VegOut PDX and my very first speaking gig (eeek!)

Still very much riding the energy high from my very first speaking event in Portland, OR last weekend. I was invited to speak at VegOut! and it was such a blast, a privilege, and the start of a turning point in my journey. I thought I'd recap the trip for you here!

To start, VegOut! is a two day vegan beer and food festival, with over 100 vendors offering up the best eats, drinks, and vegan products around. They also had a full schedule of thoughtful panel discussions, inspirational solo speakers, yoga classes and musical acts. It was just SO cool to be able to walk around this beautiful, shaded, and HUGE outdoor park with all of these likeminded individuals trying to change the world. But I'll get to more on this in a moment.

So my husband and I landed on Friday afternoon, and took the rest of the day to explore the east side of the city. It is the much more relaxed side of the city, that is split off from the west side by the Willamette River. 

First stop: we grabbed an incredible pizza from Sizzle Pie. This place isn't fully vegan, but has EIGHT vegan pizzas ready to be devoured. We went with the STEVE CABALLERO, which was topped with vegan pepperoni, Field Roast Italian Sausage, green peppers, and Violife "mozzarella cheese." We eat a pretty good amount of vegan pizza (shout out to Amy's Roasted Vegetable Pizza for being in our weekend rotation each week, haha) but it was so nice to know we were getting something that was fresh and definitely vegan, outside the comfort of our own home.

Second stop: the vegan mini strip mall. I repeat... THE VEGAN MINI STRIP MALL. You guys, this is a thing. And it's awesome. And I'd probably visit daily if we lived in this Portland and not the other Portland. This little corner of Heaven is comprised of Sweetpea Baking Company, Herbivore Clothing Company, Food Fight! Grocery, and Scapegoat Tattoo.

Sweetpea Baking is, as you probably guessed, an all vegan bakery! We grabbed some snickerdoodle cookies (which I ate on the walk home because I couldn't wait), an oatmeal raisin cookie, and some cinnamon cake. Straight up cruelty free deliciousness.

Herbivore Clothing Company is a very well known vegan clothing company, who I believe was either the first, or one of the first, in the game. I grabbed myself an, "Eat like you give a damn" tank, an "A little veganism never hurt anybody" sticker, and a pink lemonade lip balm. The husband got an Herbivore elephant snap back. They also have a kickass "OMG VEGAN SHOES" sign inside. Their items are great - clothing, shoes, house products, etc - definitely check out their website!

Foot Fight! Grocery is an ALL VEGAN GROCERY STORE. I have never felt so excited and so cautious at the same time... I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that every single thing in that store I could eat. I didn't have to read the labels (aside from sat fat content for my MS) and it was like a dream. We grabbed some really cool snacks and candy that we don't have on the east coast, and I wish I could have bagged up the whole store and brought it back here!

Scapegoat Tattoo is a tattoo shop that uses all cruelty free products. Some may be surprised to know that not all tattoo ink is created equal, and it is certainly not all cruelty free or without animal products in it. Not everyone in that shop is vegan themselves, but their message is really awesome.

After we made our way through that little slice of vegan Heaven, we walked back to our hotel - Hotel Eastlund - with the intention of taking a nap before dinner. Well, we both woke up around 7am the next morning, so clearly our jetlag needed to find it's exit. But it was cool because we felt totally refreshed!

We headed down to VegOut Saturday morning, and ate THE BEST vegan wings from Chicago-based These Wingz. We grabbed a double order of the Sweet & Tangy BBQ and literally housed them. The sauce was on point, and the wings had just the right crisp to them. Amazing.

We then grabbed a cheeseburger from Eat.Love.Yoga and MY GOD. YOU GUYS. I had no idea how much I would love a vegan burger that tasted JUST LIKE a real hamburger. It was so confusing, I wanted to check their ingredients every time I took a bite. I even messaged them on Instagram afterwards to see if they use their own recipe or what. They said they, "start with a Beyond Meat base and fluff it up a little bit." Well, never stop fluffing because this thing was legit. So good that we grabbed it again on Day 2. I also grabbed myself a fresh squeezed lavender lemonade for obvious reasons, and a cookie ice cream sandwich because duh. Ice cream.

That first day we caught the Vegan Athlete panel, which consisted of a pro marathon runner, the founder of a local athlete wellness company called On Pace Wellness, a figure competitor, a powerlifter who is also a chef, and three adorable kids who are part of a group called DZ Vegan Kid Athletes. As an athlete myself, I really loved this panel and seeing such a diverse representation sharing the same facts - that you can be an athlete AND be vegan. It was a super cool message to spread.

After we left the festival, we Uber'd our way over to the west side of the city, so we could be tourists on the other side of the river. We hit up Powell's Books first - which is the world's largest independent book store - and let me tell you... I got lost. It has multiple floors, and the sections had to be color coded, because you simply could not find your way around easy enough. It houses over 1.5 million books in 3,500 different sections. Overwhelmed is an understatement, but it was so frigan COOL. A total book lovers dream. You could spend an entire day in there.

After Powell's, we walked over to MadeHere PDX. The cool thing about this place, is that it houses items from various local vendors, all made within the city of Portland. The items were so nice, but with the lack of space in our carry ons (I am forever overpacking) we could only window shop. Great concept and cool vibe in the store.

After walking around the west side a bit more, we Uber'd back to our hotel for a little bit of downtime before we headed over to Blossoming Lotus. This is a small, full vegan restaurant with an intimate feel. We both ordered the lentil-walnut burger with muenster "cheese" and fingerling potatoes. It was super flavorful and delicious. I also grabbed a Lemon Bomb mocktail and my husband had the "Goodnight Sweetheart" bourbon cocktail. 

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel and went up to the top floor to enjoy the rooftop deck at Altabira. The view was amazing because since we were located on the east side of the city, it gave an amazing view of the west side lit up at night. It is surrounded by safety glass instead of railings, so you got a full, unobstructed view. It was a really great spot, and we both had a drink before we turned in for the night.

SUNDAY finally came and it was time for my panel talk! We headed over to the festival early though, so we could hear a solo talk by Domz Thompson, founder of Crazies and Weirdos. If you haven't heard his story, definitely check him out - a former gang member, he ultimately ended up in prison and became vegan while he was incarcerated. He now spends his time preaching that good, compassionate word known as veganism.

My panel had such inspirational, pure people involved within it. The panel was titled, "How to be a leader for positive change," and it included Jodi Monelle (CEO of LIVEKINDLY, the world's fastest growing, and top viewed vegan news website), Diana Edelman (founder of Vegans, Baby who had an intricate hand in growing Las Vegas' vegan scene), Vinny Vegan (founder of Gangster Vegan Organics, which sells t shirts to help feed inner city kids with an organic, vegan meal), and Brenden Fitzgerald and Carly Bergman (founders of the Sustainable Duo - preaching the message of going more zero waste - as well as the founder of Planet Protein - vegan protein bars).

We chatted about our backgrounds, how to stay positive on social media, and the influences that came into play for our own lives to spread a positive, vegan message. I had so much fun on that stage with them, and it was so wonderful to meet and connect with them. Our panel was really diverse in terms of each corner of the vegan world we were trying to reach, which was really quite an honor to be a part of because we all had the same underlying message: to be more compassionate in our choices. These people are changing the world. Find them on social media and follow their journeys!

After the festival, my husband and I walked over to Capitol - an all vegan restaurant and bar - to celebrate my first speaking opportunity with even more delicious vegan food. I grabbed the Classic Mac and Cheese (just enough spice, and the cashew cheese made me do a double take!) and my husband got the Jalapeno Mushroom Burger. Amazing food and super friendly staff!

After that we somehow still had room for dessert, so we walked literally across the street to Eb & Bean for some vegan ice cream. We both inhaled the Vanilla Roasted Macadamia (almond milk) soft serve with a few vegan toppings and it was SO flavorful! I don't think I've had soft serve since we went vegan, and it was SUCH a treat!

We then went back to our hotel for the night and I continued to ride the energy high from the day through the night and into the morning. And honestly, I still have it. We flew out Monday and were back home late Monday night. It was a whirlwind trip, but as you can see, we truly packed A LOT in those 3ish days.

I'll be honest - I was filled with nerves the day before we flew out. I don't enjoy flying and I was feeling the anxiety building for my first speaking event. I wrote a little bit about this on my Instagram and Facebook. I ended up talking to myself out loud that afternoon, and totally reshaping my view on this speaking event, because deep down, I knew that it is NOT how I truly felt. I was having thoughts that I was going to fail, I had fears of not being able to answer certain questions at all, and I worried that I was going to sound bad. But then I remembered that I KNOW my story, and I believe in this lifestyle down to my core, and my need to spread this knowledge is bigger than just making myself healthy. I realized how silly it was that I doubted that I would be able to share my story and my truth. After that, my fears were gone...

...up until 10 minutes before we took the stage. I had the jitters during my first questions, but I eased into it as time went on. Watching some of the video (shout out to the hubs for capturing it!) it is semi-painful how many times I say "um" but I am SO happy with how it all went. I was able to string together coherent sentences (haha), tell my story, and answer an audience question that was specifically in response to my story. I even had someone approach me afterwards to talk about how he can have his mother make similar changes, which is ultimately what this is all about for me.

I am just SO proud of myself for taking this leap. I asked the universe for this opportunity, and it responded. It new I was ready before I felt completely ready myself. I was never a fan of public speaking before, but that was when I didn't have a message to share. I do now, and I realize the importance of continuing to do more events like this. I loved being up there, and I am so glad I walked off that stage with that feeling. You better believe I am now on the lookout for more speaking opportunities.

I'm realizing on this journey of mine into influencing others onto a similar path and making a name for myself, that you truly learn more about yourself OUTSIDE of your comfort zone than inside of it. 

So this little box of mine that I was content on living in, I'm blowing the walls way out on. I'm excited to see what's next.