We are really excited to get to interview one of the pioneers of vegan travel Wendy Werneth. Her well known website The Nomadic Vegan has won many awards, and is considered one of the best vegan travel blogs. After touring the world in more than 100 countries and leading many vegan tours worldwide, she has taken time out to share with The Veganary some of her top vegan travel tips and insights.
I initially came to learn about plant-based eating out of an interest in health. But as I educated myself and found out about the horrible things happening to animals in the meat, dairy and egg industries, alleviating their suffering soon became my main motivation.
When I first started on this journey, I didn’t intend to go fully vegan. But the more I learned, the more I realized that being vegan was the only way that I could live in alignment with my own values.
One of the biggest fears holding me back from going fully vegan was the fear that it was going to ruin travel. And since travel was my greatest passion, that was a huge worry for me.
But once I gave it a try, I discovered to my amazement that being vegan actually made travel better, not worse! I knew there must be other people out there with the same fears and misconceptions I’d once had, so I created the Nomadic Vegan to show those people that traveling as a vegan was much easier than they imagined.
1. Identify vegan-friendly restaurants beforehand. The vegan scene in Portugal is growing by leaps and bounds, especially in larger cities. At the same time, though, traditional Portuguese cuisine is anything but vegan, so you can’t just walk into any restaurant and expect a vegan meal. HappyCow is a great place to look for vegan-friendly restaurants, and I’ve also written about some of my favorites on The Nomadic Vegan.
2. Seek out organic/health food stores. The main grocery store chains like Mini Preço and Pingo Doce don’t have much at all when it comes to specialty vegan products. When self-catering, you’re much better off at a health food store. Go Natural is a national chain, and there are many others.
3. In Lisbon and Porto, don’t miss the vegan Pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) at DaTerra. They’re just as good if not better than the eggy version!
It’s a tie between India and Italy! India is widely known to be the most vegetarian-friendly country in the world, and many of the local vegetarian dishes are also vegan or can easily be veganized. Since vegetarians in India don’t eat eggs, the only non-vegan items to watch out for are dairy products, such as ghee (clarified butter), curd (yogurt) and cream.
South Indian cuisine is particularly vegan-friendly, and there are so many amazing flavor combinations to discover! I just returned from co-hosting a 10-day trip in southern India, and I’m already dying to go back.
My other favorite foodie destination is Italy, which is much more vegan-friendly than most people think. A common misconception is that everything in Italy is smothered in cheese. While that may be true in Italian restaurants abroad, that’s not what authentic Italian food is like.
Italian cuisine varies a lot from one region to another, but the south in particular has lots of plant-based dishes. Let’s not forget that the very first pizza, invented in Naples, was completely vegan! Pizza marinara is made with just tomatoes, basil, garlic and oregano, and it’s still one of the most popular pizzas in Neapolitan pizzerias. But there’s also a lot more to Italy than just pizza and pasta.
Overall, vegan travel has been so much easier than I thought it was going to be. Destinations that I thought would be difficult, like Normandy in France, turned out to be a piece of cake. There’s only one time when I did struggle a bit to find food, and it happened just a couple of months ago.
My husband and I have a tradition of walking a different branch of the Camino de Santiago every year, and this year we chose the Camino de Madrid. Finding vegan food on the Camino Francés, which is the path that most people think of when they think about the Camino de Santiago, is no problem at all.
The Camino de Madrid is different though, as it’s a little-known path that gets very few visitors and that passes through lots of dying towns in the interior of Spain. These towns used to be prosperous, but in recent decades their population has dwindled drastically, in some cases
down to just 200 people or even fewer.
Some have no shops, cafés or restaurants at all, and the ones that do have these facilities are extremely basic. There are several common vegan dishes in Spanish cuisine that I had previously thought were available pretty much anywhere in the country, but that turned out not to be true on the Camino de Madrid.
In one of the towns we passed through, the local bar didn’t even have French fries. The only thing they could offer us for lunch was cauliflower! We ate a lot of bread, tomatoes and chocolate on that trip, and we quickly learned to stock up on food whenever we had the chance.
The first thing I do is check HappyCow to see if there are any vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants listed there. In some cases, I find so many options that I know I won’t have the time or the room in my stomach to try them all!
But even if there are no listings at all on HappyCow, I don’t worry. My next step is to research the local cuisine and look for dishes that happen to be vegan already or can easily be veganized (check our LOCAL FOOD pages inside of each country for more info on this subject).
If I’m still not confident about finding vegan food in my destination, I will turn to social media to connect with local vegans in the area. Facebook groups can be a great place to get recommendations from vegans living in a destination.
And by searching for relevant hashtags on Instagram you can find local vegans as well as vegan-friendly places to eat. In fact, I think I’ll search for #veganrussia and #veganmongolia right now in preparation for my next trip!
Just by living your life and showing others what it means to be a happy, healthy vegan, you are being a positive role model. This is often a far more effective means of activism than arguing with people about veganism.
No one likes to be told that they are a bad person or that they are doing something immoral. Instead of focusing on what the people around you are doing, try sharing your own story with them.
Wendy Werneth is an intrepid world traveler, vegan foodie and animal lover. She is the author of the book Veggie Planet and the creator of the award-winning vegan travel blog The Nomadic Vegan, where she uncovers vegan treasures across the globe so that you can be vegan anywhere and spread compassion everywhere.
Find out interview with Caitlin, the author of The Vegan Word blog Here.
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