As every plant-eater knows, we share a motto with our good friends the girl guides: be prepared!
Never has this been more true than when exploring new and exciting lands with little grasp of the local culture, language or cuisine. We are there, of course, to discover all of these things and more but if, like me, you’ve gone from eating tarantulas and tacos to being plant based, some adjusting is necessary. I’d like to share with you the travel hacks that have saved me.
1. Learn some of the language. That might be how to say “vegetarian” or in the case of Asia to say “holy meal” as most places will have a meal that’s appropriate for monks.
2. The peeling knife—in spite of my devotion to this tool, if you wish to take a separate peeler and knife I won’t judge you! This utensil allows me to munch on mangoes morning till night with ease. I can whip up a cucumber, tomato and onion salad in a few minutes and all of it is peeled and safe regardless of the local water cleanliness! (Always be wary of salad if you suspect it’s been washed in local water sources—a very easy way to get sick!)
3. Carry a Frisbee. This isn’t just a great way to make friends on the beach! It doubles up as a plate, bowl, chopping board, and salad washing bowl. It’s one of the most useful objects for a “make your own” plant eater! Plus you can get fit playing catch after your delicious meal!
4. Hard shampoo—I buy mine from Lush in London because it smells like heaven, lasts months and comes in a cute container. None of their products are tested on animals and they have a huge variety of pampering vegan products.
5. Salt deodorant—I use “salt of the earth” because it lasts forever! I’ve had mine a year and it looks like I haven’t used it (I promise that I have!) It’s the best deodorant I’ve ever used so I’d recommend it regardless of your travel status. You can buy it in pharmacies and on Amazon.
6. Invest in The Mooncup (a menstrual cup). This ones for the ladies! I came across this little life saver on my first long trip in India. They didn’t sell tampons anywhere and the pads I could find were like maternity pads! I was beginning to get desperate when I met a lovely girl selling menstrual cups. It revolutionised that trip and I’ve never looked back! Sanitary products are harmful to the environment and particularly bad in countries where the sanitation systems are not used to paper or material. The Mooncup is easy to use, quick to rinse and sterilise and infinitely better for you (no bleach or nasties) and the planet! Recommended whether you travel or not, a menstrual cup can hold much more fluid which is great for an overnight bus or a trek in the jungle!
7. Tea bags—I’m British; this is non negotiable! If you’re a coffee drinker, perhaps you can take some sachets although I’ve found coffee much easier to come by.
8. Milk substitutes—you can get dried soy milk sachets online, or most 7-11 stores have small soy milk cartons. I buy a few in the city I land in and then have them for tea (still British) or porridge emergencies.
9. Oats and dried fruit—light, compact and you can sprinkle them over fruit for a quick and filling breakfast or add hot water for a delicious, oaty meal!
10. Small can of beans—a small meal if, as happened to me last week, your bus breaks down in the jungle and your options are to starve or eat crickets!
11. Bring vegan multi-vitamin or B12 supplements (or indeed any specialist vegan supplements you take). These are not readily available so I would definitely take a stash!
12. Nuts—get the ones in a sealed ziplock bag. They last ages, taste great, fill you up and are a staple for us herbivores. Dried fruits are also good to have to hand. Toss them all in that porridge and you’ve got yourself a pretty substantial meal!
13. Hobnobs—or indeed any vegan sweet treat because, with all the good intentions in the world, sometimes only a sweet treat will hit the spot! Hobnobs are my weakness but there are a whole host of accidentally vegan foods (see PETA’s accidentally vegan page). Oreos are not registered vegan as there’s a risk of contamination on the production line. The ingredients are vegan and the production lines are thoroughly cleaned between products but this information has to be given for allergy reasons. Make up your own mind about whether that’s something you’re okay with. For me it’s a tiny risk and I think it’s less likely to have cross contamination than eating at your average restaurant. One thing is for sure, those bad boys are readily available in small snack packs all over the world and have saved me more than once from an emotional meltdown!
Finally, not strictly for vegans but a much needed eco-friendly tip for all travellers: befriend the bum gun!
This is what I call the little hose that Indian and Asian toilets have by their side. The sanitation systems in many countries are not set up for toilet paper and it causes blockages and unsanitary conditions. Better to use the bum gun and have a sarong to pat dry, cleaner for you and the environment!
When choosing destinations be aware that they are not all created equal in the heart of a herbivore. India is still the easiest choice for a vegan as most food is cruelty free (watch out for ghee in many dishes though) and due to the food conditions most travellers go meat free for their stay. Buddhist and Hindu countries like Thailand and Myanmar tend to be fairly easy to find meat and dairy free options! Israel has a fast growing vegan population and is kosher, so it’s easy to get meat free options for veggies.
Now unclip your wings, strap on a backpack and fly free my fellow nomads and vagabonds! Much love!
Author: Katy Martin
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Peter Fristedt/Flickr