Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Traveling Vegan

Early on in my life as a vegan traveling, leaving home caused me a lot of stress. I called this stress "food anxiety" defining it as the anxiety resulting from lack of  preparation when I was out of my controlled eating environment.

For the next couple of days I'm hanging out in the middle of Oregon (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere) on a writer's retreat for a book I'm working on. Thankfully I can say I am free of food anxiety and enjoying my healthy, fulfilling meals but this trip reminds me of the days when eating vegan on the road wasn't so easy.

A few lessons learned as a vegan traveler.

A well fed vegan in Egypt (and her husband)
1. The web is your friend. Before traveling to a new city or country spend some time with Google. Search for restaurants and grocery stores in the areas you will be visiting. is a great resource with many suggestions and reviews. Write down the places that sound good and map them to where you are staying so that when you are ready to eat, you are ready to eat.  Several years back Jason and I traveled to Spain and Egypt and I was a relatively new vegan. HappyCow helped me find some amazing food. Unfortunately because I was a novice vegan traveler I had not figured out the importance of snacks.

2. Snacks might be your best friend. Especially because your meals might not be as nutritionally satisfying when you're on the road, healthy snacks are a very crucial part of eliminating food anxiety. I make sure to have high protein, high calorie granola bars (I love Odwalla and Lara the very most), trail mix, or fruit and peanut butter always on hand. Have more snacks than you'll think you need. Seriously. Last summer Jason and I went on a road trip to Northern Washington. I was newly pregnant and not aware of how much I would consume. There were a couple dramatic trips and midnight runs to the grocery store for less than satisfying solutions.

3. Make a meal. Depending on where your adventures take you, snacks aren't always enough. Whether you see long days of travel before you or you are going somewhere off the grid, you should be prepared with easy to travel, easy to assemble meals. For this writing retreat I'm staying on a ranch that has one restaurant and one general store. Tucked away in this part of Oregon I made sure all my meals were covered as simply and healthy as possible. (Check in tomorrow for my tempeh tuna salad recipe which accompanies me now.) Although I had to spend some extra time this week preparing meals that would travel, I now can write stress-free knowing that I won't go hungry.

4.Where to sleep. If you're going to be staying in a hotel know the amenities offered. Is there a fridge? A hot pot? A continental breakfast? Are there grocery stores or vegan friendly restaurants nearby? It is important to know how to prepare according to where you stay.  A few years back I went to a wedding on the east coast. Without doing proper research I found myself in a remote hotel, without a car, in a small town that had never heard the word vegan. There was no place to buy healthy, satisfying food (or anything other than potato chips at the vending machine) nor a place to store food a more prepared person would have brought. Needless to say my food anxiety was pretty high on that trip, but I went home with a couple important lessons learned.

 5. Plan B. I hate to say it, but sometimes there is no other way around fast food. In 2008 my mom and I drove a big U-haul from Michigan to Oregon. Climbing the icy cascades while towing an apartment worth of stuff and dealing with two very unhappy cats in the front seat, food preparation was not a priority and chain restaurants off the highway became our only option. It's important to know your vegan options: Subway, Panera, and Chipotle, and many more all have vegan options. Here is a website with a few suggestions.

Lessons are often learned the hard way, by going hungry. But hopefully I don't need to take any more hungry vacations as I learn how to travel wisely.

Do you have any vegan travel stories? I would love to hear all about it!


  1. When traveling in not very vegan friendly areas, we have gone to the grocery store and bought sandwich stuff and put them together in the car. This also works great for camping. Some marinated tofu (which is widely available now) or just tons of veggies, some hummus and some disposable utensils and bam, lunch is served on the road.

    1. oh yeah, nice meal plan! I love that marinated tofu so much! sounds like you eat great on the road