Being vegan and traveling is not easy. But not just for the vegans. How to survive holidays as a vegan?
In everyday life, our friends or families do not hesitate to comment on the fact that we are vegan. It is a bit tiring but ok I do not pay that much attention to it and I don’t even bother to explain it anymore. But when we travel it gets even worse! I have often felt like I was some sort of alien about to announce an imminent invasion. The bewildered gaze, the total lack of understanding of the vegetarian term (and I am not even talking about veganism) are all things that a vegan must deal with.
Being vegan and traveling is often a rather daunting endeavor, for both us vegans and the industry. Since we represent a minority, it seems normal that the industry considers us as such. I have met numerous vegans who became vegetarians or even allowed themselves to eat poultry or fish while traveling. A fan of organic and vegan food will oftentimes be forced to be less environmentally friendly during his travels. We ourselves do not eat meat in general unless we are on holidays. And we don’t do that because we like it but due to several reasons as follow:
- Lack of time / no kitchen space. If you plan your holiday like we do, in between 2 hikes and transits between 2 cities, you will realize that it is challenging to cook or even find the time to prepare meals during active holidays
- Laziness because we also lack the desire to look for food, cook, and argue especially when we are on vacation!
- Prices that are often higher for organic produce or products replacing animal products
- The desire to try out the local cuisine
- Locals’ lack of awareness regarding vegan food
- Travel agencies do not offer a ‘vegan’ option in their trips, especially if you end up sleeping at locals
- The absence of vegan options in the majority of restaurants or supermarkets.
Therefore, we can conclude that it is difficult to respect the diet and the way of life that one imposes onto oneself at home while on vacation! We have therefore tested several solutions as, to travel to Brazil oVietnam while passing through Eastern Europe is not an easy thing to do if you are vegan and there are even countries where it’s almost impossible or it becomes a real issue!
So what to do? Not eat anymore? Obviously, that is not the case.
Eating meat is ok:
- If you are really in a situation where you don’t have a choice – it’s better to eat than to waste resources
- If you know that the poultry (or meat) that you consume is coming from a neighboring farm where it lead a good life. Denis’s grandmother always kills a chicken when we visit her – a tradition that I cannot escape. But I do not blame her as the chicken had a proper life.
- If you are starving in the desert!
Check where the food comes from
There is no ideal solution when you go on holiday, try to follow your principles as much as possible and check where the meat comes from. Ask at the hotel, the restaurant if the meat is local, if it has been labelled ‘animal welfare’ and choose restaurants that offer vegetarian or vegan options that you can find on Happy Cow.
American and European airlines now offer vegan options. I have tested some, they’re not great but they’re not worse than what is usually being served!
This is me ordering in a restaurant (in a comprehensible language but imagine a situation where the waiter doesn’t speak English or speaks it poorly).
‘Hello, do you have vegan dishes?
– ahhh you mean without meat?
– yes and products that are not animal products
– oh oki it’s complicated! But salad you can eat no?’
So yes the language barrier is somewhat frustrating. And people think that we are crazy when we tell them that we don’t want to eat animal products. Most of the time we are served dishes that are not particularly great as if a meal can’t be good unless it comprises a grilled steak on the side! One time I couldn’t find almost any vegetarian dish in a restaurant in Brazil and once I asked the waiter he told me that there was nothing left on the ‘vegan’ menu and he proposed to make some sort of salad for me. I paid the same price for 3 pieces of lettuce and 2 slices of tomatoes that I would have paid for a meat dish. Pfff. We vegans have to fight to find something nice to eat other than grass and on top of it all we pay high prices for it! Meat is considerably more expensive and yet we end up paying the same price. Why? #veganspaytopbuck
Make a list of organic shops in the areas that you visit
During our travels we have always found a shop or an organic store with vegetarian food. It’s indeed most of the times more expensive but this can be a suitable alternative if you are looking for particular products such as soy milk! Actually, my main issue when travelling is milk! I simply adore my coffee with soy milk, cereals in rice or almond milk, but in hotels or even in restaurants it’s almost impossible to find soy milk. Therefore, these small shops are very useful for the ones who do not drink regular milk or are intolerant to it! Once again, Happy Cow is not at all bad for putting together these lists, but it’s not the only option! So inform yourselves and download these apps.
Plan your cosmetics!
We rarely think about it but, in general, vegans consume natural products and it’s sometimes difficult to be abroad having to purchase a shampoo in a foreign language that most likely was tested on animals or contains paraben. So take a good bottle of castile soap that you can use for pretty much everything from laundry to soap for the body and face. As far as body or face creams are concerned, I have an aloe Vera gel for the face and as after sun protection, jojoba or cacao oil for the body, monoï or coconut oil for the hair. These are all perfect oils for multi-use. Denis himself uses essential oils such as the Tea Tree for these things. As far as sunscreen is concerned, choose natural cosmetics brands such as Badger.
Accept that you will get awkward questions and that your travel mate will maybe be annoyed if he is not vegan himself
To conclude, to be a vegan on vacation is a real headache and in certain countries more so than in others. In Spain, during my trip on the Camino de Santiago it was almost impossible not to eat meat or eggs. And I have to admit that I have annoyed more than one host with my vegan inquiries. So yes, being vegan can be really tough but, just like with any sport, you feel great after having mastered it!
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu