Food blogger Sean O’Callaghan of Fat Gay Vegan discusses how travelling as a vegan can be done with a little preparation and thought. As the lifestyle choice becomes more and more popular this guide to travelling as a vegan could be the information you need.
Travelling as a vegan has changed drastically over the past decade. Travel used to be an area in which we had to make a lot of sacrifices but as you will read if you have the funds to move about as you please there is no reason why you can’t do it from a vegan perspective.
Travel isn’t simply a way to spend time you are not working doing something fun or relaxing, it is a valuable experience for broadening your understanding of the world,
meeting new people, and developing your compassionate outlook. Crossing borders can open your eyes to what other people are going through, affording you an opportunity to reflect on how your individual choices impact people, the environment and animals all over the planet. Some vegans, especially newbies, might feel a bit intimidated by the idea of visiting new cities and countries as a plant-based traveller. Managing interactions with restaurant servers in your hometown is one thing, but having to explain dietary restrictions in another language can be daunting. Language barriers can combine with anxieties about being out of your comfort zone to make even the most resilient vegan think twice about getting out into the great big world.
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Like many areas of life, us vegans can make the experience of travelling less stressful and more welcoming by being prepared. Mitigate your concerns around language by arming yourself with common phrases outlining your vegan requirements. Pick travel destinations that are vegan-friendly and travel with a plant-based buddy. The fulfilment you get from travelling can far outweigh the negatives. Be ready in advance and your veganism shouldn’t get in your way of experiencing exciting new horizons.
Think about your in-flight meal
If you need proof of how much the world has swung in the direction of normalising veganism, have a look at in-flight airline meals. There was a time when a fourteen-hour flight from Australia to anywhere would result in nothing being offered by the airline. It was common practice to not serve any vegan options. Nowadays most major airlines have vegan in-flight options, although this varies wildly and a vegan meal might not even be called a vegan meal. Just because a vegan meal has been requested and logged, don’t assume you are actually going to end up with a fully plant-based dish in front of you. Of course, there are obvious mistakes such as butter instead of dairy free spread, but I’ve even found a tray of lamb chunks in gravy placed on my seat back tray table. Pay attention, do your best by ordering ahead, and always take back up supplies.
Online guides and smartphones have helped herald in a vegan travel revolution. Happycow is the most famous and most accessed online guide for vegan travellers. The site allows users to filter by region or city, as well as combing through for businesses that are a hundred percent vegan. You can search for grocery stores, caterers, bakeries, restaurants, juice bars, delis, shoe stores, boutiques, hotels, bed and breakfasts and pretty much anything you might need or want while you are on the road. Barnivore is similar but focused on alcohol – listing brands and breweries as well as wine, beer, cider, champagne and spirits from all over the world.
Specialised travel companies
If you are a vegan with more money than most, you can make use of the many specialised travel companies popping up around the globe. These businesses craft bespoke vacations and holiday experiences such as luxury fully vegan river cruises throughout Europe, raw food retreats in southeast Asia and hiking adventures through stunning terrain all over the planet.
If you are in the position to take a vacation but you are not in a position to spend a lot of cash, there are a few approaches you can explore in order to have an enjoyable break. Self-catering vacations are not only a great way to make holidays more affordable, they also allow the concerned vegan to take full control over meal planning. I know it’s fun to dine out but when you don’t have the funds, you do what you can. Spending a little bit extra on an apartment with a small kitchen will mean you can prepare all your meals in house, you get to eat exactly what you want, and the money saved might just be the difference between taking a vacation or staying at home.
A leap forward for vegan travellers with not a lot of disposable cash is house sitting. Vegan camping makes for a more affordable holiday experience and I’m aware of community-driven vegan camping experiences in the UK, Australia and the USA. This is a great DIY alternative for people not wanting to negotiate housesitting services or who are looking for a more sociable experience and a way to make new friends. The basic premise involves a group of vegans finding a location, splitting the site hire costs, and sharing food and experiences in an outdoor setting.
Just like every other action, we take during our time on this planet, travelling results in impacts that can sometimes be damaging. Travelling while respecting cultures, countries and people around the planet takes some thoughtful consideration. Just as we would in the areas and regions where we live, there are a lot of ethical issues we need to think through as we try to live vegan on the road. We need to not only work out the best way that we can lessen the suffering of non-human animals, we also need to ensure we are being mindful of what our travel actions are doing to the people and places we visit.
Travelling prepared as a vegan is not something I suggest lightly – it is a straight up necessity. You can save yourself a lot of stress and hungry times by putting things in place and thinking ahead. I have discovered that planning food stops, asking about vegan options ahead of time, and even carrying my own pantry staples on some occasions has saved me a lot of unnecessary grief. You wouldn’t want to spend a week on the road with a hungry Fat Gay Vegan!
Credit: Sean O’Callaghan is the award-winning blogger behind Fat Gay Vegan, and the event's organizer behind the wildly popular Hackney Vegan Market and Vegan Beer Festivals all over the country. His debut book Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give a Sh!t is published by Nourish Books in January - it is a manifesto for compassion.[amazon box="184899351X"]