Travelling as a vegan is quite possible. However, that doesn’t mean its easy. But if you are equipped with the right tools and go prepared it can be a breezy experience.
Research your stops
Do some research beforehand on what restaurants are available. Happy Cow, Google and TripAdvisor have been invaluable at helping us find some spots to eat.
We have found amazing little local spots in the most random places thanks to some research. On the flipside, we have also had disasters. Adding comments and ratings is a great way to support the vegan community who are travelling. Rate and add comments for places in your local area as well as when travelling so we can create a network of great places to eat.
Know the cuisine
For most people, travelling is about sightseeing. It may be about historical sites, religious sites or just a beach site to relax for a couple of weeks. There are only a small few who actually go and do solid research about the culinary experiences a country has to offer.
As a vegan, you should know the country’s cuisine and main dishes. Know what they are generally made of and how it’s possible to tweak it to be vegan. Living in Vietnam made me a master of tweaks. They are not particularly vegan-friendly but once I understood their usual dishes and ingredients I knew what to avoid and what to add. From then on I never really had any problems finding things to eat.
Sometimes while travelling you won’t have amazingly healthy vegan meals available to you all the time, especially when on planes, buses or trains. While travelling in the rural areas of Vietnam we had very little choice and often ate a lot of white rice and oil soaked greens with deep fried springs and an extra side of oil. (my insides cringe for those oily two weeks)
Since then I always travel with some greens powder. It’s fully natural made from freeze dried fruits and veggies. I add a tablespoon with some water and chug it down (chug because no it does not taste that great). There are greens that are just veggie goodness or you can find great options that have some added protein. I know my partner appreciates the protein boost when we don’t have beans and legumes available.
If possible, travelling with a bag of nuts and seeds to nibble on is also a great way to maintain nutrition and reduce the stress of finding snacks on the road.
Another added preparation is going on a good scout in local supermarkets before going on long journeys. Most countries have some form of dried fruits, nuts and seeds or cultural snacks that are vegan.
One of the biggest struggles I have ever had is language. Vegan is pretty much an English word and most other languages don’t have a single word for it. It’s usually a phrase or associated with a religious or spiritual tradition.
While in Taiwan, people responded better to me explaining that I followed a strict Buddhist diet than when I said I was vegan. Not because they don’t like vegans but because culturally they don’t understand it. Understanding the culture and translating into their language is your best bet.
Another method is to have receptionists at your hotel or hostel write down in their language all that you avoid and show it to restaurants when you go eat. When I first moved to Taiwan I had that done and it worked a treat until I had my Chinese good enough to tell them myself. — I do recommend writing it down before speaking it as if you get the pronunciation or the wrong tone they may not understand.
Get in touch
Unless you have lived abroad you wouldn’t really realise or come across the fact that in every city there are groups for expats. You can easily search “vegans in — “ and see what comes up. Most of the time there will be some sort of following or at least one tiny lone ranger cafe that you can get in touch with for some information.
For example, when we travelled in Sri Lanka we happened to find an amazing vegan brownie cafe. (my dreams literally came true that day). The young woman was so enthusiastic about veganism and offered us plenty of tips and places around Sr Lanka. She also offered advice about dishes to avoid and which were great for vegans.
Talking to a local vegan allows you to connect with someone on the ground and get into more local events. Living in other countries I came to realise that there are always some fun markets and gatherings for vegans and you may be lucky enough to be travelling when one of them is happening.
Being vegan is technically not that much of a limiting diet. But in reality, the culture of animal products dominate in most societies and that is what limits the vegan diet. Eating out can be frustrating and travelling is no different.
If you want to really enjoy life as a vegan and while travelling, you have to take on a certain amount of flexibility. Like the time I ordered vegan meatballs and got given pork instead and only realised a whole pork ball later. Despite the weird meat sweats I later had I decided to keep cool and strap it under the belt of life. Stuff like that is bound to happen and getting angry at people who culturally don’t grasp the significance of my decision is not worth it.
Apply flexibility not only to yourself but to the people and cultures you experience while travelling. Being vegan is an ethical and moral stance and although we know it is legitimately grounded it may be quite unheard of for other cultures. Getting upset when they get a meal wrong or offer you a chicken wing for the millionth time is not good as a representation for you, your country or veganism. Be cool.
We as vegans should remain grounded and kind. AIm to educate than expect that everyone knows exactly what it is about. Many countries that we go to, especially developing and underdeveloped do not have the luxury of choice when it comes to what they eat so them not being on the vegan bandwagon is no fault of their own but due to their circumstance.
When we travel we mostly eat out at restaurants. But as a vegan, a safer (and arguably cheaper) option is to cook for yourself.
There are many hostels that offer their kitchens to cook or if you are in a group or couple you can look up an Airbnb option where you have a kitchen available.
Even if I wasn’t vegan I would opt for this. One of my favourite experiences is to go to local markets and buy fresh produce to cook. You get to see the locals interacting with each other and how they conduct their day to day business. It’s rare for travellers to experience that side of a country and its people.
You can do it
Travelling as a vegan used to be the thing that stressed me out the most. I avoided places that I thought would not offer me much. But now, in 2019, with veganism so big and out there, there are very few places vegans can’t go. Arm yourself with knowledge, tools and an open mind and heart and you will have the best time of your life!
Comment and let us know any other tips an tricks you have as a travelling vegan. All our love, Dolma Vegan Perfumes.