Travel and ethical can sometimes verge too close to the realm of opposites. But when it comes to eating a vegan diet while travelling, you may be surprised to hear how easy it can be. In my own day to day routine I try to consciously make a difference whenever I get the option. This started six years ago with what I choose to put on my plate and as a vegan it has extended my mind to think of the impact I have on others in all areas of my life. Now I travel non-stop as my creative studio has become a nomadic one and I still use my ethical compass as a guide.
“As humans I think we often forget that every single action we take– no matter how big or small creates a shift and makes a difference. Every purchase we make is important. Every word we speak (or type) is important. Every step forward we take is important not only for our own lives, but the lives of the people around us.” – Drea, Oh Dear Drea
I eat a vegan, plant based diet for so many reasons and as I travel I have found it simple to continue my lifestyle in new and exciting places. Many have asked me if it is difficult to find food that fit to a vegan diet, and of course my answer differs from place to place. I have however found it far simpler than many imagine, including myself as I find surprise vegan dishes along the way.
There are, of course, with all journeys, obstacles along the way. Here is my guide to navigating them, learning where to get your next meal and making eating plant-based along the way easier than you ever imagined:
Snacks in advance
Carry nuts, energy bars, instant packets of couscous, porridge or even micro popcorn. I even discovered roadtrippers cary bags of microwavable popcorn to pop at accommodation along their way so they would have snacks while driving. They pack up flat, light and a simple way to have a luxury planned along the trip. For health conscious plant eaters I would recommend having some sachets of powdered greens for smoothies, chia seeds and protein supplements to fill up on while boosting nutrition. Added to a juice, it becomes so much more filling, while making sure your body stays in balance while on the move. As Elenore from Earthsprout suggests –
“Bring dry ingredients from home so you’ll be covered during the first chunk of traveling. Once you arrive, visit a farmers market, whole foods, health food store or any supermarket where you can stock up on fresh produce. To keep things fresh, don’t fill your bags. Best thing is to get a little selection of fruits and veggies and shop a couple of times per week.” – Elenore, Earthsprout (Read on for more amazing tips)
Prepare food for long journeys
“I take great pleasure in preparing my food for trips, and although it takes a little planning, am I ever chuffed cracking open my Tupperware of thoughtfully made salad, crackers, dip, and dessert, while other passengers are munching on mystery meat. – Sarah, My New Roots
Take it easy
Not every meal has to be the best you have ever eaten. Quite often we have high hopes to expand our perceptions, taste buds and belts all at the same time. If you’re hungry grab a bite from a local deli or a pre-prepared snack, searching the city with a hungry stomach is most probably going to have you disappointed as well as hangry (yes hungry AND angry). A snack will refresh you ready for my next suggestion.
Before you head out research the common words for meat, dairy, eggs and fish in the local language. Even if you cannot pronounce them, have them written down so you can show your server. In some parts of the world vegan, and vegetarian mean different things so if in doubt you say you are allergic to the above.
Know your cuisine
Italian food you will be able to get a pizza with all of the vegetables and none of the cheese, or check if they have dried eggless pasta. Asian, go for tofu dishes and hold the fish sauce, swapping it out for soy, rice noodles are the choice to opt for over egg noodles. Indian is usually heavy on the vegetarian options, simply check if they use ghee (clarified butter) or yoghurt.
Research in advance
Having access to the internet and apps makes it so much easier to find your nearest salad bar or restaurant serving up plant goodness. You can try typing in the name of your travel location plus ‘vegan guide’ to find specialised blogs or head straight to Happy Cow to get an overview of locations. I have also had success using location specific hashtags on instagram (example: #veganparis) and searching through which visuals catch my eye.
Cook at home
It doesn’t have to be boring to cook your own food while travelling and in fact you get to visit the local farmer markets and pick up some regional delights from your artisanal neighbours. I love discovering the robust shapes of tomatoes in Italy, the twists and turns of courgette on market stall in Morocco and picking up a still warm loaf of bread from the bakers.
“When it comes to the recipes, we often get inspired by fresh produce at farmers markets, reading magazines, other blogs or going to restaurants. When we travel, we always try to get invited into local kitchens to learn their tricks and get inspiration on how to make our own version of their recipes. “ – David, Green Kitchen Stories (via Nutrition Stripped)
Talk to people
Either online or in person. Last time I sat at a vegetarian restaurant in Helsinki (I recommend Yes Yes Yes) I got talking to my neighbour who turned out to be a vegan tram driver with tips for the whole city. I found out her favourite cheap Asian eat in addition of making great dinner conversation. (New bamboo center for those wondering!) Try asking in forums such as Couchsurfing or Facebook groups tailored to plant-based travel.
You may be in for a happy surprise. The local delicacy might just be vegan! I have smiled with joy when discovering sfenj in Morrocco (and then quickly ordering more than half a dozen), eaten the best marinara pizza in Italy, and discovered that cabbage juice in Eastern Europe is not remotely like the popular ‘green juice’ each and every blogger shares (it tastes exactly how you imagine; think sauerkraut and you get the idea).
Choosing to eat compassionately doesn’t mean you can’t explore, discover and sit with the locals. Food evokes so much in us from nostalgia and traditional practices, to adventures in new and unexplored places. I have discovered so much on the road from both the food and the people. I will leave this post with a quote from David Luise of Green Kitchen Stories:
“One thing that we realised on our journeys was that people that have an interest in food, generally are very nice and fun to be around.”