Submitted by Stuart Perkins on Sat, 2011-02-26 12:37
By Stuart Perkins
Maintaining a vegan diet while traveling may require a little more planning and foresight but the payoff is well worth it. Extra energy, a healthier body and the knowledge that you are helping to protect the environment of the country you are visiting are just a few of the rewards.
First up - airline meals. Vegan meals on airplanes are almost impossible to find but this is really a gift in disguise. Airplane meals have always been mediocre at best. Bringing your own meal or snack is the best option, but it usually doesn't take too much effort to find a vegan meal in the terminal if the TSA confiscates your food.
Once you arrive at your destination eating healthy gets a lot easier. Planning ahead will smooth your transition and I highly recommend learning how to simply explain what you do and don't eat in the local language. Even knowing the words for chicken, beef, fish, milk, cheese and eggs will make things easier.
Travel guides also seem to be realizing the demand for vegan dining information. Many of them now denote which restaurants have good vegetarian and vegan options, with Lonely Planet's Shoestring series being among the best for vegan travelers who want a good overall country guide. United Kingdom-based Vegetarian Guides also produces a series of books focused solely on vegan restaurants and eating in specific countries. (www.vegetarianguides.co.uk)
One of the best parts of traveling is experiencing other cultures, and a great way to feel closer to the locals is to try their traditional meals. Some of these meals may never be converted to a vegan version but you may be surprised by what you find. In my own travels I had a vegan version of a traditional gnocchi-based dish while in the Netherlands, vegan paella while in Spain and most recently came across an entire vegan restaurant serving only local fare in Puerto Viejo, a small surf town in Costa Rica.
On top of trying traditional local meals you can find international food in almost any city or town around the world. Chinese, Thai, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine must be appreciated by every culture, because you can find these restaurants almost anywhere, and where you find them you can count on finding a healthy vegan option.
Regardless of where you travel the choices are out there and you have to keep a keen eye in order to spot them. Avoid steakhouses or seafood restaurants, learn a few local words for what you don't eat and try to plan ahead. Then relax and take comfort in knowing that you are eating healthy food while experiencing another culture.
Stuart Perkins is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington. Vegan for more than 10 years, he is currently exploring Central America and is falling in love with the vegan options he is finding there.