For those that don’t already know her, Chanel is a talented travel blogger and photographer, who has visited heaps of countries all around the world with her fiancé Stevo. As well as their travel blog they also run Instagram account @howfarfromhome where they share their beautiful photographs and amazing stories. If you don’t already follow them, then I highly recommend you check them out.
When and why did you become a vegan?
“Just before embarking on this round-the-world trip (that has now become my life) I discovered I was allergic to dairy. Strange that it took 29 years to figure something like that out, but I guess late is better than never, right? It took me a while to adjust to eating dairy-free (it still amazes me how many food products have unnecessary milk powder and butter added to them) but I saw the health benefits almost immediately.
Then around 9 months into our journey, I received an email from a friend of a friend we made whilst visiting Bergen in Norway. Since our How Far From Home project revolved around saying “yes” to everything life threw at us, she challenged me to ‘say yes’ to a month-long pledge known as Veganuary (eating only Vegan food during the month of January – a sort of ‘Movember’ but for eating vegan). Of course, I love a challenge and figured there was nothing to lose (especially since I was already eating dairy-free), so I did it.
On 31 December 2015 we were visiting Salzburg in Austria, and I had my final non-vegan meal (a traditional currywurst hot-dog, I recall) which I didn’t even finish. What followed was an awakening month filled with some very creative cooking, and a whole new spurt of energy, which I never even knew I could have. Happy to say that now, exactly 2 years later, I haven’t looked back and have remained a happy, healthy (and energetic) vegan, 95% of the time.”
How many countries have you visited since becoming one?
“Oooo, well we’ve visited 47 countries in total, but since becoming a vegan…hmmm *checks archived itinerary* I’ve been to 35 countries as a vegan.”
What are the difficulties of travelling as a vegan?
“There are many difficulties travelling as a vegan. For one, most airport snacks and spontaneous-aeroplane-food-purchases have some sort of cheese, butter, or meat product. So I always need to plan ahead, packing hummus-cucumber sandwiches, or bags of nuts or fruit in my carry-on.
There is also the language barrier causing me to not always know what I’m getting. I sometimes learn how to say “without milk or eggs” in the language of the country I’m visiting, or whip out Google Translate and use it when looking at the menu. It’s been incredibly difficult in places like Japan, for example, where you really don’t know what you’re eating, or in Central Europe, where cheese and butter are a staple ingredient in 99% of dishes.
But by far the toughest thing for me has been turning down authentic non-vegan dishes when travelling, because the food is such an important part of travel, and it’s such an integral part of a country’s culture, so I often felt like I was missing out. Because of this, I recently assigned myself the title Travel Vegan, meaning I am vegan 95% of the time and allow myself to try the authentic/non-vegan dish once upon arrival in a new country.
An example would be trying a real croissant in France, salmon sushi in Japan, sour-cream-covered pierogi in Poland, and Sachertorte in Austria. I’ll try it to see what the fuss is about and then go back to eating purely vegan for the rest of the trip. It’s given me peace of mind and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on my travels anymore. I’m sure the purists wouldn’t be happy with me, but I’m happy with my 95%.”
Is there anywhere you’ve been that was especially challenging?
“Yes, as mentioned before Central Europe was really tough. Austria, Germany, France all use many dairy products, and always have meat or fish as the hero of the dish. So it’s been challenging to always order the pasta with tomato-based sauce (it’s gets a little boring if you have it all the time), but I must say that most countries are progressing in their vegan options, and in the last 2 years I’ve seen an increase in vegan options, both on menus and in grocery stores. Yay!”
When travelling how do you go about finding a place to eat?
“I sometimes use an app called Happy Cow, which highlights all the vegan and vegetarian restaurants nearby, or if there’s nothing nearby, I will invent meals and dishes at restaurants, partnering side dishes together as a main, and asking for meals without egg or without meat. Rule of thumb though – there are always Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese restaurants in city centres, and they almost always have an array of vegan food options, so we generally eat Asian when travelling.”
Before you travel do you do any special research in advance?
“Just learning how to say “without eggs or milk” in the local language, but not really. I always manage to make a plan, even if that means eating fruit, nuts, and bread for lunch on some days.”
Are there any resources/websites that you recommend?
“My favourites include:
- One Green Planet – their Facebook page is fantastic
- Happy Cow – the app I mentioned (IOS | Android) that helps you find vegan and vegetarian restaurants close to you
- “31 days – A Veganuary Conversation” – the cookbook we contributed to during our Veganuary experiment – there are a ton of cool vegan recipes in there
- Live Kindly – they always release motivating content that reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing
- Alicia Silverstone’s book, “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide To Feeling Great, Losing Weight, And Saving The Planet” – I read this when I first started on my vegan journey and it was a perfect introduction
- Our blog – we try and share inspiring vegan stories from time to time :)”
What tips and advice do you have for vegans wanting to travel?
“Be good when you can be, but don’t ever feel like you’re missing out as you might regret it later. If you’re really curious to know what reindeer tastes like in Norway, try it, but then go back to eating kindly after you’ve curbed the curiosity. 95% vegan is 100% better than not vegan at all.
Be prepared. Always carry snacks with you because it might be hours before you find a healthy vegan meal. Pack nuts, fruit, hummus sandwiches, liquorice, vegan candy, dark chocolate (the vegan kind) and popcorn.
Learn to say “without eggs or milk” in the language of the country you’re visiting.
Rent Airbnbs and go grocery shopping when you arrive at a new place. It really helps when you have the ability to cook your own food and plan ahead.
Drink beer and wine – both very vegan and make travel so much better :)”
Finally, what is your favourite vegan dish?
“I would say my favourite vegan dish is a simple garlic, chilli, mushroom, olive and tomato-based pasta. It’s our go-to dish when we don’t have much time but it never disappoints (with optional vegan cheese when available).”
Thanks so much Chanel. Your answers are fantastic and will hopefully help other vegans wanting to travel the world.
To those reading remember to check out Chanel and Stevo on Instagram @howfarfromhome as well as their travel blog How Far From Home. Feel free to leave any thoughts below that you have on travelling the world as a vegan.
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