Let's be honest, going vegan changes your life. Mostly for the better, but some things become more challenging - like social events for example.
Traveling as a vegan is no different. For the most part, vegan travel reignited my love for travel. It gave me a deeper appreciation and introduced new rewards.
On the other hand, I've been in a number of situations where I, quite frankly, wanted to pull my hair out.
In this post, I'm listing the biggest challenges vegans face when traveling and the best ways to overcome them.
"FOMO" on cultural food experiences
The fear of missing out (or FOMO) was a big challenge for me at first.
My style of travel consists of eating local street food, squeezing into local long-haul transit, and not planning too far ahead.
This style of traveling clashes with a common vegan mantra of: cook yourself or plan ahead.
However, I quickly realized my style of traveling wasn't impacted. Sure, there were occasions where I went hungrier than I otherwise would have, or I ate a cold veggie samosa on a train in India without knowing every ingredient inside.
But the FOMO disappeared quickly. It was a mental game, another excuse to hold onto the outdated concept that we need to eat animals to live to our fullest.
Yet I've never lived more since going vegan.
Ways to beat food FOMO abroad:
- Change your mentality
- Remind yourself why you're vegan
- Connect with other vegans
- Find vegan alternatives or veganize local meals
- Travel to veggie-friendly countries
Airports can be brutal on vegans.
They are full of over-priced junk food restaurants and Starbucks cafes.
Airports are limited, and if you're lucky, you might find a place that caters to vegans - but most times, you won't.
I've found some cultures have veggie options on their junk food menus, else fries and a bun can always work if you're desperate.
Ways to find vegan food in airports:
- Use the Air Vegan app
- Veganize junk food options available
As a vegan traveler, I tend to fly a lot.
Airplanes might be the biggest hit and miss for vegans.
I've had 15-hour flights where I could not eat anything. I've had flights where I'm calling for seconds.
To lock in a vegan meal, you'll need to check with airlines and find which ones offer vegan alternatives. I wrote this piece on the best vegan airlines.
You'll most likely need to book your meal in advance. However, my recent experience with Qatar Airways had a naturally vegan Indian meal onboard - so you might get lucky!
How to stay full on airplanes:
- Bring snacks
- Choose vegan-friendly airlines
- Pre-order meals
- Veganize vegetarian options
- Drink coffee: When all else fails, coffee reduces appetite.
Lack of control over meals
Travels means adapting to different ways of life.
As a vegan, it's not always possible to go with the flow with food.
There are times where anxiety will creep in while you hope the old Vietnamese lady with the large cooking pot understands what you meant.
You're at their mercy, and no one wants to send back food.
How to communicate vegan to locals:
- Vegan travel apps: There are a number of apps to assist with local translations
- Use screenshots of food: I often screenshot a block of tofu or tempeh to show locals when ordering out.
- Learn vegan terms in local languages.
Of course, there's no packaging with street food. There's no way to 100% confirm what you're eating is vegan.
In Sri Lanka, a wonderful vegan destination, I didn't realize Sri Lankan coconut sambal often contains fish inside.
This was a shock. There was no fishy taste or texture.
In Thailand, fish sauce is commonly used in local dishes. You might not even notice, so it's best to ask for no fish sauce.
Staying aware of hidden ingredients:
- Research vegan guides online
- Ask in online forums/Facebook groups
- Ask locals who have good English
Meeting likeminded vegans
A big part of travel is meeting likeminded people.
While I don't personally feel the need to connect with other vegans abroad, I understand that's an important aspect for some people.
Ways to meet vegans overseas:
- Apps: EG: Meetup
- Snoop on Instagram: Vegans posting in the area with hashtags etc
- Start conversations in vegan/vegetarian restaurants
- Join yoga classes
- Connect with people in Facebook groups
No one likes to think about it, but traveling does have risks. By covering yourself with the right travel insurance, you can enjoy the world without worries.
I recommend World Nomads as my favorite travel insurance provider.