People often say that travelling will change you, and after becoming a full-time traveller myself I now nod and know that I’m happily a different person; and what makes me realise this the most is how travel has helped me dispel some of the vegan myths and preconceptions one held.
The process of changing it isn’t always pleasant. Especially when social pressure is so high that you’re worried of being ‘that’ weirdo in someone else s eyes. It’s can be incredibly intimidating.
The idea of a life of nomadic travel can be incredibly intimidation too as you approach the unknown and step out of your comfort zone for the first time, and maintaining a vegan lifestyle can even expand that sense of intimidation.
I’m not going to lie, when we sold everything we owned, quit our jobs and decided to travel long term without a set plan in mind, I had many doubts. My fears became enhanced my hesitation to travel and became my excuses for postponing travelling altogether for much longer than I wish I’d let them be.
Eventually though a time came when our short holidays through the year weren’t enough to satisfy my wanderlust and – together with Dale – make my lifes dream of travelling the world a reality. It was the best decision that I have ever made, and I’m so glad that we could make it together, despite how difficult it can be from time-to-time. In fact, the only real regret I have now is not shaking off my hesitations earlier and grasping at this nomadic lifestyle sooner.
Travel Did Change Me
Much of what has changed about me is due entirely to what travel has shown and taught me, and I wonder just how little I may have changed if I’d have stayed in my comfort zone for longer.
Maybe I never would have gone vegetarian in 2013? Probably I would have, but maybe not by now.
Would I have gone vegan in 2014? Unlikely. And in a way I’m sad about that.
Learning about the world through travel made me see and understand so much about how I no longer wish to contribute to any form of animal exploitation or cruelty towards any species for the sake of food, entertainment, clothing, or any other purpose. I just wish I’d made that connection before – and there’s no doubt that traveling was the method of my education on the subject.
Volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park dog shelter made me realise that every animal is equal and deserves to live their life to the fullest, no matter if we’re talking about dogs, cats, cows or pigs. Travel helped me see and choose a compassionate path and I plan to stick to it, regardless of the vegan myths people have, or if society considers it ‘acceptable’ or not.
The Vegan Myth of Difficulties Traveling
Regardless of why you are vegan, travelling on a vegan diet isn’t something I see as the difficult challenge that some people might like to claim that a life of vegan travel or taking a vacation as a vegan can be.
In only six months of being a vegan I can already say that travelling as a vegan isn’t difficult, it’s about making the right choices. It’s all about having the right level of tenacity and by following some easy-to-follow tips and guides.
I know because I’m doing it right now, today; but before I had many misconceptions and found myself believing many of the vegan myths I would read which in turn would continually delay my transition from vegetarian to vegan.
I thought that travel on a vegan diet would be both complicated, expensive, and would result in my missing out on so much delicious and typical food from the countries we would visit, but since deciding to go vegan for a month of travel through Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany; most of those vegan myths disappeared before my eyes, and the more time passes the more I come to realise I was being simply ignorant and letting misconceptions based on no facts misinform me.
I’m not a perfect vegan, so I’m still learning every day about veganism and a life of nomadic vegan travel, but so far our experiences travelling through countries like Italy have been really good – and as we continue our travels we’re finding ourselves answering more, and more questions from the people we meet about the same vegan myths I once believed myself – and I’m still learning.
I became vegan for the sake of animal rights, but I’ve been asked so many questions about nutrition, health, the environmental impact, how to travel on a vegan diet ,and how to cope in different situations that – because of these questions – I’ve learned so much about veganism that I’m educating not only myself, but each next person who asks about their own thoughts on what being vegan is and how easy (or hard) it may or may not be.
I’m helping to destroy vegan myths and I’m enjoying it.
“Being vegan whilst travelling is too hard“
This is probably one of the biggest vegan myths I believed before becoming vegan. I kept repeating myself that being vegetarian was already tough at times, and the proof came when we were travelling through Spain and found ourselves served vegetarian dishes that were topped with fish, again and again, and increasing my fear of being vegan on every occasion.
Fast forward half a year and I realised that by simply learning some basic words in the local language I could make sure I wasn’t being misunderstood. It’s not difficult. All it takes is a little commitment to memory, or a short note on some paper which you keep on you at all times. Also, little packables like The Vegan Passport contain short little translated explanations of what you’d prefer not to eat in more than 90% of the worlds languages. Simply perfect.
Travelling as a vegan is as easy as it is at home, especially if you’re at a hostel or renting an apartment with airbnb that has a kitchen. You can always buy your own products from a nearby grocery and make yourself something vegan quite easily. And whilst vegan products such as shampoo are becoming easier to find in supermarkets, simply pack a couple from home before you travel and you’ll never have to worry if the free shampoo in your hotel bathroom is vegan or not.
“Vegan food is so boring“
Prior to becoming vegan I always opted towards a plant-based diet, tending to pick vegetable dishes over their meat-based counterparts throughout my life pre-travel and during our journey. I guess in this way I already had an advantage in that I knew a little about the amazing things that could be made with vegetables, but I was still slightly skeptical about how I would diversify my meals and make sure I was getting a mixture of nutrition, and that travelling was going to make this impossible.
In fact, it was just another vegan myth.
I’ve seen so many different countries use a simple ingredient such as a squash in so many different ways that it made me realise that there’s a whole world of creative people doing extraordinary things with fruit, vegetables, pulses, beans, and all manner of different superfoods.
Connecting with people in countries both online before we’ve arrived and in person through Couchsurfing has helped us to learn about several local dishes that are vegan by default, simply by following traditional recipes.
Where possible I’ve tried to learn a recipe from each new country we visit. It helps me to discover new flavours and combinations, whilst inspiring me to generate new ideas of my own. I’m starting to like the challenge so when people tell me that “vegan food is boring” I love to cook something for them to show them how wrong they are.
For instance, when I recently celebrated my first birthday as a vegan I made my own cake so that I could show my family the possibilities. Not only did everyone love it, they also wanted a second piece; and when I made ‘rawtella’ (which still needs improvement) everyone appreciated it because it was so different! Astounding.
The people I’ve cooked for have all been so surprised to learn that vegan food isn’t as boring as their imagination (or lack of) may perceive it, all thanks to what travel taught me.
“I could never give up cheese!“
As a BIG cheese lover myself I thought that giving it up would be the ultimate challenge for me. It would be too hard and on the fringes of impossible, especially whilst travelling in countries where cheese makes up the largest part of the menu.
Once again I busted my own vegan myth.
Whilst I thought that I would lack the willpower to pass on each cheese-focused dish that we saw during our travels, the reality was that I only needed to learn the truth about the dairy industry and that would be all the convincing I needed. After watching documentaries and doing some reading about it I soon couldn’t see cheese as simply a food any more, but just an example of some of the suffering animals go through all for the sake of consumption.
Removing cheese from my diet helped me to see food differently and appreciate the diversity of options that many international cuisines have – and whilst I thought for a short while that maybe I’d crave or find myself dreaming about a double mozzarella pizza; I instead found myself craving homemade pizza topped with vegan gorgonzola from our favourite pizzeria in Berlin.
Vegan cakes and other sweets have helped me to see that there’s a wide selection of delicious food all across the world to be found that doesn’t need animal products in it to have me reaching for a second slice. And I’m not alone. Just ask my meat-eating family how much they loved my vegan cake and I’m sure that – had I not told them it was vegan – would have loved every single bite anyway.
“Vegan travel is expensive“
I’m ashamed to say it, but I believed this the most amongst the vegan myths.
I thought that maintaining a vegan lifestyle whilst travelling was going to be incredibly expensive and would completely ruin our own style of budget travel. I was so wrong.
My misconception about the expense of living a vegan life came from my misguided belief that buying all the necessities that a vegan needs only come from specialist, bio, and health food shops; but the truth is that whilst some products specifically for vegans are incredibly and unfairly priced, you can just as easily shop at a regular grocery store and purchase everything you need for a delicious vegan meal, or snack on the go.
Seeing just how far I can stretch the money we once spent on meat prior to our life as vegetarians never stops to amaze me.
For example, you can purchase an avocado, some tomatoes, hummus, and a freshly baked seed-topped bread roll and enjoy a healthy and delicious lunch whilst say in one of London’s many parks, or on the beach in Barcelona.
Even when it came time for us to finally purchase new shoes we found that even some of the vegan options were noticeably cheaper than their high street counterparts, which only persuaded me further that there’s always an affordable option out there. All it took was some a little research and talking with people in the vegan community.
“Animal products are used everywhere“
Going vegan whilst travelling was intense to begin with as we had pretty much no time in which to adjust to our new diet and lifestyle. We weren’t leaving the comfort of home and taking our veganism with us, we were learning day-by-day how to cope in countries where we didn’t speak the language – so trying to check labels for animal products in an a tongue that neither of us spoke was big hurdle I needed to jump.
Frustrated with never knowing what was inside everything I soon realised that I’d have to learn quickly what words to look out for on the packaging, even if it was in Flemish.
We both try our absolute best to avoid buying items with animal products in, but it’s so hard to be the perfect vegan. I won’t lie and say that it isn’t a little challenging at times to avoid them, but I do my very best and try not to be too hard on myself as I feel that veganism is about encouraging a cruelty-free lifestyle and not about aiming for personal chastity.
Try your best at all times, but don’t beat yourself up by trying to reach perfection.
“My family and friends will never understand my choice“
My typical Italian family is full of typical Italian meat eaters, so when we returned home firstly as vegetarians and then as vegans, I thought they’d never accept my choice.
I had this thought that because of how much my family ate meat and used animal products that they’d never understand and see things from my point of view, but once again I was wrong.
Not only have they accommodated my new diet into their lives without any problem what so ever (my mother is a star), they’ve also tried to understand my reasons for going vegan by asking question after question. Even my best friend surprised me recently when she arrived at my home with a birthday present in hand and told me she’d researched and shopped around for something vegan-friendly. I was speechless. And my extended family too have been just as fantastic and have always ensured there’s something vegan at the table for both Dale and myself.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about my family understanding my choice.
“Not eating local food makes you miss the best part of travelling“
People – especially foodies – repeatedly tell us that vegan travel means missing out on all the fun of trying new food in new cultures.
Just ask Jodi of Legal Nomads if her diet is ruining her life of full-time travel.
Sure, having different dietary requirement can be challenging at times, but we’re still exploring each countries cuisine in much the same way as everyone else. The only difference is that we seek out the local dishes that are vegan-friendly, and we’ve had great success with that thanks to both social media and reaching out to local vegans via Couchsurfing.
It’s just another vegan myth about travelling that we’re starting to really enjoy busting.
In only half a year of vegan travel we’ve found that the amount of local dishes that we like to call “accidentally vegan” tends to be higher than we presume on first thinking – and when the scenario isn’t in our favour there’s always the option to veganise or have customized dishes made for us ad hoc, so we’re never really missing out.
Still Busting Vegan Myths
If it wasn’t for travelling, my becoming vegan still may not have happened, but I’m so glad it happened in the way that it did.
Travelling as a vegan has helped me to not only examine my own thoughts on what veganism is, but also helped to dispel some of the bigger vegan myths that I find myself still running into today. If my learning to be a better vegan and a better vegan traveller also helps to make veganism more accessible to others, then I hope to keep doing so for a long time to come.
I appreciate and love how veganism has not changed our travels, it enriched them.
Do you think vegan travel is hard to manage?