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Traveling often poses many challenges for many reasons for my husband and me. But, because we’re both vegetarians, one of the main challenges that we face is food.
(Just for the record, we’re vegetarians for health reasons. Animal rights and environmental benefits are great secondary effects, but neither of us are blood-throwing lunatics.)
Not everywhere in the world is vegetarian-friendly. But, here are some tips to make traveling while vegetarian a lot easier.
TIP #1: Where You Travel
There are certain countries, and even specific cities within countries that are much easier for vegetarians.
Growing up in Los Angeles and now living for the past five years in San Diego, I can say that for anyone interested in coming the U.S., the entire coastal, Southern California region is very, very easy for vegetarians. Nearly everywhere has at least one vegetarian dish, and most places have some sort of selection.
I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that nearly all, major American cities have followed suit. So, traveling in the U.S. is much easier now as a vegetarian.
Outside of the States, certain parts of the world are much easier than others. Vietnam, Thailand, and India in particular were fantastic countries to travel in as a vegetarian, as vegetarian food is quite the norm out there.
By contrast, the most difficult countries to travel in as vegetarians were South Africa and Turkey. Lots of meat-lovers in those countries! But, even in carnivorous countries, there are still plenty of ways to find a good, vegetarian meal.
TIP #2: Pre-plan
Sure, it takes some of the fun and spontaneity out of just walking into a restaurant and trying something on a whim.
But, honestly, are you really that curious to find out exact what balut tastes like?
(If you do, more power to you. Just be aware squat toilets are the norm around Asia for when you vomit your guts out.)
I HIGHLY recommend the website HappyCow.net if you are a vegetarian or a vegan who is traveling. This is the most extensive site of its kind (at least that I’ve found) in its listings of vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants around the world.
A little pre-planning of where you can eat saves a lot of food trauma. (But, that’s another blog post for another day.)
TIP #3: Don’t be afraid to grocery shop & cook
Actually, it’s not so much that I hate cooking. I hate being a perfectionist, because when I cook it usually leads to a complete meltdown, broken kitchen appliances, and an exasperated husband trying to talk me out of a locked bathroom.
But, if you’re not an overly-sensitive, hot mess like I am, you may want to try grocery shopping & cooking for yourself. Most hostels have open cooking areas where you can prepare meals. And, it can be a great way to meet people and make friends.
Plus, I’ve found grocery areas to be highly colorful, and often some of the most interesting areas in different cities. And, it’s one of the best chances you can get for real interaction with the locals.
TIP #4: When in doubt, ask the front desk.
Even if they don’t know of a specific restaurant in that area, they’ll know who to ask.
That being said, with vegetarianism and veganism being on the rise, particularly among the hippie travelers’ set, most hosts know of at least a couple of local options.
TIP #5: Just go!
One of the saddest things I ever heard came from my first set of bosses, a husband and wife team. Both of them were vegan, and we got on the subject of traveling to a trade show in Vegas. They said, “Oh, you’ll probably have to do that alone. We never get to travel because we don’t know what we’re going to eat.”
That still to this day breaks my heart! Don’t let dietary restrictions keep you from traveling! Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or diabetic, or on a gluten-free diet, you CAN make it work.
Yes, it may take a little more effort and planning. But, if you’re going to travel around the world, you’d better love planning anyway. You’re going to be doing a lot of it.
Just go! If all else fails, I’ve never found a place where you can’t buy rice… or Ramen noodles, for that matter. (Believe me, I WISH I could find a place to escape from the horrors of Ramen.)
In the meantime, back to the beginning of this post, I’m going to start a series called, “Break Me Off a Piece of THAT”. It’ll be about the different, yummy things we tried while we traveled around.
There’s plenty of good veggie eatin’ out there for the takin’! You just have to be prepared to make the effort to find it.