10 Things You Need to Know About Vegan Travel
Going travelling is an amazing adventure; people will tell you all the time that some of their best memories are made on the road and once you’ve got the bug, it’s hard not to be always planning your next escape.
If you are a vegan, then going travelling is even cooler, but there are things that you need to know about vegan travel before you pack your bags.
Here’s our 10 things you need to know about vegan travel:
1) You may end up eating something you don’t want to
No matter how prepared you are, how much you think you’ve mastered the language, how much local food knowledge you have acquired; it’s very likely that you might accidentally end up eating something that isn’t vegan.
Ask any vegan traveller and they’ll tell you about a time when they’ve bitten into something only to discover it’s got meat in it or found out the stock in their noodle soup is made from chickens.
It’s not a nice thing to consider but it’s best to be prepared for how you are going to deal with it. We had been away less than a month when Caryl accidentally took a bite of a ‘tofu kebab’ in Thailand only to find out that it was horrible, processed chicken. There were tears and fears of food poisoning, there was a bit of self-torture about not having checked well enough or being able to speak fluent Thai; all wasted energy really.
Now if this happens (and it does even though we are vegan travel pros now), we just pick ourselves up and carry on. We’ve realised there are more important things in the world to be worried about.
2) You will ‘miss out’ on some local delicacies
If you are vegan foodies like us, then one of the most exciting things about travel is all the amazing food you’ll get to try, but it’s very common to find out that local delicacies or national favourites aren’t vegan.
It’s not really ‘missing out’ as such, and in all honesty we don’t really want to eat snails in Cambodia, bugs in Thailand or cow skin in Java, but as people who love food and travel, we want to understand how local people eat and we want to try as much as we can where possible.
Never fear though, we’ve often managed to veganise local dishes or find specialist restaurants who’ll prepare a 100% plant-based version of a famous local food, so all is not lost.
For us as vegan travellers, it doesn’t feel like we are missing out on anything. The only thing we’re really missing out on is being part of an industry that takes the lives of billions of animals, that is causing harm to our amazing planet and is often damaging to our health. No loss there then…
3) You need to be prepared, all the time
When you are a vegan traveller, there’s no rolling out of bed 5 minutes before your train or bus leaves, or wandering around until you’re hungry and then popping into the nearest restaurant for food. No, you need to be prepared with food to take with you all the time, or you need to know where you are going to eat. Happy Cow (the awesome online resource for the vegan and vegetarian community) will become your best friend.
One of the most stressful parts of travelling, is the travelling itself and you’ll be burning calories left right and centre as you haul your bags about, trying to decipher complicated timetables, ticketing systems and mystery queuing practices around the world.
To avoid the inevitable melt-down caused by lack of food, you’ll have to be prepared with snacks because you might not be able to find vegan food at your fingertips. Unless you are somewhere like Sri Lanka where there are tasty little ‘short eats’ at every turn (they’re just waiting for you to eat them!) you’ll be wanting to plan what and where you will eating in advance.
4) You will go crazy over things like finding vegan cake and ice cream
Unless you are travelling in a particularly vegan friendly part of the world, it’s probably fairly safe to say that you’ll go crazy over finding vegan food that you miss. We love vegan cake and ice creams and so it’s often a source of delight when we find somewhere that sells them, but we’re also likely to be found going a little crazy over other vegan treats like ice cream, tahini, nutritional yeast, sausages, falafels, chia seeds…
Other people marvel at statues, paintings, mountains and beaches (we do this too) but as vegan travellers you can often find us getting a little too over excited about the vegan goodies on offer in the local supermarket or health food shop.
Prepare to spend time fantasising over food a lot, but also prepare for all your vegan food dreams to come true quite often when you’re on the road!
5) You need to be a bit more educated about nutrition
At home, we didn’t ever really consider nutrition too much as our regular vegan diet provided us with everything we needed without really thinking about it. But as long term vegan travellers, we have to pay a little more attention to nutrition to make sure we get what we need, and so should you.
Important vitamins like B12 should never be overlooked (at home or away) and so we always make sure we have a supply of Marmite and vitamin pills. These aren’t always available on the road so unless you are travelling to a country where you know you can stock up, then it’s wise to make room in your luggage, even though you might find yourself carrying a years supply of vitamins around with you.
There are also some countries that we’ve been to where although the food is delicious, unless you are indulging in some luxury travel or you have your own kitchen, you might find it hard to stay on top of things like getting enough protein.
We’ve started to travel with hemp protein and a hand blender now so if we are feeling like we aren’t getting enough protein, we can whizz up a protein packed smoothie no matter where we are.
6) You might see a lot more animal cruelty
As vegans, this is one of the hardest things about travelling. In some countries, cruelty to animals is not only commonplace but also highly visible and tolerated. Its common to see live animals like ducks or chickens bound up and stacked on top of each other at markets in South East Asia and zoos, elephant rides, dolphin swimming experiences and performing monkeys sadly remain popular tourist attractions.
And of course there are stray dogs and cats that are in desperate need of a safe and loving home that are left to live on the streets.
It’s hard to see and do nothing sometimes.
There are of course lots of ways that you can help tackle animal cruelty such as volunteering (be sure to pick your project wisely) or even just talking with fellow travellers about why some products or activities which are popular are in fact much more cruel to animals than they might have considered.
7) You will get asked about your reasons for veganism a lot
We find that some of the most common questions we get asked when we meet new people are about what veganism is and why we are vegan. Before we came away, we didn’t seem to get asked this a lot, perhaps because we weren’t meeting so many new people each day?
Now we have to think carefully about how we answer too because it can feel a little thoughtless to tell someone that their meat eating habits are damaging the planet when they don’t really have many other choices due to poverty for example (we never do this by the way).
You might want to think in advance about how you explain your reasons for being vegan to others and you should always be aware of how cultures differ and how people’s experience of poverty might affect how you talk to people about your lifestyle.
We still try to be as open and honest about the reasons behind our vegan lifestyle as we can though.
8) You might have to compromise your beliefs
This is a difficult thing about vegan travel; a one time or another on your vegan travel adventure, you might have to compromise your beliefs and do something you might never do at home. For example, at home we’d never buy non-vegan toiletries but we often can’t find them in other countries (or they’re stupidly expensive) so sometimes we are left with the unsatisfactory choice of buying something that we know contains animal products or may have been tested on animals. It’s just how it is.
It’s something that all vegan travellers have to consider.
The main thing to remember though is that veganism is about compassion and whatever decides you end up making, be kind to yourself and don’t worry about it too much. Just do the best you can, vegan travel is supposed to be enjoyable after all.
10) You might become a bit obsessed about taking pictures of vegan food
We do take some pictures of beautiful beaches, amazing temples and colourful markets but our camera is mainly full up of vegan food photos. We just can’t stop ourselves as some of the vegan food we find is just so beautiful that we want to remember it forever and share it with others.
Vegan travel produces a lot of opportunities to find new vegan food and it’s hard not to snap away when it arrives at your table. Sometimes we have to remember to take pictures of each other too as whole destinations can go by with only bowls of noodles, delicious curries and pretty desserts to evidence that we visited!
Just make sure to take the odd picture of something else on your travels… in between all the awesome vegan food of course.
We love to hear from you too, so leave us a comment below and you can be sure we’ll reply 🙂