Being a vegan is not as difficult as it may sound. I know it sounds insane, but I don’t really even think about it anymore. It is just another aspect of my life. Making the decision to go vegan has been one of the best choices I ever made. Veganism helps me balance eating healthy and while indulging occasionally. Traveling as a vegan ,however, is a different story. I don’t have the comfort of a kitchen or the dining halls consistent vegan labels. While traveling there is no guarantee the restaurants I visit will carry vegan food.
I almost always ask waiters what the vegan options are. It is an easy way to figure out what my options are. Usually, the chief can whip up something even if it is not on the menu. I went to a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis. I thought, “There is absolutely nothing on the menu that is vegan”. My worried self chatted with the waitress for a bit and she said she would ask the cooks. Turns out the chef could whip up vegan stir fry. It was loaded with veggie, and absolutely delicious.
Some of my ordering vegan encounters are hilarious. Many people genuinely have never heard of it, or simply don’t know what it is. I was traveling in South Dakota. I stopped at a local restaurant downtown. A similar situation happened; there is nothing on the menu for the vegans. The menu reads “Ask about vegan and gluten free options”. Naturally, when the waiter came back around and refilled my water I asked what the vegan options are. His response was “Grilled chicken or the Ceasar salad without croutons”. Everyone at the table cracked up in laughter. I am pretty sure he was thinking about gluten free.
Problems arise the wait staff do not speak very good English. Some of my friends just pick something random off the menu without knowing what is it. However, I cannot do that. It is good to have a knowledge of common foods in the area. A book I bought for my trip to Italy has lists of the names of foods to expect to show up on menus in certain places.
I love being a vegan, but I hate inconveniencing people. It can be difficult when traveling with others to find places to eat that suit everyone’s tastes. Sometimes I will go along with others to restaurants with a granola bar in hand. My advice would be to stock up on meal bars when you can. That way, if there is nothing on the menu, you will not go hungry.
While traveling, I make exceptions when it comes to cultural food. I don’t ever want to miss out on the full experience. Twice since I started this journey I have eaten meat while traveling.Shocking, I know. Once I tried fried alligator in the heart of New Orleans. Another time I tried turtle soup. Both while on a culinary tour, which I recommend vegans to avoid. Don’t limit yourself to sticking with a strict vegan diet when in a new place. The food is half the enjoyment of traveling.
While in Ecuador there are three foods I tried that are completely unforgettable. One dish has homemade cheese with marmalade on top. I never would have thought that cheese could pair so nicely with sweet jam but it is incredible. The yogurt in Ecuador is another wonderful treat I indulged in. The yogurt has a is much thinner in Ecuador, and every morning I poured it in my cereal like milk. None of the food is vegan, but I don’t regret eating them.
America is very big on meat. Many of my friends in the states have meat with every meal. Which even before I went vegan sounds crazy to me. Luckily, in other countries meat is not as much of a staple as it is in the U.S.A.. In places like India, where many people practice Hinduism, it is against their religion to eat meat. Therefore, many of the local dishes are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
There are two reasons why I went vegan. First, I went vegan for health reasons. Secondly, going vegan leaves the smallest carbon footprint. As much as I hate to admit it, eating healthy is not my number one priority while traveling. There are some foods that cannot be found back home. Those foods many, include dense deserts. Moving around all the time can be chaotic. I also begrudgingly admit that I make choices based off of convenience rather than what benefits the environment. It really depends on the reason why someone is vegan that allows for flexibility while traveling.
Overall I advise to fully experience the food and culture wherever you go. Don’t expect to be perfect, but stick to whatever limitations suits you. For me, I enjoy some wiggle room. Now get out there and start eating.