TWV – Traveling While Vegan

My friend said something surprising to me the other day when we were talking in the car. He was telling me about the trips he’d been on before he went vegan when he said “I’m kinda scared to travel out of the country now that I’m vegan.”

This is something I’ve never given much thought to. I grew up in Texas and studied at a hyper conservative university where veganism was shunned. I never leave the house without enough food to keep me going at least until the next day. Maybe this is something he has never had to deal with- being prepared. So let’s address the concerns people have about being vegan and going abroad.

 

#1. There will be nothing for me to eat. I will starve.

There is always something to eat. You might have to do a little bit of searching, but you will find something and it will be delicious. Veganism is on the rise, and vegan restaurants are popping up all over the world. Everywhere I’ve been in the last two years has had multiple vegan restaurants. Check out Yelp, TripAdvisor, and HappyCow for recommendations before your trip and always travel prepared. Before I go abroad, I always stock up on vegan protein bars. Take the number of days that you’ll be out of the house and multiply by two- this is the number of bars I usually take for myself. If all else fails and I simply cannot find any vegan food, I can survive a pretty long time on just the food I brought along. If you happen to be staying somewhere where you have access to a kitchen, hit up the nearest convenience store and buy yourself something to cook: grains, fresh vegetables, beans- these staples can be found anywhere.

 

#2. They won’t know what vegan means and I’ll end up eating animal products accidentally.

This is a totally understandable concern. As a vegan, one of the worst things is accidentally consuming something that came from an animal. Last year I accidentally ate something that had milk fat in it and I felt horribly ashamed for weeks, even though it had been unintentional. So what should you do if you go somewhere and nobody understands what you mean when you say vegan? Learn how to describe it and then start lying about food allergies. Maybe the word “vegan” doesn’t ring a bell, so you’ll have to explain “I don’t eat any kinds of animal meats and I don’t eat cheese or milk or eggs or butter…etc.” Brush up on some key words in whatever the language is of the place you’re going and do your best to list everything you cannot eat. When all else fails, tell everyone you are lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs and pork.

 

#3. I’m traveling with other people who aren’t vegan and they won’t cater to my needs.

Those are some crappy traveling buddies. Leave them and never travel with them again. Seriously.

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An accurate representation of me, a vegan, traveling. The bag is filled with food.

I have had amazing vegan food all over the world. Stay tuned for some reviews in upcoming posts, filled with delicious mouth-watering food pictures. Every time I’ve taken organized tours, the guides have been wonderful at providing snacks I could eat and finding restaurants for the group that included veggie options as well. Be nice to people, know how to explain your diet, always be prepared with extra food on hand, make sure you have a kitchen in your hotel/Airbnb/hostel, and do your research ahead of time on local vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants. Everything will be okay.

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Here’s me, in Turkey, proudly displaying the biggest zucchini I’ve ever seen.
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Jet Lag – The Travel Hangover

The human body is an insanely intricate, amazing machine. Our bodies simultaneously do a million things in order to keep us alive and functioning normally. When something happens to disrupt that normalcy, our bodies tend to get a little confused.

Right now it’s 9:48 pm and I’m not too tired but I can already feel my body winding down. In about an hour and a half, I will be fighting to keep my eyelids open. In Sydney, it is 2:48 pm tomorrow. In Athens, it is 5:48 am tomorrow. It weirds me out when I think about how all over the world we are experiencing time differently.

Our bodies are trained to recognize patterns and routines. We are active during the daytime and inactive during the nighttime. This is called the circadian rhythm, which the National Sleep Foundation defines as the “24-hour clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” Your body sets its circadian rhythm based on patterns in your behaviors (for example- always eating at the same time, always going to sleep at the same time), and it also processes stimuli from the outside (for example- light versus dark/ day versus night). When we travel to faraway places with extreme time differences from where we started, our circadian rhythms suddenly don’t match up with the day/night cycle anymore and we feel jet lagged.

Have you ever been jet lagged? If not, you’re lucky. Most people compare it to being hungover. I think it’s a pretty accurate comparison, but maybe with a little less nausea.

Every travel junkie has their own technique to get over the jet lag quicker. Some people recommend sleeping aids, like melatonin. Some people start trying to gradually switch their sleep schedules days before their trip. Some people opt for sleep deprivation instead. There’s also some much weirder strategies I’ve read about on the internet that I won’t mention here for lack of evidence that it works, but the placebo effect might just be strong enough that anything you do might work.

Here’s what I do to avoid the jet lag:

  • Drink a lot of water. This helps you avoid the headaches.
  • Nap. A lot. If you’re fighting off a 15 hour time change, it would not be wise to sleep a full 7-8 hour during the middle of the day, but it’s also not ideal to be fighting off immense sleepiness all day long either. Take power naps and it will get you through the day and then you’ll sleep like a baby when it’s actually nighttime.
  • Sleep on the plane if it’s an overnight flight, at least a little. I have a hard time sleeping on planes because it’s so uncomfortable, but I can always get in an hour or two.
  • Try to follow through your bedtime routine as closely as you can when you are away from home. If you always drink tea an hour before bed, continue to do so when you’re traveling. Following the routine lets your body recognize that it is time to sleep and puts your circadian rhythm in check faster.
  • Put the electronics away. Bright screens in dark rooms keep your mind active and prevent you from falling asleep sooner.
  • Relax. Do yoga. Meditate.
  • As a last resort, I listen to the Sleep With Me podcast. It has put me to sleep every single time I’ve tried to listen to it. I use it constantly. No more unintentional all nighters.

 

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Sunrise over Brazil

Embracing the “Off-Season”

Winter has just started and I often find myself super cold, wrapped up in a blanket burrito on the couch, daydreaming about the beach. South America is probably nice and warm right now. Before you impulsively book your escape from winter, remember that everyone else is probably doing the same thing and the locals are all there as well, enjoying their nice weather.

Lately I’ve been going against the flow and it has really been paying off. When you travel somewhere during the off-season, chances are that you will spend way less money and get to do way more things. It’s a win-win, right? The only bothersome thing is you might have to still be cold (or wet- if the off-season is the rainy season). Take an extra jacket and a poncho and you’re all set!

I just got back from an off-season solo trip to Barcelona. My flight was not even half as expensive as it usually is, I was able to book an Airbnb in the middle of the city for a lower price than normal, the tours I took were not crowded at all, and I never waited in line for anything. And you know what- Barcelona is not even that cold in the winter. I’m colder at home.

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Pyrenees Mountains – Still just as beautiful in the cold

 

6 Life Lessons Learned From Traveling Alone

Whenever I announce my trips to family or friends, usually their response is “When are you going?” followed closely by “Who are you going with?” I am going with myself, thank you very much.

Nowadays there are lots of solo travelers; it’s not really that hard to find someone traveling alone. So why do my solo adventures still elicit this confusing reaction? People have told me that I’m brave for having the courage to go places by myself. Others have said that I’m stupid and just asking to be robbed, or worse, when I travel alone. Which is it? Am I brave, stupid, or something else entirely?

Here’s the truth: Solo travel isn’t for everyone. If you genuinely don’t know how to be by yourself when you aren’t traveling, then yeah you probably shouldn’t travel by yourself. But does it take a brave person to set out on a solo adventure? – No. Does it take a stupid person to risk going somewhere alone? – No. All it takes is someone who is willing to explore on their own terms, who doesn’t depend on others to have a good time, and who honestly doesn’t want to wait around for other people’s vacation times to sync up with their own.

Solo travel changes the way you do life. Here’s six life lessons I learned since I started traveling by myself.

1. Traveling alone is way less stressful than traveling with anybody else. 

When things go wrong on a solo trip, you have to step up and fix things yourself. No one is there for you to blame or argue with. Eventually, you realize that stressing out won’t help you fix anything, so you get past it and move on.

2. Decisions are much simpler when there’s only one vote.

This one is a no-brainer, right? You want to eat at a gluten-free, all vegan, kosher, zero waste café on top of a mountain during a snowstorm? Go for it.

3. You are the best photographer you will ever know.

And your selfie game will reach new levels of awesome after a few solo excursions.

4. Just because you travel alone, it doesn’t mean that you’re lonely.

At this point I’ve met plenty of other solo travelers all over the world. None of them were sad. How can you be sad when you are actively exploring and doing something that is purely for yourself? Lonely people don’t choose to travel, they join book clubs and sit at home. (No offense to book clubs; I love book clubs).

5. You meet more people when you’re by yourself.

Being alone forces you out of your comfort zone sometimes and you have to interact more with strangers. You got lost and your phone died? Now you have to talk to people in the streets. You booked a tour with twenty other people that you now have to spend all day with? Great, they’ll all be your friends. Not to mention when solo travelers meet other solo travelers- you’ll know more about each other in five minutes than you know about that person you went on eight dates with last year.

6. There are no regrets on solo trips.

This is the best lesson learned. When you travel by yourself, you do all of the things that you wanted to do and none of the things that you didn’t want to do.