We are happy to share our interview with one of the leaders in the worldwide Vegan Travel scene. Caitlin Galer-Unti is the author of the successful book Essential Vegan Travel Guide and her blog The Vegan Word. Sharing with us interesting and funny stories about how she started her book and blog, favorite vegan snacks, awesome vegan travel tips and much more.
Planning, packing well and planning some more! I’m not a particularly organized person in general, and often leave things to the last minute – everything except researching vegan food on my travels, that is. While I can often be found on the plane frantically reading through saved travel guides on my phone, trying to work out what currency is used in my destination and how to get from the airport to where I’m staying, weeks before my trip you’ll find me poring over lists of vegan location dishes and restaurants, spending hours plotting what I want to eat.
I might not have any clue whether I need to exchange currency at the airport, but you can bet I have a list of vegan phrases on my phone and restaurants starred on my Google maps.
I also always have snacks with me – both when I travel around my home city and further afield! Dried fruit and nuts have saved me many times.
Dried fruit and nuts! Bars (like Nakd bars) can always be found in my hand luggage. If I’m going to stay somewhere with a kitchen, I’ve been known to take some harder-to-find ingredients like nooch, or even a small jar of spices to kick-start cooking. And if I’m going somewhere longer-term, I bring my blender and food processor (See more info about our recommended portable travel blenders).
I love reading about different cuisines from around the world so as I mentioned before I do a lot of research before visiting a new country and a lot of that is reading online about the cuisine and accidentally vegan traditional dishes.
I also love learning ‘secret’ phrases, like ‘de post’ in Romania or ‘nistisimo’ in Greece for Orthodox fasting, which excludes meat, eggs and dairy but may include fish so you need to ask separately about fish. Find more info about eastern european food on my blog.
I usually write down and learn a few key phrases (I save them on my phone in a note), and I learn any of the ‘secret’ phrases the unlock vegan cuisine (e.g. ‘de post’ in Romanian). I also own a Vegan Passport, put together by the Vegan Society, which has proved to be helpful.
My favourite place to visit as a vegan is Taiwan. It’s become a lot more well-known as a travel destination in the last few years but I think still not that many people know how vegan-friendly it is. I’ve heard around 13% of the population is vegetarian, largely due to Buddhist influences, and vegetarian and vegan restaurants are incredibly widespread – and something that everyone enjoys (vegan or not). See guide to Taiwan
I was there in 2010, when declaring you were vegan still tended to raise eyebrows even in London. But when I told the owners of the Taipei hostel I was staying in I was vegan, they said ‘Oh, we love vegan food, you should try the vegan place across the street!’ and proceeded to recommend their favourite dishes.
I soon discovered walking around Taipei that there were vegetarian restaurants on pretty much every block. It was probably the only place where I didn’t plan where to eat or star vegan restaurants on Google maps. I just walked around until I saw a vegetarian or vegan restaurant that looked good! It helps a lot if you know the traditional Chinese character for vegetarian, and if you learn a few phrases (I studied Chinese at university and I think it helped a lot).
Ooh, it’s tough to choose! In no particular order:
-Kroki kroket (Croatia): These are a total love it or hate it snack and I love them! They’re like Cheetos, but covered in peanut dust instead of cheese. I have to have some every time I go to Croatia! (See vegan snacks in Croatia).
-Bajadera (Croatia/Serbia): Another Croatian treat (made in Croatia but also sold in Serbia and possibly other countries nearby), these are the BEST chocolates. They’re like Nutella, in the form of a box of chocolates, and I tell everyone who goes to Croatia or Serbia they must try these – and bring some back for me! (See vegan snacks for Serbia).
-Pita (Serbia): Okay, I seem to have a little obsession with Serbia and Croatia here but I can’t help it. During Lent (and I’ve heard outside of Lent, too), there are so many vegan pastries in Serbia! Ask for ‘posno’ or look for the posno label – many bakeries have a few options. Pita are unbelievably flaky pastries, wrapped around a variety of fillings, savoury or sweet. The filling can be apple, cherry, spinach, mushroom or potato. (See Serbia local food page).
-Freddo espresso (Greece): Not a snack per se, but…if you’re in Greece in the summer there’s absolutely nothing better than sitting down mid-morning or mid-afternoon to cool down with this iced shaken coffee. Espresso is shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker until a thick foam appears on top. It’s like a cocktail, minus alcohol, and it’s really refreshing when it’s hot outside!
-Hagelslag on toast (Netherlands): The Dutch are the largest consumers of sprinkles (hagelslag) in the world, and how do they eat them? On toast! For breakfast or for a snack, sprinkles are put on buttered bread. Yep, sprinkles. Beter & Leuk in Amsterdam do a great fancy version with vegan butter, sourdough toast and dark chocolate shavings. Find the full guide to the Netherlands on my blog.
I was raised vegetarian, and I always naively assumed no animals were killed or harmed for vegetarian food. I was always conscious of not wanting to harm animals, and stopped wearing leather as soon as I found out what it was around the age of 6 or 7, only bought skincare products that weren’t tested on animals, etc. I was really horrified when I discovered otherwise! Thanks to the internet, I started learning the truth about dairy and egg farming, wool and more, and made the decision to go vegan. It was the best decision I ever made!
I usually travel solo (sometimes with my dog), although I occasionally travel with friends. Some are vegan and others aren’t but they all get dragged to vegan restaurants with me. Luckily, all my friends love vegan food and even the non-vegan ones pretty much eat vegan on trips with me because I want to go to every vegan restaurant! I had a (non vegan) friend once announce before visiting me in Barcelona ‘I can’t wait for my vegan weekend in Barcelona; I always eat the best food I’ve ever tasted when I visit you!’ I think that goes to show anyone who doubts vegan food that actually it isn’t lacking in flavour at all. My dog is happy to go in any restaurant I want – in case he can find some scraps on the floor. He also insists on greeting everyone.
I started writing it a few years after I started my blog, because I realised there wasn’t anything out there like it. There was no book to show the new (or not so new) vegan how to travel as a vegan. At the time I started writing it (2014) there weren’t a lot of vegan travel blogs out there, let alone books on essential vegan travel, and I kept meeting people who told me they wanted to go vegan, but couldn’t because they were travelling – or that they’d given up being vegan before going off travelling! I wanted to write a book to show them they could be vegan and travel anywhere.
I started writing it when I was stuck working in a job I hated. I used to sneak off to the bathroom to write! I actually wrote most of the book in that bathroom. I finished writing it, edited it and then some friends helped me with the design, and the first edition came out in 2015 (it’s now in its third edition).
Caitlin Galer-Unti is also the author of her award winning blog The Vegan Word. Here you will find tons of great info about vegan travel in general and tips for specific countries and cities.
Find our interview our article about The Nomadic Vegan and her blog Here.
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