Traveling somewhere new is thrilling. There you are, standing in a church older than your country or jogging across an esplanade in the morning light, thinking about ditching your whole life and learning to cobble. Or maybe you’re at this quaint little corner restaurant, famished and the staff is charmingly unable to understand the word vegan. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are eight tips for traveling while vegan:
Sounds obvious, but it’s going to be better for you and everyone else, if you know beforehand that the beer-like drink brought to your tent by the local Mongolian farmers is actually fermented mare’s milk.
Sure, letting yourself get lost can be the most memorable part of any trip. But if you do so while hangry, this will be the most memorable part of your trip for the wrong reasons. Research and plan your major meals in advance, so when you spontaneously decide to stop into that adorable little bistro with the adorably unhelpful service, you can stick to getting ripped on espresso until your dinner reservation.
This can be a great way to learn about local culinary traditions, while also enabling you to vet all the ingredients well in advance over email. Hand-rolling pasta with some erudite guy named Giuseppe and his nana at their idyllic Tuscan farmhouse is about as Italian as it gets, and you’re in the kitchen, so you’ll see every ingredient going on to your plate.
“Your body can store the fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E and K — in the liver and your fatty tissues for various amounts of time,” says Sidney Fry, MS, RD. Meaning, you may want to dose up before you go, to avoid any deficiencies.
HappyCow is full of crowdsourced recommendations for vegan-friendly restaurants all over the world. But especially if you’re traveling with carnivorous foodies, you may need more help. Google Translate means you can talk to just about anybody in the world now, which can lead to hilarious misunderstandings because language is thorny and nuanced and full of context that no algorithm could possibly parse. Still, it might help get your waiter clear on “no animal.” If not, be very, very, very friendly and try the Vegan Passport, which provides your waiter a brief reading on your dietary restrictions in one of 79 languages. If that’s still not working, it also has photos of beans and vegetables next to happy faces and animal products next to sad faces.
Foodwise, you can bring just about any solids through TSA. Even the guy behind you with the live lobster is well within his rights, though you’ve got a little time to convince him to set it free. Anyway, nut bars are good, too.
It’s not just the restaurants that give you a taste of the local culture — it’s the spice markets, the bodegas, the little shops on the corner. You and your travel date can take as long as you need to pull dinner together in the narrow aisles and take in the sunset back on the balcony of your AirBnB. As for breakfast: “Oats and bulgur are great,” says Fry, “because they can be soaked overnight in water, coconut and almond milk.” In the morning, she suggests stirring in nuts and dried fruit.
Maybe you’re in a roadside diner where veganism borders on heresy or maybe you fear your waiter is going to slip pork fat into your food if you point to one more photo of a happy head of lettuce in your phone. Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, you’ll get that feeling that something isn’t right, and you’ll get that feeling at a time when you need food immediately before your trip goes up in flames. This is a time to keep things simple: salads or steamed vegetables, maybe the bread basket. You’ve been here before and you’ll be here again, even if you become a cobbler.