How to Stay Vegan While Traveling
The past 8 years of my life has been a whirlwind of planes, trains and automobiles. While there are endless advantages to being able to work all over the world (my life is definitely not boring) there are certain things I struggle with regularly. One of these is diet, an incredibly important part of anyones life. Food. We need it to survive, we convert it into energy to be able to do our jobs and function on a daily basis, and I don’t know about you, but food makes me happy. I love to eat. But I am in front of the camera most days, so shoveling pizza and chocolate into my mouth probably isn’t going to do me any favors. I also have the most irritating dietary requirements on the planet. I’m vegan and I try to avoid gluten. I eat leaves. Which is fine by me, because I happen to like leaves. That being said, have you ever tried telling someone in a Paris coffee shop you can’t have dairy? Or a Spanish waiter, that you don’t eat meat? And that fish is definitely still a living animal? Traveling and maintaining a specific diet is a nightmare. I won’t lie to you, there have been times I haven’t eaten for an entire day because there simply is NOTHING I can eat. In general, I won’t let this happen, and if I am within a mile of a grocery store I am fine. But when I’m stuck in the mountains in a villa full of dudes that speak no english and survive only on full fat milk and steak…. it’s hard.
So here is what I have learned, after 8 years of traveling the world, being vegetarian and, in recent years, vegan. Here's how to stay vegan while traveling.
Bring Your Own Food
Whether I am visiting family or friends, going on holiday or traveling for work I will ALWAYS pack my own food. There is no telling what will be on the other side. Prepare for the worst. I usually take some bread, peanut butter, a box of green tea and a bag of apples. Things that don’t immediately need refrigerating and won’t smell or go off in a day. This isn’t a lot, but believe me, when you’re starving hungry and no one understands that ‘chicken’ isn’t vegetarian. That bag of apples looks pretty good. It’s not ideal, but it is a vegan safety net that I absolutely swear by.
Grocery Stores Are Your Best Friend
If you are near a grocery store or supermarket then you are going to be fine, you don’t NEED to eat out every night. If I am staying in a hotel that has nothing I can eat on the room service menu, I usually buy a ton of fruit and vegetables to keep in my mini bar fridge that keep me going should I not be able to find appropriate feeding quarters to fit my needs.
If you are in rented accommodation with a kitchen, than you can cook your own food. This for me, is the dream. I hate eating out in most cases, because my panic ridden mind consistently worries about what I’m actually eating, who prepared it, what’s really in it, and who has touched it. I can't know many calories am I actually consuming, because I know this is a salad but that dressing is thick and I’m pretty sure it has more sugar then the chocolate fudge surprise they are serving for dessert. I’m a head case, but you catch my drift. If I could cook my own food everyday, for every meal, I would be the happiest girl alive. My boyfriend offers to cook frequently, especially if I’ve had a long day or I’ve been working. Although he is an amazing cook, I actually find cooking incredibly therapeutic and enjoy it more than most things. Which is bizarre because up until two or three years ago, I didn’t even know how to work an oven…
Don't Turn Your Nose Up At Starbucks
I know this doesn’t exactly sound like the advice of a health guru but Starbucks is your friend. Let me tell you why: Aside from the fact that every single Starbucks in the world has free wifi, they also stock soya milk, my least favourite of all the non dairy milks, but it IS non dairy and when you need that coffee in the morning finding somewhere that you know for sure will have something you can drink is a little ray of sunshine. These coffee chains also generally sell salads, vegan wraps and fruit. Yes, it’s over priced, not great quality and probably tastes like cardboard, but atleast they made the effort.
Use An App
There are tons of these apps and websites that actually cater for vegetarians and vegans, to make sure they know where they can eat. Happy Cow is my absolute favorite and has shown me some amazing places in London and LA, and saved my life when I lived in Budapest a few summers ago. The app allows you to plug in your location, town, zip code or street name and select whether you want vegan, vegetarian or veggie friendly options. The app also gives you the option to search for stores that sell vegan friendly food, as well as cafes and restaurants to suit your needs. This app is my bible when I’m traveling, and even when I’m not. Sometimes I want to find a new place to eat in London and voila! Happy Cow to the rescue. Happy Cow also gives you the option to add to the page, so if you discover a hidden gem that isn’t already on the app/website you can add it to help out fellow herbivores nearby.
Something I frequently forget to do when I’m flying long haul, because I’m generally fussing over everything else in my life, is to book the vegan meal on the plane. When you’re checking in for your flight online or at the desk there is always an option for a speciality meal. You absolutely must remember to tell the airline of your dietary requirements because they next to never stock extra Vegan friendly food. The last time I flew to LA from London, I forgot to mention I was Vegan. The usual option of cheese pasta or beef casserole was served and I asked for a Vegan meal, which I hadn’t ordered. There was none spare. Luckily they had a children’s meal spare and I could eat the salad from the adult meal, some crisps and a bag of apples and grape from the kids meal. Over the 11 hour flight I was increasingly irritated with myself for not thinking ahead and obviously, extremely hungry. Thinking ahead doesn’t just apply to flying, thinking ahead comes under remembering to pack your own food, checking out where you’re staying before hand on google to see what’s nearby and planning for the worst.
I took my boyfriend to Iceland in January for his 30th birthday and my biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be able to eat anywhere with our fussy diets. Luckily, I researched Reykjavik intensively beforehand and worked our where every single vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant was in comparison to our hotel. We were lucky enough to be staying 50ft from an amazing Vegan restaurant called Glo where we ended up eating most nights.
There Is Almost Always Something Accidentally Vegan
I know a lot of people are embarrassed to do it, and even more embarrassed to sit next to someone that does it, but it is ok to ask for special things in a restaurant. I frequently ask for things without cheese, or minus the chicken. It’s a note on a ticket, the chef has to not add that one ingredient, it’s not the end of the world. With my job, I frequently find myself in awkward situations where the company I am working for has tried to be nice by taking myself and others out for dinner and completely missed the boat by taking us to a steak house. In this situation I would politely order a side salad and maybe some chips while I silently hate myself and think of how fat I’m getting by eating them. In general, there is always something vegan on the menu, even if it is accidentally vegan, like chips. I’m not going to lie, this is my nightmare situation, I am so actively aware of what I’m eating that having little to no choice in a restaurant tends to make me a bit panicky. BUT I have absolutely no problem asking the waiter to sub my order, adding and subtracting ingredients where possible to make it edible.
Where I can, and when it doesn’t look too rude, I tend to avoid going out for these dinners on work trips. Just to save my inner anxiety and the awkwardness of having to explain to a room full of hungry carnivores that I don’t think I can eat anything on the menu, and having them try to persuade me to stay and eat something ‘one piece of chicken won’t hurt', maybe not, but it would upset me greatly. Which is why I choose not to eat it.