5 Ways to Survive Summer Vacations, Vegan-Style (#4 is my favorite)
Kristin | On 21, Jul 2014
THIS IS A GUEST POST FROM Sarah McCartan
When someone says the word “vacation,” I immediately hear the words “vegan food tour.” Although in an ideal world every person you travel with shares your level of enthusiasm when stumbling upon a vegan eatery, that’s not always the case.
Whether your summer plans include an unprecedented getaway to a far off destination, or an annual family gathering at a familiar locale, there’s a chance you might find yourself in a situation traveling with non-vegans.
I’ve traveled all the way from Haiti to Paris as the only vegan in a group. In fact, looking back, I realize I’ve traveled with omnivores far more times than I’ve traveled with fellow vegans, and these have been some of my best adventures to-date. There are a few things I’ve learned over the course of my adventures that have helped make these experiences seamless, leaving every stomach full and satisfied without any added stress. These considerations have allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities to introduce friends to cuisine they might have never otherwise tried had they not been traveling with a passionate vegan foodie.
As I was preparing to embark on a Fourth of July vacation, tagging along with someone else’s family members (who are very new to my vegan preferences but open and eager to understand), I was reminded of these five tips that help me best navigate not only this particular trek, but all of those that follow.
1. Share the Lead
If you are embarking upon a trip that you’ve solely planned and put together, good for you! In this case, you’ve earned yourself some steering privileges, but it doesn’t mean you get to have all of the control. After all, what fun is that? Let’s say you are invited along on a family trip, meaning it’s not something that you organized, but rather a trip you are included in. Whether it’s your own family and friends, or someone else’s you don’t know as well, sharing the lead means having open discussions about food beforehand so not to put anyone (including yourself), in an uncomfortable position upon arrival.
Every time I visit one of my best friends in New York she welcomes the opportunity to return to my favorite vegan spots and discover new ones together. However, I always make sure it’s a joint decision, and not a case of me dragging her (or anyone else) along blindly by the arm. But honestly, who can complain when you treat them to vegan cupcakes, like this one from Champs Family Bakery in Brooklyn?
NOTE FROM KRISTIN: Speaking to Sarah’s point about purchasing vegan food for others – one of my friends has made it known that he will buy all the food stuffs—while dining out—if his friends choose to order vegan meals. So, it’s now a ‘thing’ and whenever we all go out to eat—omnis and veggies alike—90% of the time, the omnivores order a vegan meal so they can eat for free. I think it’s a pretty keen strategy to not only support vegan restaurant options, but also to encourage others to try plant-based noms. :)
2. Be Willing to Compromise
Compromising does not mean casting aside your vegan values or ignoring your preferences. However, it does mean being a bit flexible and not being militant and forceful when it comes to the restaurants you are hellbent on visiting. Yes, regardless of where I am traveling, I look up all of the places I hope to eat. Still, realizing that I can make vegan work at many establishments, this is where the compromising comes in. Seeking out restaurants that focus on local food and a wide range of options for various tastes and dietary preferences ensures that everyone has the experience they’ve hoped for. Turns out, I’ve even found some of these places rival those establishments that are entirely vegan.
The Floridian, located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, Florida, has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants for this very reason. In addition to sourcing tempeh from nearby Gainesville, they use an abundance of local produce. During my first dinner at this fine establishment, my date sat patiently while I moved my plate to a chair under the only light on the patio so I could photograph my Winter Salad.
3. Introduce Don’t Intimidate
If whoever is on your trip with you is eager to try out some vegan places that you’ve mapped out, wonderful! Now is your opportunity to educate them and invite their tastebuds to be dazzled by the magnificent creations that can be whipped up entirely from plants. Before you arrive, make sure you offer a breakdown of what to expect so your travel partners don’t look at a menu with blank stares, as if it is written in another language. Consider tempering your own enthusiasm so you can focus on helping your comrades find something they are sure to love. You want whoever you are with to feel comfortable, so they can experience the full pleasure that comes with each bite without being intimidated or overwhelmed.
Pictured below is a Sunday brunch spread from Sluggo’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This entirely vegan cafe’s longtime Florida location happens to be in my hometown of Pensacola, and is my all-time favorite eatery. Naturally, I couldn’t resist stopping in Sluggo’s North when passing through Chattanooga and sampling their Daily Grind Bowl for brunch, complete with an abundance of cheesy grits goodness. As an added bonus, the friends I was traveling with were familiar with Sluggo’s and were equally enthused, so in this case, there was no introduction needed.
4. Always Ask
Most chefs love a good challenge—especially one of the vegan kind. I’ve found this to be true in a multitude of locales, spanning from the French Quarter in New Orleans, to the middle of the North Carolina mountains in barbecue country, and even a wine bar on the beach. There’s nothing like assuming you are going to end up with a naked salad and then having your mind blown with something spectacular.
The truth is, you never know until you ask—and more times than not I’ve had a chef beam over excitement or the sheer want to impress my vegan foodie taste buds with an unparalleled dining experience. Naturally, I bounce up and down in my seat with excitement in these cases and as a result, these are the experiences I’ve carried with me through the years. I’ve had friends gawk over my plate while being less than impressed by their own, asking me, “How do you always end up with the best food?”
Confession: I need to get better at photo documenting these occurrences and have certainly made it a goal moving forward. In the past, my excitement has overtaken me and my food is gone in a flash.
5. Offer to Cook
Four months after studying abroad in Paris, I returned to the city, only this time there was a twist. I’d officially gone vegan during the months I was back home. This meant no more late night binges at the crepe stands, and no more trips to the market for blocks of aged cheese. Thankfully, one of my best friends I returned with was fully supportive of my lifestyle change, and rather than us eating out every single night (and spending excess money and energy to make it work when at that point in time in Paris, vegan options were far less available than they are today), we did exactly what we enjoyed doing many nights during our studies. We stayed in and cooked, inviting our friends to join us.
I recently did the same thing while visiting St. Augustine. This time it was for a group of new friends, none of whom are vegan. Since most individuals who are familiar with Thai food have tasted Pad Thai, I figured, why not take a spin on this classic dish and share my love for quinoa at the same time? And so, I came up with this Thai-Infused Peanut Surprise.
Walking Through The Doors of Discovery…
Ultimately, the key is being open, honest, and ready to share a part of your life you are passionate about with those around you, so they understand that veganism is not a restrictive diet, but an abundant lifestyle and daily adventure. If you play your cards right, you just might convince your friends and family that having a vegan along for the trip simply opens up entire new doors of discovery begging to be walked through.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah has trekked through the nordic forests of Sweden, survived multiple floods at Bonnaroo and studied abroad in Paris. Along with writing 24/7, Sarah doubles as an avid long-distance runner, vegan foodie, coffee addict, and karaoke enthusiast. Sarah’s blog, Vegan on the Run, was born out of the desire to bring her vegan, writing, running, health-focused, nutrition-minded and wanderlust-filled worlds together under one roof. You can find more of Sarah’s work at sarahkmccartan.com.