Thankfully, it's getting easier and easier to find vegan food when travelling for pleasure or working away on business, and many conference organisers are now able to cater for a plant-based diet. However, there are still situations when vegans can get stuck on what to eat when on the go; perhaps their budget or social comfort levels rule out finding a restaurant, maybe a long journey means that they'd rather curl up and eat on a sofa in a hotel room than go somewhere formal, or it could be that an event organiser promised vegan food but actually meant vegetarian.
In order not to be stuck without food, the first step is always to research the options in the local area, and in business cases, check with colleagues and organisers to see what can be arranged. But just in case something doesn't go as planned, there is no need to despair. Contact hotels and hostels in advance to ask whether there are kettles available, and if not, I recommend investing in a small travel kettle, to take on trips alongside a Swiss army knife (or similar), Tupperware boxes, durable plastic cutlery, and a plastic foldable or, 'roll-up-able,' chopping board.
With just a kettle, knife, plastic box, and chopping board, one can easily prepare a range of meals to tide you over a few days without going hungry. Dry foods can be purchased in your home town, whilst fresh fruit and vegetables can be picked up at any supermarket along the way. And if you don't live in a tropical climate, these will last for two days without a fridge anyway. A cool box is also an option.
Here are a few examples of meals which can be prepared in a hotel room or hostel; many are also feasible for students on a budget in university accommodation.
- Couscous fully covered with boiled water and soaked for ten minutes in the closed plastic box with a tablespoon of olive oil, a cube of vegetable bouillon, herbs, and a drained can of mixed beans.
- Pasta drained and soaked every 5 minutes in freshly-boiled water until tender, left to cool, and served with chopped raw vegetables and stirred-in olive oil and herbs.
- Rice noodles covered with boiled water and left in the closed box for five minutes. Drain and stir-in a jar of sweet and sour sauce and unsalted cashew nuts.
- If there are cups or you have a Thermos at hand, a packet of instant soup is, whilst not the healthiest choice, a cost-effective emergency option. Ditto instant noodles or equivalent.
- A sandwich with vegan paté and salad.
- A bowl of fresh raw chopped vegetables and nuts dressed with chilli-infused olive oil.
- Fresh fruit salad.
- If the day doesn't go well and comfort food is called for, dried potato puree can be mixed up with just boiling water and a small amount of oil (or margarine if it's to hand); when I'm down, this becomes a main dish topped with crispy onions!
- Then there are all sort of snacks which don't require any preparation and can be brought along on trips, such as energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, and flapjacks. I recommend carrying a few of these just in case hunger strikes before a larger meal is possible.
Photo courtesy of Mike Carney, used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.