Posted: February 15, 2023
By Sierra Tagman
#UNLITTER Traveling as a Vegan
As a travel lover and a food lover, eating vegan while traveling can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be inhibiting! I’ve been vegan for over 4 years and have traveled to over 15 countries since, and have had the opportunity to experience the unique cuisine of each country. I actually first went vegetarian while living in Denmark, as I was inspired by my Danish host sister’s vegan lifestyle within the typically heavy meat-based diet of the country. Since then, I’ve learned more about the environmental impacts of the animal agriculture industry and educated myself on the ethical implications of the industry as well and have never looked back. I love being a part of the #UNLITTER movement, as we promote a sustainable and positive lifestyle; and whether you are vegan, vegetarian, just looking to adapt a plant-based meal into your week, or building habits to be more thoughtful and intuitive about your eating, doing so while traveling is much easier than you might think. Though it can be difficult, I’m going to break down some tips and tricks for eating vegan while abroad.
From left to right: Vegan paella in Barcelona, Spain, an option I found on Happy Cow; a meal from Casa da Horta in Porto, Portugal, categorized as one dollar-sign on happy cow which quickly became one of my go-to's for my time there
The most important piece of advice in my opinion is to do your research beforehand. If you’ve been vegetarian or vegan for a while you probably already have experience with checking menus and resources online to make sure that there are options and you don’t have to resort to fries or steamed vegetables (I’ve been there). There are some great resources online where you can check for great, affordable options beforehand such as the apps Happy Cow and abillion, in addition to vegan travel blogs. One great resource on Happy Cow is the “sort by'' feature, where you can sort by price, as well as type of options, such as fully vegan, vegetarian, or just establishments which serve vegan and vegetarian options (which is great if you’re traveling with people who eat meat). Another tip I always try to use is to bring a snack or bagged lunch to the airport on flight days to avoid expensive and mediocre airport food.
Another important note is to be flexible while you’re traveling. Get creative with it. This will honestly end up helping your budget as well. Vegan or not, eating all meals out while traveling abroad as a college student really starts to add up. Buying snacks from local grocery stores and carrying them around with me saved me from spending a lot of money on pastries and other tempting snacks (though I did occasionally indulge). I also dealt with this by staying in hostels which had kitchens with a fridge and a place to cook so that I could at least occasionally cook a cheaper meal like pasta or rice and beans. Exploring local markets for produce (make sure it’s safe to eat depending on where you’re traveling to first) and a quick lunch is a great way to get to know a new city or country. Also, having a picnic with a friend and splitting the cost is a really cheap and fun option for a cute brunch moment.
Picnic on the playa with my friend Savannah in Valencia, Spain
Shop local #UNLITTER
One of my favorite things about traveling is trying all of the different dishes from different countries, and there’s no reason you should have to miss out on the opportunity to try those being plant-based. I’ve had varying levels of ease and difficulty with this depending on the country. In countries where vegan and vegetarian options are relatively common and well-market, it’s pretty easy to find vegan versions of traditional dishes. For example, in Porto, Portugal, I was able to try a vegan version of the famous Francesinha sandwich as well as the sweet, Pastéis de Nata. When I visited my Danish host sister from my high school exchange, she took me to try vegan fastelavnsboller, which are pastries eaten for the Danish festival fastelavn, celebrated around the start of lent. Also, some countries such as India and other East Asian countries mainly include vegetarian cuisine in their daily diet, which makes finding options a breeze. In some cases, especially where English is less commonly learned as a second language, learning a few key phrases such as “no meat,” “vegetarian,” “vegan,” or in places where veganism is less common “no eggs or milk” is often super useful.
From left to right: masala dosa with chutney in Delhi, India; fastelavnsboller in Copenhagen, Denmark with my Danish host sister; a lovely feast in Haifa.
Know your Audience
It’s super important to travel with people you know will be flexible and willing to compromise on food/ restaurant choices throughout your trip. If you’re traveling with yourself obviously this wouldn’t be a concern, but travel with bigger groups can prove challenging. Making sure that your travel group knows your needs and supports you in that can help avoid potential conflicts in high-stress situations (especially if everyone’s hungry).
From left to right: Bonus domestic travel pic- vegan salad bowls in Bozeman, Montana, recommendation found via Happy Cow; Jordanian feast in Aqaba with my parents (Zaatar bread not pictured)
Take it easy on yourself & know your limits
Navigating the food scene in another language can be difficult with dietary restrictions, and you can’t be too hard on yourself if you mess up. When I was in Spain, I ate a “Mediterranean empanada” which I thought had tomato and spinach in it, but evidently I later found out it had tuna in it. Don’t ask me how I wasn’t aware of that while eating it given how strong the taste of tuna generally is, let’s just say it was jet lag. Anyways, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself if you mess up, all you can do is try your best. It’s also important, especially with study abroad programs, to determine your limits based on research beforehand. I spent six weeks in Morocco this summer living with a host family, and given the heavily meat-based Moroccan diet and that I was living with a single mother in the city, I decided to eat vegetarian rather than vegan in order to give her more flexibility. I also know some people who are vegan for the majority of the time, and decide to try some pastries or other dishes which are vegetarian. Obviously, you determine your limits but it’s a good idea to keep that in mind beforehand.
From left to right: Fried eggplant, babaganoush, and marinated zucchini at a rooftop restaurant in Morocco; vegan schnitzel in Munich, Germany
Overall, I’ve tried some amazing foods while living and traveling abroad. I hope this little glimpse into what that can look like as a vegan inspires you, and even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian I hope you can use some of the tips I provided and maybe even check out some of the resources I provided to enjoy a cheap, sustainable, plant-based meal.
Also, be sure to tag @unlitter on your vegan or sustainable lifestyle posts on Instagram!
#UNLITTER YOUR DIET