Home Podcast Episode 7: Vegan Travel 101

Episode 7: Vegan Travel 101

written by Sam and Veren May 7, 2020
Episode 7: Vegan Travel 101

In this episode, we’ll go over our top 10 vegan travel tips. These are the steps that we take whenever we’re going to a new destination!

We’ll also talk about common, limiting beliefs and attitudes towards vegan travel (and why we think these naysayers don’t know what they’re talking about).

Maybe you’re already vegan or plant-based at home, but you’re afraid of taking your first trip as a vegan. This is super common, so don’t feel bad. But know that vegan travel does not have to be hard or a drag, like non-vegans will tell you.

And for you long-time vegans, we’ll share more “next level” tips for your vegan travel game.

Subscribe and listen to The House Sitting Travel Podcast below or on your favorite podcast app. Just search House Sitting Travel in your app of choice or click these links: Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher.

You’ll Learn

  • What is “authentic” in tourism
  • Concerns most people have when considering whether they want to try traveling as a vegan (maybe you are plant-based at home but are afraid to bring your vegan values on your trip)
  • What we think is bullshit about attitudes toward vegan travel
  • How to transform limiting beliefs around vegan travel
  • Our top 10 vegan travel tips
  • Why Happy Cow is an invaluable resource
  • How we choose where to eat in a destination
  • What types of places we personally prefer
  • The importance of vegan blogs
  • How to evaluate the source of vegan travel information
  • Sam’s pet peeves about certain articles written about vegan restaurants
  • How to use social media to find vegan food and connect with local vegans
  • Pitfalls to avoid when using social media to find recommendations
  • Our opinion on Instagramable restaurants and Insta-influencers who get comped meals
  • Language learning tips and some Google Translate hacks
  • How to find out if a dish has animal products in it
  • Our favorite travel snacks to pack
  • Our opinion on grocery shopping in other countries
  • How to order vegan meals for your flight
  • Staying flexible in different destinations

Links + Resources Mentioned in the Episode

These transcripts have been automatically generated and then edited by us, so please excuse any typos, missed capitalization, weird phrasing, etc. Humans talk very differently than they write, as we’ve learned! There are just topics that just lend themselves better to conversations rather than blog posts, but we also want the podcast to be accessible to all.

Hit the green “plus” button below or hit download to access the full transcript.

Sam: A lot of people are becoming more curious and interested in eating more plant-based or going all vegan for a variety of reasons and we get asked a lot about how to travel as a vegan.

>>>>And also um, we're going to have a downloadable kind of cheat sheet of these top 10 tips. I will link to it in the show notes, so don't worry about you know, like writing them all down, you can just go to the show notes and then you can download that.

I mean, eating vegan at home is one thing but what about when you're traveling? So in this episode, we're just gonna share our top suggestions to get you started but first - why? Why should people travel as vegans? Or why should they eat vegan while traveling?

So to start off, let's talk about why vegan travel? Why is this important?

Veren: Vegan travel is important for so many reasons. It's more ethical, it's more responsible, it's more environmentally friendly. It's a better way to support communities where you're going and discourage tourism that isn't ethical for example, there are tons of reasons, tons and tons of reasons, but what we're trying to say is that traveling as a vegan doesn't need to be particularly hard. If you want to live a life that’s more aligned with your values and if those values go against the mainstream culture, yes, it will be harder but it doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be particularly hard.

Sam: I think a lot more people are realizing now how big of an impact animal agriculture has on the environment. The percentage of carbon emissions that comes from animal agriculture is similar to (some say even higher) than the entire transportation sector overall.

We have always been very passionately adamant about the intersection of sustainability and veganism because there are people on both sides. You know, maybe people are sustainable travelers and they're super ethical about where they stay or what they do, and this or that, but they don't think twice about what's on their plate three times a day. Alternatively, there are vegan travelers who think just because of their vegan they can take a flight five times a month, you know.

So in this episode, we’re going to talk specifically about the food aspect of vegan travel. So, one thing that a lot of people think when it comes to vegan travel, is they think that they're gonna be missing out.

Veren: Yeah they think that the only experience to be had to quote unquote authentically experience another culture is to just do everything that they do which includes eating meat and dairy or animal products in general and that's just not true.

Even as a person who's not vegan, there's absolutely things you're gonna not partake in for moral reasons, for preferences, like there's gonna be foods that you just don't eat. So this idea that some fear of missing out should guide your moral choices or affect your values while you travel is just ridiculous.

You don't need to do that. And often a lot of the foods we think of as “authentic” or actually stuff that's just pedaled to tourists that locals actually don't eat at all. And this is the case with a lot of animal foods, actually.

Sam: Yeah, I think a perfect example is paella. You know, the typical Spanish dish. Everyone goes to Spain and they're like, ‘I need to eat paella’ and so you'll see in Madrid, that tons of places that serve it. But it's not even from Madrid. It's from Valencia - the coast - because it has tons of seafood in it.

So what you’re getting in Madrid is literally just frozen prepackaged paella. That’s not authentic.Traditionally, you'd have to order a whole giant pan of it. You can't just get a personal serving of paella. It's just not how it works. So point being what is authentic travel anyway?

I honestly just hate that word. I feel like it's been co-opted by the tourism industry or Instagrammers who want to show you how “hashtag authentic” they are. I just think it's bullshit and I think it's just a way to make you feel like you need to be doing particular things in order to be experiencing that country. But if you're there and you're connecting with people and you're choosing to do the things that you want to do, you know, obviously like assuming it's not causing harm to anyone, but like - everyone's experience is gonna be different who's to say that one person’s is more authentic than the other’s. I think it just goes back to when we talked in our vegan origin stories episode about how it's just socially acceptable to pick on vegans. This translates to vegan travel to like I just think you know, oh well, you can't travel authentically as a vegan because you won't be eating this or that or the other thing. Like virtually every country has dishes or foods that are accidentally vegan.

So we'll get into that when we get into our tips later in the episode. You know, if you're thinking about eating more plant-based or even going out vegan or maybe trying to eat vegan on your next trip, like maybe you eat vegan at home but not while you're traveling because you are afraid you'll be missing out like - don't let that stop you.

There is so much that you can experience, you know as a vegan and there's obviously tons of parts of culture that has nothing to do with food. Tood is a big part of culture yeah but there's a lot other things that you can do that have nothing to do with animal exploitation.

Veren: I would also add that like what about the vegans that live in those countries? Are they not living as authentic citizens of those countries? If you ask them that - which we've done - especially in Spain, they'll say “that's not my culture.”

Most people who eat meat wouldn't go to see a bullfight. So it’s this idea that you’ve got to be not vegan or suddenly like I don't know maybe flexible with your morals and values or what's important to you in order to experience something.

I think that's just a bigger commodification of culture and the tourism industry just trying to sell you everything and make you spend your money on everything.

Sam: Yeah definitely. So in this episode we want to show you that yes, it does take a little more for thought and planning than you know, just rolling up to whatever restaurant you happen to come across while you're traveling, but it doesn't have to be particularly hard either. You don't have to make it seem like this unattainable, unaccessible, not possible thing.

I know from my part that traveling as a vegan, I've eaten way better meals consistently like across the board than when I did before I was vegan. I had some really terrible meals before becoming vegan because you know just be walking along and be like “I'm starving right now, it's been a long day of sightseeing or whatever,I want to eat right now in this restaurant.” A lot of times, if you don't know any better, you might end up going to a tourist trap just because it's on a nice plaza or something like that. I definitely had a lot of bad meals because when you're not doing your research, you end up at shitty places a lot of the time.

I know for me, veganism in general just transformed my relationship with food and also travel. I really enjoy looking forward to specific places or specific meals or just learning more about the cuisine. It has really enhanced my travel actually.

Veren: I would add to that if you're one of those people who like to go off the beaten path, veganism is a great way to do that. You're gonna seek out lesser known spots, you're gonna seek out things that are not on the main streets aimed at tourists and all that. If you spend more time looking for the tucked away little spots that are willing to help accommodate veganism, you'll find more often than not that you'll have more possibility for connection to the people, to the owners, to the people eating there, meeting someone who will take you to these spots.

There's just more opportunity to have a very real experience as opposed to something that's marketed and packaged for you to be like “this is how you experience this place by eating at this place that everyone else goes to all the time and only tourists go to.” So in a lot of ways you could have - despite us not liking the word authentic - you could have a more real experience by trying to take the vegan path when you're traveling.

Sam: Yeah definitely. I mean for sure we've connected with so many restaurant owners from vegan places all around the world and it's so cool. They're always so excited, and you know assuming it's not super busy or whatever, like they're so excited to chat with you. There've been countless times when we've connected with people at a local vegan place, you know, both restaurant owners, servers, even just other people in the restaurant. The vegan community is very welcoming, I think for the most part, especially when you're traveling. Vegans want other vegans to have a great experience in their home country.

Cool, so our number one first tip is to use Happy Cow. So Happy Cow is a website and app that is basically like a vegan Yelp or Tripadvisor, but it's just for restaurants. You can find all vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and restaurants with significant vegan options. The website's completely free and the app is like three dollars or something but it's a one-time thing and it's totally worth it to support a vegan business and to find vegan food around the world.

It's great, like you have the app and you can use your location to see vegan food near you or you can search. If you want to look in advance of a trip, you can search for the city or the place or whatever. You can search for all vegan restaurants, vegetarian, vegan options, it's all like users submitted,but it has all the vegan restaurants on there and you can always add if you find a new restaurant that is not on there.

The biggest, most important thing for me, is that everyone using the app is looking for vegan food. So the reviews are all from people that understand what vegan food is all about. Sometimes, I also will look on Google Maps to check opening hours or whatever and a lot of times vegan restaurants might have reviews from people that stumbled into the restaurant and didn't realize it was vegan and they just gave it a bad review because they didn't like that it was vegan or something. So that's annoying.

I like that Happy Cow is just from all people looking for vegan food and understand that that's what it's all about. It's pretty much the first place that I go to when we're looking at our upcoming trip or even where we currently are or whatever. You can even message other people through the app to connect with people and all that stuff so that's just the first thing that I always tell people if they're like, ‘how do I find vegan places?’ that's just number one, what you should do is get Happy Cow.

Veren: Yeah think of Happy Cow as a great place to start. It's not the be all and end all of what your vegan experience is gonna be like. It just allows you to tap into a network that exists for that area and then through those things you might find a lot more stuff that you maybe never even thought of looking for in the first place. You'll get a lot of reviews from people who are not just travelers but also locals too. It's not necessarily a travel app. Just think of it as you know, like Sam said before, a vegan Yelp or Tripadvisor kind of thing. You're gonna have a lot of locals who will talk about a place and say, ‘oh this is good, but this place does this better.’ You'll see lots of examples like that. So it's really helpful and it's always fun when we're looking at a new place to check out Happy Cow.

Sam's usually the first one on it, she immediately starts looking at all the places. It helps you decide what places are worth your attention and what aren't. We don't just arbitrarily go to every vegan place that's listed on Happy Cow. We go to the ones that interest us. For example, juice bars. They have their place, but we generally don't go out to juice bars or smoothie bars. If we are in a place where the only 100% vegan place is a juice bar, but then there's two or three vegetarian restaurants that have really exciting vegan options, we're gonna prioritize those vegetarian places.

We always ultimately want to be excited about the vegan food that we're going to go try. Of course, we always want to patronize 100% vegan places, but it depends on the scene where you're looking. You'll get a real sense of those things when you use Happy Cow.

Sam: Yeah, and I was going to say to that point, they're always adding new features and stuff. So you can now filter out if you don't want to see juice bars and stuff like that. You can also filter by a bunch of different things. One thing I like doing is filtering by highest rated. So you can see the highest rated restaurants in the city. You can also filter by most reviewed and by price. So you can see what the cheapest places are and that's really good because it’s really hard to gauge that if you're looking on Google Maps, for example. They might have the dollar signs there, but you can't necessarily filter by that.

So, I think that's a really cool feature but yeah, there are a lot of things that you can do and it's just, really the first first thing I think that people should do when they're trying to look for vegan food in a different place. Just get the app.

Yeah, so tip number two is to read blogs, ideally local blogs, i f there are any. Just search vegan Paris, vegan Madrid vegan whatever or if restaurants in X Place in Google and you'll find a lot of articles written by bloggers. What I always suggest is to know your source.

We're bloggers and so we write these vegan guides and we read a lot of vegan blogs when I'm doing some research for a new place. Like sometimes there’ll be articles - this is a pet peeve honestly, it bugs me so much - there are articles written by people who aren't vegan, but now that veganism is becoming a thing and popular, they want to just jump on the train and write an article to get people to come to their website.

So they'll just throw up, you know a quick article but they have no idea about the vegan scene, so just really look around you know, don't just, necessarily go for the first article you see on there because it might be from a big website but they might not know what they're talking about.

Veren: Yeah, you definitely want to consider your source on this because often when you Google, a site that's bigger and has been around a long time will rank higher than like a small little blog.

Case in point, when we were writing a lot about vegan food in Spain, all the sudden an article from Vogue jumped up the ranks. I don't even know if Vogue even counts as a lifestyle magazine. I just don't understand how that even happened. They must have been able to pitch to the higher ups like, “Hey, this will get a lot of readers to come to the site through this article.” The writer clearly did not try even like 10% of what it was available [in terms of vegan food]. They tried to market it as a guide and it was very obvious that the author maybe didn't even try some of this food. They just go online and take descriptions based off of what is represented online. So you need to be really, really careful sometimes with this stuff and just again consider the source.

That doesn't mean that people who aren't vegan can't write good information on these things. But you need to think about what their intention is and what they're trying to offer you, as the reader. Often a lot of vegan blogs are trying to help promote veganism and they want to send you to places that have good food, ideally, but even then they can fall trap to like, oh it's vegan so it's worth going to and they don't really say much about the quality of food. So just like any reviews you'd read anywhere, consider the source, consider what they wanted or expected of the place, and what it provided.

Just because the place is vegan doesn't automatically make it good or worth your time going to. So yeah just always you know be thorough.

Sam: Yeah, like I said, it's just such a pet peeve of mine because like even on vegan blogs, sometimes you'll see - this is I've seen this happen many times - in an article, it's clear that they maybe went to one restaurant on the list and just wanted to write an article about it. I'm just like...I don't know if you guys have opinions on this, I'd be really interested to hear. So drop us a line because I want to hear about your opinions.

If I'm just looking for a list of places, I can find that on Happy Cow, like we just talked about. But when I'm going to a website, I want to read from someone who knows their food, a food writer, like why you should go to specific places, what you should eat, this or that. It just really bugs me to see articles that are just clearly written to get readers to their site, but they're not necessarily the most helpful, it’s just a list. Ugh, I’ll stop, but it's just so annoying.

I'm really curious to hear what other people think about that. Is that helpful? Maybe it is. I don't find it helpful but that's just me. Maybe I'm just salty.

So we're bloggers and we read blogs, but also you can also find information on YouTube. There's YouTube videos, you know search for: vegan in X place. Neither of us really watch YouTube much, so I can't talk about any other tips there, but I know that there's plenty of vegan YouTubers out there. If you prefer to watch that stuff in video format, then go to YouTube.

Just try to find some legit reputable sources. It'll take a little more than just clicking on the first article or video you see but you'll have a much better experience for it if you take the advice of someone who's being honest. And also someone that's not being freaking paid to eat somewhere. That annoys me too.

Veren: One last point I want to make when it comes to deciphering reviews. If all they have to say is that a place was awesome or amazing, and they just keep saying amazing like over and over again, it doesn't mean anything. So yes they might really feel that about the food they ate but you need to be able to take away something. So we're not asking for people to write on like super food critic Bon Appetit kind of level, but just describe the food, say what made it good and why they liked it, not just that it's amazing.

Sam: Tip number three: use social media! In case maybe you don't feel like reading a whole blog post or watching a whole video, using social media is great. You can find great recommendations and tips. For example, if you like Instagram, use hashtags:#vegannyc, #veganMiami, whatever it is. You'll find recommendations, and then the great thing with that too is that you can see some nice yummy photos of food so you can look at what catches your eye immediately. You might even find good bloggers that way or YouTubers or whatever. So this is also something that I love doing, I'm big into Instagram and have definitely connected with people that way.

So on Facebook, what I found really helpful is local vegan groups. When we were in Bosnia, I joined a vegan Bosnian group, vegans and vegetarians in Bosnia Group. It was kind of hard to find at first because it was in Bosnian and so I I didn't search for that, but somehow I found it. I was able to ask for recommendations in the group. You can also ask for language tips or about events. If you're listening to this podcast, obviously you're an English speaker, which is kind of de facto world language so even if you don't speak the language that most people are speaking in the group, if you post an English, there'll be people that will answer you.

You can also join the big vegan travel group that I am one of the admins of. It's literally just called “vegan travel” and there's like 35,000 members in there right now. You can search in there for what you're looking for. You can ask a question and we have resource posts for popular cities that get asked about frequently. So that's a really good resource as well if you prefer Facebook.

Veren: I definitely think the importance of Facebook groups cannot be overstated because it's what inspired us to write our very first ever vegan city guide, which was on Salt Lake City. The group was so helpful. The people in that group gave us all the places they thought we should try, everyone chimes in, and it's very active too.

So some groups are more active than others, but that group was so active and had so much information that helped us. Despite the city having so many vegan restaurants, no one had really written about it. So we'll get into that in another podcast episode, but it was so much information that we were like, this needs to be compiled.

And then a lot of times, as soon as you write about these places or as soon as there is something written about these places, they're gonna share it. They're gonna be the ones that will share it. So sometimes these groups are the best resources you can find on a place, especially ones that are not very well represented online.

Sam: Yeah the vegan SLC group is so great. They're so active, like we're in Salt Lake City right now. Although we're currently on lockdown, before this all happened, I was really craving an oat milk flat white (being a coffee snob) and I was like, “I had so many bad coffees and where can I get a good one?” and yo, they came through! No ask is too small for Facebook groups. People love contributing.

Veren: The one caveat with using social media is again, is to consider the source. Especially in the world of Instagram. Instagram has connected us with so many great people. It has connected us with a lot of great vegan food, but my - this is my own personal criticism, I'm sure I'm not alone - is that it's inherently a very superficial platform. It kind of attracts that superficiality. You'll find that influencers - wannabe influencers or actual influencers - will get paid to come eat at a person's restaurant. Usually you can tell because they have nothing of value to share other than that place was amazing.

And you look and I've seen this and you'll find them on Happy Cow too, leaving posts and then linking to their Instagram. It just seems more rampant with Instagrammers than any other social media that I know, because they'll go to places where it's “Instagrammable.” For example, they'll go someplace that has really good presentation and design but actually not that great food.

Some of the best food experiences we've had are in places where sometimes they're only open at night, the interior is not super well lit, and the food isn't really pretty, but people are crazy for the food.

So if you were to go based on some of these most Instagrammable recommendations, you'd be missing out on a lot of great experiences. And these people are being paid, they're not really given an honest opinion. We also don't like that. We're against that. Some of our favorite restaurants ever are also against that too. Like, support your restaurants and local businesses. You don't need to get paid to go there. So keep an eye out for that.

Sam: Well I guess to be clear. I don't think they are paid. I think they just get a comped meal. Maybe sometimes they’re paid. I don't know. Still, they're getting a free meal about it and while these Instagrammers love to say, “our opinions are all our own, we're honest,” I don't really think they are. Because if you're getting comped for something, it's gonna color your opinion.

People ask us like, “oh you write about all these food places, why don't you try to work with the restaurants and we are like, “we do not want to do that.”

We want to have our opinions. We want to be able to voice them freely and we also want to support vegan restaurants. Local, small places don't have the margins to be just giving out free meals left and right. We want to support them so that they can continue to thrive.

They have a brick and mortar business where they need to pay everyone that works there. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that Instagrammers act like they're entitled to a free meal just because they have 20,000 followers. Which honestly, they probably bought anyway. Like I know very few people that have tens of thousands of followers that got them organically.

So just throwing it out there, if you're not aware of this, buying followers and using bots to get followers is rampant. So just be aware of that too.

Obviously we have a lot of opinions about this. I think Instagram can be a great place to connect with people, but it can also be super fake. It really bugs me to see people talking about their comped meals or this or that. I know some Instagrammers get every meal comped, or they don't eat at a restaurant unless it's comped.

I’m just like... you should see how far back in my head my eyes are rolling right now because it's just so ridiculous, ah. Anyway, using social media, regardless of all of that, there are legitimate people out there that you can find. Locals are gonna be posting on there too, so it's not just big deal “influencers,” which is another word I hate.

So yeah, be wary of any place that's too Instagramable. I just feel like any place that's putting more effort into their decor than the food is someplace to be worried about. Not saying that you can't have both, absolutely not saying that, but we've definitely been to places that clearly were designed to be Instagramable and the food was more of an afterthought..

Veren: Yeah, the last couple of things that I have to say on this. At best, they’re just giving vapid information but at worst they’re misinforming people. A lot of times, Instagrammers or bloggers will say a place is so vegan-friendly, but then they're getting special, tailored service because they're an “influencer.” So that's not a service that you can go and expect. They’ll say, “oh I had all these great vegan meals” but it's because they went to places that knew they were coming and then made special off the menu things. That’s not what everyone else is gonna be getting. So that's the worst case scenario, that they're misinforming.

But also, in the end, my point that I'm trying to make about this is that Yelp, Happy Cow, those are aggregators if you want a list for something. Aggregators do that really well. So if you're somebody else, you should be offering something else of value. That's where opinions come in. People go and read all kinds of things all the time because we want opinions because they help, you know, they can offer us something of value and guidance.

Sam: So gonna get to our tip number five and and we're going through a lot of tips here and just to remind you that we have a little downloadable of all these that we put together for you guys, so don't worry just go to the show notes and the link will be there for you.

So number five, we've kind of already touched on this, which is to make local friends. This is a great way to kind of learn more about what is available and also I mean, making friends while traveling is great. That's a great way to make a connection and learn about the local culture. You can do that through social media, through blogs, yeah those are probably the two main ways that we've made friends while traveling. I've met a lot of people through Instagram through local like hashtags and stuff, through Facebook groups, like I mentioned, and we've even met people through couch surfing. House sitting also, but not everyone house sits obviously.

But just connecting with some people that are from the place or have been living there for a while is a really great way to not only have a better travel experience but just get some local insights on vegan dishes, food, vegan restaurants, whatever. People are very forthcoming and happy to help. One other thing that we like to do sometimes, if we're staying in a place for a while, (which we normally do since we travel slowly) we will look for local vegan potlucks. Those are really fun to connect with people.

Veren: Yeah we've been to so many vegan potlucks or vegan gatherings in so many different places and often if the place is super vegan-friendly, you'll have a choice of options. But then if a place is less vegan friendly, you'll have a hardcore group of people who are trying to keep the vegan scene alive. Often, there will always be some people who meet and have some kind of event or get-together. Through those people you can find all kinds of great recommendations of things to do, things to see, places to try, and you might click with certain people and be like, oh they're into the kind of food that I want when I go out so their recommendations are going to be much more relevant for me than just a list somewhere.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, especially when we were living in Spain, it's just such a social culture there's so many vegan events we couldn't go to them all. There were constantly vegan potlucks, vegan picnics, protests, marches, dinners, whatever, so many events. I think we found most of them through Facebook. There are a lot of local vegan groups there. So that's a great way to connect with people and we've stayed friends with some people that we've met at potlucks, so it's a really cool thing. and they can.

And they tell you about our next couple tips. So one of them is to learn key phrases. Obviously this would be if you're traveling to a country that's not speaking your native language. You might want to learn how to say, “do you speak English.” Do not just start speaking English at someone kind of like ask. Or you can ask if something has whatever in it, like maybe it looks like it might be vegan but you want to check and see if it has milk like you can learn how to say that. There’s also a vegan passport which I will leave a link to in the show notes.

There's a lot of little resources out there that are little cheat sheets for all different countries that give you the most important phrases that would be helpful for you in asking these kind of things. And knowing a local, they'll be able to tell you. A lot of times we just use google translate. In the app, you can download offline packs, so you don't have to have data wherever you're going. Then you'll be able to look up things quickly. A great thing about that app is if you do have data, you can use the camera function on the Google Translate app and you can literally just scan a product in the grocery store, like scan the ingredients to see what it contains. So that is really great. And I definitely recommend doing that if you have data abroad.

Yeah so just learn some key phrases. That's pretty much that tip unless you have something else to add.

Veren: Yeah, of course I have something to add.

Sam: You always have something to add (laughs).

Veren: Yeah, I'd like to add. Well one, you'll make connections with people when you do something like this. I've rarely ever been in situations where people make fun of someone for learning a language. They recognize how hard it is, like you could choose not to do that. But they'll appreciate it and they're gonna be more likely, since you're gonna be asking for certain kinds of accommodations in your food, that they’re gonna be more likely to take care of those then if you're...don't be this person who just talks at them in English thinking that if you just keep saying things in English somehow they're going to understand. We've lived abroad for quite a bit of time and just have traveled a lot and it's so frustrating to me to see people not even take the time to learn a few phrases.

It's not that hard. Especially in restaurants. You don't need to carry a conversation. Just learn a few phrases because you never know. Don't assume people speak English and it makes you come off as more considerate instead of just this rude entitled asshole. And I just get tired of seeing it. They act like somehow speaking another language is just something you're blessed with. I remember when we were at one of our favorite restaurants where these women just kept asking for the same thing in English and they didn't even... you can learn even just how to say hello, goodbye, and sorry in Spanish or something like that or just ask, “do you speak English? Is there someone here that speaks English” in that language.

It makes a world of difference and there's really no excuse these days with the internet and like, I mean even before the internet you had books. But now there's the internet, now you have apps that can just get you the phrase in like an instant.

So be considerate, you're in someone else's country. Try to be a bit more friendly towards their culture and don't just assume you can parade in there with all your English and just English at them and hopefully get what you want because then you're giving them more of a reason to not accommodate you.

Sam: Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, like you said just if you learn one phrase, just asking if you speak English, and then you can go from there. We've learned that in so many places. I remember when we were in Italy, you asked someone in a bread place like, “do you speak English?”

And the guy was like, ‘of course’ and then he just like starts speaking in English but I think the fact that like we asked, like we were in Florence which is a pretty touristy place and I think the fact that asked, he really liked, you know. So it just kind of like opens things up like you're trying, you know.

Veren: I’ve never seen it received badly. Whereas if you just talk at someone in English yeah, they'll be nice because it's like their job but you can tell they don't really like it. Yeah don't just assume, just at least. Especially if you're gonna be asking a bunch of questions about the food, you know what I mean.

Sam: Also if you just ask that and they're like yeah, then you that's all you need to know you don't necessarily have to learn a bunch of different words.

You'll get a feel for the general level of English at the population has the longer that you're in a place, you know, like we were really surprised at the level of English that a lot of people had in Bosnia for example or Finland. It varies in different places.

Our next point is to actually give examples of what you can eat as a vegan. I just see this so many times in different groups or different people that are new to traveling vegan or whatever they just want to know how to say, “I'm vegan” in that language and they expected that's gonna be like a golden ticket to getting vegan food - it's not.

I mean, you can sure, learn how to say, “I'm vegan,” but like that doesn't mean that people are gonna know what that means. Think about your home country. What if you tell someone, “I'm vegan.” Does that mean that they're gonna know what to give you? No, not necessarily. So I don't understand why people think that when they're going to a different country, just learning how to say, “I'm vegan” is gonna equal a platter of delicious vegan food.

No, you need to - especially depending on where you're traveling - you need to be prepared to have a conversation about what that means. I've found it's just way more helpful to you know, ask what's in something, you know, you might need to clarify that because a lot of times butter is not thought of as a dairy, for example. So depending on what it is that you're asking about like if you think something might contain butter you might have to ask that. It might help to just say what you can eat or what you're looking for.

I mean not a laundry list, but again, it depends on the context. So again, this is the kind of thing where making a local connection or learning some key phrases will really help you.

Veren: Yeah I think it especially helpful to be like, I can't eat milk or I can't eat dairy. I can't eat meat because also in some cultures, the word for meat doesn't include poultry, it doesn't include fish.

Sam: Oh my god classic Spain: “oh you don't eat meat? Here's some tuna. Here’s some chicken.”

Veren: It's tricky. Depends where you go. This is why it's important to just do little research on what are some of the key phrases you need to know and so many people are out there making it easy for you. Let's be real, most of us aren't going to that obscure places. Most of the time we're going to places that are already well advertised by the tourism industry, so you'd be surprised how much information is already out there online.

Sam: the next point is kind of related to this. So learn some accidentally vegan foods and dishes.This is something where blogs, local friends, groups, and all the things we already talked about are really gonna come in handy. I don't think that there's been a place that we've been to so far that doesn't have some accidentally vegan foods or dishes.

If we think about it, no one was eating the massive amounts of meat and animal products for breakfast lunch and dinner in the past that people do now. Meat was a luxury and still is in a lot of poorer places in the world. So there's definitely gonna be some accidentally vegan foods. It might not be a wide array, but there will be things.

That does take a little more like digging, but I promise you if a blogger or a youtuber or whatever has been there, they're gonna have talked about it. The great thing about traveling as a vegan now is that there are people paving the way for you so it's easier than ever to uncover those things.

If you are going somewhere more remote, connecting with locals and asking them like they're gonna go out of their way to help you to enjoy their country. I found that people in less touristy places are more likely to go out of their way for you more. We found that in Bosnia.

Veren: There's no such thing as a culture that doesn't eat fruits and vegetables. For most of history yes meat and dairy animal products have been a luxury. It was aristocracy and super uber wealthy people who were like, I'm so rich, I don't have to eat vegetables or grains. That influence has transferred over to you know, more affluent parts of society. It’s only more recently that parts of the world have become more affluent, which in turn means eating more meat and dairy.

People are gonna be eating, when they have meals, there are gonna be sides that maybe they wouldn't put together several sides to make a meal but you can as a vegan. Why not? It can be quite delicious. We've done it in so many places. We have yet to go to a place where that isn't a real option.

Sam: That’s where our next point comes in, unless you're happy to eat those few things every day, I think most people might want maybe more for variety or whatever. So our next tip is to grocery shop. You don't have to eat out for every meal.

I think a lot of people think when they're traveling that you know, they're gonna treat themselves every meal or they don't know how to prepare meals for themselves wherever they are staying or they don't want to or whatever. And that's fine. Like say you're going somewhere for a week and you know, you don't want to cook meals every day.

Even just preparing breakfast at home is so easy. It’ll save you a lot of money too. You know the less you eat out the more money you save, obviously. I mean, we like going to different grocery shops around the world. It can be really fun to see what kind of stuff they have. So um and like I said, you can use Google Translate video to scan packaging or like go to local markets for fruits and vegetables. Then you don't even need to translate, you know, just point at something and hand over money and get some nice fruits and veggies.

So don't be afraid to grocery shop. It doesn't mean that you're depriving yourself on your vacation.

Veren: I personally love checking out grocery stores and other countries. It's one of my favorite things to do. I love to just take my time going through every aisle looking at all the products. Of course in some aisles, I spend much less time in and I skip over.

Sam: We love going out to eat obviously but like you don't necessarily want to do that every day. Sometimes you might be exploring all day and you might just want to relax inside and like, you know, maybe assemble a sandwich from some vegan meats or something or whatever it is.

In Germany, for example, they have all these different kinds of patees and spreads and breads and oh my gosh. So that's absolutely another way that you can experience authentic local vegan food. You'll see what the traditional foods are, what's popular, because you'll see that there’ll be vegan versions of that. We saw that in Germany, Finland, Spain so many vegan chorizos, so like oh my gosh. It's really fun. So don't discount grocery shops.

Veren: yeah and also the last thing I want to add to that is you'll see how much of a reflection it is of the food culture there. For example, a lot of people eat at home in Finland, you don't eat out as much as other cultures do. So there's tons of vegan options in the stores.

You don't really rely on vegan experiences by going out to eat. Sometimes it's in the reverse in some places. So the idea that you need to eat out in order to experience a vegan culture is not true either and Finland is a great example of that.

Sam: mm-hmm, yeah, yeah, I've just remembered that they have pulled oats there. I've never seen anywhere else, but they're obsessed with oats in Finland. They have pulled oats in all different kinds of things. I don't even know how to do it, but like, they have oat everything there.

When we were there, we were visiting friends and we wanted to have some Finnish food traditional Finnish food at a restaurant. Our friend, who's Finnish and vegan, was like, “No we don't really do that like if we're gonna go out to eat at a restaurant we want international food. So you're not gonna really find traditional vegan food as much in restaurants.”

So we all went grocery shopping and made stuff at home, which was really cool.

So grocery shop is tip number eight, and tip number nine is snacks. Pack snacks, so go to the grocery store and then get some snacks.

Because you might be exploring all day this or that and then you get hungry and you realize there's no good vegan options around you or maybe you went for a hike or maybe everything's closed at that time. This happens to people all the time in Spain because most restaurants will close you know, there'll be open for lunch, you know between one and four then they'll close and then be open again for dinner starting around eight thirty. Americans and Brits want to eat at six or five but everything's closed then. You'll get the hang of the rhythm of the place that you're in but you want to have some go-to snacks on hand so that you're not just like, “I'm starving now and I need to eat whatever is closest to me.”

Veren: A lot of our tips build on top of each other and this one's no exception. Get familiar with grocery stores and make sure you have some quick easy food to eat on hand and travel with a little bit of food.

Sam: Veren is our food organizer, so what snacks do you normally pick up?

Veren: Some of my favorites are usually dried fruit like mango, dates, nuts, dried fruit. These are very common to find. Depending on the price, the quality, and if we like it, maybe we'll get certain kinds of protein bars and stuff. But more often than not, it's just cheaper to kind of get your own, whole foods products.

So anything that's super portable and light is what I recommend. To maybe start the day, I might pack the heavier stuff and eat that first. Like an apple or banana. You don't really want that banana banging around your bag. So dried fruits, nuts, even veggies. Every culture, every place has something on that level available. try not to rely so heavily on the prepackaged process stuff that's not gonna get you as far and it might not be nearly as satisfying yeah, yeah like dates, you know, you have.

Sam: Our last tip is very quick and easy and short. A lot of people don't realize that if you're flying somewhere, you can actually request a vegan meal. The code for it is VGML, that means vegan meal. I can't stress this enough: freaking call the airline.

I cannot tell you how many times to see people online, asking how to get a vegan meal or if there's a vegan meal available on Iberia or on British Airways. Just call the damn airline. I know that people don't like making phone calls these days, most people are not used to it, but just call them. You want to do an advance, as far in advance as you can.

There might be an option to order the vegan meal online, but even if you do that, I always call and verify that it's VGML. There might be different options and you might not be clear on it. People are always very helpful, and since I've been doing this we've always had vegan meals on our flights.

The great thing is that you get your meal first, so you can just be sitting there eating - literally like half an hour more - before other people get their meals. And you're just like, “yess” and so it's really fun.

One thing I do want to tell you to be aware of is that even though the parts of the meal should all be vegan, the little add-ons that they add separately might not be. Most people don't realize that the vegan meal is packaged but then usually the flight attendants or whoever is on ground crew they add in the little butters or the extra creamer. So double check for those because they might not be vegan.

Sometimes we've had vegan butters and vegan non-dairy creamers, which has been amazing but that has definitely been more rare. Vegan meals are getting better all the time we've had some pretty decent ones actually.

Veren: I’d even venture as far to say good for an airline meal. Our best was when we're on Lufthansa. That felt extravagant. So you definitely don't want to miss out on that, especially if you're already paying for the plane ticket.

Sam: Yeah, so that pretty much wraps up our top 10 tips. This is totally based on what we do and our experience. So we always recommend that you just take a little bit of time and look into the situation wherever you're going.

I think it's really fun to look for places and get excited about the food. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, I’ve become way more into food since going vegan and travel has been part of that. I've had to look into things and it's become kind of like a fun game.

I want to reiterate: don't think that traveling as a vegan is gonna be deprivation. You gotta be flexible. But you gotta be flexible with travel, no matter if you're vegan or not. Honestly, I think this has just made me more flexible and more appreciative.

Veren: These are all things that we do every time and it's not a chore. If this was a chore, we wouldn't be traveling full time. So it's clearly something that you can incorporate and make part of your routine and it can enhance the experience.

Sam: Yeah, I hope you enjoyed this episode let us know any more questions on this topic any feedback, anything at all, don't be shy to reach out to us via email or social media, we're @alternativetravelers. So yeah that about wraps it up!

Talk to you next time.

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