How to Travel + Eat Vegan
As I write, I’m staring out a foggy window that overlooks a rainy Eastern European street. I just finished a nourishing bowl of spicy zucchini curry in an adorable vegan café. I feel like I belong in the opening scene of an old heartfelt French film. Dreamy, right?
I’ve eaten a plant-based diet for five years and in that time have traveled to eleven different countries. At times, being a plant-based traveler has felt just like it does right now: easy, delicious, and exciting. It gives me a good reason to explore the less touristy parts of town.
I’ve fallen head over heels for cultural dishes like fava bean dip in Greece, veggie paella in Spain, and even ugali and Sukuma Wiki in Kenya.
Other times, eating vegan overseas feels like a chore and I find myself overwhelmed and undernourished.
How do you survive off of plants alone once you get on that plane and forgo the comforts of your local Whole Foods?
You’ve come to the right place. I’ve been around the block a time or two and have a few tricks up my sleeve to get you through your next adventure abroad:
1. Always pack snacks in your carry-on.
You’ll need these when the flight attendant comes around to offer you that lump of meat smothered in cheese. Snacks are also key for those days when you’re walking all over the city wondering when and where your next meal will be. The more vegan snacks the better you’ll feel as you go! Check out our blog on Six Ways to Survive your International Flight for more tips!
2. Be sure to pack the right foods.
Light and flat as they are, overseas travel is not the time or place for your seaweed sheet snacks. You’ve got to get food that will stick with you. I’m talking large bags of nut mixes, granola bars, nut butter packets or dried chickpeas… you get the picture.
3. Do your research.
Look up some of the best vegan eateries in town. Plan out when you’ll visit each.
4. Know the local cuisine.
One of the most stressful things about being in a new country is looking at a menu. So many words that I don’t understand! Find out ahead of time what the local dishes are called and which ones suit your vegan preferences.
5. Find a grocery store near you.
The first thing I do after I book my stay at my next overseas destination is to find the local grocer. This helps with buying items to eat a vegan meal. Want to add a fun local flare? Find out where the outdoor markets are. Heaping mounds of Kalamata olives at the markets of Athens never disappointed.
While you can travel and eat vegan, there may be times when it’s not culturally appropriate. Make sure that you’re keeping in mind the customs and expectations of your host culture, especially when on a mission trip. You can do more harm to relationships by adhering to a particular diet when it means denying hospitality.
Just like when you’re at home, you may find yourself in situations where you’re served food you wouldn’t choose for yourself. In these circumstances, say a prayer and respond with grace and kindness. There are often ways to work around the expectations of others without causing offense, especially if you have a medical condition that affects your diet.
Whether you’re backpacking Europe, exploring jungles in Southeast Asia or doing some country-hopping, know there is a world of opportunity when it comes to being a traveling herbivore.
Here’s to the flavors we have yet to encounter and the foods that make each destination a brand-new adventure.
If you’re trying to figure out what to pack next, check out How to Pack for an International Trip.
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