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Why You Don’t Need to Move to the Tropics

People often ask me, “How do you survive in the wintertime eating this diet, given the limited availability of fruits and vegetables?”

I just spent a month on Maui and came back to Montreal to freezing temperatures.

And I still think that you don’t need to live in a tropical paradise to follow a high-raw diet!

It’s a common myth to say that living in a tropical country necessarily makes the raw food lifestyle easier.

I know, I know. It sounds like a contradiction. What could be better than living in a country where your fruits can be picked fresh and ripe right off the tree?

Unfortunately, the reality is a little different. That’s what I found out by living in different tropical countries at different times throughout my extensive traveling around the world.

Costa Rica

I spent roughly two years of my life in Costa Rica, spread out between a few winters.

I got a pretty good idea of the fruits and vegetables that were available there throughout the seasons.

Yes, there is a LOT of fresh fruit available. Yes, it is much cheaper than what you would pay for the same fruit in North America. And yes, the weather is great, most of the time.

But whenever I came back to my home in Montreal after a long trip in Costa Rica, I was always shocked by the variety and quality of fruits I had available to me in my hometown.

Part of this is due to fruits in Costa Rica being very seasonal. You will find papayas and bananas year-round, but even the mangos are fairly seasonal.

As for vegetables, that’s where it gets a little trickier.

Typically, vegetables don’t grow very well in tropical countries, specifically greens, and the availability is limited due to this reality.

Vegetables such as kale or romaine lettuce, for example, just don’t grow well in these areas, and you won’t find things like this as often.

You’ll find things like cabbage and some lettuce, but nothing near the variety you’ll get in the organic stores everywhere in North America or Europe.

There are a few more things I missed while living in Costa Rica as well.

Like: good roads.

For physical activities throughout Central America and other countries, the roads are not properly set up for walking or running.

They can be dangerous if you’re not watching out, and Costa Rica specifically has high rates of accidental traffic deaths involving pedestrians.

You do get beautiful weather, a proper “tropical paradise”, and you get great fruit at a great price. But you do not get all of the modern amenities of North America that many people have grown used to and take for granted.

Modern health-food restaurants, gyms, and roads that are suitable for walking and cycling just are not the common thing in Costa Rica and many other countries.


Fruits of Maui. However, these goodies from Ono Farm are difficult to purchase...
Fruits of Maui. However, these goodies from Ono Farm are difficult to purchase…

Hawaii offers a beautiful array of landscapes and microclimates, and I find myself wanting to move here every time I visit. I love the Aloha spirit, the people, I love the water, and I love the islands.

But as most people know, the cost of living in Hawaii is much higher than in other parts of the country.

For someone living on a standard American diet, you could probably get by shopping at Costco, going to the farmer’s markets, and growing some of your food.

For most people, however, if you’re going to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, it’s going to get expensive.

Surprisingly, the variety isn’t all that great either. Last month, while I was on Maui, I made a few runs to Costco for pineapple, as it’s the only place I could find it for a decent price!

The fruits I was eating were : pineapples, bananas, papayas, and apples.

The only exotic thing I was able to get was freshly picked starfruit, which were amazing, but in short supply.

You can get a lot of great greens and other produce imported from the Mainland, but they are very expensive.

Everything else involved with following a raw food lifestyle is perfect in Maui, but it comes at a price.

Other Tropical Countries

I’ve visited the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Fiji, the Philippines, and many others.

Out of all those places, the place that I would say that is most appropriate for the raw food lifestyle would be Thailand and Southeast Asia, in general.

The variety and amount of fruits available there is just astounding. There aren’t as many greens, but it’s the place to go for fruit.

It’s hard not to feel like an outsider, and it’s difficult to be really accepted into the culture, however. The language can be difficult to grasp, and many people find it difficult to feel like home.

The same goes for the rest of Southeast Asia.

As for the South Pacific, this is the part of the world that I find the most beautiful.

The islands of French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, and Fiji are simply stunning.

If you think Hawaii is beautiful, you need to go to the South Pacific to be truly blown away!

Surprisingly, although these islands are more remote and less accessible, I found a better variety of fruit in French Polynesia than I did in Hawaii. Although Hawaii has more shopping available, they seem to grow more local produce in the South Pacific.

Of course, it’s expensive to live in these places. Immigration is not possible for most people, and there’s a good chance you’ll miss home, being so far away from everything.

Conclusion: The Grass Is Always Greener….

So whenever I come back to my cold city of Montreal, which has great weather for parts of the year, but not-so-great for the most part of the year, I always feel happy because I know I live in a great city.

It’s not a tropical paradise, but I do have better access to produce than almost anywhere else I’ve been. It’s also a great place to live a healthy lifestyle, like many modern cities in North America. Especially on the west coast!

We have farmer’s markets, modern gyms, bike trails, places to run and exercise, and a temperate climate that isn’t conducive to the spread of many tropical diseases.

So there are a lot of great advantages to living in more Northern latitudes. I don’t think we can say anymore that a lack of produce is an issue in almost all of North America, with the exception of maybe extreme northern areas.

You’re likely going to find a better variety of produce in major cities than you will in many tropical paradises. Bigger cities have better infrastructure, and more people demand more luxuries that can be imported from all over the world.

More people are living healthier lifestyles in these areas of the world, so there are simply more resources available to provide for this.

The Weather

Finally, I think the only major drawback to living in a cold climate, is the weather.

It can be truly difficult to get through six months of winter, or three months depending on where you live.

The lack of sunshine, the shorter days, and the cold are factors that do add up and make living in these Northern climates a little less enticing and make living a high-raw diet and lifestyle more difficult.

What’s the solution?

Being active and exercising is one.

I think more realistically, having the option to travel to a “tropical paradise” from where you base out of is probably the best of both worlds.

That way you get to soak in the sunshine, get your fill of island life, and then go back home.

I know traveling can be difficult and expensive, so that’s why I recommend figuring out how to do it on the cheap.

For example, my entire trip to Maui was incredibly affordable, even though I live on the east coast; I was able to fly all the way to Maui in business class for $66!

How did I do that?

Well, I used the system that I describe in my course, “How To Travel The World For Free”.

If you’re interested in this program, make sure to check out the NEW version of the course “How to Travel the World for Free.” Check it out here:

This new version contains over 2 hours of new material, including brand-new programs on “How to Get to Hawaii” and “A Trip to Italy,” showing you exactly how to plan a nearly free trip to those destinations using the system.


Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.