Part of my joy in traveling is experiencing the richness of new cultures. Probably my favorite way of learning about local people and their traditions is eating regional cuisine. While this seems like it should be a no-brainer, it can get tricky sometimes as I eat a vegan diet. This post will lay out my method to make sure that I can learn about new cultures and eat vegan while traveling.
One of the first things I do when I book a trip to a new-to-me place is google the area's traditional foods. I create a list of foods I want to try, search on HappyCow, and save what sounds intriguing to a trip folder. My trip folders unlock many usually happy memories when I look through them to make recommendations to other people.
Once I narrow in on the restaurants, I make reservations and plan about half of the meals for the trip. I also check whether I will have access to a refrigerator/kitchenette in our accommodation. Assuming I do, I will scout out a nearby market to buy a few essentials (coffee and oat- or soya- milk) and fruits/vegetables to make a few low-key meals at our temporary home.
We just got back from a trip to Porto where we met up with some cousins from the US for a few days. Below is a picture of my planning sheet--I am an old Gen Xer so I still prefer pen and paper--which I then upload to Evernote and have with me on my phone (side note. the superscript Rs mean that I made reservations). I realize that this may be a good resource for many people so I've created a downloadable food planner that you can use for yourself, vegan or not.
Another great way to find places to eat is by connecting with locals and fellow travelers – they often have invaluable insights and recommendations. Ask for their favorite vegan dishes or where to find the best plant-based options in town. You'll not only discover new flavors but also forge meaningful connections. The front desk staff at your accommodation is usually a fantastic resource for recommendations for everything.
If you really want to understand the soul of a community, don't overlook local markets and street food stalls. These vibrant hubs can offer a treasure trove of vegan-friendly dishes. Fresh fruits, nuts, grilled vegetables, falafel, and rice dishes are often readily available. Embrace the sensory experience of street food and savor the authenticity of local flavors.
My last bit of advice is to speak the language. Now, I'm not expecting you to be fluent but a little knowledge of the local language can go a long way in ensuring your needs are met. Familiarize yourself with essential phrases, such as "I'm vegan," "no meat," and "no dairy." Learning to communicate your dietary preferences respectfully can make it easier for locals to assist you in finding suitable options.
There is a wonderful resource that shares just how to do that in over 100 languages. For those that prefer an old-school paper copy (fellow GenXers, I'm looking at you), you can print it out at home and take it with you (find the language you need, print out a few copies, cut them as directed, and pop them in your travel wallet). If you prefer using an app (iOS), you can find that here. Here is a sample of the Portuguese translations from the print site and the app.
Being a vegan doesn't mean missing out on the rich flavors that the world has to offer. With a little preparation, an eagerness to connect with others, and a willingness to adapt, your travels can celebrate both your ethical choices and your sense of adventure. So, pack your appetite and your curiosity and hit the road! #travel #vegantravel #genxtravel #travelhack #portugal #porto #ethicaleating #vegan #