Does the thought of travelling to a notoriously meat-loving destination have you breaking out in a cold sweat? Have you started avoiding travel to certain places since you became vegan, fearing that you might starve if you ventured there?
Flip to the “vegetarians and vegans” section of a guidebook to Spain, and you're likely to read something like, “If vegetarians feel like a rarity among Spaniards, vegans will feel as if they've come from another planet”.
When you're bombarded by such negativity, it's easy to start believing that by going vegan you've rung the death knell for enjoyable travel. But why trust a non-vegan guidebook author to tell you what it's like to travel as a vegan?
In reality, Spain is a delight for vegans and non-vegans alike, and it's delicious too. Skeptical? Just check out all the mouth-watering vegan goodness in this ultimate vegan guide to Spain.
You can travel virtually anywhere and do so easily, joyfully and deliciously as a vegan. Follow the tips below, and you'll soon be telling your omnivore friends: “Anywhere you can go, I can go vegan”.
Focus on abundance, not scarcity.
How much you enjoy any activity or experience is determined primarily NOT by the experience itself but by your perception of it and your attitude towards it. In fact, this is true of life in general. The people who are happiest in life are not those with the fattest bank accounts, the biggest corner offices or the most prestigious university degrees.
On the contrary, those people are often the unhappiest of all. True happiness is seen among people who approach life with a sense of wonderment, appreciation and gratitude, even when to outsiders it appears that they have little to be grateful for.
The same rule applies to travel for vegans: if every time you open up a restaurant menu you focus on all the things you can't have, you will soon start feeling resentful and sorry for yourself.
If, on the other hand, you start looking beyond the list of daily specials to the side dishes, the appetizers, the soups and salads – in short, if you really explore the menu and look for all the things that might be vegan or easily veganized – then in most cases a whole cornucopia of vegan food will magically appear.
Research the local cuisine.
Sometimes our preconceived notions about how vegan-friendly a place is are actually quite far off from reality. Think Greek food is all about meat-filled gyros and feta cheese? Think again! Start researching “fasting food” in Greece (or just take a look at this vegan guide to the country) and you will soon see that Greek food just bursting with naturally vegan dishes.
So don't take your guidebook's word for it; while you're online booking your hotels and checking train schedules, take another few minutes to read about the dishes typically served in your destination, and make a note of any that look like they might be vegan or easily veganized. You might be surprised at what you find!
Seek out restaurants that serve vegan-friendly cuisines.
So your Google search for “traditional vegan food in Siberia” didn't turn up anything? Not to worry. In the globalized world we live in, very rarely are travelers limited to just the local cuisine in the places they visit.
Try looking for a Chinese restaurant, for example. At this point, Chinese migrants have brought their culinary skills and entrepreneurial spirit to just about every corner of the globe. Other popular vegan-friendly cuisines include Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, North African and Ethiopian, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to offer vegan options.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
OK, this one is controversial and I'm sure I'll get called out by the vegan police, but I'm going to say it anyway because it's important. When I eat out in restaurants, I don't ask whether my wine was clarified with isinglass or what kind of stock my soup was made with, and I certainly don't ask if my veggie burger was cooked on the same grill as meat burgers.
Why not? Because focusing on minute quantities of animal products in otherwise vegan foods only serves to turn people away from veganism by making it appear extreme and difficult. It's also a pretty ineffective way for vegans to minimize their own contribution to the suffering of animals.
Ask yourself this: does it make sense to refuse to eat a chocolate bar that's made up of 1% butter fat and 99% fair trade chocolate, opting instead for one that is made up of 100% cacao harvested by child slaves in the Ivory Coast?
If you're a vegan for ethical reasons, then you probably came to that decision out of a desire not to cause unnecessary harm or suffering. And, as vegans, we should remember that not just animal products, but everything we consume has an impact on the planet and on the other human and non-human animals we share this planet with.
Rather than honing in on every milligram of potentially animal-derived product that might sneak its way into our food, we can reduce suffering much more effectively by taking a more global, intersectional approach to what we consume, while still avoiding the exploitation of animals as far as is possible and practicable.
Pack an emergency food stash.
You might not ever need it, but the peace of mind you will gain by knowing that you won't have to go hungry is worth the bit of extra space in your bag.
Good options to bring from home include nuts, trail mix, granola bars, and vegan jerky or sausage that doesn't need to be refrigerated. Think calorie-dense foods that will keep you full for a long time.
And you can always restock as you go with nuts, seeds and dried fruit, or even fresh fruit (apples, oranges and grapes all travel well). Don't forget to pack a treat for yourself, such as your favorite dark chocolate bar, for those moments when you need a little pick-me-up.
Prepare your own meals.
If you don't want to deal with eating out three times a day, or you just want to cut down on your travel expenses, then consider making some of your meals yourself. If you're a backpacker on a small budget, then youth hostels with communal kitchens are a good option.
Alternatively, you could use a home-sharing site like AirBnB to book a room or apartment where the host allows guests to use the kitchen. And there’s even VegVisits, a home-sharing network just for vegans and vegetarians!
If you want complete freedom and the ability to cook your meals absolutely anywhere, you could bring a camping stove. There are some extremely compact and lightweight models on the market these days. Just remember though, that if you're flying you'll have to wait until you've reached your destination to pick up a fuel canister.
Be grateful for what you have.
In many ways this is similar to the first tip (focus on abundance, not scarcity), but it's worth repeating because it has such a huge impact on how well you enjoy travel (and life in general).
Whenever you start feeling sorry for yourself because all you had for dinner was salad and French fries, remember the 795 million people who will go to bed hungry tonight. If you're in a position to travel, whether it's on business or for pleasure, then it's safe to say that you are more fortunate than most of the 7 billion humans on this earth.
You are certainly more fortunate than the 70 billion non-human animals raised for their flesh and secretions each year.
Wherever you go, look around you and appreciate the opportunity to experience a new place and to view the world from a different angle. Be grateful for the salad and fries that have nourished you and filled your belly.
Be grateful that you have the luxury of choosing what you will and will not eat. Be grateful that your eyes have been opened to the suffering of others, and that you have seen through the lie of carnism that society has told you ever since you were born – the lie that eating certain species of animals is normal, natural and necessary.
Be grateful that you are vegan, and know that the animals are grateful to you too.
About the author
Wendy Werneth is an intrepid traveller, vegan foodie and animal lover. Having become vegan after many years of travel across 7 continents and more than 100 countries, she's now on a mission to show you how fun and fulfilling vegan travel can be. Follow her adventures at The Nomadic Vegan. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.