Wanderlust has felled more than one vegan. Surrounded by a foreign culture suffused in animal protein, some vegans on the road feel like they have to either compromise or starve.
It doesn’t have to be this way. By planning ahead, a vegan can not only stay fed and ethical but also enjoy the unique character of local cuisine without compromising a chosen diet.
Here are some tips on how the traveling foodie can keep a vegan diet under challenging circumstances.
The internet has made the world more vegan-friendly than ever. Try websites like HappyCow.comor VegGuide.comto discover vegan-friendly restaurants, as well as local dishes that locals do not even realize, are vegan. Don’t neglect social media sites like Instagramor Pinteresteither. Search #vegantravel for a plethora of useful tips. In a pinch, familiar chains might be your friends. There will be plenty of time for local flavor once you are no longer hangry.
Learn Key Phrases
You probably already learned “Where is the bathroom?” and “Another beer, please,” in the local language. Consider, as the next step in your linguistic odyssey, finding out how to ask in the local language if a dish has meat, chicken, pork, seafood, fish, lard, eggs, milk, or butter in them.
Be prepared for people not to understand you — not because their pronunciation is bad, but because they never, ever met a person who turned down lard. Stick to your guns, though. Language barriers were made to be broken!
Keep Emergency Snacks Handy
It’s not admitting defeat. Foreign grocery stores may be far less comprehensive than the ones you are used to at home. There’s no shame in bringing along some emergency fruit or nut bags, late-night snacks, or even staples like dried rice, beans, or lentils, which brings us to …
Pick Accommodations with a Kitchen
This could include bed & breakfasts, including those found on Airbnb.com or HomeAway.com. Hostels and hotels with suites may also suffice. With your own kitchen, you can shop local groceries and cook your own favorite vegan recipesin a pinch. Consider notifying your accommodations as well. The host or concierge may have experience with foreign travel and may be able to modify the on-site many to offer vegan options.
Beware of Sunday Restaurant Closures
Some cities close down for the sabbath. Whatever vegan-friendly bistros you unearthed may be off-limits on Sunday. Check for restaurants with Sunday hours, or plan to cook.
Carry Vegan-Friendly Substitutes
Many street vendors in Asia add fish sauce to everything. Carry around a small bottle of soy sauce and be prepared to stop the vendors in mid-preparation to substitute their condiment with your condiment. Learn some phrases or gestures to make it clear what you want. You may get some confused looks, but bridging that cultural divide is part of what makes travel fun!
Don’t Forget Cosmetics
It’s easy enough to find rice, legumes, tubers, and vegetables the world over. Soaps, lotions, and creams are another matter entirely. You may find it impossible (or at least prohibitively time-consuming) to find vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics, especially if you cannot read the labels. Stock up on your favorite brands of vegan cosmetic essentials, keeping in mind that to carry them into an airplane cabinet then need to be parceled out in 3-ounce containers, all of which fit into a one-quart Ziploc bag. Like we said — essentials!
Written by: Hannah Stevens