Will Work For Food: From One Couch to Another, How To CouchSurf During Travels (And Stay Safe)
Will Work For Food #9 Advice & Stories ...
Either way, veganism and travel do go hand and hand.
That’s not what we’re here to discuss, though.
I’ve been vegan for about three years now, and I’ve gone on two significant trips during that time. The first trip was to South America; more specifically, Chile for a year. The second was when I went across the United States, on a bicycle, with almost no money.
I ate well as a vegan, easily, on both trips.
I hear many people say (yes,–say– not ask),
“Isn’t it hard to be vegan and travel?”
“Vegan in South America? Impossible.”
“Oh yeah, I want to go vegan. It makes sense. I just want to get some travel out of the way so that I’m not limited with food choices on my travels. I want to be able to eat everything.”
(A quick look into my thoughts translates “everything” to “everyone.”)
And to all of these statements I (usually) say with enthusiasm,
“Yes, you can!” You should eat well, and travel vegan.
Here are some tips on how to eat plant-based while on the road, especially when in restaurant settings.
I’ve been all across the U.S., and was surprised to find that some people don’t know what the word “vegan” means. It can be frustrating at first, but that’s okay. When this is part of your experience, consider considering it an opportunity to spread knowledge to others.
I’m not saying to drop the word entirely out of your vocabulary. I’m quite literally saying to drop the word specifially when you go to restaurants or when preparing food with people who are unfamiliar with veganism.
They may think they know what it means, and end up giving you something that you don’t want to consume. Explain what it is in full detail what your needs are. This makes ordering crystal clear for them, and worry-free for you. After you express your needs, and feel understood, you may want to take that space to explain more deeply what vegnaism is, and offer up resources if they want to expand their knowledge on the subject.
If you already eat plant-based, you probably have already learned that many items that are plant-based, aren’t labeled as such.
Oreos, for example.
(Classic example, I know. Almond milk’s favorite cookie, right?)
Search menus for things that may already be plant-based, or that could easily be modified. Usually, every restaurant has veggies and grains. They can often substitute vegetable oil for butter when cooking, and make something for you that usually isn’t included on the menu.
When you do find something, let them know that you’re looking for it to be specifically free of flesh, or anything else taken from animals.
Another choice is to put side dishes together, and come up with new combinations. Remember, there are more options beyond the set menu!
(What a strange thing for a vegan, animal-liberationist to say, right?)
There are different apps, websites, and resources to help you scout out the already-known vegan-friendly hot spots.
Have you considered asking the locals? You never know what other veg-heads are around you, and have the scoop on what you’re searching for.
To be completely honest, I’ve had more fun searching and finding yummy vegan-friendly restaurants (or restaurants that have some flesh-and-animal-product-free options), than I ever have restaurant surfing in my pre-vegan life. The journey, and the destination, can both be experienced as rewarding, and fun, while traveling.
When I wrote a first draft of this post, I included a whole bullet point on how it is OK to say that you have allergies to animal flesh and products when people just aren’t getting it. After having a partner review it, and point out how that can be problematic, I realized what a mistake that would have been to publish.
It has been helpful for me, though, to share the part of truth about how consuming animal products or parts make me physically feel sick. People tend to take that seriously in the moment, and chew on the other information that you’ve shared with in their own time and space.
Sharing truth is so necessary, but know that you don’t have to do it each time that someone questions your conscious choices to harm others in a reduced way. Sometimes we need to save that energy for ourselves, and that is completely OK.
If you feel like explaining what veganism means to you, and how you are crafting your life around it, go for it. If you’re ready to share the horrors and truth with others about what happens to individuals that are not human, please do so.
I personally choose to speak out on most occasions, but sometimes I choose not to, to protect my own energies, recharge in someways, and practice self care.
Do you want amplify the message of non-human animals and their suffering? Do you want to help people make the connection between the environment, and eating plant-based?
I want to create spaces where we can share our truths with others. I want to create spaces where we can connect in more raw– and genuine ways– to stir up compassion, and pass it on.
You, in fact, are the solution, by living vegan.
Don’t forget that.
Request what you need with confidence and clarity. Look for already-existing items that can be modified, very specifically, to align with your values. Don’t settle for less, just because others around you may choose to feel uncomfortable with your choices.
You are choosing compassion. You are choosing a practice that honors respect for other’s bodily autonomy. You are choosing a way of life that aims to inflict minimal suffering to others, and that is not only something to stick to, but to celebrate.
(Thank you to Helen Otto, Michael Amani and Jocelyn Cole for all the ideas/edits that you contributed to this post.)