Being a vegetarian is a choice of lifestyle that people embrace for many different reasons; animal-rights, health benefits and environmental factors, just to name a few.
For me, it was my love of animals. The more I heard and saw about the cruelty within the meat industry, the more I needed to make a lifestyle change of my own to ensure I had no part in it. I hadn’t realised at the time how many more benefits there would be. I have lost weight, I feel better in myself and I know that I’m contributing to several causes that I feel passionate about.
Was it an easy transition? Yes and no.
Cutting meat out of my diet was the easy part
I started my journey through cutting down on meat. Meat-free Mondays became a regular thing until after a few weeks most days were meat free. I have to admit, I thought it would be much harder than it actually was. The day I made the switch was after I had been to a festival for a weekend. We’ve all been there; that insatiable craving for something greasy to help you feel ‘normal’ again. My thought process was that if I could survive without my typical bacon sandwich when I ‘needed it the most’, then I could make the switch to vegetarianism permanently. That was 18 months ago and I haven’t looked back!
What I have found most difficult about being a veggie is when I’m travelling
As someone who travels extensively, the biggest shock to my system has been the challenge of finding good quality food and most importantly, variety! No longer can I just wander freely into any restaurant and know there is something on the menu I can eat or want to eat. In fact, it was this reason, I recently launched my own travel blog www.veggtravel.com. My ambition is to share my ‘veggie adventures worldwide’ to help inspire others to plan their trip to some amazing destinations.
Below, you will find my general advice about travelling as a newbie vegetarian and tips to overcome any challenges you might encounter.
All Inclusive resorts
I recently went to the Maldives though a travel provider and had informed them in advance that I was vegetarian. This was not communicated to the hotel. Whilst there was plenty of vegetarian options in the buffet, it was the same stuff every day. The al a carte restaurants had set menus which at best, had one or two veggie options and were difficult to get reservations for.
- Don’t rely on the travel provider to inform the hotel. Inform the hotel directly when you arrive and in advance if you can.
- Speak to the chef. Often, if you speak to the chef, they will be very accommodating of your dietary needs. They will show you what you can eat and will usually offer to adapt dishes for you. The chef will tend to remember you and your needs for next time making it easier for all. This also works for the al a carte restaurants. Don’t think that you’re restricted to the set menu – there might be flexibility.
There is no denying it, some countries are HUGE meat or fish eaters and have limited numbers of local vegetarians. Accordingly, you may find that your only options are bog-standard dishes such as a margarita pizza, a garden salad etc. This was the case for me in New Orleans. I didn’t go hungry, but variety was limited and the foods were very carb heavy. So, if you want to avoid a cheese, potato and bread overload, then:
- Research in advance. You’ve guessed it, look up vegetarian places in advance and check the menu before you go. It sounds obvious, but if you’re used to just wandering about and picking somewhere based on what catches your eye at the time, you may find yourself tired, hungry and disappointed.
- Learn the local dishes/language. If you’re going to a country where the language is different, look up key words for ‘no meat’, ‘vegetarian’ etc. in that language. If you do your research, you will find popular local veggie dishes and what they’re called to minimise any confusion. Unfortunately, in some countries/cultures, they believe that vegetarians still eat fish or chicken. The last thing you want to do is tuck into your meal to find they’ve misunderstood your needs and given you meat!
Linked to the point above, if you’re grabbing snacks or are self-catering then be vigilant about what you’re putting into your basket in the supermarket. I travel around Europe a lot and each country has a slightly different way to label vegetarian or vegan food, and that’s if they label it at all! I once mistakenly bought processed meat, thinking the V symbol it had meant it was a veggie substitute (it was actually gluten free – go figure!).
- Look up the vegetarian symbol for the country you’re visiting. This will help you know what to look for.
- If you’re not sure, put it back or quickly look up the brand. There are some things you think would naturally be vegetarian, but in foreign countries, they may use sauces or flavourings that are not.
These are just a few of the experiences I have had. If you’re thinking of moving to a veggie lifestyle, then I hope these few simple tips will help your transition. Whilst I still get frustrated when I travel sometimes, I have resided to the fact that all it takes is a little extra research in advance. This not only helps me use my time more effectively on my trip, it also helps me to pack accordingly if I think finding appropriate snacks/food will be an issue.
Guest Writer Bio: Kerry Hanson
Kerry is a travel blogger based in the North of England who aims to inspire travellers that are looking for an adventure. Kerry’s blogs suit the type of people that are always in search of the next destination, or to tick something off a never ending bucket list. Expect honest travel advice and guidance, with suggestions about tasty vegetarian dining thrown in for good measure.
If you’d like to stay up to date with Kerry’s ‘veggie adventures worldwide’ then catch up with her on any of the below channels:
For more posts from our green living series check out: