Just recently my family and I became vegetarian, which quickly led to veganism. Before I explain how I travel as a vegan, I thought it might be better to explain why I made this life change. It’s a question I get asked a lot.
(If you are already vegan, skip this section and move straight onto TRAVEL)
The short answer…
I watched these three documentaries:
The long answer…
I have always been interested in food biology, which I studied in school as part of home economics. I read a lot of books on health and nutrition. I started with Jason Vale, the Juice Master’s, ‘Freedom from the Diet Trap’:
It’s a fantastic book, easy to read, and spoken in plain English. It addresses your common sense. This book really opened my eyes to how food can be advertised as ‘healthy’ even when it is not, (i.e. ‘fat-free’ but full of sugar), and how we have been conditioned to eat particular foods that we shouldn’t. I went on to read the rest of his books.
I started juicing about nine years ago and I still juice nearly every day! There is something great about getting your recommended five fruit and vegetables a day, first thing in the morning, and all in one serving. I also can get raw nutrients from vegetables I would never eat raw, like beetroot, celery, carrots etc. (fruits and vegetables lose some vitamins and minerals when they are cooked).
I also thought if I got my five a day in the morning, I could eat whatever I liked the rest of the day. This is something I have come to realise doesn’t work. But when anyone is sick, I juice for them, and it helps the healing process. I’m not a big fan of antibiotics and pills. Drink your medicine!
I also suffer from psoriasis. I am strangely grateful for my skin problem as it has led me down the path of learning more about diet and health. Thankfully it’s on my scalp, so it can be hidden quite well, but it can flare up, flake and make me a little self conscious. I have tried every cream, lotion, potion, and supplement I could find, but nothing worked well enough. The juicing was certainly helping, but I noticed when I ate poorly the psoriasis got worse. It also flared up when I became stressed.
After a while, I realised I can’t treat the surface of the problem; I have to get to the root. Juicing was the beginning for me healing myself from within. I started taking supplements, eating particular foods and cutting out other foods, particularly dairy. I stopped drinking milk and eating yoghurt (two foods I ate/drank everyday), and it seemed to improve. Dairy has been linked to auto immune diseases like psoriasis. Saying that, I was still eating cheese, so I hadn’t eliminated dairy completely.
Vitamin D eases psoriasis. It nearly disappears on sunny holidays, but living in Northern Ireland and working in an office, I get very little sunshine. I tried sun beds for a month, but it didn’t work. I was also panicking about skin cancer, so I stopped.
Then one day I randomly watched Cowspiracy, a documentary produced by Leonardo Di’Caprio about the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry on the planet:
My friends would call me a tree hugger and a hippie, and I guess they are right to do so. I’m always harping on about recycling and waste. I realised I can no longer consider myself an environmentalist, if I continue to eat animal products. The agriculture industry is a huge culprit in greenhouse gases, pollution and deforestation.
I also believe if you love travel, you will inherently care about the planet and its preservation. The two go hand in hand.
I decided there and then to go vegetarian/vegan. I wasn’t ready to jump fully into the vegan wagon, (it just seemed too overwhelming and daunting), but I agreed cutting out meat was easy enough, and I could gradually work on the cheese and eggs.
Then I watched Earthlings, a documentary about animal cruelty in the food industry and I was sick to my stomach. (Warning: watch Earthlings with a box of tissues, I sobbed). The only thing I regret about going vegan is not doing it sooner.
So, now I was doing it for the environment and the animals, until I watched Forks Over Knives. Now I am also doing for my health. I would also recommend watching Vegucated, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and listening to Dr. Greger’s lectures on YouTube How Not To Die. I am currently reading The China Study. The results of these studies will blow you away.
You can also follow my Eco Warrior/Vegan Pinterest Board…
After just two weeks of going veggie, I noticed a few things happening. My skin got brighter and clearer, my energy levels doubled, and I felt happier and more upbeat. My nails are shiny and strong (something I have never had). My hair is thicker and shinier. I don’t need my three o’clock coffee, and I’ve switched from regular green tea to decaf.
I don’t feel bloated and lethargic after meals. My sugar cravings have decreased. My taste buds have changed. I enjoy vegetables more, and junk food less. I’ve become properly excited about cooking and baking for the first time.
…And to top it all off, I’ve lost weight. In fact, I’ve lost more weight than when I was running last summer (half a stone to be exact). I still eat vegan brownies/ dairy free ice cream/egg-free cake/dark chocolate, you name it…there’s a vegan option.
It’s the perfect example of karma, when you do good things, good things happen to you 🙂
If you have just went vegan/plant based and want to understand the science behind why you feel so good, then I would highly recommend reading ‘The China Study‘. I really enjoyed learning that my ethical dietary decision also benefits my health dramatically.
My favourite cookbooks so far …
I love these recipes because they don’t have a huge list of ingredients, and they are easy to make and gluten-free. Ella suffered from an illness that she no longer suffers from, due to her change in diet.
‘Keep It Vegan’ Aine Carlin
Aine makes it all seem so simple, and she’s also from Northern Ireland 🙂
The Happy Pear
These two lads from Greystones, in Dublin travelled the world, and then opened a greengrocer in back home. It naturally progressed into a café and now they have two recipes books.
The Homemade Vegan Pantry
If you’re sick of reading labels and finding egg and milk in places it shouldn’t be, then this is the book for you! She even makes un-pork ribs!
She’s a vegetarian chef that concentrates on eating plants that are in season to further help with the environmental impact of our eating habits. Anna’s brother and sister are vegan, so she explains what to use for vegan variations of her recipes that she has tried and tested. The books themselves are beautiful and I love the recipes I’ve tried so far.
There are many other vegan cookbooks of course, but these are the ones I’ve tried and tested.
Jamie Oliver also has great vegan recipes on his website. I follow all of the above on Instagram along with ‘Sarahsworldfare’ ‘My New Roots’, ‘Goji man’ and ‘vegan community’.
I think we’ve forgotten what healthy feels like, but once you start to feel good again, you won’t want the food that makes you feel rubbish. You won’t feel hard done by when you see the food you can’t eat. ‘Can’t eat’ becomes…’don’t want to eat’. Eating healthy and feeling great is a luxury, not a punishment.
Eat good, feel good. Eat shit, feel shit. It really is that simple. If you want to see the whole world, you will also want to live long and be healthy, so go vegan!
So finally we get to the real problem … travelling abroad as a vegan.
But is it a problem? I certainly thought it would be, but I was wrong. Turns out I enjoy researching vegan eateries in new travel destinations just as much as I enjoy finding hidden gems of new travel destinations. I guess they are pretty much the same thing anyway.
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating in foreign lands. Part of me really likes having a few restaurants that I can go find and know I’ll like the menu.
Luckily today there are more and more vegetarian/vegan restaurants popping up all over the place.
We went to Krakow on our first trip as vegetarians/vegans. As you can imagine, Polish food is very meaty and stodgy and we thought we would have some trouble. Then we decided as good travellers, we must try the local dishes and delicacies. There is such a thing as a ‘Vegan traveller’ who is vegan day to day but will try foreign foods while abroad. This appealed to the traveller in me, but I quickly realised that I didn’t even want to try the polish cuisine. The stodgy meat dishes had lost their appeal. Luckily nearly every restaurant has a vegetarian option or a few, so we started just eating in restaurants/cafes after confirming they had vegetarian options.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
When we got back to our Air BnB apartment, I decided to Google search vegan restaurants in Krakow.
We found a great place called Pod Norenami, and we were spoilt for choice. This was such a novelty. In most restaurants you’re left with 1-2 options. It was at that moment that I realised I will include vegan restaurants in my list of things to research with each new trip. With my upcoming travel blogs I will note what vegan/vegetarian places we dine in. I have no doubt there are other vegans and vegetarians that would benefit from vegan/veggie travel blogs.
On our second trip as vegetarian/vegans, we were lucky enough to be spending the weekend in County Clare, Ireland at the Cliffs of Moher Yoga Retreat. This time it was easy as all the food was a mixture of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. The food was divine and it firmly concreted our views that nutrient dense food is more enjoyable than junk food, meat and dairy. We also packed some raw energy bites that my mum had made from the ‘Deliciously Ella’ cookbook. This allowed for vegan snacking on the long drive.
I used to live in Bangor/Belfast, and my family (also vegans) still live there. They keep me updated on new vegan food spots in Northern Ireland. I currently live in Dublin, and I am working my way around the veggie/vegan food scene here. Follow me on Instagram to see where I’m eating in Dublin, if you’re a vegan Dubliner or are planning a visit here in the future.
I have added, and will continue to add vegan places I find to my current Belfast/Northern Ireland travel blog, and my upcoming Dublin and Krakow travel blogs.
VEGAN TOILETRIES TO PACK
I have really enjoyed the process of sourcing vegan products. Here are some vegan products I have found to pack for your trip. You can use Lush, Body Shop, Original Source, Inecto, Ultra-dex, Herbivore and Urban Decay products.
The Lush tooth-tabs, tooth-powder, powder deodorant, and the bars of shampoo, conditioner and deodorant are also fantastic (non-liquid) products, that can be dumped into a carry on bag without exceeding your liquid allowance. They also have 100ml travel size bottles of everything you need to travel.
PitRok is a hard rock salt deodorant you apply to wet skin. It neutralises the bacteria that causes the sweat to smell. It works better than ‘normal’ deodorants I have used, and it’s natural if you don’t fancy rubbing harmful chemicals on your skin everyday. It also doesn’t leave white marks on your clothes (everybody wins).
VEGAN SNACKS TO PACK
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find what food/products are accidentally vegan. I follow ‘accidentally vegan’ on Instagram. Do some quick research before you go, to help with your food choices on your road trip/holiday etc.
For example, a McDonalds veggie burger with NO MAYO is vegan. I don’t promote the eating of junk food but these are good to know if your stuck, craving junk food or if h’anger has set in. (Something I suffer terribly from). Realistically you can always grab some fruit/nuts to snack on.
On our last road trip I was able to find some vegan snacks such as Fry’s chocolate, Starburst and Walkers Ready Salted crisps. Beware, a lot of crisps have milk in the ingredients list. If you don’t want to get stuck, be prepared, and pack some vegan snacks.
Being the bookworm that I am, I have found a vegan travel book and added it to my Amazon wish list. You can find other great travel books in my ‘books for the wanderlust’ blog.
I found eating vegan hardest on my short road trips around Ireland. When eating out in rural pubs, I simply order the vegetarian options. You can ask to remove cheese/egg from the veggie meal if it’s not already incorporated into the dish or sauce. Remember to not be too hard on yourself. Do what you can when you can, and don’t let it ruin your trip.
When I first went vegan, there were certain things I missed (goats cheese mostly). I found that having a small amount of the food you ‘think’ you miss is better than pining for it and obsessing over it. What I found (to my surprise), is the foods didn’t taste as good as I had remembered. I also felt pretty crap after eating the goats cheese, and now I don’t miss it.
I have a vegan food board on Pinterest you can follow for inspiration, and a reminder of all the delicious food you can eat.
You can also follow The Wandering Boomerang on….
Enjoy the adventure and return safely,
the wandering (now vegan) boomerang