This past summer I was offered an opportunity to getaway and take some time to do some travelling in California, the west coast sunshine state I had been dreaming of visiting since I was 8. Even though I have done a fair amount of world travel including South America, South East Asia and have even lived abroad in South Korea, California has been at the top of my radar since I caught the travel bug back in ’05. So when the opportunity came knocking, I simply couldn’t refuse.
I spent most of my time in Ojai, (pronounced oh-hi) where I would stay for 14 days before embarking on a camping trip across the USA. Abundant with local organic farm-raised food, metaphysical and spiritual shops and yoga studios, Ojai appeared to be the mecca of health and spirituality. And it’s true, the sun rarely, if ever stops shining here. I was told there were only ever 2 weather forecasts: sunny or sun with cloud. I’ll take either over snow ANY day.
Prior to this trip, I had never heard of Ojai, a small town with a population of just under 7500 located just north-west of Los Angeles. Approximately 16 miles inland from the Pacific coast the small city in Ventura County dwells in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains and is considered part of southern California.
An Eclectic Tourist Town Sans Tacky
A tourist town, Ojai is well-known for its recreational activities including hiking and trail walking in addition to spiritual retreats and most importantly to me as nutritionist, local organic agriculture. A unique feature of the small town is its foundation of small businesses particularly specializing in local and ecologically friendly art and design. In fact the local council prohibits any chain stores to set up shop in order to support independent businesses and keep its unique value. You can be sure that you won’t find any Starbucks here.
After just one day of being in Ojai and exploring the grounds I was convinced that they had built this city with me in mind. From the Sunday morning organic farmers’ market to the gorgeous mountain backdrop view for my morning run to the earthy adobe/country-like architecture, this placed seemed to embody the essence of me.
Best of all, the food was nothing short of amazing. Seriously, amazing. My welcoming hospitality included an adorably sweet woman who went by the name of Walker, who made Top Chef and Master Chef contestants look like amateurs at best. I have never seen someone put so much love and energy into a meal. This, I believe is how it should be considering we not only absorb the nutrients from our food, but also the energy it emits.
Typical daily meals included fresh tangy kale salads with pepitas, fried green tomato BLT sandwiches (made on gluten-free bread specially for me), squash zucchini blossoms filled goat cheese, cornmeal breaded chicken with arugula and bruschetta, quinoa salad with toasted pistachios and the most deliciously sweet fruit salad packed with local fresh organic raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines and plums.
Everyday at 11:30 am sharp we would gather to feast in the cozy private backyard surrounded by plants and birds, including a regular friendly blue jay who would stop in for his daily dose of peanuts.
All of the food was freshly prepared and purchased from the local Sunday morning farmer’s market, which I got to experience not once, but twice. Venders from surrounding local farms, communities and independent shops gathered to show off their goods and sell to local Ojai residents.
Raw unpasteurized honey, fresh berries, almond butter, kale, lavender bundles, handcrafted skincare products, raw chocolate and grass-fed, hormone-free meats filled the market space with a guaranteed certified organic stamp. But in addition to and just as equally awesome as the organic foods of my travels, came my love and devotion to spiritual connection.
A Spiritual Sanctuary
Known for its spiritual sanctuary, Ojai draws in yogis from all around the world to participate in local yoga retreats, featured at Lulu’s local yoga studio downtown. It is also home to The Work of Byron Katie, an American spiritual speaker and author who teaches people how to live an authentically fulfilling life by examining, identifying and questioning the stressful thoughts that allegedly cause us so much suffering and unhappiness.
Meditation Mount is another tourist feature for the spirit-minded soul seeker. Tucked away in hilltops of the town, this spiritual retreat center offers spiritual programs geared toward awakening the human soul. Daily and monthly meditations, group workshops and personal growth programs are the focus here.
As I took a brief walk around the mount’s garden I knew that this space was sacred and a great deal of self-healing took place here past, present and soon to be future.
Clarity & Peace
In spending just a brief time in this holistic haven, I was able to gain so much clarity and insight into the simplicities of life that so many of us miss living in our city cage that keep us confined, uptight and in line waiting for a heart attack. And with this clarity that we often lack or cannot find in the busy city life, comes the kind of peace that leaves you restored with faith that everything really will be alright.
I have travelled the world, visited temples in Thailand, walked ancient ruins in Peru and meditated on some of the most beautiful beaches, but I have never felt so peaceful and close to home, oneness, than I have here.
Reconnecting With Nature
The importance of daily life in this small town, a fountain of peace and serenity, is about health, happiness and enjoying the moment, the here and now. It is in the end, all we really have. Along with the simplicity of life here, it also become very apparent to me that our connection and relationship with the outdoors and Mother Nature is what many of us lack in the city centered life.
Connecting with nature is essential to keeping grounded and getting in touch with our soul and what feeds it. If we can’t make this connection, it can become so easy to lose sight of the importance, value and true meaning of life- why we were put here, our life purpose, who we are at our core and how we can serve others in our short time on planet earth.
Discovering What Makes Your Heart Smile
My Ojai travels helped me reconnect to my own personal path and intuition. It helped me re-discover what I already knew, really wanted in my life and what is truly most important to me.
Living an authentic life filled with organic whole foods, being in connection with nature, supporting and serving others with my gifts, abundant health and connecting with like-minded people who share similar values and walk to the beat of their own drum, lies at the center of my happy heart.
It’s been an unpredictable crazy kind of summer for me, filled with many highs and lows, but I finally feel after some serious soul-searching, digging deep to my roots and time out from the rat race I am on the right path now, more than ever to fulfilling my life purpose in my very brief time here.
This new age modern-hippy oasis is truly a hidden gem, where you too can discover inner peace, ecological awareness and the meaning of life in just a short time. If you’re looking for purposeful meaning, a way to de-stress and a serious means to kick-start your health and life into high gear with the universe, consider Ojai for your next travel adventure.