How to Maintain a Vegan Diet While Travelling
Maintaining a vegan diet is a big step when you come from a meat-loving family and society. It is a big process and a lifestyle change, which can be very challenging. When you add travelling into the mix, it reaches a whole new level of difficult.
Growing up in Puerto Rico I loved the traditional dishes, many of which are made with pork. When I became vegan it wasn’t at all difficult to modify my dishes or find the food I wanted, since Puerto Rico has a lot of options for vegans, and every restaurant offers at least one vegetarian dish, which can be modified for vegans. But when I arrived in Spain as an exchange student, expecting the same level of ease, I was faced with a different scenario.
During my first few weeks in Spain, I stayed in a hostel while searching for an apartment to rent. The hostel did not have a kitchen so I was forced to eat every meal out. It was frustrating and even disappointing to find that many restaurants didn’t offer vegetarian dishes, let alone vegan ones. I learned that each country deals differently when faced with vegans, and that as a vegan, I had to prepare for travelling more than other people would have to. Here’s what every vegan needs to consider before travelling:
How to Maintain a Vegan Diet While Travelling
1. Research the country you are travelling to
Do your homework before arriving. Learn about the vegan community. Is there a strong vegan movement? How active is it? This is important because it will give you an idea of how open and forward the country is about veganism, and let you know how difficult or easy it will be to find places to eat. Also, research whether there are activities, events or gatherings where you can meet people with the same lifestyle.
2. Research the area where you’re going to be staying
Instead of waiting to see what sort of vegan restaurants are nearby once you’re in your destination, do it before you arrive. Check if there are vegan restaurants or supermarkets. This way, when you arrive you can use that time to explore other things.
3. Stay in hostels with the right amenities
A lot of hostels have amenities that could make your trip easier. There are hostels that have a common kitchen you can use to prepare your food, or rooms that have a mini fridge. You don’t have to spend an hour cooking every time you want to eat. Just pack your quick and basic recipes. In some cases, hostels host some of the meals, or offer them for a small price, so contact the hostel in advance to learn about the meal options.
4. Purchase food at the supermarket
Every supermarket has a section of prepared foods. You can buy your whole meal for less than half the price than you would at a restaurant, and you can read the ingredients to make sure it is vegan. Some of the foods don’t require heating before consuming. In some countries, they special deals that feature prepared meals, a drink and a snack.
5. Learn the key phrases for eating
Besides learning to say “hello” and “thank you” in the local language, be sure you know how to ask for vegan dishes. But, since not every place is familiar with what exactly vegan means, it is extremely important to know how to specify that you don’t want anything in your meal made from animals. Make some notes and bring them with you just in case.
How to Maintain a Vegan Diet While Travelling.
6. Always look at your food
This may sound a little paranoid , but in places where vegetarianism and veganism aren’t popular diets, you should check your food before eating it. When I went to Morocco they saw nothing wrong with just scooping the meat off of my plate and leaving only the vegetables. Yet, there was still meat on my plate, which I didn’t feel comfortable with.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask and explain
Ask the locals if there are restaurants for vegans and vegetarians. The more people you ask, the more likely you are to become informed about a new place or to find someone who can make your trip a little easier. This requires patience, since not everyone you ask will be as nice about it as you might hope.
Being a vegan is challenging when travelling, but it’s not impossible. You will often feel judged when explaining that you are vegan and what that means, but don’t take it personally. Always remember that every culture is different, so be respectful when people don’t understand or approve of your lifestyle. Instead, view these as opportunities to familiarize the locals with the veganism.
Most important of all: Embrace your experience. You know why being vegan is important to you.
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