A list of things to do while traveling to make staying vegan not only easy, but enjoyable and delicious.
As a Brooklyn resident, living in the especially gentrified hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, I don't have to work hard at sticking to my vegan diet (sorry, most annoying white person thing to say ever!) But seriously, there are probably five vegan restaurants in a two-block radius from my apartment and I do quite okay avoiding animal products of any kind. Even after a long night of partying (i.e. sitting in the corner texting myself), I can drunkenly waltz into any of my corner delis at 3:00 a.m. and impulsively grab a $5 pre-made macrobiotic plate and wash it down with $3 pineapple kombucha like it's no big deal. However, traveling outside of New York and maintaining a vegan diet is another story.
This past year, while supporting a feature film I made (don't worry, the movie isn't famous or anything), I have had to leave the anemic womb of Williamsburg and travel to give speeches about my not famous film in far off exotic places such as Denver, CO; Sarasota FL; and most recently, tropical Omaha, NE (like I said, the movie isn't famous or anything). I wondered, ‘Would I be able to find vegan options in places like Omaha, the ‘steak capital of the United States’?” The answer was YES! I was able to find vegan restaurants everywhere I went. And then some!
Below I have created a list of things I did while traveling which made staying vegan not only easy, but enjoyable and delicious:
1. Go to your local health food store before leaving for your trip, stock up on 1-3 lbs of raw almonds and keep them in a zip lock bag.
2. Stock up on 1 lb of raw, unsweetened cranberries while you're at it, they taste great mixed with almonds, and are a great snack that doesn't need to be refrigerated. And hey, you never know when you're going to get another Urinary Tract Infection (not speaking from experience or anything).
4. Make online friends with the website www.happycow.net. This is a wonderful site that lists every vegan/vegetarian restaurant option in every town in America. I just typed in Boise, ID and it came up with 13 options. Who knew?
5. In the worst-case scenario and there are no vegan-friendly restaurants, find out where your local supermarket is (take the bus there if you have to). Stock up on carrot sticks, prepackaged salad, cans of chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and oil and vinegar (always organic when possible, duh). Mix in the cranberries you've been hoarding around with you and voila! you have a big nutritious salad that should last you for 1-3 meals.
6. When stuck getting food at gas stations, stock up on KIND brand snack bars. They are delicious and probably the healthiest junk food you will find. I especially like the one flavored ALMOND WALNUT MACADAMIA WITH PEANUTS + PROTEIN, which has 10g of protein and 10g of sugar (compare that with Nature Valley brand granola bars, which has 12g of sugar and only 4g of protein per serving and is made by General Mills, a company very supportive of using GMOS in their products while still labeling them as “natural”).
7. Be creative at diners. For breakfast, have grapefruit or cantaloupe and a black coffee. For lunch, have a veggie burger and salad, and go crazy and ask for a piece of avocado if they have it. For dinner, have the veggie burger again. Or ask the chef if he can whip up something just for you. If they say no, just start crying, it usually works (or gets you kicked out onto the street, where you can go back to eating your zip lock bag of almonds).
Hope this helps. PS if you ever find yourself in Omaha, check out a restaurant called McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe and try the date shake. They seriously have the best vegan food I've ever had in my entire life (sorry Williamsburg).
This piece is part of the series "Travel Like You Give a Damn," where we share stories of inspiring individuals who are traveling around the world with purpose.