Being an annoyingly ethical minded person can be a tricky task when travelling the globe, particularly in countries where meat and dairy are in practically every dish. You feel rude rejecting the undoubtedly divine local cuisine and fellow travellers give you hassle for not being able to eat certain foods. Nobody likes to be the token fussy one, especially when in a foreign country surrounded by new friends, so it puts you in a bit of a predicament.
Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely doable, you just have to know how to do it right. Here are a few tips from someone with firsthand experience on how to travel as a vegan without coming across as an arrogant ignoramus.
1. Learn to speaka’ their language
See: Vegetariano, végétalien, ăn chay, vegano/a.
The very first thing non-meat-eaters should do when travelling somewhere new is learn how to say and write the word vegan. A quick google search will save you a whole lot of embarrassment when it comes to ordering food, plus it’s a whole lot more respectful.
Note: You should also learn words or phrases that will help explain what a vegan is (e.g. no meat, no dairy, no eggs). Which brings me to my next tip…
2. Don’t assume everybody knows what veganism is
As obvious as this one may seem, I know a few people who waltz into foreign restaurants (and even places in their own country) expecting the wait staff to be experts on veganism. Yes, the world is becoming increasingly aware of our individual impact but that doesn’t mean every chef will know how to whip up a meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free feed.
3. Use a translation app to read ingredient lists
Reading the back of packets is a pretty essential part of being a vegan. How else are we to know that most corn chips have milk products and refried beans are sometimes made with pork lard? Don’t make the mistake of assuming a product is vegan overseas just because it is back home.
4. Let people ask questions
Contrary to the stereotypes (and besides the fact that I’m writing this article), I’m not a very active promoter of my animal product-free lifestyle. I don’t share it on social media and I put off telling new friends as long as I possibly can. Not because I’m embarrassed by my ethical decisions or not educated enough to have substantial justifications but because I just can’t be bothered arguing my case. Yet despite having mastered the art of politely refusing certain dishes and sneakily ordering vegan options in restaurants, everyone eventually picks up on my eating habits and the same old questions follow suit.
“How do you go travelling as a vegan? Is it hard? What do you eat?”
To which I reply with the short, slightly sarcastic and super Okka response of “nah it’s all good mate, you can get vegetables everywhere in the world”.
I then change the conversation as quickly as possible.
So feel free to use that one, my fellow vegan travellers. If it fails, just tell people you’re allergic to everything… they might accept that one more easily 😉