When travelling to new locations without any friends or family waiting for you, it can get difficult to maintain your diet and still get the proper nutrients you need. While it is usually possible to find vegetarian options, sticking to a stricter vegan diet can get pretty difficult. However, do not fear! Your local vegan community has compiled some in-depth tips and tricks to overcome your obstacles, enjoy healthy food and take in the culture of your destination.
There are many options to do this: if you have a big enough budget, you can take taxis and go to vegan restaurants for each and every meal. By all means - if you can afford this, go right ahead - some experiences will be better than others, but you will certainly have lots of stories and new recipe ideas.
So then, what are the main ideas for helping you stay vegan while on your travels without sacrificing taste or straining your wallet too hard?
1. Firstly, stay somewhere with a kitchen. If you're travelling with someone, it's cheaper, but there are ways you can do this even when alone on the road. It's easy to prepare your own meals; most ingredients in the supermarket usually cost about the same, and depending on where you're travelling they may be cheaper: going to warmer country for example might mean cheaper fruits and local produce. However, I do recommend to keep an emergency sachet of herbs and spices with you. It might sound crazy, but when you get to your perfect beautiful central 2-bedroom AirBnB apartment with a kitchen, you may discover they don't even have salt on hand for the guests! A compulsory travel spice bag includes:
salt+pepper. A proper amount. I also recommend sugar, even if you usually don't take sweets (can be replaced with stevia as well)
Oregano - goes with everything and makes even the most boring tastes supreme. If just oregano is boring, choose an Italian spice mix.
Thyme - pungent taste to perfect all potato dishes and soups.
Curry powder - rice costs next to nothing in every country, and beans or soy are not that hard to find either.
Two bay leaves. They have a multitude of uses and often are exactly what's missing!
I recommend using ziplock bags with labels for this, and storing them in one bigger ziplock or a cloth bag. It's the least room-consuming and most lightweight way by far.
For finding accommodation with a kitchen, it's best to look beyond hotels and (if you have a need for privacy) hostels as well. There are, however, several sites and apps for renting out apartments, or even just rooms. The most famous one undoubtedly is AirBnB.
AirBnB offers homes in nearly every city, starting from private rooms in someone's apartment and ending with entire villas to rent with your friends or family. What better way to spend a vacation (or work trip) than to live in a space that has already been lived in, that already feels like a home? Usually even private rooms come with a kitchen you are allowed to use. Besides homes and rooms for rent AirBnB also offer Experiences for sale, with city bike tours, wine tastings and sports tourism being the most popular categories.
Another possibility is couchsurfing.com. They have an app that works well, and this one can be even more relevant to your travel experience! The Couchsurfing community is a more relationship-oriented platform, with people inviting other travelers into their homes for no fees included, but expect you give something else in return - your experiences, your company - and what could be better than to offer to cook a meal for your host? Love goes through the stomach after all. And what better way to promote the vegan lifestyle! Couchsurfing, by the way, also has a Hangouts page, meaning you can post your profile on a board and write a personal message on what you'd like to do. So, even if you don't want to stay with a stranger, meeting them is awesome! The first time I tried it, I met 6 people whose company I enjoyed very much for the entire night.
2. Information is key to everything, especially quality travel. Google everything: find organic food shops, local markets, cafes or restaurants that cater for your needs. If you happen to find a cozy place you like, ask the employees! Chances are they know about good veggie places nearby. They probably have tips about the local cuisine as well. And, not to mention, tips on what you should do sightseeing and culture wise! Very often, the most famous places for tourists aren't the coolest at all.
Using apps and research engines is another way to find good information. The most famous ones are definitely Tripadvisor and Yelp; they have guests' reviews and tips, and the profiles are usually well-informed on opening and closing times and menu options. Another smaller platform I like (that has lots of other cool things to do) is CultureTrip - a smaller app, however with beautiful interface and excellent suggestions on activities, lists of restaurants etc.
And just googling location+keyword is a good start as well!
3. ...and then do some more research! You can do this whenever, it doesn't take long - do it while waiting for the plane, when buying tickets, booking hotels or stays. Do it on the bus. Do it sitting on the toilet. I don't care, just do it!
If healthy food and your (vegan) diet plays an important role in your life, have a notebook at hand with useful phrases and words you have thought of before!
Some examples of what you should have in there include:
⦁ vocabulary: meat, fish, chicken, butter, eggs, cheese, milk, cream, ham, olive oil. gluten, lactose, vegetarian. If you have allergies, remember those words especially.
Does this contain meat/fish/dairy/eggs? (or alternatively, do you have anything without ____?
I am allergic to ____.
Do you have vegetarian options?
I cannot consume animal products.
Is this made with animal fats?
⦁ And of course, if we're already talking, some basic phrases for ordering food and being polite. These could never NOT be useful!
4. Prepare snacks, or at least think of how to prepare snacks. Have snack recipes and ideas ready. I'd even keep an A5-sized personal cookbook for simple recipes, shopping lists and snack ideas on hand - for when you're not feeling too inspired to figure out something new and awesome. This is useful for when not travelling also! Simple snacks include fruit (lots of it! All the time! Even when not travelling!) nuts-raisins-dried fruit mixes, granola bars, veggies with hummus, etc. Snacks and smaller meals are essential to keeping up your game while travelling, especially when taking long hikes in the city - you can often find a nice park bench, a staircase or other comfortable place to have a little snack and refurbish yourself for your next adventure.
Hopefully your next travel adventure will be simpler food wise - your imagination can take you a long way! Start your little cooking notebook today. Write down essential shopping lists, breakfast and snack ideas, recipes for whole meals - and of course, personal reviews of restaurants you go to. Getting heavily inspired from a restaurant meal and cooking it in your home later is a great way to expand your culinary skills - not to mention have a delicious dinner!
Your imagination is the only thing stopping you from living the life and having the perfect trips you want.