Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing people about living simply, traveling, breaking through barriers, and living their Dream Life. Every Monday, you’ll find a new interview posted. If you missed it, last week I interviewed Jen Landis the creator of Pincurl Girls.
Today I’m excited to have Matt Madeiro of the blog Three New Leaves. This is a guy who knows how to embrace change and live unconventionally. In the last two years he has lost weight, started traveling and embraced minimalism. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview.
This interview series is about people who live their dream life – which looks different for everyone and is always evolving – can you describe your current Dream Life?
Whew. That’s a tough one.
Part of me pictures a life on the road, traveling and exploring for every month I get on this earth. Part of me envisions rooting myself to one place for awhile and really growing with the community there. Part of me fantasizes about personal training, about helping people recover their health, while another imagines my writing career taking off and shoving me into some kind of spotlight.
There’s a common theme, I think, in all of these ideas: doing what I love. Doing it mindfully, doing it often, and having the freedom — let alone the opportunity — to live happily as I do. I have a thousand different ambitions bouncing around my head, but I guess my Dream Life doesn’t really change through them all.
I want to live simply, mindfully, with awareness and appreciation for whatever I’m doing. In that sense, I guess I’m not too far from my ideal. I’m living in wide, challenging city, with an incredible friend, and making new experiences all the time. I’m writing, seeing words have a direct impact on people, and forging new friendships all the time.
I can’t really ask for more.
What does being a minimalist mean to you?
Living with enough. I’m not overly concerned with having X many things or anything like that, and nor do I expect to be 100% ‘pure’ in what I buy in the future. I’m more intent on living lightly, with the essentials and maybe a little more, so that the emphasis is removed from the stuff I own and put instead where it belongs: the memories I’m making.
I figured that was the goal of minimalism, in any case — to take the time, money, resources, etc. you gain from de-emphasizing stuff and put it into the parts of life that genuinely matter. For me, that’s friends, family, and experiences, and being minimalist is my way of freeing myself up to enjoy and appreciate each one of them as much as possible.
In my opinion, we sometimes encounter fear or barriers while following our passions. What has been your biggest barrier and how did you get past it?
My biggest barrier? Realizing I have time.
That sounds strange, but bear with me a moment. I’m not much of a planner. I have an idea of things I’d like to do in the future, but no real sense of when they’ll occur, and for the most part I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m leaving Los Angeles in a few months, as an example, and I currently have no idea where I’ll be going when I do. I shift my emphasis from deep future things to the now, to living in every moment I’m given, and I think it has helped me hone an appreciation for this city better than I otherwise would have been able to.
That said, there were a few weeks last month that found me somewhat panicked about what I was doing. I had so many projects bouncing around and so many different ideas on things I’d like to, and it took me a solid week to realize that I have time to do all of them. I don’t have to do everything all at once. I may not peer into the future too much, but it’s worth remembering that I’m just out of college, for god’s sake, and that I have all the time in the world to fulfill all these wild, reckless ambitions.
It’s something I still struggle with, honestly, but I’m getting better all the time.
Your journey to getting fit and healthy has been so remarkable – congratulations! I particularly liked your recent post We Don’t Know Much of Anything (About What We Eat) and totally agree that we are always learning about the best nutrition for us, and what’s best for you may be different for me. I’ve heard a lot of good things about eating “Primal” or “Paleo,” but the concern I always come back to is the sustainability of eating so much meat. What are your thoughts on this issue and do you think someone can benefit from a primal diet, while limiting his meat intake?
Sustainability, like every other part of life, isn’t as clear-cut as people make it out to be.
A large draw of the Paleo/Primal movement is the active decision to move away from factory farming and other unsustainable methods of production and back towards a more organic, natural system. It’s by no means perfect, but the grass-fed model still holds far more promise than the alternatives, and everyone — carnivorous or not — should agree that it’s better than the general misery caused by the feedlot system.
The problem, as I see it, is in how many people approach this with a one-sided perspective. People tend to think feedlots and the livestock industry overall are the lone things damaging the environment, but that’s far from the case (and in some cases, proper livestock rotation helps the environment). What about all of the destruction caused when you clear out huge swaths of land for grain production? What about the insane abundance of corn that America has stockpiled, forcing food manufacturers to work it into every product imaginable? It’s not a pleasant thought, but the production of fruits and vegetables come with its own fair share of problems (pesticides, transportation, soil damage, etc.), yet somehow none of the stigma or vitriol that livestock receives.
The system sucks. Given how fat-phobic the modern world can be, however, and with so many people convinced that a natural food like meat is somehow damaging to their health, the livestock side of it shoulders most of the blame. Considering that the alternative is to eat faux-meat and other weird food products that came out of a laboratory, however, I think the conscientious eater is left with two choices: drown themselves in concerns about sustainability (possibly to the detriment of their health), or vote with their dollar by supporting sustainable systems wherever possible.
To answer the second question, I think anyone and everyone can benefit from a Paleo diet. I do believe meat has important qualities for our health, but I also believe that people don’t need to eat nearly as much of it as they might think in order to maintain muscle mass and overall good health. I get anywhere between 40 and 100 grams of protein most days (less on others), and I haven’t seen any loss of lean muscle mass — the kind that promotes longevity and organ reserve — though that’s another topic for another time. The real key, here, is to remove grains from the diet, as their negative effects extend well beyond just being an empty source of calories.
So true that issues are rarely cut and dried and grain and corn production in this country definitely fall into that category. The documentary King Corn sheds some interesting light on corn production and subsidies in the U.S.
In other exciting news, you’re releasing a new ebook! Can you tell us a little about Roots: Growing Back to the Basics of a Simple Life and what made you decide to write it?
Sure! My decision to adopt a Paleo/Primal lifestyle came with a pretty big realization: conventional wisdom sucks. So many of the things foisted upon us by modern commercialism or culture are completely unnecessary for our health and well-being, and Roots, accordingly, is an attempt to catalogue that. For the last nine months, as an example, I haven’t used shampoo, and while that makes most people cringe, the reality is that shampoo (and conditioner, and body products, and…) really only hit the market in the last century. Despite this, we’re convinced that they’re necessary, though anyone willing to experiment soon finds otherwise.
Here’s a blatant plug to the announcement page. It talks about all of this and more, and in a far more interesting way, too!
Can you share some knowledge gain recommendations (blogs, books, documentaries, etc.)?
The first two are the best books I’ve read on health. The former is easier to digest and a little less heavy on some of the science, though the latter is still very readable (and a little closer to what I myself eat). Fat Head, lastly, is a funny documentary about some of the truly terrible health ideas we accept as conventional wisdom in America, and pretty good viewing for someone new to the idea that saturated fat may actually be good for you (hint: it is).
Otherwise, I’d recommend anyone and everyone pick up Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts. It’s a fantastic book all around and inspirational like few others. In so many ways, it challenges conventional thinking regarding travel, and was an absolute godsend when I first read it for proving that it’s okay to not live like everyone else. That’s a lesson hard-learned, I think, but never forgotten.
As far as blogs go, the announcement page for Roots has a huge list of blogs I read at the end.
Any last words of inspiration for people looking to actively pursue their passions?
Not to steal from Rolf Potts, but here comes some wisdom: you don’t have to live like everyone else. You don’t have to play by the same rules. You don’t have to any damn thing that you don’t want to, but you have to be willing to work hard (and work long) to survive outside the ‘system.’ If you want to travel for years at a time, you can do that. If you want to live any kind of unconventional life, you can do that too. There’s so much pressure from every corner of society to fit the mold it has created, but at the end of the day it’s all on you to choose how you’re going to live your life.
That’s so true! We don’t “have” to do anything. So why would we choose to live in a way that makes us unhappy? Thank you so much for taking the time to participate, Matt!
Okay, so now you need to head over to Three New Leaves and see what’s crackin’. First, be sure to check out Roots: Growing Back to the Basics of a Simple Life.
Second, here are a couple great posts to get the inspiration flowing:
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