I read a post on Reddit regarding a talk Jane Goodall gave. Someone asked her, “are you vegan or vegetarian?” She responded that she’s vegetarian, but if it weren’t for her crazy travel schedule, she would be vegan. I scanned through the comments and noticed how many people echoed her point that vegan travel is difficult. I can certainly relate.
My Vegan Journey
I gave up meat nearly two years ago while living in New Zealand. I met someone who explained how harmful products like beef is to our environment and its effect on global warming. I watched the “Cowspiracy” documentary on Netflix to get the full story, and that was it for me. I gave up all meat “cold turkey” (I think we need a new expression.)
The “Cowspiracy” quote from the ex-cattle rancher stuck with me “you can’t be an environmentalist and still eat meat. Period.” He’s right. I was enjoying nature every day in New Zealand, hiking, swimming in the lakes, surfing in the ocean, and camping under the stars. I couldn’t love and appreciate the beauty of nature then, in good conscience, order a Fergburger.
Once I was a vegetarian, the process of becoming plant-based came naturally. I watched “What the Health” and a few other documentaries on the health benefits of living plant-based and read articles on factory farming and the process of obtaining milk from cows. There’s just too much information out there, all pointing in the same direction and saying the same thing – go vegan!
Traveling as a Vegan
But even with the knowledge and the drive to live entirely plant-based, it IS challenging to maintain the diet while traveling abroad. I’ve traveled continuously all over the world for three years now, two of which I was/am a vegetarian/vegan. Some places are vegan-friendly, some most certainly are not. Sure, it’s possible to survive on dry salads, but that’s not a sustainable solution, in my opinion.
Whether you’re planning a trip or living on the road like me, here are my top 10 tips for being as vegan as possible while still enjoying your time and your meals.
1. Plan ahead
This is often the number one piece of advice vegans give aspiring vegans. I have a full post with tips for planning travel to a new city HERE. Below are the tools I use when researching a new place:
- Scope out the Happy Cow App
- Look at hashtags on Instagram (i.e. #veganseville) – a lot of people will post their vegan meal from non-vegan restaurants
- Search “vegan,” “bio,” “eco,” on Google Maps around where you’re staying and star the ones that come up
- Pinterest search “vegan” and your destination – gotta love when someone does the leg work for ya!
- Search expat forums when looking for rare things like tempeh and tofu
2. Book an Airbnb
3. Surviving a Flight
I always make sure to special request the vegan option on flights that serve food, and to be honest, what I get is almost always wretched and unedible. What I’ve been doing lately instead is preparing meals in a stainless steel bento box. This box keeps things fresh, has separators so you can pack snack style, and doesn’t leak.
4. Pack Supplements
I travel with four different supplements: B12, Omega 3, D3, and Magnesium. B12, Omega 3, and D3 are the three essential nutrients missing from vegan diets, and I’ve found that if I don’t supplement these three things, I feel tired and experience significant brain fog. It’s a pain packing four glass bottles since they do take up quite a bit of space, but to me, it’s worth it. Fortunately, there’s a vegan multi-vitamin containing these three nutrients launching in a few weeks. I pre-ordered mine for $15, so excited to finally minimize my supplement weight into one bottle.
5. Experiment with Local Produce
This one is obvious, but it’s one of the best parts about traveling as a vegan. While omnivores tend to stick to the recommended restaurants, vegans get experimental and experience a bit of local culture. One of the best things you can do to support the locals is to buy fresh fruit. I always go to the local fruit stands in Bali and stock up on rambutan, pitaya, and the little bananas that taste like ice cream and snack on those at the beach. It’s also a great way to save $$$.
6. Pack Key Ingredients
If I’m planning to travel somewhere like Dubrovnik, where I know the vegan options are limited, I pack a few necessities I can’t live without. I use reusable silicone food storage bags (they’re leakproof!) and pack:
- Vegan Protein – mix with soy milk for a quick meal replacement
- Nutritional Yeast – great for sprinkling on bland pasta
- Flax Seeds & Hemp Seeds – sprinkle this on some fruit for added protein, iron, etc.
- Everything But the Bagel – the most incredible Trader Joe’s spice mix that makes even the blandest food taste delicious
7. Learn the Local Language
I’m not suggesting you casually pick up Italian before your trip, but it is super helpful to know the keywords below for when reading labels at the grocery store and ordering off menus at restaurants:
- Words to Know: Meat, Chicken, Ham, Pig, Goat, Hamburger, Beef, Egg, Milk, Cheese, Dairy, Lactose, Honey, Cow, etc.
- Phrases to Learn: I’m vegan, I don’t eat meat, please no… etc.
8. Buy a Handheld Blender
Okay, this one is just for crazies like me, who travel regularly and can’t live without hummus. But really, they’re amazing if you’re always on the road. (Make sure to buy one in Europe – I made the mistake of purchasing a mini blender in the US and trying to use it in Spain and almost burning the house down – the wattage is not the same!) They’re an excellent investment, affordable and easy and light to pack. It’s also all you need to whip up a date smoothie or garlic hummus.
My Fail-Proof Go-To
This one is for those desperate late-night times you find yourself starving in the streets of Europe. The grocery stores are closed, your kitchen is empty, you didn’t plan, and the only restaurants open have pig legs hanging in the window. If you haven’t lost your appetite from the sight, what do you do? You find a kebab shop! They’re always open, and they always have falafels.
10. Make Simple Meals
Finally, when you are cooking, I highly recommend keeping it simple. That doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice taste, but it’s one of the best ways to reduce waste, simplify your life, and help you to save money! I’ve compiled a list of my 12 favorite, vegan recipes containing only a few simple ingredients and requiring few kitchen essentials to make. See the recipes HERE.
It’s easy to let your health slip when you’re on vacation, it happens, and you can always reset when you get home. But if traveling is a large part of your life, it’s critical to stay as healthy as possible. It’s easy to get sick while traveling when you’re jetlagged, missing sleep, and pushing yourself to see and do as much as you possibly can. So be mindful, stay hydrated, plan, take your vitamins, get some sun, and exercise, and enjoy the moment!
For a full list of my absolute favorite vegan travel essentials, click HERE.
For tips on planning travel to a new city, click HERE.
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