Mould Avoidance Sabbatical

How to Conduct a Mould Avoidance Sabbatical: Using the Locations Effect to Heal 

This article will cover the basic steps of a Mould Avoidance Sabbatical focusing on how to choose a location and a place to stay.

This post contains affiliate links to relevant books and products that I use and recommend.

Toxic Mould Via
If you have CFS and you do not perceive any sensitivities to mould or other environmental toxins it is very likly that you have become too acclimatized or "masked" to them and should conduct a short experiment.

Over the past 10 years I have watched people with CFS, Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and MCS conduct mold avoidance experiments. It seems to be very rare for people affected by these diseases to not be affected by mold and other environmental factors, like off-gassing and the quality of the outdoor air.

You will need to find temporary safe accomodation in the cleanest environment you can afford. Erik Johnson, who discovered the connection between mold, the locations effecf and CFS, talks about a "Mobile Environmental Control Unit" which is a "safe house" trailer or RV. I have written a post on mobile safe home and safe trailers, a customized trailer, cargo trailers and vans. If you are well enough you can also try a tent which is a good clean slate for most people. Even if you are extremely ill, a tent can work if you have the proper supports and set up. I have stayed in a tent 90% bed bound as well as 99% bedbound.

A Beginner's Guide to Mold Avoidance: Techniques Used by Hundreds of Chronic Multisystem Illness Sufferers to Improve Their Health is the book you want to start with when conducting a mold avoidance sabbatical. I help people through my Consulting go through the process of preparing and undertaking a sabbatical. I can help you decide what to bring what not to bring, where to go and what types of accommodations you can try, depending on the severity of your conditions.

Avoidance Test Run

Almost everyone I know with CFS/Fibro or Lyme has felt better in a "good location". People will start to tell you that they felt "80% better in Cayman islands" or had most symptoms go away while camping in a national park or while vacationing in the Rockies or Aruba. There are many more stories on the Locations Effect Facebook group from people who have felt much better from CFS and related illnesses using this method. From watching this over the years, I can say that pristine outdoor air here is a great boost, although you still have to be as particular about the indoor air. In a good location, sometimes in a fantastic location, you may have a higher tolerance for regular housing. But not everyone is so lucky. For those who are already hypersensitive or coming from a house that is less mouldy than most, a lot of caution has to be taken before assuming that. Something I feel that has been lacking is experience in how to choose safe housing for this experiment. Buildings the world over are moldy. The majority of trailers are moldy as well. So to step out and try this experiment is not so simple if you are not starting with a tent. If you have MCS this is even more difficult.

 A few common mistakes are:

- Going to a good location but choosing a regular hotel or rental online that has not been vetted or even carefully analyzed. It should never be assumed that simply choosing something online is not moldy. Most buildings in almost every climate are moldy.

- Many people that are sick with these types of illnesses have traveled, whether it's domestically or internationally, and have often felt better.  However, it's also very possible that you have travelled and not felt better anywhere else either because you were going to similar locations, bad locations, bringing your stuff or you were choosing regular housing that was also moldy.  If you don't think the locations effect applies to you because you have traveled before I would not say that is enough info to go by if you have simply chosen regular hotels and rental in the past.

- It's a mistake to think that because a climate is drier or because you're going to a beach location it will be better.  Islands are also assumed to be better but are not always so.  Florida has some of the most toxic beaches. I would choose almost anywhere else in the country over Florida. Drier climates have moldy buildings just like everywhere else. Of course lower summer humidity and less rainfall may mean there are more buildings that are a better choice. But a drier climate does not guarantee safe for housing or better outdoor air. The Canary Islands are an example of a place I've been to that are drier than usual, but the buildings are mouldier than usual because of the lack of heating and cooling. There are many great locations were people have healed that are certainly not dry.  The Canary Islands are also an example of islands that are not as great as you would expect. Hawaii is another example of islands that are not spectacular. Also note poorer countries often have poorer building practices.

Find a Good Location

Using the Locations EffectMold Avoiders, and Mold Avoiders on the Road groups on Facebook, and suggestions from others who have recovered from CFS, find a good area.  The key aspect here is the outdoor air quality. People have felt remarkably better in places that are exceptionally pristine, these might be in the mountains, tropical coastal areas, or the desert. 

Mercy Hot Springs, Firebaugh, CA

None of these locations can be expected to stay good if they have been recommended years ago. For my updated list of housing in good locations, see my list here and check with people in the Facebook group Mold Avoiders or the Locations Effect to see if they are still good. I often do consultations on this topic because locations and especially buildings change over time.

There are factors here that are individual, not everybody does well with altitude, not everybody does well in a tropical setting if it's hot. I would definitely take into consideration your individual factors but I would not assume that you are looking for just a drier climate or just a beach location.There is still a consensus on locations where people have healed as long as you take into consideration those personal aspects such as altitude and heat.  When I'm looking at locations I'm looking for three things. 1. Places where people have totally or almost totally recovered just from the locations effect. 2. Places where the most extremely sensitive people have made great improvements. And 3. enough consensus on the location. A lot of mixed reports indicate that the location might not be the best for those super sensitive or to make the best chance at recovery.  One additional strategy you can use is to look at the progress from people who have similar illnesses to you similar sensitivities and a similar level of unmasking.  this last piece can be really important especially if you have really specific sensitivities for example you need to avoid pesticides or high EMF areas the other mold avoiders may not be avoiding as scrupulously. Generally though it's mold avoiders who have the highest level of sensitivity to the environment, not just to mold but too many different types of outdoor toxins.

In order to do this I look at the reports over the last 10 years and I look at who is reporting, have they made a significant recovery, are they unmasked already.  for those just starting out and who are not on masked and are coming from a really moldy place they may see a quick Improvement by changing locations and finding decent enough housing. This does not mean the location is excellent and they often cannot hold on to these gains if they do not continue to Improve the housing.

Decide on Lodging 

A tent is less risky as you have way more control over the environment you are sleeping in (but could be difficult to offgas). A tent can be hard for someone who is extremely sensitive to temperature. But there are lots of tips and tricks in my post on camping.

Finding lodging that is chemical/scent and mould-free is trickier, and everyone is different in their sensitivities so even a good "recommendation" is tricky. Places also may have been contaminated or become mouldy since the recommendation was made.

a) Tenting

Here is my post on camping.

b) Trailer

Airstreams can be rented from many different places but you want to go as new as possible there. Having a cargo trailer with no wood, offgassed Camplite or offgassed fibreglass trailer could also provide good baseline homes. Here is my post on trailer options. And here is my post on converting a cargo trailer. I have a separate post on cargo vans.

c) Indoor lodging 

Seventh Mountain uses natural cleaning products
There are a few ways to go about finding good rentals or hotels. One way is if you're totally masked and this is all new to you you could just look for some where someone has recovered recently. If you do not have MCS you may be able to bank on something new if it is carefully chosen (analyze likelihood of this type of building being mouldy in that country). The best option here is if you can have a seasoned mold avoider vet a place for you.

If you are already very sensitive to chemicals and or mold you have to be a lot more cautious with the recommendations.

I look at the type of construction and the quality that could be expected based on where it is and who it was built by. But not everybody is the same in what is best for them. A wooden simple hut or log cabin may be great for some, but not everybody is the same, some can't tolerate wood. For me personally a very new concrete high-rise with climate control is the best option, but they're not perfect. Concrete is often very wet during the building process and does not dry properly. It's an even bigger problem in tropical countries where there is no climate control or building standards are poor. The type of building you choose will depend on where it is located. There is no one fits all recommendation here. There are places where I would prefer a little wooden hut. Sometimes glamping setups can work, but there's no guarantee that those are going to be made with materials that we're not water damaged or have not gone moldy with time.

When I'm looking at glamping setups I'm looking at them just as closely to inspect the age and condition of the materials. Canvas is a no no unless it's brand new in a dry climate. I want to see raised off the ground. No used tents on flat surfaces. Yurts and domes need to be looked at carefully for offgassing and mould.

I have at times done well with a Airbnbs that have a outside sleeping space, but even then there was a learning curve because a mouldy building can be felt and even smelled from 100 feet away or more. And concrete, tiles, balconies those are very prone to mold in tropical countries. So this is not always as easy as it seems, but I would go brand-new and I would make sure you have a large enough space outside. Because of this option can often be very expensive.

I almost always go with something that is as new as possible based on my chemical sensitivities. That doesn't mean that is definitely not moldy, but it increases the chances of it being better. I also look carefully at the type of construction and if that type of construction is usually of higher quality in that climate and location. When a building has central HVAC it is even more imperative to go as new as you can. After 8 years central HVAC, especially if it has a AC, is almost certainly mouldy. In a tropical setting you have to be even more careful with how old the AC is no matter the type.

There are certain areas of the world where I would not go with anything that has a slab or a basement due to poor construction or water logged soil. In fact I very rarely choose a ground level accommodation. Even for small huts or cabins I want to see them raised off the ground.

Here is where I bring in my experience of traveling throughout different parts of the world in different climate and trying out hundreds of buildings while mostly sleeping outside and staying unmasked.

Some things you can ask about are cleaning products, air fresheners, last year of renovations, any water damage especially hurricane damage or leaks, pesticides, and anything else that you're specifically sensitive to.

My Tips and Tricks for Sabbatical Items

-Caution with cotton in high humidity environments, like a camping in a tropical setting, especially if hand washing clothing.

-This compact microfiber towel dries quickly

-I have these cute plastic shoes which I love. If you are camping you're going to want rubber or plastic shoes. They are good for beaches too. Easy to wash and decontaminate and they look decent. You can leave them outside without them going moldy.

-Although it's not necessary, I do like charcoal soap and  Exfoliating gloves to decontaminate the skin. You may end up showerng more than usual in which case you're going to need a better moisturizer than usual. I have found probiotics to be very useful on the skin when showering a lot and protecting my microbiome.

-This Dish Soap works well as laundry soap and body soap and shampoo in a pinch. But when traveling light I bring this laundry soap in bar form. 

-I use  mylar bags to sequester items. Careful,  if the aluminum starts to flake off or become dust form discard these immediately.

-I use these aluminum tarps  to sequester a bed. I may be sequestering off-gassing, mold or bacteria. I also use them if my sweat is contaminating the bed. Throw out often. If the aluminum flakes off or becomes dust form discard immediately.

-I use little glass jars with glass lids to isolate and store items like medication and something that's very easy to decontaminate.

-I bought this affordable tablet for my last trip on a Black Friday. The Amazon Fire can also be very well priced. For a shorter trip this can replace both your laptop and your phone. Use Skype to make phone calls and if you need to do a lot of work buy a portable keyboard as well.

-I used to bring a heating blanket everywhere I go so I can sleep with the window open, on a balcony or in a tent. You will almost certainly have to wash or air those out before using. 

My Tips for Decon

-I find that it's much easier in the beginning to have separate clothes for indoors and outdoors until you are able to really assess when something is contaminated if it can be washed or if it needs to be thrown away.

-If you can, wash the bedding when you arrive or bring your own and request no bedding. Examine the washing machine in the building that you are staying in to see how mouldy it is. ( they are usually moldy, but airbnb's run by professional management companies often ship out their laundry if you find a new building you may find a washer and dryer that have barely or never been used).

-Wash clothes by hand with non-toxic, scent-free soap (above). Note Borax is no longer considered safe to use in laundry for decon but many people do still use this and I think the risk is low. Hang to dry in your safe space or outdoors. The sun helps to remove mould from clothing.  For those who are not very chemically sensitive quaternary ammonia, unscented downy, can be very useful for removing mycotoxins from clothes. Some people start to detox a lot through their sweat and that may be cleaned by boiling or other methods. Some people are not able to wash this out. Some people may use ozone on their clothes or EM1 to soak them 

A Few Final Notes:
  • I see improvement in symptoms after one day of being in a good location. Certainly one week is minimum for your test run,  but I would aim for 3 weeks.
  • After a few weeks you will have a heightened sense of smell and will be able to detect contaminated objects much more easily. Note that some moulds do not have a scent,  judge places and items more on your symptoms then how they smell.
  • EMFs in a location are an important factor as well as pollution, chemicals and mould. Factors that seem to be very important are mystery toxin, cyanobacteria,  toxins around military bases,  some brand new buildings that have high offgassing, and regular air pollution. In some locations that are particularly bad we don't always know what the toxin in the air or water is.

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