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When I was a little girl in Ukraine, my parents used to take me to the grass every morning. I’d walk with my tiny bare feet on morning dew. They said I absolutely loved it.Vegan Backpacking in the Sierras: My First Experience | Soul in the Raw

As I grew up and moved to Israel, my grandmother’s home was my second home. My father’s mother would wake me early each day, and we would pack up loads of fruits and go to the park or the beach. We would spend all day there, breathing in the fresh air, only to return home at sunset.

Then, I found myself right here. Alone in my apartment, behind a computer screen, writing for you.

I absolutely love providing this content to help you nourish your body the right way. But in the meantime, I forgot to nourish my own soul.

My dedicated and ambitious nature often leads me to begin something, and refuse to acknowledge how I feel within it. I just continue, I just pull through.

In the last few months, I noticed that my smile was dimming. I missed being around people, and most of all, I think I missed nature.

Our nature is nature. Eating natural food will definitively lead you to want to open your eyes in a beautiful green forest, and smile. It only makes sense intuitively that we need to surround ourselves with greenery.

And suddenly, I did find myself in nature.

I found myself high up in the Sierras, on my very first vegan backpacking trip. The painful uphill climbs, with a heavy backpack, scorching sun, only led me higher and higher – to meet my true self.

Vegan Backpacking in the Sierras: My First Experience | Soul in the Raw

I have spent many months trying to meditate, proclaim gratitude, convince myself that affirmations will allow me to change my mindset and choose happiness.

I still strongly believe that each of us makes a choice to be happy, and whether that choice is easy or difficult, we can always, always find something to be grateful for.

And yet, being high up in the mountains, where very few people walk, has made gratitude and happiness completely effortless for me.

I was so afraid that the backpack would break me. I was afraid that the pouring rain on day 1 would lead me to turn around and go home. I was petrified when I got my period before the toughest day of uphill climbing.

But all of that did nothing but lead me back to myself.

I cannot describe the feeling of sitting on top of a mountain and breathing, with my eyes closed, in nature. No cars around. No noise. Meeting myself in nature made me love myself effortlessly, and my heart was flooded with pure joy.

It made me realize that I don’t need anything in life but this pure, blissful moment of being outdoors and connecting with nature.

It also made me realize that it’s very easy to work really hard, make lots of money, but have no clue what that money is all for. This is how humans become miserable.

But when you work for a lifestyle that you know will make your soul truly blissed out, then you will find happiness even in the hardest moments. And you will know that no stress is worthwhile – because you can always easily go back to that place in nature where your soul is oh so simply happy.

Vegan Backpacking in the Sierras: My First Experience | Soul in the Raw

You do not need a lot to be truly happy. It is in the little moments in nature where pure joy lies.

The day I returned I wrote a poem. It has been such a long time since I’ve written effortlessly without trying to produce something, or without forcing myself to put pen to paper in order to relieve my heart of feelings.

This poem came out without much thought. It came from my soul. I want to share it with you, and I only hope that it will inspire you to find the space in which you return to your true self, and you find all the love for that self without even trying.

The Climb to Meet Me

Vegan Backpacking in the Sierras: My First Experience | Soul in the Raw

I want to live in a tent

Drink filtered creek water

And wake up to the lazy sound of birds singing

I want to feel the wind on my sweaty skin

Walk carefully on the brook stones

And breathe air empty of car exhaust

I want to work my body by walking on hills

With a heavy pack on my back

Every step hurts the tiny muscles of my back

Yet every step takes me higher, closer to the hills

Closer to the clean air, the mountain water, the birds, the silence, the purity of earth

Every step takes me higher

Higher and closer to my own soul

Up here, in the purity of almost solitude, in the insane beauty of pines, stones, birds, waterfalls

I am higher

Up on these mountains, my body unites with my soul

I breathe. With ease.

I meditate without mundane and unimportant thoughts flooding my mind

I exist here, on this mountain

In this moment

I am not in the text message I forgot to send, or my preparations for dinner

I am not eating too much just to escape from myself

I am not numbing my heart just to run from the uncomfortable feeling of living surrounded by concrete walls, and following a routine of greed and want

I exist because I breathe

I am beautiful because I am alive

I am part human, part forest

My arms grow big, like beautiful branches

Every painful uphill step on this mountain is a meditation

It’s easy to meditate here

I close my eyes, and feel alive.

My heart sings and merges with my higher self

I don’t try. I don’t work hard to be – be smarter, be better, be faster, earn more, do more, look better.

I just be. I just am. I am me.

Here, I am me. With ease and fluidity. I am a river, I am a creek, I am beautiful, I love me.

I am part of nature, and it is part of me.

What is your favorite way to connect to yourself and live the moment?

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Marina Yanay-Triner is a wellness coach and recipe developer through Soul in the Raw. Marina creates easy and delicious vegan recipes and writes about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, focusing on evidence-based nutrition information. She loves to help clients go and stick to plant based eating through her powerful coaching program, combining nutrition and cooking education along with transformational mindset work. Marina adopted a whole food, plant based lifestyle over 7 years ago, inspired by her mother's incredible healing story of reversing a crippling bladder disease. She has reversed PMS symptoms and encourage emotional healing from trauma as a result of this transition. Marina is incredibly passionate about the vegan diet for human health, animal welfare, and the well-being of our planet, all of which she envisions as co-dependent.