Frequent international traveller, JJ Nicole, shares what she has learned about remaining vegan while jet-setting around the world.
After three years of travelling as a career, I’ve created a few personal scavenger hunts for little known historic landmarks, quaint local coffee shops, and memorable vegan food. While travelling as a vegan takes work, particularly when doing so internationally, I’ve generated several ideas to make the challenge more than conquerable. In fact, it has become enormously fun. Being a plant-based consumer doesn’t have to make a vacation any less amazing, I would actually argue the opposite! If you’re a vegan planning a trip across international borders, here is some advice to take with you on the journey.
Pack some snack bars
With aeroplane travel, you can’t pack what you normally might due to T.S.A. restrictions. Snack bars are an easy option that takes up little room and weight. If you’re spending the day on foot or can’t find a nearby vegan option, they are a great safety food.
Look for fruit and nut bars, specifically
Most vegans have their “go-to” brands back home, but you may not be able to find them in other countries. By searching for minimal-ingredient snack bars made of things like fruit and nuts, you’ll likely find a new brand that is perfectly vegan-friendly…and someone else’s go-to in another town.
Familiarise yourself with the basic vocabulary
Do a search on a site such as wordreference.com for things like “vegan”, “vegetarian” and “dairy". To get you started, here’s the subtle one-letter difference between “vegetarian” and “vegan” in French (I was kicking myself for not having looked that one up sooner):
Végétarien = vegetarian
Végétalien = vegan
Alternatively, get a copy of The Vegan Society’s Vegan Passport!
Look for The Vegan Trademark
The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark is an internationally recognised symbol that lets you know that a particular product is suitable for a vegan lifestyle. As the oldest vegan charity in the world, you can rest assured that this a symbol you can trust, whereas other symbols might have less stringent guidelines or might be self-declared.
Wander through outdoor markets.
I tasted some of the best nuts I’d ever tried at a stall in Girona, Spain. You will find plenty of fresh, tasty, naturally vegan-friendly foods. And it’s remarkable how much better something tastes when offered in simplicity instead of out of a can from the grocery store or packed with preservatives.
Don’t forget to enjoy basic foods like bread and peanut butter
Definitely sample a plethora of creative dishes if you can, but don’t skip the basic items. The taste really does change depending on where you are and it’s great to experience the differences. If you’re from the U.S., you’ll find that preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients are not nearly as prevalent in many places as they are in the states, usually making these foods taste better.
Eat something you can’t identify
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve located a spot that was 100% vegan and knowing everything was fair game, picked something with no clue as to what I had ordered. It’s a risk, but also an adventure that’s almost always worth it.
Turn off the main roads
In my experience, there has been a greater chance of “stumbling” upon great vegan-friendly restaurants while exploring side roads instead of solely main thoroughfares. You can often rely on helpful apps like HappyCow to locate nearby places, but it’s always fun to find things on your own too. There are usually a few spots that aren’t shown on HappyCow or Google Maps.
Make a vegan trip to Germany
While there are countless destinations that deliver solidly on vegan-friendly cuisine, Germany is one of my favourites. For a country known for its bratwurst, it has a very impressive vegan presence. There are extremely creative dishes of all sorts: sandwiches, pizzas, and desserts, just to name a few. I’ve found plenty of vegan food there without searching my phone and have eaten some of the most enjoyable and uncommon dishes as well.
Don’t expect vegan replicas of the town’s traditional food.
I’ve found that, in the U.S., it’s popular to simply mimic non-vegan food items. Abroad, I often find completely original vegan meals. Embrace the imagination involved instead of expecting to find vegan versions of the most popular local cuisines. There is so much plant-based innovation out there that you’ll have really exotic dishes to brag about back home.
by JJ NicoleJJ is a travelling vegan, solo adventurer, and avid runner, passionate about finding great local plant-based food (especially dessert) and scenic out-of-town races. In addition to nonfiction writing, she is also a travel photographer…find out more at jbrexpressions.com
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.