In my upcoming book, the 2018 edition (and third edition) of The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, I’ve added two new sections: the Top 25 Vegan-Friendly Cities in 2018 (previously this was the top 10) and a vegan travel activism section.
I’m so excited about the vegan travel activism section and want to share part of it with you!
I’m going to share a few of my tips, in two parts, on how to spread the vegan word while traveling: education and volunteering (this post) and advocacy and activism (part 2). The book section is a good 20+ pages long so I’m paring it down a little here for the posts. ;)
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How to spread the vegan message while traveling
[Excerpt from the upcoming 2018 Essential Vegan Travel Guide]
Travel is a wonderful opportunity; we get to learn about other cultures, cuisines and people. It’s also a chance to spread the vegan word (not my site, TheVeganWord.com, although I’m also happy for your to spread it around the world! ;)).
Whether you consider yourself an activist or not, you likely already engage in activism and advocacy every day, perhaps without realising it.
Let me explain.
Last year, I was at an Effective Altruism meetup when a vegan girl I’d met started talking about activism. Sarah was a fairly new vegan, and a very passionate activist, and had been going on demos and protests every weekend and some evenings. ‘Do you do any activism?’ she asked each of us in turn, and I sheepishly shook my head no when she turned to me.
Later on that evening, Sarah and I were talking about what we do, and when I told her about my writing, she exclaimed ‘but I thought you said you don’t do activism!’ Confused, I explained I am not out doing marches and demos. ‘Sure,’ Sarah remarked, ‘but you promote veganism every day through your writing online and offline.’
Sarah opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about activism. While Dictionary.com defines activism as ‘the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.’ Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.’ And Wikipedia states ‘Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society.’
Depending which definition we adopt, activism can encompass a wide range of activity. By embracing a broader definition of activism, we can each spread the vegan message in a way that fits our own strengths, as well as fitting the group we’re trying to reach.
Under this banner, I include education, volunteerism, advocacy and activism.
When we travel, we have the incredible opportunity to continue to educate, advocate and engage in activism, thereby spreading the vegan word beyond our homes.
Sometimes, the simplest way to spread the vegan message is through education. Depending on where you’re travelling, you might be the first vegan some people have met! Keep this in mind and let people you meet know about veganism, through talking to others or through feeding them, or through moving abroad and starting a vegan group or business.
When talking to others about veganism here are some of my top tips:
• Try not to come across as judgemental. It can be hard not to be disapproving when you see that their choices are causing harm, but remember that most of us started in the same position, as non-vegans.
• Let them ask questions. They might be really curious about veganism, so sate their curiosity!
• Be patient and be prepared to hear many of the same questions. Yes, you’ll be asked a thousand times where you get your protein. Try and be good-natured, because even though you’ve heard that question so many times, the questioner may have never asked it before.
•Last but not least, lead by example.
Sharing your food can be another effective way to educate and open up conversations about veganism. Brittany and Terrence Roche of the Plant Power Couple, Nicole of Vegan Nom Noms, Marlena from Veganderland and Alex of The Salty Vegan all shared stories for my book about sharing vegan food and opening up conversations and people’s minds about veganism simply by sharing a meal. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb, invite your hosts or fellow guests to dinner or make a little extra and offer it to whoever happens to be around.
If you’re moving abroad, it can be a great opportunity to spread the vegan message through a new group or business. For example, you could start a local Meetup group; this is great not just for meeting local vegans but also people who are curious about veganism and could use a hand to make the transition. Benjamin shared his story with me for the book about starting a Vegan in China Facebook and Wechat to share information with other vegans living in or travelling through China. Nadine told me how after long-term travels through Asia she decided to share her experiences and recipes for creating processed food- and sugar-free recipes. Marije of Yuca Meals relocated to Barcelona and used the opportunity to set up a vegan meals business to serve local vegans but also help people transition.
Volunteering is a great way of engaging with the local vegan community and/or helping animals as you travel. A lot of animal lovers want to see local animals on their travels but unfortunately many animal attractions are bastions of abuse. However, there are wonderful animal sanctuaries and shelters all around the world, many in dire need of supplies and volunteers.
Make sure you read up on them before committing to one and read reviews from volunteers to make sure it’s a good place and they are actually treating the animals well (sadly some places that present themselves as sanctuaries don’t actually treat their animals well…). Search for reviews, communicate with prior volunteers and ask the volunteers and the facility coordinators any questions you have.
Another great way to volunteer is to do so online; Gabriela of Veg Wanderlust told me how she’s been able to volunteer online for the Vegan Society while in Spain. Or, seek out a local vegan society. For example, when I spent a month in Zagreb, Croatia, I helped out at Animal Friend Croatia, stuffing envelopes, proofreading translated documents and preparing flyers.
You can also have a look on Workaway by searching “vegan” and find vegan nonprofits, cafes and other organisations looking for volunteers, usually in exchange for free room and board.