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I wrote a blog last week that introduced my life on the road as an activist for FARM’s 10 Billion Lives Tour. I gave you a glimpse into the program and the challenges involved in being a tour operator and today I’m sharing some of the things that I learned on tour, and how they’ve helped me grow.

If you’ve been on the 10 Billion Lives Tour yourself, lived in a van, or been a full time activist, I’d love to hear about your experiences, and what you learned that you found valuable!

Image1Nicole leafleting during a slow pay per view day.

Tour isn't for everyone, but activism is.

Tour takes you away from you home, your friends and everything you know, and unless you’re looking for something different in your life, this can be very hard to cope with. It requires you to be a full time activist, who’s comfortable talking about animal suffering for 6 hours a day … and live in a van.

The great thing is, you don’t have to live in a van, or be a full-time activist to help animals! Coming out to volunteer at pay per view events, leafleting, talking to people, starting a youtube channel or a blog, and signing petitions are all great ways of speaking out for animals, and can be done in your free time!

Do you have a Vegan t-shirt? Great! Wear it, and get conversations started!

A great quote from Colleen Patrick Goudreau that I love, is “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something.

 

People want to do good, they just need guidance & assurance.

During my debriefings, I quickly learned that people want to do good and considered themselves as upstanding individuals. They believed they wouldn’t consciously do something that’s bad and so there must be reasons, and viable ones, to justify why they are taking part in the consumption of animals despite the cruelty, horrors and devastating effects on our environment.

I found that acknowledging the way they feel, and assuring them that you know they’re not bad goes a long way. They’ve just been conditioned like the rest of us to not question or feel, but letting each person know that they have the ability (with their new found information) to make positive and powerful decisions in their own lives can be really up lifting. We all make mistakes, but we learn, and we change course accordingly.

Image3Our van, Beluga, having an identity crisis.

Living in a van/on the road is liberating.

I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, and I’ve got to say, I find it really freeing. I’m not talking vacations here, but simply just being on the road, surrounded by different people, environments, and scenery. Being away from the everyday monotony and familiarity made me feel at peace, and helped me feel more a part of this earth, even if I still had to pull my computer out daily, at least I could do so in a different setting each day.

I know it’s not for everyone, but for me, living in a van has taught me to live even more simply, to detach myself from most of my possessions (which are very few), and to really live and devour each day at a time. I also learned to value each person I met; hosts, fellow activists, volunteers and colleagues, and knew they all had a role to play in my life.

Image2Melissa was always really good at really listening.

Effective communication is key - listening is crucial.

When talking one on one with people who have just witnessed the realities of animal agriculture, you learn that effective communication is key. What I had no idea and would learn along the way, was that listening was crucial. My tour managers Ryan and Todd had said this multiple times, but I never quite knew what they meant.

I could recite my most effective quotes, and thought provoking comments, but if I wasn’t truly listening to what the other person was saying to me, I would miss out on vital keywords that would really let me know what they needed to hear and where they really needed my help. Also, if I wasn’t truly listening to them, then why would they want to listen to me, and what I had to say?

Image5A student really immersed in our short, powerful video.

People have short attention spans, and are easily distracted.

With the boom of the digital age, with magnitudes of quick information, it’s very hard to grab peoples attention and keep it! I found on tour, that if it’s not the distraction of one’s phone, or a friend walking by, then it’s the distraction of just the mind doing it’s thing. Our video is just 4 minutes, and even then, I’ve seen some people struggle to remain focused. Sure, it’s hard information and difficult to watch, but people want the information and they want it quick. It has to be powerful, emotional, and fast.

The same applies to design, marketing and advertising. We have a few seconds to grab a customer’s attention and then that’s it. The distraction of other products on the shelf, a better looking website, or an eye-catching ad will loose your potential sale. An online banner advert, a website, packaging or a flyer has but a few seconds. Make it powerful, and make it quick.

Image6Do I post an image of food, or do I find a really funny meme instead?

Change is terrifying and often avoided. Start small and make it effortless.

After watching a 4 minute video of horrifying under cover footage of farms and slaughterhouses, most people are speechless and grief-stricken. You’d think that’s enough to evoke change, but hearing people’s fears of change itself, I knew that that was more terrifying to some, then what they had just witnessed.

Humans fear change. They fear the discomfort, challenges, and the judgment that comes along with it. “But what does this mean for me?” “What will others think of me?” “This is going to be so hard, I don’t think I can do it.” All these were so evident without them having to say much.

We want people to go vegan, of course! But for some, this is such a foreign concept, and so far from what they know, that it’s really hard to process. After reading “Change of Heart” by Nick Cooney, I remembered what he had said about encouraging even small changes. Because with small changes, big ones can follow. It takes the initial step, and if the initial step is a Meatless Monday, asking them to be vegan 3 days a week later on, won’t be as hard. We’ve got to start somewhere.

Making it effortless...

Another thing I learned was that if you want people to make changes, those changes have got to be effortless. I could tell the students that I eat mostly a fruit based diet along with salad and some unsalted steamed vegetables when they asked “So what do YOU eat?”. But for the most part, I didn’t. This would have turned most of them off, and I know the only way they were going to change their diet, is if it’s not far from where they are at. - Lessen the discomfort. -

I mentioned all the amazing selection of foods I eat from vegan pizza, pasta, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, deep fried foods, chips, oreos (they love this one) and more, because I know these are the foods they know and love, they’re socially acceptable, and will be more likely to make some changes then if I told them being vegan meant they would have ditch the burgers and ice cream and eat fruits and carrots instead (like me).

Like I said, we’ve got to start small. Let’s get them vegan first, then let’s talk about health. 🙂

Thank you to both my tour partners, Nicole and Melissa, my tour managers, Ryan and Todd, our volunteers and all the individuals whom I had conversations with for making this an experience that has shaped me for the better.

 

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