As many of you may know, this was also my first big trip as a vegan. Before my trip, quite a few people 'warned' me that I would find it challenging, if not very difficult, to 'stay' vegan whilst travelling. Now, after my travels, I thought I'd share some of my experiences and tips on vegan travel and perhaps get some tips in exchange from some of you more experienced vegan travellers as well.
These are just some of the things I experienced, please feel free to share your thoughts!
Commuting - Airport and flights
Come prepared; bring some snacks (or a lot of) for the trip. Apples, carrot sticks, brown rice/quinoa/multigrain cakes, raw and unsalted nuts and some good quality 100% or raw chocolate are all great snacks and will keep well. Remember to bring an empty water bottle that you can refil at the airport. My favourite bottles are from Lifefactory, and although a glass bottle is heavier to carry around, the wide mouth makes them easy to refil and clean.
I would also recommend bringing a travel mug. I don't go anywhere without my Keep Cup and it was the best thing to have on this trip. I had herbal tea bags so I could just ask for hot water in the plane and enjoy my tea at anytime. Bliss!
Be organised; remember to book special meal for your international flights. Different airlines have slightly different options, but "vegan", "raw vegetarian" or "dairy-free vegetarian" are all good options. Yes, it's still airplane food so if you want to be better off, just bring enough food to have during the flights as well.
Eating In and Out
Lets start with the obvious: vegan food is everywhere. No, really, just look around you: vegetables, fruits, grains, olives, legumes, seeds, nuts, you name it. They're all free of animal products. Look for local specialities and local, fresh and seasonal produce. Often times you'll find these ingredients so full of flavour that there is nothing you'll need to do to them, just enjoy them as they are (raw).
I do recommend renting a holiday home, if you can, with cooking facilities. I would recommend this even if you're not vegan. Eating out three meals a day throughout the whole holiday can get a bit too much, especially if you're used to lighter, healthier meals. If you have the opportunity, buy local ingredients from the markets and cook with them. Salads are obviously the easiest way to go as you won't need much cooking utensils, but you can certainly experiment with fancier meals as well.
I love shopping at organic stores and discovering new products that are not available here in Australia. On this trip I was indulging in some good quality 100% chocolate - organic and fair-trade and insanely delicious. I also found delicious local and seasonal vegetables and fruit, organic almonds, olives, bread, etc. There was certainly no shortage of great vegan food!
If you're in a restaurant, I found it easier to ask "does it have any milk or eggs in it?", than "is it vegan?". Not all people know what vegan means, so there is not much point trying to use the term everywhere. On that note, however, you'd be surprised how well people can respond to your dietary choices. I was so impressed how informed my family was: mum had even bought soy cheese (which I don't normally eat, but it was a nice treat to have) and she was very understanding and curious about the way I prepare food and eat. On another occasion, my uncle's wife made me a special batch of pancakes (with coconut milk and whole wheat flour) during our visit to their house. She had also prepared a big load of vegetables and fruit for everyone to share; I was so impressed!
But finally, being vegan is not some sort of a purity contest. What matters to me is to stay consistent. You don't take a holiday from being a vegan, but since you're eating food prepared by others it can be impossible to know every ingredient in your meal. I'm not going to fret whether the vegetables were cooked with butter or oil (chances are they were cooked with cheap vegetable oil anyway), when the main ingredients are clearly vegan. So stay positive and enjoy your holiday!
I made this simple potato and green bean salad from local ingredients back in Provence. It is the simplest meal in terms of ingredients and seasoning, but somehow it works a treat. Served with some fresh bread and olives, it is definitely a satisfying and tasty meal.
Warm Potato and Green Bean Salad
5-6 potatoes, peeled
200-300g green beans, cleaned
1 red onion, very finely sliced
good quality extra-virgin olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Cook the potatoes until just tender, let cool slightly and cut into bite-size pieces.
2. Lightly steam the green beans and cut into pieces.
3. Toss the potatoes, beans and onion in a large bowl with olive oil and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.