Approaching the final week of our thirty day vegan travel challenge for Veganuary has of course had us full of questions about the possible longevity of continuing the vegan lifestyle, whilst also making note of the physical effects we’ve been feeling over the past seven days.
Since the middle of last week we began to feel really tired and with this challenge having been quite a large component of it we couldn’t help but talk between ourselves about the effects that this new diet might be making to our health and how exhausted we were feeling even before the day was two thirds through.
“Were we getting the right vitamins?“, we thought to ourselves. “Are we missing something crucial to our diet?” was again a common thought; but when we looked at how lucky we had been over the past and previous weeks eating great food with our Couchsurfing hosts, how could be really be missing anything? Can this tiredness really come from missing out the cheese and few eggs that had been in our diet before? Surely not.
Our intake of fruit has been high, we’ve been stuffing our faces with nuts as a snack for the energy they release, so why this slowness? Why this sudden desire to sit and not stand up again at the first sight of a bench? We never felt this way when we had a mostly vegan diet during our three months housesitting in Spain, so what was different?
Two Days Here, Three Days There
Over the past few weeks we’ve barely spent more than a couple or a handful of days in any of the cities we’ve travelled through in both Belgium and the Netherlands, and whilst there have been half days where we’ve stayed in to upload pictures and put together posts like last weeks update, we’ve pretty much spent each and every day on our feet, walking for hours upon hours around some of incredibly picturesque old city streets. Surely it’s just travel that’s making us feel this way?
It was during our two days in Utrecht and the fact that by 9 or 10 o’clock we were already starting to prepare for bed that we really understood that we’ve just been over doing it over the past week, walking everywhere possible to explore and discover new places, whilst also spending an entire Saturday of the weekend walking alongside the Gay Pride canal parade in Amsterdam and a Sunday exploring the city by foot. In fact, it was the very same tiredness that we felt the last time we abandoned our ‘slow travel‘ philosophy and travelled too quickly and almost burnt out whilst travelling through France, Spain and finally home in the UK.
It made our time in Utrecht actually kind of hard to enjoy, and whilst our Couchsurfing host was a lovely fellow with his heart in the right place, we at times felt that we were possibly too tired to take in all of the information that he had to share with us, which is a huge shame.
On one morning with him we did take a few hour walk together around the city which was lovely, but by the time we came to find a vegan restaurant we’d read about (which happened to be closed due to their own holiday) and started to walk back to his, we were dead on our feet and barely had the strength to make it back. Instead we grabbed some items from the supermarket and had a picnic in the park of hummus, delicious pita bread, rocket, peppers and black olives.
What really began to convince us that we’re surely just tired rather than missing anything from our diet was that the previous night we’d had quite a nice meal that we all cooked together; our host cooked a fresh tomato soup and put together a salad that neither of us could get enough of, whilst we prepared another pasta dish (it’s kind of our thing, you know) to go with it all. Not a micro meal by any stretch of the imagination, so surely proof that we’d been eating properly, but doing too much.
Heading To Berlin
We actually chose to arrive here in Berlin earlier that expected as we were starting to not only feel tired, but also the pinch of the purse strings as we looked at the possible destinations between Utrecht and Berlin, but try as we might to find a solution, the tiredness and wanting to finally have somewhere to call home for a while was just too great a draw.
Once arriving at the our friends flat where we’ll now be calling home for a few weeks we really felt at ease to settle and let our bodies catch up with the past few weeks. We slept, ate well and loved to finally see our friends face-to-face for the first time in too long. Initially we felt dead on our feet, myself especially, but after another night of sleep things have started to settle and the jetlag-like symptoms of exhaustion have already begun to drift away.
We’ve yet to really step out into Berlin to explore the incredible offering of vegan and vegetarian restaurants such as our personal favourite, Voner, but we did find time to explore both a vegan shoe shop for Franca to explore that’s less than a five minute walk away from where we’re staying, whilst also taking a minute to drop into the multitude of bio-markets here and regular supermarkets that carry a much larger selection of vegan products – both purpose made and ‘accidental’ – and also had the chance to drop into our nearest branch of Veganz where we by chance ran into Justin of the mouthwatering Lotus and the Artichoke who we’ll hopefully have a chance to meet with again in the coming weeks.
Food, And Our Plans For Berlin
Not only is Berlin a huge hotspot and mecca for vegan food for us, it’s also going to provide us with our own kitchen to work in and we can’t wait to return to having a regular diet again just as we typically do when we live like a local and housesit. Already we’ve made a couple of plates, the most delicious of which is my personal favourite of a vegetable heavy bowl of minestrone soup – which I love! – but it’s still early and though we’ve only a few days left of our vegan travel challenge with Veganary, we’re going to make the most of it and try a few things, hopefully something we find at either Aldi or Lidl.
We do have some other activities on the cards, beside cooking vegan food. We’re penciled in going to Nomadic Matt’s Berlin Meetup on August 14th due to our wanting to say thanks to Matt in person for helping to inspire us when we were putting together our travel plans back in 2011, but if you fancy meeting up be sure to drop by and say ‘Hi!’ too.
We’re also going to be meeting up with a few other lovely travellers that you might know already, though not all of them are confirmed yet.
Obviously after being on the road non-stop there’s a whole bunch of work for us to catch up with, from photo editing, post writing and a whole stack of other work related jobs; one of which we’re really excited to be able to share with you soon about our talking with TrustedHousesitters about securing a 20% discount code for new members!
Ups And Downs Of The Week
We both feel unlucky that so many cafes and restaurants we tried to visit in both the Netherlands and Belgium have been closed due to the summer holidays so if you’re planning on travelling in either of those countries during August in the future, be sure to check with your chosen eatery to check if they’ll be open or not.
One highlight, however, was the chance to return to my personal favourite brewery in the world that is located in the heart of the red light district of Amsterdam where we were able to stop and speak with one of the members of its small team of staff to find out if their beer is vegan – which is it!
At De Prael we sampled one of their first beers called Johnny that is really quite nice, and also a bottle of Cocoa Beer which is a limited edition that’s sold at a chocolateier around the corner. Essentially then make a tea out of the used cacao nibs from the chocolate shop, then use that in the brewing process and add it to the beer. It has a nice chocolatey aroma, and it’s not too strong in the taste.
How Are We Doing?
After a few home cooked meals of broccoli and pasta, and a plate of delicious dahl – and a few hours spent sitting down rather than walking every street of Berlin – we’re feeling much better than say Monday or Tuesday in Utrecht, but in terms of the challenge itself to find vegan food in the local cuisine; we’ve not really had a chance to try anything. Hopefully we’ve our few remaining days of the challenge we’ll be able to showcase some of the vegan food that can be had in Berlin and Germany on a whole.
We have had a chance to sample a couple of things during one moment of necessary snacking over the last few days. We finally got to try the crunchy version of the already vegan Lotus biscuit spread, had a slice of delicious rye bread with some Zuckerrübesirup, which is a sweet honey-like syrup that you can use for almost anything, as well as our classic combinations of peanut butter, fresh vegetables and even gerkins! To top that off, we even grabbed ourselves a box of Oreos as a treat.
Now that we’re less tired, we’re eager to see what the last couple of days of being vegan has for us, but of course we’re really keen to get your recommendations!
Have you signed up for Veganuary yet?