As someone who’s been vegetarian since 2016 and has recently transitioned to more of a vegan diet in the past year or so, I often have people ask me how hard plant based travel is. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or simply want to start following a plant based diet and you’re wondering how easy it is to eat while travelling, you’ve come to the right place!
Today I’m interviewing a close friend Lucy from London, England. We met while travelling through Vietnam at the start of 2020 and made our way over to Cambodia before deciding to return to our home countries. When I first met Lucy during a free walking tour at our hostel in Hanoi, we quickly connected over similar interests and quickly discovered that we had a similar diet as well. Somehow I always end up making friends with people who are either vegetarian or vegan by chance, which makes finding food while we’re together a lot easier!
So let’s get into how hard plant based travel really is …
Plant Based Travel – Interview with Lucy Allen
How long have you been vegan for?
I have been vegan for 5 years!
What country did you find it easiest to eat vegan in?
Many of the places I’ve been to in Europe have been by far the easiest places to eat and buy vegan food, however to my surprise Cuba was amazing! The food is pretty basic and all home-cooked so there were lots of beans and veggies. Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Paris, and Amsterdam, are just a few examples of amazing European cities with great vegan food!
How do you find vegan options in countries that might not have many?
My biggest worry about travelling to South Africa was finding vegan food but because there wasn’t a language barrier it was easy to order at restaurants and I did a lot of cooking at hostels. Wherever I go, I try and find the words ‘meat’ ‘milk’ and ‘eggs’ in the local language. I do a little research about the most popular local cuisine, for example, Pad Thai in Thailand has egg in it so I would learn to say ‘no egg please’. My go-to app is HappyCow – I have used it everywhere I have been from Asia to Africa to Europe! you type in your location and it shows you nearby vegetarian/vegan restaurants or places with veggie options. I love it! It’s been a lifesaver and I have found some places with AMAZING food I would have missed otherwise.
Did you ever have an experience where you accidentally ate meat/eggs/dairy while travelling?
This is sadly inevitable. I think you have to not let yourself get too worked up about this. All you can do is try your best! In Asia, they use a lot of fish sauce in cooking so I probably accidentally ate this many times.
When I was in Cambodia with Amy, we ordered some noodles with no chicken and it arrived at my table with meat all over it to which the man replied, “there is no chicken.. it’s just pork”. I then had to explain that I wanted no meat at all. You must understand that the vegan lifestyle or diet is not as common in other countries as it may be in your own, so just be polite and I’m sure the local people will be happy to accommodate.
Another time I was on a 6-hour hike in South Africa and the tour group was supplying lunches so I informed them of my vegan diet. We got to the top of the mountain and I opened my lunch.. it was a cheese sandwich! I was STARVING so I had to pick bits of bread off and eat that for lunch. There was also a granola bar which could have possibly had honey in but I had to eat it because desperate times call for desperate measures!
What are your best tips for eating plant based while travelling?
Don’t panic because there will always be something you can eat, even if its basic like some fruit or some rice! Do some research, read some blogs, and look up things online beforehand. I’ve found that you can always find a vegan restaurant hidden away somewhere! Use HappyCow!!! I’d also recommend that you always carry some snacks with you because sometimes finding vegan food can be tricky during long journeys.
Also, most people are really friendly and want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask! Explain your dietary requirements and I am sure they will be more than happy to accommodate.
Was it easier or more difficult than you anticipated to be plant based while travelling?
It really differs from place to place but usually much easier. I’ve never not been able to eat anything in a restaurant/ hostel apart from once and that was in Applebees in Florida! 😂
What was the most challenging aspect?
Defo long journeys on buses/ trains! I LOVE to snack, so I always come prepared because usually the food they offer in small bus stations or train trolleys isn’t vegan. It can also be challenging feeling like a pain in the arse and constantly having to be like “ooh sorry does this have milk?” .. or “NO EGG PLEASE” because sometimes people look at you like what the hell but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do! I once forgot to request a vegan meal on a 15-hour flight so I ate about 7 mini salads. Learn from my mistakes and make sure you’re organised and prepared! But as I said, most people are so lovely and want to help you, as was the stranger next to me on the flight that offered me her food.
Do you carry any vegan snacks with you on the road?
This makes me laugh because anyone who knows me will know that my number one travel partner is my peanut butter! I constantly have a wide range of snacks but I always have peanut butter and bread in my bag – breakfast sorted! I also usually keep a banana and some nuts on hand. If you ask anyone I have travelled with they’ll confirm that I’m the biggest loser with how excited I get with supermarkets haha. I take every opportunity I can to find new vegan snacks! You will be surprised how many snacks are vegan, lots of nuts, crisps, dried fruit. Amy and I got a worrying oreo obsession whilst in Vietnam.
From my experience, plant based travel isn’t too challenging. Sure, there might be a little extra planning involved but it’s nothing crazy! I’d say travelling through Spain as a vegetarian with a group of meat eaters was a bit complicated but I was able to make it work.
I’ve slowly picked up little tricks from other vegetarians/vegans like Lucy (who taught me that you must always have peanut butter on you!). Before I head out, Lucy is a super talented artist and I encourage anyone who’s interested to check out her art account on Instagram! She also sells her art on Etsy and it’s truly spectacular.
See you next week for another blog!