For those who have experience traveling, you might already think you have it all in the bag when it comes to being a vegan vagabond. But what happens when you’re taking a trip to a small city for business, or visiting that relative you haven’t seen in years, or you just want to step outside the stereotypical tourist destinations? Finding appropriate eco-lodging, plant-based food, and green commuting options can be much trickier when you find yourself “in the middle of nowhere” USA.
Let’s face it, hotels create a lot of waste, but they are a necessary evil when vacationing away from other options. Don’t get me wrong, the luxury of staying in a cushy bed and getting fresh towels a couple times per day sounds great, but the thought of other people staying in my room is kind of gross and I know that tons of those tiny toiletries are thrown away after I leave. Not to mention, the thousands of gallons of water that must be used on laundry every day. Fortunately, there are a few options for the eco-conscious traveler.
You can check around to different hotels that you might be staying at to see what kinds of eco-friendly policies they have. This is a great opportunity to support small business. In tinier cities, you might be lucky enough to stumble across a “mom & pop” operation that is much more eco-conscious than your average Joe. Yet, even in smaller cities, you might be surprised to hear that many hotel chains are at least trying to step up their game.
Another great option, thanks to the internet, is renting another person’s apartment or home for a short period of time. Travel sites, like Airbnb, are beginning to offer actual domiciles as an alternative to traditional hotels. If you choose to go with this option, you’ll be totally in charge of the waste and water usage during your stay. As an added bonus, it’ll feel a lot more like home than a stuffy old hotel room. Plus, there are so many beautiful homes out there that go the extra mile for the planet. Doesn’t that just make you feel good?
Finding Vegan Food
I have found that many eateries do actually have vegan food, they just don’t know it. So, if you end up traveling to a smaller city, that might not be as vegan-friendly as larger cities, you’ll just have to do some digging. One option is to find items that you would usually eat (ones that are commonly vegan) and do some research. Call the restaurant and ask what the ingredients are. Most places won’t give you a hard time for doing so. In fact, many places have their ingredients listed right on the website. If this is the case, then you’ll know what to substitute right away - just make sure that all the ingredients are up-to-date and listed correctly. Sadly, some restaurants have a habit of not disclosing crucial information (like it being cooked on the same grill as meat etc.)
If that sounds like too much trouble, I would suggest going with local, in season produce. Even smaller cities usually have a farmers market or local co-op that sells straight from the farm to your hands. This is the best way to make sure that you know exactly what is going into your food. Although, if you’re not staying somewhere that you will have the capability of preparing your food, this might not be the most convenient plan.
Don’t fear! Vegans have each other’s backs. Luckily, we live in a time where technology is on our side and there are several vegan apps, like Happy Cow, that will tell you exactly where all the veg-friendly grub is around town. The only downside is, in a smaller city some of these eateries might not be exactly where you’d expect. Be prepared to drive a little bit out of your way in order to grab some vegan nosh.
Public transport isn’t always an option in smaller cities throughout the US. If green travel is your thing, you might want to check into some creative ways to get around. First, if you are visiting a friend or family member, you can always see if carpooling is an option. This way you can at least ensure that you aren’t producing unnecessary emissions just for the sake of taking your own car.
Next, it’s never a bad idea to call around to different taxi companies (or commuting companies, like Uber) and check to see if a green vehicle is available. You’d be surprised how often an electric car can be used instead of another gas guzzler. However, if you must take your car, I suggest using it in the most fuel-efficient way. It has been proven that driving at a moderate speed (not slamming on the gas and brake pedals), being sparse with the A/C, and removing unnecessary weight from the car (like luggage) can all contribute to an improved gas milage.
Lastly, if you’re just going to be traveling around town then the greenest way to go is walking. If you are within walking distance to everywhere you want to go, why not exercise and save gas and energy altogether. However, I understand that not everyone wants to walk everywhere when they’re on a vacation. So, another great option is to look up local bike services. More and more across the US, rental bike services are popping up. All you have to do is add some change to your bike rental, just like you would at a parking meter, and take your wheels for a ride.
Traveling as a vegan isn’t always easy, but remember, if you can be a green, eco-loving vegan here, you can be one anywhere. If you have other tips for traveling in a small city, I’d love to hear them! Leave your comments/suggestions below.
Trisha is a native Idahoan who currently resides in the small town of Boise. She is a dedicated vegan of 5 years, an avid gamer, writer, cat lover, and amateur SFX artist.