Stress Free Vegan Travel (or How To Stay Sane While Traveling On A Vegan Diet)

I made all of this vegan food in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

How do you piss off vegans the world over and maybe piss off non-vegans as well?

By writing what I’m about to write. ;)

Traveling on a vegan diet isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is more challenging than willy-nilly eating anything and everything in sight.

My veganism is out of respect for animals. A lot of my ideas on veganism are rooted in Buddhism. I am not, however, anywhere near a Buddhist. I am simply a fan of some of the philosophy.

An Overview (Paraphrased from the book Monk Chat, published by Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Monks must abstain from killing living things. Therefore, monks are vegan. Technically. There is a loophole.

Every morning they must go on their alms round. Which is a way for laypeople (Buddhists who are not monks) to make merit (Tam Boon). As the monks make their alms round, laypeople give them food. Monks are not allowed to refuse any food, whether it has animal ingredients or not.

And that’s the loophole. If the people who are making merit offer food with animals, the monk has to accept it. :(

There are, however, 10 kinds of meat a monk may not eat under any circumstances: human, elephant, horse, dog, serpent, lion, bear, feline tigris, leopard, or yellow tiger. Do not ask me why, as I do not know.

Monks follow the idea of “eat to live, not live to eat.” Most of Western society lives to eat, hence all the obesity and heart disease. We should eat for nourishment, as fuel for our incredible bodies, as opposed to simply for enjoyment. Food is for survival.

My Interpretation

It all boils down to respect. A monk cannot disrespect the layperson by refusing their food. And so, he must eat the food, whatever it happens to be.

I take this same stance. If I order food that is supposed to be vegan and it arrives un-veganized I have only 2 options.

1) Find someone who will eat it and order new food.

or

2) Eat it myself if I can’t find someone to eat it.

Under no circumstances may I throw the food away (by sending it back). An animal has provided that food with their life and I won’t disrespect it like that.

Fortunately, I have yet to come across a situation where I have been accidentally given meat. I’m still unsure how I will react in that situation, but I have a feeling I will not have a problem finding someone to eat the food.

Yes, I have eaten dairy products since going vegan. And I have absolutely no problems calling myself a vegan. I don’t purposefully buy non-vegan food and I don’t prepare non-vegan food when I’m eating at home.

When I was in Berlin recently I ordered a cheese-less pizza. Unfortunately it arrived with cheese and enough garlic to kill a man. Not a single person at our table wanted the pizza due to the overpowering smell of garlic. I ate it. Throwing it away would be extraordinarily disrespectful. Not only to the animal who was mistreated and eventually died to provide that cheese, but to anybody who has ever gone hungry (billions of people every day).

I submit that if you’re a vegan due to compassion for animals that you should follow this same path.

Think about it, which of the following is more compassionate?

1) Eating cheese that you didn’t order. The animal you didn’t want to die for you has been given to you to eat. If you eat it, at least it didn’t die for absolutely nothing.

or

2) Throwing away the cheese you didn’t order. The animal you didn’t want to die for you has been given to you to eat. If you don’t eat it, you’re pissing on its life. It died for nothing. And it will be your fault that it died for nothing. You do not have a worthy argument otherwise. (Except lactose intolerance, which I definitely understand.)

It’s an obvious choice if you truly are compassionate.

Stress Free Living

Stress killsStop it. ;)

A couple of years ago a friend of mine said, “Karol, you have the most stress free life out of anybody I know.”

At the time I laughed because that wasn’t true at all. In fact, it was quite opposite.

These days, however, most of my choices boil down to whatever is least stressful and I probably do have the least stressful life of anybody I know.

It is less stressful to eat a bit of dairy I didn’t order than to whine and complain that “the stupid chef (or cashier or line cook) is a god damned idiot.” They’re not idiots. They’re human. We are amazingly imperfect creatures and we make mistakes.

Eating vegan, in and of itself, helps release lots of stress. Not only on my mind, but on my body. Animal products are incredibly difficult for our bodies to digest. Especially dairy, which is meant for calves, not grown humans. From a health standpoint dairy is just nasty, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Preaching Veganism

I don’t preach. Yes, I do want you to eat a vegan diet. Not vegetarian. Vegan. But I don’t care if you’re an omnivore. I will date you (err, if you’re female, haha), I will be friends with you, and I will probably even pay for dinner if we go out and you order a meat dish. It’s not my place to force my choices upon you.

There are many arguments against veganism and every single one is unfounded. I won’t go into any of them here. I just ask that you do a lot of research if you really want the truth. Preferably research that’s not funded by the beef or dairy industries, which will be biased.

It sucks when somebody comments on my blog, e-mails me, or discusses in person their misinformed ideas about the meat and dairy industries. But I don’t correct them. I’m not interested in arguments (Life Lesson #8). I simply ask them to research what they’re saying. And so, if you comment below with misinformed arguments you should save your time because they will not be accepted.

How To Make Vegan Travel Easy

Now that we’ve determined that if there is a mistake made you will not disrespect the animal, let’s get into the details of how to actually eat a vegan diet while traveling to unknown lands where you may not speak the language. It’s actually pretty darn easy to eat vegan anywhere in the world!

1) Eat lots of fruit.

Fruit is available and plentiful everywhere. And, of course, it’s vegan and incredibly nourishing. ;) While eating only fruit (Fruitarian) would not work well for me, I have gone a full day eating only fruit on at least 1 occasion. Not sustainable (for me) for the long haul, but one day? Sure, I can handle that.

I eat a lot of fruit anyway.

In India I ate ~20 lady finger bananas per day. These are very small bananas, maybe the equivalent of 6 or 7 regular bananas. In addition to that I ate lots of whatever other fruit was available. Fuji apples, grapes, strawberries, and papaya were plentiful. And, of course, my daily fresh coconut for 20 Rupees. :)

Fruit is an important part of our diet and most of us don’t get enough. I definitely didn’t until I started eating vegan.

I call bananas the perfect travel food. You can pick a banana out of a mud pit, open it up, and eat it. :) No need to worry about the outside getting dirty because you only want the sweet fibrous inside. In addition, no utensils necessary.

My favorite fruit in the whole world (besides the not-so-easily-available Jakfruit) is mango, but I’m not a fan of the preparation. Thankfully, in Thailand I was able to eat mango a few times per day. For 10 Baht (~30 cents) it was freshly sliced and ready to devour. And it’s available everywhere in Thailand (along with many other fruits) at the ubiquitous Thai street carts.

When you arrive in a new city immediately go out and find the nearest market (or corner store or anything) that sells fruit and stock up. It’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s healthy, and it’s vegan.

Note: avocado is a fruit. Mmmm … I love avocado. Here is how to check for ripeness: do not squeeze! You will bruise the insides. Instead, push in the stem a little. If it gives it’s ripe. If it doesn’t give then wait a day or two.

2) Eat lots of beans / whole grains.

Whether you’re making your own food or eating out, beans and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) are a perfect combination of food available in most parts of the world.

My favorite dish is a combo of black beans with either quinoa or brown rice (and avocado if I have a ripe one handy). Quinoa is much less readily available so I usually have brown rice. I eat this at least once/day and sometimes twice.

3) Eat lots of vegetables.

Due to so many vegetables needing some kind of preparation I’m not a great vegetable eater. While I eat them daily, I eat far more fruits than vegetables.

My favorite easy to prepare vegetables are tomatoes (crap, another fruit? haha) and broccoli. I eat these raw and sometimes I eat tomatoes like they’re apples. When I was younger I didn’t like tomatoes at all, but as I grew and my palate changed I grew to love them.

If you’re not a vegetable fan you might have to train your palate. Try something new every time you go to the market and you will eventually find something you like. And remember: different varieties of the same vegetable taste completely different. There are some tomatoes I’m not a huge fan of. And mushrooms have so many different flavors it’s insane. Continually test your palate!

Eating a nice salad every day is an easy way to get a lot of your vegetables in one fell swoop. I’ve been known to eat an almost 2 pound salad (lots of greens, LOTS of tomatoes) for dinner. :)

Salads are available in virtually every restaurant in the world. Eat a big enough salad and it is quite filling.

4) Eat nuts.

Nuts are also available everywhere and greats sources of many nutrients. Goa, India is known for its cashews (kaju) and you can bet I ate a LOT of them while I was there. They are my favorite nut. Unsalted, raw, of course. Nuts pack lots of much needed energy in the forms of protein and fat. You don’t want to make nuts your staple, but eat a little bit regularly. They’re also great while you’re in transit (planes, trains, and automobiles).

5) Research local restauarants.

HappyCow.net has listings for veg and veg-friendly restaurants all over the world. (Don’t waste your money on their iPhone app if you have an iPod Touch. It’s a waste.)

If there are a lot of restaurants listed on HappyCow I also post in the CouchSurfing.org Group (message board) for whatever city I’m going to be in to get favorite veg restaurant recommendations.

Restaurants where you should never have a problem finding veg food:

  • Indian – Channa Masala and lots of other stuff.
  • Thai – veg/rice/tofu.

You will find Indian and/or Thai restaurants in so many cities in the world it’s crazy. Even here in Wroc?aw, there are two Indian restaurants that I know about.

Bonus restaurant tip: If you pass by a health food type store walk in and ask about local veg-friendly restaurants. I had trouble finding a decent restaurant in Cairns, QLD, Australia and asked a girl at a health food store. She said there aren’t many options (boo Cairns!), but gave me directions to a Mexican restaurant. This Mexican restaurant actually had a vegan menu! :)

6) Allow yourself some junk food.

I promise once you start eating a whole food plant-based diet that your cravings for junk will almost completely subside. I rarely crave junk. But when I do? I go all out. I will happily eat a whole bag of chips or a veggie burger (or 3) or a pizza or a 2 liter bottle of soda. It doesn’t happen often, but when I have a really strong craving I let myself at it. Some people advocate having a “cheat day” once/week. For me that’s far too often and sometimes not often enough. It would be forced. As I sit here right now I am eating a 90% dark chocolate bar. :) I probably won’t finish it, but I won’t deny myself if I happen to want to eat every last bite.

Another thing about junk food: when you’re in new lands you will find some very interesting choices in vegan junk food! The best, by far, is in India. I’ll let you discover it for yourself. ;)

What About Soy?

You’ll notice I don’t mention soy above. I’m not a huge fan. In Thailand I ate soy regularly because it was part of a lot of local cuisine (in the form of tofu). For the most part I don’t eat soy.

That said, I’m currently in a phase of drinking one B12 fortified glass of soy milk every day. B12 is the one nutrient that I have had trouble introducing into my diet without drinking soy milk. I can handle that.

Claims that soy is unhealthy are incredibly overblown. (Again, I ask that you research it yourself. Don’t believe anything I state.)

Learn The Local Vegan Options Ahead of Time

If you can, do a little research about traditional meals that are already vegan. If you know ahead of time which meals should be vegan that will make things a lot easier on you. My best suggestion: utilize CouchSurfing again. :) Go into the Country Group (or any City Group) and ask what meals are traditionally vegan. There may be none, but it’s worth asking.

The Language Barrier

The language barrier is what can sometimes cause the aforementioned un-veganized food at restaurants.

It’s fairly easy to solve: learn how to say you don’t eat meat or milk or cheese or butter in whatever language you’ll be encountering. If you’re not willing to do that then you could always sit at home, watch TV, and do nothing. ;)

Back to keeping things less stressful: don’t worry too much about the language barrier. When you start traveling things seem to just fall into place. I could write for days about this topic (or any topic) and you’ll never learn as much as by experiencing it for yourself.

Emergency Rations

On the overnight train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok there was a menu with 8 or 9 meat options and 1 vegetarian option. I ordered the vegetarian option, but it wasn’t available. Dammit. The lady taking orders refused to accept that chicken was not a vegetarian option. I spent a good 1-2 minutes insisting she not give me chicken because it is not vegetarian. (I run into this a lot. Chickens and fish are animals people!)

I travel with some sort of emergency rations. Currently that is a Clif Bar. Important: these rations must only be used in an emergency! Like, when you haven’t eaten for 14 hours on your train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. :)

Emergency Rations For The Emergency Rations!

As you may know if you’ve gone through my whole packing list I carry a Light My Fire Spork with me everywhere. In case I need an actual quick “meal” and can’t find it this is what I do.

1) Head into any super market / convenience store.

2) Buy a can of beans (my preference is black or kidney) with an easy open top. (If not available, buy the can of beans and a can opener.)

3) Open the can a little and dump out the water. (I usually rinse the beans with clean water as well.)

4) Enjoy!

You might scoff at this, but a can of beans is a filling, healthy, nutritious meal. And it’s cheap to boot!

I don’t always use this as an emergency meal. Sometimes I just want to eat a can of beans and make this a nice little meal/snack. :)

Keep An Open Mind

Would you believe it if I told you that steak houses are one of the easiest restaurants to eat vegan? Think about it. Baked potatoes, beans, lots of salad options. If your friends want to go to a restaurant that is “obviously” not vegan, stop to think about it for a second. When my friends want to eat at a traditionally non-vegan restaurant I don’t usually have any problems eating a very filling meal.

A Learning Process

Eating vegan while traveling is a learning process. Before I embarked on my adventures I was as worried as anybody about being able to eat vegan. It has been a fun experience eating vegan in Australia, New Zealand, India, Thailand, Germany, and Poland.

On many occasions (usually while staying at hostels), when I’d make a meal others would comment on how amazing it looked. When you use lots of fruits/vegetables your meals look quite appetizing. ;)

If you’re worried about traveling to far off lands and keeping a vegan diet, stop worrying. Start living.

Special Note On Comments:

If you have anything negative to say, if you’re not willing to do your research (as stated above), or if you’re making stupid arguments your comment will be trashed.

Feel free to add positive thoughts or helpful points for vegan travel. Thanks!

{ 132 comments }

Brett Oblack

Great post, echoes my feelings about veganism quite well.

Karol

Thanks Brett!

Jill - Vegan Backpacker

Hi Karol,

I really like that you’ve recommended a lot of simple and healthy meal ideas. Sometimes people forget how nice it came be to enjoy the local produce or make easy meals from fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and beans.

I can’t say I agree with your thoughts about the cheese pizza. I understand your perspective about not letting the animal lives and products go to waste. However, I think it’s important to raise the issues with staff at restaurants so they don’t continue to make the same mistake and waste more animal lives. If you say nothing, what’s going to happen to the next vegan or person with an allergy? If you explain that it’s not acceptable to you, they would likely replace your meal at their cost and remember the result of the mistake. Also, it’s not fair to assume the food is going to be wasted. There’s always a chance they can serve it to someone else or give it to staff members.

This is a hard decision for many vegans and something I plan to address in more detail on my blog.

Jill

Karol

Hey Jill,

Thanks. Good point about making it known. Although, when there’s a language barrier it won’t do much.

As far as sending it back: it’s not about getting the meal replaced at their cost. It’s about respecting the animal. The food will usually go into the dumpster immediately when it’s sent back to the kitchen. Know that. It is fair to assume it will be wasted because it usually will be. Ask any freegan how much food ends up in the dumpster at closing time.

As for allergies: Like I stated in the article, if it’s something like lactose intolerance I understand sending it back and wasting it. That is a different situation than what most people are in.

Karol

Charlie

Hi Karol,

I just discovered your blog, and I really love it. I’m going to China next month and was feeling a little stressed about eating there, but I feel more confident about it now.

Is it bad that I eat beans from the can at home sometimes?? Just drain, rinse, and add some hot sauce.

About the cheese, it would depend on the situation for me. I definitely wouldn’t eat the cheese because I think it would make my butt explode. But, I might take the cheese off and eat the crust or maybe send it back (although pizza takes a long time to make, so I might not want to wait that long!). Another option that to consider is packaging the food and giving it to a homeless person or friend.

The thing about veganism is that a lot of things are open to discussion (used leather is another example). I appreciate your explanation and agree that throwing out the animal products does dishonor the animal who was exploited.

Great post, and I can’t wait to devour your site.

Vegan

I agree with Jill. I don’t think I would eat the pizza with cheese, I would send it back. However, I do get where you’re coming from. On occasion when traveling I have had to eat stuff that may or may not have been vegan because there simply was nothing else to eat. However, if I know for sure something isn’t vegan I won’t eat it.
When I travel I usually take a good supply of Clif bars with me just in case. I also do a ton of research on the place I’m traveling to, so I know where to go when I arrive.
Great post, really got me thinking!

Karol

I understand sending it back if it’s for health reasons. If it’s about compassion for animals, well, that’s not compassionate.

Kellie

I’m a vegan who wasn’t pissed off by the article. Yay! Actually, my sentiments are pretty similar. I generally won’t turn down a burrito that accidentally has real cheese or a muffin that was probably made with eggs and milk if someone has given it to me. Goes back to trying to be respectful I suppose.

Karol

:) Thanks Kellie!

I don’t accept cakes/muffins/etc because, unless they’re made vegan I know they probably won’t be vegan. But I do understand accepting something if it’s given to you like the monks do on their daily alms round.

Karol

Angela

Hey Karol

I like you sentiments…

Here if that happens and nobody at my table wants the food, there are plenty people outside who would happily take a free meal.

And what is it about ‘chicken is a vegetable’? No it’s not! Here in SA you’re considered a veg if all you eat is chicken and no red meat!

I didn’t know all that stuff about the monks, thanks for sharing.

Ang :-)

Karol

I know, lots of people say they’re vegetarian “except for chicken.” Which doesn’t make even a little bit of sense, but whatever. :)

Karol

Anthea

I generally call people who eat that way “chickevores” though it’s just as much of a misnomer. But it’s fun to say. ;-)

fkwan

Great article, Karol, I agree completely. :) Very glad to see you’re getting your B12. Why not a supplement or a tablespoon of nutritional yeast? Also, your vitamin D level might be low. Since the test measures both D2 and D3 (animal), your number will always be lower than the lab, but if you supplement with about 2000 IU a day and check every six months to see if your number is going up, you should be OK. Mine went from 25 to 27 (normal is 30).

Karol

I’m not into supplements. As for nutritional yeast: not widely available.

Vitamin D comes from the sun and I spend lots of time outside. :) I also believe the soy milk is fortified, but I ran out today and threw away my carton so I can’t check. haha

Nathan

Two days ago I ordered a bowl of fruit at a Honduran restaurant. I normally wouldn’t eat there, but it was like 2 am and I was a bit hungry & didn’t want to wait the 20 minutes it would take to drive home and find something to eat.

It came out with granola, raisins, and… cream. Not like sour cream, but “crema”, it’s a sweet cream and quite delicious on things like fruit. I walked out without eating one bite.

As I walked back to my car I realized I was a bit angry… not with the restaurant, of course, but with myself. I should have known it to ask before I ordered it. I should have also known that nothing in that restaurant would be 100% vegan as-ordered, but alas, I learned my lesson.

Of course, I am not vegan for ethical reasons, so it doesn’t bother me, but there was a split second where I wanted to eat that bowl of fruit. I didn’t want all that good food to go to waste. But at the same time, it would have bothered me to no end to have eaten it with the cream on it.

Also, regarding Thai food: I used to think my favorite dish was vegan (Tofu pad Thai), but then I discovered most restaurants (that I frequent) cook it with fish oil. Things like oyster sauce & fish oil are some of those “gotchas” that most people don’t think about (at least I didn’t initially, upon choosing a vegan diet).

And about the language/cultural differences: I have also found it’s a lot easier to simply state that I only eat that which comes from plants. No meat, no dairy, no honey. It’s a lot easier than having to explain what veganism is to people that have a hard time of grasping the concept.

Karol

Thanks Nathan. Very true that lots of Thai food is made with fish oil.

As for the language barrier: that’s exactly why I didn’t state to learn how to say vegan, but learn how to say no meat, etc. Most English speakers don’t have a clue what veganism is either. :)

Raam Dev

Wow, talk about relevance! I was vegan for two years before I started traveling four months ago. I knew it was going to be difficult, so I accepted that I might have to revert to being vegetarian (or, *gasp*, non-Vegetarian). I really wish this post was available for me to read before I left!

Creativity is absolutely key. I also keep emergency rations in my bag (380cal ProBar) and try to keep some high-cal snacks with me at all times. Speaking of which, I think the BEST travel food is almonds! Bananas are awesome (and I ate LOTS of those little bananas when I was in India!), but the problem with them is that they get squashed easily! This is especially a problem when you’re traveling with just one bag and it’s stuffed!

I really love your philosophy on veganism and the choices you would make when presented with dairy. I was raised strict vegetarian (explored other diets when I turned 18) but my reasons for not eating meat have always been about health and the animals.

Thanks for such a useful post for vegan travelers! :)

Karol

You’re right: almonds are also my favorite nut. ;) (I can never really choose between cashew or almond, so the favorite changes.) Nuts are definitely a good travel food, but they don’t fill me up like bananas do.

Thanks Raam!
Karol

Marina

This was very interesting Karol even though I’m not even close to be a vegetarian but I promise that meat is gradually decreasing from my diet. One day maybe I’ll give it up for good.
Anyway, I have a question. Why not eggs?
I understand the chicken farms mistreating their chickens and I only buy cage free eggs……. (hope it’s true what they state on the package)… besides, I have friends who keep their chickens like pets (really cuddling them and building pretty shelters) and they eat their eggs. Not all eggs give chicks so I don’t think it’s killing……. is it?
Also regarding milk and cheeses. I know small farmers who have one cow or goat and they have to milk them every day or they get sick… and the farmer will drink their milk or make cheeses. Is this bad too?
I also buy mohair for crafts and there is this woman who sells the mohair from her sheep and she shaves her once a while and the fur growns back……. I do that to my Persian cat too and nobody is harmed….. so I think a vegan can wear this wool, right?
Maybe there are exceptions in veganism too……
Do I sound confused? LOL
I always enjoy your posts.
ox Marina

Karol

Hi Marina,

You’re comparing apples to oranges. But like I said in the article, do research on all those questions you have and you’ll find the truth.

Cheers,
Karol

Tom

One of your best, Karol. I’ve had the ‘should i send it back because of trace amounts of animal product’ discussion several times in the past. It is truly up to the individual – final answer…

I hope if my life was sacrificed for another being’s food source, I wouldn’t be sent back to the kitchen to be thrown out! However, I’m sure it would take a lot of ketchup to make me taste good…

Karol

Thank you Tom! :)

“I hope if my life was sacrificed for another being’s food source, I wouldn’t be sent back to the kitchen to be thrown out!” Good point. And yes, LOTS of ketchup. :)

Randall

I really needed this post. I have been flirting on the edges of veganism and did well for a few weeks but fell off.

You motivated me to go home and eat a salad! I cannot believe how much better I feel when I am eating only fruits and vegatables.

Little bananas rock! We get them from Mexico (they call them Senoritas in the Philippines). Much sweeter and delicious!

Avacados? Wow, what a great tip for testing freshness! Love em, just got into them this year and they are great!

I love it when you post on this stuff. That’s why I asked the question in your last webinar (go freedom fighters!)

If you haven’t signed up for Freedom fighters “What are you waiting on?”

Thanks Karol

Karol

Thanks Randall! :)

Yes, the little bananas do rock. I have yet to see them again outside of India. :(

chesapeake

I was looking forward to this post, not because I’m vegan, but because I have several food allergies and am planning a RTW trip with my partner. My main concern is traveling throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand in particular) since I’m highly allergic to shellfish and fish, and as Nathan noted above, things like oyster sauce are pretty common and are hard to distinguish. I don’t know if anyone has any insight into this other than “learn how to say no fish or shellfish” in every language?

I appreciate your food philosophy, and am actually happy to hear that you don’t waste food when it comes out incorrectly. It always bothers me when vegans and vegetarians make a huge fuss about having to choke down an incorrectly prepared meal when I’m in the situation of, “If it’s prepared incorrectly and *I* eat it, I’ll have to stick a needle full of adrenaline in my leg to keep me from dying.” I don’t have that luxury of choice when it comes to certain types of food. I appreciate your words and am actually converting to vegetarianism! Baby steps. :-) Thanks, Karol!

Karol

Hi Chesapeake,

Yes, the food allergy thing is tough. I ate at almost strictly veg restaurants in Thailand. That will make it a lot easier on you. :) May Kaidee’s in Bangkok and Chiang Mai is awesome. Check it out when you’re there.

I don’t have any insight, but I’m sure there are travelers out there with food allergies like yourself who can help you out.

Karol

Christina

My dad is very severely allergic to shellfish as well, and he had a hard time travelling through Asia. I don’t really have any good tips for you besides sticking to strictly veg restaurants, sorry! But I do have a warning…

Even if you say “no fish or shellfish,” oyster sauce is soooo common that people might think they’re following your instructions perfectly, but just use oyster sauce automatically and not include it under the category of ‘shellfish.’ My dad has had a couple close calls because of that, even with friends of his, where people honestly do not think about oyster sauce as shellfish. So you specifically should say ‘no oyster sauce or fish sauce’ if you’re somewhere where it is really common!

This is a great article Karol, and I really agree with you about not wasting non-vegan food. I’ll be using your travel tips too, for sure. I already carry basic fruit & nut trail mix everywhere as my emergency food (and also just because I like to snack on it :)

Karol

Thanks for your thoughts Christina!

Allergies are tough, and all the comments/e-mails I’ve received have given me a new perspective on that aspect of travel.

Karol

chesapeake

Karol and Christina-Thank you SO much. I couldn’t find anything online about it other than “Just don’t travel, it’s too dangerous,” and that advice didn’t work for me so well. :-) Your tips and restaurant suggestions will prove to be invaluable. Thanks again.

VegTLV

Thanks for the well written post!

A tip for those who like soy milk – you can carry a bag of powdered soy milk with you. It dissolves in water (hot or cold, though mostly hot… ) and can last a good few weeks, and it’s obviously much lighter than carrying cartons of soy/rice/almond/oat milk :)

Karol

Interesting tip! Thank you!

Bobby Huang

Hey Karol,

I’ve done the research! So whatever I say is backed up by awesomeness.

You have trouble eating veggies, for some reason I have trouble eating fruit! I even let good easy to eat bananas go bad once in a while.

I actually didn’t know that about the monks, it’s good to learn that they eat what is given to them.

I’m getting into that habit now, instead of purely focusing on what my food habits are, if someone offers me food I will take it and enjoy eating it. When a person wants to go out and eat, I’ll be OK with whatever place they want to eat, and just order something within the bounds of my food habits.

I wish I thought about beans when I was a vegan, now I love them, though it rarely crossed my mind about beans so I found myself way too hungry all the time.

The stress is the second most important factor. Health is #1. I can see why I felt a lot of a stress when beginning this eating habit of whole foods. When out with people, there was not much to eat! Now as long as I focus on it 60-80% of the time and the rest of the time be ok with some junk, I’m a whole lot happier.

Great tips, these posts are just what I like.

Karol

Hey Bobby,

It’s not really that I have trouble eating veggies, it’s just that I dislike preparation while traveling. :) When I’m settled into a place it’s no big deal though.

As for stress being the second most important factor: stress and health go hand in hand! :)

Thanks for your support Bobby!
Karol

Jennifer

Great post. As a vegetarian, I had a lot of trouble when I was in Japan and couldn’t read or speak the language. I learned how to say I was a vegetarian and I didn’t eat meat…and then was pointed towards items that came with fish balls. I guess it’s a cultural thing where the Japanese word for ‘meat’ doesn’t encompass fish. I ate it anyway, because it was there and I was hungry and grateful for even a mostly meatless meal.

Karol

Hey Jennifer,

Yeah, you’ll find a lot of cultures don’t believe chicken or fish are “meat.” :) Knowing that ahead of time helps!

Karol

Mike Crosby

Hi Karol, Here’s a talk by Dr Clement from the Hippocrates Health Institute on fruit:
http://www.hippocrateshealthlifestyle.com/143/is-fruit-really-healthy-for-you/

I still eat lots of fruit myself, but I do respect this man’s ideas.

I’m not a true vegan, but those that are, I consider my brothers. To live consciously and to be concerned how animals are treated, gives me respect for you.

Karol

Hi Mike,

Thanks! While I’m not familiar with that particular guy, I have seen mention of fruit not being good for you. I have found no conclusive studies that back up those claims though.

Cheers!
Karol

Mike Crosby

Karol, cheers to you too.

I believe Dr Clement is from your neck of the woods.

He’s a follower of Ann Wigmore. She was a believer of the raw foods diet and especially wheat grass.

I eat a lot of fruit too. While I admire Dr Clement, sometimes I think if I keep reading, I’ll end up not being able to eat anything.

A little story: I had read Ross Horne’s books about nutrition. (He was a pilot for Quantas Airlines that was instrumental in bringing the Pritiken diet to Australia.) He tells a story about this tall skinny guy who’s a fruitarian who lifted this incredible amount of weight for his slender body weight.

So, I’m in a Vegas parking lot walking my dog and this guy starts up a conversation with me. It turned out to be this fruitarian that Ross Horne talked about.

BTW, he told me how he just went to McDonald’s and had a hamburger.

Karol

Hey Mike,

I’m not familiar with any of the people you mention so thanks for the intro. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Alex Wu

I like how you preach flexibility when it comes to dairy products, and your advice on eating lots of fruit and bringing emergency bars is very practical. Being willing to eat a bit of dairy and egg products (on an accidental, nothing-else-available basis), I haven’t had any issues whilst traveling through North America. Being willing to eat stuff that touches meat, or is probably cooked/marinated in some kind of meat sauce, I’ve never had problems in China.

Karol

Thanks Alex! North America is very easy to travel vegan. Any English speaking place is actually. Australia is actually more vegan friendly than the US! :)

Niall Doherty

This article didn’t disappoint. Lots of great tips in there I can use.

I say I’m 95% vegan because I’ll eat something with dairy if I get it by mistake, so I agree with your interpretation in that sense, Karol. However, I also get Jill’s point about letting the restaurant know — as politely as possible — that you didn’t get what you ordered. I believe that’s important. If more people inquire about vegan options and don’t just silently accept any old dish, I imagine restaurants would eventually become less presumptuous.

Rock on with your veg self.

Karol

Thank you Niall!

Yes, it is a good point to let the restaurants know. Again, with the language barrier I don’t know that it would do any good. In English speaking restaurants, yes, I’m with you.

Cheers,
Karol

Maggie

I’m vegan too, and I can get where you’re coming from. I prefer not to waste food either, and you’re right, it’s already dead, etc. For me, part of the decision to be ok with eating ‘trace’ amounts of animal products in food that I don’t have much control over is the desire to show others that you don’t have to be a crazy obsessive freak to be a vegan. Making the lifestyle seem too hard is a turn-off to people who might otherwise give it a shot. So I’m like 98% vegan, and I just make as much of an effort as I can. On a side note, no way could I eat a cheese pizza – I went vegetarian as a kid mainly because of the ‘gross-out’ factor, which has now spread to dairy for me. I couldn’t eat dairy anymore than I could eat another person. Only if I was truly starving to death, I guess. Anyway, thanks for another awesome post!!

Karol

Thank you Maggie, this is a great point: “Making the lifestyle seem too hard is a turn-off to people who might otherwise give it a shot.”

Dairy grosses me out as well and I know it’s not good for me. It hurts me more to throw it away though.

Cheers,
Karol

Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things

Karol-
I like your attitude towards this. So many take a “if you eat meat, you’re an evil animal killer approach.” Even if you do believe that, telling a person how terrible they are and generally being a jerk isn’t the best way to convince them to listen to you. So kudos on your stance.

I understand the arguments against the meat industry as we know it here in the US, but I would be interested in hearing your arguments for why meat consumption is bad in other places where situations are different and animals aren’t harvested for meat on such a mass scale as they can be here.

Karol

Thanks Joel!

“telling a person how terrible they are and generally being a jerk isn’t the best way to convince them to listen to you” – this is exactly why I don’t bring it up unless somebody else brings it up.

As for the meat industry outside of the US: please research it. It’s just as bad. It is impossible to feed on a mass scale without factory farms. Assuming a small village and its nice little farms feed whole countries is … well … research it. :)

Henk

You have a interesting view Karol.

I am not a vegan/vegatarian myself,but i understand why people choose to do so.

however, you wont see me snacking away at some random mac donalds.

I like sushi,Thats a fact, but i try to eat as much bio as possible, even though something sneaks in now and then.

Bananas are great food! they help enchance/recover your serotonin, the natural substance that makes you happy.

Henk.

Ps: that plate from Chiang Mai looks delicious :)

Karol

Thanks Henk! The food I made in Chiang Mai definitely was delicious. :)

Rhonda

It’s funny you should mention a can of beans because when I was about to go check myself into the hospital for the first time in my life, back in March, I packed a small overnight bag consisting of a change of clothes and…a can of black beans (just in case). While they didn’t try to force-feed me “mystery meat,” they did give me some foods that I don’t believe were vegan. In addition to salad, fruit, beans, and soy milk (which are all vegan, of course), they gave me a (questionable) rice pilaf and a black bean burger that I think was a brand made with eggs. But I ate every bite in the interest of not wasting and also so I wouldn’t be starving all night. And someone from the kitchen came to ask me about vegan foods, so they can improve this for next time, so that’s good. I find that when I approach situations with a good attitude and just lead by example, people get curious and they want to learn more about it.

I love Thai food, but run into fish sauce in almost everything, even when they tell you it’s made without it (like Thai Passion here in Austin, TX, where they advertise “all tofu dishes are vegan” but if you go there and ask for soy sauce, they’ll bring you a bottle of fish sauce without saying anything about it not being soy sauce). Of the various Asian cuisines, I think Japanese is the safest bet for a vegan– rice, edamame, veggie rolls, inari sushi, and sometimes some fried tofu (I’m not 100% sure what that’s cooked in though). But that’s speaking for Japanese dining in the U.S., where there’s no language barrier for me. I haven’t been to Japan yet (although it is on my list for next year!)

I hope everyone finds inspiration in this article. As someone who toured with a band (all meat-eaters) traveling in a van staying at only hotels and managing to stay vegan the entire time, I can assure you that it can be done! It almost becomes like a little game to try to find something non-boring and good to eat. Eventually I found some vegan ramen noodle cups (in the Jewish section of the grocery store) and ordered tea at a Waffle House restaurant so I could use the hot water to make my soup cup! I know that’s not very healthy (I eat fruits and veggies, I swear! LOL), but it served the purpose at the time.

I agree with Maggie in that I don’t want to make a vegan lifestyle seem difficult, but I get grossed out now by dairy products. Even if I don’t see it first to know it’s there, if there’s a small shred of cheese mixed in with my food I can taste it and it bothers me. And I have recently developed a shellfish allergy. I discovered that when I was accidentally given the wrong Thai dish. They did make it without fish sauce as I requested, but they accidentally made me the one with the shrimp sauce instead of the brown sauce. So I find that my body rejects a lot of animal products now, and I fear that I would get sick if I ate a cheese pizza. I could be wrong but I’m not sure if I’d want to find out while on vacation in another country, so I would probably order something else, or eat it all but the cheese even though I really don’t want to waste it.

Karol

Thanks Rhonda! That sucks that they give you fish sauce and say it’s vegan. :(

Nice food hack with the tea water/ramen noodles. Although a can of beans in that situation would be way better. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Jen Smith

Really interesting post Karol – thank you. I have been vegetarian again since the beginning of 2009 and am thinking about going vegan. I don’t drink milk as a rule so it’s mainly cheese and eggs that I still eat and whatever dairy products that are added to food. I’m not travelling at the moment but still really useful and the argument about whether to eat or not to eat what is put in front of you is an interesting one to consider too. I am writing a related post next week so will link in to this post.
Cheers
Jen

Karol

Thanks Jen! Looking forward to your post. :)

Farnoosh

I admit it’s early and I am fasting til noon for a doctor’s so I read only most of this so as not get too hungry. today is my Day 13 of being vegan and I started it as a one month challenge (it was a minor adjustment to my mostly vegetarian diet but I did give up my favorite things: Mom’s occasional Persian cooking and my plain yummy yogurts)! But I have travel coming up with friends and these are childhood friends whom I haven’t seen in 26 years. My friend will be cooking Persian food for us. I simply cannot turn it down…..I don’t really want to eat meat again but you gave me a perspective that i t maybe ok for those 3 days to make small exceptions and then return to vegan food. I so love being a vegan. I can’t believe it either. It’s great to find this fab resource, thanks Karol!

Karol

Hey Farnoosh,

One of the things I was worried about with this post is people thinking it’s a license to go ahead and eat meat or whatever sometimes. That’s not my stance at all. It’s only in accidental situations or situations I can’t control.

That said, kudos to you for testing out veganism even for 13 days!

Cheers,
Karol

Lisa

Thank you so much for stating the obvious. While trying to eat vegan, it is better to have compassion for the animal that has placed before you and partake…(if you can stomach it.) I can handle cheese but meat may just make me ill! Thanks for sharing your approach…it is valuable!

Karol

Thanks Lisa. :) I’m certain I wouldn’t have to eat meat and would be able to find someone to eat it if I accidentally got some. I don’t think I could stomach it either. Not physically, but mentally.

Karol

Deb

Thanks for an interesting and useful post, Karol. I am not vegan, but I’ve learned vegan cooking in order to cook for my daughter and her family who are. I am starting a blog about how to convert regular “omnivore” recipes (family favorites, etc) to vegan style. Its purpose is to inform people who aren’t familiar with veganism that this is not that hard to do, as well as share some of our favorites. As more people become aware of the benefits and ethics of veganism, I still hear comments like, “my vegan (or vegetarian) friend is coming for dinner and I don’t know what to serve!” When there are actually limitless options. So far, I only have one recipe up, but hope to get more soon. My blog is called “Side by Side in the Kitchen.” if anyone is in the mood for some really good potato salad! Thanks again!

Karol

Hi Deb,

Thanks so much for being awesome to your daughter and her family!

Your link doesn’t work. :( There is no @ in a web address. Shoot me an e-mail (KarolGajda AT gmail DOT com) with the correct address and I will fix your comment. :)

Karol

James Schipper

I haven’t traveled as much as you, Raam, and some others, but even here in ‘Merica it’s tough. Maybe even especially tough. We are the land that makes all the processed crap that we then laughingly refer to as food. The meat and dairy industries are some of the largest organizations in the world. It’s easier to get a candy bar or a hamburger than it is to find an apple here.

I like your tips on how to deal with these scenarios. It’s helpful.

Alouise

I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian but I did enjoy reading this article. I can imagine language barriers would be hard, I know a lot of phrasebooks contain terms for vegetarian or no meat. But it’s strange to think some people don’t consider fish or chicken as meat. I know there are some dishes in restaurants that are hard to make vegetarian or vegan, but sometimes you can order something without the meat and still have a good meal. I’ve seen a lot of vegans/vegetarians do this.

Quick question as a vegan do you eat honey? I’ve never really considered it an animal product or by-product before, even though I guess it is.

Karol

Hi Alouise,

Thanks for appreciating the article. :)

No, I don’t eat honey: http://www.vegetus.org/honey/honey.htm

Cheers!
Karol

Amanda

I absolutely agree with you on your view of veganism. It’s nice to see someone not so dogmatic about their vegan diet! Whew, those PETA peeps can be so dramatic sometimes, and that kind of anger and stress is not productive.

And thanks for the great tips! Off to the airport now…. ;)

Karol

Thanks Amanda.

While I’m not a PETA member I do support them. They get a bad rap, but it’s not the whole organization that sucks, just certain individuals who go too far.

Have a good trip!
Karol

Anthea

I love your attitude. :)

A lot of these tips work for traveling inexpensively no matter what your diet, since getting food from the local market is often a good way to eat cheap. I’m going to have to try your idea of quinoa and black beans at home, too.

Karol

Thanks Anthea! Very true! Lots of the tips are good whether eating a vegan diet or not. :)

Rosa

Karol,
Will you marry me?
you are an incredibly enlightened human being :)

Karol

“Meet me at the altar we might as well do it.” – some song by someone I don’t remember :)

richard

Hi Karol,

Great post and very timely for me as I just became a vegan as of last week. I haven’t traveled abroad yet to see what the “vegan lifestyle” looks like out of the US but so far so good. It (veganism) feels right at this point in my life.

I’ll be taking a raw cooking class at Whole Foods on 7/26 so that should be interesting and fun. By the way, I came across you and your blog through Rosalind Gardner and you both are living the way I envision life for myself; low stress, adventurous and utilizing the freedom to go and do as I decide.

Now I just need to “get busy” and work on my internet marketing so that I too can enjoy the benefits of running a “business without borders!” :)

Wishing You Health and Happiness,

Richard

Karol

Thank you Richard! It is pretty darn easy in the US. Especially because everybody speaks English and it’s easy to get your point across. :)

Whole Foods has such good raw food! Mmmm. Not all of them have raw food bars, but the ones I’ve been to have been top notch.

Helen

Great post!!! I eat vegan as well and my emergency food while travelling is a Larabar–better ingredients than Clif bars IMHO. While traveling recently to New Orleans, LA, it was difficult to even find a salad in some restaurants besides maybe some iceberg lettuce with a half pound of grated cheese on top. Amazing. No wonder people are overweight and sick!!! But even the plentiful corner liquor stores sold bananas and apples.
Luckily I live in Portland, OR, which is filled with vegan restaurants and options. Have you ever visited Portland? Cycling and veganism rule here.
Helen

Karol

Hey Helen!

Yes, I have been to Portland. I got kicked out of Veganopolis. A story that will forever remain a mystery. ;)

Karol

puerhan

wow, great article. Respect!

Karol

thanks puerhan!

Val

Interesting article.

Your emergency meal of canned beans made me smile.

I always pack food when I go out, a habit from my mother, and I don’t think I’ll be traveling far away very soon (my money is going to other things I enjoy) so I doubt I’ll need emergency food anytime soon.

But I’m a Uni student (I know some bloggers don’t think people need Uni, but aspiring scientists do, I think) and as such can get busy. I don’t do cafeteria food, and always try to have some beans cooked or canned and rice ready to microwave as my “emergency dinner”.

It’s a great plan.

Karol

Hi Val,

Thanks. :) The emergency dinner idea is definitely suitable for many situations. :)

Did Einstein or Edison go to Uni? ;) I know, exception, not the rule (also, different time). If you want to get a job as a scientist you need to go to Uni. Well, if you want most jobs you need to go to Uni.

Cheers,
Karol

Val

Einstein went to a Polytechnical Institute in Switzerland. Not quite technically University, but close.

I like Uni. I feel like I’m learning more than I could by myself. Discussions with educated peers are very valuable. It helps that I’m attending Evergreen, which is pretty unconventional.

And I’m pretty shamelessly not so into minimalist work-from-anywhere jobs. I’m glad that some people enjoy them, and I can see their value. For myself, I really enjoy lab-work with equipment that it’s best to share due to its cost.

Karol

Hey Val,

I fully support the sciences and bad asses who want to rock the lab. :)

Karol

Amelia Jane

Hi Karol!
This is a great intro to being vegan while travelling! I pretty much bumbled around picking up all these tips in my travels this year, but I would add – Make sure your hostel has a kitchen! It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to book the cheapest and then find out there’s only a kettle and you’ll be eating noodles for days. At least…for me…
As to eating animal products if the dish has been misprepared I agree that one should attempt to explain to the restaurant what vegan means, and also I’ve found that a vegan eating dairy often confuses people and almost reverts you back to ‘normal’ in your friends’ eyes so they start offering you dairy &c again and don’t understand when you’re still vegan, which can be stressful. Yeah, I’m a big proponent of not caring what other people think, but having to re-defend my veganism is something that exhausts me after I’ve just been a ‘hypocrite’. (I’m not saying that a vegan who eats dairy IS a hypocrite, just that this is a situation I’ve been in, and that was the outcome. Funstuff!)
I have no idea what a Clif bar is, but in most countries (I’m in Spain at the moment) there are cereal bars which are vegan, and also fortified with B12, fibre and other junk you need to live. I survived on Kellogs All-Bran chocolate cereal bars the past week! Also, dried apricots, sunflower seeds, apples & bread. I was at a festival, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to having a kitchen. Whipped up a chickpea curry STRAIGHT AWAY and wolfed down some dark chocolate.
Thanks for getting other vegan travellers out of the woodwork!

Karol

Hi Amelia,

Thank you for your thoughts!

It happens so rarely that my non-vegan friends probably don’t even know it happens. So no worries about confusing people. And even if they think I’m a hypocrite: fuck em. ;) (and I mean that in the most loving way possible)

A Clif Bar is a sports nutrition bar that just happens to be vegan. I don’t know if that’s across the board, but every flavor I’ve ever seen has been vegan. http://www.clifbar.com

Is the chocolate in the Kelloggs All-Bran vegan? That’s fascinating. I can rarely find vegan chocolate. I mean, almost never. Unless, of course, I’m looking at a 80-90% dark chocolate bar.

Amelia Jane

Yeah, I believe so! I think it’s something to do with keeping the calories low so dairy = out. Esta bien! I actually find quite a lot of chocolate chips in cookies are dark chocolate, but the biscuit itself has milk powder in. I still hold out hope for vegan cookies though.

Karol

:) Very nice!

Ms. Very Stupid

I was about to leave your site after reading and commenting on another article until I saw this article. I too am a vegan. This will be my 28th year as a vegan. I live in the US and travel a lot and I can’t tell you how incredibly difficult it is to maintain a vegan diet when you travel. I HAVE actually thrown food out, sent food back (very nicely though and with a smile) AND gone days without eating (drinking LOTS of water) when I have been unable to find vegan food on my travels. If I was really starving I guess I would rip a piece of meat up and eat it with a smile, but I’m a vegan/vegetarian simply because I believe that eating meat is not the healthiest choice we can make for ourselves. I always get excited when I “meet” another vegan. It is like we are little diamonds (with legs) in the rough just trying to find our way through the meat-filled world we live in.

Karol

28 years vegan! Wow. Thank you and congrats! :)

I get excited when I meet other vegans as well. More and more of us out there. :) Especially thanks to the good ole internet.

Richard @ Debt Assistance Guru

My parents took up veganism a few years ago and at first really struggled when it came to vacations and travel in general. However over the years they have discovered a range of foods they can order from most restaurants (and found most of them were able to willing to make changes to the menu if politely asked). When they go away now they generally rent a property rather than staying in a hotel and find this affords them extra freedom by preparing their own meals which they have sourced from local supermarkets.

Karol

Hey Richard,

Thanks. :) Yes, the fact that I rent apartments makes it a bit easier. But even when I was staying in hostels it was easy. Most have kitchens and food storage.

Karol

Brandon

I tried the vegetarian diet for a while but went back to eating meat (only chicken & fish). I do want to go vegetarian and try some vegan meals as well but wondering where can I find some easy foods to prepare? Seems like the choices are limited but maybe you can help me find some good recipes that are quick & easy to prepare. Thanks.

Karol

I don’t usually do recipes. Beans/rice/fruits/veggies. Done!

Peit

Wow! I’m thrilled to discover that there is at least one other vegan out there with a similar viewpoint to mine – I’d almost (could never do so completely) given up hope! I only know one vegan and he’s overseas at the moment so I’m very used to soldiering on alone. I’m 30, I’m australian and I’ve been a vegan for 3 years. I started for compassionate reasons, but I am now vegan for compassionate, environmental & health reasons – there just is no other way as far as I’m concerned. The other thing I’m extremely passionate about is recycling and reducing waste, which is why I was so excited reading your article. I too will eat non-vegan food rather than waste it (so far I too have escaped having to meat though), I will also eat non-vegan food rather than starve (as in, stuck in the outback and in survival mode, I will eat whatever it takes to live!) thank goodness I haven’t had to test that yet though. I find that being an aggressive vegan does more harm to our cause than good – people are so much more receptive to your viewpoint when you’re not shoving it down their throat.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, I really enjoyed this article and am leaving this blog with a full heart and a big smile.

Karol

Nice to meet you Peit! I’m so glad you connected with this article. :)

“I find that being an aggressive vegan does more harm to our cause than good.” – Great point.

Cheers,
Karol

Monika @ Forever-improving Girl

This is a fantastic article, and I’m really glad I found it.

I agree with your “if you accidentally end up with a non-vegan meal that you can’t give away, eat it instead of tossing it out” thing. I’m a very strict vegan, but that is of less importance to me than respecting the life that had (accidentally) been given for my sake. (Like you, I haven’t had to deal with the “oops…it has meat!” thing which is fortunate because that would suck…)

Consider me a new-reader!

Cheers from a fellow vegan expatriated-Polak :)

Karol

Thanks Monika! So glad you’re into this. :)

Adrian

Totally agree on the fruit aspect of your travel tips, but you forgot the most important part of being vegan – green leaves! Read Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. Has some interesting research she has done about what chimpanzees eat (they share 99.4% of their DNA with us). It’s about 40% green leaves and blossoms, 50% fruit, and the rest is insects, pith, bark and seeds.

I’m not suggesting we eat insects or bark, but the green leaves part works. Great source of protein and almost everything else the human body needs. And they’re usually cheap :)

Karol

Green leaves are good if you can get to somewhere and wash off the dirt. ;)

I’ll have to check out that book. Thanks Adrian!

Kara

I understand the logic behind your reasoning in the first section about eating non-vegan food if it arrives differently from what you ordered. But in my case that doesn’t always work. I am always polite and non-pushy when it comes to asking to leave off the cheese or mayo, etc. And I’ve never had a fit or yelled at anyone when it comes out wrong. And I do usually give the food away to one of my friends. However, I have been such a strict vegan for so many years that if I consume dairy or certain animal products, it actually makes me sick. I don’t mean “morally sick” as in, I feel bad, because that’s not even why I’m a vegan. It makes me physically ill, and it’s gross, I won’t go into details but it is quite unpleasant. I would never go into a high end gourmet establishment and ask the chef to completely alter their menu, however, if I’m at a basic regular place and I ask for something simple such as a menu item without cheese I really don’t think it’s asking for too much. And I always tip extra generously when a waiter or waitress takes the time to ask about a menu item to see if it’s vegan.

Gaby

Hey! I love this post as it mirrors my eating/ travel philosophy so well! Unfortunately I can’t have dairy so I HAVE to give it to someone else, but other than that, my rules become more lax if I’m traveling. It’s a matter of priority for me, while I’m lucky enough to have all these choices at home, if I’m traveling, my #1 is getting the most out of my experience.
I’m trying to get into travel writing so I have a blog I try to keep up with. I have mostly just recapped some trips, but everything gets thrown in there, including vegan eating. My writing is on hold right now because all the journals I kept on my last trip are trapped on my computer which is being reformatted due to a virus, but I try to keep things interesting on there. I’ll definitely be adding you to my reader!

Karol

I understand lactose intolerance and food allergies. My stance is for those of us who don’t have those issues to deal with. Thanks for sharing Gaby!

Amanda

I’m with the last two users: no dairy for my stomach, EVER. I get seriously ill and have the unpleasantness x 1-4 days as the other person described. The last time was a few weeks ago when I bought a soy vanilla ice cream off a street vendor in Berlin that I’m fairly certain was not 100% vegan. I hate it when you ask and they say something is vegan and how the hell should they know every ingredient in this particular thing?

ANYWAYS… I am looking for a clif bar-like substitute in Berlin (moved here from Santa Cruz, California in July). I just spent two weeks in Spain and resorted to eating a little bit of fish and tortilla (omelette) on more than one occasion because my in-laws there consider neither to be meat and could not understand what the hell is wrong with me. I literally gave up trying to explain and ended up eating a lot of soy digestive biscuits I was able to find at the local grocery store. I also ate a heck of a lot of the salad, rice, and plain white bread they served at every meal.

I head to China for a year of study in October; I’ve lived there before and speak the language. I’m less worried about that situation, but I can tell people here that 1) most Chinese also consider non-red meat to be vegetarian (e.g., chicken, fish) and a lot of vegetarian soups will come with fish broth (sometimes even beef broth), but that luckily 2) enough vegetarian non-dairy dishes DO exist to balance out any problems (at least, in most cases). People often eat in big groups and order tofu, beans, eggplant, ETC and this makes it so much easier to just avoid the separate shared dishes with meat…. and lots of soy and rice products are always available in East Asia. :)

lucinda

COOL!

Amy

Thank god for Clif Bars!!

Have you had any issues getting sick from eating in other countries? I ate mostly fruit, veggies, rice, and beans during a trip to Central America recently — and avoided the tap water — and ended up way ill for some reason.

Karol

Nope … no illnesses at all! I didn’t drink the tap water in India or Thailand, but I ate at lots of restaurants in both countries. Here in Poland I drink the tap water even though no residents of Poland do. :)

Rob

Re: Cheese pizza: Key is why you are vegan, I think. I am vegan for health reasons, although it’s a nice side-benefit that animals are not dying for me to eat. I would definitely make sure the restaurant knew they had made a mistake – but then I’d eat the pizza. Especially if it had that much garlic! I’ve found that my health isn’t impacted noticeably by the very occasional slip-up like that. Ditto if I find myself unexpectedly a guest at someone’s home. Unless it’s something I could never gag down ( like seafood ), I’ll pretty much eat what is set before me. I feel that the emotional disruption of rejecting someone’s gift of food is far worse than the effect on my health..

Travel is a challenge, I’ll admit. I always throw one Larabar into my luggage for every day I’m away. I like them much better than Clif bars – they are just nuts & fruit which go down a lot better with me than the highly processed clif bars.

Karol

Whoa, if I had to pack one larabar or clif bar for every day I’d have to send over 2 suitcases. :)

The health benefits are the side benefit for me. :)

Rob

Well, obviously I only pack bars for short ( month or less) trips. 30 larabars only weigh a couple of pounds.

The good thing about eating vegan is that no matter why you do it, both the animals you’re not eating *and* your own body benefit.

Karol

it’s not really the weight … 30 bars takes up a lot of space.

And a vegan diet is really only beneficial to our bodies if it’s not junk food vegan. Junk food vegan = veggie burgers, oreos, and all that crap. Which, I’ve found, is actually what the majority of vegans and vegetarians eat.

rob

Well, I’ve traveled with 20+ bars before without issue – they fit nicely into the small leftover spaces in your backpack ;)

I agree – many vegans eat for crap. I’m not one of them, though. No refined anything for me …

tokyovegan

I thought vegan travel was hard after wearing out my welcome in the Phillipines earlier this year, but the more I get used to cooking and eating exclusively my own food, I find just going around my central Tokyo neighborhood isn’t easy either. Today, they were giving samples of cake, which almost almost always certainly contains eggs, if not dairy. But mushrooms don’t have to be made with butter, and tempura with eggs, too. I visited a new soup chain yesterday and found of the 80 soups (they import from Seattle) there was only 1 that’s 100% vegetarian. Don’t you feel frustrated that everything has to be polluted with animal products, when it’s oh so unnecessary?

Karol

No, I don’t get frustrated. It’s fun treating my body well when everybody else gives up on theirs. ;)

Lesley

Thanks for writing this post! As a new vegan, I am definitely subscribing to your way of thinking. For me, becoming a vegan is a conscious choice I’m making that will result in helping me to reduce my carbon footprint and be more healthy. I am not eschewing meat altogether if the circumstances arise that it would be wasteful if I didn’t eat it. There’s more to veganism than just not eating meat and my reasons for being a vegan are much bigger than that. I’m glad to know that travel and veganism can go hand in hand.

Karol

Thanks Lesley.

I believe I mentioned, or if not, eating meat is never and never will be vegan. If I was accidentally served meat I would be much more vigilant about finding someone to eat it. Just want to make it clear that this article is not “permission” for vegans to eat meat. :)

Lesley

Yes, I think it’s pretty clear! Don’t worry, in the future if I eat meat I won’t say “Karol said it was okay!”

Thanks!

Rob

Sigh:

My attempt at replying to this became its own comment, which I will try to delete. Meanwhile, here it is again :)

Karol:

Again, it comes down to why one chooses a vegan diet. If you’re doing it for health reasons or environmental reasons then an occasional accidental meat or dairy dish isn’t a big deal. As I tell my friends “I eat a vegan diet when I’m at home, but it’s not a religion and I’m not a PETA nutcase”. In a restaurant that made an error I’d probably point out their error and allow them to do what they choose with the food, or just eat it, depending on the circumstances. In a private home, if I end up with food containing meat or dairy, I smile and say thanks. One or two non-vegan dishes might make me feel a little “off” but I’d accept that rather than offend my hosts.

The blog posting has been interesting and drawn out good comments, but I don’t think you need to worry that anyone was looking for your “permission” to call themselves vegan.. or eat meat, or both. ;)

Karol

hehe :) Fantastic!

Jerri Ostendorf

I went vegan, cold turkey, several months ago. Today I had lunch with friends and there was nothing I could get – so I opted for something with a significant amount of cheese. I am up late with severe gastric distress. Am trying all sorts of things to calm my stomach, but to no avail as of yet. Wasn’t lactose intolerant before. Anybody else experience this?

I also have gained 10 lbs since going vegan. Who would have thought!!?? But I am hypothyroid (on meds), so maybe some connection there? My thyroid panels come back normal as do my protein levels, potassium, etc…Maybe its all those nuts ;-)

Karol

Oh damn. I’ve never heard anybody gaining weight on a vegan diet … except maybe junk food vegan where everything is meat replacements and fritos. In any case, sorry the cheese is hurting you. It’s bad stuff. :(

James Schipper

Yeah be careful with what you consider vegan, Jerri. If all you eat is bread and pizza without meat on it, that will make you gain weight. There are plenty of junkfood vegetarians out there who are overweight.

While it’s a good start to eat foods without animal products, just because it doesn’t have that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Moral issues aside, I would say that the refined carbs and sugars in most processed foods and breads are far worse for you than a grass-fed steak.

If you’re eating mostly plants (colorful plants, not just cereals & grains), and you’re still gaining fat/weight, then you may have some other issue going on. But I haven’t seen that happen with anyone sticking to a whole plant diet.

Jerri Ostendorf

Thank you for the replies.

I do tend to eat something sweet daily – my only vice in life – but really it’s mostly veggies, olives, seeds, nuts, soy, fruit (primarily in the form of a protein smoothie), beans, lentils, etc…. I did break down and include free range eggs – because that made it so much easier to find things to eat – but now I use egg substitute. Yes, I know that is still an egg product and is probably not free range :-( I’m trying…..

I am post-menopausal, so hormones and thyroid levels are always a concern. Am trying bioidentical hormones once again to see if it helps at all.

If there are any post-menopausal Vegans on this List, would love to hear what your experiences have been!

Thanks again!

Samblebee Hillyer

This article is more than I could have asked for Karol
I like how you balance your advice with personal stories, you are a great ambassador for how easy being vegan really is.
Society is dependent on putting dairy in everything, so you can’t blame people for initially thinking it would be complicated. Did you know dairy has an opiate known as casomorphin in it?
As with most of the readers, I feel at ease about travelling now. Infact I kind of wonder what my worries were at all.
I find it interesting what you say about being respectful with non-vegan meals. That is the approach I consider although I know a lot of vegans who down right wouldn’t. You have a very valid point about it also being disrespectful to people who don’t have the privilege to choose their meals, let alone have a meal. Although the idea of dairy can occasionally make me feel sick.
Once my blog is up and running, this is definitely an article I have to link to, it’s so well written I hope you wont mind me sending people here.

Karol

Good to know you like this Samblebee. :) Please feel free to link to it when your blog is up.

Sasha

Hi Karol, I’m 26 and I made the decision to become vegan in November last year but quickly realised I didn’t know enough about food in general to maintain this day in, day out. I made exceptions on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (read, ate meat) so as not to upset my grandparents who are getting on now (my nanna’s cooking IS spectacular!). I’ve been mostly-dairy-and-egg-free-vegetarian since then and am edging ever closer to veganism – it was always the end goal…

Reading your article on making exceptions as the need arises is something I absolutely agree with; I grew up with a lot of Buddhist influence in the family, so the idea of respect for another being’s life is very high on my list of values, well, respect in general really. I was also raised with the belief that food should never be wasted, so I always find someone to eat what I won’t!

I had worried about hardline vegans I have met who get very aggressive about relativising when it comes to food “accidents” like you describe, but Im reassured by what you express here. The interesting thing is that it feels like I cut out meat years ago. Being vegan looks like the way forward for certain and posts like yours only make that fact clearer for me :)

Keep writing great articles!

Sasha

Calum

Hey Karol,

So glad to have found this article. I also enjoyed the one about why you are vegan.

I’m vegetarian but eat mostly a vegan diet. I still eat free range eggs and cheese occasionally. The only concern with making the move to vegan was vitamin b12 but I soon found out that there are plenty of supplements out there for that.

I consider myself a healthy vegetarian and I hardly eat junk foods. I am interested tho, in whether or not the transition period to you becoming full vegan was difficult?

Have you found that you are able to meet daily calorie requirements easily while traveling to stop fatigue? sorry if that seems like a daft question but I’m genuinely interested.

Thanks Karol,

Em

Hello
This has been a great find, thankyou for describing your approach and mindset. I wonder if anyone has any advice they can offer – a very very dear friend of mine is recently vegan and it is clearly a very profound and deeply felt decision.
Because we are close we have frank discussions, where my friend is very honest about how they feel about non vegans, and it’s pretty hardline. I know these sentiments would not be expressed in day to day interactions but as a non vegan, I am feeling rather judged. They have said that they absolutely do not respect anyone’s choice to ignore the facts pertaining to veganism.
I know it’s not all about me! And my discomfort is probably a big sign! I certainly don’t and couldn’t disagree with any of the arguments. But I’m not there yet.
Do I just need to sit tight and avoid discussions?
Maybe it is too fundamental a difference, and a time will come when my unenlightened habits will preclude me from their life?
Any thoughts?

Karol

Hey Em,

I guess I would either avoid discussions or avoid them altogether. Most of my friends are omnivores and I love them just the same. Change doesn’t happen with hate. It happens by leading.

Karol

Rob

@Em:

Hard-line vegans like you describe in your friend are why I don’t discuss my food choices with people any more. As soon as you say “vegan” they assume you’re a food fanatic and get defensive.

Your friend’s unwillingness to respect anyone else’s choice means is the same sort of judgmental crap that makes me despise organized religion.

Why your friend feels like it is their privilege to judge you based on what you eat is beyond me. Presumably your dietary choices were not the reason you became friends in the first place. if your “very very dear” friend is willing to sacrifice your friendship over your choice of foods, then your friend is in no way “very dear”. In fact, hardly a friend at all.

Lynda

“Change doesn’t happen with hate. It happens by leading.” What a great quote: thank you! And ain’t it the truth? As vegans or vegetarians, we help far more people “get” it when we deal with the topic (or the food presented) without verbal aggression and/or self-righteousness. And how hard is that, really? Okay, harder when you’re hungry, but still… In your shoes, Em, I believe I’d tell your friend to stuff it if he/she continues to brow-beat you about your food choices.

*Quick suggestion for vegan road food: dehydrate a bunch of seitan to take along, which could tide you over for at least a while. It’s a great protein source if you’re not gluten-intolerant. Happy trails!

Karol

I like the dehydrated seitan tip, but 2 problems (just for me). 1) I’d need a dehydrator (not going to happen). 2) Not sure it would be allowed on planes. :)

Thanks for your support Lynda!

Em

Thanks for your perspectives I feel reassured that this stance isn’t the universal vegan viewpoint!
Um in fact, following a rather nasty accident, I seem to have gone the way of the bean! Am actively enjoying vegan dishes, and definitely not due to pressure from any source but with lots of encouragement from my friend. This has obviously made communications smoother, and I feel I can gently counsel a more understanding approach to other peoples choices, from the inside as it were, so far all ok.

Karin

Hi Karol, I’ve gone vegan because I got cancer and read that it is better for you. I may go 80% raw as well. I am curious to know what vegans are basing their morals on when they say they don’t eat meat for “moral” reasons. If you believe in God, the Bible says it is fine to eat meat- Jesus ate fish and lamb. If you don’t believe in God, where does the moral code come from? We are all the result of an accident and it is the survival of the fittest. I don’t mean to Start an argument, but the more I research veganism, the more I run across this and wonder where you are coming from. Kt

Karol

I never mentioned morals. I don’t have the crutch to ask for forgiveness so I’m accountable to myself and my fellow man. No ghost or god will forgive me for harming someone or something.

Interesting note though: Did Jesus viciously rape, abuse and mistreat the animals he ate?

rob

As someone who is vegan for my health and to some extent the health of the planet, I find some of those that are vegan for “moral” reasons to be fairly irksome.

There are a lot of fantastic reasons to eat a vegan diet; improved health being the most significant. People who melt down at the idea of eating honey, or self-righteously go hungry when they get food with animal products (OMG *GELATIN*) merely make the rest of us vegans look like freaks. Enough so that I don’t call myself vegan, as there is a lot of baggage in many people’s minds about what that means. I just say I don’t eat dairy or meat, and if asked why I truthfully reply that it’s better for my health.

Karol

I’ll go with looking like a freak over blending in with the masses any day, but I do know what you mean. To be honest, the vegans who give vegans a bad name are the “vegans” (and “vegetarians”) who eat chicken, fish, and whatever else “sometimes.” It confuses everybody else as to what it means to be vegan or vegetarian.

rob

Sorry. that comment was intended to be in response to Karin.

I don’t mind being a freak on my own merits, but I have known people so extreme about their in-your-face veganism that it offended me as a vegan. An example – a friend was giving a dinner party and prepared both vegan and omnivore food, as he knew several of us didn’t eat meat. One of the vegan guests asked him *at the table* if the plate and cutlery she was given had *ever* touched meat and when receiving an affirmative answer asked if it was OK if she took them back to the kitchen and re-washed them. Now, *that* is the kind of behavior that makes everyone (certainly everyone at that dinner party) view vegans as nutcases. As a vegan I though that behavior was nutty and made a point of joking with the host about it, after the nut had left.

Personally, if someone says they are vegetarian and then orders a chicken dish I call them out on it. If I, as a vegan, am given a salad that accidentally (after I ordered it properly) has dairy or bacon bits or some such on it I do my best to avoid them and eat the salad. The occasional bit of cheese or bacon isn’t going to damage my health.

{ 17 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

More To Explore