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By Karen Sondak, science teacher and six-time GEEO traveler
Those who know me know I love to travel. Mysteriously I was born into a family that did not travel. The first time I traveled was when I was 13 years old. I went with the YMCA, and we were gone all summer camping and visiting National Parks. I was already a vegetarian but the only food memories I have of that trip are being introduced to avocados, artichokes, and Taco Bell. Since that early trip, I’ve been traveling whenever I can and I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at eating healthy and vegan.
As you already know, the obstacles to travel are many. You can add to that long list, food issues if you are vegetarian/vegan, or have any host of other dietary restrictions. General recommendations would be to pack vegan protein bars (something with about 20 grams of protein), seeds and nuts. Also, remember your B12 vitamins. There are now vegan energy chews that will supply 100% of your daily B12 requirement and have electrolytes. Do your homework; check out some of the resources I’ve listed at the end of this article. I liken food to clothing, I never pack anything I don’t mind losing or damaging, so try to remain true to your ideals, but accept and move on from an unsolicited slip up.
So you have chosen your destination, now you have to get there. Although you can order special meals for international flights, and many people do, remember it is still airplane food. My philosophy is food on planes; just plain forget about it and bring your own.
The continent is vast, so it is hard to generalize. A few things to keep in mind would be: go prepared, know ahead of time restaurants you want to eat at, and bring food on train trips. These days most restaurants have vegan options listed. I found Italy particularly easy to eat great meals everywhere. Iceland is more than whale and puffin, so yes, you can eat as a vegan fairly easily at least in Reykjavik.
When friends found out I was going to India I got the same response “oh India, it’s a vegetarian’s paradise”, or some take on that. Well not so fast, beef on the street, not beef on the plate is true, but when looking for vegan dishes you might be fooled. Ghee (clarified butter) is in many unsuspecting dishes like dal, I found I had to check each and every time I considered eating it. Naan, chapati, and roti usually have butter on them or they were cooked in butter, so beware there too. Keep in mind that vegetarian means no meat, but it doesn’t include butter, cheese, or milk. Vegan thalis are one of my favorite Indian dishes, but they are often served with dairy so ask and have your server see that these foods are omitted. In Vietnam, ask about the pho because traditionally the broth is made from beef or pork, although occasionally you can find vegetable based pho. And beware of the fish sauce that is lurking in the most unexpected places, such as papaya salad. In Thailand, Nepal (go for the momo’s), Bhutan, you can always find vegan food.
The countries have much more that beans, rice and corn, and of course it depends where you are but you will be amazed at the diversity. The key to many of the dishes are the sauces and salsas, spicy or not, so even plain rice can become a differentiated feast.
Vegan food can be found and of course the Aussies speak English, but you are going to have to pay. I found food and everything else to be expensive there. I remember traveling to the outback and ordering the vegan option: salad sandwich, which was two pieces of white bread, two pieces of thinly sliced tomato, and mustard on one slice of the bread, cost $21.50.
For specific city vegan blogs, guides, and videos check out the web site Vegantravelers.com and Trip Advisor.com
I came across a free download for a free mini e-book called 9 Steps for Easy Vegan Travel by Wendy Werneth at https://www.happycow.net/moozine/steps-to-be-vegan-thanks This is from the fun and informative website happy cow https://www.happycow.net/blog/
And keep an eye out for “Vegan Round the World: The Series” a film in five episodes coming out soon that visits ten Countries. It promises to be the World’s First International Vegan Documentary Series.
Lastly there is the phone app called V Cards:Vegan abroad that has a cheat card stating you are vegan and eat no egg, dairy, meat animal products in 106 languages.
And happy travels!!!!