“As if it’s not hard enough already…” people often tell me.
It is as hard or as simple as you make it.
This is my experience as a traveling vegan from the last 3 years on the road:
It’s the easiest thing in the world when I travel alone. I go to local market and buy any kind of fruits/veggies, nuts or seeds I fancy. I wash my goodies or peel them and eat them as they are. If I feel like having cooked meal, I go to ANY restaurant and order veggies with rice or beans or potatoes…etc. It’s usually super tasty, super healthy, super simple and super cheap for the travelers on the budget.
2nd year of being vegan on the road made me go all fancy, so I bought myself a mini blender. Yes, I was hitchhiking with a mini blender in my backpack, and that’s not the weirdest thing I’ve ever hitchhiked with.
I bought it in Malaysia and it was really cheap and very convenient. I would stop at the gas stations for a little lunch break while hitchhiking long distance, fill my blender with some fruits and veggies and powered it on. All of my tasty and healthy meals were done under 1 minute. Yes, I turned few heads, but that’s the price of YOLO. When I finished, I simply washed everything in the bathroom and I was sorted until the evening.
Troubles started when I was hitchhiking through Burma and constantly got invited by local families into their homes. Most of them could speak a bit of English, but some of them (especially old grannies) didn’t know a word. I would end up in their houses supposedly for a glass of water or a cup of tea, but as if that was not already great enough, these little grannies would suddenly decide to feed me – or should I better say force-feed me.
One of the grannies put her meaty dishes in front of me and with her eyes wide open and a big smile full of expectations cheered me on to try her cooking. I smiled uncomfortably as I was thinking what bloody sign language I could use to explain that I don’t eat meat…or eggs…or dairy. HOW to explain and not offend her cooking? Even some native English speakers have tough time understanding what veganism is all about, HOW was I supposed to gesticulate the message to a granny who doesn’t speak English and expect her to understand? “ I knew I was set up for a failure and I was ok with it. I ate the damn fish balls. She was happy, I was still alive. No hard feelings. After that episode I stayed away from the local invitations.
However, if I find myself ever again in a similar situation (e.g. invited to some tribe that I have no language in common), I would do the same. The point is not to aim for perfection, but to do the best I can in every situation.
Another struggle was hitchhiking a boat for 7 months with 3 meat lovers. Naturally, as I was the one who was hitchhiking, I made sure the Captain and the rest of the crew don’t get disturbed by my lifestyle, but it was quite tough. I was lucky enough that the Captain was very open minded and a real fruit and veggie lover. I was trying to be as flexible as possible by cooking for everyone no matter what was on the menu as well as sharing the costs of the groceries I didn’t eat. I never complained about the food or forced my way on anyone.
The trouble with the boat (especially crowded one) is that there is only so much fruits and veggies you can bring on the boat and once you run out of your goodies, you’re pretty much fucked until you find another place to anchor and stock up. Until then you run on porridge, pasta, rice and peanut butter if there’s any left. It drove me mentally bananas, but I never let the sound out. I was hitchhiking motha-efing boat FOR 7 MONTHS and I’ll be grateful forever for that experience.
Quite often during my travels I meet up with other travelers for a dinner. Usually we go to some local restaurant where I (usually) get a question if I'm a vegetarian due to my food choices. The moment I explain I'm vegan, I get 1 000 000 questions while everyone else is eating in peace. Sometimes people get upset by my answers.
Veganism is still not a mainstream and people have many (sometimes very stupid) questions about it. Most of the time I don't mind answering all the questions, but there are times when I just want to sit and ENJOY MY TIME AND FOOD without long discussions - so I simply don’t tell anyone I'm a vegan if asked. I mention I've some health issues (allergies are always a good excuse) and that I can't eat meat, eggs and dairy - usually there are no other questions and this trick works every time.
Being a traveling vegan is truly as hard or as simple as you make it.