Vegan vs. Plant-Based: What’s the Difference? (Episode 83)

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Welcome to our blog! We haven’t thought to promote it before, assuming people would dig deeper and find it, but several people pointed out they didn’t know about it so we thought we’d tell you.

All of our videos have an associated blog post with more pictures, context, details and links to relevant information and businesses. If you ever have a question that we didn’t cover in the video, check the blog post linked in the YouTube description. It might be there.

This video is a response, of sorts, to the rash of “ex-vegan” YouTube “celebrities.” Several, including Rawvana and Raw Alignment, have said they’re eating animal products due to health issues caused by their previous “vegan” diets, which were extreme fad diets that happened to be vegan.

These people were never actually vegan, though. They lacked the vegan ideology and mainly focused on the diet/vanity aspects related to being thin. Additionally, many of them were using veganism to hide an eating disorder for which they need to seek professional help.

Veganism Defined

A lot of people (especially celebrities who are paid by the animal ag industry) like to redefine veganism to paint vegans as hypocrites. However, there is a clear definition of the vegan ideology that was written more than 40 years ago. It states:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The key phrase in this definition is “as far as is possible and practicable.” It’s impossible to be a perfect vegan in a world built on top of animal exploitation. All we can do is try our best to avoid most animal products “as far as is possible and practicable.”

Just because we have to get a vaccine that’s made using eggs doesn’t make us hypocrites. Unfortunately, the companies who make vaccines are resistant to adopt vegan methodologies because it costs money to switch their production systems over, so we’re stuck with what they offer.

The same goes for bugs and small animals killed during the harvesting of our crops. There are ways to reduce the impact of our farming methodologies on insects and animals, but they’re more expensive so most companies haven’t adopted them.

With that said, nearly 80% of all land on this tiny planet is used to either raise livestock or the grain that’s fed to livestock, which yields less than 20% of the calories we consume. So if you really want to reduce the number of insects and small animals killed during farming, go vegan.

The Plant-Based Diets

Veganism is NOT a diet. But it does have a major dietary component because we eat several times per day. Just like with the omnivore diet, there are several different types of plant-based diets:

  • Fruitarian Diet – only eats fruit.
  • Raw Vegan Diet – only eats uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
  • Vegan Junk Food Diet – doesn’t care about health; eats anything as long as it doesn’t come from an animal.
  • Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet – basically, the Mediterranean Diet without animal products; lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and mushrooms.
  • WFPB No-Oil – WFPB without any oil (olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, etc.).
  • WFPB No SOS – WFPB without any added sugar, oil or salt.
  • Starch-Based Diet – Dr. McDougall’s version of a WFPB No SOS diet that focuses on complex carbs like potatoes and whole grains.
  • Nutritarian Diet – Dr. Fuhrman’s diet that allows small amounts of animal products but is primarily a WFPB Diet.

There are others, plus some people opt for water fasts, juice fasts and intermittent fasting.

However, NONE of this has anything to do with veganism. They’re diets that happen to be vegan or mostly vegan, and just like all the omnivore diets (Mediterranean, Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Zone, South Beach, DASH, etc.), some have been scientifically proven to be healthier than others.

Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) No-Oil Diet

After extensive research and reading, we opted for the WFPB No-Oil Diet promoted by many doctors and scientists, such as Dr. Greger, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Popper, Dr. Garth Davis, Dr. Neal Barnard and many others.

We have a LONG blog post on LottaVeg.com listing our Credible Nutrition Sources and we also share our criteria for selecting them. We encourage you to read through that blog post and develop your own criteria for choosing who to trust.

Credible Nutrition Sources Banner

Please keep in mind that just because someone publishes a book doesn’t mean it’s true; it only means the publisher thought the book would sell. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called experts misrepresent the science to sell books, supplements and diet programs that don’t work in reality. Trust no one.

We also have a list of the Best Plant-Based Books for a Longer, More Vibrant Life over on LottaVeg.com. If you want to know the science behind our diet, we encourage you to read two or three of these books.

Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis is a good place to start because he goes into detail about how to spot bogus, corporate junk science. If heart disease is a concern for you, skip straight to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Recommended Plant-Based Books Covers

That’s the difference between our diet and most other diets: there are dozens, probably hundreds of doctors and scientists who study it and use it to treat their patients. It’s not one guy who published a book that misrepresents the science in order to profit from your confusion.

They may not agree on all the fine details, but they all agree on the main premise: eat plants, not animals. We evolved from primates who eat plant-based diets. We didn’t evolve from lions and tigers and bears.

Unsavory Truth

If you want to know why we don’t trust science paid for and/or conducted by corporations or industry associations, please read Unsavory Truth by Dr. Marion Nestle (no relation to the food company). She has made it her life’s work to uncover corruption in the food industry, and it’s far more insidious than we ever thought.

Unsavory Truth Nestle

Studies funded by any industry, including beef, diary, egg, nut, avocado, olive oil, pomegranate, cereal, blueberry, etc. cannot be trusted. Whether plant or animal, food studies funded by industry are setup to sell more products; not discover scientific truth.

Other Useful “Ex-Vegan” Response Videos

GojiMan

Mic the Vegan

Plant Based News

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Our Big Surprise + Emergency Trip to US Embassy in Guayaquil (Episode 82)

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WE’RE GOING TO INDIA!!!

Amelia is finally letting me tell you because we can’t keep it a secret any longer. That’s because we had to make an emergency trip to the US Embassy (Embajada de los Estados Unidos) in Guayaquil to get my passport renewed. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Our friends Chinnu and Abin from Namaste India are getting married! Their story is a full blown India Rom Com (Romantic Comedy) that we’ll share on a later date.

Chinnu Abin

We’ve been going to Namaste since our first week in Cuenca, and we forged a friendship with Chinnu and now Abin, too. We’re VERY honored to be invited and excited to attend their wedding in southern India!

We will also be staying in Amsterdam for a week on the way to India, Amelia’s first time to Europe and my first time to mainland Europe. But before we can go, we have some obstacles to overcome…

Yellow Fever Vaccine (Vacuna de Fiebre Amarilla)

The Yellow Fever Vaccine is a requirement to go to India for anyone who has visited or lives in a country that has Yellow Fever, and Ecuador fits that bill. If we show up in India without the vaccine, they’ll quarantine us for 6 days and that’s NOT how we want to spend half our time in india!

Amelia was in charge of the India Visa process, and she thought we needed the vaccine before we could apply for the visa, which isn’t correct. You can apply for the visa without the vaccine, which would have alerted us sooner to the problem with my passport.

In the states, you generally get vaccines at your doctor’s office, but it’s different here in Ecuador. We emailed our primary care doctor and he directed us to the health ministry office on Doce de Abril near Parque de la Madre.

Centro de Salud Cuenca

We walked down there one afternoon (it’s only about a 10 minute walk from our house) to find out they only give vaccines in the morning. This was during Carnaval so they weren’t giving vaccines again until after the holiday almost a week later.

So the next week, we went back to get our shots but the line was already about 20 people long when we arrived shortly after 8AM and they don’t open until 8:30 AM. We both had other appointments that morning, so we left and came back at 11:30AM only to learn they had already run out of the Yellow Fever vaccine for the day. Apparently, they get a fresh batch every day 🤷‍♂️

It was Friday, so once again we had to wait until the following week to go back. We got there right at 8AM the following Tuesday and we were already 5th in line, but we managed to get our shots and the Yellow Fever booklet we need to go to India. It only took 4 trips.

Our shots were totally free. Vaccines are covered by the national healthcare program even if you’re not on the IESS plan.

India Visa & Your REAL Passport Expiration Date

With our Yellow Fever booklet in hand, we went home to fill out the online visa application for India. That’s when I realized we had a problem.

Here’s the second eligibility requirement: Passport should have at least six months validity from the date of arrival in India.

You tell me. Does that mean the passport needs to be at least 6 months old? Or does it mean it needs to have a least 6 months remaining before it expires? Amelia thought the first; I thought the second.

So after filling out the online form, it told me I’m not eligible for a visa because my passport expires within 6 months of our trip.

That means your passport does NOT expire on the expiration date printed on your passport. It actually expires 6 months BEFORE that date.

Ecuador and many other countries have the same rule. You cannot enter their countries with less than 6 months of “validity” left on your passport so keep that in mind. We’re setting calendar reminders for 8 months prior to expiration so this doesn’t happen again.

If I had left Ecuador, they wouldn’t have allowed me to reenter. I would have had to stay in the US for 2 to 3 weeks waiting for my new passport before returning. Thankfully we avoided that situation.

Emergency Trip to the US Embassy in Guayaquil

You can use DHL to ship your passport, application and money to the US Embassy in Guayaquil, but this adds several days and a lot of risk to the passport renewal process. I would NEVER ship my passport and leave myself stranded!

Las Busetas de Operazuay Tur

So we opted to take a buseta with Operazuay Tur from Cuenca to Guayaquil to file the passport renewal paperwork in person. You can only go to the embassy on Tuesday or Wednesday from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM so plan accordingly.

Operazuay Tur

Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil

Rather than take a buseta that leaves Cuenca at 6AM, we went the night before and used some of Amelia’s points to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil. We’ve stayed there before and it was REALLY nice. This Courtyard is as nice as any Marriott back in the states.

Marriott Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil Lobby

Mall San Marino

The Courtyard in Guayaquil is only a couple blocks from Mall San Marino, which has a NOE Sushi Bar with vegan options.

San Marino Mall

One of the things that continues to surprise us is how similar other countries are to the US. This is one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been in, with many of the same brands you would see in the states, plus several brands from Europe that we don’t often see in the states.

We’re taught in the states to think that South America and developing countries around the world are still living in the dark ages, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for the language being spoken and printed on most (not all) signs, you could plop this mall down in any American city and no one would believe it came from South America.

There was one more difference: it was PACKED with people on a Monday night! The malls are dying in the US mostly thanks to Amazon and online shopping. However, Amazon hasn’t overtaken Ecuador because reliable, affordable shipping options don’t exist here, yet. That means people still do most of their shopping in the real world.

Mall San Marino People

NOE Sushi Bar San Marino Guayaquil

We’ve eaten at the NOE Sushi Bar in Cuenca and the Quito Airport several times, and it’s delicious! They have two pages of vegetarian sushi options, and all of them can be veganized except the tamago (which is egg).

NOE Sushi Menu

NOE Sushi Menu 2

Be sure to tell them you’re vegan: Somos veganos (or soy vegano if you’re alone). And remind them that means no queso, no crema, no juevo, no carne, no pesca. They always bring us a little abreboca (small appetizer) that’s vegan; some avocado sushi on this occasion.

NOE Sushi Appetizer

We also ordered the Yasai Maki and the Bonsai Vegetariana, sin crema. Since some of it was fried, it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but it certainly was DELICIOUS! We’ll have to eat extra clean for several days to make up for it!

NOE Sushi Platter

Renewing My Passport at the US Embassy in Guayaquil

Hopefully we don’t get in trouble for showing the embassy because they wouldn’t let us film anything. As soon as they saw my camera, they told me to put it away. There were LOTS of people waiting in line, but they lifted the rope for us and let us go straight to the front since we’re American citizens.

All the guards were VERY polite, smiling and happy. We’re so used to the sour attitudes of security guards in the states, it was a pleasant surprise to be treated with respect and kindness.

US Embassy Guayaquil

We had to leave everything at the security entrance except our passport docs. They asked us to turn off our phones and watches, too. Luckily, they let us pass without shutting off my Fitbit because I had no idea how to turn it off. They gave us a number to collect our things on the way out.

After going through the security scanners, we exited the security station and entered the beautifully landscaped embassy grounds. More smiling guards were there to point us in the right direction. Again, lots more people were waiting in the open air to go inside the next building. And again, they pointed to the door and sent us in before everyone else.

Once inside, there was another security scanner with a line of people and they escorted us in front of them. There were 13 windows serving another LONG line of people, but only one window for American citizens. We had our own waiting area with chairs to sit in. There were 3 people in front of us, but it only took about 10 minutes before it was our turn.

I handed my passport, application and passport photo to the agent and he reviewed everything very quickly. He crossed out the TravelingMailbox address I had entered and told us to use our Cuenca address, instead.

Then he said we needed a color copy of my passport details page, which nearly gave me a heart attack. I was afraid we would need to leave the embassy to get a copy made, but if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to get back before 11:30 AM when they close. Then he said there’s a copy machine outside in the courtyard area, so my freakout was short lived.

He also told us to go pay the cashier, who was at window 14 around the corner from the other 13 windows, and bring the receipt back to him with the copy of my passport. The cost was $110 for a passport renewal.

We went outside to a small green kiosk with a man sitting inside who does nothing but make copies. It was $1 for a copy. Then we went back inside, again being escorted through the security line, then escorted in front of the line to pay for our renewal. They gave us two receipts: one for the agent and one that I’ll need in order to pick up my passport in two weeks.

We went back to the original agent and waited behind two people for about 5 minutes. Then he called us up, took my passport, the color copy, the corrected application, and the receipt, and told us to wait a few minutes for the approval process.

About 5 minutes later, he called us back up and gave my passport back to me, along with a green slip of paper saying my application has been approved and it would be ready in 15 calendar days.

He told us it should only take 8 to 10 business days, though, and he asked if I wanted to DHL it back to Cuenca, but said that would add another 5 to 6 days to the process so I opted to go back to Guayaquil to pick it up. With our trip so close, I will only feel comfortable if they hand it directly to me.

We left that area, walked back through the grounds and into the security entrance building, gathered our things and exited the embassy. A cab was waiting across the street so we hopped in and he drove us back to the Courtyard hotel.

Amelia arranged a late checkout for us so we did some work in the room and then went for lunch at NOE again before heading back to the buseta terminal near the Guayaquil airport.

Operazuay Tur Guayaquil

Overall, it was one of the most pleasant experiences we’ve ever had with our government, and it was in another country! Everyone was super nice and helpful, but most of the guards didn’t speak English so we had to practice our Spanish under stress.

Now we wait and hope my passport gets here on time without issue. 🤞

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Flashback Day In Our Life + Apartamentos Otorongo Tour (Episode 81)

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This is a flashback day in our life. When we first moved here and stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo, we had a daily routine that included fresh fruits & veggies, and fresh baked bread.

Apartamentos Otorongo

When we came to Cuenca on our exploratory trip in 2017, we stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo for a week, and when we moved to Cuenca later that year, we stayed at Otorongo for almost 2 months while we looked for a rental house.

Apartamentos Otorongo Sign

The location is perfect for getting settled here in Cuenca, and we loved Xavier, Samara and Samantha. They’re wonderful hosts and made us feel right at home from the first day. We also got to know Sara and Angelita, two of the staff members who helped teach us Cuencano Spanish, and kept our rooms spotless.

We made several gringo friends during both our stays at Otorongo, and we still hang out with most of them. Some have moved away, either back to the states, to another country or to somewhere else in Ecuador, but we stay in touch with them, too. Otorongo is a great place to start building your Cuenca community.

If you want the best deal on your stay, especially extended stays, book through their website at HotelOtorongo.com. That’ll save you money while making Xavier and his family more money by cutting out the middle booking site.

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Nearly every morning during our stay at Otorongo, we walked along the Tomebamba river and up the stairs to Mercado 10 de Agosto for fresh fruits and veggies. It’s best to go in the morning while everything is still very fresh. Since they don’t refrigerate their meat in the mercados, it can get quite smelly by the afternoon.

Amelia Mercado

After we loaded up on produce, we walked across the street to one of the panaderías for fresh baked bread. If you’re vegan, some of the bread has cheese (queso) inside it and some is brushed with butter (mantequilla). We usually bought the whole wheat buns and some water bread, which is a popular type of bread here made only with flour, yeast and water. Each bun/roll costs 13 cents.

Panadería

Lavandería Tomebamba

Otorongo has an onsite washer and dryer available to guests, but we preferred supporting the local economy by letting someone else wash, dry and fold our laundry. Lavandería Tomebamba is a convenient location and just a few blocks from Otorongo.

Lavandería Tomebamba

When we stayed there, the cost for a load of laundry including detergent was $3.50. Now they have a pricing structure that starts at $2.90 and goes up to $6, depending on the size of the load.

Amelia Lavandería

If you’re contemplating a move here, Otorongo is a great place to start your new adventure. It’s the perfect location with convenient access to all the things you need to begin a new life in a foreign city.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Expat Pros & Cons Part 2 (Episode 80)

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Here is our Cuenca Expats Pros & Cons list, our second top 10 list of things we love about Cuenca and a few things we don’t love so much. You can view our first top 10 list in Part 1 here: Top 10 Things We LOVE About Cuenca Ecuador + Top 5 Things We Don’t Love (Episode 71)

Top 10 List of Things We LOVE About Cuenca – Part 2

#10 Very Few Bugs

Cuenca is over 8,000 feet in altitude so we don’t have a lot of bugs here. We’ve only seen a couple mosquitos in the 16 months we’ve lived in Cuenca. We do have a few flies and fruit flies, but nothing like the lower altitudes.

While spiders aren’t bugs, we do have some of those, including a tarantula that crawled in under our kitchen door. I shooed him out of the kitchen with a broom and he never came back.

#9 Low Crime Rate

Cuenca, and Ecuador in general, has a very low crime rate. Guns and ammunition are difficult to find so there aren’t a lot of violent crimes. Most crime is petty theft, especially pickpockets. However, over the past few years, the city has installed cameras in popular pickpocket spots, which has cut down on crime in those area.

There is also a strong police presence on the streets and trails around Cuenca. And they’re very friendly. We feel completely comfortable asking them for directions and they often help people cross the street safely.

Cuenca Low Crime

Ecuador’s prisons are also under occupied (only 38%), and they offer very effective rehabilitation services that have resulted in a low recidivism rate (meaning ex-convicts return to prison at much lower rates than in the US).

#8 Small Businesses

Ecuador has a form of regulated capitalism. It’s considered a social republic with a democratically elected government. That means big corporations don’t rule the country, which levels the playing field so small business can compete.

While there are some large stores here like Coral, Supermaxi, Kywi and Sukasa, they’re usually the same price as small vendors, and sometimes more expensive. For example, the small vendors at the mercados are much less expensive for fruits and veggies than Supermaxi.

It can be challenging sometimes to find the things you’re looking for, and a single item may require several trips to different areas of town, but we like supporting small businesses and don’t mind the extra walking.

#7 The Weather

Eight months out of the year, the weather in Cuenca is absolutely beautiful. It’s sunny and 70’s most of the day with an occasional brief rain shower. It seems to rain more during the night than during the day for those 8 months.

Cuenca Weather 1

Cuenca Weather 2

#6 Coffee & Chocolate

Coffee and chocolate are two of Ecuador’s primary exports. Due to its tropical climate near the equator, Ecuador is ideal for growing both of the beans used to make these food products. They also don’t need to be hyper processed and shipped around the world, so we get extra fresh versions of both and you can taste the difference. Yum!

Déjame Que te Cuente

#5 Panaderías

As vegans, we embrace unprocessed carbs from whole foods, including bread made with whole grains. Some of the bread in the panaderías (bread shops) is made with refined flour, but we usually avoid those. Instead, we buy whole grain bread from Kelbert at ArteSana.

ArteSana Kelbert

They also make fresh sourdough (made with white flour) that is amazing, but we usually buy their whole grain breads: Chia & Flax, Chia & Sesame, Rye, etc.

Artesana Sourdough

ArteSana Whole Grain Bread

Tosta is another one of our FAVORITE panaderías in Cuenca. All of their bread has as sourdough base and most of it is whole grain. ¡Su pan es muy delicioso!

Tosta Sourdough

#4 Cuenca Flower Markets

You can buy beautiful and inexpensive flowers throughout Ecuador, but there’s nothing quite like Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market. It was included in National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Outdoor Flower Markets for good reason. It’s incredibly stunning.

Cuenca Flower MarketCuenca Flower Market Cuenca Flower Market Cuenca Flower Market

#3 The Blue Crew

Cuenca is one of the cleanest cities we’ve ever seen, and that’s almost entirely due to the blue crew: Cuenca’s street cleaners. They work from before sunup to after sundown, 7 days per week to keep this city spotless and we couldn’t be more thankful for them.

Blue Crew 1

#2 No GMO’s

GMO crops are banned from Ecuador, despite heavy pressure from the US to allow them. In fact, GMO’s are prohibited in Ecuador’s constitution!

They are allowed to import GMO products like soy sauce and textured vegetable protein (TVP), but they must be clearly labeled. We really appreciate that. We would hate to see the same thing happen here in Ecuador, that is happening in India and other developing countries that made the mistake of allowing GMO crops.

GMO Soy Sauce

#1 Affordable, High-Quality Healthcare

This probably should have been on our first list of things we love about Cuenca because it was one of the main driving factors for our move from the US to Ecuador. We simply couldn’t afford healthcare for my spine back in the states.

My two surgeries cost almost 1 MILLION DOLLARS! And the insurance we have now with Amelia’s company back in Denver would only cover 40% of that after a $12,000 deductible!

Another spine surgery back in the states would bankrupt us, and I’m not willing to do that to myself and especially not to Amelia at our age.

Top 5 Things We DON’T Love About Cuenca – Part 2

#5 Lack of Punctuality

Time is a fluid, non-binding construct here in Ecuador and throughout Latin America. Their culture just doesn’t think of time the same way us Americans and Northern Europeans do. Most things rarely start on time or end on time. It has required us to learn patience and lower our expectations, which aren’t bad things for us rigid gringos.

#4 Lack of Organization and Communication

We’ve gone to events before, but were never able to find them. Signs are rarely used and people can rarely be found who know anything about what’s going on. Combined with the lack of punctuality, we’re commonly left wandering around lost, and often going home without finding the venue.

The city is also replacing the water lines in our neighborhood, so the water has been off quite often in our house since we moved in. Unfortunately, they don’t communicate the outage schedule so we have no idea when it will be off and are unable to make plans for it. We now keep jugs of water in the house so we have water to drink and so we can wash our hands.

The lack of organization and communication can be very exasperating.

#3 Public Urination

Yes. That’s a thing here. And a common one. We rarely go anywhere without seeing someone peeing behind a telephone pole or tree. We’ve even seen women squatting in plain sight of passersby. For us overly clean Americans, it’s a bit gross and uncomfortable to make eye contact with someone peeing in public.

#2 The Rainy Season

While Cuenca is beautiful 8 months out of the year, the other 4 months are dreary and damp. The rainy season starts in late April and goes through early July. That’s when the winter, cloudy season starts and ends around late August. Last year, we only saw the sun for a couple hours during that entire 4 months. I told Amelia we need to go someplace sunny for a few weeks during future rainy seasons.

#1 Sidewalk Hazards

The sidewalks throughout Ecuador are hazardous. There’s no better way to put it. From gaping holes to cut off post stumps to trash racks to slippery terracotta tiles on a steep decline, you’re literally taking your life into your own hands simply by walking on the sidewalk. It requires your constant, diligent attention.

Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 1 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 2 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 3 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 4 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 5 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 6 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 7

Although we do occasionally see people in wheelchairs, the city is not very handicap accessible. That’s something to consider before moving here if you’re physically challenged.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca, Ecuador (Episode 79)

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On this excursion outside Cuenca, Ecuador, we went to Upper Cajas in the Cajas National Park. Edwin picked us up about 9:30AM and the drive took us about 45 minutes to reach the check in station.

Cuenca to Cajas Map

Entry into the park is free, but we did have to sign in at the building by the parking lot before venturing down the trail toward the lake.

Upper Cajas Lake

We followed Ruta 1 Rosada, which was an easy/intermediate trail. There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss with a few spots that were quite difficult to traverse.

Upper Cajas Ruta 1 Rosada

We saw lots of mushrooms and beautiful flowers, but this lone yellow flower set against a dark backdrop was truly stunning.

Yellow Flower

These circus flowers were also visually captivating.

Circus Flowers

Edwin was nice enough to hike up the 1,000 foot incline at the end of the hike to get the van. My legs haven’t fully recovered from the nerve damage so they were very weak by that point. Edwin sent us down the hill to the lower parking lot where he picked us up. If you need a safe and reliable driver who speaks fluent English and really takes care of his clients, Contact Us for an email introduction.

Edwin

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Yoga in the Park + 3 Year Veganversary (Episode 78)

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We celebrated our 3-Year Veganversary over the weekend! We went vegan on March 8th, 2016 and haven’t looked back! We did several fun things to celebrate our compassionate, environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle, and we share a couple of them with you in this video.

We also just passed 500 subscribers on our Vegans Abroad YouTube Channel! Thank you all for subscribing and continuing to watch our videos! They’re quite the labor of love so knowing so many people enjoy them makes it all worthwhile!

Yoga in the Park with Olesya

You may recognize Olesya from this Food With Friends video or the 2nd Food With Friends video, but she’s also an amazing yoga instructor. In fact, Amelia says she’s the best she’s ever had!

Olesya Amelia

The yoga style in this video was relaxing and restorative, but she also teaches much more difficult yoga that gets the heart pumping and the sweat rolling. It all depends on which class you attend.

You can visit her facebook page at Yoga con Olesya en Cuenca for her schedule or to contact her about her upcoming classes or private training.

3-Year Veganversary Dinner at Fratello Vegan

We thought celebrating our 3-Year Veganversary at Fratello with our good vegan friend, Rosy, was apropos.

Fratello Sign

Amelia Rosy

Rosy was our very first vegan friend in Ecuador, and our VERY FIRST subscriber on our Vegans Abroad YouTube Channel! She subscribed before we even launched our channel and now we just passed 500 subscribers! It’s really hard to believe!

Our dinner at Fratello Vegan was delicious as usual. We hung out with Rosy and ate her brother’s amazing vegan food for almost 3 hours! I messaged Rene on Facebook the day before to order a small vegan chocolate cake for our Veganversary.

Fratello normally has a cake on-hand, but Amelia really wanted our own oil-free chocolate cake. If you want something special, it’s best to message Rene a day in advance. This cake was moist, decacadent and utterly delicious!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

The Impact of Veganism on Our Lives

We didn’t go vegan on a whim. We spent several months researching the diet aspects because we were raised to believe humans would die without eating meat, dairy and eggs. It took a lot of documentaries and reading to reverse a lifetime of brainwashing from animal ag marketing messages. Sometimes, I’m still shocked that we haven’t died of some nutrient deficiency yet!

Here are the Best Food Documentaries and Other Mind Altering Films that we recommend. And here are the Best Plant-Based Books for a Longer, More Vibrant Life that we recommend.

While veganism isn’t a diet, food is a really big part of being vegan. We don’t buy shoes or coats or cosmetics every day, but we do buy food every day so it’s always on the top of our mind.

We choose to eat a vegan Whole-Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet, a term coined by Dr. T. Colin Campbell back in the early 1980’s. We eat NO animal products of any kind, and we avoid all processed foods, including oil, which is a processed, refined fat just like sugar is a processed refined carb. This way of eating has dramatically improved our health while leading to significant weight loss.

JP’s Weight Loss as a Vegan & WFPB

Before we went vegan, I weighed in at 197 pounds! At 5’10”, that’s borderline obese.

JP Before Vegan

After 3 years of being vegan, I’m down to 164 pounds and a size 30 jeans! I haven’t been this thin since before I graduated college in my early 20’s! Taking all that weight off my spine has also enabled me to be more mobile while reducing the level of pain I feel on a daily basis.

JP 3 Years Vegan

Amelia’s Weight Loss as a Vegan & WFPB

Amelia has seen a similar transformation. She weighed 130 pounds before we went vegan and WFPB. At 5 feet tall, that’s considered overweight.

Amelia Before Vegan

After 3 years of being vegan, Amelia has lost 25 pounds and now weighs only 105 pounds! She hasn’t been this thin since her early twenties, as well!

Amelia 3 Years Vegan

We’ve lost the weight slowly over the last 3 years, and we’ve kept it off because our diet is ideal for both losing weight and keeping it off. Combined with our “big why” to reduce animal suffering and protect our planet from environmental destruction, it has been very easy to stick with it.

Like I said before, veganism isn’t a diet (even though food is a big part of it). Rather, veganism is an ethical stance to cause the least amount of harm, as is practicable and possible, to innocent animals and our environment. Therefore, we don’t have “cheat days” because that would mean we would be violating our own ethical and moral standards.

By not having cheat days on our ethics, we also don’t have cheat days on our diet. The worst things we consume are oil (sometimes when we eat out) and beer/wine. Those are the only two things we consume that are unhealthy, and we try to avoid them as much as possible.

Improved Cholesterol Numbers

It’s not just about the weight loss, though. Our total cholesterol levels are under 200 without a statin. I have a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and have been battling it most of my adult life. The only time it went below 200 before going vegan was thanks to a high dose of Simvastatin, a drug that I NEVER want to take again! The side effects were horrible!

Despite what the dairy, beef and egg industries would have you believe, we’ve known for 80 years that high blood serum cholesterol leads to cardiovascular disease. And since the 1960’s, we’ve known that dietary cholesterol, and especially saturated fat, increases blood serum cholesterol.

The blockages present in the vast majority of Americans is literally made of oxidized cholesterol, which can be cleaned out by eating a WFPB diet that’s free of cholesterol laden animal foods and low in saturated fat.

Heart disease kills over 600,000 Americans each year, but you don’t have to be one of them. We recommend reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease for details about how to prevent, arrest and reverse the number one killer of people eating the Standard American Diet.

The Impact of Our Veganism on Our Planet

During our 3 years of being vegan, we have dramatically reduced our environmental footprint on this tiny blue and green planet. In 3 years, Amelia and I have saved:

3 Year Vegan Stats

These numbers come from The Vegan Calculator, which is based on stats from the documentary, Cowspiracy. If you’re skeptical about these numbers, great! We encourage you to do some independent, unbiased research. These numbers are corroborated by countless scientists and international organizations much to the chagrin of animal ag, which has paid for their own biased research.

When doing your research, please consider the source. Industry funded research is seldom reliable, whether it relates to plants or animals. We recommend reading Unsavory Truth by Marion Nestle to better understand how insidious corporate junk science has become. You simply can’t trust anything until you understand the study methodology and conclusions.

Vegans for Life

After 3 years of being vegan, our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner. Both Amelia and I considered going vegan many years ago, but never pulled the trigger. We were too afraid of the unknown. But once we realized how horribly the animals suffer, how destructive animal ag is to our environment, and how unhealthy animal products are for human health, adopting a vegan lifestyle became unavoidable. We just couldn’t continue living as hypocrites once we knew better.

This brings us to a quote by Maya Angelou that I mentioned at the end of the video, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We try to live our lives by this guiding principal. We’re far from perfect, but we’re doing the best we can. And each day, we try to do a little better. That’s all any of us can hope to do.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Museum of Modern Art in San Sebas + Marc’s Consignments Tour (Episode 77)

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This day in the life video is a walking tour of the San Sebas (or San Sebastian) area of Cuenca Ecuador.

Marc’s Consignments Cuenca

Our first stop was at Marc’s Consignments. One of our very first subscribers, Marla, will be moving here to Cuenca in June and she requested a tour of one of the consignment stores.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca

Marc’s Consignments is located in the San Sebas area of Cuenca just a couple blocks from San Sebas plaza. In addition to brokering furniture sales, they can also help with relocation services. And if you need something special that they don’t have, they can find it for you. Their stock rotates about every 2 months and they get new items every week so check back often.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca Store

There are two other consignment stores that we know about that are popular with gringos: Cuenca Consignments and JD Muebles. We’ve never been to Cuenca Consignments, but JD Muebles is very similar to Marc’s Consignments.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

One of the prettiest, old-world plazas in Cuenca has to be San Sebas Plaza. Locals and gringos alike are often seen relaxing near the fountain, surrounded by flower gardens. Café San Sebas is popular gringo hangout with a nice patio and views of the plaza and the Museum of Modern Art.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

Cuenca Museum of Modern Art – Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno de Cuenca

We’ve been to Cuenca’s Museum of Modern Art several times. It’s a beautiful, quite and relaxing art museum with several colorful gardens.

 Museum of Modern Art Cuenca

Museum of Modern Art Garden

However, on this day, there weren’t any art exhibits. The museum is in the process of doing a comprehensive renovation so none of the art was on display except for the outdoor sculptures. We still enjoyed ourselves none-the-less.

Pho Vietnamita Restaurant

After we left the museum, we walked a couple blocks to Pho Vietnamita for lunch. As far as we know, this is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Cuenca, and it’s muy delicioso.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Sign

We met Rick, the head chef and owner, during our Visa process. We rode to Machala together to file our paperwork soon after we arrived in Cuenca.

Pho Vietnamita Rick

Rick made us some delicious vegan rice paper spring rolls as an appetizer.

Pho Vietnamita Vegan Spring Roll

We ordered the Vegetarian Pho, which is actually vegan, for our main course. The Vegetarian Ramen uses egg noodles, so it’s not vegan. The Pho bowl was very flavorful and filling.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Bowl

INTI-RAYMI Galeria

After we left Rick’s place, we walked down Simón Bolivar toward Parque Calderon. If you’re in the market for unique furniture and home decor, the INTI-RAYMI Galeria might have what you’re looking for. They have more furniture on the upper level so be sure to check that out, too.

Home Decor Store

The Cuenca Flower Market

A walk through El Centro wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market.

Cuenca Flower Market

Cuenca Flower Market Lilly

Fogón del Zorro Peruvian Restaurant

After we left the flower market, a dark cloud appeared from out of nowhere (as they often do here in Cuenca) and the sky opened up. We stepped inside Fogón del Zorro just as it started pouring rain. They do have a few options on the menu for us vegans, but since we had already eaten, we just ordered a delicious Peruvian beer to sip while we waited out the storm.

Fogon del Zorro Beer

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Is It Easy to Be Vegan in Cuenca Ecuador? (Episode 76)

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A few of our viewers have asked us, “Is it easy to be vegan in Cuenca Ecuador?” So we thought we’d record a video discussing this topic. We think it’s VERY easy to be vegan in Cuenca, and here are our top 7 reasons why: 😎

#1 Colorful Mercados

Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Market Cuenca Ecuador

The mercados in Cuenca and throughout Ecuador are like vegan candy stores. They’re loaded with all the colorful fruits and veggies that we love to eat, and they’re extremely affordable. We spend about $20/week on produce at the mercados, which used to cost us around $100/week back in the states for lower quality, less flavorful fruits and veggies.

#2 Vegan & Vegan-friendly Restaurants

Zatua Miski Smoothie Bowl

When we first arrived in Cuenca, Fratello Vegan was the only fully vegan restaurant. Now we also have Café Libre and Zatua Miski, plus several vegetarian restaurants. Plus, nearly every non-vegan restaurant has a vegan and/or vegetarian section on the menu. It’s SUPER easy to eat out as vegans in Cuenca.

Here’s our list of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Cuenca Ecuador:

The best vegan-friendly restaurants in Cuenca Ecuador:

Plus the vegetarian restaurants we haven’t tried yet:

#3 No Negative Vegan Stigma

Unlike in the states, people here haven’t been brainwashed by animal ag for the past 100 years to think that animal products are healthy. No Ecuadorian has asked us where we get our protein or if we get enough to eat. The attitude here is that a vegan diet is healthy. A common response we hear when we say we’re vegan is, “That’s great. I need to eat healthier, too.”

All of our doctors (GP, neurosurgeon, physical therapist, OBGYN) know that a plant-based diet is healthy. My GP asked if I’m taking B12, which should be recommended for everyone, not just vegans. And he tested my calcium levels, which are in the normal range. Our doctors didn’t say anything negative or derogatory about the vegan plant-based diet and they weren’t at all concerned about our health from eating it.

The traditional Ecuadorian diet is a starch-based diet. They eat lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, rice and potatoes, while meat, dairy and eggs are used as a garnish. Animal products have not traditionally been the central component of meals, although that has been changing over the past 10 years as the country becomes wealthier.

And guess what… Along with the increase in consumption of animal products and processed foods, we’re also seeing an increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and all the other preventable western diseases of affluence. It’s a very sad development here.

#4 Vegan Skin Care in Cuenca Ecuador

Vegan Skin Care Cuenca

You may have seen our earlier video on Vegan Skin Care here in Cuenca, featuring our fellow vegan friend, Dr. Rosy. In addition to Rosy’s skin care treatments, there are also several stores that sell vegan and cruelty free beauty products. One that’s very close to our house is called Annoa. The husband designs and makes the products, and his wife runs the store.

#5 Volunteer at Dog Rescues

Dog Rescue Cuenca

We featured Los Amigos de Manolo in another video, but there are at least two other dog rescues in Cuenca Ecuador and they all welcome volunteers and donations. If you’re really ambitious, we could use a farm animal rescue here!

#6 Growing Vegan Community

Group End 1 Cube of Truth Cuenca Ecuador

When we first moved here, Rosy was the only vegan we knew. Since then, we’ve met more long-term vegans from Ecuador, as well as new vegans and vegans from other parts of the world. We’re excited to see the vegan community growing here, and we’re hoping to grow it even more.

#7 Vegan Activism

Cube of Truth 3 Cuenca Ecuador

We conduct Anonymous for the Voiceless Cube of Truth peaceful street activism events on a semi-regular basis so if you’re interested in activism, Cuenca has those opportunities for you, as well. There are also slaughterhouse vigils and movie showings. Rosy showed Okja at Fratello and she’s planning a showing of Dominion en La Universidad de Cuenca.

If you have any questions about vegan products or services here in Cuenca, or anything relating to living as vegans in Cuenca, please let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

1 Day In Our Life During Carnaval 2019 in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 75)

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Another beautiful, tranquilo Sunday in Cuenca Ecuador and another Day In Our Life video. We logged over 24,000 steps walking around Cuenca, and we share many of those steps with you.

We started the day with a long walk around our vecino (neighborhood) de El Vergel. Daisy even made a couple of friends along the way.

Daisy

It’s Carnaval here in Cuenca, which means you need to watch out for water balloons and spray foam. It’s tradition to get people wet by any means possible during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. We barely missed getting hit by two water balloons thrown from a moving car on our way home from Supermaxi on Friday. The threat is real, people.

Carnaval Foam

You may be wondering if we have recipes for the dishes we ate in the video, but we don’t yet. We’ll post them to LottaVeg.com as soon as we finalize and enter them. They were all delicious, but the spicy choclo (Peruvian field corn) that we put on our salad was my favorite.

Quinoa Barley Breakfast

Quinoa Barley Breakfast

Salad with Spicy Chocolo

Salad with Spicy Choclo

Teriyaki Seitan

Teriyaki Seitan

We stopped in for jugos at Café de Alicia next door to the Old Cathedral in Cuenca’s El Centro. Amelia had a jugo de guanabana and I had a jugo de mango. They were both delicious and only cost $1.70 each. In the states, an orange juice that size would easily cost $4, and good luck finding guanabana or mango juice.

Café de Alicia

Amelia loves being physically active. She does yoga almost everyday, as well as belly dancing and pole fitness. That’s on top of our 10,000 steps on an average day. That’s why I call her my little hummingbird. She’s always fluttering around doing something.

Since Fratello was closed for the holiday, we ate lunch at home and decided to go to Namaste India for dinner. While we were there, Chinnu taught us some words in her native language of Malayalam. She grew up on the southern tip of India in a rural fishing village so Hindi isn’t her native language. That has to be one of the hardest languages to learn. It’s all vowels and the words go on for miles!

This is what “nice to meet you” looks like in Malayalam: നിന്നെ കാണാനായതിൽ സന്തോഷം. And here is the phonetic pronunciation: ninne kāṇānāyatil santēāṣaṁ. Good luck with that!

We had such an amazing day here in Cuenca during Carnaval! And we’re excited to share it with you! Just remember, if you’re ever in Cuenca during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, stay on the lookout for water balloons because they may contain more than just water. 😬

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Gentle Minimalism: Why We Sold ALL Our Stuff (Episode 74)

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This is the story of why we sold all of our stuff, downsized into a tiny apartment, and moved to Ecuador with four suitcases. Going gentle minimalist has liberated us from the weight of our possessions while drastically reducing our footprint on this tiny blue planet.

Going Minimalist

After two surgeries to fix my spine, we had a tough decision to make. We either had to refinance our house to get a smaller payment we could afford, or we needed to sell it and do something completely different. After several months of discussion, analysis and convincing (I had to convince Amelia it was the right thing to do), we decided to sell the house and everything in it.

JP's Herniated Disc & Artificial Disk

Shattered Disc & Replacement

JPs Fusion

5-Level Lumbar Fusion

Our initial plan was to move to Mexico after selling the house, but my back was still in bad shape and we were afraid to venture too far from my neurosurgeon. So we opted to delay our expat adventure for a year to give my spine more time to recover. That’s when we rented a tiny one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Uptown Denver.

Denver Night View

View from Our Uptown Denver Apartment

We stayed there for a year and found out that we loved living in the city and didn’t mind the small quarters. We were able to walk everywhere and we didn’t use our cars nearly as much, so we sold my Audi. I bought this car following the sale of my business, so it had a lot of sentimental value. However, even though it was paid in full, the taxes, insurance and parking still cost us several hundred dollars per month that we could no longer afford.

JP’s Audi

Amelia’s Audi

When our lease was up after a year in our postage stamp apartment, we sold our last remaining possessions (except for our clothes and laptops) and drove Amelia’s car across the country to Kansas City to spend a couple weeks with my family before heading to Atlanta to make our final preparations for our move to Ecuador. That included selling Amelia’s car to the Audi dealership and getting all the paperwork in order to take our dogs with us.

Moving to Ecuador

While we were living in the apartment in Denver, Trump got elected, which caused a serious decline in the Mexico/US relations. Plus, the drug wars in Mexico were heating up and several Americans had been kidnapped and held for ransom near the areas where we were thinking about moving.

This turn of events made us reevaluate our final destination. I had already looked at Ecuador before we sold our house because they’re on the dollar, which was very appealing to us. However, we initially thought it was too far from the US. But after visiting on our exploratory trip in March of 2017, we decided it wasn’t that far after all.

After we sold Amelia’s car, we packed everything we could fit into four suitcases and boarded a plane to Ecuador with Alicia in a small pet carrier. Daisy had to stay at grandma’s house until the weather cooled down. It was too hot to fly her so we came back for her 3 months later when it was cooler.

We had intended to rent a small apartment, but after looking at lots of them, we couldn’t find one that we liked AND that would allow Daisy. In Ecuador, a 30 pound dog like Daisy is considered a big dog, which limits the rental options. You can learn more about that in our Cost of Living in Cuenca Ecuador + Rental House Tour video.

While the house is much larger than we need or wanted, we love the location and it has really nice furniture, which wasn’t common in all the places we saw. We also really liked the landlord, which is very important here.

Our Rental House in Cuenca Ecuador

Some minimalists can fit everything they own in a backpack, but that’s a little too extreme for us. We don’t want to drive ourselves insane trying to be perfect, but we also don’t buy anything we don’t need and we’re very happy living that way. If we had to leave in a hurry, everything that matters to us can fit in two suitcases and two backpacks. If things got really bad, we would be fine with just the two backpacks.

Going Vegan

Veganism is also a form of minimalism. The most environmentally destructive thing on this planet is the animal ag industry. It is the leading cause of deforestation, species extinction, ocean dead zones, pollution of the air, land and water, and human generated greenhouse gases.

Even if you continue being a consumer of “stuff” like society expects of you, going vegan would still drastically reduce your environmental footprint. It’s the absolute bare minimum to be able to call yourself an environmentalist with a clear conscious. Plus, it’s a far more compassionate way to live your life with numerous health benefits.

Here are links to the documentaries I watched and the books I’ve read that led to our decision to go minimalist and vegan:

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!