For the curious and those that just can’t stay in one spot, travelling is a solution that makes us learn new things and keep us motivated. However, I have heard of many people complaining that travelling as a vegan can be difficult. Here is a list of tips and tricks to make things easier:
1- Internet. Of course, most of you have thought about this, and surely you now know about Happy Cow. It’s an international list of vegetarian restaurants, and most of these cater to vegans. Be specific, though; the owners don’t always understand what veganism is. Most, however, even if they don’t have vegan meals will gladly prep something for you, so don’t be afraid to ask.
2- Cook. If you are planning on staying at that location for a long period of time, find an apartment. Some local residents look for roommates and would love the opportunity to meet foreigners. This will allow you to have a spot to cook.
3- If an apartment is not an option (for whatever reason), hunt down a hostel with a kitchen. Many do have one, with a fridge and cupboard space for their guests. Not only will you be able to cook, but the dorms are usually quite economical.
4- If you’re on a tight budget, stay away from grocery stores and find the local mini-markets. Or, better yet, most countries have open markets where the fruits and vegetables are cheap. These spots are where you can bargain, and most welcome the possibility just to be able to talk to a stranger. Yes, they will want to talk to you!
5- Bring your own dishes. If you can’t find a spot where you can cook, or just prefer staying in a hotel, bring a bowl and some cutlery. That way, you will still be able to eat relatively well without cooking. And, it may just be a good opportunity to learn to eat raw as well (wink, wink).
6- ASK. Although not everyone is aware of veganism, some locals may just be able to help you out. If you don’t speak the native tongue, it may be harder, but it’s worth it.
7- Bring your own goodies. You are allowed to bring dried food with you through customs, so stock up on granola and protein bars, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, and (once you arrive and have past customs) airport sandwiches or salads. As long as they are individually packed, custom agents in most (if not all) countries will let you pass through. If you are planning on cooking when you arrive, bring all the dry necessities, such as dry beans, rice and pasta.
8- Snack. In some cases, instead of having three solid meals, it may be easier to spend the entire day snacking. There is the obvious choice of having fruit and vegetables, but there is also usually a variety of high-protein snacks available: nuts, roasted soy beans, peanut butter, wasabi peas, etc…
9- Get to know the local vegans. Not only will you meet lots of great new people, you could share recipes as well! And, they may tell you about the best local hot spots that are not advertised on the internet.
10- Learn the language. It is definitely better to learn at least the basic words for food items, especially animal by-products, so as to be able to tell the locals what you can’t eat. And be specific: in some places, they won’t understand that a soup that has had the chicken taken out counts in your no-no list.
11- Ask if the food is only fruits and veggies. Instead of telling these people that you prefer vegan food, it would be much easier to say that you want pasta without meatballs or cheese; bakeries can understand if you ask them for bread without dairy or eggs; ask the pizzeria to make you a vegetarian pizza without cheese. Yes, most of the world understands vegetarianism, so take advantage of that.
12- Choose locations that are already vegan-friendly. In some countries, veganism is part of either their religion or culture, and if you’re not up for the discussions that may occur in other countries, then opt for one that is animal-friendly.
13- Do a research on the local cuisine. In most cases, their food is not as meat-centric as north-american cuisine, so you may be surprised to find out that they eat tons of rice and beans, for example.
14- Bring a vegan meal-replacement in powder form. This could be your ‘last-resort’ go-to in a pinch.
15- Use the coffee maker in your hotel, or bring your own. This may be a great way to enjoy soup and easy to cook pasta or vermicelli. Or, try to find a small, portable water-heater.
16- Bring a can opener. This is a wonder if you need to buy ready-cooked beans or chick peas in a can.