Travel as a vegan can be tricky, but with these tips it doesn’t have to be. Most cultures’ cuisines are built on a foundation of plants, and in many nations, meat is a luxury while plants fuel communal flourishing. So yes, us vegans do need to do a little bit of prep work, but it’s nothing to be intimidated by. Here are a few travel hacks for plant-based eaters!
Research the Traditional Cuisine: Learn about the staple foods of the nation you are visiting. What ingredients are dishes built with? What local fruits and vegetables will be in season when you arrive? Maybe even try a recipe at home before you leave!
Communicate Before Departure: If you’re taking a flight, check out the airline’s website to find out if they offer vegan meals. This article rates airlines for their vegan options. And if you’re traveling with a guide or coordinated group, let them know your dietary restrictions ahead of time.
Scope Out Options: Are there any vegan restaurants you might want to try? Check out Happy Cow to find out what your dining options are. Happy Cow rates vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over the world! If plant-based eateries are not available, get on google maps and see what grocery options there will be nearby, such as farmers markets and supermarkets. Worst case scenario, you can stock up on your own ingredients for backup.
Learn the Language: If you do not speak the native language of your destination, make sure you learn words for animal products so that you can modify dishes. For example, if you want to order a rice noodle dish that is traditionally made with eggs, you will want to know how to say “no eggs, please.” Hopefully you’ll get a chance to learn a little more than this, but it’s a good place to start!
Be prepared: Always have snacks on hand! Buy a pack of your favorite granola bars, instant oatmeal packs, dried fruit, nuts, etc. so you’re sure to never go hungry when you’re in a pinch. Do you like a certain plant-based creamer for your coffee? Pack a carton. Are you an oat milk fanatic and know it won’t be available? Get a shelf-stable carton and throw it in your suitcase. It may seem overkill, but it’s always nice to implement some familiarity when you are in a new place.
Have Answers: You may encounter push-back from others when they observe your eating habits. Rehearse what you want to say when you receive questions. Know your “why” and be okay with some raised brows. Don’t feel pressure to convince anyone, just speak your truth and know it might not totally translate. If you are uncomfortable talking about your dietary choices, try changing the subject or state that you don’t want to talk about it. Hopefully that boundary is respected.
Stay Open-Minded: Chances are, your open-mindedness is what drove you into a plant-based lifestyle. Channel that superpower while you are abroad. You may encounter people who do not understand your choices. Instead of getting defensive or taking it personally, stay curious about the experiences of other people. As a citizen of the U.S., I have little respect for the way animal agriculture has industrialized–hurting people, animals, and the planet. The U.S., however, has a lot to learn from other nations when it comes to animal agriculture. You do not need to shift your values, but rest assured that you may learn something when you hear the perspectives of people from other cultures. So honor the practices of others and practice openness. You are in someone else’s home after all.
Give Yourself Grace: Sometimes language barriers or time constraints will make it difficult to verify your food is indeed, vegan. Remember, you likely made this decision to leave less of a footprint over your lifetime. One slip-up is not a big deal (unless you have an allergy of course). You are traveling to learn and experience something, not stress about everything you eat. Control what you can, and laugh about what you can’t. There is no such thing as the vegan police.
Are you a traveling vegan with some tips of your own? Share in the comment section below or on Twitter!