“You don’t eat meat?”
“But what about chicken? Where do you get your protein? Fish? Do all people from Ohio eat like you?”
After the typical, tedious interrogation that all foreigners are accustomed to, the most common questions I encounter while traveling revolve around my vegan diet.
Time and time again, I smile and explain that my diet isn’t such a strange thing where I’m from—that it’s generally pretty easy to avoid animal products and that fruits, vegetables, and grains are available in most parts of the world.
Yet, in reality, eating properly can be a considerably challenging endeavor while on the road or in unfamiliar territory.
After years of dunking emergency rice crackers and carrots in mashed up avocado (which, by the way, is delicious), I’ve found that being able to prepare food without a kitchen is usually manageable and oftentimes necessary.
Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, please read on, because particularly on long travel days, while staying with others or when traveling in groups, it’s important to feel nourished.
For all health-conscious travelers, I’d highly recommend adding the following items to your packing list:
1. Decent Utensils.
If nothing else, find a knife capable of peeling and chopping produce and a sturdy spork or set of travel cutlery (mine are made from bamboo, but stainless steel is probably more practical). I recently traveled with a friend who is a chef and carries around a vegetable peeler. It was great not only for removing vegetable skins we couldn’t wash, but also for shaving carrots, radishes, and cucumbers into a bus snack without having to pull out a knife in a moving vehicle.
2. Cutting Board.
I spent years chopping on plates, plastic lids, cardboard, you name it—and highly encourage investing in a small, flexible, BPA-free cutting board. They are cheap, light, take up no space, can also serve as a plate and make life a lot easier when cohabiting with meat eaters (or with people who don’t clean up after themselves).
3. Small Mason Jar(s).
Yeah, they’re a bit heavy, but so is a subpar takeout meal. Jars are perfect for packing juices, smoothies, coffee, salads, or leftover whatever-you-ate-yesterday. When on a long journey, you’ll probably want to eat something other than what the bus stops sell or what the airplane offers—and you won’t want it to leak (believe me, I’ve been there).
Maybe I’ve spent too much time in Mexico, but I’m convinced that everything tastes better with salt and chili and limón. Creating a mixed seed/spice shaker also changed my cooking-abroad life. Mine currently consists of cumin, fennel, coriander, and black pepper, but hey—go crazy. This probably goes without saying, but from experience, garlic-infused olive oil is not the most travel-friendly condiment.
5. B-12 or Nutritional Yeast and Probiotics.
Any vitamins or supplements you feel like you lack at home, your body will likely miss more while traveling. Most vitamins are fairly easy to find overseas, but I’d suggest purchasing shelf-stable probiotics before your departure in order to keep your gut strong and to give your immune system an extra boost against the unfamiliar bacteria that you’ll be exposing yourself to in a new environment.
6. Oh, and Food!
We all know that travel is unpredictable, that sometimes a four-hour bus trip takes all day and that not eating makes us irritable, so stock up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and healthy snacks whenever possible. If you always pack more than you think you could possibly eat and keep a filling “emergency” snack somewhere nearby, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
The more people you meet on the road, the more creative food-packing tips you’ll come across. Share with others and find a system that works best for you.
Or, if you’re having a tough time finding nutrients, head to Ohio. I’ve heard everyone is vegan there…
Wishing you safe travels full of delicious, nutritious treats!
Author: Rachel Markowitz
Image: @ecofolks Instagram
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina