What we do
What we do
There’s that infamous scene from the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding that sums up the life of a vegetarian on the road - “you don’t eat no meat? Oh, it’s ok, I make lamb!”. If you haven’t seen it, you must - here’s a sneak peak.
I am that friend. You know which friend I mean - the one that always has a snack ready to go. From granola bars, protein balls, apples, nuts, grapes, I am notorious for having snacks on hand - I am basically a mom in training.
When I travel, I have Clif bars, Larabars, and (my favourite) Taste of Nature Organic granola bars, alongside a bag of almonds and walnuts, all arranged neatly (ish) beside my (clean) socks and (clean) undies. And if I have a few more granola bars to pack, I will (at times) sacrifice that extra pair of shorts I love (or wrap the granolas bars in them and smush my suitcase until they fit).
This does not mean that I am not an adventurous eater when I travel - I really am, and you can be too! It just means that I am cautious, and want to keep my protein, B-12, and iron high so I can be my best self while adventuring! So to supplement the delicious foods I taste and indulge in along the way, I have my trusty snacks close by.
Run out of snacks? No problem. You can almost always find nuts in your destination of choice. Or if not nuts, there may be an equivalent. For example, sesame seed snacks such as halva are abound in the Middle East as are nut infused versions of baklava - yes dessert can = protein sometimes (yay to being veg!). You can always eat rice and veggies while out, and add a sprinkle of almonds from your travel day pack to make it a filling meal while honouring the local culture! Most restaurants will also have eggs available, so it may be wise to ask for an egg to be added to your meal (for example, rice and veggies with an egg on top) to give you the protein kick you need! If you are a vegetarian that is allergic to nuts or eggs, I so appreciate that must be challenging. For you, it will be especially important to bring safe and satisfying snacks with you.
So keep your own snacks on hand, for the flight and along your travels, so that your hunger can be addressed any time, anywhere.
You know that moment when you learned what the eggplant emoji “really” means (yes, in the texting world an eggplant is a penis). Well picture that moment, but happening when you verbally try to ask for vegetarian food, but accidentally ask for _______ (fill in the blank). Yes, I have been there, and yes, it is hysterical but it is also traumatizing when you are super hungry and suddenly presented with a lobster on rice (yes, that has happened).
So be sure to be very clear about what you can and cannot eat, because the term vegetarian may not be as all-encompassing in the local language as it is in English! Instead, the term vegetarian may translate to mean that you don’t eat red meat but that fish and chicken are fair game. So find the local terms for the food you absolutely will not eat - meat, chicken, fish etc.
The International Vegetarian Union actually has an awesome website that can help you! You simply choose your own language, then where you want to travel to, and bingo, the site produces key vegetarian phrases for that part of the world!
When I was living in Thailand, I quickly learned the Thai word for vegetarian - “mang-sa-we-lat. And fortunately, I learned that there was a woman (deemed “the veg lady”) who sold fantastic vegetarian food around the corner from my apartment. In a predominantly Buddhist country, the vegetarian culture is alive and well. However, that is not always the case, so look to Tip #3.
Also be sure to check out vegetarian and vegan blogs in the country/cities within the country you’re planning to visit! They will no doubt have helpful insights as you navigate the local scene, and get to know the culture.
May 15th, 2019
By Chelsea Sauvé
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When I moved to South East Asia for a summer, I knew that fish sauce was an inevitable part of my future. I had not eaten fish in over 20 years, but I knew that as a vegetarian who loves pad thai and curry, I would likely be served vegetarian versions of both made with fish sauce. Was I super comfortable with this? No. Did I have to accept that I would not always be able to control for this factor? Yes. Did I opt to say a small word of thanks to the fish in the (likely present) fish sauce? Yes, I totally did.
I recall when I was looking into travelling to Mongolia, I looked up “vegetarian Mongolia”, and Google suggested that I may want to look up “vegetarian Mongolia beef”. So my piles of Clif bars doubled in preparation for the trip. While I ultimately chose to travel to beautiful Ecuador instead (where I got dengue fever - another great story, for another glorious day), I now know that one day when I travel to Mongolia, I will need to be somewhat flexible or live on my snacks.
In some parts of the world, refusing food is considered offensive which can be very challenging for vegetarians abroad. Refusing someone’s chicken dish can be seen as almost as offensive as giving them the middle finger (stay tuned for a blog post about differing cultural interpretations of what is permissible and what is offensive - it may shock you!). And so, how does one navigate that? Being polite and kind, while observing your own boundaries and honouring yourself is integral. If you feel good about bending your own rules, then go for it. If you don’t, then honour yourself and observe your own guidelines. In my experience, people are the most understanding when they see that you are being your truest self.
Ah the life of a vegetarian. It is one I know well, and is one that I have always enjoyed, and felt at home within. But travelling as a vegetarian is an adventure in and of itself. It can be challenging yet endlessly worthwhile to embrace your values as you explore the world - from the most to the least developed corners of our planet.
In my experience travelling as a vegetarian, I’ve cultivated a few essentials to share! While I have never travelled as a vegan, vegans face unique food challenges when traveling so I have gone far and wide to consult my vegan friends for you! Check out the 5th tip, just for you.
Before you leave, especially if you are about to embark on a long flight, be sure to specify your in-flight meal(s) as vegetarian! It can be a very long journey with pretzels alone (been there). On one flight I was on to Panama, even the salad dressing had chicken stock. One of the flight attendants felt so badly for me, that she gave me her personal snack. Two lessons learned - (1) kind flight attendants can be your heroes, and (2) always pack your own snacks in the event that your vegetarian meal (even if you ordered it in advance) doesn’t pan out!
EthicalTree is an ethical business directory (and blog) based in Canada. It is a very handy source for finding local restaurants, cafés, shops, and other businesses with ethical practices. More specifically for my veg friends and I, the website offers a fabulous assortment of the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Toronto - which gets a "hallelujah" from vegetarians and vegans everywhere.
There are two fantastic apps that you must download. First, the Wandure app. Yes, that is an unapologetic plug - we have great experiences including vegetarian and vegan tours in some cities thanks to our awesome experience providers, and maybe you'll find a vegetarian travel buddy! Second, is the Happy Cow app. Here you’ll find vegetarian and vegan options for all of your travel needs, including lists of vegetarian and vegan restaurants nearby to wherever you may be (there is also Open Veg Map which has a map of vegetarian and vegan restaurants nearby). The Happy Cow website is also full of great information including vegetarian bed and breakfasts around the world, a guide to vegetarian airplane foods, and insight into the top 10 vegetarian friendly cities in the world.
While I have not had personal experience travelling as a vegan, I have asked a few friends what the experience was like.
Without fail, all of them suggested that you book accommodations that provide kitchen access so that you can have flexibility with regards to making your own meals if necessary! It also helps keep you healthy while travelling, which is good for everyone.
Be sure to check out The Vegan Passport which is a multilingual phrasebook and guide to eating vegan anywhere and everywhere you travel! It does cost money to download (maybe $2.00 or so), but can be a vegan’s best travel buddy.
Above all else, travelling as a vegan requires that you have a sense of humour while honouring the essential parts of who you are!
And finally, if you are a meatatarian and love it. This photo is for you.