Today’s Culture with Travel guest post is by Wendy Dessler
Traveling as an omnivore is fairly easy. The majority of people eat both plant and animal products, after all. For vegetarians, travel is a little more difficult. As a vegan, the experience can be downright frustrating.
Shopping for vegan food and searching for vegan restaurants is already hard enough when you are in an unfamiliar location. This is however further compounded by the barrage of questions from strangers about your dietary choices. In extreme cases, a simple difference in food preferences can be misinterpreted as disrespect of local customs.
Of course, some cities and countries are more friendly to vegan travelers than others. Amsterdam, New York, Berlin and India are places you can explore with little difficulty. Much of Eastern Europe on the other hand is on the other extreme. While traveling as a vegan can be a pain, there are ways you can make the experience not just bearable but fun.
Take a Vegan Culinary Vacation
Traveling independently (either solo, as a couple, family or group of friends) is almost always the preferred way of going on vacation. Unlike organized group tours where you are expected to spend plenty of time with complete strangers, independent travel has the privacy and serenity that most people long for in a holiday.
Group vacations are sometimes bedeviled by conflicting ideas and priorities that can be especially strenuous for persons with an uncommon dietary preference. Yet, culinary-themed group vacations can be a useful launching pad for vegans. It’s a great way to take away the guesswork from your travel meal plans.
A vegan culinary vacation is an opportunity to sample diverse food, experience a fun new destination, meet fellow vegans and gather vegan recipes. Group travel dials down the intimidation and fear that comes with visiting unfamiliar places. The good things is that it isn’t something you have to do all the time. Just once or twice can equip you enough to set out on your own the next time.
Vegan Diet Research
Vegans must do much more research than the average traveler before identifying a destination or setting out on an adventure trip. Fortunately, the internet is a vast treasure trove of vegan travel information.
For example, you could start off with a location specific Google search such as “vegan restaurants in Orange County”. Pay particular attention to restaurants with Google reviews. Only highly rated establishments should make your list of good restaurants in Orange County.
Visit online vegan forums and Facebook groups to see what people think about your desired destination. If you cannot find a relevant conversation, pose a direct question to forum members. You are likely to get unbiased recommendations on places you should go to and what you should look out for.
Read major vegan travel blogs but bear in mind that these may be more narrowly focused. Do not expect a detailed opinion of destinations especially if you want to go to a place that is off the beaten path. That being said, there’s no harm asking a question in the comment section just in case the blogger and other readers may have the specific tips you’re looking for.
Finally, and perhaps most important, solicit advice from your circle of friends, family and work colleagues. Compared with internet-based conversation with strangers, talking to people you know will often provide you with more authentic and relevant information. Since these are people who already know you, they may bring to your attention things that you hadn’t initially thought of.
Understand Local Delicacies
One of the things your research should cover is the primary local delicacies in the places you’ll be visiting. Due to language barriers, entrenched meat-eating culture or just plain ignorance, not every local you meet will be able to tell whether a popular meal is vegan or not.
Knowing beforehand what food is available and the ingredients of each is particularly important when it comes to street food. It is on the street that your veganism will face its biggest test. For this reason, awareness of local food options is also a valuable tool for defusing awkward conversations.
For instance, if someone offers you food that you have established isn’t vegan, you may suggest specific vegan options that you identified during your research.
Learn Local Vegan Lingo
Visit a location where people can speak your language is always a plus. Fortunately for English speakers, a large segment of the world consists of countries that speak English or where a significant part of the population can understand English.
Nevertheless, there are still vast swathes of the earth where finding an English speaker or translator is difficult. You may land in a city with fantastic vegan food options but lack the ability to extract this information from locals thanks to the language barrier.
To avoid falling into this predicament, always find time to establish relevant local vegan lingo. If there is no word to describe the vegan lifestyle, seek out the local names of specific vegan ingredients you’d be keen on. Overall, the more local words you can speak, the lower the likelihood that your meal order will be lost in translation.
Pack Plenty of Vegan Snacks
When you are planning for your vacation meals, you must think about not just the food you’ll eat when you get to your destination but what you’ll eat along the way. Both hunger pangs and travel times are not always predictable. You wouldn’t want to find yourself starving on a train or bus because there are virtually no vegan options in sight.
It’s vital that you pack snacks as a contingency measure. Snacks will give you adequate time to look for a vegan restaurant or shop for vegan food at the supermarket. You may arrive late in the night and find all vegan restaurants and supermarkets closed. Carrying snacks means that you’ll have something to eat as you wait for daybreak. Some of the snacks you could carry include granola bars and homemade crackers.
These tips will help make your travels smoother and more pleasant. Have yourself an exciting vegan holiday!