“Do you want to try a bit? – Oh sorry, I forgot. You can’t eat that.”
As much as I enjoy to travel solo, I have always loved teaming up with a travel buddy (or several) to explore the world together. That has not changed a bit since I turned vegan, but what has changed, is how food fits into our shared globetrotting experiences. As vegan travel has become easier over the years, one aspect has remained tricky: socialising over food while exploring the world. Eating is, after all, one of the most social aspects of travelling.
If you have ever traveled with an omnivore friend or acquaintance, you might recognise this sentence. Travelling with omnis can be challenging, sometimes even frustrating – especially if you are not used to hanging out and eating together on a regular basis.
Travelling with non-vegan friends, I have felt quite on the edge before, especially when I was hangry and had the feeling that my travel partners just purposely decided to forget or ignore that I was vegan. No, I do not want a sip of your hot cocoa or a slice of your cheesy pizza or a bite of your deliciously soft brownie. Day after day after day I have been offered non-vegan food to try as if I would suddenly change my mind or just for that one moment make an exception. Of course, my travel partners did not do it on purpose – quite the contrary and they were probably also frustrated with themselves for forgetting – they were just so used to sharing and politely offering a taster. And they were certainly not used to travelling with a vegan.
So, how do you make travelling the world and experiencing it through its cuisine a more enjoyable experience for yourself and your omnivore travel buddies? Here are 5 fundamental tips.
1) Set clear boundaries.
Everybody does veganism differently, so telling your travel buddy exactly what is OK for you and what isn’t, is important to make you both feel safe and accepted.
For me that means, telling my omnivore travel partner that it is OK to eat animal products in front of me – I don’t mind if they order a meat dish at the restaurant and eat it next to me. Other vegans might feel the exact opposite. This is essential information to share in order for you and your travel buddy to feel free when ordering meals.
Ideally, this is something you discuss before you travel together, especially if your boundaries might have an impact on the other person’s travel experience.
2) Know where you can both eat.
I was always a prepper and since I turned vegan, it has only become more important to me to prepare a list of vegan-friendly restaurants before all my trips.
The last thing I want is to feel stranded in a foreign city or village with an empty stomach and a starving travel buddy. A hangry omnivore might start to think that vegans are just impossible to cater to, and “can’t you make an exception this one time? I’m starving.” A hangry vegan might go in the opposite direction – what is so hard about offering one or two vegan options?
I typically research places that have options for both in advance and save them to my Google Maps. That way, I always have suggestions for restaurants on my fingertips and I can avert any hangry frustration on either side.
3) Offer to do the cooking.
Booking self-catering accommodation can make or break your holiday with an omnivore – depending on whether you like to cook or not. Personally, I love being able to prepare my own food when I’m travelling, but I’ve also made the experience that omnivores can be a bit skeptical about what to cook for me.
I have gotten into a habit of offering to prepare food that everyone will love. I will make a delicious vegan dish, like a chili or tomato pasta dish – wraps are another favourite of mine – most people love this kind of food and would probably not even notice it was vegan. Another benefit of meals like this is that your travel buddy can add whatever non-vegan ingredient they’d like to add.
4) Share, don’t lecture.
No one likes to be told that what they do or eat or think is wrong. In my opinion, that’s not how you inspire change. I never lecture my non-vegan friends about their omnivore diet, because I don’t think negativity is doing any good.
However, I love sharing my experiences as a vegan – whether that is about creative cooking, feeling healthier or doing good for the planet. It always surprises me how little some people know or think about the food on their plates and the industries behind it, so I will share what I know and have learnt in the past years when I feel like my travel buddy is receptive.
Last year, I travelled with my vegan partner, my omni brother and his omni wife. We made a tomato-based pasta dish (see tip #3), which they topped off with some goat’s cheese. Her being a nutritionist, we had a lot of conversations about our vegan lifestyle; what we ate, why we decided to go vegan, what effect the food industry has on the planet. I felt like we planted a seed, without judging them or lecturing them about their choices. Today, one year later, they are both vegans as well. Things might not always end up like this, but you never know!
5) Prepare the facts.
In order to do succeed at tip #4, it is important to keep it factual. Omnivores who are interested in your veganism might have a lot of questions for you to do with protein sources, farming practices, the environmental impact of some vegan alternatives and economic questions. Veganism is a conscious decision for me and those are topics I concern myself with on a very regular basis – with my vegan and non-vegan friends.
As a vegan I’m always happy to have these conversations, as long as the questions come from a good place – if someone questions you just to trip you up and demands you to justify your choices to them, I don’t see the point in arguing. I’d ask myself, why I’m travelling with this person…
When it comes to food, travelling with omnivores does not have to be stressful. Communicating with your travel buddy about your boundaries and your choices, as well as anticipating any issues you might run into on the road, are important steps to take to ensure that you both have a lovely trip together – and ideally, keep travelling together in the future!
Photos by Dan Gold and Igor Miske via Unsplash