Why All the Naysayers are Wrong about Vegan Travel (Their Objections – Your Solutions)

Vegan anywhere: Vegan food from around the world

Some people are scared of travelling as a vegan – are you one?  Many people worry it will be difficult or even impossible to find vegan food, that they’ll have to give up their veganism or that they’ll spend the whole time fighting with their non-vegan partner.

The perception of vegan travel being difficult could not be farther from the truth (see my article here – Vegetarian and Vegan Travel Doesn’t Have to be Hard and Here’s How it can be Easy).  However this perception is not helped by the people (sometimes well-meaning and sometimes not) who argue against us being vegan while travelling.

Have you ever heard any of these phrases?

“But you’ll insult your hosts/host country by refusing to try their national dishes.”

“But you’ll never experience the real <insert country>. Everyone knows you can’t really get to know a place unless you get to know their cuisine.”

“What if you can’t find any food? What if there aren’t any vegetarian restaurants? What if you can’t find any veggie options in other restaurants? What if you STARVE?”

Well, I’m here to tell you (having been to 30 countries and counting, all as a vegetarian and 20+ as a vegan) that none of the above are true.  All those foods in the pictures above are vegan dishes I’ve found on my travels.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, in which I unpack each argument.

Their Objections – Your Solutions

(from The Essential Vegan Travel Guide: 2016 Edition)

“But you’ll insult your hosts/host country by refusing to try their national dishes.”

This is an irrelevant argument, because usually the people who utter this nonsense are exactly the sort of people you KNOW would never go to Mexico and try grasshopper tacos, or one of the various insect-inspired foods in Thailand. Also, I’m sure there are lots of local traditions that even non-vegans might refuse to participate in – like bullfighting, child marriage or stoning gay people. Now, people may not understand why you don’t eat animal products, especially in a culture without a history of vegetarianism, but the vast majority of people understand that different cultures have different traditions, and quite often you will find they are actually very interested in getting to know more about your culture and beliefs, including your diet. Even if you do run the risk of offending someone, somewhere, what is better – potentially risking offending a stranger, or going against your values and consuming a food that is the product of suffering and the cause of environmental destruction? If you regularly turn down these foods at home when friends and family offer them, why stop just because you’re somewhere else?

 

“But you’ll never experience the real <insert country>. Everyone knows you can’t really get to know a place unless you get to know their cuisine.”

A vast majority of people won’t eat any and all local foods anyway. If someone asks you this, you can just retort, “Would you eat mealworms? Or cow testicles? Or an egg that’s rotten and been buried for years?” (All local delicacies in some parts of the world!) Would they tell someone who’s got celiac disease to avoid Italy because pasta is traditionally made with wheat flour (even though you can get a lot of gluten-free products in Italy these days)? I hope not! Besides, food is an important part of most cultures, sure, but is it the be all and end all? No! There’s a lot more to experience of other cultures than just pastas, tapas or dim sum. There’s also history, artwork, architecture and museums, to name but a few aspects.

 

“What if you can’t find any food? What if there aren’t any vegetarian restaurants? What if you can’t find any veggie options in other restaurants? What if you STARVE?”

With a little bit of advance planning, this won’t be an issue. And don’t worry – over the course of this book, I’m going to show you exactly how to do this, from what websites and tools to use, to what to search for. So that no matter where you go, you will always be able to arrive with a list in hand of restaurants to try that will serve you according to your diet. Your own personal mini guidebook, if you will. And if you can’t find any restaurants using the various tools outlined here, we’ll go through other options. Like where to stay and what to eat in emergency situations. And even how to cook those beans in a coffeemaker in your hotel room.

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4 thoughts on “Why All the Naysayers are Wrong about Vegan Travel (Their Objections – Your Solutions)

  1. Joey

    It’s a good point and one that’s worth bringing up. I see no reason why people would be offended about not trying certain dishes that go against your moral principles – your hosts generally want you to be happy, and if that means leaving out the milk or whatever, most people are only too happy to accomodate you within the framework of their local cuisine. Look at it the other way around – if someone turned up at your house and said they didn’t eat X for religious reasons, or because of a food intolerance, you wouldn’t be offended, you’d just cook around what they ate. I think to imagine people taking offence is to underestimate the kindness and adaptability of people around the world.

    Reply
    1. Caitlin Galer-Unti Post author

      Yes, exactly Joey! With some notable exceptions, people are generally kind and understanding and more than willing to accommodate – especially if you’ve moral objections. I’ve yet to have an experience where someone outright refused to accommodate my vegan requirements. Occasionally it hasn’t been possible (because the food’s already prepared and they can’t change the dish or something) but no one’s just said no. Of course they want to help! :)

      Reply
  2. Caryl Eyers

    You’re so right! We’ve been travelling (as vegans) for the last 2 years and not only have we not starved, we have enjoyed some amazing food. In South East Asia, a lot of local people eat vegan for religious reasons so you could argue that not going vegan (especially for at least 2 days a month in Thailand and Vietnam) isn’t embracing this aspect of local culture. “Not eaten in a Thai buddhist restaurant? You haven’t lived! Not eaten a fried ‘egg’ made from tofu during the 10 day vegetarian festival? wow you’ve really missed out on culture there…” Maybe I’ll save this for the next critic who crosses my path ;-) Plus, I have never met anyone in my 20 years of travel as a vegetarian and then vegan (for the last 12 years) who has been offended by me telling them I don’t eat meat. In fact, I have to correct people and tell them that i’m not quite as holy as they seem to think I am as a result of my plant eating ways.

    Excellent article Caitlin, I really enjoyed it.

    Reply

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