Veganism is the next big thing. It is easier now than ever before to pursue a plant-based diet either as a full-on lifestyle change, or as a method of incorporating more veggies into your diet. But what do you do while traveling? Chuck it all out the window? You don't have to! As a vegan of over 5 years and a lover of all things travel, here are my 5 tips for traveling while vegan.
1. Use HappyCow.
If you haven't heard of HappyCow, check it out! I absolutely love this website. Other vegans and vegetarians will add restaurant listings, which are approved by the facilitators of the platform, and add reviews. You can see whether or not a place is vegan, vegetarian, or sells meat but has some vegan items on its menu.
I find myself veering towards vegan restaurants if I'm traveling solo, or with others that like vegan food. If not, then the veg-friendly option is super helpful! You can see what vegan options they have, and whether or not they're any good, from the reviews on HappyCow.
Some of my favorite meals in my life have been from restaurants listed on this website, and I have yet to visit one country that doesn't have a listing on HappyCow. Try this out if you're new to being vegan while traveling. You won't be disappointed!
2. Go to the grocery store.
I find this the best piece of advice for my wallet, travel experience, and veganism. Why? Because grocery stores vary quite a bit depending upon where you are in the world. There is a wealth of information you can learn about a culture just by perusing the aisles of its grocery stores.
If you're staying in a place with a kitchen, you can even pick up some food and cook, instead of eating out for every meal. I have saved who-knows-how-much money just from this travel hack alone. And, to top it all off, I've experienced grocery stores so different from mine at home. What a cool outing!
3. Be culturally sensitive—but stick to your guns.
There is a sometimes-heated argument about whether or not vegans should change for travel, in order to be culturally sensitive. I lean more towards no, because there are secretly vegan local dishes all around the world. Also, this is more of a personal choice, because I went vegan due to health issues. If I eat meat, I run the risk of becoming seriously ill. However, I still want to be respectful of my hosts when I travel. It can be difficult to balance!
In my experience, it is best to be honest and forthcoming about your dietary restrictions, but not to compromise them. This is especially important for those of us with severe allergies, or stomach problems. At the end of the day, do what's best for you! If that means eating differently while traveling and adopting a vegan diet sometimes, then that's that. But, if you want to be vegan 100% of the time, it is doable while traveling, and you can do so without being disrespectful.
This is another reason why HappyCow is so great! It helps you connect with vegans from the country you're visiting, because the overwhelming majority of the restaurants listed are locally-owned and operated. It's also a way to contribute to the local economy. I always like to take the opportunity to ask the staff their favorite places to see and things to do in the destination. Sounds like a win-win to me!
4. Try local cuisine made vegan.
Depending on your destination, there may be a plethora of vegan options available from cultures all around the world. I still like to try at least one meal, even if it's at a veg-friendly place, that is a local dish made vegan. I've found that some of my favorite meals are these!
For example, I recently tried vegan haggis in Scotland. Haggis is a sheep dish that is very traditionally Scottish--I'd never heard of it before arriving to Edinburgh. A local veg-friendly restaurant had a vegan version of it, and I fell head-over-taste buds in love.
Should you try that highly-rated Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Amsterdam? Absolutely! But, should you also try the vegan haggis in Scotland? Yes, yes, yes. Not only is it a culturally enriching experience, but it also appreciates and celebrates the uprising of the vegan community all around the world.
5. Engage with vegans from all around the world.
This also comes from trying local restaurants that are either all vegan, or have a few vegan options. Chat with the staff a little bit! Obviously, if they're busy, then they're busy. But, if not, then ask them about their hometown. I'm always happy to share off-the-beaten-path advice about my own hometown of Nashville, TN. Locals are a gold mine of information about places to see that you maybe never considered, and you can give advice based upon your own experiences in return.
From using HappyCow and then traveling to different areas of the world, trying vegan restaurants, and chatting with the staff a bit, I have met so many incredible people. The owner of a vegan restaurant in Tokyo walked me through their whole menu, asked me about my experience as a vegan, and told me a little bit about day trips I should take. This was only my first night in the city, and I already had ideas for all the loose parts of my itinerary!
There are vegan friends to be made all around the world. All it takes is for you to put yourself out there, and try something different.
There you have it, folks! I've learned so much about the world, myself, and my body as both a vegan, and a traveler. My experiences around the globe have been made so great by my interactions with the vegan community that can be found in every corner of the world. Veganism and travel have both brought me such balance and inner-peace. Vegan or not, I hope you find the same. Be well, and keep exploring!
by Sarah from Sarah L. Travels
Sarah is a writer and blogger from Music City, USA with an intense case of the travel bug. On her blog, Sarah L. Travels, she writes about travel, veganism, and plain ole life. When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book or planning her next adventure.
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