshua: The country. Sorry.

Evelin: And that was like on my way back from Iran because it is… I went through Armenia and then to Georgia by bus. And then the third place is Patagonia which is really far away. Even if you fly, it’s really far away. So I’m still sometimes going to want to go there but it’s no longer… I mean before it was so many places and because it was so easy getting to places it was almost as easy as a list when you go to the grocery store and just tick things off all of these places that I want to go. But now it’s no longer that much about going to specific places rather than just exploring wherever I am.

Joshua: Because I’m trying to think of it from the perspective of some listener that who might be thinking, “Maybe I’ll give this a shot.” But then they feel like, “But I am going to lose all these things.” And so your Patagonia, how do you feel about Patagonia now? Is it still a bucket list thing? Is it just like if I get there, I get there?

Evelin: I mean I really do want to go there and I’m probably going to make it happen. It’s just going to take a very long time. If I don’t see it, I don’t see it. So I no longer feel that stressed about it but also the way I travel now with being that spontaneous I end up going to places that I didn’t even knew existed. So I experience so many new things, undiscovered things that I haven’t already seen pictures of. Because if you have a bucket list, it’s places that you already know exist probably because you’ve seen a lot of pictures or videos from that place from other travelers and now it’s more about really seeing what’s around me and that has me going to places where there are zero tourists. It’s more of an adventure.

Joshua: Man, I love this conversation. I’m so used to having to tell people… They are like, “You’re going to miss out on all these adventures” and you’re like, “I get more adventure.” And they’re saying, “You are going to miss out on those places.” And you are saying, “I’m seeing more places.” And it’s so obvious and it’s so… When you are talking to someone who takes heroin, it’s really hard to tell them that you’re actually very happy talking to people, doing things and that the heroin just makes the… There’s no denying. I’ve never tried heroin but as far as I know it makes you feel really, really good. There’s no question it makes you feel really good. And maybe it’s better but it feels to me like achieving things through effort based on my values. I think in the long run I prefer that to however good heroin might make me feel. Now I’ve totally lost the listeners. I am not on heroine. But they can’t see us. We are on video and they are only hearing. But like you’re like… Yeah, I mean it looks like your eyes are lighting up and you’re like, “Exactly!”

Evelin: I mean heroin is a very heavy drug though. So maybe that’s why. Maybe you should compare it to a smaller…

Joshua: Cocaine? I don’t know. Alcohol I guess. I mean I can easily say… I say this a lot. I used to drink a lot of beer in college, I would just drink to get drunk. And now I sip scotch every now and then. And so the total amount of alcohol that I drink now is way less than before but my total alcohol appreciation is much greater. I’m really curious about… You keep mentioning Iran. Can you tell me a story about Iran? Americans, it’s hard for us to go there.

Evelin: I know. Well, you can go there but you have to go through like a tour. You’re not allowed to just go freely wherever you want.

Joshua: Is that Americans or you also?

Evelin: No, no. I think it’s Americans, Canadians and British people.

Joshua: OK. So you got to go and travel however you want?

Evelin: Oh, yes.

Joshua: Let’s hear some Iran stories, if you don’t mind.

Evelin: Ok. So I went there for the first time last year, went end of April.

Joshua: By bus?

Evelin: No.

Joshua: Were you still flying then?

Evelin: I was still flying last year, yeah. I was going somewhere and it was like on the way. Yeah, I was going from Southeast Asia back to Sweden but then I stopped in Iran on the way. And if you arrived by airplane to the airport, you get visa on arrival, if you have a passport like mine, Swedish, for example. I actually I didn’t have a place to stay which you really need to have you know an address just to get the visa. But on my way to the airport to go to Iran I got a message from one of my followers who said, “I see you are coming to Iran. If you don’t have a place to stay in Tehran, you’re welcome to stay with me and my family.” And I checked her Instagram out and I was like, “Yeah, she looks legit. She looks like a real person. She looks all right. She doesn’t look like or I don’t know, a crazy person or however you would find that out.” But I was like, “Yeah, sure. What’s your address?” And then yeah, I arrived at their house around like 4:00 in the morning and now they’re like my family, they’re my Iranian family. So I just talked to the brother and the family yesterday and…

So I came there not knowing anyone, having absolutely no plans whatsoever. And then I just first, I went with the brother and his friend to visit their group of friends who are off-roaders so they love nature and go on adventures all the time. And then when I went to Shiraz one of the guys in that group knew a girl in Shiraz, who was also a vegan so he introduced us and then I stayed with her when I was there and then I met her friends. And yeah, so I’ve gotten to know so many people all starting from that one girl who invited me.

Joshua: Can you tell me about the hashtag that you were telling me before?

Evelin: Oh, yeah. So I started that this year. So yeah, I was there for one month last year and then I came back this year, actually on the exact same date as I arrived last year, end of April. And I noticed it last year but I notice it more this year because this year I was there for two months and they really do have a problem with littering like there is so much trash in nature. So I wanted to get people involved to do this. And I know that people like to show when they do good things. People like to be patted on the back. And I mean me too. You know I get a lot of nice messages for doing so much for the environment. And it feels good to do good things. So I started this hash tag which is #keepiranclean and asked some friends to start using it as well. And eventually people started taking this up and I would use the hashtag while showing myself in video on my stories picking up trash in nature. And yeah, I had people messaging me and sending pictures of them picking trash or sending me messages of them saying “no to plastic bags”, getting reusable canvas bags and saying “no to straws”.

Joshua: And this is just in Iran or all over?

Evelin: Well, this is in Iran. I do have people from all over the world sending me messages like that.

Joshua: And you just started this in Iran with just starting that hashtag and it picked?

Evelin: Yeah, I mean I wanted it to go viral. But it is kind of understandable that they have other things to worry about. So it’s understandable that littering isn’t on top of their priorities, especially now when their currency has lost a lot of value very quickly. And they’re starting to have issues with water in some parts because it’s getting so hot and so dry. But I mean Iranians are some of the most educated people that I know of and they’re very smart and they’re very caring. So no matter who I talk to about this everyone agrees. It’s just that the government doesn’t really have any programs about sustainability. So everything has to be done on an individual level which I get is hard because with all these things it’s about keeping it simple and easy.

Joshua: You’re talking to an American. My government is not exactly supporting sustainability. That’s why I’m doing this because we have to do it.

Evelin: I mean you do have recycling though, right?

Joshua: Yes. More and more all the time. So I forgot. You know one of the big things on this podcast is I like to ask people to do something that they’re not already doing environmental and most people haven’t done something. No one has done anything on the scale… One person’s gotten rid of a car but no one’s done anything on the scale of choosing to not fly. But I wonder if you’d be willing if there’s something that you haven’t done that you’d be willing to do that you could do for a bit and then we could talk about how it went afterward? And I think with you it’ll be more valuable if you up for it because what you’ve already done is more than what most people would consider. And if there’s something that you would be willing to do more based on your… You’ve already talked about the environment means a lot to you and let me just say a few things that I said everyone is. It doesn’t have to fix all the world’s problems all by you know you don’t have to fix everything by yourself overnight. It can’t be something you are really doing and it can’t be just knowledge or education. It can’t be telling other people what to do because [unintelligible] education don’t actually change… It has to be something measurable. Are you up for doing something and coming back and sharing how it went next time?

Evelin: Of course. Do you have any suggestions what that could be?

Joshua: Well, I avoid doing that because I want people to do something based on what they value. And almost everyone has something that… Usually we go back and forth a few times and they’re like, “You know I’ve been meaning to do this one thing.” And the size of it doesn’t really matter. It’s just doing anything, I want to clarify. What I find is that it’s not the size of what the person does, if they do it because it’s just I view it is a skill and if you develop the skills you get good at it. And then you do the next thing. And if you don’t do the skills, it doesn’t matter if it’s the biggest thing in the world. If you develop the skills, it becomes a part of you. Is there anything you’ve been thinking of doing that you’ve been looking for an excuse to do it?

Evelin: Well, as I was saying in the beginning like what I’m struggling with now that I’m trying to really get as a habit is to be plastic free and to avoid packaging. So yeah, I could do challenge of going plastic like completely plastic free for… I don’t know. How long? A week? Two weeks or a month?

Joshua: I was going to say people do things on that range. What works for you? And also do you mean by plastic free, do you mean you are not going to touch plastic, you’re not going to get new plastic? Because I like to make the goal…The more specific the goal is, the more easy is for someone to do. Like I have lots of plastic containers that I have from before so I’ll keep using them. I’m not going to get rid of them.

Evelin: Oh, OK. Well I’m still going to touch plastic because I still want to pick up litter and stuff. But I’m not going to buy anything or accept things like I’m going to try to consume zero plastic. I mean I would like to become plastic free in general in life so let’s do a month. I like challenges.

Joshua: Oh, that’s a big challenge. I guess to go zero… I’m just thinking to myself, if I can go zero for a month. I mean I’m looking over at the plastic bag that I washed over there. It’s like it get pretty dirty because I washed it so many times but it still works. OK. If you are up for a month, then I’d love to talk to you again in a month and hear how it goes.

Evelin: Sure. I’m just going to have to think because I’m going to go camping.

Joshua: Well, here is something I say to a lot of people is that…Like here’s a common one. A lot of people say, “I’m going to go without meat for a month” for people who eat meat and then I put out to them… You know hear the two big things that happen that I help prepare people for is that one, the other people. So if you sometimes like you visit someone and they’re like, “Here, I made you some steak.” And so there’s a couple of different things you can do at that point and I’m not saying what the right thing is or what the wrong thing is. It’s different for different people but sometimes people say, “All right. I’ll have the steak and yes, I said I wasn’t going to have meat for a month but I’ll have steak this one time and I’m not going to let that ruin everything.” OK, I had steak that one time.” Some people say, “No, I will absolutely say absolutely not.” But I think most people who don’t think about it is like they think, “Oh, I am going to go for a month without meat” and then, “I had steak. Oh, well that’s the end of that.” But I think when you do something that is absolute zero and then something forces you… Something leaves you not to… It’s like how do you handle that? you don’t have to answer that now but to be prepared for that. The other’s travel is for most people when they’re away from home things that they could control they no longer can and they’re kind of the whims of whatever. So what I found is that you don’t have to have all the answers now but just to be prepared that some things may happen that you can’t conceive of now.

Evelin: Oh, yeah. Well, I’m already used to that like being vegan and traveling in the world especially in places that are you know very far away from touristic places and staying with locals where you don’t speak the same language. You know sometimes I’ve ordered things, asked for no cheese and I get it and there’s cheese on it. Things happen. At least I try my best. I know I don’t blame myself for when it doesn’t go right. And I often forget to ask no straw. And then I get a plastic straw. So I quite often less and less forget to ask to get no straw when I order you know a smoothie or iced coffee or something.

Joshua: OK. So you know what I want to do is bring you the second time so that people can hear how it went. And I think it’ll be great for people to hear someone who’s done a lot and she still can do more and how does someone handle stuff when unforeseen things happen. Anything I didn’t think to ask to bring up now? That’s how I usually end the…There’s two questions that I like to end … Is there anything I didn’t think to ask that’s worth bringing up? Is there anything that you want to say directly to the listeners that didn’t come up?

Evelin: Well, I guess something I want to say that we just talked about now is that you can’t do everything. And I know it might seem very overwhelming about all of these things that you can do better. So just take small steps or take halfway steps. You don’t have to jump from eating meat and dairy to just jump on being vegan, just try it and then slowly you’ll realize it’s easier and doing these better choices like saying no to plastic. It gets easier the more you do it. So don’t be too hard on yourself, just try to be more conscious and take small better steps and eventually you will know the difference. When you look back you can see a difference even though it doesn’t seem as hard as if you go cold turkey.

Joshua: That’s advice. You know I interview a lot of big leaders like gurus and number-one bestsellers. That’s one of the biggest things that they say. Just start with what you have.

Evelin: Oh, cool.

Joshua: So you’re a guru.

Evelin: Well, thank you.

Joshua: Thank you very much. And I’ll talk to you again in a month.

Evelin: OK. Thank you.


After recording this conversation Evelin has shared with me the joy that she’s getting from avoiding plastic. She’s making it fun and the conversation has led me to plog more that is to pick up more garbage when I run originally inspired by John Lee Dumas. If you haven’t listened to that episode, I hope you go back and listen to it. She’s also shared a lot more people avoiding flying. So this is a bigger community than I expected and it’s growing. So I recommend trying it. I think you’ll be amazed at what you learn and how much you grow. Find out what you’re missing and what do you have to lose by trying except saving a few thousand dollars and figuring out how to get the same benefits as we did from traveling without spewing all that pollution into the world that we all share.

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