Traveling While Vegan & Staying Sane

If you end up needing to flex on one meal, don’t kill yourself over it.

Bring snacks
This is absolutely essential. Before you leave town, stock up on easy-to-carry healthy(ish) emergency snacks. Energy bars, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts. (If there’s a Trader Joe’s near you, you’ve hit the motherload.) On short trips (10 days or less), get one snack for each day you’ll be traveling. Get a variety of flavors.

Don’t listen to yourself in the store when you say, “Blech, energy bars. Those things are so dry!” These puppies will save your life on the road. Even if you don’t end up eating them all, you can give them away to someone in need and you’ll be their best friend for the day.


Get access to a kitchen
Given a choice between accommodation options, choose one where you get the use of a kitchen. A stove with pots and pans and random spices makes life so much easier. Even if you don’t feel like cooking, you can rinse off that fruit that you bought at the farmer’s market, or cut up veggies to eat as fresh snacks during the day.

If you have to stay in a hotel, try to at least to choose one with a little fridge. That way you can bring leftovers home and eat those for breakfast while everyone else is chewing on cow legs or whatever.


Relentlessly pursue new foods
I don’t have to say this, right? This planet offers such a wide variety of plants for us to choose from. Now that you’re traveling you can get your hands on even more! Woot!


Clean your produce properly
In some countries (I’m looking at you, Mexico), you can get the serious runs (and worse) if you eat produce without washing it properly. Cleaning it with tap water that’s not drinkable does nothing to improve the situation, and using bottled water to clean produce is not sustainable.

So in the market, buy yourself a tiny bottle of produce wash (look for Microdyn or Bacdyn in Mexico) designed to get rid of unhealthy stuff (fertilizer, contact with contaminated water and people’s hands) on the outside of produce. Read the instructions for specific measurements and time, but the process goes like: Put a few drops into a container of tap water. Soak your produce in it for the designated number of minutes, et voila! Remember to air dry or pat dry; don’t jank it up again by rinsing it with plain tap water.

Detailed instructions on cleaning fruit and avoiding cross-contamination exist on Kathleen is Cooking in Mexico.

In places where the tap water is potable, you can rinse your produce with a vinegar solution. NY Times says 1 part vinegar to 9 parts tap water, then rinse with plain tap water for at least 30 seconds.

People might tell you that washing your produce is silly and unnecessary. But when plants are all you eat, your chances are of eating bird poop, cow manure or hand sweat along with your meal are greater than someone who only eats plants as a side dish. Think about it. Then go wash your hands.


Research your options in advance
Being vegan has become less and less of a big deal. How much effort it takes to stay happily fed will depend on where you are, how open you are to trying new foods, and how well you prepare.

Portland vs. Dallas can make a difference. Mexico City vs. Huatulco can make a difference. So before you get there (or before you get hungry) map out some places that will definitely (or most likely) have food that’ll make your tummy happy. Find out when and where the farmers markets are.

Get on Yelp and create a collection of restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries that excite you. Put out a bat signal to your favorite traveling vegans and ask for recommendations. What’s in season and are some local foods that you really want to try?


Get creative
If you’re in a place that’s less than veg-centric, you’re going to have to get creative. This doesn’t mean you need to be a pain in the ass. You know the person who orders a salad with “extra, extra cheese. Extra, extra dressing on the side. Light lettuce.” Don’t be that person.

But do tell the waiter that you don’t eat meat or dairy (probably best to spell it out clearly rather than use the word vegan, which could be interpreted in many ways) and that you’re open to their suggestions. If you’re in a group, let the idea percolate while everyone else orders.

Often, you can pull together a great meal by ordering just side dishes. Can you have breakfast for dinner? If you see someone at the next table eating something that floats your boat, politely ask them or the waiter what it is and what’s in it. Can you get that without the fried egg on top? If all else fails, throw yourself at the mercy of the chef. Ask them to create a vegan plate for you with what they have in the kitchen.

Whatever the waiter ends up setting down in front of you, be gracious and enjoy the present company.


Think ahead
Nothing at the breakfast bar but rooster feet and fish heads? Yeah, that sucks so bad. Remember to at least grab a banana for later. And at some point while you’re out, remember to pick up something for the next day’s breakfast. Be on the lookout for farmers markets, street vendors and stores with prepared dishes. If you happen to find a vegan store in a meat-centric place, rejoice and replenish — and ask the staff for recommendations.

No need to turn your journey into a foraging expedition (unless you like those). Just be ready to pounce on opportunity when you stumble upon it. And ask anyone you’re traveling with to tell you if they see any particularly delicious looking produce.


Eat before you get hungry
In the desert, if you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, you’re probably already dehydrated. Similarly, a veghead with hangry tendencies, must avoid waiting to eat until you turn into

I have an unfortunate flaw: The hungrier I get, the pickier I get. So the longer I wait, the less likely I am to find something that I’m willing to eat. I traveled to Puerto Rico with a friend (then boyfriend) who learned to recognize my signs of hunger. With a slight look of panic on his face, he would quickly steer us towards a fruit stand or a cafe before I could get too grouchy and lose my sense of humor/direction.

Don’t be that girlfriend.


Flex if you have to
This is a tough one. I remember finding out that the bread in the supposedly vegan sandwich I’d eaten a week before had egg in it. I felt sad and a little sick inside.

There are situations where you have to choose the lesser of two evils. One day it will come down to choosing between a pounding hunger headache or eating a little fish sauce in your veggie pad thai. Or your host will spent an entire day cooking a special welcome meal for you that happens to have a little butter in it (“You don’t eat butter either?”).

The reasons people have for being vegan run deep. Some are vegan for health reasons, but for many it’s about valuing all life. So there’s that. And then there is the value of appreciating the hospitality and kindness of other humans. It’s a tough call; only you can decide what’s right for you in these situations. But sometimes, you have to flex in order to: 1. Get the hell off the hangry train, or 2. not be an asshole to another person who’s sincerely trying their best to accommodate you.

If you end up needing to flex on one meal, don’t kill yourself over it. And don’t get on everyone’s last nerve by talking about it for hours. Just do your best to live by your values, and if you stumble, redemption is only as far as your next meal.

Happy travels! Eat well!

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Passport Required’s List of Amazing Vegan Options Worldwide:

1. The Hungry Herbivore: Western Cape, South Africa
2. My Vegan Sweet Tooth: Virginia Beach, Virginia
3. Krawummel: Muenster, Germany
4. Hug Life: Garden Grove, California
5. RawAttitude Healthy Deli: Malaga, Spain
6. The Veggie Grill: Los Angeles, California
7. Cook and Book: Seoul, South Korea
8. Loving Cafe: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
9. Little-Heaven: Kyoto, Japan
10. Veganerie Soul – Siam Paragon: Bangkok, Thailand
11. Loving Hut – Lake Klopein: St Kanzian, Austria
12. Next Level Burger: Bend, Oregon
13. Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen: Hollywood, Florida
14. Puerto Vegan, Siempre Sano: Puerto Morelos, Mexico
15. Bluesomeone’s Vegan Cafe: Taichung, Taiwan
16. Raw: Chicago, Illinois
17. Natural Efe Macrobiotic World: Phuket, Thailand
18. Avant Garden: New York City, New York
19. Sweet Theory Baking Co.: Jacksonville, Florida
20. La Palanche d’Aulac: Paris, France
21. The Herbivorous Butcher: Minneapolis, Minnesota
22. Panda Vegan Restaurant: Sao Paulo, Brazil
23. Green Point: Cusco, Peru
24. De Herbivoor: Groningen, Netherlands

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