A little more than 14 months ago, I jetted off from England to explore, work, and live across the globe. Vegan worries plagued me, and so I packed thousands of energy bars and a lifetime supply of LUSH Cosmetics into the dilapidated rucksack that was to become my life.
Surprisingly, language, culture, religion, dining. It was all less of a shock and adjustment than I anticipated.
Too much worrying. I’ve explored Sri Lanka’s heavenly veggie dishes and lived in a tiny little town in Central Thailand’s mountains. I now live in a tourist trap of a tropical island. And, despite the fact that Thailand’s largely Buddhist beliefs don’t quite match up with their upsettingly vast consumption of meat, it’s a startlingly easy country to be vegan.
However, on my travels I’ve met a disappointing amount of ‘ex-veg*ns’ who claim that being in a foreign country and maintaining veganism is just too hard. Although difficulty can be dependent on the country, what follows are some main worries, and the very simple ways to being a surviving, and thriving, traveling vegan. Banish your cosmetic, food and activity worries. I’ve got it covered:
Language barriers: people getting your meals wrong
Learn key words and phrases.
“Hello. Thank you. No milk. No meat. No egg” etc.
It takes a few seconds to look up the key phrases you need, and a few minutes of practice a day to remember. Failing that, you can always have it written down and in your pocket for combating any unforseen confusion. Not every language has a word for ‘vegan’ so you may need to find alternate ways to describe your lifestyle.
Find out about local cuisine.
In Japan, it’s dashi. In Thailand, it’s oyster sauce. Different places have different things to watch out for in regard to what may be hidden in your innocent otherwise vegan dishes. A little bit of time getting familiar with the local food goes a long way in knowing what to avoid and what’s best to order.
No vegan food available, full stop.
Take snacks (especially on remote treks and trips).
If you know you’re going somewhere you may struggle to find vegan food, raid your nearest store: peanut bars, crisps, fruit, and chocolate. Make sandwiches! Suggest a picnic to you companions to avoid frequenting seriously un-vegan places.
Just deal with it.
You’re not going to like this, but sometimes, just sometimes, and rarely, you may have to skip a meal if there are genuinely zero options for you. When this comes to those with eating disorders, I would tell any readers in suffering or in recovery to please stay healthy, and safe.
Social pressure, and navigating non-vegan friendships
Research, anticipate, prepare.
Have a smartphone? Download vegman, get on happy cow, bookmark this blog, there’s hundreds of apps, blogs and guides that cater specifically to veggies.
Instead of aimlessly wandering around trying to find vegan-friendly places, do a little bit of homework to know where your vegan friendly activities, products, and eateries are. This bypasses the frustrated friend issues and is amazing as you’ve already got plans and ideas about where to go and what to do, taking organizational pressure off of everybody else.
Market your veganism as what it is, a positive! Vegan friendly tours are better than circuses anyway, veggie cafes are generally way more friendly than non-veggie ones! Get out of the habit of saying “I’m sorry” all the time like you’re putting people out. Seriously, stop it!
Be firm about your vegan values.
It’s very easy to be bullied into making non-vegan decisions in group settings. Recently, my sister flew out to visit, and was so disappointed that the Elephant Nature Park was booked up as she had her heart set on seeing elephants. All of the other ‘ethical sanctuaries’ we looked into offered rides. Disappointed and guilty that my sister wouldn’t experience these gentle giants on her trip, I felt torn.
But, in the end I had to follow my conscience, be honest, and firm in expressing that I wouldn’t visit any place that exploited elephants. Luckily, my sister was understanding, however there have been other times I’ve felt more than pressured to go somewhere I didn’t want to go.
Pick ‘vegan-friendly’ people to hang out with.
This is just my personal recommendation that you can ignore, as it can limit your ability to connect with people. But, it can also save you so much stress.
I decided to get a great big ‘VEGAN’ tattoo on my thigh, so when it’s on show and I first meet somebody, I can usually tell straight away whether their company is going to be more negativity than friendship. I’ve become bored of the repetitive aggressive arguments and jokes, and so I just decide to not associate with those who are really looking for a fight.
These people don’t have to be vegan, just respectful of veganism. They do exist!
And, if you get a little tongue tied when people challenge you on veganism, it’s always the simplest and bluntest phrases* that settle a conversation.
And one last thing: pack enough cosmetics! Maybe spares if you have space. I’m lucky enough to have vegan cosmetics locally, but I’m still a sucker for my LUSH favourites.
And if you’re thinking of skipping out on veganism because it’s a little difficult, then honestly, you’re heart’s not in it and you need a sharp kick and a reminder about why you’re doing this. Send me a message; I’d be happy to help.
What are your main vegan travel worries? Let’s expel them once and for all.
*I just don’t see animals as products.
[In retaliation to ‘it’s my personal choice]: Define personal choice please
[If they correctly define it, then they’ve disproved their own point, if they incorrectly define it, educate.]
For every conceivable reason~ I don’t understand how you can NOT be vegan
~For the animals
If you could choose between suffering and non-suffering each and every day, why wouldn’t you choose non-suffering?
[To the dreaded “do you mind if I eat meat next to you?”] “Yes.”
Vulcans are vegan.
So are Elves, probably.
(So you’re basically a Vulcan Elf, sweet.)